No More Thursday Night Football on Saturdays

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For the next two weeks, we will be blessed with yet another day of the week in which the NFL will consume our lives. The tradition of mid-December Saturday games continues for yet another season to provide the TV networks with an additional advertising revenue boost — and, hopefully  for the league, improve sagging ratings.

This season, there are four Saturday games over Week 15 and Week 16. Two of those four games – Chargers-Chiefs in Week 15 and Vikings-Packers Week 16 – will actually be marquee games with playoff implications and should draw significant attention in their time slots.

Just don’t expect the NFL to refer to the games as ‘Saturday Night Football’ or some other title that makes sense. In fact, you shouldn’t expect the NFL to willingly bring up the fact that the games are being played on Saturday at all, except as a technicality.

Instead – as the NFL and the networks that overpaid for the right to broadcast the ill-received Thursday Night Football slate has been doing for the past several seasons – the four Saturday games will be dubbed as ‘Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition.’

It is a laughable attempt to drum up free advertising for ‘Thursday Night Football,’ which makes a mockery out of both TNF and what could be a special December standalone event each year.

There is a very valuable brand and marketing opportunity in the idea of Saturday Night Football at Christmas time. It is something football fans look forward to and has been ingrained in the NFL’s calendar for decades at this point, far longer than the NFL’s new vision for football on Thursday nights.

That tradition and the genuine excitement over an added day of NFL football during the slow period of the NCAA’s bowl game schedule is a special thing; far more valuable than whatever the NFL, NFL Network and CBS perceive they are gaining from attaching the Thursday Night Football brand to an entirely different product.

Sure, the NFL gives more exposure to the idea of Thursday Night Football being a household name such as Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football. However, the reality is that exposure is nothing more than the same writers and NFL analysts making the same joke about how lame and uncool it is of the NFL to insist on calling it a TNF broadcast.

The alternative is simple. Call it ‘Saturday Night Football’ and run some highlights of classic Saturday games from yesteryear to build traditional nostalgia for the event. It is so painfully obvious of a fix to an awkward branding situation for the NFL that it is madness the move has yet to be made.

There will be enjoyable football over the next two weeks on Saturday afternoon and Saturday night that we will all watch and enjoy. Tonight’s AFC West grudge match between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs will be a particularly great matchup that hopefully will draw in huge ratings for the NFL.

It is just a shame the NFL has to diminish a great thing by being the lame and uncool NFL.

Remember that as you roll your eyes at the Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition jokes you saw last year come on your Twitter timelines over the next two weekends.

  • Karl Styles

    The alternative isn’t as simple as you suggest. ESPN has the trademark for Saturday Night Football.

    Word Mark SATURDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
    Goods and Services IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: entertainment services in the nature of a televised series of football games. FIRST USE: 20060902. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20060902

    Registration Date September 11, 2007
    Owner (REGISTRANT) ESPN, Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE ESPN Plaza Bristol CONNECTICUT 06010