Week 17 NFL Announcing: Where Games Actually Matter, If You Can See Them

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↵I was hoping to follow up on the report we wrote about last week regarding the fight between FOX and Time Warner Cable but, well, there's really no news with which to follow up. As of Wednesday evening, a deal is doubtful to happen before the end of the year. Per, Brian Stelter, the fantastic New York Times media reporter: ↵

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↵⇥The News Corporation said on Wednesday that it looked doubtful that it would sign a new distribution contract with Time Warner Cable by Thursday night, increasing the likelihood that its Fox stations will be removed from cable lineups in millions of homes. ↵⇥

↵⇥The News Corporation’s president, Chase Carey, declined an offer by Time Warner Cable to enter binding arbitration. The companies are fighting over how much the cable operator should pay Fox stations for the right to retransmit their shows, sporting events and local newscasts. Fox is demanding about a dollar for each cable subscriber each month, which analysts say could set a precedent for broadcasters that want more money from cable and satellite operators. ↵⇥

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↵Stelter quotes Carey, who told News Corp. employees that their channels, including FOX, FX and Speed, "may very well go off the air in Time Warner Cable systems." Now, negotiations can change quickly (and heck, even as you're reading this a deal could be getting done) but this seems like an awful lot of posturing for an 11th-hour deal to actually be in the works. ↵

↵In essence, FOX wants to be paid for every household who has the service, just as some high-profile cable networks like ESPN are paid. Alex Dudley, spokesperson for Time Warner Cable, said on Wednesday that FOX was being hypocritical to ask for money from the cable service provider when "the overwhelming majority" of their content is free online. ↵

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↵While much of FOX's primetime programming is available online, their sports content is not. You cannot watch FOX NFL games free online, unlike the national game on NBC, and even if the games were archived to be viewed at a later time – the model FOX uses for its primetime shows – people like watching sporting events as they happen. In addition, ESPN provides customers of most internet/cable providers unlimited access to ESPN360, which not only broadcasts live events but archives events that run their family of networks, including ABC. While ESPN opens the ESPN360 portal to cable providers for a fee, it's theoretically rolled in to the cost of our internet/cable service. That is to say, there's no ESPN360-specific surcharge on my bill ... at least not last time I checked. ↵

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↵Could that be the next step for the networks? Could FOX start firewalling out TWC customers from viewing their content online as well? Will this be the future for sites like Hulu as well? For a year, I've screamed that the viable business model for struggling newspapers would be to put pressure on the internet service providers to cut them in on our monthly subscriptions. If the ISP is charging us for the bandwidth usage, why shouldn't the sites we travel to get some of that cut? (Note: this model doesn't exactly work when media companies own both the ISP and the local news outlets – see: Newsday.) ↵

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↵While, as a consumer, it's hard to take the side of a company like FOX who is ultimately trying to take more money from us, as a football fan, some may not have a choice. After all, it's not like TWC fans can just tune in to the RedZone Channel or NFL Network to catch games. TWC won't offer those stations either. ↵

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↵Maybe I'm just too optimistic – something I'm rarely accused of, by the way – but I have to think a deal will get worked out. Senator John Kerry and the FCC are involved, so at worst an extension could (should) be reached before total shutdown occurs. But if you're home tonight watching the Billboard New Year's Eve special and, as we ring out 2009 and welcome in 2010, your TV suddenly goes black ... the world didn't end. Just your ability to watch FOX – which for sports fans, of course, means missing Sugar Bowl on Friday, the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, huge NFL games, including Dallas at Philly for the NFC East title and potentially a first-round bye, on Sunday ... wow maybe the world will end. Depending on how long this drags out, TWC customers could miss the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl or even wild card weekend. If a deal isn't brokered soon, missing a few football games may no longer matter to TWC. None of their football-fan subscribers will be left. ↵

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↵FOX
↵FOX has eight games on its schedule and clearly the biggest games are in the afternoon slot. But first, in the early slate FOX has just one game that could impact the NFC playoff race, as the Giants travel to Minnesota with Kenny, Moose and Goose on the call. The Vikings have played themselves out of a first-round bye in recent weeks, but can potentially salvage that with a win over the G-Men. At the very least, a win would put more pressure on both the Eagles and Cowboys ... not that those two teams will need it. ↵

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↵The other early games include New Orleans at Carolina with Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick, Atlanta at Tampa Bay with Dick Stockton and Charles Davis, San Fransisco at St. Louis with MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian and Ross Tucker and Chicago at Detroit with Chris Myers and Trent Green. ↵

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↵The late games are a bit more interesting, headlined by Philly at Dallas with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call. If Philly wins, they lock up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. If Philly loses, and Minnesota wins, it goes to the Vikings. But if Minny loses in the early slot, Dallas or Arizona could still lock up the first-round bye, which is why Green Bay at Arizona is such a potentially huge game. Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan are on the call. Now, if Minnesota wins in the early slot, the Arizona game is still important because beating Green Bay this week could allow the Cardinals to avoid the Packers in the first round of the playoffs. Not that they'd want to face the Cowboys or Eagles right now, either. Ron Pitts and John Lynch call the other FOX late game of Washington at San Diego in what's likely the end of the Jim Zorn era against a host of Charger backups, who are still favored by four points. Ah Jim Zorn, we'll miss your ability to stay medium. ↵

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↵CBS
↵It seems like every game on CBS matters this weekend. Well, not the Indy at Buffalo game with Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein, after the Colts lost last week. But the other three early games are hugely important. Pittsburgh at Miami gets the marquee with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf calling the game that will go to nearly all of the country. It's odd, because Pittsburgh has the exact same chance of getting into the playoffs as Houston, who hosts New England with Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots on the call. Clearly the fact that New England should be resting Tom Brady and the fact that the Dolphins have the most outside shot of any team – but still a shot – to make the playoffs factored into the decision to have the Steelers-Dolphins cover so much of the country. Or maybe CBS is just anticipating another incredible finish that will put a ton of pressure on Denver, Baltimore and the Jets. ↵

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↵The other early game of Jacksonville at Cleveland has some playoff juice, if every other team happens to lose and the Jags win. Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker have that game. ↵

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↵The late games have as much playoff drama as the early slate. Denver went from being 6-0 to needing a ton of help to get in the playoffs. There will be a lot of scoreboard watching as they host Kansas City with Dick Enberg – likely calling his last NFL game for CBS – and Dan Fouts on the call. ↵

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↵The top crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be in Oakland as the Raiders host the Ravens in an effort to play spoiler. If Baltimore wins, they are in the playoffs. That's really the only simple thing in any of CBS' games this weekend. ↵

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↵National Game
↵NBC decided to flex the Bengals at Jets to the evening slot as the New York team needs a win to get into the playoffs. By that time, we'll know which of Denver, Pittsburgh, Houston, Jacksonville or Miami will need the Jets to lose so they can make the playoffs. The Bengals, who have already clinched their division, aren't playing for much – histrionics notwithstanding. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will be on the call. ↵

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↵And if you already miss Jon Gruden's constant coachspeak, don't fret. He and Mike Tirico will be calling the Rose Bowl on Friday on radio. The two will be joined by Todd Blackledge, a week later, to call the National Championship game as well. I almost want to tune in just to hear him say, "see this guy right here…this guy ..." to a radio audience. At least it should lead all BCS radio calls in grit. ↵

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↵Map links and announce crew pairings courtesy of The 506. ↵

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↵With all this TV contract mess, and Gruden taking his media shining star into the radio booth, this one just made sense. There are a lot of versions of this song, but dad-gummit, this one is the sweetest. Happy New Year, everyone. ↵

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↵ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵ ↵
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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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