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On October 22, 1939, the NFL and NBC tried something that would change football, and television, forever.
The Brooklyn Dodgers hosted the Philadelphia Eagles at Ebbets Field. A crowd of 13,050 fans came out to the stadium to see future Hall of Fame players such as Dodgers quarterback Ace Parker and tackle Bruiser Kinard and Eagles defensive end Bill Hewitt.
In addition, hundreds of fans who were not at Ebbets Field were able to watch these stars. The contest marked the first time pro football was broadcast on television. NBC's experimental station W2XBS aired the game to hundreds of television sets in New York. The game was also shown on monitors in the RCA Pavilion at the World's Fair in New York.
Unlike the complex broadcasts of modern times, putting on the 1939 telecast required only eight people. Just two iconoscope cameras were used -- one in the box seats on the 40-yard line and one in the stadium's mezzanine section.
"I'd sit with my chin on the rail in the mezzanine, and the camera was over my shoulder," said Allen (Skip) Walz, who did the play-by-play for the historic telecast. "I did my own spotting, and when the play moved up and down the field, on punts or kickoffs, I'd point to tell the cameraman what I'd be talking about."
The game lasted for two hours, 33 minutes and 10 seconds with no commercial breaks. However, due to the limited technology, every time the sun was hidden by the clouds, there was not enough light for the cameras and the picture faded to black. NBC would then feed in the radio broadcast to fill in the blanks.
Since the first televised NFL game, the NFL and television are inextricably linked. Super Bowl XLVIII was the most watched program ever with a record average of 112.2 million viewers. And according to The Nielsen Company, the 2013 regular season reached 205 million unique viewers, representing 81 percent of all television homes and 70 percent of potential viewers in the U.S.
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NFL Football History: "1939: NFL's First Televised Game"