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NBA suffers audience setback as NFL announces Christmas Day feast

The NFL has announced plans to show three games on Christmas Day this year, a date traditionally reserved for the NBA.

NBA suffers audience setback as NFL announces Christmas Day feast
Harry HowGetty

There could well be one of the biggest contests we’ve seen in recent memory on Christmas Day. Yet, the interesting thing is that it won’t be between two teams, but rather two leagues: The NBA and the NFL.

The NBA has traditionally claimed Christmas Day

Though there isn’t necessariyl a direct conflict between the two leagues, it goes without saying that both the NFL and the NBA are competing for the same prize: viewership. Where the NFL is concerned, the league is according to audience figures, the biggest sports league in the United States. Year-on-year the number of viewers continues to grow and with a nod to college football, no other sport comes close to overshadowing the dominance of the NFL in the national sporting calendar. On the other hand, the NBA is going through a crisis in terms of viewing figures and interest in basketball has been steadily dropping over the past few years, at least in terms of eyes on television sets.

If there is one day of the year, however, that the NBA takes centre stage it is the 25th December. Since 1947, Christmas Day has been almost always exclusively reserved for the NBA to lay out its finest wares, and the league traditionally reserves some of its most attractive games to keep festive viewers entertained. Yet, last year revealed a troubling trend for the league. With five games on offer, the NBA Christmas Day schedule pulled in just 4.1 million viewers, the lowest figure over the course of the past two decades.

The NFL just rained on the NBA’s Christmas Day

As the saying goes, ‘things can always get worse’ and unfortunately they did. With reports now confirming the bad news for the league, the NFL is set to play three games on Christmas Day this year. To put the competition into context, during the 2021 NFL season televised games pulled in an average of 17.1 million viewers, with prime time match-ups surpassing 25 million. Mike North, vice president of NFL broadcast planning, previously confirmed the league’s plans to show three games on Christmas Day without naming the teams that would play, however, we now know that football fans will be salivating at the prospect of seeing the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers take on the Dolphins, the Broncos facing the defending champion Rams and Tom Brady himself, leading his Bucs into battle against the Cardinals. With a slate like that, the NBA’s schedule could be in trouble.

Of course, this is not the first time that the NFL has played games on Christmas Day - they staged two last year - but it certainly is the first time that the league has offered up a triple-header. That’s to say, it’s going to be a football filled day, with the final game being broadcast during prime time. It’s worth mentioning, that in previous years whenever a Christmas Day has fallen on a Sunday - most NFL games are played on that day - the league traditionally scheduled its slate of games on 24th, with one played on Christmas Day out of respect for the NBA’s unofficial claim on the big day itself. It’s now clear, however, that for one reason or another the NFL has decided to bring that gentleman’s agreement to an end, which is to say that perhaps the biggest game on Christmas Day will be the contest between the NBA and the NFL.


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