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17 Game NFL Season Could Create Multiple Challenges For TV Networks

“Another potential schedule change will be moving one Wild-Card game to Monday night.”

Brandon Contes

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As the NFL and its network partners put the finishing touches on their TV rights deals, they’re doing so with the expectation of a 17-game schedule.

According to Peter King of NBC Sports, a 17-game schedule is “highly likely” beginning with the 2021 NFL season. The extra home game that comes from an odd numbered schedule would alternate each year by conference. 17 regular season games in 18 weeks also means Super Bowl LVI, currently scheduled for Feb. 6, 2022 in Los Angeles, will be pushed back one week to Sunday Feb. 13. Keeping the Super Bowl as scheduled and beginning the regular season early would mean playing on Labor Day Weekend, a ratings disaster.

In addition to the extra regular season game, King also reports the NFL is considering two Christmas Day games this year, which falls on a Saturday, a move the NBA won’t be pleased about. Last year’s Saints-Vikings matchup on Christmas Day averaged 20.1 million viewers for FOX, their highest non-Sunday rating in more than two years. 

Another potential schedule change will be moving one Wild-Card game to Monday night. Last season, the NFL played six Wild-Card games for the first time ever, but putting one on Monday night would have competed with the college Football National Championship. Moving to a 17-week season means starting the NFL Playoffs after the college football season ends, which opens up the possibility of a Monday night Wild-Card game. 

The league hasn’t made the 17-game regular season official for the 2021-22 season, but there’s no reason to anticipate a delay considering the Players Association agreed to an expanded schedule during last year’s new CBA negotiations. 

Sports TV News

FOX Sued for Patent Infringement Over NFL Scheduling

“Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.”

Jordan Bondurant

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An analytics company is suing FOX over claims that the network developed a mapping tool using their patented technology to create a season slate of NFL games.

Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.

The lawsuit claims FOX used access to Recentive’s predictive analytics tools to develop a resource of their own that would create optimal schedules for its 1 and 4 p.m. NFLwindows.

The company is seeking a declaration that FOX infringed on two of its patents. Recentive is also suing for damages and wants an injunction keeping FOX from using Recentive tech and preventing the network from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by the patents.”

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Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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