Sunday, October 12, 2014

FOX, the Pac-12 & NLCS scheduling - 2014 Edition

Last year, there was a bit of an issue when FOX may or may not have wanted to select UCLA-Stanford on 10/19 to show on FOX Sports 1 and the Pac-12 may have stepped in because they wanted the game shown to a wider audience, a different start time, take your pick.  It ended up being much ado about nothing when Stanford lost to Utah before the UCLA game.

The issue involved FOX's MLB postseason commitments as under their previous MLB television deal, they had to show all of their postseason games on FOX (there were some exceptions when concurrent games were shown on FX or FSN).  I mentioned that I thought this would be mitigated going into the future as FOX would have room to show postseason games on FS1, giving them a second outlet to plan around.

The problem isn't on Saturday anymore.  It moved to Thursday.  This coming Thursday to be specific with the upcoming Utah at Oregon St. game set back in June to air on FOX Sports 1.  The game was scheduled for a Thursday night back in January.  I don't know who makes the decision to place a game on a weeknight.  I would assume that both FOX and ESPN have some input in these decisions.  While I cannot find an article to cite, I believe every Pac-12 school committed to hosting a set number of weeknight games over the life of the FOX and ESPN television contracts.

Anyways, back in June that I made a bad assumption that FOX knew what its MLB postseason schedule would be and that it wouldn't conflict.  While no announcement has been made yet, because the NLCS could be a four game sweep, FOX is making plans to move Utah at Oregon St. over to FOX Sports 2 with local stations in Oregon and Utah carrying the game.  I would expect an announcement once Game Five is guaranteed to occur, which could be tonight after Game Two or as late as Wednesday evening after Game Four.

To avoid any confusion, I do believe it is best for FOX, the conference and the schools to get ahead of this.  Maybe confirm the game for FOX Sports 2 with the local market simulcast instead of an either/or scenario.  Give viewers outside of those markets time to plan to order a tier that gets FS2 if they don't already.  Let in-market know where they can find the game.  Whether that actually happens, I don't know.

I don't know if the Pac-12 holds a draft for the weeknight games and this ended up in FOX's lap or if they made a bad judgement call.  Utah will be ranked coming into the game, so there is some national significance to the game.  Also don't know if this was FOX's plan all along and the Pac-12 knew of this possibility, though if FOX wanted to push FS2,  I'm not sure if this is the game to do it.  The story goes that ESPN2 was able to get a lot of traction by airing a Duke-North Carolina men's baketball game that went to double overtime in a year where Duke was down.

As for the Pac-12 and its scheduling philosophy, this could happen again next year.  The 2015 schedule was released in mid-September and included weeknight games.  Four of those weeknight games are consecutive Thursday night games in October.  Maybe I'll get to write this post a 3rd time.

EDIT  (10/13/14) - Now that Game Five is guaranteed, a small way FOX to close the gap would be to make the game available on FOX Sports Go to FS1 subscribers, regardless of whether you subscribe to FS2 or not.  That does eliminate some providers who do not have an agreement to carry FSGo, but its one way to handle this change.

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