NBC Lost a Fortune on the Postponed Ravens-Steelers Game

The NFL might now be staring straight in the face of the postponement that forces the league to add a Week 18 to its schedule. That may be NBC’s best chance to recoup the substantial money it lost when the Thanksgiving game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed.

The Baltimore Ravens’ COVID-19 situation just got worse

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The NFL made an early-week decision to postpone Thursday’s scheduled game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. That was brought on by the Ravens placing five players on their reserve/COVID-19 list, and the situation grew worse Wednesday when the team added defensive end Calais Campbell and offensive linemen Patrick Mekari and Matt Skura to the list.

And then the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted during the Washington Football Team’s annihilation of the Dallas Cowboys that Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson had also tested positive for the virus.

Adding Jackson to a list that already included running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins plus defensive lineman Brandon Williams and linebacker Pernell McPhee makes it increasingly likely that the Steelers game that had been postponed to Sunday afternoon won’t be played as part of NFL Week 12.

With no bye weeks available and the game between Pittsburgh (10-0) and Baltimore (6-4) holding playoff implications, the league might have to extend the regular season. If that’s the case, the week off built into the postseason before the Super Bowl may go away.

There are a lot of unhappy people at the moment

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is a little more than halfway through a four-year rookie contract valued at $9.47 million. NBC likely lost at least that much half an hour into the National Dog Show. Left without a football game on Thanksgiving night, the network aired a repeat of the pups on parade in its place.

Pittsburgh Steelers players were already rankled by having the game against the Ravens pushed back three days, so the prospect of being told they have to play in Week 18 would really infuriate them.

As for the Ravens, they’re mostly mad at themselves at the moment. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweeted that the Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for not disclosing that he had possible COVID-19 symptoms and for violations of policies in place to curb the spread of the virus.

We’ll find out at some juncture if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is upset enough to hit the Ravens with penalties that could include a fine and the loss of draft picks.

For the time being, NBC is the big loser. Had a Sunday night game been affected, the NFL would have had time to flex one of its day games to the prime time slot. That wasn’t possible for a Thanksgiving contest four days after most of the league’s teams had played.

The potential NBC loss is huge

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Sportico.com did the math on what the postponed game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers might cost NBC, and the number is substantial.

According to Standard Media Index data, NBC grossed $70.9 million dollars from its Thanksgiving game a year ago. They arrived at that number by determining that the average cost of a 30-second commercial of the game, seen by 20.8 million viewers, was $1.05 million.

NBC still gets to show the game Sunday unless it is postponed again, but the network will be up against the regularly scheduled games on CBS and Fox, diluting the size of the audience. Instead of $1.05 million, the rate is unlikely to exceed $300,000 for a 30-second ad.

Even the most optimistic math says NBC would gross less than $25 million by showing the game Sunday. If some of the advertising was geared toward holiday weekend sales by retailers, the network might be forced to sell spots at fire-sale prices and suffer an even greater loss.

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