HomeSportsNFLNFL Looks to Alter Scheduling to Help Thursday Night Football

NFL Looks to Alter Scheduling to Help Thursday Night Football

by Suzanne Halliburton
patrick mahomes throws pass against chargers
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

The NFL could tinker with how the league schedules Thursday Night Football in order to avoid some of the dud matchups that end up on primetime.

The Sports Business Journal, quoting unnamed league sources, reported that the NFL could institute flex scheduling for Thursday Night Football games late in the season. Some of the matchups that seem so glamorous on paper in pre-season don’t look so good by December. So rather than being stuck with these bad matchups, the NFL may allow itself some wiggle room.

The owners convene in Phoenix for its March meetings starting Sunday. Two major changes will be on the agenda. The NFL could allow a shift in some Sunday afternoon games to Thursday Night Football with 15 days notice. This flex scheduling would occur during weeks 14 through 17.

And, the NFL owners may allow for teams to play on a Sunday, then the following Thursday, twice during a season. Previously, it could only happen once a season.

Amazon Prime began streaming Thursday Night Football games last season. It was an abrupt change for many NFL viewers who were accustomed to flipping on their television and finding games on major networks or ESPN.

The games averaged 9.58 million viewers based on Nielsen Media Research audience numbers. If you add Amazon metrics, the number grew to 11.3 million per game. However, back in 2021, when the games were on Fox or NFL Network, the contests reached about 13.3 million a contest.

NBC and its Sunday Night crew covered the opening Thursday Night Football game. Coincidentally, that game enjoyed the biggest audience (21 million) of any TNF telecast last season. NBC noted that there was huge breaking news that day with the death of Queen Elizabeth. For added context, a normal Sunday Night Football telecast averages 19.9 million viewers.

The Panthers-Falcons was the least-watched game on Thursday Night Football in 2022.. (Lance King/Getty Images)

Chiefs-Chargers Was Most Watched Thursday Night Football Game on Amazon

The first game on Amazon Prime was in week two. And, coincidentally, it also attracted the largest audience for a Prime TNF game. More than 13 million fans tuned in to watch the Chiefs beat the Chargers, 27-24. With the Amazon metrics, the audience increased to 15.3 million.

The Nielsen numbers are the most important. That’s because they determine the rate for advertising.

Six of the 15 Thursday Night Football games averaged at least 10 million viewers via Nielsen. But there were some ugly matchups. Those included Panthers-Falcons; Commanders-Bears and Rams-Raiders. The lowest viewership for a TNF game was Panthers-Falcons at 6.8 million.

The Sports Business Journal noted that resolutions aren’t offered for a full vote unless the league already knows that the owners are on board with the idea. However, NFL coaches probably won’t like the new flex scheduling. It means that some of the best teams could face a second short week late in the season.

The NFL first started flex scheduling in 2006 when the league allowed a Sunday afternoon game to be pushed to the evening. This season, the league will allow the networks the flexibility to take some Sunday afternoon games to Monday night.