|NFL on NBC|
NFL on NBC logo used since 2006.
|Genre||NFL game telecasts|
|Presented by||pre-game show panelists|
NFL on NBC game commentators
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||61|
|Production location(s)||Various NFL stadiums (game telecasts)|
NBC Sports Headquarters (Stamford, Connecticut (studio segments, pre-game and post-game shows)
|Running time||210 minutes or until game ends|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
(1939-1998 and 2006-present),
|Related shows||NBC Sunday Night Football|
NBC had sporadically carried NFL games as early as 1939, including the championship and Pro Bowl through the 1950s and early 1960s. Beginning in 1965, NBC signed an agreement to carry the American Football League's telecasts, which carried over with the American Football Conference (AFC) when the AFL merged with the NFL. NBC would continuously carry the AFL/AFC's Sunday afternoon games from 1965 through the 1997 season, after which NBC lost the AFC contract to CBS.
NFL coverage returned to NBC on August 6, 2006, under the title NBC Sunday Night Football, beginning with its coverage of the preseason Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. From 2016 to 2017, NBC added a five-game Thursday Night Football package to its offerings supplementing two Thursday games that were already part of the Sunday Night Football package. Game coverage is usually preceded by the pregame show Football Night in America.
NBC's coverage of the National Football League (which has aired under numerous program titles and formats) actually goes back to the beginnings of the network's relationship with the league in 1939, when its New York City flagship station, then known as W2XBS (now WNBC) aired the first televised professional football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the now-defunct Brooklyn Dodgers football team. Even before this, in 1934, NBC Radio's Blue Network had carried the Detroit Lions' inaugural Thanksgiving game nationwide.
By 1955, NBC became the television home to the NFL Championship Game, the precursor to the Super Bowl, paying US$100,000 to the league for the rights. The network had taken over the broadcast rights from the DuMont Television Network, which had struggled to give the league a national audience (NBC's coverage of proto-Canadian Football League games from the year prior was more widely available at the time) and was on the brink of failure; the NFL's associations with NBC (as well as with CBS) proved to be a boost to the league's popularity. The 1958 NFL Championship Game, played at Yankee Stadium, between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants went into sudden death overtime. This game, since known as the "Greatest Game Ever Played", was seen by many throughout the country and is credited with increasing the popularity of professional football in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
NBC televised the NFL Championship Game until 1963. The contract for the title game was separate than the regular season contracts held by CBS, which started televising NFL games in 1956. Prior to 1962, each team had its own individual television contract. (This was in contrast to the American Football League as well as established practice in college football, both of which forced all of their members to participate in a collective television contract. As the legality of such a collective contract was still in question at the time, and would eventually be declared illegal in 1984, the NFL did not pursue such a contract until Congress explicitly allowed for the NFL to do so, with conditions, in the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961.) NBC held individual team contracts with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts in 1959, 1960 and 1961. While the games were blacked out in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they were broadcast on other NBC stations. In some cases, the game broadcast was seen on CBS in the visiting team's home region. NBC covered eleven games in 1960 and 13 games in 1961 in a "Game of the Week" format. NBC would take one week off due to its coverage of the World Series. During this era, NBC broadcast pre-recorded and edited hour-long broadcasts of NFL games in the off-season under the title Best of Pro Football.
During this period, NBC also held the rights to the Pro Bowl (which was also under a separate contract from the NFL's regular season games and the NFL Championship Game) via the Los Angeles newspapers' charities. NBC televised the Pro Bowl following the 1951 and 1952 seasons and again from the 1957 to 1964 seasons.
On April 5, 1961, NBC was awarded a two-year contract (1961-62) for the radio and television rights to the NFL Championship Game, paying US$615,000 annually for the rights ($300,000 of which was to go directly into the NFL Player Benefit Plan). On May 23, 1963, NBC was awarded exclusive network broadcast rights for the 1963 NFL Championship Game for $926,000.
NBC resumed football telecasts on a regular basis in 1965. On January 29, 1964, NBC signed a deal with the American Football League, paying them US$36 million to televise its games; with this and the increased, heated battle over college prospects, both leagues negotiated a merger agreement on June 8, 1966. Although they would not officially fully merge and adopt an interlocking schedule until 1970, two of the conditions of the agreement were that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest (which would eventually become known as the Super Bowl) to determine the "world champion of football", and that there would be a common player draft.
On December 13, 1966, the rights to the Super Bowl for four years were sold to CBS and NBC for $9.5 million. 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 (the only other NFL game since to have been carried nationally on more than one network until December 29, 2007 New England Patriots-New York Giants game, which aired on NBC, CBS and the NFL Network). However, 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 Coliseum was home to the NFL's Rams), while only CBS' cameras and technical crew were allowed to work the game, although NBC was allowed to use its own commentators. As a result, NBC's crew had little to no control over how the game was filmed. Each network used its own announcers: Ray Scott (doing play-by-play for the first half), Jack Whitaker (doing play-by-play for the second half) and Frank Gifford provided commentary on CBS; while Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman were did so for NBC. NBC did have some problems with the dual telecast; 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 returned to the broadcast.
Week 4 of the 1967 AFL season coincided with the race for the American League pennant. NBC decided to focus on their baseball coverage instead of covering the early games; thus resulting in Curt Gowdy calling the Twins-Red Sox game; Jim Simpson calling the Angels-Tigers game); while the AFL schedule resulted in the two early games (Broncos-Oilers and Dolphins-Jets games not being televised with another Chargers-Bills game being a locally televised game airing only in San Diego on then-NBC affiliate KOGO (now ABC affiliate KGTV).
The next three AFL-NFL World Championship Games, later renamed the Super Bowl, were then divided by the two networks (with each network broadcasting the game exclusviely): CBS broadcast Super Bowls II and IV while NBC covered III. When NBC Sports broadcast Super Bowl III, sports broadcasts were produced under the oversight of the NBC News division (this remained the case until well into the 1970s, long after both CBS and ABC had spun-off their sports operations into departments separate from their news divisions). Curt Gowdy handled the play-by-play duties and was joined by color commentators Al DeRogatis and Kyle Rote in the broadcast booth. Also helping with NBC's coverage were Jim Simpson (reporting from the sidelines) and Pat Summerall (helping conduct player interviews for the pregame show, along with Rote). In an interview later done with NFL Films, Gowdy called it the most memorable game he ever called because of its historical significance. While the Orange Bowl was sold out for the game, the live telecast was not shown in Miami due to both leagues' unconditional blackout rules at the time. This game is thought to be the earliest surviving Super Bowl game preserved on videotape in its entirety save for a portion of the Baltimore Colts' fourth quarter scoring drive.
One of the most remembered games on NBC was a 1968 game known as the Heidi Game. As its nationally televised game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets running late, the network discontinued coverage while the game was still playing to air the movie Heidi just moments after the Jets' Jim Turner kicked what appeared to be the game-winning field goal with 1:05 remaining. While millions of irate fans, missing the finale, jammed NBC's phone lines, the Raiders scored two touchdowns in eight seconds during the final minute to win 43-32.
The reaction to The Heidi Game resulted in the AFL, and most other sports leagues, demanding thereafter that television networks broadcast all games to their conclusion. NFL contracts with the networks now require games to be shown in a team's market area to conclusion, regardless of the score.
To avoid a repeat incident, a 1975 NBC broadcast of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was delayed until the completion of a Washington Redskins-Raiders game. The network installed a new phone in the control room wired to a separate exchange, becoming known as the Heidi Phone, to prevent this situation from occurring in the future.
In 1970, after the NFL and AFL completed their merger, NBC signed a contract with the league to broadcast games from the American Football Conference (AFC). Curt Gowdy, who had covered the first five seasons of the American Football League with broadcast partner Paul Christman on ABC, moved over to NBC in the fall of 1965. For the next decade, Gowdy was the lead play-by-play announcer for the network for both AFL football (AFC from 1970 onward) and Major League Baseball games; however, Gowdy also covered a wide range of sports, earning him the nickname of the "broadcaster of everything." Besides Paul Christman, Curt Gowdy's other football broadcast partners were Kyle Rote, Al DeRogatis, Don Meredith, John Brodie and Merlin Olsen.
On January 17, 1971, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl V between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in an estimated 23,980,000 homes, the largest household audience ever for a one-day sports event. The game was called by play-by-play announcer Gowdy and color commentator Rote. Although the Orange Bowl was sold out for the event, unconditional blackout rules in the NFL prohibited the live telecast from being shown in the Miami area on WSVN. The blackout was challenged in Miami-Dade District Court by attorney Ellis Rubin, and although the judge denied Rubin's request since he felt he did not have the power to overrule the NFL, he agreed with Rubin's argument that the blackout rule was unnecessary for the Super Bowl.
On January 14, 1973, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl VII between the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins was watched by approximately 75 million viewers. NBC's telecast of Super Bowl IX between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings had an audience of approximately 78 million viewers. The game, called by Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis, was the first Super Bowl to be televised live in the city where it was being played. Despite the league's unconditional blackout rules that normally would have prohibited the live telecast from being shown locally, the NFL allowed the game to be telecast in the Los Angeles area on KNBC on an experimental basis when all tickets for the game were sold. The league then changed its blackout rules the following season to allow games sold out at least 72 hours in advance to be televised in the host market. No subsequent Super Bowl has ever been blacked out in the city it has been played in, since all of them have been sold out.
On December 16, 1973, NBC cameras were there to cover O. J. Simpson as he rushed for 2,000 yards in one season. On that particular day, Simpson's Buffalo Bills would go on to beat the New York Jets at Shea Stadium.
In 1975, because of NBC's coverage of Game 2 of the World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, NBC's 1:00 p.m. NFL telecasts were cancelled. All games except for the New England Patriots–Cincinnati Bengals match were picked up by local stations in the markets of the visiting team. Meanwhile, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, NBC aired a game between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs nationally. As the 1975 World Series progressed, NBC would advertise its upcoming weekend schedule during the breaks:
|"||If we have a Game 7, we'll have The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola at 12:30 and Game 7 from Fenway. Otherwise, we'll have GrandStand at 12:30, and Buffalo/Miami for most of you at 1:00. Either way, you win at NBC.||"|
As it turned out, no baseball was played that Sunday. Three days of rain in Boston forced Game 6 to be postponed until the following Tuesday, October 21, followed by Game 7 the next night.
On January 9, 1977, 81.9 million people (the largest audience ever for a sports event at that point) watched NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XI between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings. Only three other television events prior to that time, all of which aired on all three commercial networks of the era (the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, the 1969 moonwalk of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin; and the 1974 resignation speech of President Richard M. Nixon), attracted more viewers than Super Bowl IX. The game was also the last broadcast that color commentator Don Meredith, who called the game with Gowdy, did for NBC, as he returned to ABC to rejoin the Monday Night Football crew for the 1977 season, where he had been a commentator from 1970-73. Bryant Gumbel and Lee Leonard with analyst John Brodie anchored NBC's pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.
On October 12, 1977, Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiated contracts with the three television networks to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games, as well as select 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 National Football Conference (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.
After the 1975 World Series, Curt Gowdy was removed from NBC's baseball telecasts, when sponsor Chrysler insisted on having Joe Garagiola (who served as a spokesman in many of the automotive manufacturer's commercials) be the lead play-by-play voice. Gowdy continued as NBC's lead NFL announcer through the 1978 season, with his final broadcast being the memorable Super Bowl XIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. With NBC now anxious to promote Dick Enberg (who hosted NBC's pre-game and post-game coverage of Super Bowl XIII) to the lead NFL position, Gowdy moved over to CBS to call more football, as well as baseball on radio.
NBC's January 21, 1979 telecast of Super Bowl XIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in 35,090,000 households, by an estimated 96.6 million fans. The game - called by Curt Gowdy on play-by-play, with Merlin Olsen and John Brodie on color commentary and Dick Enberg served as the pregame host for the broadcast with Bryant Gumbel and Mike Adamle as sideline reporters - was Gowdy's seventh and final Super Bowl telecast, and his last major event for NBC before moving to CBS later in 1979. Enberg had essentially succeeded Gowdy as NBC's lead NFL play-by-play announcer in the 1978 regular season, and network producers did not decide until nearly the last minute which of them would conduct play-by-play for that year's Super Bowl. NBC preceded the game with the first network broadcast of Black Sunday, a 1977 film that depicts a terrorist attack on a fictitious Super Bowl game in the Orange Bowl between Pittsburgh and Dallas (and which utilized footage shot during Super Bowl X). The pregame festivities featured the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and several military bands. The Colgate Thirteen performed the national anthem. The coin toss ceremony featured Pro Football Hall of Famer and longtime Chicago Bears owner/head coach George Halas. The national radio broadcast of Super Bowl XIII was carried by the CBS Radio Network, with Jack Buck and Hank Stram calling the action. Locally on radio, Verne Lundquist and Brad Sham called the game for the Cowboys on KRLD in Dallas, while Jack Fleming and Myron Cope called it for the Steelers on WTAE in Pittsburgh. A technical glitch led to Fleming and Cope's commentary going out over NBC's television broadcast in place of the network's own audio during the coin toss ceremony.
NBC made history in the 1980s with an announcerless telecast, which was a one-shot experiment credited to Don Ohlmeyer, between the Jets and Dolphins in Miami on December 20, 1980), as well as a single-announcer telecast, coverage of the Canadian Football League during the 1982 players' strike (the first week of broadcasts featured the NFL on NBC broadcast teams, before a series of blowout games on the network and the resulting low ratings resulted in NBC cutting back and eventually canceling its CFL coverage), and even the first female play-by-play football announcer, Gayle Sierens (which in its own way set the mold for female sportscasters of 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. NFL broadcasts on CBS and ABC had their best ratings since 1977, with 15.3 and 20.8 ratings, respectively. 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 however, was down slightly to 13.9; this was, at the time, the nadir of the Fred Silverman era, when ratings for the network were down across the board.
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. NBC's national Nielsen rating of 48.6 for Super Bowl XVII was the second-highest for a Super Bowl broadcast, trailing only the 49.1 garnered by Super Bowl XVI on CBS the year before. Following the game, NBC aired the premiere episode of The A-Team, beginning the tradition of the game's host network airing programming after the game.
In the 1984 season, the October 18 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks were both on at the same time as Game 5 of the World Series (also on NBC) between the San Diego Padres and the Detroit Tigers. The Steelers won that day. It was the only loss the 49ers suffered in the 1984 season.
On March 6, 1985, NBC Radio and the NFL entered into a two-year agreement granting NBC the radio rights to a 37-game package for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. The package included 27 regular season games and 10 postseason games. Also in 1985, the NFL showed a ratings increase on all three networks for the season, with viewership gains of 4% on NBC, 10% on CBS, and 16% on ABC. The 1984 season saw a new theme utilized throughout both the pregame show and game-opening sequence, which would be utilized for the remainder of the decade. Another music selection was used for the "Great Moments" segment, a segment of clips from older games on NBC that was unique in that instead of the NFL Films footage, NBC used their own footage and audio. This segment would be featured at the beginning of the pregame show for much of the latter part of the 1980s.
For the 1985 season, NBC used Graham De Wilde's composition "Send Them Victorious" for their official theme music for the NFL. On January 26, 1986, the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX at the Louisiana Superdome. The NBC telecast replaced the final episode of M*A*S*H as the most-viewed television program in history, with an audience of 127 million viewers, according to ACNielsen figures. In addition to drawing a 48.3 rating and a 70% share in the United States, Super Bowl XX was televised to 59 foreign countries and beamed via satellite to the QE II. An estimated 300 million Chinese viewers watched a tape delayed broadcast of the game in March. NBC Radio figures indicated an audience of 10 million for the game.
In January 1987, NBC Radio's broadcast of Super Bowl XXI between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos was heard by a record 10.1 million people. Also in 1987, at the NFL's annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii on March 15, the NFL announced the signing of new three-year television contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC for the 1987 to 1989 seasons.
During September of the 1988 season, NBC brought in some legendary broadcasters to fill-in for their regular play-by-play men. This was because, much of their key personnel (namely, Dick Enberg, Marv Albert, Don Criqui, Charlie Jones, Tom Hammond as well as NFL Live! commentators Bob Costas, Ahmad Rash?d, and Gayle Gardner) were away in Seoul, South Korea for NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games. In the meantime, filling-in were names such as Curt Gowdy, Ray Scott, Chuck Thompson, Marty Glickman, Merle Harmon and Al DeRogatis. Bob Costas' predecessor, Len Berman, filled-in for him at the anchor's desk while Gayle Sierens (who a year earlier, made history by becoming the first female play-by-play announcer in NFL history) was also added to the studio team.
NBC's 1989 telecast of Super Bowl XXIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals was watched by an estimated 110,780,000 viewers, according to ACNielsen, making it the sixth most-watched program in television history. The game was Merlin Olsen's final Super Bowl broadcast, as he was demoted the following season to make room for Bill Walsh. The game featured a special segment by Frank Deford profiling recently deceased Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney. This was also the first NFL game that NBC covered with their new "Quantel Cypher" graphics system, which was introduced during their coverage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics (the network had used Chyron for their graphics prior to Super Bowl XXIII). With the win, the 49ers became the first team to win Super Bowls televised on three different networks (the other two being Super Bowl XVI on CBS and Super Bowl XIX on ABC). Since then, the Washington Redskins (in 1992), the Green Bay Packers (in 1997), the Pittsburgh Steelers (in 2006) the New York Giants (in 2008) the New England Patriots (in 2015) and the Denver Broncos (in 2016) have accomplished this same feat. This was the last outdoor Super Bowl to start earlier than 6:00 pm Eastern Time, as it started just after 5:00 pm.
Starting in 1989, NBC commissioned musician (and then-Entertainment Tonight co-host) John Tesh, who would later compose "Roundball Rock" for the forthcoming NBA on NBC broadcasts to compose a new theme, called "Gridiron Dreams" which was used on the network's NFL telecasts until 1991. The versions used on the pre-game show are different from the version supplied on Tesh's albums. For the 1992 season, John Colby composed a theme only used that year through the 1992 AFC Championship Game in which the Buffalo Bills beat the Miami Dolphins 29-10.
On March 12, 1990, at the NFL's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, the league new ratified four-year television agreements for the 1990 to 1993 seasons involving ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN and TNT. The contracts totaled US$3.6 billion, the largest package in television history. This contract saw each network having rights to one Super Bowl telecast as part of the package. The fourth Super Bowl (XXVIII) was up for a separate sealed bid. NBC won the bid, and since they were last in the rotation for Super Bowl coverage in the regular contract, ended up with two straight Super Bowls (although they were originally scheduled to broadcast Super Bowl XXVI; CBS instead televised the game as part of a swap with the network). CBS is the only other network to televise two Super Bowls (Super Bowl I and II) in a row. NBC, which had held XXVII (according to the original rotation, NBC would have had XXVI and CBS XXVII, but the NFL allowed the networks to switch the two games in order to allow CBS a significant lead-in to its coverage of the 1992 Winter Olympics), was the only network to bid on XXVIII. Previously, the league alternated the Super Bowl broadcast among its broadcast network partners, except for Super Bowl I; CBS broadcast Super Bowl II, then the league rotated the broadcast between CBS and NBC until 1985 when ABC entered the rotation when that network broadcast Super Bowl XIX.
On December 18, 1993, the NFL announced new four-year television agreements involving ABC, ESPN, TNT and NFL newcomer Fox, which took over the NFC package from CBS. The NFL completed its new television agreements on December 20, with the announcement that NBC would retain the rights to the AFC package.
Starting in 1995, NBC unveiled a new theme by veteran composer Randy Edelman, which was used for both its pregame show (now simply titled The NFL on NBC) and game telecasts. This theme would be used until Super Bowl XXXII in 1997 between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. NBC lost AFC television rights after 1997 to CBS which currently has them today. The NFL would not return to NBC until 2006 for Sunday Night Football. NBC still uses the 1995 to 1997 era theme, but only for online streams of Sunday Night Football online (dubbed "NBC Sunday Night Football Extra") if the feed is accessed prior to the start of the game.
NBC's rebound in overall ratings in both the 1980s and 1990s (after years of being in the bottom of the ratings cellar) was attributed in part to its continuing coverage of the NFL. But with television contract re-negotiations in early 1998 ushering in the era of multibillion-dollar broadcasting agreements, an era of pro football broadcasting would soon come to an unceremonious conclusion.
CBS, stung by Fox's surprise bid four years earlier, aggressively pursued NFL broadcast rights when the contract came up for renegotiation in 1997. CBS agreed to pay US$4 billion over eight years ($500 million per season) to take over NBC's AFC broadcast rights, which the network still holds to this day. NBC, meanwhile, had indicated a desire to bid for Monday Night Football rights in 1998, but eventually gave up, allowing ABC to retain the rights.
NBC's consecutive 33-year run as a football broadcaster came to an end with Super Bowl XXXII, played on January 25, 1998 between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. The Broncos won 31-24 to snap the AFC's 13-year losing streak in the Super Bowl (since then, the AFC has won eleven additional Super Bowls to the NFC's seven). Following the game, NBC aired a special one-hour episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, which opened live at the game site with Greg Gumbel playing himself before he was "attacked" by show star John Lithgow as his Dick Solomon character, warning about the invasion of alien females that was part of the episode's plotline.
After NBC lost its NFL rights to CBS at the end of the 1997 season, it in the process, marked the beginning of a slow decline for its sports division, culminating in the unproductive 2004-05 prime time season (despite heavy lineup promotion during the 2004 Summer Olympics), when NBC carried no major sporting championships during prime time (NBC had already lost Major League Baseball broadcasting rights in 2000 and National Basketball Association rights in 2002; the network had acquired National Hockey League rights in 2004, but that league was involved in a lockout that season). The other major sport on NBC was the NASCAR Winston/Nextel Cup Series.
NBC's attempts to replace the NFL with other professional football, including the XFL in 2001 and the Arena Football League coverage from 2003 to 2006, proved to be very unsuccessful. Like CBS before it, NBC would later decide that not having NFL rights did too much damage to its overall ratings to justify foregoing the high rights fees required.
In 2005, NBC re-entered the NFL picture during negotiations for television contracts. The network was able to take advantage of a league desire to be able to switch the schedule so non-competitive games would not air in the league's marquee timeslot. Since this would require a move to Sunday night in order for this to happen, and since ABC decided to relinquish their rights to Monday Night Football, NBC was able to bid on the Sunday Night Football package and won the rights after ESPN (corporate sibling to ABC and which had previously held those rights) elected to take over the Monday Night Football rights instead. NBC resumed airing NFL football on August 6, 2006, with coverage of the annual AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game.
NBC's rights package nearly identical to the previous ABC package; in addition to the Hall of Fame Game, the contract gave NBC the rights to one additional preseason game, the National Football League Kickoff game, and two Saturday playoff games. NBC also received the rights to two Super Bowls in its bidding, Super Bowl XLIII and Super Bowl XLVI as well as the Pro Bowls in each of those two years. ABC did not have the right to be flexible with their Monday Night Football schedule and picked matchups based on a team's record in the previous season (as NBC does), which often led to teams with losing records playing each other on Monday night later in the season. The moves were intended to break NBC out of its ratings slump; however, this did not happen right away, and although NBC Sunday Night Football is the network's top-rated program and places in the top 30 among all broadcast network programs, it had no effect on the rest of the network's schedule for several years.
Al Michaels, the longtime voice of Monday Night Football and other events for ABC, moved to NBC to become the play-by-play announcer for Sunday Night Football. Michaels was originally slated to continue calling Monday Night Football for ESPN, but a trade was worked out between NBC and The Walt Disney Company, the parent company of ABC and ESPN. In the trade, Michaels was able to join NBC in exchange for Disney acquiring from NBC's corporate sibling Universal Pictures, among other things, the rights to the cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was created at Universal by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks before the founding of Disney's studio (and then given to Walter Lantz, whose most famous creation would be Woody Woodpecker). Tom Hammond was NBC's secondary play-by-play announcer, calling one of NBC's two games on Wild Card Weekend.
John Madden (who had last worked with Al Michaels on Monday Night Football for ABC) was one of the first people hired by NBC, chosen to continue as a color analyst. Cris Collinsworth substituted for Madden when he was unavailable, called Wild Card games alongside Hammond until 2008, and took over on a permanent basis for the 2009 season when Madden announced his retirement from broadcasting on April 16, 2009. Prior to this, he served as a studio analyst for NBC's pregame show, Football Night in America. For the 2009 season, Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs took Collinsworth's place in the booth for the first game of Wild Card Weekend. Andrea Kremer meanwhile, was the sideline reporter.
Super Bowl XLIII was NBC's first Super Bowl broadcast since Super Bowl XXXII, The five-hour pre-game show was preceded by a two-hour special edition of Today hosted by the regular weekday team live from Tampa and the NFL Films - produced Road to the Super Bowl. Matt Millen was part of the coverage as a studio analyst. The Today contribution included portions of a taped interview with President Barack Obama and pictures of troops viewing the proceedings in Iraq. His calling of the game made John Madden (in his final game broadcast) the first person to have announced a Super Bowl for each of the four major U.S. television networks, having called five Super Bowls for CBS, three for Fox, and two for ABC prior to joining NBC in 2006; Al Michaels also became the second person (after Pat Summerall on CBS and Fox) to be the lead Super Bowl play-by-play announcer for two different major U.S. networks (ABC and NBC). The Super Bowl was one of two major professional sports championship series NBC broadcast in 2009, as it would also broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals. Both championship series involved teams from Pittsburgh winning championships (the Penguins would win the Stanley Cup that year).
The NFL has a strict policy prohibiting networks to run ads during the Super Bowl from the gambling industry, and has rejected ads from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It had been reported that if the television program Las Vegas was airing when NBC televised Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, they likely would not have been allowed to promote the series during the entire broadcast. As Vegas ended during the 2007-2008 television season, this was no longer an issue for NBC.
With an average U.S. audience of 98.7 million viewers, Super Bowl XLIII was the most-watched Super Bowl in history, and at that point the second-most-watched U.S. television program of any kind (trailing only the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983; both would be broken by Super Bowl XLIV the following year). However, the Nielsen rating of 42.1, was lower than the 43.3 rating for Super Bowl XLII the previous year.
On December 14, 2011, the NFL, along with Fox, NBC and CBS, announced the league's rights deal with all three networks was extended to the end of the 2022 season. The three network rights deal includes the continued rotation of the Super Bowl yearly among the three, meaning NBC will air Super Bowls XLIX (2015), LII (2018), and LV (2021). The new rights deal also includes NBC receiving the primetime game of the Thanksgiving tripleheader previously carried by NFL Network, along with a divisional playoff game and one wild card game rather than the full Wild Card Saturday package.
NBC's broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI at the end of the 2011 season became the most-watched program in the history of United States television, with 111.3 million US viewers, according to Nielsen. The game was the first Super Bowl telecast to be streamed live online legally in the U.S., both to computers (via NFL.com and NBCSports.com) and mobile devices (via Verizon Wireless's NFL Mobile app),. The game marked Al Michaels' eighth time conducting play-by-play for a Super Bowl (Michaels had previously done play-by-play for Super Bowls XXII, XXV, XXIX, XXXIV, XXXVII and XL for ABC, and Super Bowl XLIII for NBC).
Sunday Night Football ranked the most-watched program in the United States during the 2011-12 season. This feat was repeated during the 2013-14 season; in that case, NBC finished the season as the #1 network among adults aged 18-49 for the first time since 2004 and #2 in total viewership (behind longtime leader CBS).
NBC's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX at the end of 2014 season became the most-watched program in the history of United States Television, with 114.4 million US viewers, according to Nielsen. The game was the fourth overall telecast to be streamed live online legally in the U.S. both to computers (via NFL.com and NBCSports.com) for the second time and mobile devices (via Verizon Wireless's NFL Mobile app). The game marked Al Michaels ninth time conducting play-by-play for a Super Bowl (Michaels had previously done play-by-play for Super Bowls XXII, XXV, XXIX, XXXIV, XXXVII and XL for ABC and XLIII and XLVI for NBC).
On February 1, 2016, the league announced that NBC had won a partial share of Thursday Night Football rights for the 2016 season; as a result, five additional Thursday night games (in addition the kickoff and Thanksgiving contests) in the later part of the season had been added to NBC's schedule. NBC Sports was also responsible for producing five games that was exclusive to NFL Network. After the 2017 season, NBC insisted on a reduced rights fee in order to continue carrying Thursday Night Football, which the NFL rejected; Fox was then awarded the rights to Thursday Night Football for the remainder of the time left on the league's broadcast contracts. NBC will continue to carry the kickoff and Thanksgiving night games on Thursdays.
As of the 2018 season, Football Night in America is hosted by Liam McHugh, who hosts from the game site, with Mike Tirico emceeing from the Stamford, Connecticut studio. Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison are studio analysts. Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King serves as a feature reporter. FNIA was broadcast from Studio 8G (and then from Studio 8H) from the GE (now Comcast) Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City from 2006 to 2013, before production of the program was relocated to Stamford in September 2014, joining all of NBC Sports' other operations and NBCSN.