NFL on DuMont

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The NFL on DuMont
StarringSee announcers section below
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons4
Production
Running time180 minutes or until game ends
Release
Original networkDuMont
Original release1951 –
1955

The NFL on DuMont was an American television program that broadcast National Football League games on the now defunct DuMont Television Network.[1] The program ran from 1951[2] to 1955.

History[edit]

DuMont's NFL coverage consisted of contracts the network signed with individual NFL teams. Only for the NFL Championship Game did the network actually sign a contract with the league. Some teams did not have deals with DuMont; instead selling television rights to local stations, independent producers, or breweries who were major sponsors and who also packaged the telecasts.

1951-1952[edit]

Locally and regionally televised games were broadcast as early as 1939, but on December 23, 1951, DuMont televised the first ever live, coast-to-coast professional football game, the NFL Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. DuMont paid $75,000 for the rights to broadcast the game.[3]

In 1952, DuMont only aired New York Giants games before moving to a more national scope the following season.

1953-1954[edit]

During the 1953[4] and 1954 seasons, DuMont broadcast Saturday night NFL games. It was the first time that National Football League games were televised live, coast-to-coast, in prime time, for the entire season. This predated Monday Night Football on ABC by 17 years.[5] Several of the games in 1953 and 1954 originated in New York (Giants), Pittsburgh (Steelers), or Washington (Redskins). (All three of these cities had DuMont O&Os.)[6]

In 1953, DuMont televised a Thanksgiving NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

DuMont was nominated for Emmy Awards for its coverage of the 1953 and 1954 seasons but did not win.[7]

DuMont proved to be a less than ideal choice for a national broadcaster. The network had only eighteen primary affiliates in 1954, dwarfed by the 120 available to NBC (although a number of ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates that had DuMont "secondary" affiliations did carry some NFL games, mainly on Sunday afternoons). Coverage of Canadian football's "Big Four" was more readily available on NBC than NFL games were in most markets on DuMont.[8]

1955[edit]

In January 1955, DuMont obtained rights from the Los Angeles Newspaper Charities to cover the Pro Bowl only one week before the game date. As they had trouble lining up affiliates to cover the game on such short notice, the telecast was cancelled.

By 1955, the DuMont network was beginning to crumble. For instance, in 1955, NBC replaced DuMont as the network for the NFL Championship Game, paying a rights fee of $100,000.[9] ABC acquired the rights to the Thanksgiving game. Meanwhile, most teams (sans the Giants, Eagles and Steelers, who received regionalized coverage from DuMont) were left to fend for themselves in terms of TV coverage.

Consequently, this is roughly how coverage went for each team in 1955:

The October 17, 1955 issue of Sports Illustrated lists Chicago Cardinals-New York game as not televised. However, an article on this game in October 16, 1955 issue of the New York Times states, "(t)he game will be telecast but will be blacked out within a 75 mile radius of New York City." Meanwhile, the October 31, 1955 issue of Sports Illustrated lists the Chicago Bears-Los Angeles game as being televised. If so, it could have been televised as a syndicated pick up. Bob Wolff is listed as doing play-by-play for the Giants game for DuMont, so Chris Schenkel could have made the call here.

DuMont ceased most entertainment programs (and a nightly newscast) in early April 1955. DuMont still broadcast some sports events (a Monday-night boxing show and the 1955 NFL season) until either August 1956,[10] or Thanksgiving 1957.[11] Prior to the 1956 NFL season, DuMont sold its broadcast rights to CBS;[10] for DuMont's last broadcast in 1957, a high school football state championship, it borrowed Chris Schenkel, CBS's announcer for New York Giants broadcasts at the time.

Announcers[edit]

DuMont normally used a single announcer for its telecasts, a common practice then but a departure from modern practice where a play-by-play announcer is paired with a color commentator. Several of DuMont's championship game broadcasts did have color commentators.

NFL Championship Game commentators[edit]

Season Play-by-play Color commentator(s)
1951 Harry Wismer Earl Gillespie
1952 Harry Wismer
1953 Harry Wismer Red Grange
1954 By Saam (first half) and Chuck Thompson (second half)

Status of broadcasts today[edit]

Two episodes of the NFL's highlights package, Time for Football, from the 1954 season survive, featuring game action of Week 1 and Week 6. Time for Football was a co-production of DuMont and Tel Ra. The Week 6 episode presumably includes DuMont's own game footage from the Saturday night game between Philadelphia and Green Bay. No audio play-by-play or commentary survives from any DuMont telecast.[12][13]

It is also possible that this video footage is DuMont coverage of the 1953 NFL Championship Game, though it is not confirmed and the tape contains no audio. That footage is available for viewing on YouTube. This game, and others aired by DuMont, were broadcast live and were probably not recorded except on kinescope for later viewing by the few DuMont affiliates and stations in the west or for highlight reels and game film.

Two five-second plugs from October 1954 promoting DuMont's NFL programming survive.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The DuMont Television Network Historical Web Site". Dumonthistory.tv. 1999-02-05. Archived from the original on 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  2. ^ Brulia, Tim. "A CHRONOLOGY OF PRO FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION: Part 1" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.
  3. ^ "December 23, 1951 in History". Brainyhistory.com. 1951-12-23. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  4. ^ Telecasts of complete professional games would not appear until 1953 on DuMont. NFL football on television, as we know it today, would have to wait for a decade, and the arrival of television-minded NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, before it made an impact on network television.
  5. ^ ABC wasn't the first network to try football in prime time. In the early 1950s, the now-defunct DuMont network broadcast pro football on Saturday nights, but a lack of affiliates and interest killed the concept (not to mention DuMont). Archived February 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "The DuMont Television Network: Channel Twelve: Feedback". Dumonthistory.tv. 1999-04-30. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  7. ^ "Advanced Primetime Awards Search". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. 2005. Archived from the original on 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2007-09-24.
  8. ^ "OCR Document" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-18. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  9. ^ "NFL History (1955)". NFL.com. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  10. ^ a b Aug 8, 1956 - On August 8, 1956, The DuMont network offered its final telecast: a boxing card. CBS inherits the rest of the Dumont/NFL football deal. Archived November 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Tober, Steve (November 20, 2017).Thanksgiving football games a disappearing tradition. NorthJersey.com. Retrieved November 21, 2017. "The ’57 Thanksgiving game at Foley Field was televised live and in color (both rarities in those early TV days) on Channel 5 via the old Dumont Television Network, which was under the leadership of Dr. Dumont, who - by the way - was a Montclair resident. Also, the late, great Chris Schenkel did the play by play."
  12. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-BN1pdcd0I
  13. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIGYySKUwHA
  14. ^ https://archive.org/details/Late1954DumontTelevisionNetworkIds-FootballVariants

External links[edit]