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Touchdown frenzy enhanced by NFL RedZone channel

The "OctoBox" can show up to eight games

The "OctoBox" can show up to eight games at once on the NFL Network's "NFL RedZone" channel. Credit: NFL Network

It still was early afternoon in Southern California, but it already had been a full day at NFL RedZone headquarters, what with snow falling in several stadiums, touchdowns coming at a record pace and a series of frantic finishes.

"When those games ended, when the dust settled, we looked around at each other in the studio and were like, 'Did that all really just happen?' " host Scott Hanson recalled three days later. "It was like watching a movie where you think you hit the crescendo and now a new thing makes your jaw drop. It seemed like whenever one finished, the next one outdid itself."

Such enthusiasm comes naturally to Hanson, whose caffeinated personality fits a job that involves seven hours of commercial-free frenzy every Sunday. But in this case, Football Nation could not help but agree with him.

What made that possible, in part, was NFL RedZone itself, which turned action spread across the country into a widely shared experience. Of the 104 touchdowns scored in Week 14, 85 were scored during RedZone's broadcast hours.

As the final hour of the early slate of games unfolded -- including five touchdowns in the last two-plus minutes of the Ravens-Vikings game -- social media buzz simply assumed that many were able to watch it unfold in real time, a new normal in sports fandom.

Until recently, only subscribers to DirecTV's "Sunday Ticket" could follow multiple games, a perk that satellite provider enhanced when it introduced its "Red Zone" in 2005, picking and choosing the juiciest bits from games.

Then in 2009, the NFL Network introduced its own version, vastly expanding the universe of homes that could see key parts of out-of-market games. Cablevision, which owns Newsday, came on board last season. It offers RedZone in its Optimum Gold package or as part of its Sports and Entertainment Pak, which costs $6.95 per month.

The NFL Network does not reveal RedZone subscriber figures, but Mark Quenzel, its senior VP of production and programming, said, "In general terms, I can tell you it's gone up every single year and it's gone up relatively significantly every single year."

While the channel has been a boon to fantasy team owners, gamblers and people with short attention spans, it is a potential concern for CBS and Fox, the league's TV partners during RedZone's window.

Has there been pushback? "I don't think there's been a lot of it," Quenzel said. "They look at the numbers the same way we look at the numbers."

By that, he meant ratings numbers, which continue to be robust across the board. Quenzel called it a "win-win scenario" in which RedZone helps promote the league to the benefit of all concerned.

Hanson is 42, old enough to recall an era when the first long look at out-of-market highlights was provided by ABC's Howard Cosell on Monday night, and later an era in which ESPN's Chris Berman did the honors on Sunday night.

Waiting no longer is an option for many fans. "NFL RedZone is for modern times," Hanson said.

Quenzel called it "the perfect product for the time we live in. Everybody expects to be plugged into everything all the time, instantaneously."

Having said all that, the NFL and its television arm are sensitive to the broadcast partners who help pay the bills, and to the fans who still like to watch a complete game unfold over the course of three hours.

"Even as a guy who makes his money by hosting this channel, we never want to infringe upon the Giants fan or the Jets fan who needs to see every snap of that game," Hanson said. "We encourage people: Watch your favorite team."

But . . .

"If the Jets or Giants are your favorite team," Hanson said, "I can almost guarantee you your second-favorite team is your fantasy team."

New York Sports