From the earliest days of television, sports was an important format for video coverage. Though early cameras were of poor quality and the receivers of the day were equipped with tiny screens, fans flocked to the "tube" to watch their respective weekend warriors run for glory with the pigskin. In 1950, the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins became the first NFL teams to have all of their home and road games televised. The DuMont Network paid the then huge rights fee of $75,000 to televise the 1951 NFL Championship Game across the entire United States.
By 1955, NBC became the television home to the NFL Championship Game, paying $100,000 to the league for the rights to telecast the league finale. The 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants played at Yankee Stadium went into sudden death overtime. This game, known ever since as the "Greatest Game Ever Played," was seen by millions throughout the country and is credited with increasing the popularity of professional football in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When the rival American Football League (AFL) began in 1960, it signed a 5-year contract with ABC to cover their games. This became the first ever cooperative television plan for Professional Football, in which the proceeds of the contract were divided equally among member clubs. ABC and the AFL also introduced moving, on-field cameras (as opposed to the fixed midfield cameras of CBS and the NFL), and were the first to have players "miked" during broadcast games. The inevitable contest between the AFL and NFL Champs precipitated the creation of the Super Bowl. The first year of the ultimate football game had both CBS and NBC simultaneously carrying the game. Subsequent Super Bowl Games were covered by CBS or NBC for the next few years. The popularity of Pro Football on TV with American television viewers was cemented by the so called, "Heidi Bowl" incident on NBC in November of 1968 when programmers decided to cut away from the Jets-Raiders Game that, with 65 seconds to play, seemed a sure win for the Jets. But the Raiders came back to score 2 touchdowns in the last minute to win the game. After this incident, the networks began the policy of backing up their program schedules to start only after the conclusion of the games. By the end of the decade, with the introduction of Monday Night Football, the viewership of Professional Football eclipsed all other sports, knocking Major League Baseball down the ratings charts.
As Pro Football gained in popularity, it rights fees went up causing CBS to pass on NFL Football in the mid 1990's and allowing the new FOX Television Network to gain a foothold in the broadcast sports realm. Today, the major networks pay upwards of $550 million a year to televise NFL games which can now be seen on cable, satellite and broadcast networks. Currently, the AFC is carried by CBS, the NFC is carried FOX, NBC carries selected games of both conferences on Sunday Night, and ESPN (a cable cousin of ABC) carries Monday Night Football.
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