Could NFL eventually spread games to more windows?
Today doesn’t feel like a Wednesday.
It doesn’t feel like a Wednesday because an NFL game was played last night. And some in NFL circles would like that feeling to be felt more frequently.
There’s an notion, ricocheting around in the upper reaches of the league’s ownership ranks, to explore the possibility of expanding the weekly windows to include Tuesday and/or Wednesday night games on a regular basis. It’s part of a broader conversation regarding increasing the total number of windows during which games can be watched -- and on which a wide array of in-game wagers can be placed.
As technology solves the issue of latency between live events and living rooms, and as more states legalize sports wagering, in-game betting will become a reality. As in-game betting arrives and expands, an incentive will arise to have as few games as possible on TV at once and, in turn, to find more places in the pizza to stuff with cheese.
London games starting at 9:30 a.m. ET? That’s a fourth Sunday window. Late-night West Coast games at midnight on Sunday? There’s a fifth Sunday window.
The pandemic has resulted in multiple Monday night doubleheaders. People like them. The pandemic has resulted in multiple Tuesday night games. People like them, too. The pandemic has given us a late Wednesday afternoon game. And no one complained.
Of course, the NFL wouldn’t be expanding the windows because fans like being able to focus on more games, instead of having seven, eight, or nine being played simultaneously at 1:00 p.m. ET. The league would be doing it because the wagering angle would make it an even better business model.
The argument against expanding windows comes primarily from the concern that the product will be diluted. During football season, however, people want to watch football. For the past couple of years, we’ve argued that spring football leagues should play on Tuesday and Wednesday during football season, because people are far more interested in football during (wait for it) football season.
Scheduling would be an issue, too. Teams shouldn’t have an excess number of short weeks, and byes would need to be used strategically. A second bye per team possibly would be needed.
Regardless, whether it happens in the next round of TV deals or the contracts that come later this decade, the combination of the pandemic and legalized wagering has prompted some to believe that the league has discovered plutonium by accident. It feels inevitable that the league will turn this discovery into even more cold, hard cash.