Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
At Roger Goodell's annual "State of the League" address prior to the Super Bowl, one of the topics addressed was the NFL Network's plan to expand their Thursday Night Schedule starting in 2012.
The expanded schedule will mean that the NFL Network will now carry a Thursday night game every week from Week 2 until Week 15 and that every NFL team will now have at least one prime-time game every season.
This sounds like nothing but trouble to me.
Before I get to the messiness that will ensue between the NFL Network and the cable companies, let's start off with the fact that every team will have at least one prime-time game a season.
Remember how you cringed last year when the Falcons took on the Jaguars on Thursday night? Or remember that Monday night game in 2010 between the then-terrible San Francisco 49ers and the then-even worse Arizona Cardinals? Yes, more prime-time games and guaranteeing that every team has at least one will mean more turkeys like that.
There's a reason that not every team gets a Monday night or Sunday night game every year and why Sunday Night Football uses flex-scheduling: to ensure that the NFL's prime-time games are games that we might want to see.
Getting a prime-time game is usually based on either market size, national prominence (the main reason that the Cowboys could go 1-15 and still appear the next season on three Sunday night games and two Monday night games), and merit. We want the best matchups possible on prime time each week even though there are no guarantees of how good a match up will be when the schedule is released in April.
This also means that at least one game per week that would normally air on FOX or CBS will be taken away. While officially both networks seem OK with this arrangement, their local affiliates might not be too keen on this. The local team usually brings in big ratings for that station when they air those games.
However the biggest reason why this will become an even bigger storm of controversy is the fact that the NFL Network still isn't available in as many homes as ESPN or other cable outlets that would like to bid on the package. If you don't live in your teams' local market, it will be difficult for you to view your team when they play on Thursday nights if you don't have NFL Network.
Then there's the long-running dispute between the NFL and Time Warner Cable and Cablevision. As stated in the article I linked this to, this move appears to increase the pressure on TWC and Cablevision to carry NFL Network, especially since those are the two biggest cable companies in the New York area.
This will likely get ugly. Between the potential for more prime-time turkeys and more games that most of the country will miss, this will become a big story in 2012 unless the NFL either lowers their price demands for cable companies to carry NFLN or opens up the bidding for other networks to carry the games.
None of those will happen, sadly, so be prepared for missed games.
But don't worry, some of those games are games you would want to miss anyways.