Fans across the country often lament having to watch the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, but could the annual tradition be close to ending?
Much to the chagrin of a lot of NFL fans, the Detroit Lions play the early game on Thanksgiving Day every year. They have played on every Thanksgiving, outside of World War II interruption, every year since 1934 with a 37-43-2 record.
This season, the Lions are the only team to not have a scheduled prime time game. Head coach Dan Campbell has said all he can say about 15 scheduled 1 p.m. ET kickoffs, as the schedule makers lean into Thanksgiving Day being a nice spot for the Lions and having to “play your way into primetime.”
With the Lions set to be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, following that with some sort of scheduled prime time game (Thursday or Monday night?) would gave seemed to be an easy follow-up.
Could the Detroit Lions be moved off Thanksgiving Day?
NFL V.P. of broadcast planning Mike North did a media video call last Friday. He talked about the Lions not having a prime time game (credit to Pro Football Talk).
"The real thing for us is, again, we look at them on national windows and we can never lose sight of the fact that Thanksgiving afternoon window — that 12:30 window in Detroit — most years is the Number Two or Number Three most-watched NFL game every year, so there’s no hesitation to put the Lions in a national window like that. . . . You could certainly make a pretty compelling argument they’re gonna get a lot more eyeballs for that one than they would have if they had one kind-of stand-alone Monday night game or one kind-of stand-alone Thursday night game. I acknowledge that it ‘looks odd’ to have them not in prime-time, but they’re gonna be playing in one of the five most-watched games of this season. That’s pretty good, too."
Right or wrong PFT’s Mike Florio picked up tone from North during the call, seemingly hinting at the idea the league could be considering moving the Lions off the 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Thanksgiving. In other settings in the aftermath of the 2022 schedule release, North has consistently referred to games as “assets”, which he is of course charged with maximizing for the NFL’s broadcast partners.
Getting down to it, the Lions aren’t a huge national draw right now–hence the 15 1.p.m. ET kickoffs this season (14 Sundays, and Christmas Eve), with only one game (Thanksgiving against the Buffalo Bills) guaranteed not to be.
The Lions being removed from Thanksgiving Day may not happen for awhile, if it happens at all. But the NFL is increasingly calculated with how games are scheduled, as new and old broadcast partners pony up bigger and bigger dollars for a piece of the pie. So there’s a non-zero chance the Lions, and fans in Detroit, lose their Thanksgiving Day tradition.