The NFL overtime rule isn’t about fairness and equity. It’s all about business.
In the television world, ad spots are sold to companies, and they pay based on viewership. In the sports world, networks pay big money to have the right to air sports content. It costs CBS $2.1 billion per season, FOX is $2.2 billion, and NBC is $2 billion. That makes the networks and NFL partners in the distribution because the NFL provides the content, and the networks provide a platform for distribution.
That means the NFL won’t do anything that could potentially harm their partners, and frankly, that’s logical.
Was it fair that the Bills didn’t get a chance to score in overtime? No. Should the NFL care about that? Also, no.
With this particular rule, it’s about getting you to the next game as quickly as possible with as little overlap as possible, and that’s fair from the business side of things, even though it’s not popular.
In a sports world dominated by stats, here’s are two numbers for you: 226 and 79.3%. Those are the numbers that reflect the total number of and percentage of games that have games that follow it in both the regular season and the playoffs.
All of those games have the potential to overlap into the proceeding games if they go into overtime. Those ad spot times become risky to be placed in for advertisers, and that would damage the networks’ abilities to make money on the beginnings of those games. That is why over time needs to be as quick as possible.
You cannot eliminate the coin toss from the beginning of overtime, like some want, because that would just mean the overtime period is part of the second half. That would make the second half longer than the first. So, unless a rule can satisfy limiting overlap, the NFL won’t change its current OT rule. The NFL doesn’t care about fairness in this instance. It’s all about business and keeping partners happy.
The only feasible change that would facilitate this is setting new kickoff times with a minimum amount of real-time in between each. For instance, I suggested the following on Twitter:
In a perfect world, fairness and making it so everyone has an equal shot at winning in the OT word be the overarching purpose of the overtime rule. However, it is reasonable for the NFL and television networks to want you to get to the next game. So, for now, the overtime rule that’s in place is likely the best possible option, and with that option comes the unfortunate part of one team potentially not getting the ball to tie it back up (or even win with a two-point conversion) after an opening salvo of a touchdown.
Once someone comes up with a solution that satisfies this issue, we will see a change. Until then, we are stuck with modified sudden death.
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