New NFL sked may mean shift for Academy Awards

The NFL is such a ratings powerhouse, it could force the Oscars to say goodbye to Sundays.

The league’s players and owners are negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will add two games to the regular season — a decision that could theoretically land Hollywood’s biggest event and the Super Bowl on the same day.

The move from 16 to 18 games, according to sources, is a fait accompli and will go into effect for the 2012-13 season.

If the revamped sked entails an earlier start to the season, that would require players and fans to endure soaring late-summer temperatures and also create more stadium conflicts with baseball teams. A more likely scenario is having the regular season start right after Labor Day, as it normally does, and seeing the playoffs expand deep into February.

Under such an arrangement, there’s a legitimate chance the Super Bowl — normally scheduled the first Sunday of February — could butt up against the Oscars. And the Oscars would be forced to shift.

Bruce Davis, exec director for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, is well aware of the fluid situation and is preparing for the possibility of shifting the Oscars back to a Monday, its home for decades before the Sunday shift began in 1999.

“It’s obviously something we’re keeping a close eye on,” Davis said. “Yes, it’s a concern for us.”

Davis added there have been back-channel discussions between the Acad and the NFL as the latter renegotiates its CBS deal, but he’s aware the Oscars won’t be a key concern to the NFL if the league lands on Oscar’s established turf.

“We’re always happy to talk to the sports entities, but this is a going to be a tough one,” he said. “It’s hard for them to take us into consideration.”

The Grammys, which air in February, will also have to look into the NFL’s changing schedule, but in the past, the music awards have occasionally aired on the same evening as afternoon football games.

The Academy regularly explores the idea of moving the kudocast even earlier than late February. (Earlier this year, the blogosphere declared that the show would move to late January, which Academy execs disputed.)

Davis said that if the Super Bowl plants itself in that final Sunday of February in 2013 and beyond, he’d give more consideration to moving to a Monday in February rather than a Sunday in March.

“I think our inclination would be to go earlier rather than later, but we need to see,” he said. “There’s no rule it has to be on a Sunday. … We’re looking at a lot of different options.”

The Oscars have always been flexible in scheduling. In 2004 the kudocast shifted to February from March after complaints that award season was too long and other awards shows were devaluing Oscar’s big night. Also, in two of the past six years, the Oscars have moved back a week, to avoid competing with the Winter Olympics.

The Super Bowl is always the most-viewed TV program of the year. The most recent game between Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints drew 106.5 million on CBS, making it the biggest program of all time and outdrawing the previous champ, the 1983 “MASH” finale.

While the NFL will undoubtedly add the two games, it needs to work out a financial arrangement with its players before all parties sign off on the new deal. “I really think that going to the 18-game season is critical to us getting a labor deal. There aren’t a lot of ways in this economic environment that we can generate incremental revenues, and that’s the best way,” said Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.

Fans have long been upset that they’re asked to pay full ticket prices for meaningless preseason games. While networks will earn slightly more income from having more regular season games on the sked, it won’t translate to huge financial profits because the preseason games already generate solid ratings.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the revamped sked at the league’s meetings Wednesday in Atlanta. “From our standpoint, we think we’ve moved this concept along,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of momentum for it.”

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