Brady’s move to Tampa Bay posed late challenges for networks

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2020, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures to a teammate before an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Tennessee Titans in Foxborough, Mass. A highlight of the opening weekend of the NFL season will have Brady's regular-season debut with Tampa Bay against Drew Brees at New Orleans on Sept. 13 — the first matchup of 40-plus quarterbacks in NFL history. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

By JOE REEDY AP Sports Writer

Tom Brady’s move to Tampa Bay didn’t just create ripples with fans. It caused networks to drastically rework their last-minute requests with the NFL scheduling office to make sure the Buccaneers got as many high-profile dates as possible.

When the NFL’s regular-season schedule was announced on Thursday night, all of the league television partners were satisfied with how Tampa Bay’s games were distributed.

The Bucs are slated to make five prime-time appearances (one Thursday, two Sunday night, two Monday night) with all of them slated between Weeks 5-12. That’s a pretty big audible for a team that was expected to have maybe two at best before signing Brady.

Pending developments in the coronavirus pandemic, Tampa Bay’s opener at New Orleans will be Fox’s featured “America’s Game of the Week,” as will the Oct. 18 game against Green Bay. CBS will showcase the Bucs in the 4:25 p.m. EST window on Nov. 29, when they host defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City. Fox — which has the NFC and Thursday night packages — has Tampa Bay nine times, while CBS, ESPN and NBC each have them twice. The Week 16 game at Detroit will be on either Fox or NFL Network, which will be determined later in the season.

Fox has five of Tampa Bay’s first six games, including its first prime-time game on Thursday, Oct. 8 at Chicago.

“I can’t think of a single player move ever that adjusted requests and turned the process upside down as much as this,” said Fox Sports senior vice president Michael Mulvihill about Brady signing with Tampa Bay. “I think the league treated everyone well with Tampa Bay because they knew how great everyone’s interest was. It was a significant curveball.”

Brady’s former team isn’t dropping off the radar. New England has five scheduled prime-time appearances (one Thursday, two Sunday night, two Monday night) and has the featured CBS late afternoon spot at Kansas City (Oct. 4) and versus San Francisco (Oct. 25).

“They are still going to be a big story for us. Plus, I will never sell Bill Belichick short,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “They still have a great tradition and legacy.”

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