The NFL wanted to let boss Paul Tagliabue make the announcement this week at his Super Bowl press conference, but it leaked Fri, forcing the league to confirm it from Detroit Sat afternoon: 2-yr-old NFL Networks is the victor in the battle to carry 8 prime time, reg-season games on Thurs and Sat nights next season, beginning with a Thanksgiving-night affair between arch rivals the Redskins and Cowboys. Comcast’s OLN was mentioned often as a home for the games and seemed the frontrunner as late as mid last week. Talks with OLN broke down over the NFL’s insistence on getting an equity stake in the network. Comcast was reportedly offering $400-$500mln for the package. The significance of the announcement in historical terms: while ESPN certainly was a force, many in Bristol trace the all-sports net’s coming of age to the day it began carrying NFL games. Similarly, Steve Bornstein’s NFL Net is a critically acclaimed but small network now (40mln subs, including DBS). It’s jumped about 5 years or more with this announcement. Several major MSOs don’t carry NFL Net, including Time Warner, Charter, Cablevision and Mediacom-let the fun begin.

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