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NFL to switch U.K. television coverage from BBC to ITV

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In an effort to grow its expanding British fanbase, the NFL has announced a new partnership with broadcast network ITV. Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/02258728af851180c3218bbd8879b2ff/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
In an effort to grow its expanding British fanbase, the NFL has announced a new partnership with broadcast network ITV. Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The National Football League said Wednesday that its British coverage will air this season on network channel ITV following seven years on the BBC.

The coverage is part of a three-year deal that the league signed with ITV.

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The network will begin televising the matchups on Sept. 8, the start of the upcoming 2022-2023 NFL season.

The first game to air will be the marquis matchup pitting the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams against the Buffalo Bills.

The network will not show the NFL games in their entirety. Rather, ITV's coverage will consist of hour-long episodes that show off the game highlights throughout each weekend.

Only three games will air unedited on the network, the most prominent being Super Bowl 57 on Feb. 12.

The other pair of fully aired matchups will be international games taking place in London, with the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 9 and the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 30.

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The BBC will be surrendering the NFL rights back to ITV after the network previously held ownership in the early 2000s.

The last NFL game to air on ITV was the 2007 Super Bowl, the last of three consecutive championship games that the network showed.

ITV's director of sport, Niall Sloane, said in a statement that the deal "will bring to ITV viewers the very best of the NFL each week in our highlights shows throughout the season as well as key live games."

"We're delighted to be able to offer viewers, free to air, across our channels as well as the ITV Hub, the unique spectacle and action the NFL brings," he added.

The NFL U.K.'s managing director, Henry Hodgson, echoed a similar sentiment.

"This is another significant milestone for the NFL in this country," Hodgson said. "We have enjoyed seven fantastic years of NFL coverage on BBC TV and the time is right to take advantage of the opportunities offered by a new partnership with ITV."

"When you look at the development of the NFL in the U.K. in recent years -- with momentum behind fan growth, more London games, successful British players in the NFL, the launch of an Academy and a charitable foundation -- this announcement is another sign of our ambition to grow and develop the sport in the U.K.," Hodgson added.

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ITV's coverage will be hosted by London-born defensive end Osi Umenyiora, one of five British-based players with a Super Bowl ring.

Umenyiora said that he "felt so embraced by British fans and we are excited that they will be able to watch us on ITV."

"We have seen the NFL grow to a level I could never have imagined from when I played here for the Giants in 2007," he added. "This new partnership can see us bringing the sport to an even broader audience."

Despite American football having an overall small British following, the sport has been growing its influence in Britain recently.

According to a 2019 report from the Los Angeles Times, there are around 15 million NFL fans in Britain, with four million of them considering themselves 'avid' or 'hardcore' fans of the sport.

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