The NFL possesses an absolutely virtuoso talent for introducing complexity to processes that don’t require additional complexity. The NFL rulebook is the prime example of that—just think about all the times we’ve had genuine debates about what constitutes a catch.
The NFL schedule and how it is created is already complicated enough. Starting next season, according to NFL vice president of broadcast planning Mike North, they are going to have an even wider variety of options for where games can be housed on broadcast.
“The designation of which network gets [a game] by who the road team is, that part’s going away”, he said on The Ari Meirov Show. “So FOX is still gonna predominantly be the NFC package, and CBS is still gonna be predominantly the AFC package, but it’s not just gonna be, you know, ‘CBS is gonna need eight Ravens games’. It doesn’t have to be the AFC team on the road for those eight games. It could be any of the Ravens’ 17 games”.
Of course, that is just by way of example. It holds equally true for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ games, naturally, and any other team. I’m sure we’re all quite used to watching Steelers games on CBS over the years. But now with the new broadcast contracts kicking in, they’ve expanded their authority to program their content.
“So now you’ve taken ‘this’ many options of what you can do with AFC teams on the road, now you’ve made it into ‘THIS’ many options”, North said, obviously gesturing larger for the second ‘this’. “So every game now has more ‘homes’ than it might have had otherwise, and we don’t have the restrictions that we’ve had in terms of cross-flex and primetime takeaways and number of times each team can be taken away from CBS and FOX. Those rules are gone, so every game’s a jump ball. Every game’s a free agent”.
That doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to be seeing the Steelers mostly on FOX or anything like that. The vast majority of Pittsburgh’s afternoon games will still be where you expect them to be, but now they have more options about how they can move a certain subset of those game and arrange the schedule in a variety of different names.
North admitted that it’s going to make the process smore complicated and make it take longer, but, presumably, they wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think that it would be financially productive to do so.
I imagine this is primarily driven by their ability to add a larger number of primetime windows to the NFL schedule, giving them more games that will get a national audience, so having greater flexibility to move more attractive games to those more attractive slots does make a lot of sense from a ratings perspective.