The NFL's arcane and complicated broadcast rules angered thousands of football fans in and around Philadelphia on Sunday before the Eagles even had a chance to kick off.
Because the Eagles played the Minnesota Vikings at 4:25 p.m. as FOX's national game, fans were able to watch the New York Giants take on the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. It ended up being a close game, and with 1:07 remaining, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton began to drive his team down the field only needing a field goal to defeat the Giants.
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But with 6 seconds remaining — and with no warning to the tens of thousands of viewers — FOX abruptly cut away from the drive to show 2 minutes worth of commercials before the kickoff of the Vikings-Eagles game.
So what did viewers across Eastern Pennsylvania and in South Jersey miss? A 63-yard game-winning field goal by Panthers kicker Graham Gano (tied for the the second longest in NFL history) that sent the 1-4 Giants directly to the basement of the NFC East.
Because FOX29 is the home market station for the Eagles, the network airs every second of every Eagles game it shows. That means if the early game is running late, the network will cut away to show the entire Eagles game, even if it means missing a great ending, like Sunday's Giants-Panthers finish.
"At the end of every game window there's a 2 minute local break. Because it's local it's not really our time to manipulate," a spokesman for Fox Sports told the Inquirer and Daily News in a statement. "We pulled out at the last possible moment to get that break in and still make it to kickoff of the Eagles game."
Philadelphia wasn't the only area impacted by the NFL's broadcast rules on Sunday. Because Vikings-Eagles on FOX was the exclusive national afternoon game, thousands of fans watching the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens saw CBS cut away with 3:22 remaining in overtime to the network's post-game show, where the hosts were forced to describe the action to viewers.
The NFL's broadcast rules give local affiliates like FOX 29 little control over the process, and Birds fans likely would have been livid if the network stuck with Giants-Panthers instead of showing the kickoff of Eagles-Vikings. But some warning to fans about the switch, such as a scroll at the bottom of the screen or even a tweet explaining the jarring cut, would have been helpful. Even a split-screen showing the game and commercials, as the NFL started doing last season, could have kept fans happy.
Instead, the hard cut left many fans wondering if they accidentally hit the remote.
The issue didn't just impact fans watching FOX 29. Viewers in Wilkes-Barre watching the game on FOX 56 were also jarred by the sudden switch.