Faced with a drop in ratings, and viewer complaints that short week games lower the quality of play on games, the NFL is considering ending its ten year experiment with Thursday Night Football.
“The league realizes that, with every team playing once on a short week each season, many of the Thursday games necessarily will have reduced appeal. Adding extra prime-time games to the Sunday/Monday inventory also has created a sense that the league has saturated the marketplace with stand-alone evening games.” – Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
The origins of professional football on Thursday can likely be traced to the Thanksgiving tradition of the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions each hosting a game for viewers to enjoy with Turkey and stuffing. It’s as much a holiday tradition as It’s a Wonderful Life. Then, about ten years ago, the NFL started to broadcast weekly Thursday night games (only a few per season, but then stretched it to every Thursday), and recently added another night game to the Thanksgiving schedule.
But a decade later, fans are complaining that the quality of the games has declined, either because the contests had little impact on the playoff picture, or because a week-to-week shortened season for players meant less recovery time and diminished quality of play. Frankly, I think that is more likely. It’s one thing to have a shortened season once or twice a year because of Thanksgiving or a critical playoff game, and quite another to have a shortened week, which can possibly lead to injury. These guys aren’t made of iron after all.
It’s obvious that the NFL has expanded too much. The argument is that the NFL got too greedy, expanding the Thursday night package to a full season to be able to charge higher carry rates for the NFL Network. Toss in adding another portal for Twitter’s streaming of the Thursday night game on top of CBS coverage, and even though it’s been declared a cautious success, viewers may be suffering from over saturation.
So what are the options on the table? Dropping Thursday Night Football completely after the 2017 season is a very real possibility. Adopting a less is more attitude would make viewers more likely to make “appointment TV” and not miss their favorite teams. I’m also pretty sure that the players would applaud that move, as it would give them more time to recover from what is a physical and violent game.
The other option is to go back to the original scheme, whereas for a few weeks in the middle of the season, you have a Thursday night game, along with the first game of the season, usually a Super Bowl rematch that takes place on a Thursday.
Or, they could have a Thursday game schedule kicking off with Thanksgiving and schedule key match-ups that actually have a playoff impact. But that’s not likely. Sunday is a much better venue for that, and the NFL has made changes to move games into that slot if they’re more important.
Either way, something has to give, and it’s likely that TNF experiment is coming to an end.
Hat Tip: MSN