Las Vegas is the best city to live in when it comes to the NFL on local TV. It is the only neutral major market in the country. Las Vegas gets the best games every Sunday. There are no NFL teams assigned to the market that cause a conflict with the national games.
This would all change if the Raiders move to Las Vegas. NFL rules require the team’s TV market to carry all games. This would cause numerous scheduling conflicts and lost doubleheader games.
NFL home market TV rules
If an NFL team is playing at home, no game may be shown on the other network in that home market at the same time. If the Raiders play an AFC team at home on CBS at 1:05pm, Fox may not show a late game, even if it has the doubleheader that Sunday.
This causes blacked out doubleheader games in cities where there are NFL teams. Las Vegas would lose up to 8 doubleheader games each season if the Raiders move.
The Raiders broadcasts would have to be shown in its entirety in the home market. If it is a blowout, the Las Vegas Fox or CBS affiliate would have to stick with it until the end, no matter how ugly it gets. There is no moving to a more competitive game like what happens today. Even worse, it would often be the only game on TV in that time slot.
If the Raiders play a late game in the second half of a doubleheader and the early game runs late, the network would break away from the early game due to NFL carriage rules. This means that Las Vegas NFL fans could miss a last second field goal or overtime in an early game to make the Raiders’ kickoff.
When a city’s team plays a road game on the double header network, the single header network will air their Sunday game in the opposite time slot. In one hypothetical example of many, in Week 9, Las Vegas would have seen the imploding Falcons get beat by Blaine Gabbert in his first start with the 49ers instead of the 6-1 Packers play the undefeated Panthers.
This would have been done to avoid a Raiders road game in the early time slot. This is not an NFL rule but it is commonplace among network affiliates in NFL cities.
The local Fox and CBS affiliates would have to schedule morning and afternoon games around when the Raiders played. This is how the 2015 NFL TV schedule would have changed if the Raiders played in Las Vegas this past season:
NFL TV games blacked out in 2015 due to home NFL TV exclusivity rule if Las Vegas Raiders existed (Source: The506.com)
- Week 2: Cowboys/Eagles (Fox)
- Week 8: Seahawks/Cowboys (Fox)
- Week 10: Chiefs/Broncos (CBS)
- Week 13: Panthers/Saints (Fox)
- Week 15: Broncos/Steelers (CBS)
This is a week-by-week look at the games Las Vegas affiliates aired that would have been affected. All changes would have been on CBS unless otherwise noted. Early games start at 10am. Late games start at 1:05pm if on the singleheader network and 1:25pm on the doubleheader network.
- Week 1: Ravens/Broncos replaced by Bengals/Raiders
- Week 2: Chargers/Bengals early replaced by Ravens/Raiders late (causes Cowboys/Eagles blackout on Fox)
- Week 3: Chargers/Vikings replaced by Raiders/Browns
- Week 4: Chiefs/Bengals replaced by Raiders/Bears
- Week 5: Patriots/Cowboys replaced by Broncos/Raiders
- Week 6: Raiders on bye
- Week 7: Jets/Patriots early replaced by Raiders/Chargers late
- Week 8: Bengals/Steelers early replaced by Jets/Raiders late (causes Seahawks/Cowboys blackout on Fox)
- Week 9: Las Vegas CBS aired Raiders/Steelers. Fox would have replaced Packers/Panthers early with Falcons/49ers late to avoid conflict
- Week 10: Las Vegas Fox showed Vikings/Raiders (if Raiders played in Las Vegas it would have caused Chiefs/Broncos blackout on CBS)
- Week 11: Broncos/Bears replaced by Raiders/Lions
- Week 12: Bills/Chiefs replaced by Raiders/Titans. Fox would have avoided Raiders conflict by airing Cardinals/49ers late instead of Giants/Redskins early.
- Week 13: Broncos/Chargers replaced by Chiefs/Raiders (causes Panthers/Saints blackout on Fox)
- Week 14: Steelers/Bengals early game becomes Raiders/Broncos late
- Week 15: Panthers/Giants early Fox becomes Packers/Raiders late (causes Broncos/Steelers blackout of CBS)
- Week 16: Raiders played on Thursday Night Football
- Week 17: Chargers/Broncos late CBS game becomes Raiders/Chiefs
That list shows many duds Las Vegas would have been stuck with if the Raiders played in the market in 2015. In most instances, the Raiders would have been the only game available in that time slot.
Las Vegas NFL fans would have options
Some Las Vegas residents would become fans of the Raiders and be happy with that team’s games airing every week. There is a small percentage of the city that is already a fan of the Oakland Raiders. Fans of the other 31 teams, as well as casual sports bettors, would not be happy about the TV situation caused by the Las Vegas Raiders.
Most Las Vegas NFL fans already have a team that is not the Raiders. Those that did not already have Sunday Ticket on DirecTV would be more motivated to get it. The other option is to go out and watch the game at a bar or sportsbook every Sunday. That option is probably more expensive than buying Sunday Ticket.
Local Fox and CBS affiliates affected
The Fox affiliate in Las Vegas might be the biggest loser in all of this. It would lose about six compelling match ups each year. Most would involve losing a doubleheader game entirely, making it so that Fox in Las Vegas could only show one game on doubleheader Sundays if the Raiders played at home on CBS.
CBS could also be a loser if Las Vegas residents do not ditch their own team for the Raiders. That might cause people to watch games at bars or through Sunday Ticket instead of through the local affiliate. It would also potentially lose a doubleheader game or two each year due to conflicts with Raiders home games on Fox featuring an NFC road team.
Las Vegas often highest rated neutral market
Las Vegas is the highest-rated neutral TV market in terms on the NFL when it comes to prime time games. Time after time Las Vegas typically ranks third, fourth or fifth in NFL prime time ratings.The cities that beat Las Vegas are typically home and nearby markets of the opponents.
The morning and afternoon games also draw spectacular ratings in Las Vegas considering it does not have a home team. As much as the NFL does not want to admit it, sports betting is likely the cause for the high number of viewers in Las Vegas. One could also argue that the ratings are high because the best games available are always televised.
Will the Raiders move to Las Vegas?
The Las Vegas stadium deal is far from a sure thing. Oakland might come to the table with an acceptable offer to keep the Raiders. The Chargers may get their stadium through a referendum later this year. That would give the Raiders the option of moving to Los Angeles where they already have an established fan base.
There is also the stigma Las Vegas has when it comes to the NFL. While there is no rule forbidding a Las Vegas franchise, it would still require 24 votes from the owners.
For all of these reasons. I have serious doubts as to whether the Raiders or any other NFL team will ever call Las Vegas home.