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NFL, NBC and ''Flexible Scheduling''

By RD Heldenfels Published: April 5, 2006

If you're looking for my (still expanding) notes about Katie Couric, they're in the ''Katie, Katie, Katie'' post below.

As for this item, back when NBC made a deal for Sunday night NFL games, I noted that it received the all-important ''flexible scheduling'' option. That meant the network wasn't stuck with one game that, as the season progressed, could prove to be a dog (the way ABC's ''Monday Night Football'' had to operate.) Instead, it will have some flexibility, so it could air a game involving playoff-contending teams and increase viewer interest.

How's flexible scheduling going to work. What follows are explanatory notes sent out by the NFL. It shows that NBC has options, but that CBS and Fox can still protect some games. Here's the text from the NFL:

The NFL this season will implement for the first time in its history a primetime “flexible scheduling” element on Sundays in Weeks 10-15 and in Week 17.

Flexible scheduling will ensure quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and give surprise teams a chance to play their way onto primetime.

The 2006 NFL schedule will list start times for all Sunday games during the “flex” weeks as 1:00 PM ET, except for games played in the Mountain or Pacific Time zones, which will be listed at 4:05 PM ET or 4:15 PM ET. 

The NBC Sunday night time slot for “flex” weeks will list teams as “TBD.”

Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved.  Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.

Just as the six major college football conferences have done for many years, the NFL now will have additional flexibility to move the start times of games on Sundays, using a 12-day notice format.

For example, a game scheduled for Sunday, November 26 could move from a 1:00 PM ET kickoff to an 8:15 PM start, but the change would be made and announced no later than Tuesday, November 14.

The NFL has commonly moved games between 1:00 PM ET and 4:15 PM ET (eight times last season) on Sunday afternoons.  The new practice allows the NFL to employ flexible scheduling to include one of its primetime package of games – on Sunday evenings.

Sunday afternoon games, as in the past, can still be moved between 1:00 and 4:05 or 4:15 ET.

In Week 17, in order to ensure a Sunday night game with playoff implications, the decision to move the start time may be made on six days notice.

CBS and FOX will each be able to protect a total of five games in the seven weeks of flexible scheduling, but not more than one game in any week. 

During the 2005 regular season, the NFL conducted a study with mock flexible scheduling. An eight-person task force consisting of team executives, one from each division, was consulted on a weekly basis.  In addition, television network partners and the NFL’s broadcasting department participated weekly in the process.

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