NFL to Simulcast Patriots-Giants Game on CBS, NBC

Ending a fierce battle with cable TV operators over distribution of the Dec. 29 New England Patriots – New York Giants Game, the NFL said late Wednesday that it will broadcast the historic game on CBS and NBC in addition to NFL Network.

The NFL had been battling for weeks with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other cable TV operators that refused to cough up license fees to carry NFL Network, which has exclusive rights to the game. Until the NBC and CBS simulcast was announced, tens of millions of cable TV subscribers would not have been able to view the game.

“We have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in Wednesday’s announcement. “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.”

The NFL had faced pressure from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and other legislators that wanted the league to distribute the Patriots game on broadcast TV. Kerry applauded the NFL’s decision to simulcast the Patriots game on NBC and CBS.

“With today’s announcement, the NFL showed their loyalty to the sports fans who made the NFL an empire in the first place,” Kerry said in a statement. “The best news of all is that now no die hard Pats fans will be shut out from watching their team take aim at football history. I want to commend NFL executives for delivering for fans everywhere. What a great gift the day after Christmas.”

The league’s agreement to simulcast the game is a huge victory for Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other cable TV operators that wanted to distribute NFL Network on a sports tier, maintaining that all cable TV subscribers shouldn’t be forced to pay for sports programming.

DirecTV, AT&T and Verizon have run ad campaigns in recent weeks touting their distribution of NFL Network.The simulcast takes the punch out of the ad campaigns from the cable TV rivals since all cable operators that distribute CBS and NBC in their basic-cable TV tiers will have the big game.

NFL spokesman Seth Palansky indicated that pay-TV distributors of the NFL Network would not receive a license fee rebate as a result of having to share the Pats-Giants telecast with two national broadcast networks in every TV market except New York and Boston.

The simulcast will hurt ratings for local TV stations in the New York and Boston markets that had licensed the game. The NFL distributes games distributed on NFL Network to broadcasters in the local markets featured in its Thursday and Saturday games.

Stations that had licensed the Patriots-Giants game before the simulcast agreement was reached are News Corp.’s WWOR-TV in New York, Boston ABC affiliate WCVB-TV and ABC affiliate WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H.

NFL spokesman Seth Palansky said the local stations will still air the game, even though it will also be aired nationwide by all CBS and NBC affiliates.

The NFL said Saturday’s game will be the first three-network simulcast in NFL history and the first simulcast of any kind of an NFL game since Super Bowl I in 1967 when CBS and NBC both televised the first meeting of the champions of the newly merged NFL and American Football League.