Cable net nabs rights to weekly football series

Showtime and its CBS Sports sibling have bought the rights to “Inside the NFL,” the weekly series that ran for 31 years on HBO until the network cancelled it in February.

Although Showtime said it hasn’t decided who the expert panelists in the studio will be, the assumption is that the show will draw liberally on CBS’ group of NFL analysts including James Brown, Phil Simms, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe.

Matt Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, said “Inside the NFL” is “a perfect fit with our original scripted series and sports programming.” The show will air every Wednesday at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 10 and run through Feb. 11.

HBO didn’t renew the series because, as it said at the time, there are more and more places for sports fans to see NFL highlights, including regional sports networks, on-demand cable, sports websites and the 24/7 nationally distributed NFL Network.

Showtime, though, is counting on the byplay of the analysts to make the new season of “Inside the NFL” an audience lure.

HBO is still in business with the NFL, scheduling a fourth season of the series “Hard Knocks,” which kicks off Aug. 6 by focusing on the Dallas Cowboys.

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