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Bears-Giants moved under flex schedule

October 25, 2006|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

The NFL announced Tuesday that the start of the Nov. 12 game between the Chicago Bears and host New York Giants will be moved to 5:15 p.m. PT so that it can be televised by NBC.

This is the first time a kickoff has been moved as part of the league's new flexible schedule policy designed to ensure NBC gets attractive games from Week 9 through the end of the season.

The Times reported Oct. 18 that the Bears-Giants game was earmarked as a Sunday night telecast, and Tuesday's announcement made that a certainty.

NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol said Tuesday that the NFL is not required to announce what game is being moved to Sunday night until 12 days prior, except for Week 17, when the deadline is only six days before.

Ebersol said the announcement about the Bears-Giants game came a week before it was required because NBC notified the NFL that it definitely wanted that game and there was no reason to wait.

Of the "flex scheduling" process, Ebersol said, "The league put this policy into effect when they negotiated the television deals with CBS and Fox in the fall of 2004. Our deal wasn't made until April '05, so we inherited flex scheduling. We're able to say to the league, 'Here is a game we would like to have, and here are reasons why we think this is a compelling game.' And then the league's television department and the commissioner make the final decision."

The NFL moved another Nov. 12 game -- New Orleans at Pittsburgh -- to 1:15 p.m. PT.

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The New York Giants' 36-22 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, televised by ESPN, attracted the largest television audience to watch a scheduled program on cable television.

Based on a 12.6 national cable rating, the game was being watched at any given time in an average of 11,807,000 homes by 16,028,000 viewers.

The previous record for a scheduled cable program was 11,742,000 homes for the 1993 NAFTA debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot. The estimated number of viewers for the debate are not available.

The 12.6 rating for Monday night's game is for the cable universe of approximately 90 million U.S. television households. The overall rating for all 110 million television households was a 10.6. The overall rating for the L.A. market was a 9.7.

It was the sixth consecutive week "Monday Night Football" earned better than a 10.0 national cable rating. ESPN showed a doubleheader in Week 1 and got national cable ratings of 9.9 and 8.5.

"Monday Night Football" now has seven of the top eight spots on the list of cable's largest audiences, excluding breaking news.

ESPN Monday night led all networks -- cable or broadcast -- as the most-viewed network in prime time.

larry.stewart@latimes.com

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