SBD/December 5, 2013/Media

NFL Network Likely To See Good Numbers Despite Poor Thursday Night Matchup

Fans watching tonight will see a game featuring teams with a combined five wins
The 2-10 Texans travel to Jacksonville tonight to play the 2-9 Jaguars, and NFL Network officials "likely would prefer any number of teams for this week's prime-time matchup" instead of the two they have, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. NFL Net analyst Mike Mayock said, "There may be less interest from a national perspective. But you can't have New Orleans and Seattle every night." Despite the face the Texans and Jaguars enter the game with "just five combined wins," it is "not the worst prime-time matchup in history." A survey of primetime games since '70 "reveals at least 30 games in November and December matching teams that had losing records or finished with losing records." In at least 10 of those, the teams "had six or fewer combined wins." Regardless, "people will be watching." NFL Network's Thursday games through 11 weeks have had an average audience of 7.1 million viewers, up 12% from '12, "despite a couple of recent clunkers." Since the "present holds little promise for either team, Mayock said much of the between-plays conversation will involve the future." This is the second time NFL Network has "missed out on what it thought would be a blockbuster Texans game." In '11, a late-season Texans-Colts game "became a bust after Peyton Manning was lost for the season for Indianapolis and the Texans clinched a playoff berth a week earlier" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/4).

PEOPLE WILL WATCH: THE DAILY's John Ourand said despite the fact that tonight's matchup features two teams with losing records, "people still watch." Ourand: "I can pretty much guarantee you that this is going to get over 6 million viewers because all these games get over 6 million viewers. If it's a close game, even with bad teams, it could be over 7 million viewers." NPR's Mike Pesca said, "Those 6 or 7 million will double, maybe even triple, (tonight's) nationally televised Miami Heat game" ("Morning Edition," NPR, 12/4). The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay said, "You could take the worst possible NFL matchup -- I don’t know, Jaguars-Buccaneers -- that would be the No. 1-rated show of the night. That’s how effective, that’s how potent the NFL is. That’s why it’s such a desirable primetime destination." However, he said he believes Thursday night games are "diluting the rest of the schedule." Gay: "What happened to Sunday 1:00 football games? ... I just feel you are diluting the great American ritual" ("Crowd Goes Wild," FS1, 12/4).

IS MONEY TRUMPING INJURIES?
THE MMQB's Robert Klemko noted, "The NFL has long played games on Thanksgiving, but its package of Thursday night games carried by NFL Network didn’t start until 2006, with an eight-game schedule." The league "found that roughly the same amount of injuries happened in 2012 Thursday games (5.2 per game) as in games played on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (5.3)." It is "compelling evidence that Thursday games are no more dangerous than Sunday games, that is, if you can watch an NFL game and believe that only five or so injuries are happening in those 60 minutes." Most of the execs who "bargained for an expanded Thursday slate don’t know what it feels like to play in the NFL." Klemko: "Here's what they do know: Money." There is "a big TV market for an eight-game package of Thursday games, which the NFL is expected and free to sell off now that its cable arm has 14 in its possession." Part of the expansion of the Thursday night schedule "was to ensure competitive balance, with each team having to play on the short week once, but that was likely a secondary concern to the revenue selling the Thursday package would create" (MMQB.SI.com, 12/4).
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