This weekend’s matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals is one of the most anticipated games of the regular season as it will mark the first NFL start for Johnny Manziel.
Whether fans like Johnny Football or not, everybody will be curious to see how he performs.
The big winner in this already is FOX, who will air this game nationally even though CBS owns the rights to broadcast AFC games.
It turns out FOX got lucky thanks to some tweaking of NFL broadcast rules.
Starting this year, the NFL introduced “cross-flexing” which allows FOX and CBS to poach games from each other.
Here is how it worked in the case of the Browns and Manziel:
Late in the season, NBC has the option to “flex” out of their originally scheduled Sunday Night Football Game if there is a more appealing option. It is a small perk for ponying up ~$US1.0 billion a year to air one game per week.
Two weeks ago, NBC decided their week 15 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles was the best option and chose not to make a switch.
Since this would typically be a FOX game, this left FOX one game short in the 4:00 PM (ET) time slot. So, FOX moved the Minnesota Vikings-Detroit Lions matchup from 1:00 PM (ET) to the open 4:00 PM (ET) slot.
However, this left an unbalanced schedule in the 1:00 PM (ET) slot, where six games were scheduled to be on CBS and only three games were scheduled to be on FOX. To give FOX affiliates more options, the Browns game was moved to FOX.
Keep in mind, this move was made two weeks ago.
Certainly FOX executives looked at the schedule and saw a big in-state rivalry game. But they probably also saw quarterback Brian Hoyer struggling and hoped the Browns would switch to Manziel before this game.
In fact, prior to the Browns announcing that Manziel was the starter, only a small portion of the country was going to see the game, limited to areas in and around Ohio and small pockets in Texas, according to 506sports.com’s national broadcast map (via Deadspin.com).
After Manziel was named the starter, the broadcast map suddenly changed.
Now, almost the entire southern half of the country will be able to watch Manziel’s first start on their local FOX affiliate.
What a country!
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