Nfl on nbc (metalic).jpg
The NFL on NBC logo used since 2006.
Format Sports
Created by NBC Sports
Starring Pregame Show panelists
NFL on NBC game commentators
Country of origin United States
Running time 180 minutes or until game ends
Original channel NBC
Original airing 1939 (Philadelphia Eagles vs. Brooklyn Dodgers)
External links

NFL on NBC is the brand given to NBC Sports coverage of National Football League games until 1998, when NBC lost the NFL American Football Conference rights to CBS. NFL coverage returned to NBC on Sunday, August 6, 2006 under the title NBC Sunday Night Football,[1] beginning its pre-season with coverage of the NFL Hall of Fame Game.



Beginnings through the 1950s

The program (which has aired under numerous program titles and formats) actually goes back to the beginnings of NBC's relationship with the NFL in 1939, when they (technically, NBC's flagship station out of New York, which was then known as W2XBS) aired the first-ever televised pro football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the now defunct Brooklyn Dodgers football team.

By 1955, NBC became the televised home to the NFL Championship Game, paying $100,000 to the league. NBC had taken over broadcast rights from DuMont, which had struggled to give the league a national audience (NBC's coverage of proto-Canadian Football League games was more widely available at the time) and was on the brink of failure; the NFL's associations with NBC (as well as with CBS) proved to be a boost to the league's popularity. The 1958 NFL Championship Game played at Yankee Stadium between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants went into sudden death overtime. This game, known since as the "Greatest Game Ever Played", was seen by many throughout the country and is credited with increasing the popularity of professional football in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

From 1955-1963, NBC televised the NFL Championship Game, the precursor to the Super Bowl. The contract for the title game was separate than the regular season contract held by CBS, who started televising NFL games in 1956. Prior to 1962, each team had its own individual television contract.

NBC also had the rights to the televise Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts home games games in 1960 and 1961. While blacked out in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, games were seen on other NBC stations. In some cases, the broadcast was seen on CBS in the visiting team's home region. NBC covered 11 games in 1960 and 13 games in 1961 in a "Game of the Week" format. NBC would take one week off due to its coverage of the World Series.

NBC also during this period had the rights to the Pro Bowl (which was also under a separate contract from the NFL's regular season and the NFL Championship Game) via the Los Angeles newspapers' charities. NBC televised the Pro Bowl following the 1951 and 1952 seasons and again from the 1957-1964 seasons.


On April 5, 1961, NBC was awarded a two-year contract (1961-62) for radio and television rights to the NFL Championship Game for $615,000 annually, $300,000 of which was to go directly into the NFL Player Benefit Plan. On May 23, 1963, NBC was awarded exclusive network broadcasting rights for the 1963 NFL Championship Game for $926,000.

NBC resumed football telecasts on a regular basis in 1965. With NBC paying the American Football League $36 million on January 29, 1965 to televise its games, and the increased, heated battle over college prospects, both leagues negotiated a merger agreement on June 8, 1966. Although they would not officially merge into one combined league until 1970, one of the conditions of the agreement was that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest (which would eventually become known as the Super Bowl) to determine the "world champion of football."

On December 13, 1966, the rights to the Super Bowl for four years were sold to CBS and NBC for $9.5 million. The first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played on January 15, 1967. Because CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games and NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games, it was decided to have both of them cover that first game, though only CBS' cameras and technical crew were allowed to work the game with NBC picking up their feed. The next three AFL-NFL World Championship Games, later renamed the Super Bowl, were then divided by the two networks: CBS broadcasted Super Bowls II and IV while NBC covered III.

The Heidi Game

One of the most remembered games on NBC was a 1968 game known as the Heidi Game. With its nationally-televised game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets running late, the network began to show the movie Heidi just moments after the Jets' Jim Turner kicked what appeared to be the game-winning field goal with 1:05 remaining. While millions of irate fans, missing the finale, jammed NBC's phone lines, the Raiders scored 2 touchdowns in eight seconds during the final minute to win 43-32.

The reaction to The Heidi Game resulted in the AFL, and most other sports leagues, demanding that networks thereafter televise all games to their conclusion. NFL contracts with the networks now require games to be shown in a team's market area to the conclusion, regardless of the score.

To avoid a repeat incident, a 1975 NBC broadcast of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was delayed until the completion of a Washington RedskinsRaiders game.

At NBC, the network installed a new phone in the control room wired to a separate exchange, becoming known as the Heidi Phone, to prevent this situation from occurring in the future.

See also

  • American Football League
  • Heidi Game
  • Super Bowl I - As previously mentioned, the first ever Super Bowl is the only Super Bowl to have been broadcast in the United States by two television networks simultaneously (no other NFL game was subsequently carried nationally on more than one network until December 29, 2007, when the New England Patriots faced the New York Giants on NBC, CBS, and the NFL Network). At the time, CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games while NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games. It was decided to have both of them cover the game. Each network used its own announcers: Ray Scott (doing play-by-play for the first half), Jack Whitaker (doing play-by-play for the second half), and Frank Gifford provided commentary on CBS; while Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman were on NBC. NBC did have some problems. The network did not return in time from a halftime commercial break for the start of the second half; therefore, the first kickoff was stopped by the game's officials and was redone once NBC was back on the air. NBC was also forced to broadcast the game over CBS' feed and cameras (CBS received prerogative to use its feed and camera angles since the Coliseum was home to the NFL's Rams). In other words, NBC's crew had little to no control over how the game was shot.
  • Super Bowl III - When NBC Sports broadcast Super Bowl III, they were at the time, still a "Service of NBC News". Curt Gowdy handled the play-by-play duties and was joined by color commentators Al DeRogatis and Kyle Rote in the broadcast booth. Also helping with NBC's coverage were Jim Simpson (reporting from the sidelines) and Pat Summerall (helping conduct player interviews for the pregame show, along with Rote). In an interview later done with NFL Films, Gowdy called it the most memorable game he ever called because of its historical significance.[2] While the Orange Bowl was sold out for the game, the live telecast was not shown in Miami due to both leagues' unconditional blackout rules at the time. This game is thought to be the earliest surviving Super Bowl game preserved on videotape in its entirety save for a portion of the Baltimore Colts' fourth quarter scoring drive.


Beginning in 1970, NBC aired AFC games until the 1997 season (that is, the season that started in 1997 and ended in 1998).

Curt Gowdy, who covered the first five seasons of the American Football League with broadcast partner Paul Christman on ABC, moved over to NBC in the fall of 1965. For the next decade, Gowdy was the lead play-by-play announcer for the network for both AFL football (AFC from 1970 on) and Major League Baseball, but Gowdy also covered a wide range of sports, earning him the nickname of the "broadcaster of everything." Besides Paul Christman, Curt Gowdy's other football broadcast partners were Kyle Rote, Al DeRogatis, Don Meredith, John Brodie, and Merlin Olsen.

On January 17, 1971, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl V between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in an estimated 23,980,000 homes, the largest audience ever for a one-day sports event. On January 14, 1973, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl VII between the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins was viewed by approximately 75 million people. NBC's telecast of Super Bowl IX between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings was viewed by approximately 78 million people.

On December 16, 1973, NBC cameras were there to cover O. J. Simpson as he rushed for 2,000 yards in one season. On that particular day, Simpson's Buffalo Bills would go on to beat the New York Jets at Shea Stadium.

In 1975, because of NBC's coverage of Game 2 of the World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, NBC's 1 p.m. NFL telecasts were cancelled. All games except New England at Cincinnati were picked up by local stations in visiting team markets. Meanwhile, at 4 p.m., NBC showed Oakland at Kansas City nationally. As the 1975 World Series progressed, NBC would advertise its upcoming weekend schedule during the breaks. They said,

If we have a Game 7, we'll have The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola at 12:30 and Game 7 from Fenway. Otherwise, we'll have GrandStand at 12:30, and Buffalo/Miami for most of you at 1:00. Either way, you win at NBC.

As it turned out, no baseball was played that Sunday. Three days of rain in New England forced Game 6 to be moved to the following Tuesday, October 21, followed by Game 7 the next night.

On January 9, 1977, 81.9 million people (the largest ever to view a sports event at that point) watched NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XI between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings.

On October 12, 1977, Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiated contracts with the three television networks to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games, plus selected preseason games, for four years beginning with the 1978 season. ABC was awarded yearly rights to 16 Monday night games, four prime time games, the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, and the Hall of Fame Games. CBS received the rights to all NFC regular season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIV and XVI. NBC received the rights to all AFC regular-season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIII and XV. Industry sources considered it the largest single television package ever negotiated.

After the 1975 World Series, Curt Gowdy was removed from NBC's baseball telecasts, when sponsor Chrysler insisted on having Joe Garagiola (who was their spokesman in many commercials) be the lead play-by-play voice. Gowdy continued as NBC's lead NFL announcer through the 1978 season, with his final broadcast being the memorable Super Bowl XIII between Pittsburgh and Dallas. With NBC now anxious to promote Dick Enberg (who anchored NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XIII) to the lead NFL position, Gowdy moved over to CBS to call more football, as well as baseball on radio.

NBC's January 21, 1979 telecast of Super Bowl XIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in 35,090,000 homes, by an estimated 96.6 million fans.

See also


NBC made history in the 1980s with an announcerless telecast (a one-shot experiment credited to Don Ohlmeyer, between the Jets and Dolphins in Miami on December 20, 1980 known as the "silent game"), as well as a single-announcer telecast, coverage of the Canadian Football League[5][6] during the 1982 players' strike, and even the first female play-by-play football announcer (which in its own way set the mold for female sportscasters of today).

Television ratings in 1980 were the second-best in NFL history, trailing only the combined ratings of the 1976 season. All three networks posted gains, and NBC's 15.0 rating was its best ever. CBS and ABC had their best ratings since 1977, with 15.3 and 20.8 ratings, respectively. In 1981, ABC and CBS set all-time rating highs. ABC finished with a 21.7 rating and CBS with a 17.5 rating. NBC however, was down slightly to 13.9.

In 1982, the NFL signed a five-year contract with the three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games starting with the 1982 season.

On March 6, 1985, NBC Radio and the NFL entered into a two year agreement granting NBC the radio rights to a 37-game package in each of the 1985-1986 seasons. The package included 27 regular season games and 10 postseason games. Also in 1985, the NFL showed a ratings increase on all three networks for the season, gaining 4 percent on NBC, 10 on CBS, and 16 on ABC.

On January 26, 1986, the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX at the Louisiana Superdome. The NBC telecast replaced the final episode of M*A*S*H as the most-viewed television program in history, with an audience of 127 million viewers, according to A.C. Nielsen figures. In addition to drawing a 48.3 rating and a 70 percent share in the United States, Super Bowl XX was televised to 59 foreign countries and beamed via satellite to the QE II. An estimated 300 million Chinese viewed a tape delay of the game in March. NBC Radio figures indicated an audience of 10 million for the game.

In 1987, NBC Radio's broadcast of Super Bowl XXI between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos was heard by a record 10.1 million people. Also in 1987, new three-year TV contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC were announced for the 1987-1989 seasons at the NFL's annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii on March 15.

During September of the 1988 season, NBC brought in some legendary broadcasters to fill-in for their regular play-by-play men. This was because, much of their key personnel (namely, Dick Enberg, Marv Albert, Don Criqui, Charlie Jones, Tom Hammond as well as NFL Live! commentators Bob Costas, Ahmad Rashad, and Gayle Gardner) were away in Seoul, South Korea for NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games. In the meantime, filling-in were names such as Curt Gowdy, Ray Scott, Chuck Thompson, Marty Glickman, Merle Harmon and Al DeRogatis. Bob Costas' predecessor, Len Berman, filled-in for him at the anchor's desk while Gayle Sierens (who a year earlier, made history by becoming the first female play-by-play announcer in NFL history) was also added to the studio team.

NBC's 1989 telecast of Super Bowl XXIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals was watched by an estimated 110,780,000 viewers, according to A.C. Nielsen, making it the sixth most-watched program in television history.

See also


On March 12, 1990, at the NFL's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, new four year TV agreements were ratified for the 1990-1993 seasons. The networks that were included were ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and TNT. The contracts totaled $3.6 billion, the largest in TV history. The television contract for 1990-1993 had each network having one Super Bowl telecast as part of the package. The fourth Super Bowl (XXVIII) was up for a separate sealed bid. NBC won the bid, and since they were last in the rotation for Super Bowl coverage in the regular contract, ended up with two straight Super Bowls. CBS is the only other network to televise two Super Bowls (I and II) in a row.

On January 31, 1993, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XXVII between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills was the most watched program in television history and was seen by 133,400,000 people in the United States. The rating for the game was 45.1, the tenth highest for any televised sports event. The game also was seen live or taped in 101 other countries.

On December 18, 1993, the NFL announced new 4-year television agreements with ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NFL newcomer Fox, which took over the NFC package from CBS. The NFL completed its new TV agreements by announcing that NBC would retain the rights to the AFC package on December 20.

On January 30, 1994, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XXVIII between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills was viewed by the largest U.S. audience in television history-134.8 million people. The game's 45.5 rating was the highest for a Super Bowl since 1987 and the tenth highest-rated Super Bowl ever.

See also

NBC loses to CBS

NBC's rebound in their overall ratings in both the 1980s and 1990s (after years in the bottom of the ratings cellar) was attributed in part to its continuing coverage of the NFL. But with television contract re-negotiations in early 1998 ushering in the era of multi-billion dollar broadcasting agreements, an era of pro football broadcasting would soon come to an unceremonious conclusion.

CBS, stung by Fox's surprise bid four years earlier, aggressively pursued NFL broadcast rights when the contract came up for renegotiation in 1997. CBS agreed to pay $4 billion over eight years ($500 million per season) to take over NBC's AFC broadcast rights, which the network still holds today. NBC, meanwhile, had indicated a desire to bid for Monday Night Football rights in 1998, but eventually gave up and the rights were retained by ABC.

As previously mentioned, NBC's 33-year consecutive run as a football broadcaster came to an end with Super Bowl XXXII, played on January 25, 1998 between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. The Broncos won 31-24 to snap the AFC's 13-year losing streak in the Super Bowl (since then, the AFC has won eight additional Super Bowls to the NFC's four).


In 2005, NBC reentered the NFL picture during negotiations. The network was able to take advantage of a league desire to be able to switch the schedule so non-competitive games would not air in the league's marquee timeslot. Since this would require a move to Sunday night in order to happen, and since ABC decided to relinquish their rights to Monday Night Football, NBC was able to bid on the Sunday Night Football package and won the rights after ESPN (corporate sibling to ABC and who had previously held those rights) elected to take over the Monday Night Football rights instead. On Sunday, August 6, 2006, NBC resumed airing NFL football with coverage of the annual AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game.

NBC's rights package consists of everything that was previously in the ABC package; the Hall of Fame Game, two additional preseason games, the National Football League Kickoff game, and two Saturday playoff games. NBC also received the rights to two Super Bowls in its bidding, Super Bowl XLIII and Super Bowl XLVI as well as the Pro Bowls in each of those two years.

Al Michaels, the longtime voice of Monday Night Football and other events for ABC, is the play-by-play man for Sunday Night Football. Michaels was originally slated to continue calling Monday Night Football for ESPN, but a trade was worked out between NBC and Disney, ABC and ESPN's parent company. In the trade, Michaels was able to join NBC in exchange for Disney acquiring from NBC's corporate sibling Universal Pictures, among other things, the rights to the cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was created at Universal by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks before the founding of Disney's studio (and then given to Walter Lantz, whose most famous creation would be Woody Woodpecker). Tom Hammond is NBC's secondary play by play man, calling one of NBC's two games on Wild Card Weekend.

John Madden was one of the first people hired by NBC, chosen to continue as a color analyst. Cris Collinsworth substituted for Madden when he was unavailable, called wild card games alongside Hammond until 2008, and took over on a permanent basis for the 2009 season. Prior to this he served as a studio analyst for Football Night in America, NBC's pregame show. For the 2009 season, Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs took Collinsworth's place in the booth for the first game of Wild Card Weekend. Andrea Kremer meanwhile, is the sideline reporter.

As of the 2010 season, Football Night in America is hosted by Bob Costas, who hosts from the game site, with Dan Patrick emceeing from the New York studio. Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison are studio analysts. Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King serves as a feature reporter.

The NFL also has a strict policy prohibiting networks to run ads during the Super Bowl from the gambling industry, and has rejected ads from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It had been reported that if the television program Las Vegas was still on the air when NBC televised Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, they likely would not have be allowed to promote the series during the entire block of programming.[10] As Vegas ended during the 2007–2008 television season, this was no longer an issue for NBC.

With an average U.S. audience of 98.7 million viewers, Super Bowl XLIII was the most-watched Super Bowl in history, and at that point the second-most-watched U.S. television program of any kind (trailing only the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983; both would be broken by Super Bowl XLIV the following year). However, the Nielsen rating of 42.1, was lower than the 43.3 rating for the previous year's game.

See also

  • Super Bowl XLIII - As previously mentioned, Super Bowl XLIII was NBC's first Super Bowl broadcast since Super Bowl XXXII at the end of the 1997 season,[11] and was available in 1080i high definition. Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and color commentator John Madden were in the booth, with Andrea Kremer and Alex Flanagan serving as sideline reporters. The pre-game show – a record five hours long – was hosted by the Football Night in America team headed by Bob Costas, and preceded by a two-hour special edition of Today hosted by the regular weekday team live from Tampa and the NFL Films – produced Road to the Super Bowl. Matt Millen was part of the coverage as a studio analyst. The Today contribution included portions of a taped interview with President Obama and pictures of troops viewing the proceedings in Iraq. John Madden was the first person to have announced a Super Bowl for each of the four major U.S. television networks, having called five Super Bowls for CBS, three for Fox, and two for ABC prior to joining NBC in 2006. Meanwhile, Al Michaels was the third man to do play-by-play for a Super Bowl on NBC television (following in the footsteps of Curt Gowdy and Dick Enberg). Also, Michaels became the second person (after Pat Summerall on CBS and Fox) to be the lead Super Bowl play-by-play announcer for two different major U.S. networks (ABC and NBC). This would prove to be the final game Madden would call, as he announced his retirement from broadcasting on April 16, 2009. The Super Bowl was one of two major professional sports championship series NBC broadcast in 2009, as they would also broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals. Both championship series involved teams from Pittsburgh winning championships.[12] Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire mentioned this when they called the Stanley Cup Finals.[12] Super Bowl XLIII was the final Super Bowl to air in the analog television format in the United States before the nationwide digital television transition. The transition, originally scheduled for February 17 was pushed back to June 12, the same day the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
  • Football Night in America
  • NBC Sunday Night Football

Pregame/Studio programs


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Richard Sandomir, TV SPORTS; Two Generations of Reminiscences by Gowdys, The New York Times, January 24, 1995,
  3. ^ Raissman, Bob, "With NFL, Networks Can't Win for Losing," New York Daily News, January 13, 1998, p.57.
  4. ^ William N. Wallace (1971-01-14). "All of a Sudden, Miami Is Excited About Super Bowl, as Indicated by TV Blackout Fight". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ CFL on NBC
  6. ^ CFL on NBC in 1982
  7. ^ "Best & Worst: Post-Super Bowl TV". Los Angeles Times.,0,1116920.photogallery?index=16. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  8. ^ Sandomir, Richard (January 26, 1998). "Lead-In Show Drags Down A Good Game". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  9. ^ Sandomir, Richard (January 27, 1998). "Last Half-Hour Rang the Nielsen Bell". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  10. ^ Friess, Steve (August 4, 2005). "NFL may ban 'Vegas' promos during games". USA Today. 
  11. ^ [ "NBC says Super Bowl ad sales nearly done - News"]. 2009-01-28. Retrieved 2009-02-04. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b NHL on NBC: Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals (television). NBC Sports. 2009-06-12.  Emrick, Olczyk, and McGuire mentioned about Pittsburgh having two championships in the same year, as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

External links

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