Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 17: NFL Game Scheduling

The NFL season is relatively short, but for good reason. What we call football in North America is a violent sport, so 16 games in the regular season for each team — spread out over 17 weeks — is a sufficient number.

The brevity of the NFL football season in comparison to other major sports makes the value of these games that much greater. Football fans looks forward to each game with anticipation and bemoan anything, even a spouse, that threatens to get between them and the game.

There is nothing we can do when networks — or cable providers by extension mess with our programming. We can complain and that’s what I’m going to do. There are about four areas where CBS and FOX in particular piss me off during the NFL season. Not everything is their fault, as NFL stipulations take effect every Sunday per contract.

Doubleheaders and Single Games

Once upon a time, the two major networks showing NFL games each had double-headers on Sunday for 17 weeks (and sometimes on Saturday). Now, it is rare for both CBS and FOX to each show two games on the same Sunday. They alternated for the first 8 weeks of the NFL season at one point, but that changed, too.

This section is more of a complaint against the NFL, to be certain. Under the current television broadcast contracts, all networks who bought the rights to NFL games have to follow stringent roles. As mandated by the National Football League, CBS and FOX affiliates may each only show up to eight doubleheaders a year. This means in most weeks, either CBS or FOX may carry just one early game (1PM Eastern/10AM Pacific) or one late game (4:05 ET/1:05 PT) while the other will have both the early and a late game (at 4:25 ET/1:25 PT to account for any runover).


Regional Games

What really gets me is FOX’s choice of games to air in my area. I’m a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, and I would like to see more of their games. This was especially true from 2011-2012, when they have had good records for back-to-back years for the first time since 2001-2012. As I am in California, I can understand if Raiders games are shown on CBS and sometimes on FOX (but the Raiders have not been to the playoffs for over a decade). I would understand if Chargers games were shown, too, although I have never really cared for that team. Anyway, the Niners are the only NFC team in California, so there should be a greater chance that they are featured on FOX in California markets, right? No….there is no guarantee for viewers outside San Francisco’s market. Instead, local networks show the Cowboys and Giants. I’m not in Texas or NY, jerks!

Besides this BS, there are blackout rules to deal with. If a team doesn’t sell out tickets 72 hours before a game for the week, that game might not be shown in that region. That rule has existed since the early 1970’s, but it was suspended in 2015. It could come back in 2016.

Well yeah, I guess one remedy to either of these problems is ordering DirecTV and ordering their Sunday NFL Ticket. But I hate DirecTV, I can’t get that right now anyway, and why should I fork all that money over when I just want to see one game and I’ll get a bunch of junk cable networks I will never watch? Also, there has long been a risk of blackout even for DirectTV subscribers. Additionally, switchover happen.

And again, a last recourse is finding a stream online, but it’s hard to find a free site that doesn’t lag or infect a computer. It costs money to have the best there, too (but I heard it was worth it).


Switchovers

I really hate it when one game is being shown over another. This can go one of two ways. In one scenario, an early game runs over the estimated broadcast time (approx. 3 hours and 14 minutes), so most viewers will miss the first minutes of the late game. In the second scenario, the early game could be interrupted to show the late game in its entirety, but that is rare.

Most of the time, it seems that a network is:

  1. Keeping a boring game that has already been decided on the air;
  2. Doing this while the late game is more intriguing; or
  3. Cutting into an exciting early game

My main complaint here is a certain amount of bias that goes into these switchover decisions. For example, a number of Broncos games were shown in their entirety in the 2013, and it didn’t matter if those were late or early games or what the score was. Either the producers would cut into the early games or run over. Sure, Peypey was having his record season, but not everyone’s of fan of his. (I never was and I don’t have to be. Suck it, plebs!) Anyway, it really does a disservice to those fans in other markets outside those of the teams playing, especially if their teams have just become relevant again.


Sideline Reporting

This has long been a complaint of viewers, although I’m too bothered by it. That might be because I kinda like some of them, like Pam Oliver and former defensive tackle Tony Siragusa. Anyway, I could see why someone would hate sideline reporting.

For one thing, the reporters ask some of the stupidest questions. “So, coach, what do you plan to do in the second half?” That question will most likely be given an equally stupid or empty answer. “We need to do better than we’re doing, ma’am.”

Secondly, sideline reporting is generally useless. The tidbits of information we are given really adds nothing to the game itself. I don’t care that one of the linebackers helped build the set of his daughter’s school play. That would be nice to see in a full-on player profile in a 30-minute special, but I don’t care about it during a game.

Third, sideline reporting takes away from plays. When viewers have to hear from Oliver and others, it takes focus away from the plays that are developing. Even worse is when the producers cut away from the gameplay to show the reporters, players on the sideline who are having their life stories narrated, or cleats.


Commercial Inflation during the NFL Season

I have to include this complaint in the post although I already addressed it in my post about commercials. Adding to those thoughts, I have to say that the amount of commercials during NFL broadcasts is annoying. It had already gotten bad before the early 2000’s to that point that live spectators were finally feeling it. Basically, there are so many commercials that it stretches the length of the game’s broadcast.  There are supposed to be 60 minutes of actual gameplay, but since the entire broadcast is over 3 full hours that means there will be tons of delays. Halftime is one thing, but it’s gotta be annoying for live spectators to wait and wait and wait for plays to begin and drives to develop.


Alternative Programming during My NFL Season!

Often, what is shown in place of football bores me. There have been times when FOX in particular shows rodeos, awful movies, or European Soccer. The last event might appeal to other Americans, though.

Anyway, my main complaint about alternative programming on Sundays is that it exists. I seriously don’t get it. Why does the NFL limit how many games are being featured on network television on Sundays?

From what I have read about the deal the NFL has with DirecTV, the exclusivity of the package was meant to protect the affiliates of major networks from lost revenue. Out-of market teams would have some of their games featured on the satellite service while the product would be limited. I guess this makes sense, when you consider how expensive it is to show NFL games, with the price jumping from a total of $20.4 billion to over $39 billion dollars for all networks from the last collective bargaining agreement to the next.

Still sucks though.

Next up is a rant on NFL narratives.

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2 thoughts on “Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 17: NFL Game Scheduling

  1. If you understand the NFL and network TV thrives on maximizing their profits , you begin to understand some of their illogical , broadcasting decisions. Winning teams generate more money , so that is a major reason they are broadcast more often. Similar to this point , ihow much does the frequency of commercial breaks impair the continuity of the game?

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    1. It’s not just winning teams, but those in the larger markets. If you have ever looked at television markets, you would notice that much of the larger ones are coastal, and especially situated in the East. That would be why a teams like the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants are shown so much, even when those teams are losing. The NFC East is given so much attention by itself and the current teams — particularly the Cowboys — were kept in that division due to ratings, regardless of geography.

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