As two of the five major college football dominoes have kicked the can to spring 2021 at the earliest, the NFL may soon have an opportunity to slide some Sunday games to Saturday. If that happens, a pair of Disney-owned networks would be interested in televising the product.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that “ESPN/ABC would try to land Saturday games.”
It’s unclear how many networks would want to add to their existing packages, if the NFL were to create one or two or three windows on Saturday. Some networks may not be willing to write the check in troubled financial times. Likewise, the NFL may not be willing to give FOX and CBS the kind of rebates needed to strip away one or two or three Sunday games.
Regardless, if college football vacates the day, the NFL would be foolish to not come up with a way to pounce on the wide-open Saturday windows: 1:00 p.m. ET, 4:30 p.m. ET, and 8:15 p.m. ET, the same windows the NFL used when playing a trio of games on a Saturday in December 2019.
Whether the games are sold to a network or to a streaming service or whether the league sells the games directly to the consumer, with local games at all times available via free, over-the-air TV, moving games to Saturday would help to recoup the lost revenue from fans not attending games.
But the NFL surely would need a full and complete disappearance of college football from Saturdays. The broadcast antitrust exemption prohibits the NFL from televising games on Fridays and Saturdays from Labor Day weekend through early December. If any of the conferences will be playing this fall, it would be difficult if not impossible for the NFL to finagle an exception to the exemption, allowing Saturday games to be played, and to be televised.
Regardless, the NFL may have a golden opportunity to recapture some lost green this season. Wherever and however the games are served to consumers, if there’s no college football on Saturdays it would be an upset if the NFL doesn’t milk a cow that suddenly shows up in the barn.