All Four Networks Content With Slate Of Games On NFL Schedule
All four NFL TV partners expressed that their '19 schedules were "fair" when presented with the slate prior to the official unveiling last night, according to Joe Reedy of the AP. NFL Senior VP/Broadcasting & Media Operations Howard Katz, who is responsible for coming up with the schedule, said, "How we allocate is always tricky. You have to make sure the prime-time packages are strong while making sure there is enough quality and quantity for the Sunday afternoon games." NBC Sports Exec Producer Fred Gaudelli: "It is a lot harder compared to when we first started with the Sunday Night package in 2006. Now there are a full season of Thursday night games and more London games. Yet, [Katz] has managed to treat everyone fairly." Fox Sports Exec VP/Research, League Operations & Strategy Mike Mulvihill indicated that most games Fox "had on its first list of Thursday night preferences they ended up getting." He also was "very pleased" with how the 4:25pm ET games on doubleheader weeks worked out. Reedy notes the Cowboys will be "featured in the late spot in the last four doubleheaders, which would benefit Fox if they are in playoff contention" (AP, 4/18). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert noted all 12 playoff teams from '18 "will make at least one appearance" on "MNF" this season (ESPN.com, 4/17).
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: The NFL made CBS happy by loading its schedule with good games involving the Patriots, Steelers and Chiefs. The NFC schedule is so strong, CBS will see more high-quality crossflex games. CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus: “I feel good. We have some really good crossover doubleheader games, and we kept our No. 1 pick -- the Kansas City-New England game." It has been 10 years since ESPN doubled up on the Packers twice on "MNF," and five years since the Steelers appeared twice. Both play two "MNF" games this season. Additionally, two big-time NFC East rivalry games -- Cowboys-Giants and Giants-Eagles -- show that ESPN’s relationship with the league is as strong as it has been in years. ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus: “Our schedule is incredibly balanced. ... We start strong and we finish strong." Meanwhile, the NFC East plays the NFC North this year -- matchups that consistently bring big ratings. All are Fox games. Mulvihill said, "We felt like we had such a deep pool of games this year partly because the NFC division winners last year were so strong: Dallas, Chicago, New Orleans and the Rams." Fox last year requested games for “TNF” that would have anchored Sunday doubleheaders. Mulvihill said that late Sunday window schedule this season is as "good of a group of doubleheader games as we’ve ever had." NBC’s strategy is to come out of the gate as fast as it can with high-profile teams that bring ratings. That again is the case this year. Observers expect NBC’s November schedule to bring big ratings with matchups like Patriots-Ravens, Vikings-Cowboys and Bears-Rams. Gaudelli: “It’s what we’ve all come to expect from the Sunday night schedule -- blockbuster games, all the big stars on multiple times" (John Ourand, SBJ Media).
STRAIGHT FROM THE MIC: Fox' Joe Buck said network execs are "thrilled with not just the 'Thursday Night Football' schedule but the Sunday football schedule." Buck: "This schedule is as good-looking a group of games as I've seen at the beginning of the year. ... A lot of really good NFC matchups that typically would be on Sunday they can slide to a Thursday and we still have a good lineup. But now the Thursday game has a little bit more star power than what it had in the previous years" ("2019 NFL Schedule Release," NFL Network, 4/17). ESPN's Joe Tessitore said, "I like the way the Monday night schedule shapes up with the back end of the season. I want games that are going to impact the playoff run, and when I look at the schedule, that’s what I see. … I love the fact that you have playoff type games determining wildcards or divisions down the entire last month of the season” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 4/18).
THE GOOD & THE BAD: YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote "TNF" this season is a "mixed bag." There are "some fun matchups," but it is "not a strong slate from top to bottom." Teams like the Buccaneers, Jaguars and Cardinals "needed to get their one prime-time game, and they were put on Thursday nights." The NFL wants “SNF” to "be its showcase," and NBC "has to be thrilled with the schedule." It is "clear from this lineup of games, the NFL wants to make sure 'SNF' remains a ratings powerhouse." This season’s "MNF" schedule "seems like ESPN got a lot of leftovers again." It "starts strong," with Texans-Saints in the first game of the Week 1 doubleheader, but the next game between two '18 playoff teams will be Chiefs-Chargers on Nov. 18 in Mexico City (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/17).
GETTING IT DONE: In L.A., Sam Farmer reports the NFL "uses between 1,200 and 1,500 computers around the clock for 10 weeks to analyze a staggering number of potential schedules." Katz and his team "came up with 64,713 playable schedules" and "eyeballed each of them to find the optimal one." The work is done in the "most secure room at NFL headquarters on Park Avenue." The room has "glass that’s frosted opaque, soundproof walls, encrypted computers, and can be accessed only by a special key card" (L.A. TIMES, 4/18). USA TODAY's Nate Davis notes the NFL "enlisted outside help while attempting to streamline and optimize" the scheduling process. Univ. at Buffalo professor Dr. Mark Karwan, who researches scheduling methods for the NFL, said, "This is, by far, the hardest mathematical thing I've ever done." Karwan said the NFL schedule is "drastically more complex" than those of the NBA and MLB, even though those leagues play far more games. The NFL has "more constraints -- perhaps more than 10,000 -- including logistical considerations like stadium availability and broadcasting rules as well as individual team requests -- up to 200 per year league-wide, not all of them possible to fulfill." The league's network partners "often have mutually exclusive objectives, all of them seeking the most alluring matchups -- especially in prime time slots" (USA TODAY, 4/18).