One of the most desirable chunks of real estate in the entire TV broadcast year is the hour after the Super Bowl concludes. Networks use it to premiere new series or run special episodes of existing favorites, all because of the proven fact that millions of us are too nacho-stuffed to even push one button on the remote.
That slot after the Super Bowl is often the most-watched scripted TV show of the year, but in 2022, NBC will swerve. The network is simultaneously broadcasting the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, which overlap because the Super Bowl is running later than ever before, on Feb. 13. The Olympics run from Feb. 2 to Feb. 19.
NBC's cross-promotion plan for the Olympics is an obvious gambit; ratings for the Summer Games earlier this year cratered. Ratings for Tokyo were down 49 percent from the comparable Games in Rio in 2016 due to a variety of reasons — diversification of interests, political protests, time zone displacement, confusing broadcast options, and so on.
The post-Super Bowl slot is guaranteed ratings gold. Earlier this year, "The Equalizer" drew 20.4 million viewers to CBS. NBC averaged 27 million viewers in 2018 for a special episode of "This Is Us." Given that several days of the Summer Olympics averaged in the low teens — and the Winter Olympics are traditionally less of a draw than the Summer Games — NBC's intention to goose the ratings is apparent.
The game will end around 10:30 p.m. Eastern, which is about 11:30 a.m. the next morning in Beijing. Events currently scheduled for that date include hockey and snowboarding, with medal rounds of figure skating, bobsled and ski jumping also on tap. All of those could draw in a casual viewing audience decompressing from a game between the ... well, who knows at this point.
NBC's goal here will be to use the Super Bowl, the most-watched event on American television, and the Olympics, a rating behemoth every two years (in non-COVID times, at least), to cross-promote one another throughout the month of February. It's a gamble, taking on both events at the same time, but that's what's necessary in the rapidly changing broadcast TV climate.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.