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NFL Network Will Allow Simulcast of Patriots-Giants

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By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2007

The NFL avoided a potential backlash by fans unable to watch the New England Patriots' attempt to complete a perfect regular season, announcing yesterday that the NFL Network's telecast of Saturday night's game between the Patriots and New York Giants also will be carried by NBC and CBS.

The nationwide simulcast will be the first of an NFL game since Super Bowl I, and it dissipates a controversy that had been building in recent weeks because the league-owned NFL Network had been scheduled to carry the game alone. It reaches only about 35 million U.S. households.

"We have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement released by the league. "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 league has been unable to get its television channel into more households because of ongoing disputes over pricing and distribution with several large cable carriers, including Time Warner and Comcast. Yesterday's move came after Goodell's previous attempts to solve the problem failed.

Last week, Time Warner rejected Goodell's offer to allow the cable company to carry the Patriots-Giants game if it agreed to submit its dispute with the NFL to binding arbitration. The NFL has been seeking to have its channel carried on basic or digital basic cable; the companies want to put it on a sports tier with an additional charge to interested viewers. Goodell's offer to Time Warner came after Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) had written a letter to Goodell threatening to reexamine the NFL's exemption from federal antitrust laws if it didn't make the games on the NFL Network available to more viewers.

This will be the first three-network simulcast of an NFL game. The last simulcast with two networks came when NBC and CBS carried the Green Bay Packers' triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl on Jan. 15, 1967.

NBC and CBS will carry the NFL Network feed of the game, featuring announcers Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth.

The Patriots are attempting to become the first NFL team to have a 16-0 regular season. They're also five points from the league's season scoring record. Quarterback Tom Brady is one touchdown pass from the season record, and wide receiver Randy Moss is one touchdown catch from the one-year mark.

The game will air on what is traditionally a weak ratings night for network TV, preempting "Dateline NBC" and "Law & Order: SVU" on NBC and "Good Night, and Good Luck" (a 2005 movie starring George Clooney) and "48 Hours Mystery" on CBS.

Colts Are Ailing

Eleven Indianapolis Colts players, including eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison, missed practice yesterday. Harrison has not played since Oct. 22 because of a left knee injury and may miss his 10th consecutive game Sunday. Coach Tony Dungy has expressed hope Harrison would return and remains optimistic that Harrison will be available for the playoffs. . . .

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and center Kevin Mawae sat out a short practice with six other Titans. Haynesworth has played the past four games despite a right hamstring injury that kept him out of three straight games. But he has not practiced since Nov. 30. . . .

Carolina placed defensive end Julius Peppers on the injured reserve list with a sprained right medial collateral ligament. . . .

Tampa Bay placed wide receiver Maurice Stovall (broken right arm) on injured reserve and promoted wide receivers Brian Clark and Chad Lucas from the practice squad.

Mark Maske, NFL News Feed

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