the 2022 NFL schedule was released Thursday, prompting fans and media across the country to react to the big news.
From a look at the top 10 games to watch, to questions about how the schedule will affect individual teams like the Cowboys and Steelers, it was a hot topic as the sports world entered the weekend.
But how does it all work? How is the plan made? And who decides which games end up on which networks?
On Friday, FOX Sports EVP, Head of Strategy & Analytics Mike Mulvihill joined Joy Taylor on “The Herd” and pulled the curtain on how it all works.
Behind the scenes in the making of the NFL schedule
FOX Sports EVP, Head of Strategy & Analytics Mike Mulvihill joins Joy Taylor on The Herd.
Mulvihill said the various networks meet with the NFL during the week of the Super Bowl to discuss what worked last season, what didn’t, and what the game list looks like for the next season.
He said this year’s meeting was looking a little different due to uncertainty about the futures of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, prompting the networks to come up with lists of multiple scenarios. Fortunately, both players returned to their respective teams.
“My role is (I see it as) somewhere between a lobbyist and an adviser,” Mulvihill said. “The league has full authorship of the schedule. We have no contractual right to place a specific match anywhere on our schedule… We all lobby for what we want and try to make a case for the biggest and best matches .”
The network won’t find out about the television show until a few hours before the NFL announces it to the public.
“The influence the NFL has on our business is huge. It’s felt even more acutely at FOX because we rely more on sports and more specifically on football than any other network.”
According to Mulvihill, people spend “hundreds of billions of hours” watching the network, and about two-thirds of that time is spent watching football.
Making the NFL Schedule Requires Collaboration
FOX Sports EVP, Head of Strategy & Analytics Mike Mulvihill peels the curtain on the process of creating NFL schedules, revealing the wrinkles of navigating between different networks.
Asked about what goes into making the NFL schedule that fans don’t think about, Mulvihill said he could think of two things.
The first? Stadium availability.
“Even though the NFL is the elephant in our business…the stadiums aren’t always available,” he said. “You could have a conflict with a touring concert, you could have a conflict with a local baseball team. The NFL and Major League Baseball don’t often share a stadium anymore, but they often share a parking lot.”
Another major issue is balancing the interests of the network partners.
“We, CBS, NBC, Disney and now Amazon, all write checks for over a billion dollars a year to partner with the NFL, and the league really has to go to great lengths to make sure everyone is treated fairly. Mulvihill said. “I think give and take among the networks is something the average fan would never think about, and why would they anyway?”
Knowing the selection of bounding boxes in advance has a direct impact on profits, and releasing the schedule is very important for the networks. But when it comes to targeting specific games, Mulvihill said he doesn’t overcomplicate things.
“In terms of storylines that we focus on, we keep it very simple. You can think of it as A, B, C,” Mulvihill said. “A is for Aaron, like in Rodgers, B is for Brady and C is Cowboys… We want Aaron, Brady and the Cowboys to go all over the country as much as possible.”
Rodgers, Brady & Cowboys Influence the Making of NFL Schedules
FOX Sports EVP, Head of Strategy & Analytics Mike Mulvihill reveals how Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady of Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys influence the making of NFL schedules. He also discusses the storylines that have the most interest from networks.
FOX will broadcast the Cowboys eight times in the upcoming season, including Dallas in Green Bay on Nov. 13. It will also air the Packers on Brady’s Buccaneers on September 25.
“It’s true that Dallas, Green Bay, because of the strength of those brands, because of the history between those two franchises, and because of the setting at Lambeau Field, it was the #1 game on our board and I think we’ve got it on a really good value place,” Mulvihill told FOX personality Kevin Burkhardt. “It’s right after the World Series when the focus of sports fans completely shifts to football and the NFL. You always want something big for that first week after baseball, and we’ve got it.”
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