MNF to ESPN, SNF to NBC

I attended the Patriots Day game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Lots of fun was had by a well behaved crowd.

As I’m driving home, I hear that the NFL finally made a decision about the primetime packages and it was no surprise that ESPN got Monday Night Football. This move had been anticipated for quite some time. ABC had lost money on the package and had attempted to lower its payments to the NFL. Only once has the NFL taken less money from the networks and to offset those losses, the league went to ESPN for an eight game schedule in 1987. Since then, ESPN has been a loyal partner to the NFL and its reward is Monday Night Football.

What is the surprise here is that NBC gets back into the NFL. At this time, NBC is struggling in primetime, basicallly where CBS was in 1998 when the Eye Network got back into the pro football broadcasting business. Up until now, NBC had made no public overtures about the NFL. It had said it would stay out of money-losing sports properties and parent company General Electric had made sure it was so. NBC lost the AFC package to CBS in 1998, lost Major League Baseball in 2000 to Fox and the NBA to ABC/ESPN in 2002. So when today’s news broke, it was kind of a shock, but with new management at the top of now NBC Universal, the sky is pretty much the limit.

USA Today’s Michael Hiestand has the story about the NFL’s new/old television partner.

NBC will broadcast the Super Bowls in 2009 and 2012, two Pro Bowls and devote its entire Sunday primetime lineup to the NFL. That means a one hour pre-game show starting at 7 p.m. ET, the game kicking off at 8:15 p.m., plus two Wild Card playoff games, three preseason games and the Season Opening Thursday night game which for the past three seasons has been on ABC.

The NFL gives details of the new primetime contracts in a press release. The interesting change for Monday Night Football besides the obvious is that the kickoff time will now be at 8:40 p.m. ET.

The new agreements with CBS, Fox and NBC start in 2006 and expire in 2011. ESPN’s Monday Night Football contract will span from 2006-2013. The NFL also begins a new contract with DirecTV for the Sunday Ticket pay per view package in 2006.

David Barron of the Houston Chronicle quickly wrote a story for the paper’s website.

Interestingly enough, MSNBC.com uses an Associated Press story for its own website. Then again, MSNBC’s sports coverage is really lacking and is hardly a destination for sports fans. Perhaps with the NFL back into the fold, NBC Sports will actually do something with MSNBC.com. Who knows?

But NBC Universal has its own press release to announce its return to the NFL.

For the financial end of the story, CNN/Money has a look at how much ABC lost on MNF.

I’m sure there will be more stories on Tuesday and we’ll keep track of them for you.