News and views from the NFL's new TV contracts:
• One of the most intriguing new elements will allow CBS to carry an NFC road game and Fox to carry an AFC road game — in other words, games from the other network's package — a few times a year. That will be done to balance out the schedule when certain games are worthy of going to a larger audience. It also could be done on weeks when one network loses a flex-schedule game to NBC.
• NBC's flexible scheduling typically begins in Week 10 but will start earlier in the new deal. The league declined to be more specific.
• Unfortunately, ESPN won't get flexible scheduling, because the league believes moving games from Sunday to Monday — and vice versa — would be too disruptive. ESPN got stuck with Chargers-Jaguars and Rams-Seahawks in recent weeks.
• NBC gets three other perks: (1) The Thanksgiving-night game will shift from NFL Network to NBC starting in 2013; (2) NBC will get three Super Bowls as part of the eight-year extensions; (3) The network will carry a divisional playoff game, instead of a wild-card game, beginning in 2014. That wild-card game might be given to ESPN. CBS or Fox will lose one divisional playoff game each year, on a rotating basis.
• The other good move for fans: NFL Network's Thursday-night schedule will start earlier, though the league declined to say when. But the NFL decided against selling an eight-game Thursday-night package to another network.
• The NFL seems invulnerable to the audience erosion that has generally afflicted the major non-cable networks. In fact, a case could be made the NFL is more valuable than ever as a TV product. Consider that "Sunday Night Football" ranks second among all prime-time shows — NBC's only program in the top 35 — and 23 of the 25 most-watched shows this fall have been NFL games.
So it's no surprise that CBS, Fox and NBC agreed to boost their combined rights fee from $1.9 billion to $3.1 billion annually. Add in ESPN's $1.8 billion annual fee, and DirecTV's $1 billion payment for NFL Sunday Ticket, and the league will pocket about $6 billion from broadcast revenue starting in 2014.
• In the new deal, networks can stream games on tablets but not mobile devices.
• Versus — which will be renamed NBC Sports Network on Jan. 1 — will air a Sunday pregame show starting in 2014. Good luck getting an audience for that, considering there already are four competing Sunday-morning pregames.
AROUND THE DIAL
• I will miss Jim Mora, who left Fox to take the UCLA job. He generally said what he thought, unfiltered, and displayed a lively, likable personality.
• Fox's Terry Bradshaw criticized Archie Manning for questioning whether Peyton and Andrew Luck could coexist on the Colts, believing Archie was speaking for Peyton. Years ago, Archie complained to Bradshaw when Bradshaw criticized Eli Manning. "I heard from you (years ago), Archie," Bradshaw said on the network's pregame show. "Don't call me tomorrow."
• CBS' Steve Tasker said during a Colts game that "no one doesn't think (Stanford QB) Andrew Luck is going to be a home run." Tasker needs to start watching Showtime's "Inside the NFL," where colleague Phil Simms voiced doubts about that a few weeks ago.