NBC's Flexible Scheduling Should Boost Prime Time

Flexibility pays off. NBC's flexible scheduling option for Sunday night NFL broadcasts allows it to snag a game from Fox featuring teams from two of the three top markets.

NBC will air the Chicago Bears against the New York Giants on Nov. 12, the first Sunday when it has a say in which game it airs. While that game moves to prime time, the New Orleans-Pittsburgh match-up switches to Fox at 4:15 EST.

Under the NFL's new $3.6 billion contract, NBC picks which game it airs in weeks 10 through 15 (and 17) of the NFL season. Afternoon games scheduled for Fox or CBS can then be shifted into prime time. NBC doesn't have complete free reign. Fox and CBS can each select five games that NBC can't touch over the seven weeks of flexible scheduling, although not more than one per week. The NFL also makes the final determination.

Flexible scheduling--which doesn't apply to ESPN's "Monday Night Football"--is a move by the league to prevent prime-time late-season games from showing match-ups between teams with losing records or which have been eliminated from playoff contention.



Plus, for NBC, it helps to ward off steep ratings drops. NBC Universal's sports head Dick Ebersol has said the opportunity for flexible scheduling was the driving force behind the network's willingness to pay hefty rights fees to reacquire NFL broadcasts.

Announcements about which teams will be playing on NBC during weeks 11 through 15 will be made about 12 days before the game. In the season's final week, the match-up will be determined six days before.

No scheduling changes will be made during week 16, which is during the Christmas holiday.

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