NFL’s Christmas decision shoves NBA aside on its showcase day: NFL going with ‘Football Day’ on Wednesday/Christmas Day

NFL’s Christmas decision shoves NBA aside on its showcase day
from Sean Keane, with

The NBA used to own Christmas Day sports programming. Now the NFL is making the holiday much less merry for its rival league.

It’s a blow to the NBA, which normally held the spotlight throughout Christmas Day. Now, after the NFL’s successful Dec. 25 triple-headers the last two seasons, the NFL is keeping its Christmas broadcasts going — even though Christmas falls on a Wednesday.

This is a new development. Before 2004, the NFL had only played on Christmas six times, generally moving its slate of games to Saturday if the holiday fell on a Sunday. The league also moved playoff games to Saturday and Monday to avoid playing on Christmas in 1983 and 1988.

But the 2024 games will be the 29th and 30th Christmas games ever, with 10 of those occurring in the last four seasons. The NFL initially wasn’t going to play on Wednesday next season, but the ratings pull was seemingly too strong.

This is bad for the NBA, which likes to hype its Christmas Day showcases. They schedule five games, design special holiday uniforms and feature the most high-profile teams. Though Christmas happens two months into the regular season, it’s a time when the NBA really starts to get attention with pro and college football winding down.

That is, if people actually watch the games.

Last Christmas, NFL games got six times the viewership of the NBA games. Having to go head-to-head with the NFL again in 2024 is bad news for a league that’s starting negotiations on a new TV deal, which would begin in the 2025-26 season. With the demise of many regional sports networks, the NBA is in a tenuous position with its TV coverage.

They’re in a no-win situation, since they’ve made a concerted effort to avoid the NFL. TNT moves its flagship “Inside The NBA” program and its accompanying double-headers to Tuesday night during football season. The NBA had no games on three different Sundays in December, ostensibly to accommodate the In-Season Tournament, with the side benefit of dodging football.

The NBA already skips Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to avoid going head-to-head with the NFL juggernaut, but if the NFL is going to play on Wednesdays, the NBA really has no escape.

It’s at the point where the league might consider dramatically changing its schedule. If the NFL truly is unbeatable from a ratings perspective, the NBA could be better off starting its season at Christmas. That way, it can go head-to-head with hockey and baseball instead of losing to the NFL.

Perhaps the NBA can still own a less popular holiday, like Easter or perhaps Arbor Day. But as of now, and likely for as long as desired, the NFL is winning the War On Christmas handily.