NBC returns with all of Sunday night devoted to NFL plus flexible scheduling and earlier kickoff; Monday Night Football moves to ESPN with earlier kickoff
The NFL has completed long-term agreements with NBC and ESPN for its Sunday night and Monday night packages that will enable the NFL to reach a broader audience on prime-time broadcast television and add other fan-friendly elements to its prime-time packages, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced Monday.
The agreement with ESPN covers eight seasons of Monday Night Football from 2006-2013 and includes an earlier kickoff time - 8:40 p.m. ET - for 17 Monday night games per season. ESPN's Monday night telecasts will be preceded by its highly rated "NFL Countdown" pre-game show, which will continue to air at 7:00 p.m. ET.
ESPN will continue to make its NFL games available on free, over-the-air television in the participating team markets each week. The new agreements thus continue the NFL's long-standing practice of making all of its games, including the playoffs and Super Bowl, available on free, over-the air television. ESPN also will continue to televise the NFL Draft.
The agreement with NBC is for six seasons from 2006 through 2011 for an annual package of 17 regular-season games consisting of 16 Sunday night games and the Thursday night season-opener (NFL Kickoff), two playoff games on Wild Card Weekend, and three prime-time preseason games.
More people watch television on Sunday nights than any other night, and NBC will devote its entire Sunday night prime-time lineup to the NFL. The Sunday night games will start at 8:15 p.m. ET and include flexible scheduling for the final seven weeks of the season. Details on the flexible scheduling plan will be developed by the NFL.
NBC also will televise two Super Bowls -- Super Bowl XLIII (43) in 2009 and Super Bowl XLVI (46) in 2012 - and two AFC-NFC Pro Bowls. The new agreements will match the annual NFL all-star game with the network televising the Super Bowl each season.
"These agreements improve our television arrangements for fans," Commissioner Tagliabue said. "They underscore our unique commitment to broadcast television and our tradition of delivering our games to the widest possible audience. In the current media environment, Sunday is now the better night for our prime-time broadcast package. The earlier kickoff times for both packages, NBC's Sunday night programming devoted to the NFL, and flexible scheduling for Sunday night are all positive changes. ESPN will continue to do a tremendous job of reaching a wide audience on basic cable with Monday Night Football."
Last November 8, the NFL announced six-year extensions of its Sunday afternoon television packages with over-the-air broadcast partners CBS and FOX from 2006-2011. The NFL also announced that day a five-year extension of an exclusive multi-channel agreement with the satellite service, DIRECTV, through 2010 to carry NFL SUNDAY TICKET, the leading sports subscription television package in the United States.
CBS and FOX will each television two Super Bowls during the term of the agreements. CBS will carry Super Bowl XLI (41) in Miami in 2007 and Super Bowl XLIV (44) in 2010. FOX will televise Super Bowl XLII (42) in Glendale, Arizona in 2008 and Super Bowl XLV (45) in 2011.
The NFL's current television packages with CBS, FOX, ABC, and ESPN expire following the 2005 season.
The NFL is continuing to explore several alternatives for a potential new eight-game, late-season cable/satellite package of Thursday and Saturday night NFL games as a run-up to the playoffs beginning in 2006.