Football fans in Philadelphia were unhappy yesterday, and not just because the Eagles lost.
In the early afternoon window, the local FOX affiliate showed the Panthers-Giants game. That turned out to be a great game that the Panthers won on a last-second 63-yard field goal. But the viewers in Philadelphia didn’t get to see it.
Instead, FOX cut off the end of the game to show two minutes of commercials, followed by the introduction to the Eagles-Vikings game. Here’s a video of exactly what Philadelphia fans saw.
“At the end of every game window there’s a 2 minute local break. Because it’s local it’s not really our time to manipulate,” FOX Sports told Philly.com in a statement. “We pulled out at the last possible moment to get that break in and still make it to kickoff of the Eagles game.”
In other words, FOX says the NFL’s rules about local affiliates televising every second of the local teams’ games required them to do what they did. But if that’s the case, the NFL’s rules need to change. The reality is, televising football isn’t like televising pre-taped scripted entertainment. Things change on the fly. Sometimes games go into overtime — and extra commercials are shown. Sometimes games run long and the programming scheduled to air afterward has to start later. The NFL should work with the networks to provide more flexibility so that a game in its final seconds, like Panthers-Giants was, doesn’t get taken off the air. If the NFL and its partners can show additional commercials when a game goes into overtime, it can figure out a way to miss a commercial to allow fans to see the ending of a great game. Or show the commercials in a split screen with the ending of the game — which would probably benefit the advertisers because viewers won’t channel surf if there’s an exciting ending of a game on at the same time as the commercial.
And if the NFL is going to mandate cutting away from a game in progress, how about giving viewers a warning on the screen a few seconds beforehand? That would give them time to look for another way to see the ending, such as turning the TV to Red Zone Channel.
There’s no better time to sit at home and watch TV than Sunday afternoons during football season. But there are simple steps the NFL could take to make the experience even better. And one of those steps is allowing fans to finish watching close games.