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NFL season opener yields to McCain speech

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - The National Football League and NBC will likely move up the time of the league’s September season opener so it won’t conflict with presidential nominee John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) celebrates after his touchdown pass to teammate David Tyree (not pictured) in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona, February 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes

Since 2002, the NFL has held its season opener on the first Thursday night after Labor Day. This year, the game runs smack into the final night of the convention, when McCain will officially accept the nomination and give a nationally televised speech from Minneapolis.

While the NFL has yet to announce its schedule for the 2008 season, it’s apparently not going to shy away from having its season opener on the scheduled day, with the game likely featuring the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

So, the NFL and NBC have agreed in principle to have the kickoff at 7 p.m. ET instead of the traditional 8:30 p.m. That would mean, except in the event of an overtime, that the game would end before NBC’s expected one hour of convention coverage for the night.

The move comes with several risks, including a loss of audience since the game would start so early on the West Coast. Also, it could impact any pregame special or entertainment that the NFL or NBC could schedule. It would, though, give NBC News a strong lead-in to its convention coverage.

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There have been no firm decisions yet on how long NBC or the other broadcast networks will cover the conventions, which are often little more than ceremonies and speeches with no unexpected news. The past several election cycles, the broadcast networks have stuck to about an hour of primetime -- at 10 p.m. -- for each convention night.

In August 2000, ABC asked the NFL to start an exhibition game at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. so that ABC could carry an hour of coverage from the Democratic National Convention beginning at 10 p.m. The league agreed.

The Republican National Convention has been on the NFL radar since it was announced for early September. “We’ve been talking with NBC Sports about this,” an NFL spokesman said.

The NFL schedule is announced in two parts, the first in late March or early April coinciding with the annual owners meeting and the second later on. The NFL owners’ meeting begins Monday.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter