NFL

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Posted by pompos 03/22/2009 @ 13:10

Tags : nfl, football, sports

News headlines
NFL salary cap increases - Packer Report
In what may well turn out to be the final year of the NFL salary cap, the NFL announced Friday that the original salary cap projection for 2009 was undershot and that the new cap figure for 2009 will be $128 million. Initially estimated to be an...
Former NFL star Bruce Smith faces DUI charge - The Associated Press
(AP) — Former NFL star Bruce Smith was charged with drunken driving Friday morning after a police officer stopped him for speeding, Virginia Beach police said. Police spokesman Jimmy Barnes said Smith was released on bond a few hours after being...
Rex Ryan family standard-bearer in NFL - Chicago Tribune
When he left the NFL 14 years ago after the Cardinals fired him, the legacy he left the league was his twin sons, Rex and Rob. They had been ball boys for the Bears back in the heyday when they were students at Stevenson High School, and later they...
NFL Player Accused of Being a Real Jerk Off - TMZ.com
It's unusual for a fullback in the NFL to grab headlines, but when he's accused of masturbating outside of some random woman's home -- that usually does the trick. Cops arrested Corey McIntyre -- a fullback on the Buffalo Bills -- after a 59-year-old...
NFLPA chief talks to the Bears - ESPN
Before NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith met with Chicago Bears players Thursday, he reiterated his stance that NFL owners must agree to open up their financial books before progress can be made toward ratifying a new collective bargaining...
Ravens-Steelers moves to top of NFL rivalries - SportingNews.com
What makes a great NFL rivalry? Familiarity, intensity, passion and good old-fashioned hatred are all key elements. The payoff, however, comes in the two teams involved combining to play consistently great football. Tradition plays a big part,...
Titans' Collins Is Channeling His Inner Music Man - New York Times
The face of Nashville's NFL franchise, Collins is also becoming a player off the field in Music City — someone would-be singers and writers hope can help them break into the industry. The hopefuls all seem to have heard that Collins, a quarterback...
Lynch files appeal of suspension - Buffalo News
Lynch has filed an appeal with the NFL in an attempt to overturn or shorten his three-game suspension, a league spokesman confirmed Thursday. The move was expected since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Lynch without pay for the first three...
NFL: Favre seeks advice on worn-out arm - Philadelphia Inquirer
Citing an anonymous source, ESPN.com reported yesterday that Favre, an 18-year NFL veteran, consulted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews about options for healing the partially torn biceps tendon that has caused pain in his right shoulder....
Delaware state senate approves sports betting - USA Today
Markell, who has been a major backer of the bill, is expected to sign the bill later this week and the target is to have the betting system in place for the start of the NFL season. Whenever it's signed, Delaware will become the first state east of the...

NFL on television

The television rights to broadcast National Football League (NFL) games are the most lucrative and expensive rights of any sport. It was television that brought professional American football into prominence in the modern era of technology. Since then, NFL broadcasts have become among the most-watched programs on American television, and the fortunes of entire networks have rested on owning NFL broadcasting rights.

Currently, three American terrestrial television networks CBS($3.73B), NBC($3.6B) and FOX ($4.27B), as well as cable television's ESPN ($8.8B) are paying a combined total of $20.4 billion to broadcast NFL games through the 2011 season for CBS, FOX, and NBC and through 2013 for ESPN. However, the league imposes several strict television policies to ensure that stadiums are filled and sold out, to maximize TV ratings, and to help leverage content on these networks. League-owned NFL Network, on cable television, broadcasts 7 games per season nationally.

NFL preseason telecasts are more in line with the other major sports leagues' regular season telecasts, in that there are more locally-produced telecasts, usually by a local affiliate of one of the above terrestrial television networks. Some preseason games will air nationally, however.

The TV rights to the NFL are the most lucrative and expensive rights not only of any American sport, but of any American entertainment property. With the fragmentation of audiences due to the increased specialization of broadcast and cable TV networks, sports remain one of the few entertainment properties that not only can guarantee a large and diversified audience, but an audience that will watch in real time.

Annually, the Super Bowl often ranks among the most watched shows of the year. Four of Nielsen Media Research's top 10 programs are Super Bowls . Networks have purchased a share of the broadcasting rights to the NFL as a means of raising the entire network's profile.

Under the current television contracts, which began during the 2006 season, regular season games are broadcast on five networks: CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and The NFL Network.

With these current contracts, the regional Sunday afternoon games are broadcast on CBS and Fox. CBS has broadcast rights to all regional AFC intra-conference games, and Fox has all rights to regional NFC intra-conference games. Inter-conference games are broadcast by the network that is the normal broadcast partner for the away team's conference. In 1970, when the NFL and AFL merged, and home blackouts were put into place for AFC games (the AFL had lifted these during its run), this assured that all Sunday road games would be seen on the same network, while allowing both networks access to every stadium/market in the league. Three games (with some exceptions, see below) are broadcast in any one market each Sunday afternoon, with one network getting a "doubleheader" each week (the 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT and 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT games) while the other network broadcasting either a 1:00 p.m. ET (10:00 a.m. PT) or a 4:05 p.m. ET (1:05 p.m. PT) game.

Starting with the 1998 season, the league revised the 4 o'clock "late" games to start at 4:05 p.m. ET if it was part of a "singleheader," and to start at 4:15 p.m. ET if it was part of a "doubleheader." The additional 15 minutes for doubleheaders allowed the early games extra time to be played to completion, and avoid running over into the late game's kickoff. For singleheader games, only 5 minutes were added, to allow the network time for a short intro (since three hours had passed since the pregame show has aired), and one commercial break before kickoff. In those cases, there is no need to avoid early-game overlap, since there is no early game shown in that instance. In addition, it allows those games to end earlier, on average.

During the first sixteen weeks of the schedule, both Foxand CBS are given eight doubleheaders apiece. The two networks alternate doubleheaders, but not necessarily week-in and week-out. For example, in early October, CBS typically airs two or three consecutive double-header weekends, while Fox opts for single-headers those weeks due to their concurrent coverage of the baseball playoffs. Due to CBS's annual coverage of the U.S. Open, Fox has usually had exclusive double-header coverage of opening weekend since 1998. Starting in 2006, both networks air a double-header in week 17.

National broadcasts of marquee match-ups usually occur on Sunday and Monday nights, and later in the season (after the completion of the NCAA football season) on Thursday and Saturday nights as well. NBC has broadcast rights to Sunday night games. These are broadcast under a special "flexible schedule" that allows Sunday games (on the last seven weeks of the season that contain a Sunday night game) to be moved from the normal start time of 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT, 4:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. PT, or 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT. to the prime-time slot, and possibly move one or more 1:00 p.m. ET slotted games to the 4:00 p.m. ET slots. This is to have the best game of each week broadcast on national over-the-air television.

During the last week of the season, the league could also re-schedule games as late as six days before the contests so that all of the television networks will be able to broadcast a game that has playoff implications. Both FOX and CBS have the right to "protect" five games each when flexible scheduling for Weeks 11-17 are in place. This allows FOX and CBS to protect at least one marquee game to show on a national scale. Both networks are also allowed to move a 1:00 p.m. ET slotted game to 4:05 p.m. ET or 4:15 p.m. ET during this time of the season. NBC also has broadcast rights to the opening Thursday Night game, which replaces a game taken away when the league omits a Sunday night game during the weekend of the World Series (starting in 2007, the one weekend where Games 3-5 are held). Monday Night Football has been moved from longtime partner ABC to ESPN (though it should be noted that both are properties of Disney). Additionally, the recently created NFL Network will broadcast eight Thursday and Saturday night games for the league starting with a newly-created third Thanksgiving Day game.

Also, satellite broadcast company DirecTV offers NFL Sunday Ticket, a subscription-based package, that allows most Sunday daytime regional games to be watched. NFL Sunday Ticket is subject to the same blackout rules as broadcast networks. This package is exclusive to DirecTV in the USA. In Canada, NFL Sunday Ticket is available on a per-provider distribution deal on both cable and satellite because Canadian law generally prevents one provider from offering a package on an exclusive basis.

The NFL imposes several television and blackout policies to maximize TV ratings and to ensure that stadiums are filled and sold out for these games.

Except for Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, games aired on the NFL Network, and other selected contests, most of the regular season games are regionally televised on Sunday afternoon by CBS and Fox. In other words, each game is only broadcast to certain media markets in the United States instead of the entire country.

Which games get shown in what particular markets are determined by the following factors: First, each home team's "primary media market," the market in which the team is physically located, must televise all of the away games involving the local team (a vestige of the days when only road games were shown), and all of the home games, provided that they are sold out at least 72 hours prior to kickoff (or else, they are subject to blackout, see below). In addition, the league also designates "secondary markets," media markets adjoining primary markets (generally penetrating within 75 miles of a stadium but not having their own team) that are also required to show the local team. Generally, these secondary markets must show the road games but are not obligated to show the designated team's sold out home games. Their decision on whether to show home games typically depends on whether or not the NFL-designated local team is perceived to be the most popular in the market. For example, Harrisburg, PA is a secondary market to the Baltimore Ravens. Therefore the CBS station in Harrisburg must show all Ravens ROAD games. However since there are a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans there, when the Ravens are home at the same time the Steelers are playing, that station shows the Steelers. In all other markets, the networks are the sole arbiters of what game gets shown where. However, they usually make their decisions after consulting with all of their local affiliates. In some rarer occasions, some affiliates are offered a choice of a few games for a given time-slot, if there is not one game that stands out as appropriate.

During the afternoon, CBS and Fox may switch a media market's game to a more competitive one, particularly when a contest becomes one-sided. For this to happen, one of the teams must normally be ahead by at least 18 points in the second half. However, due to the incident involving the "Heidi Game", a primary media market must show its local team's game in its entirety, and secondary markets usually follow suit for road games. Also, secondary markets (for home games) or any others where one team's popularity stands out may request a constant feed of that game, and in that case will not be switched. If the local team's game is in the late time-slot on the doubleheader network, the primary and secondary markets (usually only for road games in the latter case) may be required to switch coverage from the early game to the start of the late game just before kickoff, so that the local team's contest can be shown in its entirety. The network can show updates and highlights of the early game at its discretion. NFL Sunday Ticket viewers are unaffected, except to the extent that blacked out channels might change as a result.

For this reason, the New York Giants and New York Jets are never scheduled on the same network on the same day (unless they play each other) because they both share the same primary media market. The San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders are treated likewise. Otherwise, the networks could theoretically have to cut away from one team's game to show the other team. In general, the league never schedules the Giants and the Jets to play their games at the same time (except for a head-to-head meeting), and the same usually goes for the 49ers and the Raiders, though this can mean one of those teams will play a road game at 10:00 AM PT. Also, either the 49ers or Raiders will typically be scheduled for a prime-time game, regardless of their records during the previous season. The often complicated television package is a significant factor in why the NFL schedule for a particular season takes several weeks to develop.

The same principles which apply to the New York and San Francisco markets were also in effect when the Rams and Raiders shared the Los Angeles market from 1982-94. Like San Francisco, this often meant the Rams or Raiders would be scheduled for a 10 a.m. PT start when on the road.

The Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens are served by separate media markets, and so they can play at the same time. However, if one team is at home and the other is on the road, both games have aired in each market on a few occasions. However, this policy is not consistently applied in each city.

When a media market's regionally televised game ends before the others, the network (CBS or Fox) may switch to "bonus coverage" of the ending of another game. However, the league imposes a couple of restrictions that are designed to maximize the TV ratings of the late games on the doubleheader network, which tend to record the most NFL viewers during the day (often beating the audience for Sunday night games).

First, bonus coverage offered after any early time slot games cannot be shown past the start of the late time slot (either 4:10 ET for the doubleheader network or 4:15 ET for the non-doubleheader network). This prevents people from continuing to watch the bonus coverage instead of seeing the beginning of the late doubleheader network's game (which is usually either their local team or the network's featured game). Again, the networks may show highlights of the game after the fact, and usually will at the earliest convenience. The single-header network will sometimes show each play as soon as it ends as part of its post-game show. Of course, any station originally getting the game featured during bonus coverage will stay with it unless they are leaving to show a local team.

Second, bonus coverage cannot be shown after a late game on the single-game network because it will run in opposition to the ending of the late doubleheader network's game(s) and NBC's pre-game show. However, the single-game network usually schedules most of its top games in the early 1:00 ET time slot (except for West Coast teams' home games, and possibly either a Giants or Jets game), so this does not tend to be a major issue.

If the doubleheader network's games all finish before 7:30 ET, it is supposed to conclude the post-game show within 10 minutes to protect NBC's pre-game show. If any games finish after 7:30, the post-game can run until 8:00 ET. However, this restriction seems to apply to game footage only; on several occasions Fox has run its post-game to 8:00, despite all games ending before 7:30, by airing only panel discussions and interviews in the latter portion of the show. On the other hand, CBS rarely airs any post-game show after its doubleheaders or 4:05 single-games. This is because 60 Minutes is one of its signature shows, and CBS makes every effort to start it as close to 7:00 (its traditional airtime) as possible. The rule generally seems targeted at Fox, which heavily promotes its The OT show to compete with NBC.

Since the 2006 season, the NFL has used a "flexible-scheduling" system for the last seven weeks of the regular season where there is a Sunday night game. The system is designed so that the league has the flexibility in selecting games to air on Sunday night that will feature a more even or intriguing contest as well as make it possible for teams to play in primetime.

Under the system, all Sunday games in the affected weeks in the Eastern and Central time zones will tentatively have the start time of 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT). Those played in the Mountain or Pacific time zones will have the tentative start time of 4:05 p.m. ET (1:05 p.m. PT). Also, there will be one game provisionally slotted into the 8:15 p.m. ET slot. On the Tuesday twelve days before the games (possibly sooner), the league will move one game to the prime-time slot (or keep its original choice), and possibly move one or more 1 p.m. slotted games to the 4 p.m. slot. During the last week of the season, the league could re-schedule games as late as six days before the contests so that as many of the television networks as possible will be able to broadcast a game that has major playoff implications.

Fox and CBS may each protect five games for the 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. slot. However, they may not protect more than one game per week, and can not protect any games in week 17. All games in the final week of the season are subject to being moved to 8:15 p.m. Individual teams may make no more than four appearances on NBC during the season. Only three teams may make as many as six prime-time appearances (Sunday night, Monday night, and Thursday night combined).

To maximize TV ratings, as well as protect the NFL's ability to sell TV rights collectively, games televised on ESPN or the NFL Network are simulcast on a local broadcast station in each of the primary markets of both teams (the Green Bay Packers have two primary markets, Green Bay and Milwaukee). However, the home team's market can only air the game if it is sold out within 72 hours of kick-off (see below).

Since 1973, the NFL has maintained a blackout policy that states that a home game cannot be televised locally if it is not sold out within 72 hours prior to its start time. Prior to 1973, all games were blacked out in their city of origin regardless of whether they were sold out. This policy, dating back to the NFL's emerging years on television, resulted in home-city blackouts that even extended to championship games. For instance, the 1958 "Greatest Game Ever Played" between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants was not available on TV to New York fans despite the fact that tickets were out of reach to most. For years, Giants fans would migrate to Connecticut motel rooms every home weekend where they could watch the games beamed on Hartford/New Haven's CBS affiliate WTIC (Channel 3). Similarly, all Super Bowl games prior to Super Bowl VII were blacked out in the host city's market.

Although that policy was successfully defended in court numerous times, Congress passed legislation requiring the NFL to impose the 72-hour deadline (see above). The league will sometimes extend this deadline to 48 hours if there are only a few thousand tickets left unsold; much more rarely, they will occasionally extend this to 24 hours before kickoff in special cases.

Alternatively, some NFL teams have arrangements with local TV stations or businesses to buy up unsold tickets. Tickets in premium "club" sections have been excluded from the blackout rule in past years, as have tickets returned by the visiting team. The Jacksonville Jaguars have even gone further and closed off a number of sections at their home Jacksonville Municipal Stadium to reduce the number of tickets they would need to sell (Jacksonville Municipal Stadium is one of the largest in the NFL, as it was built to also accommodate the annual Florida-Georgia game and the Gator Bowl, but Jacksonville is one of the smallest markets in the league). However, the NFL requires that this be done for every home game (including any home playoff games) in a given season if a team elects such an option, so that they can't try to sell out the entire stadium only when they expect to be able to do so.

The NFL defines "locally" as within a 75-mile radius of the stadium. Therefore, a TV blackout affects any market whose broadcast signal penetrates into the 75-mile radius. Some primary media markets, such as Denver and Phoenix, may cover that entire radius and so the blackout would not affect any other markets.

An exception to the 75-mile rule is the market area for the Green Bay Packers, which stretches out to both the Green Bay and Milwaukee television markets (the team's radio flagship station is in Milwaukee, and selected Packer home games were played at Milwaukee until 1994). However, blackout rules do not come into effect for the Packers, due to a four-decade long streak of sellouts and a decades-long season ticket waiting list making any non-sellout game in the near future seem impossible.

Another policy to ensure a filled-up stadium is that no other NFL games can air on local TV at the same time as a team's home game in the club's primary market. This is to prevent ticket-holders from opting to watch the other locally televised NFL game instead of showing up at the stadium. Thus when a team's home game is on the network showing a single game, the network televising the doubleheader can only broadcast one game into that club's primary market; instead of showing a second game in the same time slot as the home game, the doubleheader network's local station must broadcast alternative programming (often movies or infomercials). When the doubleheader network has a team's home game, the other station might program the time themselves or air some other network programming scheduled for the non-NFL time-slot. However, in special occasions, this rule may be relaxed. One example of this is the week when CBS carries the U.S. Open. Since CBS only carries 1:00 games on that Sunday, it may show those games opposite a team which has a home game on FOX at the same time.

Each TV market, including one hosting a non-sold-out game, is assured of at least one televised game in the early and late time slots, one game on each network, but no "network doubleheader" in a market originating a non-sold-out game.

The New York and San Francisco Bay Area media markets typically get fewer doubleheaders than other markets since each has two teams, and one of them is at home virtually every week. The main exception is when one of the teams is idle, has its home game televised on the doubleheader network, or is chosen for a prime-time game. This policy affects only the club's primary market, not others with signals that penetrate inside the 75-mile radius. It also does not affect viewers of NFL Sunday Ticket in the primary market; all other games remain available.

Critics claim that these blackout policies are not really effective in creating sold-out, filled stadiums. Rather, there are other factors that cause non-sellouts, such as high ticket prices and the fact that people do not want to support a losing team. Furthermore, TV blackouts hurt the league; without the TV exposure, it becomes more difficult for those teams with low attendance and few sellouts to increase their popularity and following as the league loses TV exposure.

Conversely, the NFL has sold out well over 90 percent of games in recent seasons. Additionally, many teams sell out their entire regular season schedule before it begins (usually through season-ticket sales), and so there is no threat of a blackout in those markets. In addition, some teams with recent losing records like the Cleveland Browns still sell out all their home games due to the rabid fan bases of such teams who watch their team regardless of how good or bad the team is doing. Fans of other NFL teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins (among others) also have no fear of blackouts in their local markets due to years-long waiting lists for season tickets.

In 2005, for the first time in its history, the NFL lifted the blackout policies for a team: the New Orleans Saints. Due to damage by Hurricane Katrina, the Saints split their home games between Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Tiger Stadium at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Alamodome in San Antonio. Even though the city limits of Baton Rouge are more than 75 miles from New Orleans, the blackout rules normally apply, since affiliates from the media market penetrate within the radius.

The blackout policies even extend to the Pro Bowl; if that game is not sold out, it is not available in the media market of its venue. From 1980 through 2009, the game was played in Honolulu, making the applicable market the entire state of Hawaii. This resulted in the biggest blackout radius in the NFL: thousands of miles, since there are no stations (and virtually no land) between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland (the nearest stations outside are from California and Pago Pago's WVUV-LP, both over 2000 miles away). The 2010 game will be played in the Miami area.

From the very beginning of the TV era, NBC was a prime innovator in football coverage. They became the first major television network to cover an NFL game, when on October 22, 1939, they televised a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In 1950, the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins became the first NFL teams to have all their home and road games televised. In that same year, other teams made deals to have selected games broadcast on TV. The DuMont Network then paid a rights fee of $75,000 to televise the 1951 NFL Championship Game across the entire United States.

From 1953 to 1955, DuMont also televised Saturday night NFL games. It was the first time that National Football League games were broadcast live, coast-to-coast, in prime time, for the entire season. The broadcasts ended after the 1955 season, when the DuMont Network folded.

By 1955, NBC became the televised home to the NFL Championship Game, paying $100,000 to the league. The 1958 NFL Championship Game played at Yankee Stadium between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants went into sudden death overtime. This game, known since as the "Greatest Game Ever Played," was seen by many throughout the country and is credited with increasing the popularity of professional football in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

CBS began to televise selected NFL regular season games in 1956.

When the rival American Football League (AFL) began in 1960, they signed a 5-year contract with ABC to cover their games. This became the first ever cooperative television plan for professional football, in which the proceeds of the contract were divided equally among member clubs. ABC and the AFL also introduced moving, on-field cameras (as opposed to the fixed midfield cameras of CBS and the NFL), and were the first to have players "miked" during broadcast games.

The NFL followed suit in 1962 with its own revenue sharing plan after CBS agreed to telecast all regular season games for an annual fee of $4.65 million. CBS' fee later increased to $14.1 million per year in 1964, and $18.8 million per year in 1966.

The first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played on January 15, 1967. Because CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games and NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games, it was decided to have both of them cover that first game. The next three AFL-NFL World Championship Games, later renamed the Super Bowl, were then divided by the two networks: CBS broadcast Super Bowls II and IV while NBC covered III.

When the AFL and the NFL officially merged in 1970, the combined league divided its teams into the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). It was then decided that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.

Also, ABC agreed to televise one regular season game per week on Monday night. ABC aired its first edition of Monday Night Football on September 21, 1970. MNF itself pushed the limits of football coverage with its halftime highlights segment, occasional banter from Howard Cosell and Dennis Miller, and celebrity guests such as John Lennon, Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Clinton. During its 36-year run on ABC, Monday Night Football consistently ranked among the most popular primetime broadcasts each week during the NFL season.

As the league's broadcasters, ABC, CBS, and NBC had their own talent. Announcers such as Cosell, Frank Gifford, and Al Michaels (from ABC); Pat Summerall and John Madden (from CBS); and Curt Gowdy, Dick Enberg, Marv Albert, Jim Simpson, Kyle Rote and Jim Lampley (from NBC), all had their own unique analysis of the game. Even the individual networks' football coverage was innovative. For example, CBS' The NFL Today was the first pre-game show to have a female co-host (Phyllis George). On December 20, 1980 NBC made history by broadcasting a game between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins with no announcers. NBC has also tried one-announcer football when Dick Enberg called the New York Jets at Cleveland Browns game on December 12, 1981 without his regular commentator Merlin Olsen at his side. NBC instead pre-recorded interviews with players & coaches from both teams leading up to the game which would fill in the position where Olsen would have spoken. On December 27, 1987, NBC had the first female play-by-play football announcer in Gayle Sierens who partnered with Dave Rowe in game between the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs which in its own way, set the mold for female sportscasters of today. It's still the only game where a female has called an NFL Game.

In 1978, the NFL increased their revenue from both ticket sales and TV by expanding the regular season from 14 games to 16. Furthermore, the playoff format was expanded from 8 teams to 10 teams, enabling the league to give another post-season game each to CBS and NBC.

Meanwhile, the Super Bowl became a yearly ratings blockbuster, allowing the network that aired it to generate millions of dollars in advertising revenue. Four of the ten highest rated television broadcasts of all-time (in the U.S.) are Super Bowls. When the league signed a new 5-year TV contract with the three networks in 1982, it allowed ABC to enter into the Super Bowl rotation; Super Bowl XIX was the first that ABC televised. Since then, the network that televises each Super Bowl is determined by the TV contracts that the league negotiates with all of its broadcasters. The network broadcasters generally each get one Super Bowl before any of them gets a second one, and the process repeats before any network airs a third one (although the TV contracts usually expire by then).

The middle of the 1980s ushered in the cable era, and the NFL was eager to exploit that opportunity in 1987.

ESPN became the first cable network to broadcast regular season NFL games. Chris Berman helped redefine the pre- and post-game shows when he launched NFL Countdown and NFL Primetime, and they have since become the top-rated pre- and post-game shows on television. The cable network's contract to show ESPN Sunday Night Football was one of the turning points for ESPN, transforming it from a small cable network to a marketing empire.

When ESPN first started televising NFL games in 1987, it only broadcast Sunday night games during the second half of the season. Meanwhile, ABC, CBS, and NBC maintained their rights to Monday Night Football, the NFC, and the AFC, respectively.

By 1990, Turner's TNT network started to broadcast Sunday night games for the first half of the season. The combined 1990 contracts with ABC, CBS, ESPN, NBC, and TNT totaled to $3.6 billion ($900 million per year), the largest in TV history. One major factor in the increased TV rights fee was that the league changed the regular season so that all NFL teams would play their 16-game schedule over a 17-week period. ABC was also given the rights to televise the two Saturday games on the opening weekend of the postseason. This was made possible after the league also expanded its playoff format to include more teams.

In 1994, the league signed an exclusivity agreement with the direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service DirecTV to launch NFL Sunday Ticket, a satellite television subscription service that offers every regular season NFL game.

Meanwhile, NBC's rebound in their overall ratings in both the 1980s and 1990s (after years in the bottom of the ratings cellar) were attributed in part to its continuing coverage of the NFL. But with television contract re-negotiations in early 1998 ushering in the era of multi-billion dollar broadcasting agreements, an era of pro football broadcasting would soon came to an unceremonious conclusion. CBS, stung by Fox's surprise bid four years earlier, aggressively sought to reacquire some broadcasting rights. CBS agreed to pay $4 billion over eight years ($500 million per season) to air AFC games. NBC, meanwhile, had indicated a desire to bid for Monday Night Football rights in 1998, but gave up when the financial stakes skyrocketed. And so, after six decades, NBC, the network that helped define pro football on television, lost its rights to air the NFL, thus marking the beginning of a slow decline for the Peacock network's sports division, resulting in the devastating 2004-05 prime-time season, when NBC carried no major sporting championships during prime-time (NBC had already lost Major League Baseball broadcasting rights in 2000 and National Basketball Association rights in 2002), something the other networks carried. Like CBS before it, NBC would later decide that not having NFL rights did too much damage to its overall ratings to justify not paying the high rights fees required.

The other networks also signed eight-year deals in 1998. FOX extended its NFC deal by agreeing to a $4.4 billion contract ($550 million per season). ABC retained its longtime rights to Monday Night Football by also paying $4.4 billion over eight years. And ESPN agreed to a $4.8 billion ($600 million a season) deal to become the sole cable broadcaster of NFL games, marking an end with the league's association with TNT. And like previous TV contracts, the coverage of the Super Bowl was divided between the broadcast networks.

In 2002, the NFL began scheduling a Thursday night special opening "Kickoff" game, taking place the Thursday after Labor Day and leading into the opening Sunday slate of NFL games. The event includes a pre-game concert and other festivities that are televised. The first series of these events were held in New York and Washington, DC respectively to celebrate both cities' resilience in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks . The 2002 San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants game was held on September 5 and televised on ESPN. The 2003 edition of the kickoff game featured the Washington Redskins hosting the New York Jets on September 4, 2003. Since 2006, NBC has televised the Kickoff game (see below).

Starting in 2004, the NFL began awarding the opening game to the defending Super Bowl champions as the official start of their title defense. The unfurling of the team's Super Bowl championship banner in their stadium has become a centerpiece of the opening ceremonies. No game better exemplified this format than in 2004, when the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots hosted the Indianapolis Colts in a rematch of the 2003 AFC Championship.

Currently, the NFL's TV broadcasters have suffered annual financial losses because advertising revenue is unable to meet the cost incurred by the purchase of broadcast rights.

Nevertheless, the current broadcast contract, which began in the 2006 season, resulted in a sizable increase in total rights fees. Both Fox and CBS renewed their Sunday afternoon broadcast packages through 2011, in both cases with modest increases. Furthermore, the league and DirecTV signed a five year extension to their exclusivity deal on NFL Sunday Ticket.

But despite relatively high, if declining, TV ratings, ABC decided to end its relationship with the NFL after losing significant sums of money on Monday Night Football. In addition to the fees issue, part of this decision may have been the result of a resurgent ABC primetime entertainment schedule during the 2004-05 season, particularly on Sunday evening; thus ABC would be unable to satisfy the league's reported preference for a Sunday night game on broadcast television as opposed to Monday.

Because of that, Monday Night Football moved to ESPN, with the cable network paying a large sum of $1.1 billion per year from 2006 to 2014 for the rights to the lucrative franchise. Unlike the broadcast networks, however, ESPN can generate revenue from subscription sales, in addition to traditional commercial breaks. The cable network's coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET with SportsCenter Special Edition: Monday Night Kickoff. The game itself then starts at 8:30 p.m., with Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, and Tony Kornheiser in the broadcast booths for the games. In addition, other shows such as Pardon the Interruption are on location from the site of the game that week.

Meanwhile, NBC, after losing the AFC package to CBS in 1997, has reclaimed its share of the NFL broadcast rights with a deal worth an average of $650 million per year from 2006 to 2012 (not much more than ESPN used to pay for the Sunday night package). This new deal includes the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2012, a likely means of reversing its current ratings slump. NBC's coverage also includes three preseason games, the first two Wild Card playoff games of each post-season, and the annual Thursday opening Kickoff Game. The network will also have flexibility in selecting games in the latter part of the season. It is essentially the package ABC previously had.

Coverage of NBC Sunday Night Football starts at 8:15 p.m. ET with Al Michaels serving as the play-by-play announcer, John Madden as color commentator, and Andrea Kremer as the sole sideline reporter. Each telecast begins with a pre-game show airing at 7 p.m. ET entitled Football Night in America, hosted by Bob Costas.

In addition, for the first three years of the contract, the network that carried the Super Bowl also broadcast the Pro Bowl on the Saturday night following the championship game. In the calendar year 2007, CBS broadcast both games, followed by Fox in 2008, and NBC in 2009. In 2010, the Pro Bowl will move to the weekend before the Super Bowl, and will be aired by ESPN.

The NFL Network was created by the league in 2003 and given a separate package of games to air. The eight-game package consists of prime-time games which in 2006 and 2007 begun airing from Thanksgiving to the end of the regular season. 5 games aired on Thursday nights and 3 Saturday nights, the latter beginning Week 15 of the season. For the 2008 season the ratio and dates of the games changed: now there were 7 Thursday night games beginning the first week of November and continuing to Week 16. There was only one Saturday night game (Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys, in the latter's Texas Stadium finale), airing during Week 16. The NFL could theoretically decide to sell this package to another network should NFL Network broadcasts not generate enough revenue. NFL Network will also carry several preseason games. The introduction of the NFL Network games also marked the end to late-season Saturday afternoon regular season games on the networks that aired Sunday afternoon games: CBS, Fox and NBC.

The style of pro football broadcasting has seen several changes since the 1990s, including female hosts and sideline reporters, visual first-down markers, advanced graphics, new multi-camera angles, and high definition telecasts.

The NFL is a major part of Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States. The Detroit Lions have hosted a game every Thanksgiving Day since 1934 (with the exception of 1939-1944 due to World War II), and they have been nationally televised since 1962. In 1966, the NFL introduced an annual game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys, which they have played every year except in 1975 and 1977 when the St. Louis Cardinals hosted a game instead. However, St. Louis football fans, used to the traditional "Turkey Day Game" between Kirkwood High School and Webster Groves High School as the only local match on Thanksgiving, did not respond well to an NFL game on the same day, and thus Dallas resumed hosting the game in 1978.

When the AFL began holding annual Thanksgiving Day games, the league chose a different model - circulating the game among several cities. During the 1967–69 seasons, two Thanksgiving AFL games were televised each year.

After the 1970 merger, the NFL decided to keep only the traditional Detroit and Dallas games. Due to the broadcast contracts in place since 1970, three NFC teams play on Thanksgiving, as opposed to only one AFC team. During even years, the Lions play their Thanksgiving game against an AFC team, and thus are televised by the network holding the AFC package (NBC and later CBS); the Cowboys host an NFC team and are shown by the network with the NFC package (CBS and later Fox). During odd years, Dallas hosts an AFC team and Detroit plays an NFC opponent. Every decade or so, this even-odd rotation is reversed — with Detroit hosting an NFC team in even years and an AFC team in odd years, and Dallas hosting an AFC team in even years and an NFC team in odd years.

When the league created its new TV package for the NFL Network in 2006, a third Thanksgiving game was added, a prime time event beginning after the first two games had finished. The inaugural NFL Network Thanksgiving Game was between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs.

In recent years, the NFL has generally scheduled games on Christmas only if it falls on a day normally used for games (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday). If Christmas falls on a Sunday, as it did in 2005, most of the games will be played on the preceding day (with no games that night or the following afternoon in deference to the holiday), and then one or two games are scheduled for Christmas Night to be broadcast nationally. One game would be held over for the regular Monday night slot and one would already have been played on Thursday. Through the 2006 season, there have been 14 such Christmas contests.

The first NFL games actually played on December 25 came after the merger during the 1971 season. The first two games of the Divisional Playoff Round were held on Christmas Day. However, the second of the two contests played that day, the Miami Dolphins versus the Kansas City Chiefs, wound up being the longest game in NFL history. Because of the length of this game, the league received numerous complaints, reportedly because it caused havoc with Christmas dinners around the nation. As a result, the NFL decided to not schedule any Christmas Day matches for the 17 years that followed.

The NFL continued to avoid Christmas even after it started to increase the regular season and the playoffs. The league expanded to a 16-game regular season and a 10-team playoff tournament in 1978, but it was not until 1982 that the regular season ended after Christmas, due to the player's strike. Finally, in 1989, the NFL tried another Christmas Day game, the Cincinnati Bengals at the Minnesota Vikings, but it was a 9 p.m. ET Monday Night Football contest, thereby avoiding interfering with family dinners. In the years since, the NFL has played an occasional late-afternoon or night game on the holiday; but there has not been a Christmas Day game starting earlier than 5 p.m. ET since 1971.

There have also been several games played on Christmas Eve over the years, the most famous of these being a Oakland Raiders-Baltimore Colts playoff contest in 1977 which culminated in a play immortalized as "Ghost to the Post". These games have typically been played during the afternoon out of deference to the holiday. If Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, then most of the weekend's NFL games will be on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, except for a few games held over for the Sunday and Monday TV packages.

In 2007, television contract obligations led to the league scheduling its first prime-time Christmas Eve game, when the Denver Broncos met the San Diego Chargers in San Diego on December 24, which happened to be a Monday. This game started at 5 P.M. local time (8 P.M. Eastern), and both teams were from the western United States.

Based upon current television contracts, the next Christmas game will take place during the 2009 NFL season. Whether it will be on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day has yet to be announced.

The NFL also never plays games on New Year's Day in any year in which January 1 is a non-Sunday, deferring to the numerous New Year's Day college football bowl games that are traditionally held on that day. However, when New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, the traditional bowl games are moved to Monday, January 2 (which becomes a federal holiday), allowing NFL games to be played on the 1st. Previously, the AFL played its first league championship game on January 1, 1961. Thereafter, Pro Football has been played on New Year's Day in 1967 (the 1966 NFL and AFL Championship Games), in 1978 (the 1977 NFC and AFC Championship Games), in 1984 (the 1983 NFC and AFC Divisional Playoff Games), in 1989 (the 1988 NFC and AFC Divisional Playoff Games), in 1995 (the second half of the 1994 NFC and AFC Wild Card Games), and in 2006 (the final weekend of the 2005 regular season).

Between 1970 and 1977, and again since 2003, there has been no Monday Night game during the last week of the season. From 1978 until 2002, a season-ending Monday Night game was scheduled. The 2003 revision permits the NFL to have all eight teams involved in the Wild Card playoffs to have equal time in preparation, instead of the possibility of one or two teams having a short week of preparation for their playoff game if they were picked to play on Saturday, instead of Sunday. Note, however, that this scenario, in which a team finishing its season on Monday night had a playoff game the following Saturday, never occurred.

There have been a few occasions when two Monday night games were played simultaneously. In 1987, a scheduling conflict arose when Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins went to Game 7 of the World Series, making the Metrodome unavailable for the Minnesota Vikings' scheduled game that Sunday. The Vikings game was subsequently moved to Monday night, and ABC aired it in a split telecast with the regularly-scheduled MNF game. A similar scenario unfolded in 1997, when the Florida Marlins went to Game 7 of the World Series and the Miami Dolphins' Sunday game at Pro Player Stadium was shifted to Monday night. In 2005, the New Orleans Saints played the New York Giants in a rescheduled game due to Hurricane Katrina; the Saints–Giants game began at 7:30 p.m. before being switched over to ABC's corporate sister network ESPN at 9 p.m. so ABC could show the regularly scheduled match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. The Saints-Giants game was seen in its entirety in New York, Louisiana and other hurricane-affected areas on ABC, with the regularly-scheduled MNF game shown on ESPN until the end of the first game.

In 2006, ESPN opened the season with a Monday Night Football doubleheader, with a 7 p.m. game and a 10:30 p.m. both shown in their entirety nationwide. The doubleheader during the first week of the season has continued ever since.

The NFL's status as a prime offering by the networks has led some to conclude that unbiased coverage of the league is not possible, although this may be true of most sports. ESPN attempted to run a dramatic series showing steamier aspects of pro football, Playmakers, but dropped the series after the league reportedly threatened to exclude the network from carrying its games under the next set of TV contracts.

The NFL also has a strict policy prohibiting networks to run ads during official NFL programming (pre and post-game studio shows and the games themselves) from the gambling industry, and has rejected some ads from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Commissioner Roger Goodell explained in 2007 that he did not think it behooved the sport to associate with sports betting. Additionally, the networks and their announcers cannot discuss or run graphics showing point spreads during NFL shows (Al Michaels, among other announcers, has been known to allude to them on-air, particularly at the end of the game where a seemingly insignificant score can have a major effect on the point-spread outcome.) Most teams also insert similar clauses into their radio contracts, which are locally negotiated. The NFL injury report and required videotaping of practice are theoretically intended to prevent gamblers from gaining inside information. In contrast, fantasy football is often free to play.

At the start of the game, "Name of broadcaster welcomes you to the following presentation of the National Football League" (or similar phrasing) is announced, while at the end of the game, the message is "Name of broadcaster thanks you for watching this presentation of the National Football League" (or similar phrasing). This announcement is designed to separate game coverage from news, sports analysis, or entertainment programming not under the NFL contract and NFL ownership. Also, since 1998, the NFL has owned the rights to game broadcasts once they air-- a copyright disclaimer airs either before the start of the second half or after the first commercial break of the second half, depending on the broadcaster ("This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited"). Only the NFL Network can re-air games; they pick a few each week.

Further, the NFL imposes restrictions on sponsored segments during game coverage (this does not apply to national or local radio broadcasts). These are permitted only prior to kickoff, during halftime, and following the game (once the "...welcomes you to the following presentation.." notice appears, the restrictions take effect until half-time, and again until the game ends); however, these segments (and other programming with title sponsorships, particularly halftime and post-game shows or other sports properties) can be advertised a couple of times during game coverage, and "aerial footage" providers (i.e. sponsored blimps) may be acknowledged, usually once an hour as is standard in other sports. Other acknowledgments (including HDTV or Skycam-type camera sponsorships) are limited to pre-kickoff and post-game credits. This is done so that, while competitors of the NFL's official sponsors may advertise on game broadcasts, they will not potentially become synonymous with the league through in-game and/or title sponsorship.

Finally, sideline reporters are restricted as to whom they can speak to and when (usually a head coach at halftime, and one or two players before and after the game ends). Information on injured players or rules interpretations are relayed from NFL off-field officials to the TV producers in the truck, who then pass it along to the sideline reporters or booth announcers. Thus, CBS opted in 2006 to no longer use sideline reporters except for some playoff games. ESPN will follow suit by reducing the roles of their sideline reporters in 2008.

The NFL owns NFL Films, whose duties include providing game film to media outlets for highlight shows after a 2-3 day window in which outlets can use original game broadcast highlights.

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NFL on FOX

The NFL on Fox booth at Candlestick Park during a game on November 16, 2008.

NFL on FOX is the brand name of the Fox Broadcasting Company's coverage of the National Football League's National Football Conference games, produced by Fox Sports. Game coverage is usually preceded by the pre-game show FOX NFL Sunday.

The broadcast's distinctive theme music has been used since its inception in 1994. Derivatives of the NFL on FOX theme have been incorporated throughout Fox Sports' programming, including Fox Sports Net, as Fox Sports' overall theme, and FOX is in the process of registering the original theme as a trademark. The theme was produced by Scott Schreer through his production company NJJ Music. The theme was composed by Scott Schreer, Reed Hays and Phil Garrod. When there is an injury timeout on the playing field, FOX generally cuts to commercial using a remix where a piano replaces the horns section while playing the main theme.

Though FOX was growing rapidly as a network, and had established itself as a presence, it was still not considered a major competitor to the "big three" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). FOX management, having seen the critical role that soccer programming had played in the growth of British satellite service BSkyB, believed that sports, and specifically professional football, would be the engine that would make FOX a major network the quickest.

To this end, FOX bid aggressively for football from the start. In 1987 (FOX's first full year on the air), after ABC initially hedged on renewing its contract to carry Monday Night Football, FOX offered the NFL to pick up the contract for the same amount ABC had been paying, about $1.3 billion at the time. However, the NFL, in part because FOX had not established itself as a major network, chose to renew their contract with ABC.

Despite a few successful shows, the network did not have a significant market share until the early 1990s when News Corp. bought more TV station groups, such as New World Communications, Chris-Craft Industries, BHC Communications, and United Television, making it the largest owner of television stations in the United States.

Six years later, when the football contract was up for renewal again, FOX made what at the time, was a bold and aggressive move to acquire the rights. Knowing that they would likely need to bid considerably more than the incumbent networks to acquire a piece of the package, FOX bid $1.58 billion for four years of rights to the NFC. The NFC was considered the more desirable conference (as opposed to the AFC package that NBC carried at the time) due to its presence in most of the largest U.S. markets, such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. To the surprise and shock of many, in late 1993, the NFL selected the FOX bid, in the process stripping CBS of football for the first time since 1956. FOX's coverage would start in the 1994 season.

CBS apparently underestimated the value of its rights with respect to its advertising revenues and to its promotional opportunities for other network programming. Indeed, FOX was still an upstart player in 1993, not yet considered on par with the "Big Three" networks--CBS, NBC and ABC. It had already had offbeat hits such as The Simpsons, but had no news or sports divisions, and its coverage was significantly weaker than that of its elder counterparts.

However, the vast resources of Rupert Murdoch allowed the network to grow quickly, primarily to the detriment of CBS. After bringing in David Hill from Murdoch's U.K.-based Sky Sports to head-up the new Fox Sports division, FOX raided the CBS Sports staff, hiring longtime producer Ed Goren as Hill's second-in-command, plus CBS personalities such as Pat Summerall, John Madden, James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Matt Millen, and Dick Stockton, all of whom were prominently featured in FOX's NFL coverage.

In spring 1994, FOX's parent News Corporation struck an alliance with New World Communications, by now a key ownership group with several VHF CBS affiliates in NFC markets, and wary of a CBS without football. Nearly all of New World's stations converted en masse to FOX beginning that fall. The rights gave FOX many new viewers (and affiliates) and a platform for advertising its other shows.

FOX's acquisition of football was a watershed event not only for the network but for the NFL as well. Not only was it the event that placed FOX on a par with the "big three" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) but it also ushered in an era of growth for the NFL which continues on largely to this day.

While the heavy concentration of population in NFC markets - as opposed to the smaller markets generally served by the AFC - virtually guaranteed a substantial audience, its instant success has nonetheless been remarkable given the substantial differences between FOX's coverage and the coverage provided by ABC, CBS, ESPN, TNT, and NBC up to that time.

Fox's launch slogan was "Same Game, New Attitude." Indeed, its studio show focused more on entertainment and less on in-depth discussion of X's and O's. It also introduced bolder and innovative graphics, for instance, a continuous on-screen time-and-score graphic that Hill had originally used on Sky's soccer coverage. Fox also used parabolic microphones to include the sounds of the stands and of the on-field action. These innovations were quickly adopted by rival networks and helped to drive the development of further innovations such as the virtual first-down line.

After the 2005 season, James Brown left FOX to return to CBS Sports, where he would be the host of The NFL Today. On August 16, 2006, after weeks of speculation, the network officially announced that Joe Buck would take over the role. The move also changed the show from a permanent Los Angeles studio into a portable studio configuration, similar to the pregame show for NASCAR on FOX, where analysts Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmy Johnson joined Buck at the game to which Buck is assigned as play-by-play announcer. Curt Menefee worked all halftime shows and all postgame shows on non-doubleheader Sundays, also from the same game site with the same analysts. Menefee hosted FOX NFL Sunday during the several weeks in October when Buck was not available; during that time, Buck called Major League Baseball postseason games, including the World Series. The October 15, 22 and 29 shows were broadcast from the Los Angeles studios; the show returned to the road on November 5.

It was also announced that weather reporter Jillian Barberie (now Jillian Reynolds) would not return for the coming season, as Barberie wished to stay at home in Los Angeles with her family. Barberie did participate in at least one of the studio shows.

During the 2006 season, Chris Rose provided updated highlights during the game from the Los Angeles studio as a voice talent.

On November 17, 2006, a source told the Los Angeles Times that the final two pregame shows of 2006 would take place in the Los Angeles studios, with Buck hosting and Dick Stockton taking Buck's place at the games alongside Troy Aikman. The source cited that declining ratings no longer justified its high production costs, including security expenses. A FOX spokesman would only say that changes were being considered.

The Fox Broadcasting Company has come under fire by the Parents Television Council for displaying a fan wearing a shirt clearly saying "FUCK DA EAGLES!" in Saints colors. Three days after the broadcast, the network apologized. The Saints fan, Heather Rothstein, was contacted by Maxim magazine and was given a photo shoot.

Also during the 2006 NFC Championship between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field, in one shot from the overhead camera angle of the crowd, three Bears fans can clearly be seen giving the middle finger to the camera, uncensored.

After the 2006 NFL season, FOX NFL Sunday returned to the Los Angeles studio throughout the entire 2007 regular season and for the 2 weeks of that year's postseason. Curt Menefee became the full-time host of the pregame show, while Joe Buck reverted to play-by-play only.

In its debut in the 1994 season, FOX's coverage featured the first "scoring bug." A transparent white half-capsule-shaped graphic in the upper left corner of the screen displayed the score and game clock throughout the entire telecast, an NFL first.

By 1996, the graphic changed to a full-statistics panel, where down and distance, penalty, and key in-game statistics would pop in and out when necessary.

In 2001, the graphic changed from a bug to a banner spanning the top of the screen, and included a scrolling graphic displaying real-time scores of other games in progress. A simple black rectangle with a shaded transparent area spanned the top of the screen from left to right, displaying the abbreviations of both teams in white. The scores would be shown in white boxes next to the team. The center showed the game clock in white, to its right was the quarter ("1st QTR", "2nd QTR", etc), and to the right of the quarter was the play clock. The far right was the NFL on FOX logo. For the 2002 season, the white scoring boxes where changed to yellow. This was first seen during Super Bowl XXXVI. This was also the last year that a team's initials would flash in its two primary colors along with percussive sound beats when that team scored (for example, when the Green Bay Packers scored a touchdown on FOX, the "GB" initials and box would flash in green and gold for a few seconds as the six points for the TD were added, then again with the extra point). This banner was used for Major League Baseball on FOX broadcasts through the 2004 season.

The banner was upgraded beginning with the 2003 season. Instead of a large black rectangle, the banner alternated between a large back rectangle and several small, black parallelograms, and the shaded are above it was removed. Instead of abbreviations for the teams, their logos were now used. During the 2003 NFL playoffs, the logos were reduced in size, and the team abbreviations were put back beside them. Beginning with the 2004 season, the banner returned to a large black rectangle, and electronic lettering in the team's main color was used whenever that certain team calls timeout, scores a touchdown, or a field goal. It would be in red whenever the team challenges a play.

Midway through 2004, the banner was slightly changed again. The team logos were removed, the abbreviations now took their place. This time, they were electronic lettering in the team's main color. This version of the banner was first used for Major League Baseball on FOX postseason broadcasts that year. When team-specific information was displayed in the banner, such as the hang time of a punt or a touchdown, the abbreviation would change back to the team's logo. Also during a touchdown or field goal, the right side of the banner would have a split flashing "light", then the words "TOUCHDOWN or FIELD GOAL" and the team's name in electronic lettering moving left. During the 2005 holiday season, for the week 15 Saturday game (TB at NE), a new white banner, resembling a chrome finish and first introduced at the start of FOX's coverage of the 2005 World Series, debuted with animated snow accumulating on top. Periodically an animated snowplow would clear the screen of snow. The following week, the new banner was adopted for all games, however without the snow animation. The team abbreviations became white letters against the team's main color. This banner was used for Major League Baseball on FOX broadcasts through the 2007 season.

The current, and newest iteration of the scoring banner for the 2006 season features the real-time scores as a permanent fixture on the extreme right side of the bar, while the coloring of the banner changes to the colors of the team currently possessing the ball.

During playoff games and games featured on special days or holidays (such as the Thanksgiving Classic, AFC vs. NFC game), the scoring bar instead shows either the NFL Thanksgiving Classic logo, the NFL Divisional Playoffs/NFC Championship logo, or a special banner celebrating whichever holiday falls during that week from Fox Sports (for instance, confetti and a party horn with a traditional Happy New Year message).

At the beginning of the 2006 season, a virtual on-field graphic showing an arrow pointing towards the direction of advancement and the down/yardage information began to be used on all plays. This feature was then added by the NFL on CBS, NBC Sunday Night Football and (beginning with the 2008 season) ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcasts. At the same time, the down/yardage information also displays on the scoring banner, resulting in duplicate presentation of the same information. The bar has also been enhanced for HDTV and is thinner than previous versions, with little transparency. Also, the NFL on FOX logo is on the far left instead of the far right. On the HDTV broadcasts, the area above the banner features a translucent slanting pattern going from left-to-right across the screen. During the 2006 preseason telecasts, the quarter was indicated by illuminating four buttons (number of buttons lit indicated the quarter), but due to visibility difficulties, the quarter returned to being numerically represented for the regular season.

There was one exception to this package for the 2006 season, as FOX had to revert to the current Fox Sports Net (and former main Fox Sports) scoring banner and graphics package for its final regular season game of the year, San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos on December 31, 2006, due to a second blizzard in a week hitting Denver, preventing the usual amount of equipment for FOX's NFL coverage to arrive before the game. FSN Rocky Mountain (Denver's FSN network) assisted in the production of the game on short notice by providing the graphical production and other production services. Also, the "1st & Ten" graphic lines denoting the line of scrimmage and first down line were unavailable for this broadcast. This graphic was also used in Week 5 of the 2007 season in a game between the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.

In past years, FOX NFL Sunday had been the ratings leader among network pregame coverage however with the start of the 2007 season, CBS has since overtaken FOX with the top rated pregame show, The NFL Today. Much of the credit of this can be traced to the decision for the 2006-07 season by James Brown to return to CBS, and be closer to his Washington-area home.

FOX's 2008 telecast of Super Bowl XLII was the most watched Super Bowl in history, with 97.5 million viewers. It was also the second-most-watched TV program behind the 1983 M*A*S*H series finale. Coincidentally, the Phoenix area hosted Super Bowl XXX (which aired on NBC), the second most viewed Super Bowl in NFL history, with 95.1 million viewers, in 1996.

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NFL on NBC

NBC's NFL intro circa 1973.

NFL on NBC is the brand given to NBC Sports coverage of National Football League games until 1998, when NBC lost the NFL American Football Conference rights to CBS. NFL coverage returned to NBC on Sunday, August 6, 2006 under the title NBC Sunday Night Football , beginning its pre-season with coverage of the NFL Hall of Fame Game.

The program (which has aired under numerous program titles and formats) actually goes back to the beginnings of NBC's relationship with the NFL in 1939, when they aired the first-ever televised pro football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the now defunct Brooklyn Dodgers football team.

By 1955, NBC became the televised home to the NFL Championship Game, paying $100,000 to the league. The 1958 NFL Championship Game played at Yankee Stadium between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants went into sudden death overtime. This game, known since as the "Greatest Game Ever Played", was seen by many throughout the country and is credited with increasing the popularity of professional football in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

From 1955-1963, NBC televised the NFL Championship Game, the precursor to the Super Bowl. The contract for the title game was separate than the regular season contract held by CBS, who started televising NFL games in 1956. Prior to 1962, each team had their own individual television contract.

NBC also had the rights to the televise Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts games in 1960 and 1961. The opposing teams however, were carried by CBS to their regions. NBC covered 11 games in 1960 and 13 games in 1961 in a "Game of the Week" format. NBC would take one week off due to their coverage of the World Series.

NBC also during this period, had the rights to the Pro Bowl (which was also under a separate contract from the NFL's regular season and the NFL Championship Game) via the Los Angeles newspapers' charities. NBC televised the Pro Bowl following the 1951 and 1952 seasons and again from the 1957-1964 seasons.

On April 5, 1961, NBC was awarded a two-year contract for radio and television rights to the NFL Championship Game for $615,000 annually, $300,000 of which was to go directly into the NFL Player Benefit Plan.

On December 13, 1966, the rights to the Super Bowl for four years were sold to CBS and NBC for $9.5 million. The first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played on January 15, 1967. Because CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games and NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games, it was decided to have both of them cover that first game, though only CBS' cameras and technical crew were allowed to work the game with NBC picking up their feed. The next three AFL-NFL World Championship Games, later renamed the Super Bowl, were then divided by the two networks: CBS broadcasted Super Bowls II and IV while NBC covered III.

One of the most remembered games on NBC was a 1968 game known as the Heidi Game. With its nationally-televised game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets running late, the network began to show the movie Heidi just moments after the Jets' Jim Turner kicked what appeared to be the game-winning field goal with 1:05 remaining. While millions of irate fans, missing the finale, jammed NBC's phone lines, the Raiders scored 2 touchdowns in eight seconds during the final minute to win 43-32.

The reaction to The Heidi Game resulted in the AFL, and most other sports leagues, demanding that networks thereafter televise all games to their conclusion. NFL contracts with the networks now require games to be shown in a team's market area to the conclusion, regardless of the score.

To avoid a repeat incident, a 1975 NBC broadcast of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was preempted until the completion of a Washington Redskins–Raiders game.

At NBC, the network installed a new phone in the control room wired to a separate exchange, becoming known as the Heidi Phone.

Beginning in 1970, NBC aired AFC games until the 1997 season (that is, the season that started in 1997 and ended in 1998).

Curt Gowdy, who covered the first five seasons of the American Football League with broadcast partner Paul Christman on ABC, moved over to NBC in the fall of 1965. For the next decade, Gowdy was the lead play-by-play announcer for the network for both AFL football (AFC from 1970 on) and Major League Baseball, but Gowdy also covered a wide range of sports, earning him the nickname of the "broadcaster of everything." Besides Paul Christman, Curt Gowdy's other football broadcast partners were Kyle Rote, Al DeRogatis, Don Meredith, John Brodie, and Merlin Olsen.

On January 17, 1971, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl V between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in an estimated 23,980,000 homes, the largest audience ever for a one-day sports event. On January 14, 1973, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl VII between the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins was viewed by approximately 75 million people. NBC's telecast of Super Bowl IX between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings was viewed by approximately 78 million people.

On December 16, 1973, NBC cameras were there to cover O.J. Simpson as he rushed for 2,000 yards in one season. On that particular day, Simpson's Buffalo Bills would go on to beat the New York Jets at Shea Stadium.

As it turned out, no baseball was played that Sunday. Three days of rain in New England forced Game 6 to be moved to the following Tuesday, October 21, followed by Game 7 the next night.

On January 9, 1977, 81.9 million people (the largest ever to view a sports event at that point) watched NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XI between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings.

On October 12, 1977, Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiated contracts with the three television networks to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games, plus selected preseason games, for four years beginning with the 1978 season. ABC was awarded yearly rights to 16 Monday night games, four prime time games, the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, and the Hall of Fame Games. CBS received the rights to all NFC regular season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIV and XVI. NBC received the rights to all AFC regular-season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIII and XV. Industry sources considered it the largest single television package ever negotiated.

After the 1975 World Series, Curt Gowdy was removed from NBC's baseball telecasts, when sponsor Chrysler insisted on having Joe Garagiola (who was their spokesman in many commercials) be the lead play-by-play voice. Gowdy continued as NBC's lead NFL announcer through the 1978 season, with his final broadcast being the memorable Super Bowl XIII between Pittsburgh and Dallas. With NBC now anxious to promote Dick Enberg (who anchored NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XIII) to the lead NFL position, Gowdy moved over to CBS to call more football, as well as baseball on radio.

NBC's January 21, 1979 telecast of Super Bowl XIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in 35,090,000 homes, by an estimated 96.6 million fans.

NBC made history in the 1980s with an announcerless telecast (a one-shot experiment credited to Don Ohlmeyer, between the Jets and Dolphins in Miami on December 20, 1980), covering the Canadian Football League during the 1982 players' strike, one-announcer football, and even the first female play-by-play football announcer (which in its own way, set the mold for female sportscasters of today).

Television ratings in 1980 were the second-best in NFL history, trailing only the combined ratings of the 1976 season. All three networks posted gains, and NBC's 15.0 rating was its best ever. CBS and ABC had their best ratings since 1977, with 15.3 and 20.8 ratings, respectively. In 1981, ABC and CBS set all-time rating highs. ABC finished with a 21.7 rating and CBS with a 17.5 rating. NBC however, was down slightly to 13.9.

In 1982, the NFL signed a five-year contract with the three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games starting with the 1982 season.

Beginning in 1984, NBC aired the sitcom Punky Brewster on Sundays. Because the show had many young viewers and was scheduled after football games (which tended to run overtime), six fifteen-minute episodes were produced. This was done rather than joining a full-length episode in progress, because that would disappoint children watching the program. Also, NBC felt that showing Punky Brewster later tended to put them up at a time parents may have considered too late for their children.

On March 6, 1985, NBC Radio and the NFL entered into a two year agreement granting NBC the radio rights to a 37-game package in each of the 1985-1986 seasons. The package included 27 regular season games and 10 postseason games. Also in 1985, the NFL showed a ratings increase on all three networks for the season, gaining 4 percent on NBC, 10 on CBS, and 16 on ABC.

On January 26, 1986, the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX at the Louisiana Superdome. The NBC telecast replaced the final episode of M*A*S*H as the most-viewed television program in history, with an audience of 127 million viewers, according to A.C. Nielsen figures. In addition to drawing a 48.3 rating and a 70 percent share in the United States, Super Bowl XX was televised to 59 foreign countries and beamed via satellite to the QE II. An estimated 300 million Chinese viewed a tape delay of the game in March. NBC Radio figures indicated an audience of 10 million for the game.

In 1987, NBC Radio's broadcast of Super Bowl XXI between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos was heard by a record 10.1 million people. Also in 1987, new three-year TV contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC were announced for the 1987-1989 seasons at the NFL's annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii on March 15.

During September of the 1988 season, NBC brought in some legendary broadcasters to fill-in for their regular play-by-play men. This was because, much of their key personnel (namely, Dick Enberg, Marv Albert, Don Criqui, Charlie Jones, Tom Hammond as well as NFL Live! commentators Bob Costas, Ahmad Rashad, and Gayle Gardner) were away in Seoul, South Korea for NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games. In the meantime, filling-in were names such as Curt Gowdy, Ray Scott, Chuck Thompson, Merle Harmon and Al DeRogatis. Bob Costas' predecessor, Len Berman filled-in for him at the anchor's desk while Gayle Sierens (who a year earlier, made history by becoming the first female play-by-play announcer in NFL history) was also added to the studio team.

NBC's 1989 telecast of Super Bowl XXIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals was watched by an estimated 110,780,000 viewers, according to A.C. Nielsen, making it the sixth most-watched program in television history.

On March 12, 1990, at the NFL's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, new four year TV agreements were ratified for the 1990-1993 seasons. The networks that were included were ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and TNT. The contracts totaled $3.6 billion, the largest in TV history. The television contract for 1990-1993 had each network having one Super Bowl telecast as part of the package. The fourth Super Bowl (XVIII) was up for a separate sealed bid. NBC won the bid, and since they were last in the rotation for Super Bowl coverage in the regular contract, ended up with two straight Super Bowls. CBS is the only other network to televise two Super Bowls (I and II) in a row.

On January 31, 1993, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XXVII between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills was the most watched program in television history and was seen by 133,400,000 people in the United States. The rating for the game was 45.1, the tenth highest for any televised sports event. The game also was seen live or taped in 101 other countries.

On December 18, 1993, the NFL announced new 4-year television agreements with ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NFL newcomer FOX, which took over the NFC package from CBS. The NFL completed its new TV agreements by announcing that NBC would retain the rights to the AFC package on December 20.

On January 30, 1994, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XXVIII between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills was viewed by the largest U.S. audience in television history-134.8 million people. The game's 45.5 rating was the highest for a Super Bowl since 1987 and the tenth highest-rated Super Bowl ever.

NBC's rebound in their overall ratings in both the 1980s and 1990s (after years in the bottom of the ratings cellar) was attributed in part to its continuing coverage of the NFL. But with television contract re-negotiations in early 1998 ushering in the era of multi-billion dollar broadcasting agreements, an era of pro football broadcasting would soon came to an unceremonious conclusion.

CBS, stung by FOX's surprise bid four years earlier, aggressively sought to reacquire some broadcasting rights. CBS agreed to pay $4 billion over eight years ($500 million per season) to air American Conference games. NBC, meanwhile, had indicated a desire to bid for Monday Night Football rights in 1998, but gave up when the financial stakes skyrocketed.

Prior to the 2006 Hall of Fame Game, NBC's final NFL telecast was on January 25, 1998. It was Super Bowl XXXII between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers, the network's final broadcast as the 33 year home of the AFL/AFC. In an ironic twist, the Broncos (an original AFL franchise) would go on to win 31-24, which snapped a 13-game losing streak the AFC had against the NFC in the Super Bowl. This would also would eventually lead to the AFC being dominant over the NFC up to this day. NBC earned the third-largest audience in U.S. television history with 133.4 million viewers for their Super Bowl XXXII coverage. And so, after six decades, NBC, the network that helped define pro football on television, lost its rights to air the NFL, thus marking the beginning of a slow decline for the Peacock network's sports division. In September 2000, NBC lost baseball; in June 2002, the NBA.

That decline would be stemmed in 2004. NBC took over the National Hockey League's broadcast rights from ABC. And when the new NFL television contracts were negotiated in 2005, ABC exercised its option not to renew their rights (ABC Sports itself dissolved shortly after losing Monday Night Football). Thus NBC, by this time in another ratings slump, chose to take advantage of the opportunity by acquiring the Sunday night NFL package.

On Sunday, August 6, 2006, NBC resumed airing NFL football with an annual package that includes three preseason games, the Thursday season opener (the rights to which was formerly held by ABC), all Sunday night regular season games (rights formerly held by ESPN), the two Saturday Wild Card playoff games (rights formerly held by ABC), two Super Bowls, in 2009 (XLIII) and 2012 (XLVI), along with both year's Pro Bowls.

Al Michaels, having recently departed from ABC/ESPN after a "trade" between the Disney-owned network and the Peacock network that included the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit going from Universal to Disney, is doing play-by-play on the new NBC telecasts, while John Madden is serving as color commentator. Cris Collinsworth, the recently-retired Jerome Bettis and Tiki Barber serve as studio analysts while Bob Costas, Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick are the studio hosts (Sterling Sharpe was an analyst during the 2006 season and was replaced by Barber in 2007). Andrea Kremer serves as the sideline reporter, and also contributes to the studio show. Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King also serves as a feature reporter for the studio show. The halftime show is sponsored by Toyota. In the NFL playoffs, Tom Hammond calls the first wild card game with Cris Collinsworth serving as the color commentator.

The NFL also has a strict policy prohibiting networks to run ads during the Super Bowl from the gambling industry, and has rejected ads from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It had been reported that if the television program Las Vegas was still on the air when NBC televised Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, they likely would not have be allowed to promote the series during the entire block of programming. As Vegas ended during the 2007–2008 television season, this was no longer an issue for NBC.

With an average U.S. audience of 98.7 million viewers, Super Bowl XLIII was the most-watched Super Bowl in history, and the second-most-watched U.S. television program of any kind (trailing only the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983). However, the Nielsen rating of 42.1, was lower than the 43.3 rating for the previous year's game.

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Source : Wikipedia