The NFL has taken another step toward ensuring the best possible games will be played in front of the largest audiences.
NFL owners on Monday approved a modified proposal allowing for flex scheduling of Thursday Night Football games, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported.
The resolution comes with strict requirements: Thursday games can only be flexed between Weeks 13 and 17, with a four-week notice required. Only two Thursday night games can be flexed per year, and the resolution notes that the flexible scheduling for TNF is on "a trial basis."
"We have added an element of flexible scheduling to each of the Thursday Night Football package," NFL chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp said in a statement on Monday. "We now on all of our television packages including Sunday afternoon will have some element of flexible scheduling, which we think is paramount to make sure we ensure an attractive and the most attractive schedule for our fans that merited a fair amount of discussion. There was added perimeters on there since our discussion in March, which include a 28 days notice before we flex any game."
Clubs may be required to switch Sunday afternoon regular-season games to approximately 8:15 p.m. ET on Thursday (and vice-versa), upon at least 28 days notice from the league office. The league's late-season, fluid scheduling mechanic -- in which games are listed with a time and date of "to be determined" -- can be used to fill Thursday games as part of the flexing possibilities. In this scenario, for example, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 15 game at the Indianapolis Colts could be a candidate for flexing into Thursday night.
The resolution comes even after owners and the NFLPA raised issues with the proposal, voicing concerns regarding travel logistics and travel impact on fans, Pelissero reported.
Despite concerns, the premium placed on prime-time NFL games won out, leading to the possibility of a maximum of two TNF games being flexed per year. Monday's resolution means each and every prime-time slot is now available for schedule flexing, giving the NFL the power to move the most anticipated games into the windows with the largest audiences.
We'll wait to see if the NFL uses its new scheduling strength to create must-see TV in 2023.