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NFL Goes All Out For Schedule Release Day

“Whether or not you think the fanfare around Schedule Day is excessive, and at least a few of us do, you can’t deny that it drives interest and maybe sells a few more tickets.”

Jack Ferris

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If nothing else, the NFL deserves all the credit in the world for turning a seasonal product into a year-round fountain of content.  Marketing courses can be designed around the calendar the league has engineered and fine tuned over the last couple of decades.  Outsiders might glance at the cycle the NFL has created and find it excessive, however to hardcore football fans and even casual sports fans, it’s not only well received – it’s not enough.  

Enter Schedule Release Day.  It’s become another bullet point on the NFL calendar in mid April, although the league never actually gives too much notice as to when the schedule is actually going to drop.  That practice, without a doubt, only adds to the suspense.  In fact the same tactic is used for naming headliners at global music festivals.  Interestingly enough, the same anticipation that lives in the anxious thumb of a 20-something as it refreshes the Coachella twitter account resides in the chest of every network executive partnered with the NFL leading up to Schedule Day.  The only difference is the music junkie has the option to skip the festival or sell their tickets if they’re not thrilled with the lineup.  The FOX, ESPN, CBS and NBC brass have to live with their draw.  

With that said, they always seem to be thrilled…or at least never publicly acknowledge when they aren’t.

John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal took to Twitter and needed far less than 280 characters to perfectly summarize just how helpless the Networks are when it comes to the NFL’s final word.   

To take a step back, the NFL’s drop reveals nothing more than just that – the actual schedule.  The teams and their fans have known who they’ll be playing for months.  Outside of green lighting travel arrangements and holiday planning for season ticket holders, Schedule Day is for the NFL’s network partners.  Christmas Day for the suits.  The head scratching part, as Ourand so brilliantly points out, how can everyone be so happy?

It’s commonplace now for networks and fans to roll their eyes over less-than-appealing primetime games once the season is underway.  The “flex” comprise has been implemented over the last decade and has helped move the spotlight off some bad football, but bad games are inevitable.  Injuries happen and teams expected to contend inevitably disappoint.  What we think we know about matchups can and always will prove to be way off come Fall.

That, however, certainly doesn’t keep the Networks and their teams from using Schedule Day as a way to pump up their brands.

In an ESPN release, the Network spun its 2019 Monday Night Football draw as the home for the “Top NFL Rivalries.”  The announcement went on to boast that the network would feature 9 divisional rivalry games, a claim that is appealing but would be less so if one or both teams are jockeying for a 2020 draft position come November.  NBC boasted about its star studded quarterback matchups, FOX used the opportunity to refer to America’s Game of the Week as the #1 show in America for the last decade, while CBS went out of its way to celebrate a Cowboys-Jets matchup in Week 6… a showdown between a team that hasn’t been past the Divisional round since the 90s and one that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2010.

And while Schedule Day might be a bit of repurposed information dropped on us in shiny new packaging, there’s no doubt the we eat it up.  Beat writers, local radio hosts and TV analysts get some layup content by going through their team’s draw and picking way more wins than they know they should. The social media departments of all clubs get a chance to flex their creative muscles in an otherwise “slow” week leading up to the NFL draft and fans get to plan their sick days for Mondays following especially big games.

Whether or not you think the fanfare around Schedule Day is excessive, and at least a few of us do, you can’t deny that it drives interest and maybe sells a few more tickets.

Speaking of sales – Weekend 1 of Coachella 2020 is April 10-12.  Never too early to buy a bear skin vest

Sports TV News

Scott Hanson Clarifies NFL RedZone Missteps During Raiders/Seahawks

Hanson believed in the moment that CBS was airing the overtime period to a national audience. But due to NFL broadcasting rules, the game was only available on select stations.

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NFL RedZone host Scott Hanson ruffled feathers for many football fans Sunday when he told viewers to switch from the channel to their local CBS affiliates to see the conclusion of the Las Vegas Raiders and Seattle Seahawks game.

Unfortunately, for both viewers and Hanson, the game was only being shown in a small portion of the country, with the rest of the nation’s CBS affiliates already airing 60 Minutes. The game was also available to NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers.

Hanson took to Twitter Sunday evening to explain what happened on the air and to apologize for the miscalculation.

Hanson believed in the moment that CBS was airing the overtime period to a national audience. But due to NFL broadcasting rules, the game was only available to stations in the Las Vegas, Fresno, Sacramento, Reno, Eugene, Portland, Boise, Seattle, and Spokane markets on the west coast. Additionally, the game was available in Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, and Charlotte.

He apologized for the mistake and said he would have more details at a later date.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Creates ACC/SEC Challenge

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports.

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ESPN, in conjunction with the ACC and SEC, is slated to announce the creation of the ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball.

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports. That number will grow to 30 contests when the SEC expands for the 2025-2026 season.

Every game in the challenge will be aired on an ESPN platform, with each side hosting the same amount of home games.

The creation of the event comes on the heels of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal with FOX, NBC, and CBS, ending a nearly four-decade relationship with ESPN. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, with the SEC/Big 12 Challenging beginning in 2013. Both events will cease to exist following this season.

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Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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