On Wednesday afternoon, the NFL Network decided to give in on what will turn out to be the greatest bargaining chip in its entire history.
Whatever happens from here on out, there will be nothing greater than the exclusive rights to this Saturday night's Giants-Patriots game, with the Pats' potentially perfect regular season on the line. And today, the NFL agreed to let the game be simulcast on NBC and CBS.
(NBC TV is a unit of CNBC's parent, NBC Universal.)
The day the NFL owners gave their fledgling cable network eight games a year, they were acknowledging that there was no chance this start-up would make it without the ultimate playing card -- games that were exclusive outside of the team's local markets.
And this year, the NFL Network got two games that were absolute gems: A good late-season game of those one-loss titans, the Packers and the Cowboys -- and now this game.
While I love the fact that the NFL did this -- it's a great public relations move and it probably was necessary -- it also is this: An admission that even this game wasn't going to make those cable carriers holding out put the NFL Network on extended basic, instead of on an a la carte package.
With the Giants-Pats game out of the way, those negotiations will go absolutely nowhere until there's pressure to show certain games next year. But the bottom line -- and the sad fact for the network and its owners -- is that there will never be another game bigger than this Saturday.
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