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NFL Primetime is a sports television program that has aired on ESPN since 1987. The show is presented similarly to ESPN's own SportsCenter, featuring scores, highlights, and analysis of every game of the week in the NFL.

Format (1987–2005)

Until the 2006 season, Primetime aired every Sunday night during the NFL American football season and it preceded ESPN's coverage of Sunday Night Football. The show was hosted by Chris Berman, with analysis from Tom Jackson. Berman and Jackson recapped Sunday afternoon's NFL games with highlights, statistics, and commentary.

Pete Axthelm was a regular from 1987 until his death in 1991. Through the show's history, other co-hosts included John Saunders, Robin Roberts, Bill Pidto, and Stuart Scott. Pidto was often the target of good-natured ribbing by Berman, since Pidto often did recaps of games of less importance. The position of co-host was dropped prior to the start of the 1998 season.

Rather than provide the usual package of scoring highlights, NFL Primetime presented extended highlights which also showed less dramatic plays. This provided context for the greater depth of analysis of each game.

A staple of the show was the various Sam Spence instrumental pieces that played in the background during the highlights, while Berman and Jackson recapped each game. This often gave the games, even in highlight form, giving each game of the week a sense of identity, as well as giving all the games a more epic feel overall, much as the music had done for NFL Films documentaries. This feature continues during highlights on The Blitz.

Format (2006–present)

When NBC acquired the rights for Sunday night games beginning in the 2006 season, NBC negotiated for exclusive rights for extended highlights during its Football Night in America pregame show. ESPN responded by moving the show to Mondays and splitting the program into two versions. ESPN shows NFL Primetime in its old format during the playoffs.

Early showing

Originally, the first version aired two-and-a-half hours before ESPN's telecast of Monday Night Football, normally 6 p.m. Eastern time. It was hosted by Stuart Scott along with analysts Ron Jaworski and Mike Ditka and aired from the site of the Monday night game preceding Monday Night Countdown. (The program broadcast from a parking lot set, in contrast to Monday Night Countdown, which takes place inside the stadium. When the package began with two Monday night games on September 11, 2006, Primetime aired from McAfee Coliseummarker in Oakland, Californiamarker, while Countdown originated at FedExFieldmarker in Landover, Marylandmarker).

Due to low ratings (partially due to the repositioning of what was a Sunday evening staple), this early edition of NFL Primetime was relocated to the ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticutmarker every other week starting October 16.

In 2007, this show gained a new time slot, 4 p.m. ET, switching with SportsCenter Monday Kickoff, all programs were moved to the Bristol studio, and the second version's hosts (see below) were also assigned to the earlier show. Scott was sent to a new remote set used by Monday Night Countdown.

Late showing

The second version airs ninety minutes after Monday Night Football ends, and it originates from the ESPN studios. This edition is hosted by the NFL Live team of Trey Wingo and analysts Merril Hoge, and occasionally Mark Schlereth or Mike Ditka. In 2008, Trent Dilfer will join as an analyst. This is the only version of the show to actually be in primetime, albeit only on the West Coast at 10:00 p.m. PT or slightly later. This version re-airs Tuesday afternoons at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Both versions show highlights, but for a shorter period of time than on the older program and with more extended analysis segments. The highlights on the current incarnation of NFL Primetime tend to be more story driven, emphasizing key player performances or game storylines as opposed to a normal recap that is found on SportsCenter. Both shows are presented by Miller Lite.

The Blitz (2006–present)

Chris Berman and Tom Jackson have been reassigned to a new extended segment of the Sunday night edition of SportsCenter (11 p.m. ET) called The Blitz. The segment, while not formally a "show", can be, itself considered NFL Primetime, as the segment flows exactly like an episode of the old Primetime show, featuring Berman and Jackson using the same player nicknames, catch phrases, and back-and-forth banter as the original show. On January 8, 2007, Chris Berman and Tom Jackson returned to NFL Primetime to present highlights of the 2006 NFL Playoffs games between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots and the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, and they remained for the entire postseason that followed.

ESPN has not used the NFL name or logo in the official segment name or in advertising, leading to unconfirmed rumors of not being given permission to do so by the league. In 2007, however, on-screen graphics surrounding the set has referred to both "The Blitz" and "NFL Blitz."

Nikemarker sponsored the segments in both years in 2006 and '07; it was replaced by Old Spice in 2008.

Early SportsCenter (2008–present)

In 2008, an extended version of The Blitz has aired as part of SportsCenter from 7 to 8 or 8:15 p.m. ET. The hosts are Berman, Jackson, Saunders and Trent Dilfer. In addition to highlights, the network has extended additional game statistics, standings, and leaderboards on the right-hand portion of the screen. It is in direct competition to Football Night in America, although it is believed that FNIA still has the official advantage in percentage of the show devoted to highlights. Coincidentally, the revamp of SportsCenter came after NBC hired Dan Patrick to team with Keith Olbermann on FNIA highlights; Patrick and Olbermann were the premier anchor team on that show in the 1990s.

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