I hope everyone has time carved out for their families between the NFL’s conglomeration of holiday game broadcasts. The league is gearing up for one of its biggest weekends ever. … The NBA won’t wait on potential In-Season Tournament changes. … The Chargers say money won’t prevent a big coaching hire.… And soccer’s European Super League is back again.
— David Rumsey
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Every Thanksgiving, the NFL likes to say its motto is “family, food, and football.” Well, this coming holiday weekend, the league’s tagline may as well be “football, more football, and even more football.”
Nearly half the league will play in a national broadcast window as seven Week 16 games get standalone audiences across Amazon Prime Video, NBC, Peacock, NFL Network, CBS, Fox, and ABC. By Front Office Sports’ research, that’s a record number for the NFL, which just last week broadcast six games to national audiences. It should be decent action, too. Despite making the Christmas weekend schedule back in May, only four of the 14 teams playing in nationally-televised games have a losing record:
- New Orleans (7-7) at Los Angeles Rams (7-7)
- Cincinnati (8-6) at Pittsburgh (7-7)
- Buffalo (8-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)
- Sunday night:
- New England (3-11) at Denver (7-7)
- Las Vegas (6-8) at Kansas City (8-6)
- New York Giants (5-9) at Philadelphia (10-4)
- Baltimore (11-3) at San Francisco (11-3)
Monday will mark the NFL’s second attempt at a Christmas Day tripleheader after last year’s trio of games averaged 22.9 million viewers. This year, Christmas falls on a Monday, allowing the league to go all-out in its holiday weekend takeover strategy.
But is that much football on TV a good thing for NFL fans?
Standalone broadcasts can leave something to be desired when the matchup doesn’t deliver. Last Thursday, Prime Video saw its first viewership decline of 2023 as the Raiders’ 63-21 blowout of the Chargers was down 23% compared to Amazon’s Week 15 game in 2022. And while the seven national broadcasts may be good for advertisers, it will conversely create a less dramatic Sunday afternoon slate of games, with just six in the 1 p.m. window and three in the 4 p.m. slot. Sorry, RedZone fans.
More the Merrier?
While a source with knowledge of the league’s broadcasting operations tells Front Office Sports that fitting more than seven national windows into a single weekend is tough to imagine, the NFL may soon have the chance to do just that. In 2026, Christmas lands on Friday. Imagine this lineup: Thursday night football on Christmas Eve, a Christmas Day tripleheader, two (or three) games on Saturday, and traditional Sunday and Monday night matchups. That could be as many as nine national game broadcasts.
The question is: Are you ready for some football?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Even after a successful debut, changes are coming quickly to the NBA’s In-Season Tournament.
Following on league commissioner Adam Silver’s comments that elements of the event would be “tweaked” for future seasons, NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars said on Monday that a process is actively underway to review the tournament, solicit feedback, determine needed changes, and implement them. Dumars didn’t set a specific timetable on the initiative, but he said an urgency exists to make changes sooner rather than later.
“We really don’t want to drag it out too far,” Dumars said. “So this is happening now.”
Among the potential changes:
- A shift of the semifinal games to home markets. The final, however, appears poised to return to Las Vegas. “I want to say Vegas, but I’m not sure. All of that is up for discussion. We just had a conversation Friday about this. So I think Vegas, but I don’t want to commit to that right now,” Dumars said.
- A new process for constructing the much-discussed IST courts. Given Silver’s strong preference for the eye-catching designs, their return in some fashion is likely. But Dumars said that more lead time will be available to design, build, and install the courts, in turn helping mitigate the floor-quality issues that particularly impacted initial IST games.
Any changes made will require strong support from players. “Once you saw the atmosphere of what [the tournament] was like, you realize, ‘Yeah, this has hit with the players.’ As I said to Adam the other day, we can come up with all these ideas, but if the players don’t buy into it, they’re just ideas,” Dumars said.
Feelings for Detroit
While Dumars oversees all of basketball operations for the NBA, he acknowledged that the ongoing struggles of the Detroit Pistons have been “tough to watch” since he spent his entire Hall of Fame playing career with them. The Pistons have lost 24 consecutive games, just four short of the NBA’s longest streak ever, a slide that also has cut into team attendance.
“I would feel for any team that’s going through it, any of the other 29 teams,” Dumars said. “It’s the Pistons — I feel for the organization, for the fans there … And so it’s tough to watch the guys go through that. And I’m close with a lot of people there.”
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Los Angeles Chargers’ ownership is pushing back on a widely held perception that the club doesn’t have, or at least isn’t willing to spend, the same amount of money on coaches, front office staff, and team facilities as many of its NFL counterparts.
“I want to know where narratives come from,” John Spanos, the Chargers’ president of football operations, said in his first public comments since firing head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco. (Spanos is the son of Chargers controlling owner Dean Spanos.)
Heading into last offseason, Sean Payton was rumored to be interested in becoming the Chargers’ coach if there was an opening, but insiders such as ESPN’s Adam Schefter doubted Los Angeles would be willing to pay the price required. Payton ended up signing a contract worth roughly $18 million with the Denver Broncos, potentially four to five times more than the $4 million Staley is believed to have been making.
In January, former Chargers coach Anthony Lynn took a perceived shot at the team while talking about his new role as an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers.
“This organization will do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “Resources out the [ears]. That was different for me compared to what I was going through in L.A. So it’s just like, man, this is what it’s supposed to be like.”
On Monday, John Spanos pushed back against perceptions of his franchise, specifically mentioning a goal top give Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert “all the resources to help him.” Spanos also claimed there have been no internal discussions about a max salary for a new coach and GM. “I’ve never felt any or seen any limitations because of cash or any other reason,” he said.
The Chargers ranked 25th (out of 32) on Forbes’s 2023 list of NFL team valuations, at $4.15 billion. The team pays $1 in rent annually to play at SoFi Stadium after contributing $200 million (from the league’s G4 stadium financing loan program) to construction of the $5 billion venue owned and operated by Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who benefits from the vast majority of that stadium’s revenue.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Thought by many to be left for dead, soccer’s European Super League could make a surprising return, depending on the outcome of a court proceeding later this week.
After the 2021 demise of the original ESL, in the face of heated public criticism across the continent, two clubs have kept the notion alive: La Liga rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two teams have spent the last two-plus years in and out of court, seeking a definitive ruling on their claim that FIFA and UEFA engaged in anticompetitive behavior when threatening to expel any clubs participating in the ESL from their competitions.
Now, representatives from Barca and Real Madrid will argue before the European Court of Justice (the European Union’s Supreme Court) and the forthcoming decision is certain to render huge impacts across soccer. Italian side Juventus had previously been aligned with the two Spanish teams but has since started the process of withdrawing from the ESL.
Lower-court rulings have been somewhat contradictory on the power of FIFA and UEFA to discipline ESL clubs. Most recently, ECJ advocate general Athanasios Rantos published an opinion that said the clubs are free to form their own league, but that FIFA and UEFA can still exclude those clubs from their own competitions. Given the importance of existing competitions, such as UEFA’s Champions League, even a non-binding and advisory opinion such as that one would suggest limited commercial and fan appeal for the ESL.
But the larger question is: Even if UEFA and FIFA prevail in this latest court ruling, will those clubs press forward anyway with the ESL in search of greater riches and control? Spain’s Mundo Deportivo recently reported that Barca and Real Madrid could reap more than $1 billion each from a revived ESL, cash that would go a long way toward resolving growing debt issues at both clubs.
- ESPN has signed Nicole Briscoe to a contract extension. She’ll continue to host SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, and Formula 1 coverage.
- First Take and Undisputed both revamped their casts and formats, each vying to become the top “embrace debate” show on TV. But First Take averaged nearly five times Undisputed’s audience from September through November.
- Chip Kelly knows what the future of college football should look like: “I think we should all be independent.”
- The Front Office Sports Today podcast is a 2024 finalist for The Sports Podcast Group’s “Best Sports Business Podcast.” Vote here.
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