Fox, TNT and Comcast's OLN Were Bidding for Same 2006 Late-Season Games

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NEW YORK ( -- The last piece of the National Football League's TV package is staying in the family.

The league said Saturday morning that the eight-game late-season package of Thursday-Saturday prime-time

'We decided [the late-season game package would] be best presented on our own, high-quality NFL Network, which has developed so rapidly that the time had come to add live regular season games to the programming,' said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
games will air on its own NFL Network starting with the 2006 season.

40 million homes
The 2-year-old cable network is seen in 40 million homes, but that will likely increase with more carriage deals, given the NFL's enormous popularity.

The eight-game package will consist of prime-time games airing from Thanksgiving to the end of the regular season on Thursday and/or Saturday nights.

The inaugural game of the package is scheduled for Thanksgiving night (Nov. 23) as part of a new Thanksgiving Day tripleheader. Games telecast on the NFL Network will include pregame and postgame shows, just as on the NFL's other networks.

“After discussing this new package of games with many potential partners, we decided it would be best presented on our own, high-quality NFL Network, which has developed so rapidly that the time had come to add live regular season games to the programming,” NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement. “In the end, we wanted these games on our Network, which is devoted 24/7 to the sport of football, and not on a multi-sport network.”

Fox, TNT and OLN
Among the networks believed to have been bidding for the Thursday-Saturday package were Fox, TNT and Comcast-owned OLN, which was hoping to add the NFL to its newly acquired National Hockey League deal.

NFL Network will make all of its games available on broadcast TV in the participating team markets, continuing the NFL’s long-standing practice of making all of its games, including the playoffs and Super Bowl, available on free, over-the-air television.

“The NFL has traditionally been at the forefront of innovation and new technology dating back to starting NFL Films in the '60s, and Pete Rozelle and Roone

Arledge creating Monday Night Football in 1970,” Mr. Tagliabue said. “With NFL Network, we are creating a fresh, innovative programming package that will complement all of our television partners.”

NFL Network’s new eight-game package was created by shifting Saturday and Sunday games from previous arrangements. In November 2004, CBS and Fox agreed to extend their packages for six more years at $622 million annually and $712 million, respectively. NBC and ESPN last April secured rights for six and eight years, respectively. NBC is paying $600 million per year for Sunday night games, and ESPN is paying a whopping $1.1 billion a year to take over the Monday Night Football franchise from Walt Disney sibling ABC. DirecTV also extended its contract to five more years at a total of $3.5 billion.

Financial implications unknown
It is not known what the financial terms of the deal with the NFL Network are, although the league clearly isn't going to compensate itself with the kind of rights fees it receives from other networks. However, the league and the NFL Network will presumably be able to make money by charging higher subscription fees now that the channel will have live regular-season games.

“It was decided after surveying the rapidly evolving media landscape that a year-round channel dedicated to our sport was the best way to continue to develop and serve our fan base,” NFL Network President-CEO Steve Bornstein said. “This is an opportune time to present these games ourselves and develop new ways to deliver the game of football at all levels to sports fans.”

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