Channel 4 will be the home of the NFL and the Super Bowl on terrestrial television in the UK for at least the next two years.
As part of the new agreement, Channel 4 will show live coverage of the NFL’s annual games at Wembley Stadium – beginning with the two games scheduled in 2013 – as well as a weekly highlights show, on top of its existing live coverage of Sunday night matches.
The station takes over as the UK terrestrial home of the NFL from the BBC, who dropped both its TV and radio coverage ahead of the forthcoming season.
America’s biggest sporting event will return to Channel 4 for the first time in 16 years when it screens Super Bowl XLVIII from New York/New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on Sunday, February 2, having first brought the event live to a UK audience 30 years ago.
As well as the Super Bowl, Channel 4 has also committed to screening the two NFL International Series games at Wembley later this year – Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings (September 29) and San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars (October 27).
Channel 4’s live coverage of Sunday Night Football – the NFL’s showpiece game of the week – will also continue for the next two seasons as part of the deal.
These matches have aired on the channel over the past three seasons and will each kick off at 1:30am, with the new season beginning on Sunday, September 8.
A new weekly highlights show will be shown on Channel 4 featuring the best of the action from each week of the NFL season.
‘The American Football Show’ will air every Saturday morning at 9.00am on Saturdays and repeated on Sunday mornings.
In addition, Channel 4 will show the award-winning fly-on-the-wall documentary about life at an NFL training camp comes to UK television for the first time.
This year featuring the Cincinnati Bengals, ‘Hard Knocks’ will air on Channel 4 on five consecutive Sundays at 7.00am, beginning on September 8, and will be aired on five consecutive nights on More4 beginning on September 15.
Channel 4 was the first UK station to feature regular NFL coverage when it began its ‘American Football’ programme after its launch in November 1982.
The station’s coverage evolved into a mix of live games, highlights and magazines shows and continued until January 1998.
Channel 5 took over NFL coverage in the UK from 1999 to 2004, with ITV stepping in to show the Super Bowl and play-offs from 2005 to 2007, before the BBC took over from 2008.
NFL coverage returned to Channel 4 in 2010 after a 12 year absence with weekly live broadcast of the league’s Sunday Night Football match-up.
Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4 sports editor, said: “The NFL has always had a connection with the Channel 4 audience and it’s fantastic that after the return of Sunday Night Football we now can tell the story of the whole season right up to its spectacular conclusion.
“The Super Bowl is an iconic event and alongside the live Wembley games we can showcase the sport in all its glory. We are proud to be the NFL’s sole terrestrial partner.”
Alistair Kirkwood, managing director of NFL UK, said: “We are thrilled to be announcing a new partnership with Channel 4 and very pleased with the commitment to the sport the station is demonstrating through its extensive line-up of NFL programming across a range of time slots.
“NFL popularity is at an all-time high in the UK as we continue to grow more fans and this new deal will help introduce even more people to our incredibly dynamic sport.
“Alongside our long-standing relationship with Sky Sports, who have been partners for more than two decades and will be airing approximately 70 live games again this year, we feel we have the ideal television package for the UK.”
Channel 4’s season of NFL coverage will kick off on the night of Sunday September 8 with a traditional NFC East division rivalry as the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants.
The London-bound 49ers, Super Bowl runners-up last season, feature in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.
The first Saturday highlights show is scheduled for 9.00 am on September 14.
Channel 4’s NFL programming will also be available on catch-up and 4oD.
Details of UK broadcasts of Monday Night Football and radio coverage of the upcoming season will be announced shortly.