The NFL has cancelled this week’s Sunday Night Football on NBC. There was no specific game set; usually what happens at the end of the year is the NFL moves the most meaningful playoff game into the prime time slot, but this year there isn’t a single game that meets the criteria. Also, with the game being aired on New Years Eve, the odds are the ratings would drop significantly.
There will be seven games set at the 1 p.m. ET start and another nine at the 4:25 p.m. ET start. Five games were shifted to try and keep teams from knowing their final fate prior to the start of their own game. For example, the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers both play at 4:25 and the Panthers need a win and a Saints loss to win the NFC South. If the Saints started at 1 p.m. and won, then the Panthers would have little reason to push hard for a win, where their opponent, the Atlanta Falcons need a win to make the playoffs. There was no single game where both teams’ fates were tied in with each other’s.
Howard Katz, senior VP of Broadcasting for the NFL, said of the decision:
We felt that both from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective, the most fair thing to do is to schedule all Week 17 games in either the 1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET windows. This ensures that we do not have a matchup on Sunday Night Football on New Year’s Eve that because of earlier results has no playoff implications for one or both of the competing teams.
CBS and Fox will air all the games this week. No word if NBC will be compensated for the lost broadcast, but the NFL has sole discretion about the scheduling of the final Sunday night game of the season. Though the ratings have been down 9% over last year, the Sunday Night Football broadcast is still one of the top of the week and helped NBC be the #1 network in ratings for the fall.