NFL scheduling executives admit no prime-time video games for Lions “appears odd”

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The Detroit Lions will be showcased in August on Hard Knocks, an evening show on HBO. After that, the league has no use for the Lions in prime-time.

During a Friday media video conference, NFL VP of broadcast planning Mike North admitted that it “looks odd” to not have Detroit in any night games for 2022, barring a late-season flex to Sunday night. North pointed out that, even without a prime-time game, they continue to have a hammerlock on a prime spot on the fourth Thursday in November.

“Unattractive is not the right word,” North said of the Lions. “The real thing for us is, again, we look at them on national windows and we can never lose sight of the fact that Thanksgiving afternoon window — that 12:30 window in Detroit — most years is the Number Two or Number Three most- watched NFL game every year, so there’s no hesitation to put the Lions in a national window like that. . . . You could certainly make a pretty compelling argument they’re gonna get a lot more eyeballs for that one than they would have if they had one kind-of stand-alone Monday night game or one kind-of stand-alone Thursday night game. I acknowledge that it ‘looks odd’ to have them not in prime-time, but they’re gonna be playing in one of the five most-watched games of this season. That’s pretty good, too.”

But that’s the case every year, given that the Lions have owned this spot for decades and presumably will continue to do so. In a weird sort of way, North’s decision to justify no prime-time appearances for the Lions by saying, “Well, they’re getting one of the best spots of the year” creates the impression that maybe the league is at least pondering the possibility of being more strategic about 12:30 ET on Thanksgiving and less tied to tradition.

There’s no specific reason to believe that’s happening. But there was something about the way North said it — and there’s something about the deliberate manner in which the NFL deploys it’s scheduling assets — that at least made me stop and think that maybe, as the NFL further hones its broadcasting, some in the league office would like to have the flexibility to a place team other than the Lions in “one of the five most-watched games of the season.”

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