After being transfixed by the first two days of the NCAA tournament, in which games are starting/ending every hour all day (a scheduling format that somehow wasn’t implemented until only a few years ago), my first thought was, “Hmm, what other sports league has 16 games to broadcast each week, pretty much all on the same day…”
I’ve long had many issues with the NFL’s weekly schedule. I’ve never understood why every Sunday the league always dumps a whopping 8-10 games at 1 p.m. and only three at 4 p.m. (four if we’re lucky). After 10-game chaos during the early slate, which makes it impossible to keep track of everything around the league, RedZone abruptly screeches to a halt around 4:15. Plus, there’s a giant vortex of nothing from 7:30-8:30 between the late games and Sunday Night Football (not to mention the vortexes at 2:30 and 5:30 when each slate of games’ halftimes align).
The NFL could certainly stand to spread out its games a bit more. Now ideally, this would include Fridays and Saturdays, but because of an anti-trust agreement, the NFL isn’t allowed to broadcast games those days, a measure in place to prevent the pro ranks’ cannibalization of high school and college football. (This rule seems pretty dumb. The NFL is only one of thousands of entertainment options that compete with high school and college football viewership. It’s not like they prohibit movies from being shown on Saturday afternoons. Imagine how much NBC’s already low ratings would plummet if they prevented The Voice from airing on certain nights to protect other shows. But I digress…)
However, if we must operate under the (dumb) limit of only having NFL games on Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays, here’s how each week could be scheduled…
(All times EST)
Game 1: 8:00 p.m.
Game 2: 11:00 a.m.
Game 3: 12:00 p.m.
Game 4: 1:00 p.m.
Game 5: 2: 00 p.m.
Game 6: 3:00 p.m.
Game 7: 4: 00 p.m.
Game 8: 5:00 p.m.
Game 9: 6:00 p.m.
Game 10: 7:00 p.m.
Game 11: 8:00 p.m.
Game 12: 9:00 p.m.
Game 13: 10:00 p.m.
Game 14: 7:00 p.m.
Game 15: 8:00 p.m.
Game 16: 9:00 p.m.
That’s right, a MNF triple header! And this is only for the eight weeks in which all 32 teams are playing. For bye weeks, you could easily take out the 8 p.m. MNF game, the late 10 p.m. Sunday, and/or the early 11 a.m. Sunday games.
Now, this might seem so obvious that there surely has to be a reason the NFL hasn’t done it already, right? One reason might be that the primetime deals with NBC, ESPN, and now CBS are far more lucrative when they’re stand-alone games, but surely the price the NFL charges for these rights wouldn’t be cut by more than half if it came with the caveat that there was another game at that time on a different channel. Plus, as the NFL learned from some unspeakably dreadful MNF match-ups this season—and even one SNF one despite flex scheduling (Giants-Redskins), it’s probably a good idea to have some backup in case there are some clunkers.
I suppose the FOX and CBS might also want a designated time to synchronously broadcast halftime shows, but are Jimmy, Terry, Howie, and the gang really so invaluable to prevent implementation of PERPETUAL Sunday football?
And sure, the NFL likes its “Game of the Week” at 4 p.m., but it already has a Thursday, Sunday, and Monday national game (and under my proposal, would have multiple Monday night games). Plus, it’s not like the NFL can’t designate the 4 p.m. game as the “Game of the Week” and nationally broadcast it for all the markets who don’t have a local game at that time.
And while a staggered slate might be more difficult for CBS/FOX to schedule for a national audience, I figure each local area will still get its local game at its designated time, with CBS/FOX filling in the rest of the time as they so choose in each market.
Bottom line: Even if the league did want stand-alone primetime games, there’s no reason the afternoon slate couldn’t be staggered. And the best part? They can still run RedZone, only now all day!