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So Long, NBC
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Tuesday, July 4, 2006

When I read the news recently that NBC and the Arena Football League were not going to renew their television partnership, I thought to myself, "Good!" I, for one, am not sorry to see that NBC will no longer be an AFL broadcasting partner.

The pairing of the Arena Football League and NBC seemed to be a one-sided partnership that heavily favored of the network right from the beginning. Almost immediately, NBC wanted the league to change the way it conducted the game. The season schedule was changed from beginning in April to beginning in February. The season schedule was later changed again in 2005, this time to begin in late January, prior to the Super Bowl. Halftime was shortened and other rule changes were made in order to speed up the game and make it fit into the network’s neat little three hour allotted time frame. Heaven forbid that Arena games ever interfere with the start of a tiddlywinks tournament or something else!

The Grand Rapids Rampage didn’t have much luck on NBC either. Their record on NBC was 0-8 over the first three years on the network. (They weren’t even on the NBC schedule at all in 2006) There were also a couple of times when Rampage games were pulled from the NBC schedule at the last minute.

Not All Bad

Anytime that you can bring your product to a national television audience, it’s a good thing. Thanks to NBC, many people were exposed to Arena football for the first time.

As a kid, I grew up in a world where there were only a handful of channels to choose from. Viewing choices were limited and we all basically watched the same things on the three major broadcast networks, NBC, CBS and ABC. Today, however, with so many cable and satellite channels available to just about everyone all over the country, I don’t think that being on an "over the air" broadcast network is really essential to the league’s existence and growth.

My Suggestions

As a fan and a season ticket holder, I’d like to throw out a few suggestions regarding what I think the league should do next;

1. Regardless of who the league decides to team up with next, please bring back Thursday night Arena games on a regular basis. There is just something special about sitting down on a Thursday night to watch a football game. It really breaks up the week and could become the Arena Football League’s own version of Monday Night Football. It could be the game of the week where every team can have their 15 minutes of fame each season.

2. Include the arenafootball2 in the new television deal. The AFL has talked about having a national TV contract for the af2 for some time now, but so far, it has not happened. I have been to some af2 games over the last few years and my boys and we have enjoyed ourselves at those games very much. It would be great to be able to see the af2 on TV on a regular basis. The combined AFL and af2 seasons would give the new network a schedule that currently runs from January all the way through to the af2 ArenaCup championship game in August.

3. Bring back Eli Gold as the lead announcer of the league! He has done both Arena and af2 games over the years and, to me, he should be the voice of the AFL. He really knows the game and I have missed hearing him on a regular basis.

Possible Replacement Networks

Spike TV – A former AFL broadcast partner when it was known as TNN. (First it was the Nashville Network and then The National Network) When they were known as TNN, I thought the network did a great job broadcasting Arena games. Any channel that loves The Three Stooges as much as they do is all right by me!

ESPN and ESPN2 – The networks have broadcast Arena games over the years and when it comes to sports coverage, it doesn’t get any bigger. If Arena games were broadcast on ESPN on a regular basis, there would surely be room for game highlights on SportsCenter.

Fox Sports – The network has already been airing a number of Arena games the last few years and it also has a weekly, half hour highlight show, AFL Weekly. They also broadcast last year’s af2 ArenaCup game.

OLN – The Outdoor Life Network began broadcasting some Arena games last season. It is changing its name to Verses this September in order to broaden its audience and change its image. The Arena Football League would definitely give the network a new direction.

The NFL Network – Just let that one sink in for a minute. This relatively new network has already announced that they are branching out into the world of college football this fall, broadcasting the Insight Bowl as well as the Senior Bowl. The network will also be producing a weekly college football highlight show as well this fall. And don’t forget, several AFL teams are currently owned by NFL owners.

USA Network – They already broadcast golf, tennis and some extreme sports, why not Arena football? Wouldn’t you love to see an episode of Monk where Adrian and Natalie go to an Arena game?

So you see, there are many interesting possibilities for the AFL to explore in regards to its next broadcast partner. The Arena Football League was doing quite well on cable TV before they signed with NBC, thank you very much, and I have no doubt that they will continue to succeed without them as well. Who ever the league chooses, I hope that they retain a majority of control over how its games should be presented.


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