NFL Considering Flexing ‘Thursday Night Football’ Games; Is Proposal a Response to Last Year’s Prime Video Ratings?
NFL owners might be gearing up to do Prime Video a big favor. That’s according to a report from Sports Business Journal's Ben Fischer and John Ourand, which indicates that the league is considering a proposal that would allow it to flex games in and out of the “Thursday Night Football” window.
Specifically, the measure would permit the league to move Sunday afternoon games into the Thursday night window in weeks 14-17, though it must give 15 days’ notice. The proposal would also allow teams that played Sunday of the week before to play in a Thursday game twice a year, an increase from the once-a-year that is currently allowed under NFL rules.
Enacting this rule would help the NFL make “TNF” a more prestigious viewing event, much like “Sunday Night Football” on NBC and Peacock. It would allow the league to swap out games with poorly performing teams for more relevant contests with potential playoff contenders. Considering the proposal only covers the final weeks of the season, this rule change could bring some highly consequential matchups to Prime Video if it passes.
The measure is expected to be voted on by owners in the coming days. Resolutions like this are rarely sent to the full ownership group for a vote unless there’s a high degree of confidence they’ll pass, but objections could still come from coaches and the NFL Player’s Association, the union that represents player interests. These groups have always objected to “TNF” on player safety grounds and potentially subjecting teams to a second “TNF” game every season likely won’t be a popular move.
For fans, on the other hand, flexing “TNF” games could be highly beneficial. “TNF” contests in 2022 were often bemoaned for the poor quality of play, even by Prime Video’s announcing team of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit. The quality of games did not have a major effect on the ratings of “TNF” last year, although audience numbers saw a steep decline toward the end of the season, precisely when the new proposed flexible scheduling would kick in.
Overall, “TNF” ratings were not what Prime Video was hoping for its first year as the primary home of the games package. Games were still available on broadcast TV in the local markets of teams playing, but that was the only way to see them besides watching on Prime Video in 2022. This led to a 41% drop in average viewers from 2021’s ratings, though Amazon is quick to point out that 11% more 18 to 34-year-olds watched “TNF” games last year as compared to the year before. The measure to allow flexing of Thursday games is almost certainly aimed at improving those ratings, though it is unsure exactly when the rule would go into effect if it passes.
Fans and Prime Video executives alike should keep their fingers crossed that the flexible scheduling rule change gets the approval of NFL owners. It should improve the quality of games on Thursday nights, especially toward the end of the season when contests will have playoff implications.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is a subscription video streaming service that includes on-demand access to 10,000+ movies, TV shows, and Prime Originals like “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” “Jack Ryan,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “The Boys,” and more. Subscribers can also add third-party services like Showtime, and Starz with Amazon Prime Video Channels. Prime Video also offers exclusive live access to NFL Thursday Night Football.
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