Friday, May 28, 2021

My Takeaways From 2021 Early Season & Special Dates CFB TV Releases

Here's what surprised me in the early season CFB TV releases:

Talk is kinda cheap when it comes to the Mountain West and wanting a specific range for start times. This isn't necessarily shade towards the Mountain West office, but it was highly touted that the conference would only go outside of the boundaries of their "earliest" start time of 11am local and in the first "real" season of the deal, CBS used all three of their broadcast network windows for games that would start locally at 9am (Boise State at San Diego State), 10am (Boise State at Utah State) and 10:30am (Army West Point vs. Air Force being played in Arlington, TX).

I do remember that the conference was willing to make exceptions outside the early bound of their early game start time as there were strong hints dropped that FOX wanted to bring their Big Noon Kickoff crew to Boise when they would have hosted Florida State last year. And there is the matter that all three of these games will lead into SEC telecasts, which is kinda cool.

The ESPN Thursday night schedule feels a bit lackluster, even if it truly isn't.  Both the Big 12 and Pac-12 are missing from ESPN's Thursday night schedule, leading it to be a rotation of games from the American, ACC and Sun Belt until the SEC contributes the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving (I'll be watching Bills-Saints that night, thank you).  Maybe I feel this more because of seeing the Sun Belt on Thursday nights on ESPN, but the conference admirably contributed to the schedule last year when called upon during the first year of a new rights agreement. Boise State at UCF seems nice, but it doesn't sound like either one will be in the Top 25 to start the year and if either or both are, they'll be at a place where only one will be in the Top 25 after the weekend.

And its not new to see the Thursday schedule become de-emphasized compared to Fridays.  This has been a thing for several years and coincided with the NFL going full season on Thursdays.  I'll be curious to see if this flips in 2022 as the NFL's Thursday night games move to Amazon Prime for the vast majority of viewers.

"Pac-12 After Dark" hits broadcast TV.  I've seen cases where networks have slotted a Pac-12 game after 10pm ET and said "Yes, (ABC or FOX) is possible" and often thought to myself "No, it isn't. Stop it".  Then last year we had a a Utah-UCLA game tentatively scheduled for 10:30pm ET on FOX before it was cancelled due to COVID issues.

But now we have a legit scheduling choice being made, and part of this is due to FOX's MLB commitments as the Yankees will host the Mets at 7:30pm ET on 9/11, pushing FOX to air Stanford at USC after the baseball game.

I'm also curious if this is a way to do the reverse of placing Pac-12 games at noon ET or if this is truly a one-time deal.

They're going to phase in use of ESPN+ for the SEC fans. This seems to be a way to push SEC fans over to ESPN+ by moving over a handful of football games to the platform, but giving the fans the ability to watch them online via the SEC+ portal this year, which only requires a SEC Network subscription.

And this also seems to mean that the SEC Network Alternate is going to go away as a usable platform, though I could see it popping up in the event of games running long due to weather or other issues.

No early Black Friday game on ABC? At the moment, that's a question because I'm curious on the plans.  They noted that the three Black Friday games that intend to air on ABC and ESPN would be at 3:30pm and 7pm ET.  Maybe the early slot will end up with the NHL or college basketball like the Battle 4 Atlantis 3rd place and championship games.

What was the deal with the Oklahoma statement about when they wanted their game vs. Nebraska to air? Sounds like they didn't like the choice of 11am locally / 12pm Eastern even if it gets preferential pregame treatment from FOX. The network has USC at Washington State in mid-afternoon and MLB in the evening.

I'm going to stay out of the competitiveness of this matchup.  I understand this is a big anniversary for this game.  I don't know if FOX was able to choose this ahead of ESPN or if ESPN prioritize selecting first from another conference to air a different game as ABC has Auburn at Penn State in primetime and an ACC game to be determined in mid-afternoon.

I suspect that if Nebraska at Oklahoma wanted to be on at a different time, it might have had to accept airing on ESPN or FS1, and didn't like either option.

Other things that seemed noteworthy, or overparsed, by me.

  • When the Pac-12 noted that three games would be aired on Pac-12 regional networks, they did it using the branding of the Pac-12 Now online app instead of those regional networks.  Feels like they're greasing the wheels for folks to get behind using the app exclusively in the future for situations like these.
  • Fresno State at San Jose State on Thanksgiving on FOX or FS1 is interesting. I could see this on FOX after Bears at Lions, or in the late evening after whatever FOX and FS1 settles on for their Las Vegas Invitational schedule.
  • At some point, FOX's MLB postseason commitments will become known, probably in September, and that will cut into a few TV windows they can offer, along with their Premier Boxing Champions schedule. Then again, there are rumblings that the PBC on FOX contract may be mutually agreed to end early.
  • Similar to FOX's commitments, we'll need to see if any Top Rank Boxing and UFC cards are plugged into ESPN's schedule, along with any special Saturday NBA or NHL games.


Darrell McKown said...

Regarding the Oklahoma-Nebraska game, it seemed obvious that would be the FOX early game once it was known that Texas-OU and OU-OSU were on ABC/ESPN and Auburn-Penn State was the ABC night game. You have to assume that ABC/ESPN took Texas-OU with the first selection and OU-OSU with the third selection, so FOX would have had to pass on Oklahoma-Nebraska twice for it to fall back to ABC/ESPN, which seems unlikely given their other options. Then, once Auburn-Penn State was an ABC game, there wasn't really any other Big 10 option for the FOX early kickoff.

I guess if they wanted to play nice, they could have tried Oklahoma State-Boise State (10am local kickoff, but given the CBS schedule they probably could have done it) or Ohio State-Tulsa given how Ohio State draws, and then put Oklahoma-Nebraska at 2:30 local time and pushed USC-Washington St to FS1, but that really wouldn't have been consistent with their Big Noon strategy and their best game would have run against Alabama-Florida.

I get Oklahoma's frustration with all the 11am kickoffs, but when you are the best non-Big 10 draw that FOX has, that's where you are going to end up.

Anonymous said...

Well it's not a press release but something better than nothing in regards to the cbs sports network college football schedule for the 2021 season

Anonymous said...

Apologies for replying to your basketball question in this blog comment section (do not have a twitter acct.). Anyway, regarding the format for the WAC (and two other conferences), I saw this article about the WAC format for all sports but football a few weeks ago.

Mark Falzone said...


Do you (or does someone else) have details on what the ACC is guaranteed in terms of minimum appearances on ABC or ESPN or ESPN2, etc.?


Matt Sarzyniak said...

@Mark - The ACC has really never published that info. My assumption was that they want to get every school at least one appearance on ABC or ESPN, and at least on ACCN game. When I looked into 2019, only Boston College failed to appear on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 in an ACC controlled game. All of their games were either on ACCN, ACCNX streaming or part of the RSN package.

Anonymous said...

When/why was Army renamed to Army West Point? Is there a second Army college now?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Army rebranded their athletics to Army West Point about three years ago. I've went to using the official athletics brand names where possible a couple years ago.