NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday that the NFL made arrangements with both CBS and NBC to provide a three-way national simulcast of Saturday nights New England Patriots at New York Giants game. The telecast was scheduled to air over just the the NFL Network and local stations in the Boston and New York markets.
The Commissioner explained the move was made to accommodate the public demand to see the Patriots try to become the first NFL team to go 16-0 in a regular season. The majority of the country does not have access to the NFL Network due to an ongoing dispute between the NFL and a number of the nation's cable operators. We have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans, Commissioner Goodell said via 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.
Both CBS and NBC will carry the NFL Network feed set to start at 8 p.m. with kickoff at 8:15 p.m. Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth will call the game from 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 NFL's decision to relinquish exclusive rights to the broadcast was influenced by pressure from the cable companies, fans and even legislators. The crux of the issue is that the cable companies aren't willing to put the NFL Network channel in their basic cable tier for all consumers. The argument centers on the issue of making all cable subscribers pay for a channel with limited original programming and a limited audience. The NFL's contention is that the NFL Network should be in basic cable for more subscribers, rather than a special sports tier that fans will need to pay extra for.
Football fans from Connecticut were caught in the middle. Geographically located within the home markets of both teams, the NFL's original solutions (allowing Boston and New York stations to broadcast the game) did not provide for a way for fans from the state to see the game. The entire Connecticut Congressional delegation wrote to the NFL to urge the league to change it's policy, or at least use it's flexible scheduling policy to move the game to regular prime time television available to all.
The league's offer to enter binding arbitration with Time Warner was rebuffed. Time-Warner, one of the largest cable operators, had no interest in resolving the issue through that process. With more pressure form legislators throughout the country, including some calls for the review of the NFL's antitrust exemption, the NFL relented.
The three-network simulcast is the first in NFL history and the first of any kind since CBS and NBC televised Super Bowl 1 together.
The historic significance of the game pits the 10-5 Giants against the 15-0 Patriots as New England attempts to become the first NFL team to go undefeated throughout the 16-game regular season. No team in NFL history has started a season 15-0. The Patriots can become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to complete an entire season undefeated, though the Dolphins accomplished the feat when there were just 14 games in the regular season schedule. The NFL regular season was expanded to 16 games in 1978.
Other records within reach:
-- The Patriots can become the first team to win 19 consecutive regular-season victories.
-- By scoring 6 points, the Patriots will become the highest scoring team in a season, breaking the Minnesota Vikings total of 556 in 1998
-- Tom Brady (48) can break Peyton Manning's single season NFL record for most touchdown passes thrown in a season by throwing two touchdown passes. Brady is averaging over three per game. Manning set the mark at 49 in the 2004 season.
-- Randy Moss (21) can break Jerry Rice's a single season touchdown reception record by catching two touchdown passes. Rice set the record at 22 in the 1987 season.
-- 6 punts (or fewer) and the Patriots will set the team record for fewest punts in a season. New England enters the season finale with 42 punts on the year. The Patriots set a franchise record for fewest punts in the strike shortened 1982 season, punting 49 times.
Wire reports, team and league sources were used in this article