Networks Cheer for End of NFL Lockout

Back to business after losing on preseason game to labor talks

The National Football League and its players reached an agreement Monday prompting high-fives for the networks that pay billions to carry the leagues games.

"We are excited to get back to football," Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, said in a statement. "From NFL Kickoff to Super Bowl XLVI, each and every week Sunday Night Football will feature strong rivalries and compelling matchups."

"We were always confident that the league and the union would figure out how not to miss games. But this is obviously a relief and it's an important property to both CBS Sports and the corporation, so it's a very satisfying day for us," added Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports.

In a statement, ESPN said: "We are pleased the players and clubs have reached agreement and we look forward to continuing ESPN's comprehensive coverage of the NFL as the teams and players return to the field."

First, the executive committee of the NFL Players Association approved a new collective bargaining agreement; then it was unanimously endorsed by players representing each of the 32 teams, ending the 4½-month lockout. Team owners had agreed to the proposal last week, although a few points went back and forth before it was finalized.

While all of the players won't vote to ratify the deal until August 4, and players who sued the league must agreed to settle their case, the business of football will resume, with training camps opening, players being signed and pre-season games being played.

The first pre-season games will be televised on August 11. On pre-season game, the annual Hall of Fame Game, was lost because of the lockout.

"This is a long time coming, and football's back, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "And that's great news for everybody."

"We didn't get everything that either side wanted," said NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith. "But we did arrive at a deal we think is fair and balanced."

"I think the expectation was it was going to be resolved, but having it done and finalized is gratifying," said Sean Bratches, executive vice president, sales and marketing for ESPN.

"We didn't do anything differently this year than we've done in previous years," said CBS' McManus.

"The sales force kept selling, the production team kept making production plans. We assumed all along there would be football Week One. That may have been an optimistic appraisal, but it turned out to be an accurate one."

Advertisers also acted as if there were going to be an NFL season. The Super Bowl on NBC is over half way sold out and media buyers don't expect ratings to suffer after months of news about labor talk.

"I think we will do fine this year in sales," said McManus. "Had games been lost that potentially could have affected viewer interest and fan interest," he said, adding, "I think the added excitement of the rush to sign the free agents and the draftees and all of the activity that will happen in such an abbreviated period of time will actually add some interest."

On August 11, pre-season games begin and ESPN has the national game that night as the Seattle Seahawks take on the San Diego Chargers. There are four other preseason games that night that will be shown locally.

The regular season starts Thursday Sept. 8 on NBC with the NFL Kickoff featuring the champion Green Bay Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints, who won the 2010 Super Bowl.

The Hall of Fame Game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears, scheduled for August 7, and lost by NBC because of the lockout is usually one of the top rated telecasts of the week.

"We will be working with the NFL to determine how to complete our preseason package," said NBC's Lazarus.

Click here to watch a promo for the upcoming NFL Season, which kicks off Thursday, September 8 on NBC.