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Giants-Bears Moved to Prime Time in NFL Flex Schedule

The New York Giants' home game against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 12 has been moved to 8:15 p.m. on NBC as part of the first week of the National Football League's flexible scheduling plan.

The Giants-Bears game was originally scheduled to start at 1 p.m. New York time on Fox.

Week 10 of the NFL's regular season marks the first use of flexible scheduling, which was included in the league's broadcast agreements to ensure quality matchups in the Sunday prime time television slots. General Electric Co. (GE)'s NBC is in the first season of a six-year, $3.6 billion contract to show NFL games at night.

``We're very pleased the inaugural flexible scheduling game will match up arguably two of the best teams in the NFL right now,'' NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol said on a conference call. ``And it's two of the biggest media markets in the country.''

News Corp. (NWSA)'s Fox, which with CBS Corp. (CBS) has a six-year, $8 billion contract to televise NFL games during the day, wasn't permitted to block the league from moving the game to NBC. Fox spokesman Dan Bell declined to comment on the Giants-Bears game being taken away from the network.

The Bears have a 6-0 record and are one of two undefeated teams in the NFL, while the Giants are 4-2 and lead the National Football Conference's East Division. The final seven Sunday night games last season featured just one team that made the playoffs.

``This is the kind of game you really want when you get to this part of the schedule,'' NBC football analyst John Madden said of the Bears-Giants matchup.

Flexible Schedule

The league's original schedule released in April said that one Nov. 12 game would be moved to 8:15 p.m. The NFL will also use flexible scheduling for weeks 11-15 and week 17, the final Sunday of the regular season.

The NFL allowed Fox and CBS to protect five games each for the seven weeks of flexible scheduling. The league, however, designated one game each week that couldn't be protected by the networks because it was slotted as a potential choice for NBC. The Giants-Bears game was among those that couldn't be blocked.

``We want to make sure NBC has a really, truly meaningful game that's going to appeal to a national television audience,'' NFL Senior Vice President Howard Katz said in an interview.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the Sunday night television package is now the marquee television series for the league. NBC's Sunday night games have been watched this season by an average of 12.4 million of the 110.2 million U.S. households with televisions. At the same point last season, an average of 11.8 million households watched the ``Monday Night Football'' games on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.

``We have nothing but high, high hopes for where we're going to be the rest of the year,'' Ebersol said. ``We've had a pretty nice ride so far.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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