React LLC Unveils a 10-game Pandemic-proof™ Season Schedule for Full Contact Sports, Including Football

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CEO Frank Maggio and Commissioner Matt Birk harness backgrounds in game theory and pro football, to craft a potential solution for upcoming NFL season.

Given adequate testing, players who contract Covid-19 will have adequate time to quarantine and heal, in many instances missing at most one game. - Matt Birk, Commissioner of Sports, React LLC

As concerns about the timely start and continuity of the 2020 NFL Season, and the safety of its players and coaches increases, Tampa Bay-based React LLC released today a Pandemic-proof™ schedule format suitable for adoption by leagues including the NFL. The company’s CEO, Frank S. Maggio, and Commissioner of Sports Matt Birk, have been collaborating on the plan since mid-June, and elected to publish their proposal to “invite stakeholders to join the conversation.”

The plan lays out two potential schedules, and the company emphasizes that elements of the solution can apply to any league and sport where more than one week between games can be tolerated by fans. A White Paper, and multi-tab spreadsheet detailing both schedule formats and analysis of varied “encampment” activities, can be downloaded at http://www.react.net/schedules.

React’s CEO cites patterns in recent conversations with prospective sponsors and media partners, as the catalyst behind the release of the White Paper, and the rhythmic cycles visible in the schedules. “If there is one word that keeps coming up, it’s ‘uncertainty.’ Almost every business needs certainty in order to risk and invest capital and resources, and a multi-billion-dollar economy relies on the on-time start, and a non-stop conclusion, of the NFL season.” Maggio coins and recognizes the concept of “league lag” – which he defines as the unnatural and disorienting overlap of sports league seasons – as a byproduct of the recent pandemic. “Here in the United States, one league – the NFL – has the ability to restart the normal pace of sports and life. They're essentially a defibrillator for our country.”

Maggio is no stranger to seeing patterns emerging from sports and marketing. His career took a dramatic turn towards entrepreneurship in the mid 1980’s, as a result of discovering patterns in a Monday Night Football scratch off game, and uncovering a $21 million windfall.

The React proposal looks past the pre-season and focuses on the regular and post-season. “After the pre-season and training camp angst is resolved, players will want to have an adequately safe process when competing, and also a sense of normalcy between games,” states Birk. “The brands and teams with whom we’ve been meeting have without exception expressed relief when we have shared elements of our plan.” Matt serves as the Commissioner of React LLC, having formerly served as the Director of Football Development for the NFL. Birk joined the NFL after retiring from the Super Bowl XLVII Champion Baltimore Ravens, and is a six-time Pro Bowl, two-time All-Pro, and 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award recipient.

At the center of the Pandemic-proof™ schedule is an increased amount of time between each team’s games, called “Game Gaps.” React’s proposed solution ensures, with little exception, that every team will benefit from Game Gaps of between 11 and 14 days (versus 7-days under a normal NFL schedule). By comparison, Game Gaps that span every other Sunday translate to a 14-day Game Gap.
An overview of the Pandemic-proof™ schedule’s key components include:

  • A 160-game regular season, with 154 games having Game Gaps of 11-14 days, and 6 games with 8-day Game Gaps. A second schedule version proposes staggered conference starts, with 158 games with Game Gaps of 11-14 days, and 2 with 7-day Game Gaps.
  • As a byproduct of increased Game Gaps, decreased regular season games over a 17 or 18-week season length (10 games per team per season versus 16 games per team).
  • No inter-conference play until the final championship game.
  • Each team competes twice with division rivals over the course of the regular season.
  • During the post-season, elimination of wildcard or consolation tournament entries, with only division champions progressing, along the lines of NCAA basketball’s “Elite 8” format.
  • “Encampment Cycles” of 5 days per game (spanning two days before a game, game day itself, and two days after a game). The plan proposes both the home and away teams attend and encamp in a single facility, with testing every day while encamped, as well as two days of home tests before entering encampment. The plan does not address testing during player downtime.
  • Bolstered TV game time slots (2 Monday and 2 Thursday games every week) with reduced weekly Sunday games. As a result, there would be a 40% increase in nationally televised prime time games, which may be favorably received across multiple time zones.

A Closer Look

A common pattern proposed by the React schedule finds teams playing on a Sunday, followed by an 11-day Game Gap to Thursday, a subsequent 11-day Game Gap to Monday, and a 13-day Game Gap to Sunday. “Players will play two games every 22 to 28 days,” remarks Birk. “Given adequate testing, players who contract Covid-19 will have adequate time to quarantine and heal, in many instances missing at most one game.”

A second version of the schedule is also provided, that features staggered conference starts and ends to the season, but fewer games with sub-11 Game Gaps. The addition of a second version for consideration was an important element of publishing the White Paper, according to Birk. “We wanted to provide conversation starters for teams, leagues, players, broadcasters, and fans. There are no right answers here, only ideas that can spur openness to new solutions. We essentially have a license to explore, to work together, and to listen to new ideas, so let’s do it.”

Both schedule versions feature increased national television broadcast time slots, which can provide important new weekly revenues to leagues, teams and networks. To consistently accommodate two Monday night and two Thursday night broadcasts for the duration of the season, 6 of the 160 regular season games provide 8-day Game Gaps, but always after a span of at least 14 days of inaction. “The Pandemic-proof™ schedule recognizes that, with a potential 75% reduction in fan attendance, home game will lose money,” notes Maggio. “So, making up for these losses with fewer home games, and more nationally televised games should be well received, especially networks licensed to broadcast them.” The schedules do, however, dramatically reduce the number of 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM regionally televised Sunday games currently enjoyed by the normal 17-week NFL schedule.

The White Paper also considers the impact a 10-game schedule would have on gaming, and second screen activities such as fantasy football, and even React’s own Super Squares® live mobile TV quiz show. The free-to-play score-matching quiz show remains on track to provide real-time gamification synced to the opening week broadcasts of the NFL season, scheduled to begin on September 10th. According to the React CEO, “The Pandemic-proof™ schedule would have nominal impact on Super Squares®. We would host more games synced to broadcast time slots over the course of the year, but it remains to see if fewer fans will watch (and therefore play) if their home teams play less frequently.”

“We’ve tried to think about this from every perspective,” concludes Birk, “and we even suggest solutions to questions and challenges that inevitably come up when dealing with new or unexpected events. I would be very surprised if elements of our plan are not seriously considered, if not adopted, over the coming months.”

About React

Founded by adtech and media measurement maverick Frank Maggio, React LLC is an experiential advertising technology and entertainment company that thinks of “advertising as a sport™.” By adrenalizing advertising™, React excites audiences with rewarding, branded two-screen experiences during the most viewed and attended sporting and media events in the world. The company’s commitment to “respect, protect, and reward attention” honors user privacy by never selling or sharing personally identifiable information. Details about React can be found at http://www.react.net, and Super Squares® details are available at http://www.SuperSquares.com.

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