|NFL Network Special|
|Also known as||Saturday Night Football (2006–2008)|
Thursday Night Special (2016)
Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition (2014-2015)
|Genre||NFL football telecasts|
|Opening theme||NFL GameDay theme|
|Ending theme||Same as open|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||4 per season|
|Production locations||Various NFL stadiums|
|Running time||180 minutes or until game ends (inc. adverts)|
|Production companies||National Football League|
Fox Sports (2018–present)
|Original network||NFL Network|
|Original release||October 29, 2017 –|
|Related shows||NFL on Fox|
Fox NFL Sunday
Fox NFL Kickoff
NFL Network Special is the branding used for select broadcasts of National Football League (NFL) games aired by NFL Network. The games are, officially, considered to be part of the Thursday Night Football package, but not necessarily played on Thursdays; as of 2017, this arrangement has included at least one NFL London Game played in a Sunday morning (U.S. time) window, and one or more late-season doubleheaders on Saturdays. During select Christmas Day games, the NFL Christmas Special branding is used instead.
After having briefly used Saturday Night Football to brand the games, from 2008 through 2016 the games were branded under the Thursday Night Football title or a variant thereof (such as Thursday Night Special). Since 2014, the majority of these games have been produced by the current Thursday Night Football sub-licensee, such as CBS (2014–2017), NBC (2016–2017), and Fox (2018–2021).
NFL Network debuted Thursday Night Football on November 23, 2006, with the Kansas City Chiefs handing the visiting Denver Broncos a 19–10 Thanksgiving defeat. As part of this package, three games aired on Saturday nights, which were accordingly branded as Saturday Night Football (not to be confused with ESPN/ABC's college football telecasts of the same name, which ESPN holds a trademark in relation to), with the package as a whole being promoted as the Run to the Playoffs. This format carried over to the 2007 season. Saturday games can only occur in the final weeks of the season, as the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, requires blackouts of professional football games—held on Friday evenings or Saturdays from mid-September through mid-December—on television stations within 75 miles (121 km) of the venue of a college or high school football game.
Starting in 2008, NFL Network eliminated all but one of the Saturday night games and started their Thursday night package three weeks earlier. In the following season, all references to Saturday Night Football were dropped, with these games now being referred to as a "special edition" of Thursday Night Football.
Beginning in 2014, the Thursday Night Football package has been sub-licensed to one or more of the NFL's broadcast partners, who produces all games on behalf of NFL Network, and may simulcast selected games in the package on broadcast television. These have, by extension, included the non-Thursday games of the package, which were in turn produced by CBS (with some later produced by NBC beginning in 2016). These games are intended to satisfy NFL Network's carriage agreements, which require that a quota of exclusive games be broadcast by the channel each season, while still allowing some of the games to be simulcast on network television as well.
In 2014, CBS used the branding Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition for these games—a branding scheme that was criticized as a misnomer when used for a game aired on a Saturday afternoon. By 2016, the games had begun to carry the on-air branding Thursday Night Special (albeit with some fleeting references to Thursday Night Football or TNF still present on-air), with Christmas Day games assigned to the Thursday Night Football package accordingly using the branding NFL Christmas Special.
By the 2017 season, the branding NFL Network Special was adopted for non-Thursday TNF games exclusive to NFL Network, thus removing all references to Thursday Night Football entirely. The games continue to have similar productions to games aired under the Thursday Night Football title, but with their on-air graphics only containing NFL Network branding (rather than being co-branded with the logos of both NFL Network and the host broadcaster).
Beginning in 2018, most NFL Network Special games became Fox productions as part of its new rights to Thursday Night Football. An exception was an NFL London Game on October 10, 2021, which was instead produced by CBS.
Amazon Prime Video will hold rights to Thursday Night Football beginning in the 2022 NFL season. There will still be a package of exclusive games on NFL Network, generally consisting of international games airing at 9:30 a.m. ET, and late-season Saturday games.
Main article: NFL Network Special results (2006–present)