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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Midweek Special: NFL Planning Two Christmas Games on a Wednesday

  • The NFL will play a doubleheader Wednesday, Dec. 25.
  • The league previously said it would avoid the holiday this year.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is coming back with force for Christmas 2024, even after the league previously said it likely couldn’t, showing both the power of its fans and the depth of stakeholders’ desire to establish a firm grasp on the holiday.

As owners meetings concluded Tuesday in Orlando, the NFL said it will play a doubleheader on Christmas, despite the fact that it will fall on Wednesday this year. Here’s how it will work: On Saturday, Dec. 21, the league will play what is expected to be a tripleheader. Four of those teams will then play again (likely against new opponents) on Dec. 25, with the same amount of rest that Thursday Night Football participants typically get after a Sunday game. The NFL previously suggested it would probably not pursue Christmas games this year due to the midweek placement on the calendar, but it left open the possibility “if the broadcast partners are interested, if it fits in our overall strategy.” 

Indeed, the viewership numbers for its three Christmas 2023 games, played on a Monday, made a massive statement in favor of a return engagement this year. CBS drew an average of 29.2 million for an early-afternoon game between the Raiders and Chiefs. Fox averaged 29 million for its late-afternoon broadcast of Giants-Eagles. And ESPN garnered an average of 27.1 million for a prime-time Ravens-49ers game. 

Those figures—all representing historic highs of some meaningful measure—completely trounced the NBA’s, which averaged 2.86 million for its set of five games, recorded viewership declines in each of those games this past Christmas, and saw its historic hold on the holiday meaningfully disrupted. “We’ve seen some unprecedented growth” in viewership on the holiday, Hans Schroeder, the NFL’s executive vice president for media distribution, told reporters in Florida. “Football brings people together, and that’s even truer on those big holidays.”

Expanding Calendar … and Streaming

More broadly, the return to Christmas this year is also emblematic of the NFL’s ongoing efforts to expand its calendar, an initiative that will also see the league’s debut game in Brazil, in which the Eagles will play either the Browns or Packers on Friday, Sept. 6, and will be streamed by Peacock. That marks yet another game moved to the “exclusively streamed” category. Last year, Peacock had a regular-season and playoff game. But, in January 2025, that streaming-only wild-card matchup will move to Amazon Prime Video, its new annual home, the league confirmed Tuesday.

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