When it comes to making the NFL’s product more attractive by making it more scarce, the NFL claims it won’t consider ditching or limiting Thursday Night Football. However, it reportedly will be ditching another fairly recent broadcasting practice.
Via Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal, the NFL will stop playing London games separate and apart from the usual 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday window. The change, according to Flint, will commence next year.
This means that the 9:30 a.m. ET kickoffs will end in 2017, eliminating three Sundays when football was available to be watched in four Sunday windows, at 9:30 a.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. ET, 4:05/4:25 p.m. ET, and 8:30 p.m. ET.
Just last week, a report emerged that the NFL was considering scrapping the early Sunday games. The absence of 9:30 a.m. ET games removes live football from prime time in Asia, which was one of the more attractive aspects of playing a game in that window.
ESPN, NFL Network, FOX, and CBS likely are happy about the change, since most football fans would choose to watch actual football over the Sunday pregame shows.
Of course, if the 9:30 a.m. ET games had generated the kind of interest that the NFL had hoped they would, the change wouldn’t have happened. This year’s ratings crisis is proving that stand-alone football isn’t special simply because it’s football and it’s on TV. To attract significant interest in today’s climate, a stand-alone game must be significant.