Networks try to be optimistic on NFL situation

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What, me worry?

That seems to be the attitude of the TV networks that count on the National Football League for ratings when the topic of labor strife comes up.

At presentations to advertisers and the media this week, Fox, NBC and ESPN all were trying to act optimistic when it comes to the NFL. Although there is still no deal between the owners and players on a new collective-bargaining agreement, the expectation was that come September there will be a kickoff.


‘Optimistic’ was how NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt described the mood of the network with regard to the NFL. Of all the networks, NBC has perhaps the most at stake. Its Sunday-night package of games is one of the ratings-challenged network’s few bright spots and also serves as a platform for promoting the rest of its shows.

To be sure, it is in the best interest of the networks to put on a brave face in front of advertisers. That is why none were talking with any detail about what programming would be substituted for football.

When the network brass were off the stage and away from media buyers, their tone darkened just a little. One sports chief of a football-carrying network who spoke anonymously because he, like the other network sports chiefs, was wary of publicly expressing anything less than blue-sky optimism, said the first few weeks of the season could be delayed. Once the players go a while without paychecks, the executive added, he expects a quick resolution.

-- Joe Flint


ESPN’s plan for NFL lockout is no plan