Part 2 of a three-part look at the many NFL media changes this season, beginning with this 6-pack of notes and thoughts:
▪ It’s one thing to put Thursday night games on Amazon.
But it’s quite another to give a postseason game to a streaming service, and the NFL’s decision to allow NBC to place this season’s Saturday night wild card playoff game on its streaming service, Peacock, feels like a bridge too far.
Let’s be clear: This is strictly a money grab by the NFL. NBC reportedly is paying $110 million for both the game and the ability to move the game to Peacock, which charges $5.99 per month to subscribe.
The question is how many streaming services does the NFL expect fans to buy?
You will need Amazon to watch Thursday games, cable television to watch ESPN (and NBC, CBS and Fox games unless you have a really good antenna), ESPN plus to watch a Jacksonville-Atlanta game from London and Peacock to watch a Bills-Chargers game on Saturday night, Dec. 23, and now, a playoff game, too.
And, of course, you will need to shell out hundreds to YouTube TV to watch the out-of-market Sunday Ticket games that previously were sold by DirecTV.
Perhaps you will find a sports bar that pays a rights fee to air the playoff game on Jan. 13, which will follow a 4:30 p.m. wild card game on NBC. But even if you do, it’s an inconvenience for those who prefer to spend the day on their couch.
And for the NFL’s youngest fans and oldest fans who cannot drive to a sports bar, well, tough luck. And for an older generation without a Smart TV and access to, or understanding of, streaming services, tough luck to you, too.
For those folks, you will need to listen to the game on the radio, like they did in the old days.
For a league awash in money, relegating a playoff game to a service that’s seen in just 7 percent of U.S. homes is pretty disrespectful.
Maybe it wouldn’t feel that way in 2028, as more homes continue to ditch cable and switch to streaming services. But in 2023, it feels wrong and premature.
Incidentally, the Peacock games (Bills-Chargers and the playoff game) will be televised on a non-cable TV station in the markets of the participating teams. NBC will get three wild card games this year, with two of those airing on NBC and one on Peacock. Fox, CBS and ESPN get one wild card game each.
▪ The fact the Dolphins (9-8 last season) received five standalone national telecasts is a sign of respect.
NFL executive Onnie Bose said the Dolphins — who were given five full national games, including three at night — are viewed as a “competitive, compelling, interesting team.”
But a few teams with worse records last season received more prime-time appearances than Miami’s three.
Denver received four prime-time games, a sign that the NFL believes Sean Payton can revive a team that went 5-12 last season.
The Raiders (6-11 last season) also got four prime-time games and six standalone windows overall.
And Green Bay, which is breaking in new quarterback Jordan Love, got five prime-time games.
▪ One of the Dolphins’ three prime-time games — on Dec. 11 at home on ESPN against Tennessee — competes directly with a Packers-Giants game on ABC.
Three times this season, ABC and ESPN will air different “Monday Night Football” games on the same night.
It happens with Saints-Panthers and Browns-Steelers on Monday night in Week 2, and Eagles-Bucs and Rams-Bengals on Monday night in Week 3. But unlike the Dolphins game on Dec. 11, there are staggered starts (7:15, 8:15) for those two sets of games.
So why did the NFL schedule both the Dolphins and Packers games at 8:15 on Dec. 11?
NFL executive Mike North said the league is experimenting with different strategies — including staggering the starts or starting games at the same time — to see what approach works best and draws the largest audience.
“I”m sure we will try again with 7 and 10 [p.m.] and get six consecutive hours,” North said. “The fans will tell us what they’re interested in.”
And NFL executive Hans Schroeder said that if the Dolphins-Titans game hadn’t been placed on Monday night, there’s “a good chance this would have been a game going to regional [audience] on CBS on Sunday afternoon.”
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call the ABC games on those two simultaneous-game September Mondays, while Chris Fowler, Louis Riddick and Dan Orlovsky call the ESPN games.
▪ CBS and Fox both get doubleheaders on the first and last Sunday of the season, and the Dolphins’ 4:25 p.m. opener at the Chargers will be part of a crowded late CBS window that day with Eagles-Patriots and Raiders-Broncos. Only 15 percent of the country is getting Dolphins-Chargers. Here are the regionalization maps, with Kevin Harlan and Trent Green calling the Dolphins game.
▪ By calling every game a “free agent” the NFL had left the impression that there would be a lot more NFC games on CBS and AFC games on Fox. That isn’t the case.
The league confirmed that each AFC team must still make a minimum number of appearances on CBS and each NFC team must still make a minimum number of appearances on Fox. The league wouldn’t specify that number but said it’s about half the games.
The Dolphins have only two games that don’t follow the traditional AFC/CBS and Fox/NFC partnerships — a game at Washington on Fox and a home game against Carolina on CBS.
The only other Fox Dolphins games are two that would traditionally be on Fox — the Week 5 home game against the Giants and the Christmas Eve 4:25 p.m. home game against Dallas.
At least eight games will air on CBS.
The Dec. 11 Titans game on ESPN, the Nov. 5 game against Kansas City in Germany on NFL Network and the Friday, Nov. 24 game against the Jets on Amazon will all air on a non-cable station in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market.
▪ For the first time, ESPN gets arguably a more interesting Monday Night Football opener (Jets-Bills in Aaron Rodgers’ Jets debut) than NBC’s Thursday night opener (Detroit-Kansas City).
Also for the first time, ESPN gets flex scheduling on Monday nights, usually from Weeks 12 to 17. So if there’s a dud scheduled on Monday night during those weeks, the NFL can shift that game to Sunday afternoon on CBS or Fox and move a Sunday afternoon game to ESPN, as long as it’s done no later than 12 days in advance.
The ESPN games that could be flexed this year: Chicago-Minnesota, Cincinnati-Jacksonville, Tennessee-Dolphins, Kansas City-New England.
The Week 16 game (Baltimore-San Francisco) is on ABC on Christmas night, and the Week 17 Monday night game is on a Saturday, Detroit-Dallas on Dec. 30. Neither can be flexed.
ESPN also gets a second-weekend NFL playoff game for the first time, in addition to the wild card game that it already has been carrying.
This is Part 2 of a three-part series with NFL media news and notes to prepare you for the season.
Here’s Part 1 on changes to NFL Sunday Ticket and Amazon’s Thursday games.