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NFL Network Kicks Off 'Replays’

4/21/2006 8:05 PM Eastern

NFL Network is expanding the definition of instant replay. For the first time in the National Football League’s 86 years, league contests next season will be shown outside of their live window. Under the NFL Replay banner, NFL Network plans to reair four regular-season weekend games per week, at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

NFL Replay — along with a new eight-game, late-season primetime package of live games — will be showcased at the network’s first upfront presentation to advertisers, in New York Wednesday night.

WIDE CHOICE

The league’s network will choose from contests that originally ran on CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN, using rights obtained in the league’s most recent set of TV deals. NFL Network also has the right to reair playoff games, including the Super Bowl.

Games will be distilled into 90-minute versions, with original announcers and crews and devoid of halftime segments and elements not crucial to the outcome. A “director’s cut” will incorporate exclusive shots and camera angles from NFL Films, sideline sounds and press-conference commentary to provide context.

“This is not just a recast of the game, but compelling product, showing NFL football from a really unique perspective,” vice president of programming Charles Coplin said.

The service controls the commercial inventory in the replay contests. Typically, NFL Network makes two to three minutes per hour available to affiliates. The hope is that NFL Replay fare attracts casual fans and, especially, devotees and fantasy league players.

Coplin said factors that will determine what games are selected from the prior weekend include on-field quality, playoff implications, record-setting performances and the availability of viewership across the country.

WEDGE FOR DEALS

The live games and replay packages also are key to the 35 million-home NFL Network’s attempt to secure new carriage commitments.

Operators with knowledge of the deal say NFL Network is looking to elevate its rate card 125% — from 20 to 25 cents per subscriber, per month — and move into highly penetrated tiers as the price for obtaining the live games.

Only DirecTV and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network have signed up for the new deal so far. A network spokesman said discussions are underway with other carriers.

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