The NFL is the league that can for the most part, schedule its games whenever and wherever it wants. Out of left field on Thursday came the news that the late Sunday afternoon doubleheader game would be pushed from the customary 4:15 p.m. ET slot to 4:25 p.m. This was done to avoid the overlaps from the early Sunday afternoon games into the late contests. Often to fill time in between games, the NFL TV partners, CBS or Fox would show a 1 p.m. ET game that was heading towards a fantastic finish. But as the early game was about to come to a conclusion, the 4:15 p.m. games would be ready to start and CBS or Fox would break in, cite NFL rules and end of the early game was lost.
Now with the late games starting 10 minutes later, those overlaps can be avoided unless the early game goes into overtime.
But the new starting time will effect two NFL partners in particular. One being CBS which utilizes football to jumpstart its primetime lineup starting with 60 Minutes into The Amazing Race and then The Good Wife then finally the 10 p.m. show which last season was CSI: Miami. With the late game most likely ending past 7:30 p.m., CBS has a dilemma of whether to cut 60 Minutes on its 9 Sundays where it has a national late game, let the NFL overrun push the entire lineup back as it has traditionally done over the years, or even dramatically, cut the 10 p.m. show altogether, which will be The Mentalist starting in September. As Nellie Andreeva of Deadline writes, CBS had delays of its lineup on average of 27 minutes last season on doubleheader Sundays. I think CBS will most likely cut the 10 p.m. episode of The Mentalist for those 9 weeks as local affiliates do not like starting their newscasts too late.
The other NFL TV partner that would most likely take a hit will be NBC and Football Night in America. NBC bought the rights to have the “official” highlight show at 7 p.m. ET. By agreement with the NFL, it can’t start showing highlights until 7:15 p.m. Now with the new start time for late games, this ensures that NBC won’t get an audience for FINA until at the earliest 7:30 providing the late games end on time which they rarely do. Does NBC air a half-hour of Dateline at 7 p.m. knowing that it will be sacrificed to the NFL gods? Or does Football Night in America fill the first half-hour with features, interviews and previews of the upcoming Sunday Night Football game.
Fox comes out pretty much unscathed on doubleheader Sundays by scheduling The O.T. its NFL wrap up show that always ends at 8 p.m. allowing The Simpsons to start on time and not blowing away the entire primetime lineup.
Because of the money paid to the NFL, you won’t hear the networks publicly complain, but you know the suits at CBS and NBS can’t be happy about the NFL’s decision. While the ratings for the late games will continually draw better numbers than the Sunday Night Football game, the path of destruction on the primetime lineups will be rather heavy.
Instead of the NFL trying to fit the games into preexisting windows, the league does what it will always do, create its own rules and let the networks deal with the consequences.
The NFL could schedule a game at 3 a.m. ET and we would find a way to watch because it’s football plus America can’t go without missing a contest.
Let’s see where this new time will take us.