'

Does NFL Sunday Night Scheduling Help Ratings?

Categories: ',TV Ratings

Written By

November 11th, 2007

nfllogo.jpgBeginning with Sunday, November 18, the Flexible Scheduling policy allows the NFL to determine which game will be played at 8:15pm Eastern time in front of a national TV audience on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

While the NFL has long changed games from 1 to 4pm [and vice versa] on Sundays, this is only the second year of the "Flex" policy allowing them to change a daytime game to a night game.

What effect did it have on ratings last year and what games are we likely to see this year because of it?

In 2006, the Flexible Scheduling policy was in effect on weeks 10-15 and 17. [Week 16 Sunday was Christmas Eve].

Did it have a noticeable effect on the ratings on those weeks?

The following chart shows the viewership trend for both the ESPN Monday Night game and the NBC Sunday Night game. There was no Sunday night game in weeks 7 and 16, and no Monday night game in week 17.

nflsundaymonday2006.gif

(click chart for full-sized image)

The Monday night games were all determined before the season start and were unchangeable, as were the Sunday night games in weeks 1-9.

Visually there seems to have been no clear ratings trend/benefit to the Flexible Scheduling policy. The average viewership of the Sunday night games in weeks 1-9 was 12.4m, in weeks 10-15 and 17 it was 11.4m, a decline of 8%. The equivalent averages for Monday night games were 9.7m and 8.3m, a decline of 14%. However there were far too many other variables for a difference that small to be considered significant. We'll look at this season again after the fact and see if we can see a trend.

Now then, just for us fans, what are the games currently scheduled on Sunday nights for the rest of this season and which are the games we are likely to actually see.

Week Game Day Scheduled Likely? Decision Day
11 11/18/07 NE @ BUF Already changed 11/6/07
12 11/25/07 PHI @ NE Kept as PHI @ NE 11/13/07
13 12/2/07 CIN @ PIT Kept as CIN @ PIT 11/20/07
14 12/9/07 IND @ BAL Kept as IND @ BAL 11/27/07
15 12/16/07 WAS @ NYG Kept as WAS @ NYG 12/4/07
16 12/23/07 WAS @ MIN Changed to WAS @ MIN from TB @ SF 12/11/07
17 12/30/07 KC @ NYJ TEN @ IND, DAL @ WAS, DET @ GB 12/24/07

11/14 UPDATE: Surprise, surprise, the 11/25 game was kept as PHI @ NE.

11/21 UPDATE: The 12/2 game has been kept as CIN @ PIT

11/28 UPDATE: The 12/9 game has been kept as IND @ BAL

12/6 UPDATE: The 12/16 game has been kept as WAS @ NYG. Things are not changing as much as I would have expected.

12/11 UPDATE: The 12/23 game has been changed to WAS @ MIN. More playoff implications, but likely fewer viewers than some others. The Redskins end up playing 2 Sunday nights in a row.

The NFL must determine the Sunday night game 12 days in advance for weeks 11-16 and 5 days in advance for week 17. The week 11 game has already been changed to New England @ Buffalo.

I've made my guesses as to what games might be made the Sunday night game based solely on likely ratings winners.

If I were the NFL, and I wanted to maximize ratings, and the Patriots stay undefeated, I'd put them on Sunday night every possible chance. Were they to lose, I'd also consider Indianapolis, Green Bay and Dallas in that order, again, for the ratings.

Unfortunately for NBC, my guess is that ratings are not the only determining factor for the NFL decision. A week 17 game with playoff implications between small market teams is likely to bring lower ratings than almost any game featuring a marquis team.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2007 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

 
  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    The Patriots will definitely be on primetime for all these games:

    Week 11: vs Buf (NBC)
    Week 12: vs Phi (NBC)
    Week 13: vs Bal (Mon Night ESPN)
    Week 17: Saturday 12/29 vs. NY Giants 8:15pm EST (NFL Network)

    To the degree that the Pats remain undefeated we can reasonably expect these games to be rescheduled to Sunday Night:

    Week 14: vs. Pittsburgh
    Week 15: vs. NYJ
    Week 16: vs. Mia

    I imagine CBS would especially hate to lose the week 14 matchup against the Steelers. I hope the Pats run the table — it will be interesting to see if the weeks leading up to an undefeated season (since the final game is on the NFL Network) have measurable ratings impact. I'm guessing between undefeated, rooting (for AND against the Pats), and Tom Brady, it will be a different ratings scenario than last year.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    The Patriots will definitely be on primetime for all these games:

    Week 11: vs Buf (NBC)
    Week 12: vs Phi (NBC)
    Week 13: vs Bal (Mon Night ESPN)
    Week 17: Saturday 12/29 vs. NY Giants 8:15pm EST (NFL Network)

    To the degree that the Pats remain undefeated we can reasonably expect these games to be rescheduled to Sunday Night:

    Week 14: vs. Pittsburgh
    Week 15: vs. NYJ
    Week 16: vs. Mia

    I imagine CBS would especially hate to lose the week 14 matchup against the Steelers. I hope the Pats run the table — it will be interesting to see if the weeks leading up to an undefeated season (since the final game is on the NFL Network) have measurable ratings impact. I’m guessing between undefeated, rooting (for AND against the Pats), and Tom Brady, it will be a different ratings scenario than last year.

  • http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/hiestand-tv/2007-11-06-nbc-nfl-picks_N.htm Daniel C

    NE vs. Pittsburgh WILL be on CBS, not NBC due to the flex scheduling rules. The game will be pushed back to 4:15 to bring in the audience.

    There is a fixed amount of 6 prime time games any team can have and the CBS and FOX can protect 5 games in the flex period.

  • Daniel C

    BTW, my source on this info is http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/hiesta

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Great info Daniel — thanks!

  • http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/hiestand-tv/2007-11-06-nbc-nfl-picks_N.htm Daniel C

    NE vs. Pittsburgh WILL be on CBS, not NBC due to the flex scheduling rules. The game will be pushed back to 4:15 to bring in the audience.

    There is a fixed amount of 6 prime time games any team can have and the CBS and FOX can protect 5 games in the flex period.

  • Daniel C
  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Great info Daniel — thanks!

  • http://www.ea.com Wes

    Here's why you're wrong. Nobody will make every remaining Patriots game a primetime game. Going from prior statements that the NFL has made, and from past actions, at no point will they turn things into the Patriots show. Yes, a game or two will get bumped back, but most of their remaining games should be easy walks. Look at the ratings the Cowboys drew in on Sunday night against the Eagles. It was a conference game featuring “America's Team” and the audience died out really fast when it turned into a blowout.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Wes, 4 out of the last 7 weeks are already the Patriots show. I'm just sayin'…

  • http://www.ea.com Wes

    Here’s why you’re wrong. Nobody will make every remaining Patriots game a primetime game. Going from prior statements that the NFL has made, and from past actions, at no point will they turn things into the Patriots show. Yes, a game or two will get bumped back, but most of their remaining games should be easy walks. Look at the ratings the Cowboys drew in on Sunday night against the Eagles. It was a conference game featuring “America’s Team” and the audience died out really fast when it turned into a blowout.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Wes, 4 out of the last 7 weeks are already the Patriots show. I’m just sayin’…

  • Dee

    I agree with Wes. If you watched NFL Monday Night Countdown on ESPN last night, even Keyshawn Johnson (who basically gets paid to watch these games) admitted that when the Patriots game got to a certain point, he turned the channel. I think this will definitely be a trend with most outside of the Boston area. Besides, you can see the highlights every 15-20 minutes on ESPN.

  • Dee

    I agree with Wes. If you watched NFL Monday Night Countdown on ESPN last night, even Keyshawn Johnson (who basically gets paid to watch these games) admitted that when the Patriots game got to a certain point, he turned the channel. I think this will definitely be a trend with most outside of the Boston area. Besides, you can see the highlights every 15-20 minutes on ESPN.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    the ratings seem to back you up, Dee.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    the ratings seem to back you up, Dee.

  • gobisbay

    What would really be interesting is to see the ratings breakdown by 15 or 30 minute period for the Bills – Pats game. It was over by halftime and I'm sure a lot of viewers left NBC at that point (except maybe to check the score a few times later).

    Perhaps this will be a lesson to NBC that the Patriots do not equal ratings boom unless they're playing another top team that might still be in the game in the second half.

    I do applaud NBC for picking the Pats (now the Philly game is on Sunday night) again, because I won't have to deal with them on Sunday Ticket (the REAL football on Sunday, the national gamees are 75% commercials).

  • gobisbay

    What would really be interesting is to see the ratings breakdown by 15 or 30 minute period for the Bills – Pats game. It was over by halftime and I’m sure a lot of viewers left NBC at that point (except maybe to check the score a few times later).

    Perhaps this will be a lesson to NBC that the Patriots do not equal ratings boom unless they’re playing another top team that might still be in the game in the second half.

    I do applaud NBC for picking the Pats (now the Philly game is on Sunday night) again, because I won’t have to deal with them on Sunday Ticket (the REAL football on Sunday, the national gamees are 75% commercials).

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    the half-hourly data for Pats/Bills looked like this according to the metered overnight results:

    8-8:30 11.63m
    8:30-9 13.55m
    9-9:30 14.52m
    9:30-10 13.57m
    10-10:30 11.43m
    10:30-11 9.54m

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    the half-hourly data for Pats/Bills looked like this according to the metered overnight results:

    8-8:30 11.63m
    8:30-9 13.55m
    9-9:30 14.52m
    9:30-10 13.57m
    10-10:30 11.43m
    10:30-11 9.54m

© 2014 Tribune Digital Ventures