Lockout could sack NBC’s primetime

Breakdown of NFL talks a problem for net

NBC is in danger of losing its top-rated program now that the talks between the NFL and its players have officially broken down.

With the players union decertifying itself Friday — meaning they’re not actually a union any more, and players can file antitrust lawsuits against the league on an individual basis — the Peacock is facing a major hole in its primetime schedule that won’t be easy to fill.

The fourth-place network has found solace in watching “Sunday Night Football” crush the competition every fall since it began in 2006. Unless the negotiations get back on track and pro football begins as scheduled in September, however, NBC will have a major dilemma.

The network had no comment on the breakdown in negotiations and, clearly, new NBC entertainment topper Robert Greenblatt will be hoping NBCUniversal sports czar Dick Ebersol can offer some influence or sway when talks begin anew — whether that’s tomorrow or four months from now.

ESPN has the only other NFL primetime telecast with its “Monday Night Football” package (except for the league-owned NFL Network, and those games begin late in the season). In a statement, the cabler said: “We are optimistic that everything will get resolved. We are evaluating a number of alternate programming scenarios to minimize the impact of potential lost games.”

The all-sports cable net would clearly also feel the effect of losing NFL games but could offer alternative programs that could reach the male viewer.

“If advertisers want to reach the demographic that the NFL is reaching, especially in an economy that is on its way back … it’s going to be sports, and these sports are going to be carried by ESPN,” said Walt Disney Co. chief financial officer Jay Rasulo.

CBS and Fox also carry the NFL, but their packages are for Sunday afternoon games.