Channel 4 has announced the biggest ever raft of American Football programming ever seen on terrestrial television as part of its coverage of the 2014/15 NFL season.
As the exclusive free-to-air home of the NFL on UK television, Channel 4 will continue to broadcast live coverage of the late-night Sunday games during the regular season, all three of this season’s NFL contests at Wembley Stadium and the showpiece season finale in February – Super Bowl XLIX from Arizona – totalling a terrestrial TV record of 21 live games.
This will be accompanied by a range of support programming, including the return of the weekly American Football Show, hosted by Vernon Kay, in a new Monday night slot, a series of special NFL documentaries and a new show aimed at younger fans of the sport.
The NFL has once again captured the imagination of the British sporting public in recent years with nearly a quarter of a million fans expected to attend three sold out regular season games at Wembley in the autumn.
Channel 4 was the birthplace of NFL coverage in the UK back in 1982, returning to American football in 2013 after 16-year absence and this season marks the second year of its current two-year deal to broadcast live NFL on free-to-air television.
The broadcaster’s coverage of the 2014 regular season kicks off on September 7 with the clash between two of the biggest names in the game, as Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning goes up against his opposite number at Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck.
Returning to host Channel 4’s live coverage of NFL’s Sunday Night Football game will be the popular duo of Nat Coombs and Mike Carlson, who will joined by special guests throughout the season, as they bring fans all the action from 17 regular season games every Sunday night.
In an NFL first, the Wembley game between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions on Sunday, October 26, will kick-off in a stand-alone time of 1.30pm, meaning the whole of the United States will be waking up to the clash in London.
To mark the occasion, Channel 4 will run a special NFL-themed edition of its Sunday Brunch chat show, presented by Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer, featuring distinguished guests and special interviews looking to the clash later in the afternoon, ahead of Channel 4’s live coverage of the game itself, which will be hosted by Colin Murray.
Channel 4’s weekly highlights programme – The American Football Show – returns for the new season with long-time NFL fan and London Warriors amateur player Vernon Kay returning as host.
This season, the show will be broadcast on Monday nights at around 11.00pm, moving from its previous Saturday morning slot, allowing fans to watch all the key action immediately after the weekend games have concluded.
The opening show on September 8 will, amongst others, the newly crowned Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, starting the defence of their crown against the Green Bay Packers.
In the new year, Channel 4 will broadcast weekly highlights of the NFL Play-offs, also on Monday nights, before it brings free-to-air fans live coverage of Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Pheonix Stadium on February 1.
Channel 4 will be hoping to build on the success of last season which saw over a million terrestrial viewers staying up into the early hours to watch its coverage of the 2014 Super Bowl.
Complementing its regular and post-season coverage, Channel 4 will also broadcast Hard Knocks, a five part reality sports documentary series about the Atlanta Falcons as they prepare for the new season and their all-important London clash.
Produced by American broadcaster HBO, the series follows the Falcons players, coaches, and staff during the daily demands of an NFL training camp.
Younger NFL fans are also catered for on Channel 4 with Rush Zone, a 44 episodes of the kid’s animation series that centres on a young American football fan called Ish, airing on Monday mornings.
Announcing the new season of NFL programmes, Channel 4’s commissioning editor for sports Jamie Aitchison said: “NFL fans in the UK are spoilt for choice this season on Channel 4.
“The Wembley games feature the likes of the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins, two of the biggest names in the sport and icons from our coverage back in the 80’s. We look forward to bringing the sport into more homes than ever.”
This season, Channel 4 has hired the BAFTA award-winning sports production firm North One Television to produce its American football coverage including the three sold out regular season NFL games at Wembley stadium and the Super Bowl.
North One, who previously provided Channel 4 with its ground breaking coverage of Italian football and the NBA when known as Chrysalis, take over from Sunset+Vine and will produce the channel’s regular season live games on Sunday night and the weekly highlights show.
Neil Duncanson, chief executive of North One, said: “It’s great to be back producing sport for Channel 4 – particularly during this very special year for the NFL in the UK.
“With not just one but three sell out games going out live from Wembley it’s a real opportunity to build on an already significant fan base. We’re hugely excited to have the opportunity to help do just that.”
Alongside Channel 4’s free-to-air output, Sky Sports and British Eurosport will also screen live coverage of the 2014/15 NFL season.
Approximately 70 live games will again be broadcast live on Sky Sports this season, including coverage of Thursday night and two Sunday evening games, as well as exclusive coverage on Thanksgiving Day on week 13.
British Eurosport also will continue to screen exclusively live coverage of NFL’s Monday Night Football during the regular season, having made its NFL broadcasting debut last season.