Why the early London start? Because fans will watch

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- I received a lot of questions about the early start time in the wake of the news that the Kansas City Chiefs' game on Nov. 1 against the Detroit Lions in London will begin at 8:30 a.m. Central time. Many fans, at least the ones I heard from, were unhappy about the early start and wondered why the game will begin at such an hour.

The answer is easy: because people will watch.

The NFL started it's morning from London experiment last season. On Oct. 26, the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons played at Wembley Stadium. The game started at 9:30 Eastern time, so fans of the teams had to begin their football Sunday early if they wanted to watch live. The game was also shown on FOX to the entire country in its own television window.

About 8.5 million U.S. fans watched. That's fewer than the 18.3 million who watched games on Fox in the noon CT TV window, the 14 million who watched games on CBS in that same window, the 20.7 million who watched on CBS in the late afternoon window or the 18.8 million who watched the Sunday night game on that day.

But it's still a decent number. Here's the interesting part when it comes to the Chiefs: The Lions' website reported that TV ratings in Detroit for the morning game from London were 20 percent higher than for either of the Lions' two previous games.

Clearly, fans are interested in watching their local team play overseas. I have no doubt that despite some complaining now from Chiefs fans, the London game will be widely viewed in Kansas City -- particularly if the Chiefs are still in the playoff hunt.

What makes the London experiment more interesting here is that Kansas City will be the first market not in the Eastern time zone to have the 8:30 a.m. start. Detroit and Atlanta are in the Eastern time zone. The game began at 9:30 a.m. in those cities.

Two games will be played in London next season prior to Chiefs-Lions, and will have the morning kickoff time. But those games -- New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars -- will involve teams from the Eastern time zone.