Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Scheduling College Football On Broadcast TV vs. the World Series

Since there has been conjecture as to whether Notre Dame at Michigan should be a night game on ABC putting it head to head with World Series Game Four or placed elsewhere on the schedule, I went back through Sports Media Watch's ratings pages to see how other games on broadcast television did against the World Series.  The site has archived college football numbers going back to 2012, so I went back that far as well.

Notre Dame happened to play three times in primetime on these competing Saturday as well, which is an interesting comparison point as well.  Only one was vs. a Power Five opponent though.

In 2012 & 2013, World Series Game Three was on Saturday.  From 2014 on, it was Game Four.  If the college football game is in bold, it was the highest rated game of the day per Nielsen.

Also, I'm sticking with the linear TV number & not adding in streaming numbers.

2012: Notre Dame at Oklahoma (5.2, 8.6m), Detroit-San Francisco (6.1, 10.5m)
2013: Penn St. at Ohio St. (2.5, 4.06m), St. Louis-Boston (7.4, 12.5m)
2014: Ohio St. at Penn St. (2.9, 4.67m), San Francisco-Kansas City (6.3, 10.6m)
2015: Notre Dame at Temple (3.6, 5.977m), NY Mets-Kansas City (9.29, 13.58m)
2016: Florida St. at Clemson (3.2, 5.38m), Cleveland-Chicago Cubs (9.3, 16.71m)
2017: ACC/Big 12 split window (2.0, 3.464m), LA Dodgers-Houston (8.7, 15.4m)
2018: Texas at Oklahoma St. (2.1, 3.486m) & Notre Dame vs. Navy (1.5, 2.447m), Boston-LA Dodgers (7.9, 13.56m)

In five of the seven cases of the World Series games, the Saturday game was the lowest rating game or tied for it within its World Series, or the household number was the lowest of the series.  I think its reasonable to say that college football puts a dent in the World Series number for Saturday night, but it also depends on the quality of the games in the series, as we're going only with broadcast network games and not including games on cable.

There's also a lot of context to a week's college football ratings.  I encourage you to look over Sports Media Watch to see the entire day's ratings.  If you're wondering what the highest game is on TV the weeks when it wasn't the game listed here, please visit his site.

There's context alone when it comes to October 26th.  Wisconsin at Ohio St. could be a game between two undefeated teams, or Penn St. at Michigan St. could be a high profile game.  Auburn at LSU could draw fans if its the CBS 3:30pm game.

ESPN has to make the choice as to whether its going to be a night game on October 14th.  Big Ten night games have to be declared 12 days in advance, though the network can be flexible as Notre Dame at Northwestern had the option of 7:15pm ET ESPN or 7:30pm ET ABC on November 3rd last year.  They don't have the ability to hold the game time until October 20th to see what the World Series matchup could be, and they still might only know the NL side if both series go to Game Seven.  Part of me sees that Notre Dame at Oklahoma number and thinks that's a barometer based on traditional, multi-decade college football brand names, but that game was also between top ten ranked teams (#5 Notre Dame vs. #8 Oklahoma).  By the time this game is slotted for TV, both teams should be ranked, but I don't think it will be to the level of a matchup of top ten teams and Michigan could drop in the polls if it loses to Penn St. on 10/19.

Of the games listed, the bolded college football games also happen to the only games involving two schools ranked in the top 25, but the Notre Dame at Oklahoma game was the only one where both were in the top ten.  All other games had one ranked school.  Yes, Temple was ranked.

So no, I haven't made up my mind and that won't happen until Sunday morning.


Anonymous said...


Not a comment on your post, but just to say thanks for doing your site and providing all the updates. It's invaluable to me every college football season and I'd be lost without it.

Jim J

Unknown said...

I echo Jim's comments

Anonymous said...


It appears to all of us on the outside that ESPN took Michigan/ Notre Dame with the presumed 2nd Big Ten selection on the season. Does that automatically mean that Fox gets the next pick and will get Ohio State/ Wisconsin.

From some of the reading on the Pac 12 selections some picks were done before the season with priority picks. Does this possibly mean that Big 10 might have the same sequence UM/ND was a priority pick and they might still have the first selection of the week and could end up with UW/OSU?

Guess this Monday will be where everything comes out and the suspense will be over.

Enjoy your work.


Matt Sarzyniak said...

No one knows if ESPN choosing ND-Michigan was done ahead of any FOX selections or not. I'm assuming ND-Michigan was ahead of FOX because FOX could have announced their decision in the late spring like ESPN did with Notre Dame-Michigan but didn't.

Rusty Shackleford said...

"Yes, Temple was ranked."

When College GameDay was in Philly, beating out Pullman for a hosting slot.

Schmolik said...

"I'm assuming ND-Michigan was ahead of FOX because FOX could have announced their decision in the late spring like ESPN did with Notre Dame-Michigan but didn't."

I would not make that assumption.

We all assume that on the last Saturday this year the Iron Bowl will air on CBS at 3:30pm. CBS probably knows they're going to air it. Alabama and Auburn probably know it. Why isn't it official? I'm guessing they won't officially announce it until 12 days in advance. Maybe they do it a few days earlier than that. There have been several years CBS scheduled their prime time game the week of Alabama vs. LSU. They wouldn't have chosen that week if it weren't for Alabama-LSU. Yet, the game itself isn't scheduled for the prime time slot until much later in the season. The networks are 99% sure in some cases that this game will air in this slot on this date but they want to be 100% sure before they announce it to the public. Fans want the information but networks want flexibility. Sure, there are a few Ohio State-Michigan's and Georgia-Florida's scheduled well in advance and ESPN did claim Notre Dame-Michigan without a time/network and Michigan State-Ohio State with a time but not a network. But there are also Alabama-Auburn's and Alabama-LSU this year (we all know it's going to be on CBS but it hasn't been officially announced yet).

I guarantee you the network that has the next Big Ten pick for 10/26 already knows it has it and knows it will air Wisconsin-Ohio State and probably knows what time it will air it (if it's FOX, it's a lock for noon). Sure it will help Wisconsin and Ohio State and its fans to know what time it will air. The question is if it's FOX or it's ABC/ESPN, what do they gain in announcing early that they have it? An extra week of advertising? If they thought it was important, they would have announced it by now. They obviously didn't think it was. On 11/23, Penn State at Ohio State is the obvious #1 Big Ten pick. The network that got the first pick that week certainly could have chosen that game and announced in late spring they have the rights to the game. But they didn't.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

@Schmolik - Your comment is spot on re: knowing what games they *want*, but we don't know the order. Does FOX have 3rd pick behind ND-Michigan and Wisconsin-Ohio St.? I don't know. If they do, they can grab both Wisconsin-Ohio St. & Penn St.-Michigan St. and feel pretty safe, right? If they don't & ESPN has the week picking 1st, 3rd and 4th/5th, or since you believe ND-Michigan was 2nd behind FOX's top choice, ESPN picking 2nd, 3rd and 4th/5th (wherever Maryland-Minnesota falls for you), both sides need to feel sure in the game choices they are making.

What if Penn St.-Michigan St. was the better game over the course of the season instead of Wisconsin-Ohio St.? Then yes, it makes sense to not announce anything because you don't want to be pigeonholed into a game early, as I assume you feel with Notre Dame-Michigan was for ESPN.

Let's say FOX had the first pick: Is ND-Michigan a good way to lead off the day that they would be carrying the World Series, if the game was available? Or do you believe they would have held out and let that pass by?

I'll stick with ND-Michigan being the top Big Ten choice for the week & selected in the preseason, but its not a hill I'm going to die on arguing about it.

Schmolik said...

I'm not 100% sure but I'm pretty sure that the Big Ten draft went as follows:

1. FOX chose Nov. 30 and took Ohio State-Michigan. That's a given to be the first pick every year for the length of the contract.

2. ABC (ESPN but I'll say ABC since the top games will go to ABC) chose Oct. 26 and locked in Notre Dame-Michigan. FOX got the 2nd pick that week. I would assume the picks alternate but I'm not 100% sure. Right now Wisc-OSU is the obvious #1 choice for the best remaining game but in the preseason PSU-MSU looked pretty good too. I'd argue (and did at the 506sports.com boards) that Wisc-OSU had an argument for #1 that week and ABC should have waited to select a game and had they waited they would have had a good chance to get a team with likely two undefeated teams.

3. FOX chose Nov. 23. Penn State-Ohio State is the most attractive game that week but it's not official.

4. ABC chose Oct. 19. Michigan-Penn State is the top game. This is now officially announced but wasn't until last Monday.

If I had the 2nd pick in the Big Ten draft I would have taken the PSU/OSU week. The game got a 5.75 rating in 2017 and a 5.3 rating in 2018. Last year's Mich/ND on NBC got a 4.0. Also, if you draft 2nd on Oct. 26, you lose out on Mich/ND but still get Wisc/OSU (or PSU/MSU). If you lose out on PSU/OSU on Nov. 23, what do you get as a 2nd choice? And if I had the top pick on Oct. 26, I wouldn't have preselected ND/Mich, I would have kept my options open. Last time OSU/Wisc aired in the regular season was 2016 and it got a 5.2. I wouldn't say OSU/Wisc was necessarily a better choice back in May, I'm saying that ND/Mich wasn't the obvious one either.

All ratings courtesy of Sports Media Watch.

Anonymous said...

ND/MICH might NOT because the state of Michigan dealing with the EEE outbreak

Darrell McKown said...

I don't think we know the picks alternative each week. In fact, I assume they don't alternate but are drafted individually. For example, I suspect the number two pick on Oct. 26 was selected with one of the top 7-10 picks in the draft, ahead of the number one pick for several weeks.

If I had to guess, I would assume your top four above are what happened, and then I would guess that FOX took the top pick in Week 4 next, but I could see that second pick on Oct. 26 going as high as fifth, since it also carried with it the possibility of Penn State-Michigan State being valuable as well if Ohio State or Wisconsin had their seasons go south.

Anonymous said...

what I meant is: Notre Dame & Michigan might NOT go to primetime because of the EEE outbreak in Michigan right now