As the news broke late this afternoon that the NFL was going to have CBS and NBC simulcast NFL Network’s feed of Saturday’s Patriots-Giants game, I was thinking who won and who lost. Right off the bat, you can see some obvious winners like the majority of NFL fans who now won’t have to resort to listening to radio or finding other means of finding the game. But with some time, I have thought of some not so obvious winners and losers. So let’s go over the list.
The Fans – Now, that CBS and NBC are on board, the game will be seen by a wide audience. The NFL Network is is 40% of the nation’s homes and while the NFL could have stuck to its guns and kept the game, the league did the right thing by making it available to over the air TV.
CBS and NBC – With a lack of original programming on Saturday nights, the networks can now promote the game and generate some ad revenue on an otherwise dead night for viewing.
CBS and NBC affiliates in New England – While stations WCVB in Boston, WMUR in Manchester, NH and WWOR in New York were contracted by the NFL to carry the game in each team’s home markets, other stations in and around the local region were about to be shut out. While stations in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont all appealed or were appealing to carry Pats-Giants, their requests would have mostly likely been denied. Now with the most recent decision, WFSB (CBS) in Hartford and WJAR (NBC) in Providence can now carry the game from their respective networks without having to pay the NFL Network a rights fee.
The NFL – Yes, while the NFL caved, it also wins here by saving face and making itself look like the hero. It not only prevents some major embarrassment from keeping the game on the NFL Network, but now raises the overall ratings.
John Kerry – I hate to give him credit, but his letter writing campaign to the NFL and threats to have hearings on the subject gave league officials some pause and led to this unprecedented three way simulcast.
Big Cable – Comcast, Time Warner, Suddenlink, Bright House, Insight and other major cable providers are smiling a wide grin tonight because not only do they keep the status quo by not being forced to carry the NFL Network this weekend, they also get to carry the game through local network affiliates for free. They’re the big winners in this along with the fans. The major providers said they wouldn’t cave and they didn’t.
The NFL – Yup, the NFL definitely caved after saying it would not give the game to other outlets. But the NFL Network also gets its widest audience for one of its games, granted, it took two network partners to help it along.
Sports Bars – Sports bars across the country that carried the NFL Network either through DirecTV or digital cable will not be packed. While there will be those fans who will want to go out to see the game, business will not be as good as hoped. And the NFL won’t have to send spies out to take the game off screens larger than 50 inches.
WCVB, WMUR and WWOR – Until about 4:30 this afternoon, these three stations were the only over the air outlets that were going to carry the game. But that all changed when CBS and NBC were contracted as well. Now in Boston, there will be four ways to watch the game. Not only will WCVB carry the game, but so will CBS affiliate WBZ, NBC affiliate WHDH in addition to the NFL Network on Comcast’s sports tier. In New York, WWOR will see WCBS and WNBC also carrying the game thus lowering its rating. So the ratings in New York and Boston will be divided among three to four outlets. Imagine the rates that were sold to advertisers by WCVB, WMUR and WWOR based on market exclusivity. Plus, there might have to be some give-backs to advertisers who bought time thinking they would reach a wide audience in the home markets. That totally goes out the window now.
Fox Sports and ESPN - Why CBS and NBC were chosen by the NFL to simulcast and not Fox and ESPN is not totally known. Yes, this would have been CBS’ game had it been on a Sunday afternoon and NBC’s had it been on Sunday night, but what was the official reasoning behind giving the game to CBS and NBC? Was it the fact the two networks have the longest relationship with the NFL? Or has Fox and ESPN angered the NFL in ways unbeknownst to the public. We’ll never know.
NFL Network – What would have been most likely the highest cable rating ever for the NFL Network will now be minuscule. Now, the NFL Network’s rating will be small and the shine of having the exclusive window is gone as well. But the NFL Network will still get an audience. It will just be through CBS and NBC.
So the NFL with this last minute move gets the wide audience it was seeking for Saturday’s game and also gives its network partners some ratings as well.
Let’s give you some links while we’re at it.
The Sports Media Watch also has some thoughts on this unprecedented simulcast and the potential ratings results. And Paulsen says the politicians with their hollow threats overstepped their bounds.
Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News has some thoughts about the move in his Farther Off the Wall blog.
Richard Sandomir of the New York Times writes that NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol helped to bring the simulcast into fruition.
CNBC’s Darren Rovell correctly surmises that the NFL Network is the big loser here.
The Boston Sports Media Watch has a transcript of the NFL Network conference call with analysts Cris Collinsworth and Steve Mariucci.
Here’s the press release from NBC about the simulcast.
In a totally unrelated note, Tom Hoffarth reports the sad news that legendary Los Angeles sports anchor Stu Nahan has died at the age of 81. You may remember seeing Stu on various national NBC broadcasts as well as the Rocky movies and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
We’ll have more perspective on this story tomorrow. I’m surprised we didn’t hear from Newsday’s Neil Best on this. I’m sure we’ll get his reaction on Thursday.