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Cable's Playbook

Fox is stuffing its Feb. 6 broadcast day with Super Bowl-related programming, beginning at 10 a.m., eight hours before the kickoff. The network's not the only one going big on the Super Bowl; ESPN and other TV sports venues are piggybacking on excitement over the game. But the majority of broadcast and cable networks are either hunkering down with reruns or trolling for viewers with counter-programming stunts.

ESPN, not surprisingly, is pulling out the stops during Super Bowl week, from ESPNEWS' coverage of team press conferences to ESPN Classic's replaying of highlights from Super Bowls past. On the ESPN mothership, game day means a three-hour Sunday NFL Countdown at 11 a.m. and NFL PrimeTime and SportsCenter after the game at 10:30 and 11 p.m.

The league-owned NFL Network has dubbed its weeklong binge of more than 100 hours of Super Bowl-related programming “Everything but the Game.”

“If you're a football fan, it's pretty much nirvana, or insanity, depending on your viewpoint,” says Dan Margulis, director of programming for the network. (Insanity or nirvana? NFL Network is pairing with Comcast to pipe the channel into more than 13,000 guest rooms in 49 hotels and five ships.)

One happy cable channel: Comcast SportsNet in Philly. The regional sports network will cover the Eagles with playoff specials, live press conferences, player interviews and reports from the road. And Comcast regional sports networks across the country are picking up the feed—for instance, Daily News Live (a roundtable with sportswriters from the Philadelphia Daily News, coming live from Jacksonville, Fla., with national sports figures and writers joining in during Super Bowl week) will air in markets such as Dallas, Atlanta and Detroit, reaching more than 18 million total viewers.

Sports networks aren't the only cable outlets with big plans for game day. Other cable networks are planning a blitz of programming stunts and marathons aimed at snaring folks who just aren't that into football. Some of the highlights:

  • Spike:Swimsuit Bowl. The network for guys will air three one-hour Sports Illustrated specials featuring jet-setting babes in bathing attire, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
  • Food Network:Supper Bowl. Southern comfort-food chef (and a fave with females) Paula Deen will have the run of the network from 2:30 p.m. until 9, with seven back-to-back episodes of half-hour Paula's Home Cooking, followed by Paula's Southern BBQ at 6 p.m., Paula Deen's Wedding at 7 and Emeril Live with Paula as the guest at 8.
  • Animal Planet:Puppy Bowl. The network is relying on the irresistibility of a wagging tail and meltingly warm eyes with the premiere of this three-hour special on cuddly pups at 3 p.m. Then they doggedly show it again at 6, 9 and midnight.
  • Bravo: After a successful Queer Eye for the Straight Guy marathon during last year's game, the network's trying it again. From 2 to 9 p.m., fab-five fans can watch episodes from the current season that have aired to date, including a makeover of a Jets fan who proposed to his fiancée at halftime.
  • Lifetime: The network for women knows its demo, presenting a marathon of made-for-TV movies (acquired and original) that will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., featuring Lies He Told (11 a.m.), the Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis miniseries (1 p.m.), Widow on the Hill (5 p.m.), Another Woman's Husband (7 p.m.) and The Three Lives of Karen (9 p.m.).
  • TBS: A block of chick flicks, Movies Women Want, will roll from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 a.m.. Among them: Fried Green Tomatoes (9:30 a.m.), As Good As It Gets (12:30 p.m.), What Women Want (3:30 p.m.), Serendipity (6 p.m.), American President (8 p.m.) and Stepmom (10:30 p.m.).
  • E!: The celeb-centric network has planned a 10-hour stunt (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) called Fashion Frenzy, consisting of back-to-back offerings of countdown shows 101 Most Sensational Crimes of Fashion and 101 Most Starlicious Makeovers, which adds up to 202 excuses for fashionistas not to watch football.