The NFL’s Potential to Steal Christmas
What happens when the NFL and Christmas collide? The NBA is about to find out. No other American sports league can compete with the NFL when it comes to television viewership. It’s a fact that we’ve known for a long time. Even the mighty NBA has suspended its Thursday night TNT programming until the conclusion of the football season, acknowledging the NFL’s dominance. And as other leagues make concessions to accommodate the NFL, it continues to expand its reach, even encroaching on sacred days like Christmas.
Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day are the NBA’s two biggest days of the year. However, this year, Christmas falls on a Sunday, the day of football. The NFL has taken advantage of this by moving 11 of its games to Saturday, while keeping three on Sunday to appear amicable. But make no mistake, this move has made the NBA’s five-game schedule on Christmas Day a challenging feat. Let’s take a closer look at how these two leagues match up against each other.
Recent events have shown the NFL’s dominance over the NBA. In 2020, the Vikings-Saints Christmas Day game drew an average of 20.1 million viewers on FOX and NFL Network, while the NBA’s Lakers vs. Mavericks game only attracted a little over 7 million viewers. In 2021, the trend continued with the NFL’s Packers-Browns game drawing 28.59 million viewers and the Colts-Cardinals game attracting 12.62 million viewers. On the other hand, the NBA experienced its lowest audience (4.1 million on average) since 2008 when it introduced a five-game Christmas schedule. This was also the lowest audience since ESPN acquired NBA rights in 2002.
But what about the benefits of the NBA? In recent years, the number of NBA regular season games shown on ABC, TNT, and ESPN has increased. In the 2020-21 season, viewership increased by 19% compared to the previous year. With top teams and major markets involved, this year’s Christmas games are expected to be a ratings success. The schedule includes exciting matchups like Lakers vs. Mavericks, Bucks vs. Celtics, 76ers vs. Knicks, Grizzlies vs. Warriors, and Suns vs. Nuggets. The draw goes beyond just the teams themselves. Many of the NBA’s most popular players, such as Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be playing on Christmas Day, generating buzz and excitement among fans.
The NBA also has a strong presence on social media. NBA players are some of the most followed athletes on platforms like Instagram. In fact, NBA players generate over 4 billion views on social media so far this season, a 42% increase from the previous year. This demonstrates the NBA’s appeal to younger generations who are more likely to have cut the cord and rely on digital platforms for content consumption. While this may not directly impact the race for television rights agreements, it showcases the NBA’s ability to connect with fans in new and innovative ways.
However, the NBA is currently facing a challenge from the NFL’s encroachment on Christmas Day. The NFL has extended its regular season to five days, with Monday Night Football even falling on Christmas Day in 2019. The NBA, on the other hand, made a strategic decision to stop playing games on Thanksgiving in 2005, avoiding direct competition with the NFL. Thanksgiving has always been a day associated with football, and the NBA recognized the importance of carving out its own niche on different holidays. But now, with the NFL’s continued expansion, the NBA’s claim to Christmas Day is being put to the test.
The NFL has shown time and time again that it will seize any opportunity to expand its reach and dominate the sports landscape. It’s a testament to the league’s popularity and the loyalty of its fanbase. While the NBA may face challenges on Christmas Day, it still has its own unique features and benefits that make it a compelling and exciting league to watch. The clash between the NFL and the NBA on Christmas Day adds an extra layer of excitement and competition to the sports world, giving fans even more reasons to tune in and enjoy the holiday season.
In the end, both the NFL and the NBA bring value and entertainment to fans around the world. Whether you’re a football fanatic or a basketball enthusiast, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during the holiday season. So, as Christmas approaches, get ready for a day filled with thrilling sports action and memorable moments. Will the NFL steal Christmas from the NBA? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – it’s going to be a holiday showdown like no other.