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Monday, February 21, 2005 

Changing the Channel

Ron Borges wrote in the Boston Globe yesterday that "ABC, ESPN likely to switch nights", and that he felt it could "create a ratings explosion" for the Sunday night game. He also reported that the plan for a Thursday/Saturday night package on Fox or Comcast is moving forward.

I agree with his basic points about Sunday being the biggest football day, but diluting the Sunday afternoon games late in the season could be a problem, even with the flexible scheduling that Fox and CBS agreed to. On the last few weeks of the season, we'll see games on Thursday night, two on Saturday afternoon, and one each on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night. That's six out of sixteen games. It's going to be hard to convince your family to stay home on Sunday afternoon if you've already watched 3 or 4 games that weekend. In turn, this could also weaken the appeal of DirectTV's package. The NFL is normally very savvy about such things, but it makes you wonder.

On the other hand, if ABC can move the Sunday night game to an 8pm ET kickoff so it immediately follows the late afternoon games, that would represent a serious ratings challenge to CBS, whose "60 Minutes" is routinely delayed by late afternoon football overruns. There's currently too much of a delay before the ESPN game starts, which stops the momentum of the day.

In a related note, if Fox wins the Thursday/Saturday night package, I wonder if they'll schedule their top announcing team of Buck, Collinsworth, and Aikman on Thursday night so they can cover another game on Sunday?

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