NFL programming execs admit no prime-time game for Lions ‘seems weird’

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The Detroit Lions will be presented in August on hard knocks, an evening show on HBO. After that, the league no longer needs the Lions in prime time.

In a video conference call with media on Friday, NFL Vice President of Broadcast Planning Mike North admitted that it “seems strange” not to have Detroit in night games for 2022, at less of a late season flex through Sunday night. North pointed out that, even without a prime-time game, they still have a hammer on a prime spot on the fourth Thursday of November.

“Unattractive isn’t the right word,” North said of the Lions. “The real thing for us is, again, we watch them on national windows and we can never lose sight of the fact that the Thanksgiving afternoon window — that 12:30 p.m. window in Detroit — most years is the number two or number three most-watched NFL game each year, so there’s no hesitation in putting the Lions in a national window like that. . . . You could definitely make a pretty convincing argument, they’re going to get a lot more eyeballs for that one than they would if they had a Monday night standalone type of game or a Thursday night standalone type of game . I admit it “seems weird” not having them in prime time, but they’re going to play in one of the top five most-watched games this season. It’s pretty good too.

But it is all year, given that the Lions have owned this place for decades and will likely continue to do so. In a weird way, North’s decision not to justify any prime-time appearances for the Lions by saying, “Well, they’re getting one of the best spots of the year” feels like maybe- be the league is at least thinking about being more strategic around 12:30 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day and less tied to tradition.

There is no particular reason to believe this is happening. But there was something about the way North said it — and there’s something about the increasingly deliberate way the NFL deploys its planning assets — that at least made me stop and think that perhaps, as the NFL perfects its broadcast procedures, some in the league office would like the option of putting a team other than the Lions in “one of the five most-watched games of the season.”

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