As the NFL continues to conduct business as usual during the COVID-19 crisis, it appears that league owners are ready to approve a new Wild Card playoff format that will take effect at the end of the 2020 regular season, provided that a season is played. According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, CBS and NBC will air the additional Wild Card games that will part of a six-game setup that allows for 14 teams in the postseason. The new format would have CBS and NBC both airing two games, with ESPN/ABC and Fox both broadcasting one game.
Breer writes that the owners will vote on the expanded playoffs and then on the new TV format on Tuesday:
The biggest voting matter will be expanding the playoffs—which is expected to pass easily. The league will also vote on the new TV setup for the wild-card round, which will now include six games, and other procedures (such as seeding) for a 14-team playoff. Per the meeting agenda, the league has negotiated deals with CBS and NBC to broadcast the two new wild-card games, and will vote on that, as well as a resolution to extend its streaming agreement with Amazon through 2022.
With two extra games, it appears that Wild Card weekend will have two tripleheaders at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET on both Saturday and Sunday. On Wild Card Saturday, the 1 p.m. window would be added to the games currently scheduled for 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., while the 8 p.m. game on Wild Card Sunday will become the new late window.
Conventional wisdom would have ESPN/ABC taking the early Saturday 1 p.m. window, which could become the new time slot for the Houston Texans, while NBC would air the Sunday night game.
The big loser here is Fox, which would have loved to have had a second Wild Card game. However, under the current TV contract, Fox will air two games during the Divisional Playoff weekend this season. With this new deal, CBS and NBC would get the additional playoff games through at least the 2022 season.
As mentioned in Breer’s story, Amazon would get an additional three seasons tacked on to stream Thursday Night Football games. Its current pact ended after the 2019 campaign.
With this out of the way, the NFL can now focus on negotiating its future media rights with the TV partners.