NBC uses flex-scheduling to swap Patriots vs. Seahawks to Redskins vs. Ravens for Sunday Night Football on December 7

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November 24th, 2008

A day that will go down in infamy...

NBC is using the flexible scheduling provisions with the National Football League to move the previously scheduled 1pm EST game between the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens game in Baltimore to primetime on Sunday Night Football at 8:15pm.  The game between New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will now be played at 4:05pm EST.

The Redskins and Ravens are both 7-4, and in contention.  The Patriots, also 7-4 are still in contention as well, but the Seahawks at 2-9 are long past any post-season aspirations.   Flex scheduling has been around since 2005, and it allows NBC to somewhat cherry pick more attractive games during November and December.

I'm not actually sure about this move from a Nielsen ratings perspective.  I get the theory that a competitive game by two teams in contention for a playoff birth should be a better game, and I get the theory that the better game should draw better ratings.  But in practice, it doesn't seem to always work that way.

As a Redskins fan, I'm very, very happy about this.   But the purpose of the flexible schedule to pick the more attractive games is to generate higher ratings.  I'm not sure that really happens here.   Sure, the Seahawks have stunk it up (although the Redskins beat them by only a field goal yesterday), but with the Tom Brady-less Patriots trailing the Farve-fueled New York Jets in the standings (if that's still the case by then), I don't know that the story there and the halo of the New England market wouldn't pull better ratings than Redskins vs. Ravens.

NBC might think the Redskins are the better draw based on the excellent ratings for last week's game versus the Cowboys in primetime.  But, that was all about the Cowboys.  Speaking of the Cowboys...

Obviously there are limits to games that NBC can cherry pick, because that same week, the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers is the national double header game on Fox (but I'll probably get stuck with St. Louis vs. Arizona, if so....harsh!), and if there were no limits to flex-scheduling, NBC would've no doubt picked the Cowboys vs. Steelers game up.

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