NBC expands pre-game show to one hour for NFL games Competitors Fox, ESPN spur move from half-hour

March 13, 1996|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

*TC After fighting the NFL pre-game show battle with Fox and ESPN with a hand tied behind its back, NBC joined the club and expanded its "NFL on NBC" to an hour, beginning next season, in an announcement made at the league's meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla., yesterday.

In expanding the show from its current 30-minute format, NBC made a number of affiliate-friendly moves that helped sell the move to local stations that might not have been so willing to accommodate the sports division.

For instance, NBC has promised to give five minutes of commercial time to local stations in the first half-hour to sell as their own to compensate for the revenue that might be lost by the expansion, which, in some markets, like Baltimore, will cut into lucrative local Sunday news shows.

In addition, the network, which started the last two seasons with special one-hour programs, will build into the format of the show a five-minute local cut-away that stations in NFL cities like Baltimore can use for features on their individual teams.

NBC, which started its 30-minute program at 12: 30 p.m., essentially had ceded the noon half-hour to Fox and to ESPN, which run 60- and 75-minute shows, respectively.

NBC took its lumps in the ratings. Fox beat the more established NBC in overall ratings, and in ratings among the coveted 18-49 male demographic category.

NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol has said that the show's expansion would be difficult, given the commitment of stations to local news and "Meet the Press," but with the concessions the network granted, he was able to get 98 percent of the affiliates to clear the new one-hour program.

Pub Date: 3/13/96

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