Game on for ‘Friday Night Lights’

1fnlann06 NBC’s shared deal with DirecTV on “FNL” may look like a busted play — at least for fans who don’t already subscribe to the sat service and aren’t likely to switch just to see the show in October instead of February.

But the arrangement instantly puts the Dillon Panthers into a shiny new stadium at DirecTV, one with plenty of cheerleaders and visible support.

On Wednesday, as NBC was unwrapping its sked for the media, DirecTV was already talking up “FNL” as a star in its arena. A promo box on DirecTV.com touts the exclusive run and links to a splash page trumpeting the Emmy-winning show’s third season. Talk about an instant homefield advantage. The series never seemed to get much love on NBC.com.

The show is likely to be a showcase player for DirecTV’s entertainment channel, The 101. The satco could easily pepper its Sunday Ticket package of NFL games with “FNL” promos. And, free of broadcast TV constraints, producer Jason Katims and his writers could even experiment with more frank language and added scenes that could be cut from the NBC run — a further bit of exclusivity that could help draw more male fans.

By contrast, the Peacock’s efforts on behalf of the show sometimes felt like those of a weary parent trying to muster enthusiasm for their brainiac kid’s science project while his more popular siblings vie for homecoming queen and student president.

Apart from a savvy love-it-or-it’s-free promo for the first-season DVD set, NBC rarely seemed to exhibit a vision for how to broaden “FNL’s” appeal. From timeslot shifts to endless pop-up bugs touting every reality show or quizzer on the Peacock’s sked during “FNL’s” emotional moments, it’s felt like NBC just doesn’t understand the show or its audience.

But with some savvy nurturing from DirecTV, “Friday Night Lights” could easily move from second string to star player.

— Brian Cochrane

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