After much behind the scenes negotiating, the NFL and its fledgling TV network will share its broadcast of Saturday's New England Patriots/New York Giants game with the NBC and CBS networks.
The telecast will be shown on both networks, whereby the NFL Network will produce the live game and half-time show in SD and HD. The NFL Network announcers will also be featured.
It was reported by the Associated Press that Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, called on the NFL Network to make a deal with over-the-air television. No money is believed to have changed hands in the deal.
If it had only been available on the NFL Network, which is available in less than 40 percent of TV homes, most of the country would have missed the chance to see the Patriots become only the second team in NFL history to finish with a perfect regular-season record (16-0). This is assuming the Patriots win the game, which will be played at Giants Stadium, in East Rutherford, NJ.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was quoted by the AP as saying that “we have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans,” although it is widely seen as capitulation to avoid bad publicity. Another NFL Network spokesman called it “a one-time decision.”
The NFL Network has been locked in a battle with cable operators such as Time Warner Cable and Charter over carriage terms, and indeed, several meaningful NFL games have recently appeared exclusively on the network; angering many fans.
The simulcast agreement will see two broadcast networks showing the same programming in prime time. In several markets — including New York, Boston and Manchester, NH — the game will be seen on as many as four networks because it will be telecast on a local station, as previously planned, as well as on the NFL Network. According to the AP, the local New York station, WWOR, was reportedly unhappy about the new arrangement, saying that the NFL had violated its deal, giving the station exclusive over-the-air rights for the area.
Because the matchup is an away game for the AFC, it would have gone on CBS if it had been broadcast on a Sunday afternoon. NBC, for its part, would have had broadcast rights if the matchup had been a Sunday prime time game. So the NFL chose to make the Saturday prime time game available to both networks.