NFL Network Breaks Out Of Huddle, Unveils Game Plan

Two weeks before its midseason kickoff, the NFL Network fleshed out details about its programming.

The 24/7 network, which will continue even beyond the football season, is owned by the National Football League. There won't be any live NFL games during the regular and postseason but just about everything else about football will be covered on the network. It will launch in 11.7 million households on DirecTV beginning Nov. 4.

The showcase will be NFL Total Access, a one-hour live program every weeknight hosted by former ESPN SportsCenter co-host Rich Eisen with two former players, Ken Norton Jr. and Seth Joyner. The show will also feature analysis by former coaches Mike Ditka and Marv Levy. Other programs will feature in-depth shows on pro and college football. Off-season coverage will include NFL Europe and the possibility of live preseason games that aren't already shown via network contract.

For anyone who's looking for the NFL Network to begin live coverage of in- season games, don't expect it anytime soon. The TV contracts run two years after the end of the current NFL season and NFL Network President/CEO Steve Bornstein didn't see live games on NFL Network for the foreseeable future.



"I don't anticipate that NFL Network will be a player in the next contract," he said Tuesday afternoon.

Bornstein, who used to work at both ABC and for a while ran ESPN, said he sees the NFL Network's role as one that complements the TV partners of the NFL and provides the NFL enthusiast information and material unavailable elsewhere.

"We believe that this product touches so many people and so many different areas of the human viewing experience that our audience, our fans, wanted more information and they wanted it on demand," Bornstein said.

Although the NFL Network got the green light around the turn of the year, Bornstein said it wasn't enough time to get everything together for the start of the NFL season in early September.

"We didn't want to wait an entire other season," Bornstein said. He noted that the second half of the season - it will be week nine - was a good way to build interest moving into the playoffs.

Although the network is owned by the NFL, Bornstein and Eisen said they were charting their own path in coverage and wouldn't shy away from tough issues that may not put the league into the best light.

"I'm not apologetic about it. The bottom line is that we're owned by the NFL. We're going to be fair and unbiased and tell the truth to our consumers," said Bornstein.

Eisen agreed, saying that he's met with almost everyone in the NFL from the commissioner on down the line.

"Nobody has said to me once what I can say or what I can't say," Eisen said. "Nor would I have taken the job if that was the case. I'm not concerned about it as we get ready to move forward."

Distribution continues to be a sticking point, even though 11 million-plus homes are guaranteed by DirecTV. Bornstein said NFL Network was in the midst of negotiations to get more distribution via cable.

"I'm cautiously optimistic we will have new cable arrangements to announce prior to launch and subsequently following launch," he said.

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