The Pac-12 hopes to scale back the amount of conference night games that are played in the future, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The conference has had initial discussions with network partners “to change programming practices” after the conference “spent three months listening to complaints from fans and school officials” about the abundance of night games, the report says.
Conference officials were also displeased with the “overwhelming number” of night games and will need to negotiate with Fox and ESPN, who the conference has a 12-year, $3 billion deal with. According to Wilner, the launch of Fox Sports 1 was “part of the problem” and the issue of the time zones always plays a factor.
And the time zone issue is unavoidable: ESPN and Fox have no choice but to create their programming schedule in an east-to-west fashion. They have plenty of options at 3:30/4 p.m. Eastern and at 7/7:30/8 p.m. Eastern, but not so much for the late night window.
They just aren't going to start games in Norman or Austin at 9:30 p.m. local time. Neither of those issues is going to change when it comes to future Pac-12 football programming. The networks will keep scheduling east-to-west, and Fox will keep putting Pac-12 games on FS1 to generate ratings. (Live college football draws more eyeballs than anything else it could show at that time.)
There are other contract details that would have to be worked around. For example, Fox has to show “at least eight” games and ESPN must show “at least two” on ABC. These are always the “game-of-the-week” variety and can only be aired from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Pacific.
This is an issue.
If FOX broadcasts a game at 4 p.m., or if ABC shows a game at 5 p.m., then no other Pac-12 games can be televised until 7:30. That's a serious problem for the Pac-12 Networks. Yes, ESPN and FS1 show plenty of games that start in the 7—7:30 p.m. window, but the true source of the Night Game Nightmare is the impact the exclusive window has on the Pac12Nets. If a 3.5-hour chunk of the day -- prime viewing hours -- is off limits 10 times during the season, then the Pac12Nets have limited options: Show games early, or show them late.
On top of that, other factors like weather (like an Arizona afternoon in September) come into play.
There is clearly a lot to work out here, or the late starts – and the viewer complaints – will continue.
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