First in '10: Pro Bowl on ESPN
EmptyESPN will televise the 2010 Pro Bowl, taking the game that was scheduled to air on CBS and returning it to cable. The all-star contest will take place the Sunday night before the Super Bowl at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
Recently, the broadcast network that carries the Super Bowl also has carried the lower-rated Pro Bowl. In 2008, it was Fox; in 2009, it will be NBC. But now ESPN will have the 2010 Pro Bowl instead of CBS, which will still carry the Super Bowl that year.
It wasn't clear why CBS declined to televise the Pro Bowl. The NFL has the right to shop the Pro Bowl when a network doesn't want it.
Terms of the NFL-ESPN deal weren't disclosed, but it's believed to be a one-year deal. Fox is scheduled to carry the 2011 Pro Bowl as well as the Super Bowl.
Before the most recent series of NFL rights deals, ESPN carried the all-star game from 1988-94 and 2004-06. The new television contracts, in which ABC gave up "Monday Night Football" in favor of sibling ESPN, doesn't give ESPN a spot in the Super Bowl rotation.
Tuesday's news gives ESPN another highly visible sports property that used to be on broadcast TV. Most recently, the cable network bought the rights to the Bowl Championship Series of college football and golf's British Open.