Drop In Number Of Late NFL Games Hurts The NFL's Biggest Fans

Peyton Manning Denver Broncos can't air it out

Photo: Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel

In a move that may be a ratings grab, the number of 4:00 PM (ET) games on the NFL schedule is down 14% this season. But while it may be good for the networks’ bottom lines, it leaves the fans who dish out big bucks for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, with fewer options.During week eight action yesterday, there were just two games during the traditional late-afternoon time slot. This was the second Sunday in a row with just two 4:00 PM games, and it is the third time in eight weeks (another is coming in week 11). This only happened three times in the last two seasons combined.

In total, there were will be 57 late afternoon games this season, down from 66 a year ago, a drop of 14%. The NFL has averaged 63 4:00 PM games the last three seasons.

While this could just be a quirk in the schedule, it may also be by design. Fewer games gives the late time slot more of a national TV feel, which artificially increases the perception of importance. In other words, the networks may be trying to give the 4:00 PM window more of a primetime feel.

For those that subscribe to the NFL’s popular Sunday Ticket, the package becomes nearly meaningless after the early games, as there is just one out-of-market game. Then again, the NFL knows they are not going to lose the diehard fans, no matter how much they might complain.

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