Something confuses the heck out of me in regards to TV broadcasting of (American) Football.

I used to live in Seattle. On Sunday, there were the early games, and the later games. One was selected to be televised at 1:00 (EST), and one at 4:00 (EST), regardless of which time slot the local team (Seahawks) were playing in. Easy enough.

I now live in New York. There are still early and late games, of course, at the same times. There are two local teams (Giants/Jets). But often if neither of those teams is playing in the later time slot, no game will be shown. Why?

Now, the first impression I had was that this was just a remarkably poor programming decision made by TV execs...but I once heard the announcers at the end of the early game say something like:

A: And coming up next, you'll be seeing one of these three games...

B: Unless you're in New York, of course.

A: Of course.


It sounded slightly sarcastic, like they understood that the policy was strange, but expected.

Is there a straightforward explanation for what's going on?

  • 2
    Typically your broadcast schedule is dictated by your local network, NYC gets special mention cuz it's huge...
    – wax eagle
    Aug 29, 2012 at 18:29
  • @waxeagle It's true...but the way they were phrasing it made it sound like there was something else going on. I'm having a tough time imagining why a NY network would decide that they weren't going to show a live NFL game, because a MAS*H rerun would be more profitable (yes, that was what they were showing instead). Something smells fishy. I know the NFL has very complex rules regarding television coverage, so I suspect that's the culprit somehow...but I can't locate the exact cause yet.
    – Beska
    Aug 29, 2012 at 21:00
  • 1
    For more information on an ongoing basis as to which games are televised where, I suggest checking out the506.com/nflmaps as well as reading their FAQ. It duplicates Zack's answer pretty much, but adds some more detail like going into what a primary vs secondary market is and how it is determined, etc.
    – Aaron
    Sep 21, 2012 at 21:57
  • The FCC is considering new rules to force the NFL to change their blackout policies: buffalonews.com/city-region/…
    – Ben Miller
    Nov 4, 2013 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


An NFL franchised market (i.e. New York, Chicago, Dallas, etc.). On a week when the NFL team (or teams) in a market is on the ROAD Sunday, Monday or Thursday night or Saturday afternoon, the market will receive three Sunday games... two telecasts by the network with the doubleheader week and one game by the network with the single game week. When an NFL team in the market is playing at HOME on Sunday afternoon, the market will receive two games... one game on FOX and one game on CBS, regardless of which network has the doubleheader week.

Situation #1: So lets say the NY Jets are playing at home on Sunday and the NY Giants are playing away on Sunday. Since both teams are in the NY market, the NY market will receive two games (JETS and GIANTS), one on CBS and one on FOX.

Situation #2: So lets say the NY Jets are playing on the road Sunday and the NY Giants are also playing on the road Sunday. Since both teams are in the NY market, the NY market will receive receive one double header station and one single game station. Since both teams are in the New York market, they CANNOT play at the same time. This means one team has to play on the doubleheader station and the other team has to play on the single game station. So a mock up of the schedule would look like this. Fox (doubleheader station) would air the Jets and Seahawks at 1:00 and CBS would air the Giants at 4:00.

This is the only way I can see your problem occurring.

  • 2
    Hmm. This would explain things...because in NY, one team was traditionally always playing at home (either the Jets or the Giants), because they shared a stadium. This would mean that the market would receive only two games. If either had a non-standard start time (Thursday, evening, Monday, etc.) that would leave at least Sunday day slot open. The rules surrounding this are exceedingly strange, intensely confusing, and endlessly frustrating.
    – Beska
    Aug 30, 2012 at 13:05
  • Thanks, this clarifies why we only ever get 3 games. I always figured it was a local network preference and that seemed ridiculous. Glad to know it's actually a contractual thing.
    – wax eagle
    Aug 30, 2012 at 14:08
  • Yeah, unless you have some sort of package from your cable provider, you're going to miss games.
    – Zack
    Aug 30, 2012 at 14:29
  • Now I wonder what the heck the point of three vs two games is, based on when a local team is playing at home. I think this whole thing infuriates me more than it should.
    – Beska
    Aug 30, 2012 at 15:46
  • Most likely the imbalance is designed to encourage fans to go to games. When your team is home you have fewer games so you're more likely to go?
    – wax eagle
    Aug 30, 2012 at 16:04

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