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NFL Network Could Make History With Upcoming Games

November 14, 2007 2:16 PM

With two behemoth games already completed this season in the NFL in New England-Dallas and New England-Indianapolis, the league’s own network is poised to showcase two more.

The NFL Network, which starts its second season of regular-season NFL games on Thanksgiving, is already poised for potentially giant matchups with more than half the NFL season completed. Those games are the Nov. 29 game between Green Bay and Dallas, two teams vying to control the NFC, and the season finale where the New York Giants, likely fighting for a wild-card berth, will face a potentially undefeated New England Patriots.

“We’re excited by the schedule and we’ve got a chance to broadcast something historic,” said Charles Coplin, NFL Network VP of programming. “Nobody has gone undefeated for 35 years, but there are a lot of things that people are forgetting about the game, in that this could be a pivotal game for the Giants as well as they could be fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

“As for the Packers-Cowboys game, you are talking about the two best teams in the NFC,” he continued. “Even our other games bring key elements to the screen, whether it’s two teams scratching it out for the post-season, like the Redskins and Bears, or marquee players getting their time on national television. These are all key for us.”

Last season, while facing distribution problems with major cable outlets such as Comcast, the first live game telecast on the NFL Network, Chiefs-Broncos on Thursday night, posted a 6.8 cable Nielsen rating and was seen in 1.8 million households by 4.16 million viewers.

While federal and state authorities look into ways to settle the dispute between the two sides, the NFL Network is virtually sold out of advertising packages for its programming lineup and now is taking only scatter-market orders.

With the second season set to take launch on Thanksgiving with a game between the Colts and the Falcons, Mr. Coplin acknowledged that the network had to learn some things the hard way during its freshman year broadcasting the sport.

“If you talk to any network that covers a sport for the first time, you learn lessons,” he said. “But we were successful in assembling a crew for the first time, and Bryant Gumbel had never done play-by-play before. But with a year under our belt, we learned a lot of lessons, and we are being more creative in our approach to the games. It is a challenge for us to come on in the middle of the year, but we distinguish ourselves by what we do.”

He also said the network will continue its aggressive plans heading to the Super Bowl, noting, “Everything that moves in Arizona, we’ll be covering, from the lifestyles of the players, both past and present, as well as all the entertainment and atmosphere. We’ll be aggressive.”

Last year, the network offered more than 100 hours of Super Bowl XLI coverage.

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