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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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No Agreement Reached on Flex Scheduling for Thursday Nights

  • League office looks to improve Thursday night game slate.
  • Amazon pays about $1 billion annually for the exclusive rights to Thursday games.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX — The most contentious closed-door gathering at the NFL annual meeting has nothing to do with the Washington Commanders or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension. 

There’s resistance to the NFL’s plan to roll out flex scheduling for Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football.” 

“I don’t think everyone likes it,” an NFL owner told Front Office Sports. 

And after a meeting concluded behind closed doors at a luxury hotel on Tuesday, NFL executive Brian Rollap told reporters that the proposal was tabled and it “could” be discussed again at the next owners meeting in May.

“We will continue to look at flex on Thursday night and work through that,” said Hans Schroeder, the NFL’s executive VP and CO of NFL Media.

The proposal would allow the NFL to flex Sunday afternoon games to Thursday nights starting in Week 14. The proposal includes a 15-day notice to the teams that’d be flexed to TNF. 

Goodell is among those within the league pushing to add flex scheduling to TNF. NBC has benefited from flex scheduling since 2006, and the NFL will add a similar setup for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” starting next season. 

In preparation for the discussion among owners, the NFL has rolled out data showing that injury rates for Thursday games are on par with Sunday and Monday games. 

Privately, however, some owners consider Thursday prime-time games a burden with only three full days’ rest.

Then there are the fans who plan trips around attending games well more than 15 days in advance. There’s concern that shifting games about two weeks out will lead to complaints by impacted fans who may have booked flights and hotels to attend their favorite team’s Sunday game. 

And CBS and Fox likely aren’t fans of the proposal. 

While the NFL aims to furnish fans with the best prime-time matchups late in the season, that means yanking what would be a popular game from Sunday afternoon from the two networks that pay the most — more than $2 billion each year — to broadcast games. 

Like Congress or your state legislature, it’s unlikely the NFL would put TNF flexing up for a vote unless there is at least some degree of certainty it’d pass. 

Amazon pays about $1 billion annually for the exclusive rights to Thursday games. The streaming-only deal runs for ten more seasons. 

In Amazon’s debut in 2022, the late-season slate was bleak. Only three of the eight teams featured from Week 14-17 had winning records.

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