An added wrinkle is coming to the Sunday NFL packages broadcast by CBS and Fox, once the networks’ new contracts with the NFL go into effect with the 2023 season.
According to the Sports Business Journal, the traditional AFC and NFC packages as we know them have essentially been scrapped. Instead, each network will be able to choose teams from their respective conference (AFC for CBS, NFC for Fox) and decide how many times it wants to air those chosen teams. Here’s how SBJ explained the new setup, though there is a hefty dose of the unknown regarding how many teams can be chosen and if there is a maximum amount of times those teams can be chosen.
Starting in ’23, Fox and CBS will identify a specific number of teams that it wants to carry for a specific minimum of games. It is not known how many teams or games are part of this process, which will occur at some point before the official schedule release. Because it has the NFC package, Fox will only pick NFC teams, which will mean that Fox is likely to carry more Cowboys and Packers games than other networks. CBS will pick AFC teams, which, at least in the near term, means a heavy dose of the Chiefs and Steelers. Those games will come from anywhere on the schedule. There will be no such thing as a traditional Fox-NFC or CBS-AFC game as in years past.
Additionally, the standard fallback of Fox getting interconference and road NFC games and CBS getting interconference and road AFC games is gone, potentially turning the lesser regarded games each week
For decades, Fox would carry any game with two NFC teams or any interleague game where the NFC team was on the road. CBS had the AFC games, including any game where the AFC was on the road. Under the new deal, those designations will be stripped away, essentially making all 272 games free agents.
I’m curious if this will work similarly to the Big Ten’s arrangement with Fox and ESPN, where each network “drafts” games for the season. Assuming the nationally televised games (Sunday, Monday, and Thursday Night Football) and international games are chosen pre-“draft” by the league, my best guess is that each network will be able to pick the games they want from their chosen teams before filling out the rest of their schedules draft-style.
I think an interesting situation could unfold if, later in the season, an interconference game that ends up looking like one of the stronger ones on the schedule airs on the network opposite the one you’d expect it to air on (for example, something like Broncos-Raiders on Fox, or Panthers-Falcons on CBS). I’m sure that in the coming years, we’ll learn a lot more about this process, and come 2023, we’ll be inundated with questions from fans who had no idea what’s happening.