NFL to Air Patriots Game on CBS, NBC
The NFL, under pressure because many cable subscribers were not going to be able to see the potentially historic New England Patriots game on Saturday, has arranged for CBS and NBC to simulcast the game. The game originally was going to air nationally exclusively on the NFL Network.
The Patriots, with a 15-0 record, will be trying to become the first team to go undefeated since the league’s schedule was expanded to 16 games. They are playing against the New York Giants.
“We have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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.”
CBS and NBC will carry the NFL Network feed of the game with Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth in the broadcast booth. The game also will be televised by WCVB-ABC (Channel 5) in Boston, WMUR-ABC in Manchester, New Hampshire (Channel 9) and WWOR (Channel 9) in New York. The telecast begins at 8 p.m. ET with kickoff set at 8:15 p.m. ET.
In recent weeks, the Patriots have delivered the two biggest ratings of the year (a 20.1 in Week 9 and week 14's 18.4), the biggest NBC Saturday Night Football rating ever (13.4 in Week 12), and the biggest NFL cable rating ever (11.1 in Week 13).
With multiple cable systems still at odds with the NFL Network over carriage fees, the shift will allow fans throughout the country access to the game.
Only a fraction of subscribers of Comcast, which covers much of the New England area, and Time Warner Cable, would have been able to see the game on NFL Network. Comcast carries NFL Network on a special sports tier and Time Warner Cable has no carriage agreement with NFL Network.
Politicians, including Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, have been urging the cable operators and the league to come to an agreement so that more fans can see the game.
“NFL Network is a programming service of great interest to fans and should be broadly distributed by the cable industry,” said NFL Network President and CEO Steve Bornstein.
The game marks the first three-network simulcast in NFL history and the first simulcast of any kind of an NFL game since the first Super Bowl in 1967 when CBS and NBC both televised the first meeting of the champions of the newly merged National Football League and American Football League.