No shortage of football games on AFN anymore
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — For NFL and college football fans overseas, information starvation has given way to information inundation — as many as 10 college and eight NFL games live and more via tape delay, along with gridiron news and information programs throughout the week.
It wasn’t always that way.
Until the advent of satellite programming 25 years ago, viewing a game here and there on the tube depended on Armed Forces Radio and Television Service’s ability to rent commercial satellite time, for three hours at a time. Games would invariably run over that three-hour limit and be cut off, leaving football fans frustrated.
A lot has changed, AFN sports officials said.
AFN’s Satellite Network, or SATNET, was born Sept. 11, 1982. Since 1995, when now-outgoing AFN Sports programming director Tim Mattox took the helm, that has mushroomed into eight satellite-borne signals.
“NFL and college feed all of our bulldogs. It’s our biggest ticket item. [Fans] can’t get enough of it and we can’t provide them enough of that stuff,” said Mattox.
Formerly a sailor working at AFN outlets in the Pacific and Europe, he remembers the days when football fans might see “one or two games a weekend if we were lucky.”
AFN’s Sports, Xtra and Atlantic channels plan to air as many as 10 college football games featuring Top-25 teams and service academies, live or via tape-delay, on Sundays in the Pacific. Others will be taped and aired later in the week.
The NFL slate looks similar. AFN-Atlantic, Sports and Xtra will feature network doubleheader telecasts plus NBC’s Sunday Night and ESPN’s Monday Night games each week — as many as eight games live, with the Sunday and Monday games airing twice more in tape-delay.
The major difference for overseas viewers is time — it requires “adjusting,” at least one Chicago Bears fan said.
Saturday college football doubleheaders might air starting at 1 a.m. Sundays, while NFL twin bills begin at 2 a.m. Mondays. Sunday and Monday night games might require bringing a TV to work or taking leave.
“If they could make Monday our Sunday, that would be nice,” said Master Sgt. Willie Cox, 44, a Chicago native assigned to Kadena Air Base’s 18th Civil Engineering Squadron on Okinawa. “I miss a lot of it because of that (time difference). I’ll take leave if I really want to watch my team.”
Gridiron fans won’t lack for viewing during the week, either.
ESPN’s College Football Live will provide AFN viewers with news, information and features on the college game daily, Mattox said.
Pro fans also can view ESPN’s NFL Live and Total Access and NFL RePLAY from the NFL Network, which is unavailable on most stateside cable networks.
NFL RePLAY is a “huge” addition to AFN’s lineup, Mattox said. It gives viewers a second chance to see a game they may have missed.
The football lineup may see interruptions during the fall when the NASCAR Nextel Cup and PGA’s FedEx Cup are in full swing, along with Major League Baseball’s October playoffs, Mattox said.
AFN industry liaison officials also are at work negotiating rights to every college football bowl game and NFL playoff contest.
“Since we have so many options, we want to give viewers as much as we can,” Mattox said. “Just look at the schedule now — how much better it is today than when we were so limited.”