NBC flexes muscle

Bears-Giants game on Sunday sked

NBC and the National Football League have chosen the first game of the new flex schedule for “NBC Sunday Night Football,” and it’s a biggie: the Chicago Bears vs. the New York Giants on Nov. 12.

In a conference call with reporters, Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, said the NFL pre-selected the game last April as one likely to be important at this stage of the season.

NBC, which could have requested a substitute game as part of its contract with the NFL, quickly ratified the league’s choice.

“The Bears are undefeated, the Giants are leading the NFC and these are the biggest home cities of the NFL,” said Ebersol, who was so happy with the game he announced it seven days in advance of the usual 12-day notice as stipulated in the agreement.

The Fox Network couldn’t have protected the Bears-Giants game for its Sunday-afternoon schedule, because the NFL had pre-selected it. But Fox and CBS each have protected four weekly games out of the seven that will be part of the flex schedule for NBC. And Fox and CBS will be able to protect a fifth game in the final week of the NFL schedule.

The flex schedule originated because ABC, with its “Monday Night Football,” was running too many meaningless games toward the end of the season from a menu of games drawn up before the season began.

So far, said Ebersol, the unprecedented flex schedule “is working extraordinarily smoothly.” And Fred Gaudelli, producer of “NBC Sunday Night Football,” said, “The rest of the season, we’ll have compelling games.”

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