The NFL vs. NBA on XMA(s) was a TKO.
In the biggest test of pro football muscles yet, on Dec. 25, the league for the first time staged three games against a five-game slate of all-day NBA action. The public was attracted by the game played with the oblong ball.
The widely publicized figures paint a very gloomy picture.
Packers-Dolphins: 25.92 million viewers. (It was the only game of the day between two playoff contenders.)
Broncos-Rams: 22.57 million viewers. (Both teams had been eliminated from the playoffs, with the Rams winning 51-14.)
Boucaniers-Cardinals: 17.15 million viewers. (The Cardinals were starting a third-string quarterback in a game between two teams under .500.)
76ers-Knicks: 4.04 million viewers.
Lakers-Mavericks: 4.33 million viewers.
Bucks-Celtics: 6.03 million viewers.
Grizzlies-Warriors: 4.70 million viewers.
Soleils-Pépites: 2.49 million viewers.
This represents an average audience of 21.88 million for the NFL and 4.318 million for the NBA. The NFL attracted an audience five times larger than that of the NBA.
And remember – NBA games weren’t only televised on ESPN. ABC simulcast each of them, in an obvious effort to boost ratings.
What does this mean for the NFL and Nielsen Christmas Future Rankings? Look to the NFL to consistently find a way to fill the day, no matter what day of the week it lands.
In 2023, it will be easy. Play a full slate of games on Sunday, December 24 and play three on Monday, December 25.
In 2024, things get a bit more complicated. Thanks to the leap year, Christmas moves to Wednesday. How will the NFL manage the schedule to put games on a Wednesday? The best (and perhaps only) option would be to give the six Christmas teams the previous Sunday, giving them a very late week off – but essentially giving them two half-outs, with a 10-day break, then 11 days Pause.
In 2025, Christmas arrives on Thursday, as does Thanksgiving. In 2026, Friday. In 2027, Saturday. In 2028, Monday.
Given the NFL’s performance with the captive Christmas audience, look to the NFL for a way to keep stealing Christmas from the NBA.
And imagine how bad the NFL numbers will be if/when the games are more entertaining than this year’s trio.