At the end of March, I took a moment to note (and lament) a change coming to the NFL this season: that games for teams from a particular conference will no longer be carried almost exclusively by a specific television network — something that has been true since 1998.
Younger Kansas City Chiefs fans, for example, have never known what it’s like to have most of the team’s games carried on FOX — while Dallas Cowboys fans under a certain age are unaccustomed to their games being called by CBS crews.
But starting in 2023, it will be impossible to predict which network will carry a particular game. And in many ways, this homogenization of the league’s television coverage will eventually become a good thing. It’s probably better that when a current FOX announcer like Kevin Burkhardt, Kenny Albert or Chris Myers is calling a Chiefs game, fans at home won’t feel like they’re wearing someone else’s underwear.
But we got a surprise when the league schedule was released on Thursday evening. As I noted during the Arrowhead Pride emergency podcast that immediately followed, just one Kansas City game is scheduled to be carried on FOX in 2023. As the 2022 season began — under the old rules that were intended to keep most AFC games on CBS — the initial schedule called for three regular-season games to be broadcast on FOX.
In his weekly “MMQB” column on Monday morning, Sports Illustrated writer Albert Breer shed a little light on the situation.
While those networks don’t have ownership of those games anymore — creating a situation where the broadcast partners were competing for marquee games, rather than taking them away from one another — there are still minimums in place, so there’s a baseline of AFC games on CBS and NFC games on FOX.
Even so, Breer seems to be suggesting that under the television deals now in place with the two networks, it’s not so much about which conference each network is carrying, but which teams are on their respective schedules.
The NFL’s been coy about the minimums. But I can tell you that the minimums are set on a per-team basis — CBS is guaranteed a certain amount of games with each AFC team, and FOX is guaranteed a certain amount of games with each NFC team. And if you want to read the tea leaves here, the Chiefs and Cowboys would be on their own tier as far as desirability to the networks goes, [since] Kansas City has eight games on CBS, and Dallas has eight games on FOX.
Breer pointed out that the small number of Noon games on the two team’s schedules is another indicator of their corresponding “Q ratings” — a measure of the familiarity (or appeal) of a celebrity, brand or television program.
Dallas has two the entire year (Week 8 vs. the Rams, Week 11 at Carolina). The Chiefs have only one (Week 2 at Jacksonville). Philly is another team with a low number, coming in with just four. And Buffalo has only five, with, interestingly enough, old ratings darling New England accounting for two of those five.
Technically, Kansas City has two games with Noon starts on the 2023 schedule — but one of them is on Christmas Day, which is a Monday; Breer is essentially referring to Noon games that take place on a garden-variety NFL Sunday.
The Cowboys, of course, have long been identified as “America’s Team” — a nickname that undoubtedly annoyed Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt, who had competed directly against the Dallas NFL franchise when his brand-new AFL team was located across town. Years later — after Hunt had moved his team to Kansas City — it probably didn’t help that new Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lived down the road from him in Dallas.
Now, however, it’s clear that the two teams should share the moniker. It’s yet another indicator that this is an amazing time to be a Chiefs fan — and that somewhere, Lamar Hunt is smiling broadly.