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ESPN to air an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game

Despite claims to the contrary, the NFL will no longer offer every playoff game on free TV.
Despite claims to the contrary, the NFL will no longer offer every playoff game on free TV.
Courtesy NFL

The NFL touts itself as being the last US professional sports league that puts every playoff game on free TV. That claim is no longer true.

ESPN will air its first-ever playoff game on Wildcard weekend next January. The rights agreement between ESPN and the NFL, which extends through the 2021 season, allows ESPN to air one Wildcard playoff game each year.

It will most likely be one of the Saturday games that NBC has aired as part of a doubleheader. NBC had already announced it would be airing one of the Divisional Round games the following weekend. So instead of broadcasting two contests on Day 1 of the playoffs and then bowing out, the peacock will air one game that day and one the following week.

That means, in essence, ESPN's addition is a loss for either CBS or Fox.

There is no word on whether ESPN's telecast will be brokered to broadcast stations in the cities where the involved teams are located. But one has to assume, since both ESPN's Monday Night, and NFL Network's Thursday Night telecasts are, it will be done in this case as well.

ESPN will also resume airing the Pro Bowl, which beginning this upcoming season, will be moved to the site of Super Bowl.

Once again, it's another example of a telecast moving from free broadcast TV to cable or satellite. But this time it's courtesy of the NFL, the league that prides itself on having the most contests on over-the-air TV. More on that in the next article. Stay tuned.

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