One of these days, maybe during the Patriots’ bye week, I’m going to attempt to put together a Where, When, And How To Watch guide that accounts for all over-air and streaming options for the major Boston sports teams over the course of their seasons.
As annoying (and increasingly expensive) as it is to get all the sports we want in this fractured media landscape, it is well past time that, oh, a random Red Sox game on Peacock or Apple TV, or Bruins games on ESPN+ catch us by surprise. So, hold me to it.
In the meantime, the least I can do is attempt to offer some clarity and reminders on various NFL broadcasting changes and viewership options as the season commences. A few of note:
The familiar No. 1 team of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson will be in Foxborough Sunday for the Patriots-Eagles opener. That follows the traditional pattern of CBS being the home for the vast majority of AFC games on Sundays, with Fox having most NFC games, save for occasional cross-flexing.
NFL executive Mike North had said during a conference call in early May, in advance of the schedule release and the start of the new broadcast-rights deal, that “all games are jump balls” and there would no longer be that traditional split among conference lines. But when the schedule was released later that month, the vast majority of games remained on the network that they would have been affiliated with previously.
Such is the case with the Patriots, who will play on CBS, or Channel 4 in this market, at least eight times this season, and possibly nine depending upon where the to-be-determined Week 18 matchup with the Jets ends up.
The Patriots will play on Fox (Boston 25) just three times, all against NFC East opponents (Cowboys, Week 4; Commanders, Week 9; Giants; Week 12). They have one ESPN “Monday Night Football” assignment (Chiefs, Week 15), two NFL Network games (Colts, Week 10; Broncos, Week 16, both airing locally on Channel 5), and one Amazon Prime Thursday game (Steelers, Week 14, also airing locally on Boston 25).
In the NFL’s apparent quest to have a broadcasting partnership with every streaming service possible before the cable television model completely collapses, Peacock picks up two exclusive games, including a wild-card playoff game. The regular-season matchup will be an appealing one: Bills-Chargers on Saturday, Dec. 23. Peacock also simulcasts NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” broadcasts.
Beyond its Thursday night broadcasts, Amazon Prime will also have an exclusive “Black Friday” stream on Nov. 24 of the Jets-Dolphins matchup. That one will kick off at 3 p.m, so Aaron Rodgers had better get all his shopping done in the morning.
What else is new? ESPN and ABC will have three Mondays where they’re showing separate games. (They did this just once last year.) The first is in Week 2, when the Saints-Panthers game will air on ESPN and Browns-Steelers will be on ABC. There will also be two Monday night games in Weeks 3 and 14, none of which involve the Patriots.
With its usual subtlety, the NFL is trying to seize Christmas Day from the NBA as sports fans’ traditional holiday viewing option, and it probably will succeed. For the second year in a row, three NFL games will be played on Christmas Day, on different networks. The Raiders play the Chiefs at 1 p.m. on CBS as well as Nickelodeon, which also has its own Super Bowl broadcast this season. The Giants will take on the Eagles at 4:30 p.m. on Fox. Then the Ravens will battle the 49ers at 8:15 p.m. on ABC.
“Sunday Ticket,” which allows fans out of market to watch their favorite team’s Sunday broadcasts, has moved to YouTube TV, which begins the first of a seven-year deal in which it will pay the NFL in the vicinity for $2 billion per year. So perhaps it’s not a shock that it will be fairly costly — a subscription runs $299 for subscribers to YouTube TV’s streaming service and $399 for those who aren’t.
Among the notable changes in the broadcast booths: CBS kept its top three teams intact, but Greg Gumbel is no longer part of the lineup. The network’s No. 4 team is now Andrew Catalon, Tiki Barber, Matt Ryan, and sideline reporter A.J. Ross. Adam Archuleta, who was paired with Gumbel on the No. 4 team last year, is now with Spero Dedes on the No. 5 team . . . New faces on studio programs include former Patriots standout Devin McCourty, who landed a prime spot on NBC’s highly rated “Football Night in America,” and J.J. Watt, who joins CBS’s studio team. McCourty’s twin brother, fellow ex-Patriot Jason, will be the color analyst on some lower-rung CBS broadcasts while maintaining his role on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”