A look at the rules for the NFL on local TV
(WLUK) -- Each year, near the start of the NFL season, I post this blog about the rules and guidelines used to determine what games air on what network and when. There are some changes, which are addressed throughout. All in all, it can be quite complicated but I try to break it down by the various aspects of the rules. I hope it helps viewers understand some of the reasoning behind why you see some games, not others, and where they air.
- The rules are crafted between the NFL and networks which carry the games (FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN and NFL Network). Local affiliates (i.e. WLUK-TV) have little control in the process -- and are sometimes at the mercy of the decisions made on the fly by the network.
- Because we are the home market station for the Green Bay Packers, we are guaranteed to show all of the Packers games on FOX. This year we have nine of those (so far). Home market status means the local station will air ALL of the game. If the Packers are the late game, such as in Week 5, if the early game is running long, the network will cut away from it to show all of the Packers game - even if that means viewers miss a great ending of the noon game.
- Starting a few years ago, to help alleviate that problem, the NFL moved the kickoff time of the primary nationally-televised doubleheader game from 3:15 to 3:25 p.m.
- WLUK has no control over any in-game switches away from blowouts or to more competitive games. The network makes those decisions.
- We air every NFL game we can. We only broadcast a local post-game show when there is no late game available for us to show. When we can show a late game, we will not have a Packers post-game show. As of now, we have three "Locker Room Live" post-games planned: Week 6 after the Minnesota game, Week 7 after the New Orleans game, and Week 15 after the Carolina game.
- Just because FOX has games in both the noon and 3:05/3:25 p.m. slots does not mean we can air two games every week. The networks (generally) alternate doubleheader weeks. Sometimes we can air two, sometimes we can't. FOX has at least one late game each week because of the west coast home NFC games in Arizona, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but that doesn't mean we can always air them. It's not our choice - it's league & network rules. The upshot here: the national on-air promos don't necessarily translate to games on air in Northeast Wisconsin for FOX 11.
- FOX assigns us the other games, based on regional interest or national importance. This means we usually get NFC North games. We can request a change, but the network doesn't have to grant it. The announcement will also be in our ticker on the bottom of the screen during FOX 11 News.
- For non-prime-time games between teams in different conferences, the network of the visiting team gets the rights (in most cases). That's why FOX 11 will have the Packers at Cleveland game, and CBS will have the Cincinnati & Baltimore at Green Bay games.
- Starting three years ago, it became easier to shift games between FOX and CBS on Sundays, regardless of conference affiliation. This “cross flex” tool may be used to even out the number of games aired on each network, or to get a high-interest game more distribution - even if it's on the 'wrong' network. As of now, this doesn't affect the Packers this season, but that could change.
- Even if it is a FOX doubleheader Sunday, FOX 11 can't air a game at the same time as a Packers home game. So, while Fox will air games at noon on Nov. 19 (including the Lions/Bears game), because the Packers/Baltimore game is on CBS at that time, we will not have a game in that slot. The same rules apply to CBS, such that WFRV can’t air a game when the Packers are home. So, in Week 7, even though it is a CBS doubleheader, WFRV will not have a game at noon while the Packers host the Saints. The only exception to this is Week 17, when both networks get two games because of playoff implications.
- Local fans are guaranteed to see all of the Packers games on local broadcast stations, even if they are on cable (ESPN or the NFL Network). FOX 11 will carry the ESPN game this year: the Lions game on Nov. 6. When we have details for the pre-empted FOX network programming on Nov. 6, we will share them.
- The local stations have no control over the flexible scheduling. For the last 12 weeks of the year, the NFL may decide to change games to give NBC a more attractive game in its Sunday night time slot. Games may also move between the early and late doubleheader slots. Thursday, Saturday, and Monday night games do not change.
- Specifically, NFL on FOX games scheduled in Weeks 5-10 are part of the NFL's flexible schedule plan. During this period, flexible schedule can be used in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into prime time and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time. The league will give at least 12 days notice of a change.
- Additionally, NFL on FOX games scheduled in Weeks 11 - 17 are part of the NFL's flexible schedule plan. After consultation with the networks, the NFL will determine start times on these dates, with a game or games possibly moving to the late afternoon broadcast window. The league will give at least 12 days notice of a change, except during the last week of the season, when just six days notice will be given.
- New this year, if a game is flexed off of NBC on a Sunday night, it will go the network (Fox or CBS) that is losing one of its afternoon games, even if it doesn’t follow the usual conference/network pairing rules.
- One exception to that this year will be Week 16. Because the dates fall on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, those games will not move.
- Once again, we will have an early Sunday game, due to a contest in London. In Week 4, the day starts with New Orleans vs. Miami at 8:30 a.m.
- WLUK-TV has no control who the announcers are. You can call the FOX Sports broadcast comment line at (310) 369-9111 to offer the network your views.
- While there are few preseason games on network television, the rights to the majority of preseason games are sold by the teams to stations of their choosing. The rules described above generally don't apply to the preseason. This year, all of the Packers’ exhibition games air on a statewide network, including WGBA-TV locally.
Given all of that, here is the tentative schedule for the NFL on FOX 11. Remember, the assignments for the non-Packers games very possibly could change based on how the year develops - so please don't call in December complaining we aren't airing a specific game just because it's on this list now. That said, we should have games in all of these time slots.
Week 1, Sunday, Sept. 10
- Noon - Atlanta at Chicago
- 3:25 p.m. – Seattle at Green Bay
Week 2, Sunday, Sept. 17
- Noon – Minnesota at Pittsburgh
- 3:25 p.m. – Dallas at Denver
Week 3, Sunday, Sept. 24
- Noon – Tampa Bay at Minnesota
Week 4, Sunday, Oct. 1
- 8:30 a.m. – New Orleans vs. Miami, in London
- Noon – Detroit at Minnesota
Week 5, Sunday, Oct. 8
- Noon – Carolina at Detroit
- 3:25 p.m. – Green Bay at Dallas
Week 6, Sunday, Oct. 15
- Noon – Green Bay at Minnesota (followed by Locker Room Live)
Week 7, Sunday, Oct. 22
- Noon – New Orleans at Green Bay (followed by Locker Room Live)
Week 8, Sunday, Oct. 29
- Noon – Chicago at New Orleans
- 3:25 p.m. – Dallas at Washington
Week 9, Sunday, Nov. 5
- Noon – Atlanta at Carolina
Week 9, Monday, Nov. 6
- 7:30 p.m. – Detroit at Green Bay
Week 10, Sunday, Nov. 12
- Noon – Green Bay at Chicago
- 3:25 p.m. – Dallas at Atlanta
Week 11, Sunday, Nov. 19
- 3:05 p.m. – Buffalo at Los Angeles
Week 12, Thursday, Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving)
- 11:30 a.m. – Minnesota at Detroit
Week 12, Sunday, Nov. 26
- Noon – Chicago at Philadelphia
Week 13, Sunday, Dec. 3
- Noon – Tampa Bay at Green Bay
- 3:25 p.m. – New York Giants at Oakland
Week 14, Sunday, Dec. 10
- Noon – Green Bay at Cleveland
- 3:25 p.m. – Dallas at New York Giants
Week 15, Sunday, Dec. 17
- Noon – Green Bay at Carolina (followed by Locker Room Live)
Week 16, Sunday, Dec. 24
- Noon – Detroit at Cincinnati
- 3:25 p.m. – Seattle at Dallas
Week 17, Sunday, Dec. 31
- Noon – Green Bay at Detroit
- 3:25 p.m. – Arizona at Seattle