|The NFL on CBS|
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Logo since the 2006 NFL season
|Starring||The NFL Today crew |
The NFL on CBS game commentators
|Opening theme||See NFL on CBS music|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||5,000+|
CBS Broadcast Center, New York City (studio)
|Running time||180 minutes or until game ends|
|Production company(s)||National Football League|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV), |
|Original run||September 30, 1956–January 23, 1994|
September 6, 1998 – present
- 1 Market coverage and television policies
- 2 History
- 3 Local preseason television coverage
- 4 Digital on-screen graphics
- 5 Music
- 6 Ratings
- 7 Alphabetical list of past and present commentators
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Market coverage and television policies
As with Fox's coverage, the network's stations are divided into different groups based on the most popular or closest team to that market or, if that does not apply, based on the allure of a particular game. Each football game is rated as an "A", "B", or "C" game, with "A" games likely being televised nationally and "C" games only in the two teams' home television markets. Significantly more behind-the-scenes resources are dedicated to "A" game coverage.
By NFL broadcasting rules, CBS must broadcast all regional games in the visiting team's home market (and, if sold out, the city the game is being played in), in its entirety, regardless if the game has a close outcome or is a blowout. However, if the game is a blowout, it is allowed to cut to a game with a more competitive outcome in a market that is within the 75-mile blackout radius without it being the home market itself. If a local game is blacked out, the local CBS affiliate is not allowed to show any other football game during the scheduled time of the home team's game.
As an example, if the New England Patriots are losing to the Buffalo Bills by over 20 points in the fourth quarter, most of the CBS stations carrying that game can be switched to another game; however, WBZ-TV Boston and WIVB Buffalo must carry the New England/Buffalo game to conclusion as they are in the two markets whose local teams are playing.
CBS carries all afternoon games in which an AFC team is on the road, so NFC teams will make only a maximum of two appearances on CBS each year. Similarly, Fox covers all games in which the visitors are from the NFC, meaning AFC teams get only up to two Fox-aired games each year. This policy goes back to the 1970 NFL/AFL merger, when home games were not broadcast, and the policy allowed every Sunday afternoon road game to be seen on the same TV station in the visiting team's home market.
For the past few decades, the NFL has always let CBS be the "singleheader" network during the week it televises the Men's U.S. Open Tennis final at 4:05 p.m. ET around the country (CBS has said that it cannot justify putting the Men's U.S. Open Final on Sunday night in terms of ratings; the women's final, broadcast on a Saturday night, often outrates the men's final by a considerable margin, except when at least one American plays in the men's final).
CBS' coverage began in on September 30, 1956 (the first regular season broadcast was a game between visiting Washington Redskins against the Pittsburgh Steelers), before the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger. Prior to 1968, CBS had an assigned crew for each NFL team. Thus, CBS became the first network to broadcast some NFL regular season games to selected television markets across the nation. From 1970 until the end of the 1993 season, when Fox won CBS' contract, CBS aired the NFL's National Football Conference games. Since 1975, game coverage has been preceded by pre-game show The NFL Today.
CBS's first attempts to broadcast the NFL on television were notable for there being no broadcasting contract with the league as a whole. Instead, CBS had to strike deals with individual teams to broadcast games into the teams' own markets, many of which were inherited from the defunct DuMont Television Network. Often the games would be broadcast with "split audio" -- that is, a game between two clubs would have the same picture in both team's "networks" (the visiting team's home city and affiliates of the home team's "network" beyond a 75-mile radius of the home team's TV market). Each team's "network" has different announcers (usually hometown announcers).
From 1956-1959, the Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles only had away games telecasts on CBS. When these three played at home, there was no need for the usage of split audio. Instead, the away teams telecasts were produced in a simple audio/video single feed. In fact, in 1959, 1960, and 1961, NBC had the rights to show home games of the Colts and Steelers. While games were blacked-out (as per NFL policy) in those cities, they were available to other NBC affiliates.
The Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals only did home telecasts for their vast network. So if the Bears played the Colts in Baltimore or the Cardinals visited Forbes Field to play the Steelers in these years, it was likely that the games were not televised by CBS (but from 1959 to 1961, might be shown by NBC).
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns had their own network, part of SNI and Carling Beer.
In 1961, Milwaukee station WISN-TV, a then-CBS affiliate, opted not to carry that year's annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz, running a Green Bay Packers football game instead. In contrast to the infamous Heidi telecast in 1968, the popularity of The Wizard of Oz as an annual TV event at that time was such that the station ran the movie locally at a later date.
On September 17, 1961, CBS Sports broadcast the first remote 15-minute pre-game show, the first of its kind on network sports television. Pro Football Kickoff originated from NFL stadiums around the country with a comprehensive look at all the day's games.
In 1962, the NFL followed the American Football League's (AFL) suit with its own revenue sharing plan after CBS agreed to telecast all regular season games for an annual fee of $4.65 million. CBS also acquired the rights to the championship games for 1964 and 1965 for $1.8 million per game, on April 17, 1964.
On November 24, just two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the NFL played its normal schedule of games. Commissioner Pete Rozelle said about playing the games: "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition." No NFL games were telecast, since on the afternoon of the 22nd, just after the president had been pronounced dead, CBS President Frank Stanton ordered that all regular programming be pre-empted until after Mr. Kennedy was buried. Normal programming, including the NFL, was replaced by non-stop news coverage, broadcast without commercials.
In 1964, CBS experimented with a "half-and-half" format for their announcers. The first half of each telecast would be called by the home teams' commentators while the second half would be done by the visitors' commentators. (This practice would later be revived decades later by the NFL Network when replaying preseason games that were broadcast by local stations as opposed to a national network.) Also in 1964, CBS ditched the concept of using pooled video and split audio feeds. In 1962 and 1963, CBS would provide separate audio for a telecast. For instance, if the Green Bay Packers hosted the Chicago Bears, the telecast would have the same video, Chicago area viewers would hear Red Grange and George Connor call the action. Meanwhile, viewers in Milwaukee and other parts of Wisconsin (Green Bay itself was blacked out) would hear Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo describe the game. Ray Scott was no fan of the separate audio concept and temporarily left CBS for a job calling a regional slate of college football games for NBC. Ultimately, CBS dumped the four man crew and resumed the 1962-63 method for the great majority of games in 1965, 1966 and 1967.
On November 25, 1965 (Thanksgiving Day), CBS featured the first-ever color broadcast of an NFL game. Only a select few NFL games for CBS were in color that year, namely, the aforementioned Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit, the NFL Western Conference Playoff, the NFL Championship Game, the Playoff Bowl and the Pro Bowl. By 1968, all network regular season telecasts were in color.
On December 29, 1965, CBS acquired the rights to the NFL regular season games in 1966 and 1967, with an option for 1968, for $18.8 (in sharp contrast to the $14.1 million per year in 1964) million per year.
On February 14, 1966, the rights to the 1966 and 1967 NFL Championship Games (the Ice Bowl) were sold to CBS for $2 million per game. 1967 also marked the last year that CBS had separate commentator crews for each team for about 90%-95% of their NFL games.
The first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played on January 15, 1967. Because CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games and NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games, it was decided by the newly-merged league to have both of them cover that first game. Ray Scott, Jack Whitaker, Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall called the game for CBS. 39.9 million viewers would watch Bart Starr's MVP performance. NBC did have some problems. The network did not return in time from a halftime commercial break for the start of the second half; therefore, the first kickoff was stopped by the game's officials and was redone once NBC was back on the air. NBC was also forced to broadcast the game over CBS' feed and cameras (CBS received prerogative to use its feed and camera angles since the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was home to the NFL's Rams). In other words, NBC's crew had little to no control over how the game was shot. The next three AFL-NFL World Championship Games, later renamed the Super Bowl, were then divided by the two networks: CBS televised Super Bowls II and IV while NBC covered III.
As previously mentioned, in 1968, CBS abandoned its practice of using dedicated announcing crews for particular teams and instituted a semi-merit system in its place, with certain crews (such as Ray Scott and Paul Christman or Jack Buck and Pat Summerall) being assigned to each week's most prominent games regardless of the participating teams.
On December 22, 1968, CBS interrupted coverage of a Western Conference championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Colts in order to show a broadcast from inside the Apollo 8 spacecraft, headed towards the moon (the first manned space mission to orbit the moon, and a major step towards the lunar landing the following July). The interruption began approximately three minutes before halftime of the game, and lasted 17 minutes. CBS showed highlights of the missed action (which involved no scoring) when the network returned to football; nonetheless, the network received approximately 3,000 complaints after the game.
Monday night games on CBS
During the early 1960s, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle envisioned the possibility of playing at least one game weekly during prime time for a greater TV audience. An early bid by ABC in 1964 to have the league play a weekly game on Friday nights was abandoned, with critics charging that such telecasts would damage the attendance at high school games. Undaunted, Rozelle decided to experiment with the concept of playing on Monday night, scheduling the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions for a game on September 28, 1964. While the game was not televised, it drew a sellout crowd of 59,203 to Tiger Stadium, the largest crowd ever to watch a professional football game in Detroit up to that point.
Two years later, Rozelle would build on this success as the NFL began a four-year experiment of playing on Monday night, scheduling one game in prime time on CBS during the 1966 and 1967 seasons, and two contests during each of the next two years. NBC followed suit in 1968 and 1969 with games involving AFL teams.
During subsequent negotiations on a television contract that would begin in 1970, Rozelle concentrated on signing a weekly Monday night deal with one of the three major networks. After sensing reluctance from both NBC and CBS in disturbing their regular programming schedules, Rozelle spoke with ABC.
Despite the network's status as the lowest-rated network, ABC was also reluctant to enter the risky venture. Only after the independent Hughes Sports Network, an entity bankrolled by reclusive businessman Howard Hughes showed interest, did ABC sign a contract for the scheduled games. Speculation was that had Rozelle signed with Hughes, many ABC affiliates would have pre-empted the network's Monday lineup in favor of the games, severely damaging potential ratings. There was even talk that one or two ABC owned and operated stations would have ditched the network to carry the games.
When the AFL and the NFL officially merged in 1970, the combined league divided its teams into the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). It was then decided (officially announced on January 26, 1970) that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. This was in line with the NFL television blackout rules of the time, meaning that every televised game of a local NFL team would be on the same channel (at the time, home games were banned from local TV regardless of sell-out status, while road games are required to be aired in the teams' primary media markets, and select neighboring markets as well, even if it is not the most popular team in the market). The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.
By 1971, the FCC introduced the Prime Time Access Rule, which freed local network affiliates in the top 50 markets (in practice, the entire network) to take a half hour of prime time from the networks on Mondays through Saturdays and one full hour on Sundays. Because nearly all affiliates found production costs for the FCC's intended goal of increased public affairs programming very high and the ratings (thus advertising revenues) low, making it mostly unprofitable, the FCC created an exception for network-authored news and public affairs. After a six-month hiatus in late 1971, CBS thus found a prime place for 60 Minutes in a portion of that displaced time, 6–7 p.m. (Eastern time; 5–6 Central) on Sundays, in January 1972. This proved somewhat less than satisfactory, however, because in order to accommodate CBS' telecasts of late afternoon National Football League games, 60 Minutes went on hiatus during the fall from 1972 to 1975 (and the summer of 1972). This took place because football telecasts were protected contractually from interruptions in the wake of the infamous "Heidi Game" incident (as previously mentioned) on NBC in November 1968.
The program sometimes does not start until after 7 p.m., due largely to CBS' live broadcast of NFL games. At the conclusion of the game, the network will end its coverage right away and air 60 Minutes in its entirety (however, on the West Coast, because the actual end of the live games is much earlier in the afternoon in comparison to the Eastern and Central time zones, 60 Minutes is always able to start at its normal start time of 7 p.m. Pacific Time, leaving affiliates free to broadcast local news, the CBS Evening News, and other local or syndicated programming leading up to 60 Minutes). The program's success has also led CBS Sports to schedule events leading into 60 Minutes and the rest of the network's primetime lineup, thus (again, except on the West Coast) pre-empting the Sunday editions of the CBS Evening News and affiliates' local newscasts.
On January 16, 1972, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24–3 in Super Bowl VI in New Orleans. The CBS telecast was viewed in an estimated 27,450,000 homes, the top-rated one-day telecast ever at the time. Although Tulane Stadium was sold out for the game, unconditional blackout rules in the NFL prohibited the live telecast from being shown in the New Orleans area. This would be the last Super Bowl to be blacked out in the TV market in which the game was played. The following year, the NFL allowed Super Bowl VII to be televised live in the host city (Los Angeles) when all tickets were sold. In 1973, the NFL changed its blackout policy to allow games to be broadcast in the home team's market if sold out 72 hours in advance (all Super Bowls since the second have sold out, as it is the main event on the NFL schedule, and there is high demand for Super Bowl tickets).
On November 4, 1973, local San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX-TV experimented with a "simulcast" in which the station kept switching back and forth between the network's broadcasts of a San Francisco 49ers game (against the Detroit Lions) and an Oakland Raiders game (against the New York Giants) that were being played at the same time, with frequent cuts to studio host Barry Tompkins. The station received many complaints from viewers, however, and the experiment was not repeated. This resulted in the NFL instituting new rules for markets that had two teams, which are covered in detail in the NFL on television article.
During the October 13, 1974, New Orleans Saints–Denver Broncos game, the broadcasting duo of play-by-play announcer Don Criqui and color commentator Irv Cross was supplemented by the contributions of the first woman ever on an NFL telecast, Jane Chastain. While providing limited commentary, Chastain was used on an irregular basis over the rest of the season.
CBS' 1976 telecast of Super Bowl X between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys was viewed by an estimated 80 million people, the largest television audience in history at the time. CBS' telecast featured play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall (calling his first Super Bowl in that role) and color commentator Tom Brookshier. Towards the end of the game, Hank Stram took over for Brookshier, who had left the booth to head down to the locker room area to conduct the postgame interviews with the winning team.
On October 12, 1976, Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiated contracts with the three television networks to televise all NFL regular-season and postseason games, plus selected preseason games, for four years beginning with the 1978 season. ABC was awarded yearly rights to 16 Monday night games, four prime time games, the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, and the Hall of Fame Games. CBS received the rights to all NFC regular season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIV and XVI. NBC received the rights to all AFC regular season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIII and XV. Industry sources considered it the largest single television package ever negotiated.
On January 15, 1978, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII in front of the largest audience ever to watch a sporting event. CBS scored a 47.2/67 national household rating/share, the highest-rated Super Bowl to date.
The NFL Today debuts
In 1975, The NFL Today debuted with journalist Brent Musburger and former NFL player Irv Cross, and with former Miss America Phyllis George as one of the reporters. Jimmy Snyder, nicknamed The Greek, joined in 1976. Snyder was dismissed by CBS Sports at the end of the 1987 season, one day after making comments about racial differences among NFL players on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1988. Phyllis George was replaced by Miss Ohio USA 1970 Jayne Kennedy from the 1978 to the 1979 NFL season. George would return in 1980 and stay on through the 1983 season. She was replaced by Charlsie Cantey. 1979 was the first year the Sports Emmy Awards were awarded to sportscasts, among them was The NFL Today.
Television ratings in 1980 were the second-best in NFL history, trailing only the combined ratings of the 1976 season. All three networks posted gains, and NBC's 15.0 rating was its best ever. CBS and ABC had their best ratings since 1977, with 15.3 and 20.8 ratings, respectively. CBS Radio reported a record audience of 7 million for Monday night and special games.
In 1981, ABC and CBS set all-time rating highs. ABC finished with a 21.7 rating and CBS with a 17.5 rating. NBC was down slightly to 13.9. On October 18, 1981, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Montreal Expos was postponed due to snow. The cancellation of Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS, which was supposed to be televised on NBC that Sunday afternoon, allowed CBS to achieve record breaking, regular season ratings for television viewership of pro football. It was rated as the most watched afternoon of regular season pro football on a single network in television history.
Going into the 1981 NFL season, CBS Sports executives decided that John Madden was going to be their star NFL color commentator. But they had trouble figuring out who was going to be his play-by-play partner. So in September (for the first four games of the season), they paired Vin Scully with Madden while Pat Summerall was busy covering the U.S. Open tournament for CBS. For the next four games of the season in October, they paired Summerall with Madden while Scully called Major League Baseball's National League Championship Series and World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network and CBS Radio respectively. After the eighth week of the NFL season, CBS Sports executives decided that the laconic, baritone-voiced Summerall's style was more in tuned with the lively, verbose Madden than the elegant, poetic Scully. As a consolation prize, CBS Sports gave Scully the "B" team assignment and the right to call the NFC Championship Game on CBS Television with Hank Stram. Meanwhile, Pat Summerall called that game on CBS Radio with Jack Buck while John Madden prepared to do the Super Bowl with Summerall in Pontiac, Michigan. Vin Scully reportedly was not happy about the demotion as well as (in his eyes) having his intelligence be insulted (at least, according to CBS Sports producer Terry O'Neil in the book The Game Behind the Game). As a result, Scully bolted to NBC (where he started a memorable seven year run as their lead Major League Baseball announcer) as soon as his contract with CBS was up.
On January 24, 1982, CBS Sports broadcast the highest rated (49.1/73) Super Bowl of all time as the San Francisco 49ers, led by quarterback Joe Montana, defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21. Summerall and Madden called their first Super Bowl together as they went on to be one of the most popular NFL announce teams ever. During the Super Bowl XVI telecast, the telestrator made its major network debut. CBS introduced it as the "CBS Chalkboard" during their sports coverage. Madden utilized the device effectively to diagram football plays on the viewers' television screens. The telestrator is generally credited with popularizing the use of telestration during sports commentary.
In 1982, the NFL signed a five year contract with the three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games starting with the 1982 season. During the 1982 season, the NFL allowed CBS to rebroadcast Super Bowl XVI during the first Sunday of strike. CBS also rebroadcast their most recent Super Bowl (XXI) telecast for the 1987 strike. Also during the 1982 strike, CBS' NCAA football contract required the network to show four Division III games. CBS initially intended to show those games on Saturday afternoons, with only the interested markets receiving the broadcasts. However, with no NFL games to show on Sunday October 3, 1982 due to the strike, CBS decided to show all of its NCAA Division III games on a single Sunday afternoon in front of a mass audience. CBS also used their regular NFL crews (Pat Summerall and John Madden at Wittenberg–Baldwin-Wallace, Tom Brookshier and Wayne Walker at West Georgia–Millsaps, Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris at Wisconsin–Oshkosh – Wisconsin–Stout, and Dick Stockton and Roger Staubach at San Diego–Occidental) and showed The NFL Today instead of using their regular college football broadcasters.
In May 1985, shortly after calling after working the 17th hole at the Masters, play-by-play announcer Frank Glieber died of a heart attack. Tom Brookshier, who previously served as Summerall's color commentator prior to Madden, replaced Glieber in the NFL on CBS broadcast booth. For the 1985 season, the NFL showed a ratings increase on all three networks for the season, gaining 4 percent on NBC, 10 on CBS, and 16 on ABC.
CBS' broadcast of Super Bowl XXI (at the end of the 1986 season) was the first NFL game to be broadcast in Dolby Surround sound and in stereo. The postgame show was supposed to feature the song "One Shining Moment" but due to postgame interviews taking so long, CBS never aired it. They ultimately changed the lyrics from "The ball is kicked" to "The ball is tipped", and the song is now played at the end of the network's NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship coverage. CBS also debuted the theme music that would later be used for their college football coverage during this game, as well as its open that was used through 1990.
At the NFL's annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii on March 15, 1987, Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Broadcast Committee Chairman Art Modell announced new three year TV contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC for the 1987–1989 seasons.
Beginning in 1987, CBS started broadcasting NFL games in stereo. On December 8, 1987, Cathy Barreto became the first woman to direct an NFL game at the network television level. (Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions)
On April 18, 1989, the NFL and CBS Radio jointly announced agreement extending CBS' radio rights to an annual 40 game package through the 1994 season.
On Thanksgiving 1989, John Madden awarded the first "Turkey Leg Award," for the game's most valuable player. Reggie White of the Philadelphia Eagles was the first recipient. The gesture was seen mostly as a humorous gimmick relating to Madden's famous multi-legged turkeys served on Thanksgiving. Since then, however, the award has gained subtle notoriety, and currently, each year an MVP has been chosen for both the CBS and Fox games. When CBS returned to the NFL in 1998, they introduced their own award, the "All-Iron Award."
On March 12, 1990, at the NFL's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, new four year TV agreements were ratified for the 1990-1993 seasons. The networks involved were ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and TNT. The contracts totaled $3.6 billion, the largest in TV history.
On September 9, 1990, The NFL Today kicked off with an all-new talent lineup consisting of Greg Gumbel, Terry Bradshaw, Pat O'Brien and Lesley Visser. Gumbel and Bradshaw replaced Brent Musburger, who was fired by CBS on April Fools Day 1990, and Irv Cross, who was demoted to the position of game analyst.
During the 1990 season, Pat Summerall was hospitalized after vomiting on a plane during a flight after a Bears–Redskins game, and was out for a considerable amount of time. While Verne Lundquist replaced Summerall on games with Madden, Jack Buck (who was at CBS during the time as the network's lead Major League Baseball announcer) was added as a regular NFL broadcaster to fill-in.
At Super Bowl XXVI (January 26, 1992), Lesley Visser of CBS became the first female sportscaster to preside over the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation ceremony. The network's telecast of Super Bowl XXVI was seen by more than 123 million people nationally, second only to the 127 million who viewed Super Bowl XX. The 1990 television contract (which was in effect) gave CBS Super Bowl XXVI instead of Super Bowl XXVII, which was in their rotation. The NFL swapped the CBS and NBC years in an effort to give CBS enough lead-in programming for the upcoming 1992 Winter Olympics two weeks later. For this game CBS debuted a new network-wide red, white, and blue graphics package as well as a new theme song (composed by Frankie Vinci) for its NFL coverage. The graphics package lasted until the end of 1995, after which CBS discarded it in favor of an orange and yellow color scheme for its sports package. The new music lasted until CBS lost the NFL at the end of the 1993 season, but continued to be used by CBS Radio until 2002. Several remixed versions of the 1993 theme were used upon the return of the NFL to CBS until the end of the 2002 season, when CBS replaced its entire NFL package with one composed by E.S. Posthumus.
In September 1993, The NFL Today celebrated its 19th season as a 30-minute pre-game show. It held the distinction of being the highest-rated program in its time slot for 18 years, longer than any other program on television.
CBS loses the NFL to Fox (1994–1997)
On December 18, 1993, CBS (which had been home to NFL games for 38 years) lost their rights to the then fledging Fox Network. Fox offered a then-record $1.58 billion to the NFL over four years for the rights, significantly more than the $290 million per year CBS was willing to pay. The Fox Broadcasting Company was only seven years old and had no sports division, but it began building its own coverage by hiring many former CBS personalities such as Pat Summerall, John Madden, James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Dick Stockton, and Matt Millen.
Fox's NFL rights ownership made the network a major player in American television by giving it many new viewers (and affiliates) and a platform to advertise its other shows. In the meantime, CBS lost several affiliates, and ratings for its other programming languished. The replacement programming on Sunday afternoons in the fall of 1994 and 1995 involved mostly a package of encore made-for-TV movies, which were targeted towards women in an attempt to offer counterprogramming to NBC and Fox. However they made very little headway (with some affiliates forgoing the movie package altogether) and by 1996, CBS picked up more NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck races in order to compete in some form.
CBS apparently underestimated the value of its rights with respect to its advertising revenues and to its promotional opportunities for other network programming. The vast resources of Fox founder Rupert Murdoch allowed that network to grow quickly, primarily to the detriment of CBS. Also, CBS Sports suffered from the fact that in light of their money-bleeding, $1 billion deal with Major League Baseball (1990–1993), it suddenly entered a cost cutting mode.
In spring 1994, Fox's parent News Corporation struck an alliance with New World Communications, by now a key ownership group with several VHF CBS affiliates in NFC markets, and wary of a CBS without football. Nearly all of New World's stations converted en masse to Fox beginning that fall. To this day, CBS admits that they have never recovered from the loss of affiliates, having never recovered from damage in Atlanta, Detroit, and Milwaukee, where they were dropped to lower-powered affiliates unable to be received in some markets. (Because of satellite television, the NFL Sunday Ticket in local markets, and rules of the time, satellite subscribers were required to use antennas to pick up local affiliates.) CBS later purchased the newer CBS affiliate in Detroit, WWJ-TV.
CBS televised its last game as the rights holder of the National Football Conference (formerly NFL) package on January 23, 1994 when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, 38–21.
The NFL returns
In November 1996, Sean McManus was named President of CBS Sports. McManus would then lead CBS' efforts in reacquiring broadcast rights to the NFL. On January 12, 1998, CBS agreed to air American Football Conference games (taking over for NBC as previously mentioned), paying $4 billion over eight years ($500 million per season).
After acquiring the new package, CBS Sports then named former NFL Today host Greg Gumbel, as their lead play-by-play announcer (Gumbel had moved to NBC Sports, working there from 1994 to 1998 after CBS lost the NFL to Fox). Phil Simms (who at the time, was at NBC as part of the lead announcing team alongside Dick Enberg and Paul Maguire) was hired as the lead color commentator. On September 6, 1998, after 1,687 days since the last broadcast of The NFL Today, host Jim Nantz welcomed back viewers to CBS for its coverage of the National Football League.
Given the challenge of making its coverage of the American Football Conference different from that of NBC, CBS passed over longtime NBC veterans Charlie Jones and Bob Trumpy in favor of newcomers such as Ian Eagle and Steve Tasker. According to CBS Sports executive producer Terry Ewert, "We wanted to forge our own way and go in a different direction. We wanted to make decisions on a new way of looking at things." In one stark difference from NBC, CBS used a constant score and clock for its NFL games, a la the FoxBox. CBS' contribution was dubbed the EyeBox.
On November 8, 1998, the first NFL game to be broadcast in HDTV was televised on CBS. That game took place at Giants Stadium between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. It was also the first time two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks started against each other in the NFL (Vinny Testaverde for the Jets and Doug Flutie for the Bills).
On January 28, 2001, CBS Sports, Core Digital, and Princeton Video Image introduced state-of-the-art, three dimensional replay technology called "EyeVision" for its coverage of Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. In CBS Sports' first Super Bowl broadcast since 1992, it drew 131.2 million viewers for the Baltimore Ravens win over the New York Giants. Super Bowl XXXV was thus the most watched television program of the year. Play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel became the first African-American announcer to call a major sports championship. He was joined in the broadcast booth with color commentator Phil Simms.
The NFL playoffs, 2001-02 marked the first time that the league scheduled prime time playoff games for the first two rounds in an attempt to attract more television viewers. Saturday wild card and divisional playoff games were moved from 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. North American Eastern Standard Time (EST) to 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., respectively. Thus, the league abandoned its practice of scheduling colder, northern playoff games for daylight hours only; any stadium, regardless of evening January temperatures, could host prime time playoff games.
The next group of broadcast contracts, which began with the 2006-2007 season, resulted in a sizeable increase in total rights fees. Both Fox and CBS have renewed their Sunday afternoon broadcast packages through 2011, in both cases with modest increases.
On February 6, 2006, CBS Sports announced the hiring of James Brown, who moved from studio host of Fox NFL Sunday to the host of The NFL Today. Greg Gumbel moved back to play-by-play, teaming with Dan Dierdorf.
CBS decided to not use sideline reports for the 2006 regular season. However, the network did use Lesley Visser, Sam Ryan, Solomon Wilcots and Steve Tasker to report from the sidelines and around the stadium for its telecast of Super Bowl XLI.
In 2006, CBS' coverage of the AFC Championship Game earned a 28.1 rating, which topped the debut of American Idol on Fox. Its Super Bowl XLI broadcast drew the third largest television audience in history, finishing behind only its broadcast of the M*A*S*H finale in 1983 and NBC's broadcast of Super Bowl XXX (Dallas and Pittsburgh) from 1996. Super Bowl XLI was second most watched Super Bowl of all-time, averaging 93.1 million viewers.
The Sunday afternoon, October 14, 2007 game between the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys on CBS, was viewed by 29.1 million people, making it the most-watched NFL Sunday game since the Dallas Cowboys–San Francisco 49ers game on November 10, 1996 on Fox (29.7 million viewers), according to Nielsen Media Research data. The game was also the most watched show on television for the week of October 8–14, drawing 9 million viewers more than CBS’ drama CSI (19.8 million viewers), and the most watched program of the season.
As late as 2006, CBS aired only three of its NFL games in high-definition each week, the same number of games it had aired for the past few seasons. The other networks with rights to broadcast NFL games, NBC, NFL Network and ESPN, broadcast all of their games in high definition, and Fox broadcasts up to six in HD. Because of this, some fans accused CBS of being "cheap." Beginning with the 2007 season, CBS began airing 5 of Sunday's games in high definition television on doubleheader weeks, and six on singleheader weeks.
Former CBS Sports Executive Vice President Tony Petitti (who left CBS in April 2008 to become the head of the MLB Network) claimed the network would probably air all of its NFL games in high definition by 2009. When asked about the move, Petitti commented that CBS was focused on building a new studio for The NFL Today pre-game show. However, another CBS executive had previously indicated that, because CBS was an "early adopter" with its first HD game in 1998, it is already "at capacity" and would have to replace newly-bought equipment in its network center with even more expensive equipment.
With an average US audience of 106.5 million viewers, Super Bowl XLIV on CBS was the most-watched Super Bowl ever as well as the most-watched program of any kind in American television history, beating the 27-year-long record previously held by the final episode of M*A*S*H, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", watched by 105.97 million viewers. The game drew an overnight national Nielsen rating of 46.4 with a 68 share, the highest for a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XX in 1986. The telecast drew a 56.3 rating in New Orleans and a 54.2 rating in Indianapolis, first and fourth respectively among local markets.
Local preseason television coverage
Since the NFL returned to the network in 1998, a number of local CBS stations have been televising preseason football games, mostly including the network's graphics and production that viewers would normally see during regular season national/regional broadcasts.
A number of NFL teams and their broadcasting departments have teamed up with CBS Sports to produce games, and those teams include (as of 2011) the San Diego Chargers (originating stations KCBS-TV Los Angeles and KFMB-TV San Diego), New York Jets (WCBS-TV New York), and Green Bay Packers (former CBS O&O WFRV-TV Green Bay and co-flagship WTMJ-TV Milwaukee, an NBC affiliate).
However, there are some that used a few, but not all, elements of the NFL on CBS production presentations, and they are mostly in-house productions between the teams and their individual flagship station. Those include the Pittsburgh Steelers (KDKA-TV), Miami Dolphins (WFOR-TV), San Francisco 49ers (KPIX and KOVR in Sacramento), Dallas Cowboys (KTVT), Cincinnati Bengals (WKRC-TV), Kansas City Chiefs (KCTV), New England Patriots (WBZ-TV), Atlanta Falcons (WGCL-TV) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (WTEV). CBS O&O WWJ-TV in Detroit was in the Detroit Lions' flagship station from 2008–2010 and used most of their graphics and music.
WCBS, KCBS, KDKA, WFOR, KTVT, KPIX, KOVR, and WBZ are all owned by CBS Corporation.
Digital on-screen graphics
From 1998 to 2000, the scoring bug had a half-capsule shape where the score was displayed in white text on a blue background (that contained the CBS eye), below the quarter and time in black text on a white background. The down and distance would pop out from the bottom of the bug in a white box when necessary. It would spin around to show the timeouts left.
Starting in Super Bowl XXXV, the bug took on a more rectangular shape, with the score and quarter/time positions flipped. The scores were now displayed in white text against an orange background, and the quarter and time beneath them in a white text on a blue background. The down and distance and ball location popped out in two separate boxes underneath the main bug.
In 2002, a new bug with more of a horizontal orientation was introduced. The CBS Sports logo that previously adorned the top of the bug was replaced with the CBS "eye" logo in blue and white. The bug was divided into two rectangles, the left one housing the time and quarter and the right the teams and scores, all in white text on blue. As in years past, the down and distance were contained in a pop-out box, also in the blue and white scheme.
The 2006 season brought a completely new graphics theme for The NFL on CBS, including a new logo (which also formed the base of SEC college football and NCAA college basketball logos) and new NFL Today studio set, as part of a network-wide overhaul of the graphics package. The digital on-screen graphics were also changed, with red and a light shade of blue introduced from the new logo. A more complex scoring bug included the new NFL on CBS logo and six circle segments stacked in columns of two emanating from the logo. The first two featured the quarter and time, the next two the team abbreviations (all in white text on the darker blue) and the last two each team's respective scores in black text on a white background. The entire bug was trimmed in the red and lighter blue. The down and distance pop-out changed to a half-ellipse shape.
Finally, when a team scores a touchdown, the columns that emanate from the logo collapse into the logo. The logo then quickly spins around to show the scoring team's logo, a full bar the shape of the combined boxes quickly protruding showing the word "TOUCHDOWN", with the bug sparkling. After about three or four seconds of this graphic showing, the aforementioned animation takes place once more, this time the bug returning to normal. In all instances of points scored, the changed score flashes a few times to indicate a change in score, with a touchdown score changing after the "TOUCHDOWN" graphic is shown.
This was also the first time that CBS began displaying constant score updates on the bottom of the screen during all of its games. On the HD broadcasts, this dark blue bar would also show where the ball for that game was at during the time the score was displayed at the right by showing a miniature football field icon. This bar is still being used today.
In 2009, the score bug was changed to a top-screen banner, although the graphics package used since 2006 remains the same. This bug featured, horizontally left-to-right, the CBS "eye" logo, the down and distance against a white background, each team's logo, initials, and points, and then the quarter and time remaining. When the down and distance was not displayed, that and the CBS "eye" logo were replaced by a blue and red "NFL on CBS" logo. When there was a penalty, the word "FLAG" replaced the down and distance on a yellow background, with the penalty description dropping down from below the team's initials; when there is an official review, the down and distance would be replaced by "OFFICIAL REVIEW" on a red background. For challenges, a drop-down below the teams initials with a dark red background shows with the word "CHALLENGE." The play clock would flash red when it would hit 5 seconds and stays red until the play clock is reset. When a team scored a touchdown, the entire bar would change, displaying the scoring team's logo on the left and the team's main color as the background, with the word "TOUCHDOWN" with the letter spacing widening for a few moments before returning to normal. After such, the team's score will be highlighted their color, and the previous score will be replaced by the new score (this also happens when the team's PAT or 2 point conv. is good). After this occurs, stats of players involved immediately appear in the bottom of the banner.
A small white indicator showed on the top of the bar, on top of whatever team currently had possession of the ball. At times, at the bottom of the bar, various player stats (such as quarterback ratings), game stats (such as drive summaries), and situational issues in the game (such as amount of timeouts remaining), would pop open for a few moments whenever it is needed. On Week 3, the possession indicator was changed to a small dot next to the team's logo due to the addition of timeout indicators across the top.
Beginning with September 2011, college football broadcasts on CBS and the CBS Sports Network began using a scoring bug mirroring this one.
Through 17 weeks of the 2008 season (September 4-December 28, 2008), the NFL on CBS' regular-season games were seen by an estimated 150.9 million viewers, +14% higher than NBC’s 132.4 million viewers, +3% higher than Fox’s 146.9 million viewers, and +52% higher than ESPN’s 99.4 million. The cumulative audience is based on Total Viewers (Persons 2+) who have watched at least six minutes of NFL game coverage since the start of the 2008 regular-season.
Alphabetical list of past and present commentators
- "NFL on CBS gears up for Game Number 5,000". Sportsnewser. November 22, 2010. http://www.mediabistro.com/sportsnewser/nfl-on-cbs-gears-up-for-game-number-5000_b3396/. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- Brady, Dave (November 24, 1963). "It's Tradition To Carry on, Rozelle Says". The Washington Post: p. C2.
- Madsen 15
- Out Foxed: Rupert Murdoch's upstart network snatched the NFL from CBS in a coup that will change the face of televised sports
- The Big Picture: More than meets the eye in CBS pro football trade
- Best and worst of NFL on TV
- CBS Eye-lert to Tip Off Viewers to Overruns
- CBS' Pats/Cowboys Matchup Reaches 29.1 Mil.
- "Patriots-Colts, CBS: It was dubbed Super Bowl 41½ and it attracted an audience worthy of, well, American Idol. CBS drew a 20.1 rating and 33.8 million viewers for the Patriots-Colts game on Nov. 4, the highest-rated regular-season Sunday-afternoon NFL telecast on any network since Fox drew a 22.2 for a Cowboys-49ers game in '96. The game was the highest-rated program since the Academy Awards. If only those viewers would tune into Katie Couric". sportsillustrated.cnn.com. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/richard_deitsch/12/17/media.awards/2.html.
- CBS: The 'C' Stands For Cheap
- Schedules - CBS Sportsline. CBSSportsline.com. August 19, 2007.
- Flipping channels. SignOnSanDiego.com. April 20, 2007.
- Why CBS Sports isn't 100% HD | TV Barn
- Deans, James (8 February 2010). "Super Bowl ends MASH finale's 27-year reign as most-watched US TV show". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/feb/08/super-bowl-most-watched-show. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- Super Bowl XLIV most watched Super Bowl of all time/ Nielsen Blogs
- Fang, Ken (28 November 28). "CBS Sports Previews NFL Week 12". Fangsbites.com. Wordpress. http://fangsbites.com/2010/11/cbs-sports-previews-nfl-week-12/. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
- Sports Media Watch: NFL on CBS
- Super Bowl XVIII - L.A. Raiders 38, Redskins 9
- Super Bowl XXI - Giants 39, Broncos 20
- Super Bowl XXIV - 49ers 55, Broncos 10
- Super Bowl XXVI - Redskins 37, Bills 24
- CBS: The 'C' Stands For Cheap
- CBS Needs To Regain Lost Glory
- Golden years for CBS, NFL
- Fang's Bites - CBS Sports (NFL)
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