On November 8th, the NFL Network had 5.2 million viewers watch the Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars game. To put that in contrast, 16.9 million viewers watched The Big Bang Theory on CBS. Sunday Night Football on NBC regularly sees ratings of many multiples of the Colts and Jaguars game. However, questionable ratings are only part of the NFL’s growing Thursday dilemma. Competitive and logistical issues are starting to affect the participants.
Thursday night NFL games have been part of the NFL schedule since 1986, if you do not include the traditional Thanksgiving Day games, which started with the beginning of the NFL in 1920. For years, starting in 1978, ABC carried one to three games a year, some as replacements for games pre-empted by the World Series and/or the last Monday night of the season. TNT did the same as a replacement for the World Series during their broadcast tenure, which started in 1990. ESPN then filled that role through 2005.
When the NFL went to a half-season Thursday package on the NFL Network on November 23, 2006, Thursday night games became a fixture, and this year became a full-season-long schedule. Just last season, the problems started to arise, particularly as teams had to fly great distances for games.