Though the NFL is currently on schedule with all of its games to-date, the league’s seemingly constant COVID-19 issue — due to travel and large roster sizes — its wiggle room is minimal at this point. With no bye weeks left, the NFL basically has to hope there are no more postponements or cancellations if they want to keep the season on schedule with 16 games for each team.
The likelihood of that seems to be getting smaller by the day as cases climb throughout the U.S. and the league itself was dealing with cases on at least half of its teams going into this past weekend’s action.
Yet, there remains a little flexibility on the backend, if needed.
One option includes the NFL pushing the playoffs a week later into January (so using up the usual bye week between the conference championship games and Super Bowl), and creating an 18th week of the regular season to make up dates as needed. Another full Sunday would be a big boost for the league, TV networks and brand advertisers alike. But the bigger windfall comes from a proposal around an expanded, 16-team playoff.
As ESPN’s Chris Mortenson notes above, this 16-team playoff (eight teams in each conference) is an option should the league lose a week of games (so down to 15 instead of 16). With a smaller number of games, adding two extra teams to the postseason potentially counteracts the missed chances for franchises to play their way in. It could also add over $270 million in estimated media value, according to iSpot.tv.
Utilizing iSpot data from last year’s playoffs, the old 12-team format accounted for $1.27 billion in media value — how much ads from brands and network partners are worth — in the three rounds before the Super Bowl. The four-game wildcard round was $277 million, or $69.25 million per game.
The NFL had already planned to tack on two more teams and two more wildcard games with a permanently expanded playoff. This temporary boost would mean another two on top of that, netting the league (and networks and advertisers) four more games — for ANOTHER $277 million based on last year’s estimated media value.
Following a year where COVID issues scuttled TV for much of Q2, everyone involved is still looking for ways to rebound. Live sports’ coming back was part of a return to normalcy, but with so much sports at once and the presidential election cycle, ratings for all leagues (even the NFL) have seen declines. Adding four more playoff games — and ones with marquee teams involved since this format would eliminate the first-round bye — wouldn’t cure all ills. It would certainly lend a hand in making up some of the revenue differences, though.
For more on NFL advertising, check out iSpot’s weekly NFL ad center as well.