If you were looking forward to spending your New Year’s Eve in front of the TV with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, feel free to make other plans as the NFL announced tonight it was canceling the season-ending Sunday Night Football game—making it the first time since 1977 that the NFL regular season will not end with a primetime broadcast.
Instead, the NFL shuffled its schedule to put all the games with playoff bids on the line into the same time slot—claiming it’s better “from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective” to do things like they do in European soccer. The truth: a ratings-shy NFL is terrified at how badly a New Year’s Eve SNF might do with viewers; the last time there was a Sunday night game on NYE, it performed terribly:
On Sunday, Dec. 31, the “NBC Sunday Night Football” telecast of the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears averaged a 4.7/15 in adults 18-49, 13.4 million viewers overall and a 7.9/15 household rating and share from 8:16-11:11 p.m. ET.
That was a matchup featuring the Super Bowl-bound Bears team that benched most of its starters after the first series. It remains unclear how the NFL will make good to NBC for canceling a game broadcast, or with what NBC will replace the programming.