Dolly Parton and Christmas cheer will get precedence over football this year.
NBC’s annual broadcast of the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting will air at 8 pm ET Wednesday, a date that gives the celebration prime-time placement over the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens and the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers will face off on Wednesday at 3:40 PM ET on NBC. The network’s broadcast of the Christmas tree lighting was “a factor” in scheduling the afternoon NFL game, according to a source close to the matter.
“We have a great partnership with the NFL and we found a solution that worked for everyone concerned,” an NBC spokesperson told CNN Business.
The mid-week afternoon start is out of the ordinary for an NFL game, but this Ravens-Steelers head-to-head is no normal match-up.
The clash between the AFC North rivals has been delayed multiple times because of a coronavirus outbreak within the Ravens organization. The game was set to be played on Thanksgiving night, then on Sunday, postponed until Tuesday evening, and now it’s set for Wednesday afternoon. For real, this time.
Making an NFL game the lead in to a Christmas tree lighting may seem odd, since the NFL is the biggest ratings powerhouse on TV. However, the Christmas tree lighting cannot be easily rescheduled.
Although “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” hardly brings in NFL numbers, it’s no ratings slouch. The event brought in roughly 7 million viewers last year. (Wednesday NFL games are exceedingly rare, but most nationally televised games bring in millions more viewers than the tree lighting. For example, the Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving brought in roughly 30 million viewers.)
The ceremony, which has been heavily promoted by NBC, is a huge production for both the network and the City of New York, especially this year because of the pandemic. The holiday broadcast features not only the tree lighting, but also performances by Parton, Kelly Clarkson, Meghan Trainor, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tori Kelly, the Goo Goo Dolls, and The Radio City Rockettes, among other special guests.
John Ourand, a media reporter for Sports Business Journal, reported that NBC was “prepared to move the tree lighting ceremony to one of its cable channels or, possibly, carry a taped version on NBC the next day.”
However, the NFL “did not put NBC in a position where it had to make that choice,” according to Ourand, understanding “the amount that it has asked broadcasters to be flexible for during the 2020 season.”