The NFL isn’t synonymous with Christmas like it is Thanksgiving, but the league is trying to turn itself into a holiday staple on par with Santa Claus, eggnog, and strange-tasting fruitcake.
Per Buffalo’s WGR 550 (via Pro Football Talk), the NFL is planning a Christmas Day tripleheader for the first time this December.
NFL broadcasting VP Mike North shared the news in an interview with WGR’s Sal Capaccio.
“We’ll play one game on CBS in the afternoon, one game on Fox in the afternoon, and our regular Sunday night game on NBC,” North said. “Christmas, when it falls on an NFL game day, we’ve had a lot of success there, all due respect to our friends at the NBA.”
North explained that, as usual, the bulk of the weekend’s games will be played on Saturday, December 24. There also will be a Christmas Eve night game on NFL Network.
Back in 2016, the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, the NFL had a Thursday Night Football game on NBC and NFL Network, a full league schedule on Saturday (including a primetime game on NFL Network), two games on Sunday (one on NFL Network, one on NBC), and Monday Night Football on ESPN.
This time around, it looks like Amazon will get a TNF game on the 22nd, the full slate will be on the 24th (with NFL Network getting the primetime slot), the 25th will get the Thanksgiving treatment (one daytime game each for CBS and Fox, and a primetime game for NBC), and the 26th will be an MNF game.
Last year, Christmas fell on a Saturday, and the NFL ran a pair of games (one on Fox, NFL Network, and Amazon Prime in the afternoon, and one on NFL Network in primetime). Those two games did quite well in overall viewership, with the early game bringing in the regular season’s second-best viewership and the late game becoming NFL Network’s second-most watched exclusive game ever. Back in 2020, viewership was also impressive with just one Friday evening game on the slate.
The big loser here is probably the NBA. Christmas Day viewership was its lowest since the schedule expanded to five games back in 2008, and the presence of a pair of NFL games played a huge part in that. Add a third game into the mix, move one game from NFL Network to broadcast TV, and the NBA has the makings of one of its marquee gamedays of the year getting overshadowed once again.