Expect sudden death for “The OT.”
On Thursday, the NFL announced a schedule modification that they said would be in the best interest of football fans.
On weeks where either CBS or FOX has a doubleheader, the second game will start at 4:25 PM ET, as opposed to the long-established 4:15 PM ET start time. Meanwhile, the other network with a single game for that week would continue airing it at either a 1 PM or 4:05 PM start time.
What led to this time change was league research that found nearly four dozen games in the early game window over the past three seasons were cut off before the end due to mandatory commitment to the late game in the markets involved.
“With a 4:25 PM ET kickoff time,” reads a press release from the NFL, “that number would have been reduced by 66 percent to only 15 games.” Or, roughly a dozen.
While the news means less of a chance to miss the end of a nailbiting football contest, looking on the other side of the ten-minute rollover, there could be weeks where “The OT” could be just long enough for “The O” when Fox has the doubleheader, while on weeks where CBS has the doubleheader, viewers of “60 Minutes” may have to wait, well, sixty minutes more until the start of that program.
As for NBC, with their “Football Night In America” show kicking off in the 7 PM ET hour, at which point some games could possibly just be starting the fourth quarter? They said the new late game time alteration would have no effect on how “Football Night” is produced. Of course, it should certainly have an effect on viewership of the show, not so much what it serves as a pregame to, the top-rated “Sunday Night Football.”
Watch NBC scream bloody murder about “Football Night” ratings being impacted by a late football game on one of the other networks. We could see an 8:35 PM ET kickoff for “SNF” if NBC has their druthers. It recently made history as the first sports program to be the most-watched show for an entire season. Why wouldn’t NBC propose a slightly-expanded “Football Night” with a later “SNF” start time to accommodate the late football window runover? It’s not like people are going to stop watching “SNF” as a result. True, some may fall asleep before the final snap of the game, but clearly, they’ll still watch.
And remember, there’s still one football game per week that starts at around 8:30 PM ET: ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (which used to start as late as 9 PM ET during its heyday on ABC). For the 2011 season, “MNF” ratings took a 10% hit, but that’s mostly due to the teams involved in most of the matchups becoming the dregs of the league as the season passes, and not so much the start time. NBC’s “SNF”? They usually have the most attractive games scheduled, and by the power vested in Roger Goodell, can have any game flexed into Sunday primetime (okay, most games) in lieu of a previously scheduled game which turns out to be a late-season stinker. It’s not the number one show in America for nothing. In this case, NBC could afford to mess with success, and have the Sunday night game start just a little bit later.
The first recipient of the new late game time will be Fox, as CBS will have U.S. Open Tennis commitments during Week 1 of the NFL. Both CBS and Fox will be taking advantage of the time modification in Week 17, when both networks will air doubleheaders, as has been the case since 2006.
Now, if only the league could also impose a two-hour delay on the start of that late game on September 10.