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Best and worst of NFL on TV

Evaluating eventful year in pro football broadcasting

Posted: Thursday February 8, 2007 12:27PM; Updated: Thursday February 8, 2007 6:32PM
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James Brown was an excellent addition to the CBS pregame show.
James Brown was an excellent addition to the CBS pregame show.
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If television is indeed the drug of the nation, as the hip-hop band Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy once declared, then we're all doomed with our dependence on the NFL. No programming is more popular among Americans -- more people watched this year's AFC championship game than last year's Academy Awards -- and the NFL enjoyed record viewership in 2006.

The national doubleheader games on Fox were the most watched programs on all of television and the network drew the largest NFC championship audience in 10 years, pulling in a 25.1 rating and an average audience of 43.2 million viewers.

CBS also enjoyed a banner year. The network's coverage of the AFC championship game earned a 28.1 rating, which topped the debut of American Idol. Its Super Bowl broadcast was a blockbuster: The game drew the third-largest television audience in history, finishing behind only the M*A*S*H finale in 1983 and Super Bowl XXX (Dallas and Pittsburgh). It was the second-most-watched Super Bowl of all time, averaging 93.1 million viewers.

While the good Dr. Z offers his ninth annual NFL broadcasting review this week, here's a quick look at what we liked this past season in NFL broadcasting, what we didn't like and what we look forward to in the upcoming year:


1. Dueling NFL Draft coverage.

No longer is the NFL Draft the sole domain of Mel Kiper's hair and Chris Berman sucking up to the NFL commissioner. The NFL Network covered the draft for the first time in 2006, and you can bet the network's presence will increase in the future. So will the ratings of this megaevent. The coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 was the highest-rated and most-viewed in ESPN's 27-year history of televising the event. ESPN said a total of 36 million people tuned in to at least part of its draft weekend. Clearly, viewers cannot get enough of draft-related programming, which is why we urge ESPN to continue its terrific SportsCenter Draft Specials.

2. James Brown's smooth move from Fox to CBS.

The announcement that Brown had returned to CBS as the host for The NFL Today lacked the breathless, around-the-clock coverage of Tony Kornheiser joining the Monday Night Football booth. (Of course, that probably has something to do with the fact that ESPN has a communications staff roughly the size of the Pentagon.) Nonplussed is often the reaction when it comes to the understated Brown, the most ego-free sports broadcaster on network television. But his impact on The NFL Today has been great. The show had a freshness and an energy this year that it previously lacked. Though Fox NFL Sunday beat The NFL Today for the 13th straight year, Brown's addition helped close the perception gap between the shows.

3. Ron Jaworski.

Some call him Jaws. I call him God.


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