There’s An Extremely Stupid Reason Your Local Channels Don’t Air Certain NFL Games On Sundays

by 10 months ago
why can't local channels show nfl games

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I thought I’d had my day mapped out when I woke up last Sunday and headed to the store in the hope I wouldn’t be judged too harshly for buying two six-packs at 10 AM as I prepared for a long and arduous day of watching football on my couch and waiting for the magic moment my chance of winning my fantasy matchup hit 69%.

I got home just in time to join Boomer, Coach Cowher, and the rest of the crew engage in their weekly shenanigans while counting down to kickoff.

Once they signed off, I cracked a beer only to discover CBS had decided to preview its latest lineup of zany sitcoms that somehow managed to get the greenlight in lieu of a football game.

I swear some of these have the ability to make the mercifully-ending Big Bang Theory look like The Wire in comparison.

I ended up watching another game on Fox before both channels aired the later contests as I’d expected them to but disaster struck again this week when Fox decided I deserved to be subjected to a bunch of commercials about supposedly revolutionary hair products.

I appreciate the oeuvre of Kristin Davis as much as the next guy but I was decidedly not a fan of the move.

Up until this point, I’d never actually looked into why CBS and Fox are apparently incapable of showing both doubleheaders on Sundays.

Why are they depriving me of my God-given right to spend eight consecutive hours watching as many football games as I can without selling an organ to afford to pay for Red Zone?

I set out to get to the bottom of things and found out the incredibly frustrating answer.

Why Can’t Networks Show More Than A Total Of Three Games Per Week?

why can't local channels broadcast nfl games

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Each week, both CBS and Fox send crews to cover matchups around America (as you probably know, the former usually covers AFC games while the latter focuses on the NFC).

However, thanks to NFL rules and contractual obligations, each network is only given the chance to air back-to-back games eight times per season (both CBS and Fox can show two games each in Week 17).

Money truly is the root of all evil.

Most of the time, the weeks are alternated between both networks, but they do have the option of running doubleheaders two weeks in a row if they’re so inclined.

As a result, you’re almost always going to be subjected to three hours of non-football programming on one of the networks every week until the very end of the season.

That answered my initial question but there’s one more I came across in my research that I never knew the answer to until now.

Who Decides Which NFL Games Air In My Area?

who decides which nfl games are broadcast


As mentioned above, CBS and Fox have multiple crews that cover games that are being played concurrently, which means someone has to decide which one of those contests is going to appear on certain channels.

Obviously, local teams take priority in primary and secondary markets and (assuming it’s sold out) their game will almost always be the only one that’s shown if the network doesn’t have a doubleheader that week.

However, if you’ve ever wanted to send a strongly worded letter to a station because they didn’t air the game you wanted to watch, you should know they have about as much control over how things are run as a verbally abused airline agent.

Over the course of my travels, I came across an article by The New York Times that shed a bit of light on the complexities of the NFL broadcasting world.

It turns out network executives (as opposed to people at your local affiliate) are responsible for picking which games will be broadcast locally and they spend weeks trying to figure out how to make as many people happy as possible (and, more importantly, boosting ratings as high as they can).

The officials do what they can to please as many people as they can, but if you’re a transplant like me who gets forced to watch a mediocre matchup instead of one featuring your team of choice, they (and geography) are the ones to blame.