‘This is our playground – the gathering place for the NFL fan and players,’ Rich Eisen, Nov. 4, 2003
NFL Network turns 20 years old this week.
On Nov. 4, 2003, host Rich Eisen welcomed football fans and television viewers across the country to NFL Network, in the process making history as the first league-owned cable network and the first 24-hour, year-round television destination for NFL fans.
“The launch of a network that celebrates the NFL is a tremendously exciting project," said then NFL Network President and CEO Steve Bornstein in a July 2003 press release announcing the launch of NFL Network. “Our mission is to deliver programming that honors the NFL's rich tradition and captures the excitement that turns on millions of fans. We will use a lot of innovation to bring our audience the most technologically advanced content possible."
Since its launch, NFL Network has evolved into a leading sports media network across linear and digital channels, playing a crucial role in the expansion of tentpole events such as the NFL Scouting Combine and schedule release, launching “Thursday Night Football" and proving to be a force in the media industry with 33 Sports Emmy Award wins.
“Over the past 20 years, NFL Network and the NFL Media Group have developed into a defining force in the industry," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “They've played an integral role in elevating the league, the media landscape and the sport of football globally. We are incredibly proud of the work that has been done and are eager to see what's to come in the next 20 years."
Provided below are some notable facts from the first 20 years of NFL Network:
•“NFL RedZone" hosted by Scott Hanson debuted on Sept. 13, 2009.
•NFL Network launched “Thursday Night Football" with Denver Broncos versus Kansas City Chiefs in week 12, 2006 (Nov. 23) as part of the first Thanksgiving Day triple-header in NFL history.
√ From 2006-11, “Thursday Night Football" was an eight-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network starting in November.
√ For 2012 and 2013, “Thursday Night Football" expanded to a 13-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network starting in week 2.
√ For 2014 and 2015, CBS partnered with NFL Network for a 16-game “Thursday Night Football" schedule starting in week 2.
√ For 2016, “Thursday Night Football" was an 18-game schedule on CBS, NFL Network, NBC and Twitter starting in week 2.
√ For 2017, “Thursday Night Football" was an 18-game schedule on CBS, NFL Network, NBC and Amazon Prime Video starting in week 2.
√ For 2018-21, “Thursday Night Football" was on FOX, NFL Network and Amazon Prime Video starting in week 2.
√ In 2022, Prime Video became the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football."
•“NFL GameDay premiered" on Sept. 10, 2006, with Rich Eisen, Deion Sanders and Steve Mariucci on “NFL GameDay Final."
√ Currently, NFL Network provides 13 hours of “NFL GameDay" coverage on Sunday starting at 9 a.m. ET with “NFL GameDay Morning."
√ Through week 7 of the 2023 season, NFL Network's Sunday NFL GameDay programming is up 4% vs. 2022.
•In its history, NFL Network has won 33 Sports Emmy Awards.
√ NFL Network won its first Sports Emmy Award in 2004 for “Big Charlie" in the Outstanding Long Feature category. At 58 days, NFL Network became the youngest network to win a Sports Emmy Award.
•“Good Morning Football" premiered on Aug. 1, 2016, as NFL Network's first show to originate from New York City.
•The first NFL Scouting Combine to be shown on TV was in 2004 with six, one-hour daily shows on NFL Network.
√ In 2023, NFL Network provided over 50 hours of combine coverage.
•NFL Network has covered every NFL Draft since 2006.
•NFL Network covered its first Super Bowl in 2004, providing 12 hours of live coverage.
√ Currently, NFL Network provides close to 100 hours of Super Bowl coverage annually.
•NFL Network first released the NFL regular season schedule in 2004 with a two-hour special edition of “NFL Total Access" at 5 p.m. ET.
√ “Just as the NFL Draft on ESPN and CBS' NCAA selection show did on those networks, we believe this program will grow into a major event for NFL Network." – Charles Coplin, NFL's vice president of programming in a 2004 press release.
√ Since 2004, NFL Network has revealed every NFL regular season schedule.
•NFL Network's first international regular season game broadcast occurred on Dec. 3, 2009, with the New York Jets versus Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
√ In 2022, NFL Network broadcast the first NFL game in Germany on Nov. 13 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus Seattle Seahawks at Allianz Arena in Munich, with a global audience of 8.2 million.
•The first episode of NFL Films' “A Football Life" aired on Sept. 15, 2011, featuring New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
√ In total, there have been 11 seasons of “A Football Life" and 126 episodes.
•The largest comeback in NFL history occurred on NFL Network with the Minnesota Vikings erasing a 33-point deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime on Dec. 17, 2022.
•NFL Media moved from Culver City, California, to Inglewood, California, on Sept. 8, 2021.
•Additional launch dates:
√ NFL.com – 2007
√ NFL app – 2009
√ NFL Fantasy Football – 2010
√ NFL+ – 2022
For a look back at the first 20 years of NFL Network, visit here.
This past Sunday, NFL Network's “NFL GameDay Morning" celebrated the 20th anniversary with live guest appearances from notable former NFL Network colleagues and special taped messages from NFL luminaries:
During Sunday's edition of “NFL GameDay Morning," a montage from the previous 20 years of NFL Network aired, which can be found here.