Friday, February 29, 2008

Convention schedule puts GOP in NFL conflict

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

This blog started in November, 2005 when Howard Dean announced the 2008 Democratic Convention dates. At the time, I spent a lot of time explaining here and in other places why the choice of the late August dates was a great one. It put the GOP in a real bind, either forcing them to go before the Democrats, thereby breaking decades of tradition that allows the party in the White House to have their convention second, or to go after the Democrats in early September, starting on Labor Day, when people's thoughts turn to going back-to-school and other Fall events.

Well, one of those Fall events is potentially a major conflict for the GOP:

Although it's not official, indications are that the NFL would normally start its season on Thursday, September 4, on NBC.

The GOP is holding their convention from Sep 1-4, and the nominee normally gives his or her speech on Thursday evening, just after 10:00 EST. This is a big problem for NBC and the NFL. NBC pays a lot of money to show NFL games. But there's no way they would take the political heat and not show McCain's speech, and its unlikely the NFL would want to take the heat either. Yes, the speech would be available on the other networks, but the football game would attract a major audience, and the GOP, would, and appropriately so, raise a big stink.

There's talk that the NFL is quite aware of the issue, and is looking at alternatives. Here are some possibilities:

  • Simplest is to start the season a week later, cutting the time before the Super Bowl to one week instead of two. Certainly doable.
  • Start the game at 6:30 EST. NBC won't like this - they'll lose viewers on the west coast.
  • Play the game on Wednesday (still up against the convention, but not a big deal) or Friday (the high schools will be mad)
  • Give the game to ESPN or the NFL Network, and give NBC another game some other time. NBC won't be happy giving up the highly rated Kickoff Game, and there will still be football on against McCain's speech.
  • Just don't have the Thursday night game at all this year.
My guess is they'll just cancel the Kickoff game this year, but we shall see.

All previous articles on convention dates can be found here.

Update: Yes it was preseason, but there is precedence for moving the games earlier. From July, 2000:
ABC News said yesterday that the National Football League had agreed to change the starting times of two Monday night preseason games, a decision that will allow the network to devote an hour of prime-time coverage each to the opening nights of the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

The network had earlier announced that it would not pre-empt the football games and would provide prime-time convention coverage on those nights -- Monday, July 31, when Republicans convene in Philadelphia, and Monday, Aug. 14, when Democrats gather in Los Angeles -- only during halftime.

David Westin, president of ABC News, said yesterday that network officials decided to approach the N.F.L. about helping them make room for the conventions after concluding that the lineup of speakers for the opening nights had considerable news value.
Mr. Westin said Robert A. Iger, president of ABC's parent, the Walt Disney Company, had taken a lead role in discussions with N.F.L. officials about how convention coverage might be accommodated. As a result, the games will start an hour earlier, at 7 p.m. rather than 8 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, ABC officials said. That should allow convention coverage to start about 10 p.m.


uahdfadfadfa said...

The season isn't moving anywhere, nor is the game going to get canceled. They'll move it back or may even try to time the speech for halftime (though doubtful).

Roehl Sybing said...

IIRC, an ALCS game on NBC in 2000 conflicted with one of the Bush-Gore debates, and NBC went with baseball.

All of the alternatives listed are ridiculous at best. Cut the time between championship week and the Super Bowl to one week? Are you nuts?

Travis said...

i dont think its a big issue. with atleast 2 other networks airing it as well as FOX possibly though more like on FoxNews.... MSNBC will carry it for sure.

Things like this wont be an issue after next year when the complete digital crossover is done... The NBC Channel here in NY has 4 channels 4-01, 4-02, 4-03, 4-04.

I wouldnt be surprised for them to have the game on 4-01 and the convention on 4-03, it doesnt help those who arent digital yet though.

Matt said...

Cutting the time before the Super Bowl to 1 week has been done 2 or 3 times, so it's not that nuts.

Showing a baseball game against the debate is different. It hurts both sided equally. Not showing McCain's nomination speech is just a politcally viable option for NBC.

madcactus said...

I did have a bunch of stuff typed here about midseason changes to schedules, and how it hardly ever happens, and how a single politician just isn't that important, and how moving 16 games is harder than moving just 1. Then I remembered the schedule isn't final until April. So, they have a little bit of time to work things out. This would be the easiest solution, though I think it's unlikely.

Also, the NFL will hold a kickoff game, on a Thursday, and OTA. It's a major draw, the NFL will miss out of a lot of ad revenue if they don't have one. That's the entire point of the game. It's not for the fans, it's a huge money maker. Then, moving this game to cable, the NFL will get some cash, but not anywhere near the amount of an OTA network. The game will be on NBC this year. And even though it makes sense to change the day, they won't. Wed is just weird, and Fri and Sat are off limits.

NBC should just go forward with football at the scheduled time. Everyone will cover McCain's speech, but not everyone wants to watch it. All NBC needs to do is plug MSNBC when McCain starts his speech, and people will migrate accordingly. Or, maybe NBC could run the game on NBC, do regular convention coverage on MSNBC, and split-screen convention/football coverage on CNBC. And if CNBC is busy with something, there's always USA or Bravo.

Unrelated: This capcha isn't playing nice, or I've just posted this comment more times than neccessary.

Matt said...

I agree that the game won't move to cable, but I think you're underestimating the political fury that will ensure if NBC doesn't broadcast McCain's speech. The right-wing already thinks the media is liberal, and this will only feed that thinking. Plus, both NBC and the NFL have significant relationships with Congress, and they will not want half of Congress mad at them.

You dismiss Wednesday and Friday too easily. So Wednesday is not a normal NFL day. This is a one-time special case. Same for Friday. Yes, the High Schools, will complain, but the NFL will say this is a one time thing - and it's in the nations interest.

Don't get me wrong - I'm a life-long Democrat who wants to see McCain get demolished. But I think it's in the country's interest for all the major networks to give the two presidential candidates an uninterrupted hour to make their case. And I think the NFL and NBC need to figure out a way to do that.

Roehl Sybing said...

The last time the Super Bowl was one week after the championships (I think, so please correct me if I'm wrong) was the '01 season. An easy decision since 9/11 moved week one games back.

In the modern era of the NFL, with the increasing focus on television in at least the last decade, I really don't see opening day being bumped for anything except catastrophic disaster on no less than two continents. Fox didn't cut to news of the American bombing of Afghanistan, in favor of Fox NFL Sunday. The pre-game show took priority over the start of a war.

Travis said...

I dont think you can compare the initial moments of the Iraq War, to McCain delivering an acceptance speech for the Republican Nomination.

Matt said...

I think you are all missing the important difference between McCain's speech and the debates, and the Afghanistan and Iraq war coverage. The networks are buffeted on both sides by partisan forces. If NBC didn't show the speech, there would be absolutely a huge outcry from the GOP. The issue is not whether it can be seen on other places - the issue is that the GOP will argue that the game will lower viewership for the speech, and that the network is favoring the Democrats. It's the most important hour in the whole convention. The NFL is also subject to political pressures.

I guarantee you that the game will not be on NBC at the same time as the speech. My best guess - put 2 East Coast teams in the game, and start it at 7:00 Eastern.

Sperry23 said...

Oh, Puh-leeze! Football is a money-maker for the networks. Political conventions are not.

Besides, it's not like the networks actually care about showing the political conventions. They do it because it's expected.

They show clips of a few of the speeches, then spend endless hours that no one watches, "analyzing" pointless minutiae. If they actually showed the process and speeches, it would be a different matter.

Let's get real folks. Money talks, and the NFL is MONEY.

James said...

The game can't be moved to Friday or Saturday because the deal from the 60s that gave the NFL an anti-trust exemption dealing with the networks prohibits the NFL from showing games on TV on Fridays and Saturdays during HS and College football season.

This loophole is actually part of the business plan of Mark Cuban's UFL which plans to play on Friday nights.

Although, I should say the league can move the game to Fri or Sat, they just can't televise it. A couple of years ago, the Dolphins home opener was played on Sat in the face of an oncoming hurricane and was broadcast tape delayed on NFL Sunday ticket at its regularly scheduled time Sun 1pm local time.