Despite a heavy challenge from “The Walking Dead,” NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” remains America’s most-watched program, and with that comes the ability to charge some hefty fees for advertising. But what form will that advertising take?
First and foremost, Lazarus has heard your screaming about the commercial-kickoff-commercial approach that so many NFL telecasts take, slowing momentum of the game to a crawl. “We are working on formatting that reduces the number of breaks, but maybe are a little bit longer, maybe 30 seconds longer,” he said. “We may take out some of the breaks. I think that will enhance the viewing experience. When you have a play, take a break, have a play, take a break, it does not exactly lend to the flow of the game.”
Lazarus also noted that he doesn’t expect the rocky ratings that hampered the start of last season to return. “The first few weeks are really important to our season, and last year we got snakebitten,” he said. “We knew we had the Broncos playing the Panthers, but we knew Peyton Manning wasn’t going to be part of it. Our opening Sunday had the Patriots, but there was no Tom Brady, because he was suspended. Our next Sunday had the Cowboys, but no Tony Romo, because he was hurt. In a star-driven league, we lost some of our big stars early on. I predict a nice bounce back from the NFL this season.”
There’s also the tantalizing possibility — which could be speculation, or could be something more — that the NFL is looking hard at the Thursday night slate of games: “There has been a lot of discussion about whether Thursday night should continue, does it dilute the product?” Lazarus said. “I think there is some argument that could be said that Thursday night makes it harder for the league to schedule all of the Sunday games they are trying to schedule with the highest ratings. That being said, if there is a Thursday-night package, NBC wants to be a part of it.”
Bottom line: NBC has the big NFL prize at the moment, but nothing lasts forever. The NFL and NBC will need to keep one eye on viewers’ habits, another eye on sponsors’ wallets, and a third eye on the broadcast itself in order to keep ahead of that zombie horde.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.