NFL Set for Record Live Coverage on U.K. Free TV

Bengals Cardinals NFL Preseason Football - H 2014
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Bengals Cardinals NFL Preseason Football - H 2014

Channel 4 will show 21 games, including the Super Bowl, as Britain develops a taste for the gridiron

British broadcaster Channel 4 will air 21 live NFL games this season, saying that will set a record for one season on free-to-air TV in the U.K.

The network has unveiled its coverage plans as it gears up to kick off its second season of a two-year contract with the league amid a growing appetite for gridiron action in Britain.

About 250,000 fans are expected to pack three sold-out regular season games at London's Wembley Stadium this season. Last year, the network aired 17 games.

Among other things, Channel 4 will broadcast those three games and the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 in Phoenix. Its first game will be Sunday's tilt between the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts.

The network first acquired NFL rights in 1982. Last year's Super Bowl drew more than 1 million viewers, according to Channel 4.

Also in Britain, pay TV giant BSkyB's Sky Sports offers much NFL games coverage. Sky Sports kicks off its season coverage on Thursday with the showdown between the Green Bay Packers and the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks. Channel 5 is among the other U.K. broadcasters that have aired NFL games over the years.

"NFL fans in the U.K. are spoilt for choice this season on Channel 4," said Jamie Aitchison, commissioning editor for sport at Channel 4. "The Wembley games feature the likes of the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins, two of the biggest names in the sport and icons from our coverage back in the '80s. We look forward to bringing the sport into more homes than ever."

In an NFL first, the Wembley game between the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 26 will kick off at 1:30 p.m. U.K. time, or 8:30 a.m. ET.

Channel 4's NFL live coverage this season will again be enhanced by highlights show The American Football Show on Monday nights. The network will also air Hard Knocks, a five-part reality sports documentary series about the Atlanta Falcons' preparations for the new season that HBO produced.

Plus, in an attempt to serve a younger NFL fan base in Britain, Channel 4 will air 44 episodes of kids animation series Rush Zone, which focuses on a young American football fan.

Sept. 3, 4:37 a.m.: Updated with more and corrected information on Sky Sports' NFL coverage.

Twitter: @georgszalai