There’s always a lot at stake at an NFL football game but this year, the league decided to break its own rules to avoid a ratings disaster for the last game of the season, on New Year’s Eve. The National Football League is trying to save face after already having lower ratings than last year, and it doesn’t want to look worse than it already does.
Here is the deal:
The big nationally televised game of the week is Sunday night on NBC. In fact, from week 5 through 16 (out of 17), the Peacock Network can choose whichever game was scheduled for earlier Sunday, as long as it wasn’t the one “protected” by CBS or Fox.
But the NFL can choose the last game of the season, or in this case it chose not to have one.
So usually, NBC gets the best game and — being in primetime on the most watched night of the week — also the best ratings. It pays for that.
NBC’s website says the New Year’s Eve game on Week 17 was supposed to be determined (“TBD”) by the NFL. However, the NFL canceled the game.
What’s in it for NBC? I won’t lose sleep over that. Instead, the other games will be shown on CBS and Fox at either 1 or 4pm ET.
According to the NFL, all games with playoff implications will be played at the same time.
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) December 25, 2017
“We felt that both from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective, the most fair thing to do is to schedule all Week 17 games in either the 1pm or 4:25pm ET windows,” NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz announced. “This ensures that we do not have a matchup on ‘Sunday Night Football’ on New Year’s Eve that because of earlier results has no playoff implications for one or both of the competing teams.”
Both CBS and Fox were scheduled to get double-headers on the last week of the season. (I’m not sure about local stations whose team plays at home when their network has a double-header week. They usually lose out on their second game.) But wherever you watch on local TV, there won’t be more than two games at 1 and two that actually count at 4.
Taking a chance is part of life and business, and the NFL punted. Of course, it didn’t have to schedule a New Year’s Eve game that probably wouldn’t have done too well in the first place, but that’s their problem. I also don’t know if NBC objected when it checked the calendar, a year ago.
So the NFL created its own fake drama. It’s moving three CBS games from 1 to 4, and two Fox games from 1 to 4. That means fans who want to see as many games with playoff implications as possible won’t be able to, since they’ll all be played at the same time!
The NFL figured some of the 1pm games that decide playoff positions will convince teams playing 4pm games to sit out their star players, rest them for the playoffs, and guarantee they wouldn’t get hurt. There would be less of a draw at 4 or primetime, despite the league’s own scheduling rules.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Eagles’ hated opponents, the Dallas Cowboys, have no chance of making the playoffs.
Foles and the Birds are scheduled to play the Cowboys Sunday at 1 because neither has anything to gain or lose.
What they really wanted was a final game that had playoff implications that would get people to watch. This year, to their disappointment, it wasn’t going to happen.
So the NFL decided to inconvenience the fans.
The Eagles were originally scheduled to play the Cowboys at home, in Lincoln Financial Field, at 1pm. Five other games, involving ten other teams, were moved back.
How many fans? And let’s not forget their families and friends who weren’t going to go, but catch up later.
Fans paying for high-priced tickets who were planning to pack stadiums were aware one game could be moved to prime time, even on New Year’s Eve, changing their celebration plans.
Instead, hundreds of thousands in five stadiums that could be full of fans at 1pm ET will have to change their plans and wait until later in the afternoon. Talk about an inconvenience for all those people who paid for tickets! And the 1pm games will mean nothing.
In a year with — low ratings, two teams moving, a third in the process, controversy continuing over behavior during the National Anthem, and players who protested last year not playing this year — the NFL decided to do whatever it felt like to save itself.
Instead, it’s losing more and more respect in the process.
I don’t call that a win.
Comment below: Which game(s) do you WANT to watch, and which game(s) WILL you watch?