I don’t know if it was the threat of Congress or what, but the National Football League finally caved in. According to Rachel Cohen of the Associated Press, the game between the New England Patriots and New York Giants, originally to be shown on NFL Network only, will be simulcast Saturday on both CBS and NBC, as well. NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky Wednesday said there would be no comment on the decision.
League commissioner Roger Goodell, in a statement, said, “We have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans. What we have seen for the past year is a very strong consumer demand for NFL Network. We appreciate CBS and NBC delivering the NFL Network telecast on Saturday night to the broad audience that deserves to see this potentially historic game. Our commitment to the NFL Network is stronger than ever.”
The NFL had originally claimed that the responsibility of making the game widely available fell on the major cable providers with which the league has been feuding with. Cable companies such as Time Warner and Comcast have declined to carry the network as part of their basic packages. But lawmakers, mindful of this development, have pressured the league to ensure that more people could see the game. They even went so far as to send a letter to Goodell threatening to reconsider the league’s antitrust exemption.
Ironically, this would be the first time that 3 networks televised a game in NFL history and the first simulcast of an NFL game since the first Super Bowl in 1967, when NBC and CBS televised the meeting of the newly merged National Football League and the American Football League. Because of this historic telecast, there’s going to be some pre-empted regular television programming. NBC was scheduled to air “Dateline NBC” and a repeat of “Law & Order: SVU” during the time slot. CBS was set to broadcast the movie “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “48 Hours: Mysteries.”
After this telecast, there will still be the issue with the cable companies (NFL Network availability) and the very real possibility of the revisiting of the anitrust exemption whihc the league enjoys. Remember people – this is an election year – and the politicos in D.C. will take this a lot more seriously than in the past. So perhaps a resolution to this issue is in order between the cable companies and the league.