The holidays weren’t very peaceful for NBC Sports.
A snowstorm moved the Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Vikings game scheduled to be played Dec. 26 to Tuesday Dec. 28, the NFL’s first Tuesday game in 64 years.
And on New Year’s Day, rain caused the National Hockey League to postpone its outdoor Winter Classic game between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins from its normal noon start time till 8 p.m.-primetime.
One might think the weather led to a flurry of phone calls from NBC to its clients who shelled out big bucks to sponsor both events. But while there was some activity-and a little agita-such changes are actually deemed somewhat routine in the world of sports.
According to one buyer, the situations were similar to what happens when a NASCAR race gets rained out or there’s a weather delay in a baseball game. First substitute programming goes on the air, with a list of standby sponsors. And then everyone crosses their fingers that viewership won’t drop when the event finally gets on the air.
For a few clients, the delay moves the event outside of its planned flight schedule-or requires a change in advertising copy. But by and large, most clients make the move secure in the knowledge that if no one tunes in and watches the event at the new time, they are largely protected by ratings guarantees.
As it turned out, all’s well that ends well.
The Vikings’ win over the Eagles generated a 15.2 overnight ratings and 24 share, up 31% from the Week 16 Sunday Night Football game the previous year. It was also the top-rated show of the night.
And despite soft slushy ice and little time to alert viewers to the change, the Winter Classic drew record viewership, with 4.5 people tuning in to see Alex Ovechkin of the Caps best Sidney Crosby’s Penguins. Would viewership have been higher at noon? We’ll never know.
NBC Sports executives declined to comment, even after the weather cleared.