• Loading stock data...
Sunday, February 25, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venue Awards increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

A Two-Decade Endeavor Made the NFL a Year-Round Product

  • Since 2003, NFL Network has been the media glue chiefly responsible for making the league a full-calendar event.
  • NFLN launched “Thursday Night Football,” a successful RedZone Channel, and pioneered tentpole coverage of the Super Bowl, Draft, and Combine.
NFL Network

Since Rich Eisen welcomed fans to the “new gathering place for the NFL fan and players” on Nov. 4, 2003, NFL Network has helped turn football into a year-round obsession. 

Over its first two decades, NFLN launched “Thursday Night Football” as a TV franchise, provided in-depth coverage of the Super Bowl and NFL Draft, created TV shows such as “Good Morning Football,” “NFL Total Access,” and “A Football Life” and earned 33 Sports Emmys.

Along the way, the network launched alumni to new heights, including anchor Nate Burleson of “CBS Mornings,” NFL Insider Adam Schefter of ESPN, and Coach Deion Sanders of Colorado.

Thanks to the network’s yeoman efforts, it has expanded from about 11 million U.S. homes to 55 million — and the league has continued to find new spaces to conquer, including the biggest game of Week 9: the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins from Frankfurt, Germany.

After televising the first-ever game from Germany last year, NFLN will continue to build its German fan base in the $20 billion league’s next breakout global market.

Jamie Erdahl and cast of NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

Jamie Erdahl Reflects On Rapid Transition To Hosting ‘Good Morning Football’

Erdahl talked to FOS about her experience since taking over the morning…
September 28, 2023

NFLN has always covered the league’s tentpole events like nobody else, including every Super Bowl and Draft since 2004 and 2006, respectively. But pro football was still a fall-winter proposition, with long gaps between seasons.  

The channel has survived in the competitive world of cable TV by creating new franchises — and covering events nobody else bothered to.

David Jurenka, senior vice president of media and general manager for the Los Angeles-based network, quotes league media czar Brian Rolapp, who told him his job is to “super-serve” the under-served.

“There’s no limit to high-quality content that NFL fans will consume,” Jurenka told Front Office Sports. “If you package it the right way, produce it the right way, and productize it the right way. That’s really been a testament to what this team has done for the last 20 years.”

When NFLN debuted “Thursday Night Football” in 2006, the eight-game package was seen as an ugly duckling innovation, resented by players and coaches. By 2017, it had expanded to 18 games — and was televised by league media partners like CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and Amazon Prime Video.

Now, Amazon, the country’s biggest e-commerce company, is paying $1 billion annually through 2033 to stream TNF games outside local TV markets exclusively. This month, Amazon Prime Video will stream its first-ever “Black Friday” game the day after Thanksgiving. 

In 2004, when NFLN first covered the Scouting Combine, it offered viewers six one-hour shows (Eli Manning was put through the paces of that 2004 broadcast. The San Diego Chargers eventually drafted him, then traded him to the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowls).

By 2023, NFLN’s Combine coverage had grown to over 50 hours. The annual Draft itself, meanwhile, has become the league’s biggest tentpole event outside the Super Bowl.

Jurenka sees similar TV potential for the league’s annual schedule release, which has become an event.

“We see that as an opportunity to continue to grow that and make it more impactful,” he said.

NFLN also outdid DirecTV’s original Red Zone — which is now out of the picture — and launched its own RedZone Channel in 2009. Charismatic anchor Scott Hanson turned the popular whip-around show into a showcase event for fantasy players and bettors (NFLN will offer a free preview of RedZone Sunday).

“I love the RedZone. It’s one of the greatest inventions of all time,” said Gary Myers, author of “Once A Giant” about life after football for the Super Bowl champion 1986 Giants. “If you’re an NFL fanatic, (NFLN) is the answer to your prayers.”

On the other hand, Myers doesn’t think NFLN covers live games as well as the other media partners. He questioned the hiring of some former players like Warren Sapp, who was fired by the network after his arrest for soliciting prostitutes during Super Bowl Week.

Still, Myers noted NFLN has been the media glue chiefly responsible for making the league a full-calendar event.

“Back when I first started covering Dallas Cowboys in the early 80’s, you’d go from the Super Bowl with not a lot in between. You had to manufacture stuff,” Myers said. “Then the NFL Network came along – and made all this stuff like the Combine accessible to football fans.”

Bill Belichick

Could Bill Belichick Be the Next Great NFL TV Analyst?

Notorious for curt answers and a prickly attitude toward the media, the…
October 4, 2023

Looking forward, NFLN is facing significant challenges. The crumbling of the lucrative cable bundle has cable networks from NFLN to ESPN on red alert.

We still have to see whether Commissioner Roger Goodell’s exploration of strategic partners for the league’s media operation — including possibly selling minority stakes — results in any deals. 

Similar to ESPN and other sports media companies, NFLN ordered some staff layoffs earlier this year to reduce costs.

But for now, Jurenka is happy with NFLN’s mix of linear TV, digital and direct-to-consumer offerings.  

“It’s harder. But I like our position. I like the things that we’ve done to position ourselves to continue to engage, and maybe even grow, the number of fans and the quality of time we’re spending with those fans.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Sham Gods: The Rapidly Growing World of Sports Impersonators on X

Fake Schefters and Wojs, fabricated trade demands, and borrowed profile pictures.
Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.
Superdome Super Bowl

Superdome Renovations to Finish in Time for Super Bowl LIX

Renovations will total $500 million and have been ongoing for years.
Michigan defensive lineman Kenneth Grant celebrates a sack on Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in the second quarter during the College Football Playoff national championship game against Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

Pay-for-Play Is Here: Federal Judge Says NCAA Cannot Enforce Any NIL Rules

The ruling effectively allows pay-for-play to go forward uninhibited.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the Negro Leagues Are Staying in the Game


Featured Today

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
February 16, 2024

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.
Emily Henegar, a baker and content creator, made a batch of NFL-inspired cookies featuring Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
February 11, 2024

The ‘Life-Changing’ Economy of Taylor Swift’s NFL Outfits

Appearing in Swift’s game-day wardrobe has been “life-changing” for small businesses.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Portland, OR

WBD Touts Streaming Profit, Sports Alliance While Stock Is Hammered

TNT Sports parent sees tough reaction from Wall Street to latest earnings.
Chad Powers
February 22, 2024

Tuned In: Hulu Turning Glen Powell Into Eli Manning With ‘Chad Powers’ Comedy

The ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ star will play the comedic QB Manning created for ESPN+.
Arizona Diamondbacks
February 23, 2024

Diamondbacks Heading Into Another Season With MLB in Charge of Media Rights

The D-Backs chose the league over getting their own over-the-air partners.

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.
A Bundesliga camera operator during a match
February 22, 2024

Fan Power in European Soccer Grows As German Football Deal Scuttled 

Weeks of increasingly strident protests lead to end of proposed private equity deal.
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi following the victory against Los Angeles FC at BMO Stadium.
February 21, 2024

Lionel Messi Phenomenon Spurs Specialized Media Attention

Messi joins Taylor Swift and Beyoncé for celebrities to have their beat writer at ‘USA Today.’
FuboTV signage
February 21, 2024

FuboTV Lawsuit Against Sports Streaming Giants Likely Faces Uphill Climb

Legal and regulatory drama heightens around the high-profile streaming alliance.
Athletes Unlimited
February 21, 2024

Athletes Unlimited Is Getting All Four of Its Women’s Pro Leagues on ESPN Platforms

The league is reducing its ESPN+ games to make room for other partners.