When the new NFL TV contracts begin in 2014, be prepared for more of the flex schedule. We're not talking about increased flexing for Sunday Night Football, although the NFL will have the right to start flexing earlier in the season. It currently begins in Week 11.
Starting in 2014, CBS and Fox will be able to air more attractive games in the 4:25 p.m. ET window. And that means you could see a 1 p.m. ET or 4:05 p.m. Fox game in a CBS late afternoon window and vice-versa. In a nutshell, you will see NFC games on CBS and AFC contests on Fox. Confused?
Let's take Week 11 of this season as an example. The NFL had moved Kansas City at Denver into primetime giving it to NBC's Sunday Night Football. This was originally scheduled for a 4:05 p.m. ET regional window on CBS. Under the new rules, the NFL would have had the option to move it into Fox's 4:25 p.m. window to allow more viewers to see the game. A less attractive Fox game might have been moved to 1 p.m. to accommodate this flex. And if the NFL wanted to put another game into primetime, it would have been able to do so.
The details of how early this would begin and how the flex would work in the late afternoon window still have to be ironed out, but when the new NFL TV contracts were unveiled in December 2011, CBS proudly announced that it would have the ability to air select NFC games in the late Sunday afternoon national window.
In its press release, Fox made a similar announcement:
"Flexible scheduling, which the NFL initiated to ensure quality matchups in all Sunday time slots and as it relates to FOX gives NFC teams a chance to play their way into the late-afternoon 4:15 PM ET window, expands in 2014. Included in the changes is a limited ability for the NFL to move games between FOX and CBS that would bring regional games to wider audiences."
As we get more details, we will pass them along. If you want a primer on what's coming in the 2014 NFL TV contracts between CBS, Fox and NBC, check out this synopsis written back in 2011 detailing what you'll see on the networks next season.