NFL Network is the National Football League’s dedicated cable channel, devoted year-round to pro football coverage. It is offered by satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network, as well as cable providers AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS, Comcast, and many regional cable providers. Its flagship show is NFL Total Access, hosted by Rich Eisen, an hour-long show of news and analysis related to the NFL. In addition, NFL Network shows NFL GameDay Morning, a 3-hour pre-game show each Sunday; NFL GameDay Highlights, the most comprehensive highlights package in television every Sunday night; NFC and AFC Playbook, a weekly preview show devoted to study of coaches’ game film; NFL/Super Bowl Classics, re-airings of the original broadcasts of some of the most memorable regular-season, playoff, and Super Bowl matchups in the league’s history; and NFL Replay, rebroadcasts of 4 of the best games from the previous week, interspersed with interviews, press conference clips, and analysis of the game. The NFL Network also carries a slate of 8 NFL regular-season games, which it calls “The Run to the Playoffs,” starting in November and running through the penultimate week of the regular season. During summer months, the channel shows live Arena Football League and Canadian Football League games. NFL pre-season games, originally shown live in the teams’ local markets, are rebroadcast in August in a condensed format which switches between each team’s local announcers each half. NFL Total Access provides live coverage of the league’s annual Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft, as well as the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July and league ownership meetings throughout the year. And if that weren’t enough football, the league’s NFL Films division produces shows such as NFL Top 10, America’s Game: The Super Bowl Champions, and NFL Follies for NFL Network.
The NFL Network is owned by the National Football League and launched on November 3, 2003. It broadcasts in both standard definition (SD) and 1080i high definition (HD) formats (all live games are shown in HD where available). Its President and CEO is Steve Bornstein, former Chairman of ESPN, who also serves as the NFL’s Executive Vice President of Media. The face of NFL Network is Rich Eisen, who hosts virtually all of the channel’s news coverage, from NFL Total Access to NFL GameDay Morning and its later highlight show, along with live coverage of the league’s Scouting Combine, the NFL Draft, Hall of Fame ceremonies, and owners’ meetings. Its studios are in Culver City, CA, though the NFL Total Access crew is often on location for events such as the draft, the Super Bowl, and the Hall of Fame ceremony.
NFL Total Access provides daily news and analysis of all 32 NFL teams from Eisen and co-hosts Rod Woodson, Marshall Faulk, and Jamie Dukes. Steve Mariucci, Deion Sanders, Warren Sapp, Jim Mora, Sr., and Michael Irvin also frequently appear. The News and Notes segment covers the day’s stories around the league. NFL Team Cams often feature interviews with players and coaches. The Official Review segment includes discussions on rules and controversial officiating calls with NFL Vice President of Officiating, Mike Pereira. Jason LaCanfora reports insider news and rumors in his Around the League segment. Draft guru Mike Mayock talks about college players who are draft prospects and previews/reviews the NFL Draft. And finally, the show ends with the 4 Downs segment, where Eisen and company briefly conduct a roundtable discussion on 4 big news stories of the day.
NFL GameDay Morning is the NFL Network’s 3-hour Sunday pre-game show, starting at 9AM Eastern time, and hosted by the ubiquitous Eisen with Michael Irvin, Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, and Warren Sapp. NFL GameDay Final brings Mariucci and Irvin back together, along with host Fran Charles and Deion Sanders. GameDay Final is 90 minutes of the most extensive highlights package on televeision and airs at the conclusion of the Sunday night game (NFL Network holds the exclusive rights to this highlight package, which was previously owned by ESPN when they aired NFL Prime Time).
The Run to the Playoffs is a slate of 8 regular-season games carried live on NFL Network. In 2011, the schedule kicks off on Thursday, November 10 with the Oakland Raiders visiting the San Diego Chargers. 7 of the games are played on Thursday nights, with an additional Saturday night game in Week 15 (Dallas at Tampa Bay). The 2011 broadcast booth has been overhauled. Out are Bob Papa, Joe Theismann, and Matt Millen. In are Brad Nessler for play-by-play and Mike Mayock for color commentary. Local blackout rules apply, so if the home team doesn’t sell out its game within 72 hours of kickoff, it will not be seen on NFL Network in that market. During the NFL offseason, the channel also carries live Arena Football League and Canadian Football League regular-season games, as well as the Arena League Playoffs and ArenaBowl.
Playbook highlights the chess match involved in NFL play-calling, breaking down fundamental plays in a team’s offense or defense, and previewing favorable matchups in their upcoming game or pointing out weaknesses their opponent might try to exploit. The show is hosted by Brian Baldinger, Joe Theismann, and Sterling Sharpe, with occasional appearances by current players on their “bye” week. It often makes use of the “all 11” coaches’ film perspective instead of the typical television broadcast sideline angle, which allows the hosts to show a play’s full formation, how linebackers and safeties are lined up, and how players are sent in motion pre-snap. While this show is aimed at the die-hard fan, it offers a look at football rarely presented during game broadcasts. The show airs twice a week – Playbook AFC focuses on AFC teams and airs Thursday nights, while Playbook NFC focuses on the NFC and airs Friday nights.
NFL Network is offered on DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS, and many cable providers (most notably, cable giants Time Warner and Cablevision do NOT carry NFL Network). At the time of this writing, DirecTV offers the channel on every programming package, starting at $60.99/month. Dish Network offers it on the America’s Top 200 package, $39.99/month for new customers or $59.99/month for existing customers. AT&T U-verse carries it on their U200 package for $69/month. Verizon FiOS carries it on their Extreme HD (middle) tier. Prices vary depending on whether you lock into a 2-year contract and/or bundle phone or Internet service into the package, but it’s $74.99/month without a contract and without bundling other services. With an Internet bundle, FiOS includes NFL Network Game Extra at no additional charge — Game Extra offers highlights and real-time stats via the Internet, with highlights available nearly in real-time.
Though the games are only played between September and early February, the NFL has become a year-round event. While fans of one team can bask in a championship for an offseason, fans of other teams look to the draft and free agency for the hope that their team can be built into a contender. Training camps and the preseason build on that hope, until September, when it’s all settled on the field again. Football happens all year, and the NFL Network brings it all to you.
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