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Will Birmingham be a part of the TNT-NBC football league?


May 27, 1998
During halftime of the Chicago Bulls-Indiana Pacers National Basketball Association playoff game, Turner Sports and the National Broadcasting Company announce they are exploring the possibility of creating a new football league. The press release was read live by news anchor Hannah Storm:
 
"General Electric and Time Warner announced tonight after several months of extensive study that NBC and Turner broadcasting are moving forward toward the creation of a new professional football league. We have agreed upon a clear vision of a working model and have appointed Dick Ebersol of NBC and Harvey Schiller of Turner Broadcasting to spearhead this effort. Both parties anticipate a complete announcement this fall."
 
Having been shut out of the latest National Football League television package, the two networks have been discussing plans to create a rival professional football league. NBC, which had been broadcasting professional football for the last 33 years, and Turner, which had been doing games for the last eight years, passed on their chances to remain with the NFL.

xxx Photograph xx Photograph
  NBC Sports chairman
Dick Ebersol
  Turner Sports president
Harvey Schiller
       
The proposed league would be owned and operated by both networks and play could begin as early as the fall of 1999.

Plans call for as few as eight and as many as 12 cities, choosing from the likes of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington DC, Miami, and San Diego as well as mid-sized markets such as Columbus, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, Providence, Orlando, and Birmingham. According to league executives, they want to target the smaller markets to ensure a strong fan base, which is essential for survival.

However, that the only thing these cities have in common is they have NBC owned and operated stations. League representatives deny this rumor. They also deny that the 'Fan Appreciation League' would be the name of the league. However, the name 'Fan's Football League' is still rumored to be a possibility.

Plans are for a 12 to 16 game season, starting in July or August to avoid competing with the NFL, which starts in September.

Games are expected to be played on Sunday afternoons on NBC and Sunday nights on Turner's TNT channel. The league could also play games on additional nights on either TNT or TBS.

December 1, 1998
At a meeting in Atlanta, TNT and NBC officials say the decision on the league is now expected to be made in 1999.

"This is due to the complexities of putting together something of this magnitude. A lot goes into selecting the cities, franchise operators and other details," said Schiller.

Plans now are for a season that will run from June until Labor Day that could start in 2001.

Top ten markets New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, and Detroit are expected targets for the league. Birmingham, along with Houston, Orlando, Portland, Atlanta, San Antonio, and Salt Lake City are among the ten other cities vying for the additional franchise locations.

June 18, 1999
NBC and Turner Sports executives met in San Antonio this week to discuss their proposed spring football league but remain weeks or perhaps months away from a decision on whether to launch in 2001.

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, on his meeting with Turner Sports president Harvey Schiller and NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer said, "We're still grinding it out. Harvey and Kenny have met with eight, maybe nine of the 16 cities that have expressed interest."

For now, the proposed launch for the new league is Memorial Day weekend in 2001, which means NBC and Turner have until Thanksgiving or perhaps early December to make their decision on whether to proceed or not.

Epilogue
Turner and NBC gave up on the idea of the proposed football league after they worked out a $1.2 billion deal with NASCAR. The six year contracts begin in 2001 and would provide sports programming for Sundays in July and August that would have conflicted with the schedule of their proposed summer football league.

In 2001, NBC joined forces with the World Wrestling Federation and helped create the XFL, of which Birmingham was a member. The XFL did not appeal to football fans, nor wrestling fans, in enough numbers and NBC found itself on the end of the worst ratings in sports television history. In spite of this, NBC and the WWF allowed the XFL to complete its inaugural season before folding the league after the championship game.
 
 
 
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Last update: November 16, 2018