Friday, May 17, 2019

Notes on Early Season ACC, ABC Primetime Games & Championship Saturday

* ABC has followed FOX's lead of showing the Pac-12 Championship game on broadcast television on Friday night.  In addition, they'll carry the ACC, American & Big 12 games on ABC on Saturday.  My assumption is that the Big 12 or ACC will be at noon while the American will be slotted against the SEC title game in the middle like last year.  Whichever game isn't at 12pm gets the primetime slot.

The ABC primetime games will also shift to 7:30pm ET starts full time after using those start times for Big Ten telecasts only.

* FOX's advertising upfront presentation noted that their best games each week would be a noon ET instead of in primetime.  Its fair to say that ABC owned the space at 8pm and is established there and in mid-afternoon there's often the SEC game on CBS being the top game, with Notre Dame on NBC also placing well.  In any case, there's a bit of a splitting of the audiences.  Can't hurt FOX to try another time slot.

FOX offered noon ET or 1pm ET ten times in 2018 (nine Saturdays plus day after Thanksgiving).  Per SportsMediaWatch, FOX's highest rated game was that earliest game nine times.  The only times the first game was not their highest rated was Week 13 when Kansas-Oklahoma at 7:30pm beat Michigan St.-Nebraska at 12pm.

With FOX being a Pac-12 rightsholder, I assume that they'll either place their best game from the conference at 3:30pm  ET when possible.  As for the Big Ten title game, I would assume that remains a primetime affair.

* Yes, the surprise for me was to see the existence of the ACC RSN package when the ACC released their remaining early season start times.  The conference's communications department said it would be 17 football games, plus men's & women's basketball games, distributed across existing RSNs.  This package is a continuation of an existing agreement to give games to RSNs that would have extended into the 2026-27 athletic year, so it was not bought back.  The agreement ending that athletic year was the extension reached when Pittsburgh and Syracuse were added as members, so it was the extension prior to the one where the ACC Network's establishment was announced.

I'll be interested to see how those games' distribution across RSNs will occur.  FOX's control over the RSNs being bought by Sinclair will be coming to an end at some point.  I don't know if there will be tighter control over which RSNs receive these games.  Will it be the same wide open distribution that FOX was given over the RSNs it owned plus any RSNs covering ACC states? With FOX out of the picture could other RSNs buy these games?  Or could only ACC states' RSNs receive these games with digital coverage elsewhere.

* So why did the RSN package remain?  I don't know yet.  In 2019, there are 91 regular season controlled games from the conference.  Of that, the RSN package will take 17.  Let's assume the ACC Network takes 45 (14 weeks X 3 games, plus 3 weeknight games in weeks 1 & 2), leaving 29 games for ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

That seems a bit low, but ESPN and ESPN2 could have to give up one window a month to UFC for PPV prelims.  Either way, the number of games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 last year was 40.  So either ACC Network is going to be stocked up with games that would have otherwise appeared on those primary networks, or ACC Network isn't going to have three games a week.

* With the use of both ACC Network Extra & ACC RSNs, it appears that there won't be linear TV overflow channels for the network.

* Was also caught off guard by a pair of network designations & a date change:

  • Pittsburgh at Syracuse on ESPN on October 18th surprised me.  I was under the assumption that the game would be on ACC Network and ESPN would air Ohio St. at Northwestern.  I'm still working off the assumption that FS1 would have MLB postseason and FOX would be carrying WWE Smackdown, so maybe its possible that ABC will carry a Friday night football game.  Or I have a misplaced read on the MLB postseason schedule.
  • To further my misplaced assessment of the MLB postseason schedule, the start time  & network Virginia at Miami (FL) (8pm ET on ESPN) doesn't lend itself to being doubleheadered with Colorado at Oregon, also scheduled for that Friday night.  Assuming FOX has the same commitments to MLB and WWE, does the Pac-12 game air on ESPN2?  Pac-12 Networks?  Less certain it would air on ABC being a west coast game unless it starts earlier in the evening like the Pac-12 Championship will.
  • With North Carolina at Wake Forest moved to Friday night 9/13, Wake Forest will start the season with three consecutive Friday night games: vs. Utah St., at Rice, vs. UNC.  The 6pm start time could mean a doubleheader with Washington St. vs. Houston or for that game to air on ESPN2 instead.  Could also allow for the game at NRG Stadium to be moved to Thursday to give workers a chance to turn it over as Rice is hosting Texas there on Saturday night at 8pm ET.


Morgan Wick said...

In both 2016 and 2017 the AL postseason was the one a day ahead of the NL one, so it's possible the NL now gets two years as the earlier postseason schedule. That would mean the ALCS schedule would be the same as last year on TBS, when Game 5 was on Thursday and Game 6 would have been on Saturday.

Darrell McKown said...

I don't think FOX putting their best games at noon ET instead of in primetime is really much of a change. If you look at the nine times they had both an early game and a primetime game in 2018 (eight Saturdays and Black Friday), here are the match-ups (early game listed first):

9/1: FAU at Oklahoma; Akron at Nebraska (cancelled)
9/8: UCLA at Oklahoma; USC at Stanford
10/8: Texas vs. Oklahoma; Washington at UCLA
10/20: Michigan at Michigan State; Oregon State at Washington State
11/3: Nebraska at Ohio State; UCLA at Oregon
11/10: Ohio State at Michigan State; Texas at Texas Tech
11/17: Michigan State at Nebraska; Kansas at Oklahoma
11/23: Nebraska at Iowa; Washington at Washington State
11/24: Michigan at Ohio State; Oklahoma State at TCU

In most weeks, it's clear the early game was the better match-up. When you eliminate the weeks with a Pac-12 primetime game that can't kickoff at noon ET, you are only left with 9/1, 11/10, 11/17 and 11/24, and 11/17 is probably the only week you could argue the primetime game was the better match-up (or the less bad of the two match-ups).

Other than switching the games on 11/17, I don't see any other weeks where you would have had a different lineup, and even in that week they might not have been able to switch the game as both Nebraska and Michigan State would have had to approve a night game that late in the season.