hursday Night Football is the branding used for broadcasts of prime time National Football League (NFL) games that are produced by CBS Sports and broadcast by CBS and the NFL Network in the United States on Thursdays during the regular season. Debuting on November 23, 2006, the telecasts were originally part of NFL Network's Run to the Playoffs package, which consisted of eight total games broadcast on Thursday and Saturday nights (five on Thursdays, and three on Saturdays) during the latter portion of the season. Most of the games, which are now almost exclusively held on a Thursday, kick off at 8:25 p.m. Eastern Time (previously 8:20 p.m. ET from 2006-2013).
At its launch, the package proved highly controversial mainly due to the relative unavailability of NFL Network at the time; the league used the games as leverage to encourage television providers to carry NFL Network on their basic service tiers, rather than in premium, sports-oriented packages that required subscribers to pay a higher fee; although, as with all other national cable telecasts of NFL games, the league's own regulations require the games to be syndicated to over-the-air television stations in the local markets of the teams. These issues were magnified in 2007, when a game that saw the New England Patriots close out a perfect regular season was simulcast nationally on both CBS and NBC, in addition to NFL Network and the local stations that the game was sold to, following concerns from politicians and other critics.
Since 2012, NFL Network has begun coverage of the Thursday games during the second week of the NFL season. In 2014, production of the Thursday Night Football games was taken over by CBS Sports. As part of the deal, CBS would carry nine Thursday night games (which were simulcast on NFL Network) and lend its primary broadcast team, consisting of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, to cover the remaining Thursday telecasts airing exclusively on NFL Network. In addition, NFL Network extended the length of the Thursday telecasts to Week 16 of the season, and added a new Saturday doubleheader split between CBS and NFL Network. On January 18, 2015, CBS and NFL Network extended the same arrangement for a second season. The games are broadcast on radio via Westwood One, which syndicates the broadcasts to its partner radio stations around the United States.
The NFL Network/CBS contract does not include the NFL Kickoff Game or the game played on Thanksgiving night. Those games are carried as part of NBC Sports' Sunday Night Football package. NFL Network had previously broadcast the Thanksgiving night game since it was first played in 2006 until 2010.