|NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
NFL SELECTS OWN NETWORK FOR LAST PRIME-TIME TV PACKAGE
Fox, TNT and Comcast's OLN Were Bidding for Same 2006 Late-Season Games
The widely anticipated Thursday-Saturday package of late-season games was kept in the family last week when the NFL announced it would put the games on its own cable channel. Then Mr. Tagliabue explained the decision by saying, “We wanted these games on our network, which is devoted 24/7 to the sport of football, and not on a multi-sport network.”
The Thursday-Saturday package will come in the last quarter of the season, when college football -- traditionally a Saturday staple -- slows to a crawl as its regular season ends and schools prepare for postseason bowl games in late December and on New Year’s Day.
Praising TV partners
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. Mr. Tagliabue said the move was not a precursor to future expansion of live NFL games on the NFL Network, and went out of his way to praise the league’s TV partners.
“I don’t think it foreshadows the NFL being the dominant presenter of NFL football, either in traditional media or digital media,” he said. “One of the key things that went into our decision to put those eight games, out of 256 games, on the network was how it complements what CBS, Fox, NBC next year, ESPN and DirecTV will be doing with the bulk of our schedule. There is an element of control but the main reason is to complement what they do for us, and they do a great job, which goes without saying.”
The 2-year-old NFL network is seen in 40 million homes, but that will likely increase as it picks up more carriage deals. 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.
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 TV.
The 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 and $712 million annually, 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.