The NFL will soon have games on TV 7 days a week
During his “State of the Union” press conference at the Super Bowl LVIII Media Day on Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Eagles would be the host team for a game in Brazil in Week 1 of the 2024 campaign.
That was no surprise–at least not the Brazil part. It’s just the latest in the NFL’s ongoing mission to take its version of football–the American version that’s not nearly as popular world-wide as the one where players use their feet exclusively to contact the ball–global.
Will the NFL ever be a global sensation? That seems highly unlikely, not unless Goodell and Co. can figure out a way to make the FOOTball version of football way less popular in countries like Brazil, England, Germany, France, Argentina, Italy, Spain, etc.
But, believe it or not, my ears didn’t perk up at the “Brazil” part of Goodell’s announcement. No, what got my attention was the “Friday” part. That’s right, the game, which, again, will include the Eagles as the host team, will be played on Friday, September 6, one day after the league’s annual Thursday Kickoff contest that always includes the previous Super Bowl winner and launches a new season.
What Goodell’s announcement told me is that the NFL is getting more comfortable airing or streaming games on Friday. The Jets and Dolphins just played in the league’s first-ever Black Friday game the day after the most recent Thanksgiving. It was the first time the NFL hosted a matchup on a Friday since the merger. That development was done to appease Amazon, the giant streaming service which didn’t get a Turkey Day contest as part of its $1 billion Thursday Night Football package.
With last year’s Black Friday game and this year’s matchup in Brazil, the NFL is pretty much telling its fans to prepare to watch professional football on Fridays on a consistent basis.
The league has been regularly playing games on Thursdays for over two decades, and while that might seem newish to you, Thursday Night Football was originally a feature of the NFL’s television packages in the late-’70s through the mid-’80s. I’m sure the Powers that Were were simply trying to cash in on the ratings bonanza that was the NFL, a league that was still in its infancy as America’s favorite pastime.
Today, the NFL is still America’s favorite pastime and also the last valuable television commodity. Football is the only thing that can get people to sit in front of their TVs and watch one thing at the same time. The endless streaming services and the on-demand way we can now consume our shows have reduced the ratings pie to mere slivers.
The NFL’s current television deal, one that includes Amazon, Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC/ESPN, is worth $110 billion. That’s obviously a lot of money, especially in this day and age when, again, ratings for everything continue to shrink.
But the NFL’s ratings aren’t shrinking. In fact, as per Forbes, 93 of the 100 highest-rated television shows from 2023 were NFL broadcasts.
That number was 82 out of 100 in 2022. To reiterate: The NFL is the only thing that can hold a captive audience in the modern era.
You know what that likely means? Get ready for Tuesday Night Football. Prepare yourself for Wednesday Night Football.
That might sound crazy, but I assure you that it’s not. I mean, the NFL airing (or streaming) on Saturdays in December, something that’s been a reality for decades, was always a natural fit. College football’s regular season ends in late November, thus creating a football void that can easily be filled with a slate of NFL contests. Doesn’t seem like a huge deal to play an NFL game on a Saturday. As for any other day besides Sunday?
Have any of them ever seemed natural?
Football on Tuesday might not be a natural fit, but is it much less of one than Monday Night Football?
Thursday Night Football seems totally natural because, again, it’s been around for a long time. WNF would likely seem normal after a season or two.
I can see a time when the league and the networks negotiate deals for Tuesday Night Football, Wednesday Night Football and Friday Night Football. If you’re a major network like Fox, CBS, NBC or ABC/ESPN, you’re going to want to get the biggest bang for your buck, especially if the rights for NFL games are only going to increase with every new television contract. What’s your average scripted/reality show generate in terms of ratings? Maybe 8 million viewers on a good night? Why not try to double that every Tuesday during football season?
ABC could have MNF. Fox could win the TueNF package. CBS could negotiate for the rights to WNF.
I can go on and on until I get to Friday, but the NFL has already gotten to Friday.
Again, Tuesday or Wednesday Night Football seems absurd, but not if you’re really paying attention. “How can they ask NFL players to suit up for Wednesday Night Football when they just played on Sunday?” They’ll find creative ways, I’m sure.
The networks are trying to survive. They’re trying to remain relevant. Even if NBC eventually gives way to Peacock and CBS evolves into Paramount+, they’re still going to be the major players. They’re still going to want subscribers and advertisers. They’re still going to want to buy the rights to the NFL.
And we’re going to continue to watch less and less of anything that doesn’t involve the NFL.
That’s going to mean football seven days a week.
We’re now up to five nights a week. What’s another two?