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John Mara feels Giants fans' pain on night flexing

(Credit: Watchdog)

My Tuesday newspaper column mostly is full of stuff blog readers already know, from Joe Benigno's classic Monday rant to Steve Tasker's double flip-flop on CBS to Rob Parker's bizarre news conference moment with Lions coach Rod Marinelli.

But one of the column topics - my conversation with NFL senior VP of broadcasting Howard Katz about flex scheduling - is something I have not previously explored in detail here.

Click below for more from Katz on that topic. One of his key points is that despite what skeptics might think, the NFL does take ticket holders into account when scheduling late-season night games.

Katz specifically was referring to flex scheduling for Sundays. But while watching the Monday night game in Chicago, where the wind chill factor was below zero, it was fair to wonder how much the NFL was considering ticket holders when it scheduled that one.Katz on the difficulty of balancing ticket holders vs. TV viewers:

"It's a very difficult task. I do want people to know that we take the fans' concerns very seriously. If it were not for that we would just flex all over the place. We do it selectively. We do it fairly. We try to do it thoughtfully.

"I'm not stupid. I'm not naïve. I know there are Giants fans who are disappointed and inconvenienced by the fact the game (last) Sunday moved to 8:15. I don't think that’s all the fans. I don’t think there are 70,000 fans who are upset. I know there are some portion of fans who love going at night. I also believe it is cold in northern cities at 1, at 4 and at 8."

All else being equal, would you flex to a warm-weather site over a cold-weather one?

"We try to take all that into consideration. We try to make decisions that are reflective of our desire to make sure the greatest number of fans get to see our products. But all things being equal, I probably would.

"Another consideration is what opportunity do we have to showcase a team that hasn’t gotten a lot of national exposure. It’s also an opportunity to attempt to get to teams not on our radar screen (before the season) who have performed unbelievably well. I'm glad the Panthers are getting some prime time exposure. Lord knows they’ve earned it.

"One of my biggest disappointments about the schedule this year and flex scheduling is I wasn’t able to get the Atlanta Falcons on prime time. What a great turnaround. We may be able to get the Dolphins on." (Note: This interview took place before the Jets' loss Sunday lessened the drama of the Dolphins-Jets game Dec. 28.)

More on concern for fans:

"We do care about the fans; we really do. But we also care about the millions of fans who have an opportunity to see a game. We balance that interest against what it will mean in terms of inconvenience for a local market."

One how much colder it usually is at 8 compared to 1:

"We've checked temperatures at cold-weather stadiums. The temperature variation honestly between 1 and 8 at night isn’t very great.

"It's frustrating when people write or say we just don’t care about the fan; we really do. But there are a lot of interests we’re trying to balance and it's not just about giving NBC the best game. It's easier early in the season when weather isn’t as big an issue.

"(Giants president) John Mara, I hear from him. He lets me have it when we move one of his games. He hears from his fans and I hear from him. The Giants are not thrilled when we move a game off of 1 o'clock. When we move to 8:15, I hear from Mr. Mara. Fans should know he’s on their side."

Tags: nfl , nbc , john mara , giants , jets

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