History of Football on Television

By Kavin Caruso

The NFL has seen changes throughout the last 55 yrs. Television is one of them. In the 1950's, football wasn't a popular sport. ABC, NBC, and CBS televised baseball on Saturday afternoons. It was a weekly ritual for baseball to have a game on television every week. In the NFL, there were maybe 1 game during the day and maybe 1 game at night. In 1956, CBS decided to carry the games to the local markets every Sunday.

NBC televised some games on Sunday afternoons during the 1950's, but not like what they did in the 1960's. NBC televised the 1958 NFL Championship game. Why is that game so special? Baltimore Colts beat the NY Giants at Yankee Stadium 23-17 in OT. It was the only time a championship game went into sudden death. Colts beat the Giants when Johnny Unitas handed the ball to Alan Ameche to score the winning touchdown.

In the 1960's AFL was organized. ABC televised the AFL games 1960-1964. CBS televised the NFL games 1960-1969. ABC televised the AFL Championship games 1960-1964. NBC then started televising the AFL games in 1965. In the first Super Bowl game which was on Jan 15, 1967, both CBS and NBC televised the game. It was the only time both networks televised the same game live. In 1964, CBS experimented "half and half" format. In that case, the first half was broadcasted by the home team announcers, the second half was broadcasted by the visitor team announcers. It didn't last long.

On November 25, 1965 which was Thanksgiving Day, CBS broadcasted their first NFL game in color. It was the Lions vs Colts. They would also broadcast in color that same season, the playoff game between the Colts vs Packers, then a week later, the NFL Championship game between the Browns vs Packers. In 1968, all games on CBS were televised in color. NBC followed suit with the AFL games.

NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted to have a football game during a weeknight. CBS and NBC at first had no interest in doing so. In 1966 and 1967, CBS televised a Monday night game. NBC did the same for the AFL in 1968 and 1969. Monday night football as what it is today, started in 1970. ABC came back and took that course. Pete Rozelle asked NBC and CBS if they wanted to broadcast Monday night as a weekly thing. Both networks refused to accept the deal and kept their Sunday afternoon games. ABC decided to join the bid.

When the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, CBS and NBC still carried the games. CBS would carry the NFC games while NBC carried the AFC games. That continued till 1993 season. In 1994, FOX took over the NFC games and left CBS out in the cold.

Monday Night Football Television Cameras For ESPN Film
Monday Night Football television cameras for ESPN film during the game between the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Rams 30-13. Photo Courtesy by Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE.

ESPN debuted in 1979, they were the first major cable network to broadcast all 4 sports. In 1987, ESPN began broadcasting Sunday night football. It was a big thing for ESPN, because they never broadcasted NFL football and hadn't televised baseball yet. They were still making a name for themselves. ESPN was also the one that changed the way the NFL Draft is perceived. With ESPN televising the draft, it made football more popular. In the early 90's, ESPN and TNT broadcasted Sunday night football. After ESPN got Major League Baseball in 1990, they had to broadcast baseball on Sunday nights during the first half of the NFL season. When regular season ended in baseball, ESPN then televised the NFL games till the season end.

In 1997, NBC was in their final year of their contract. They thought they would be broadcasting NFL for the next 10 yrs but it didn't happen. In 1998, CBS won the bid and televised the AFC games and left NBC out in the cold. CBS is still carrying the AFC games, after being without football for 5 years. FOX is still going strong for 18 years, and they seem like they will not be tamed. In 2005, ABC said goodbye to Monday Night Football. After being the first network to do so, they stopped televising football after the 2005 season. NBC came back and took over the Sunday night games in 2006. NBC won a bid to join the NFL after being out of football for 9 years. ESPN then took the Monday night games.

The NFL Network debuted in 2003. They first started televising NFL football on Thursday nights in 2006. The NFL Network televises 8 games during the season. They start on Thanksgiving Day, then continue till the season ends. Sometimes they televised the games on Saturdays. The NFL Network is on the Direct Satellite dish. Some people can get the NFL Network through their wireless cable provider. NFL Network also broadcasts preseason games.

The NFL has seen so many changes in television for the last 5 decades. They have made so much tv revenue money and has helped the NFL a lot. Without NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NFL Network the NFL wouldn't last this long like they did. Baseball for so many years was the most popular sport. When players like Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Steve Young, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning stepped in the ring, it changed the dynamics in the game of football. Sure players like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Jim Brown, and Otto Graham were great players back in the 50's – 60's, but not like the players of today.

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