Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Football Blues

We're coming up to another fall football weekend, and once again, many people will have to take measures to see games they may want to see, but can't see at home...

BIG TEN NETWORK MESS, AGAIN: As we hinted earlier, this weekend's Big Ten football showdown between the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and 21st-ranked Wisconsin Badgers has been picked up by the Big Ten Network - which is visible in roughly 14 cable homes in Northeast Ohio. OK, maybe a few thousand.

Those with satellite TV, or subscribers to AT&T's "U-verse" alternative video system, will get the Buckeyes and Badgers, along with those who get a handful of local cable systems - like Cleveland's "WOW" cable service, and others elsewhere in Ohio (Toledo's Buckeye CableSystem, etc.).

But subscribers to the dominant cable provider in Ohio, Time Warner Cable, will not see the game.

You almost couldn't blame the BTN folks for this one, aside from one fact.

The new TV deal offers up two in-conference games per year for each team to the conference's own channel. Ohio State has only had one Big Ten matchup on BTN, so the network was able to grab either this week's game or the contest with Illinois next week.

Ah, but the "one fact": The "we must have two in-conference games" rule was drawn up by the conference, which, of course, runs the network (along with partner FOX Sports).

And of course, the hugely popular Ohio State/Michigan matchup which will be featured on ABC-TV, as the College Football Gods intended.

The Akron Beacon Journal's George M. Thomas - OSU beat writer, sports media columnist and long-time OMW reader - gives all the gruesome details here.

We disagree with Mr. Thomas on one point.

We don't think that the Big Ten Network "belongs on basic cable", per se. We actually wonder if it should exist, aside from its potential financial windfall for the conference.

But we do believe the popular Buckeyes football team belongs on basic cable, broadcast TV (national or local), or some other option that doesn't shut out millions of potential viewers - who couldn't get the channel without switching video providers.

That's the way it used to be, you know...

Other bad news on the BTN/cable front comes from the Plain Dealer's Elton Alexander, who reports that things are looking mighty bleak for the prospect of that network showing up on Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner says negotiations to bring the network to the company's large number of cable systems (including the huge Northeast Ohio grouping) are "ongoing", but Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman tells Alexander that they've removed themselves from the talks:

"There's nothing going on. There's zero chance of getting this network carried anytime soon. That's a fact."

Silverman may be the ultimate TV "hard bargainer", and for the moment, he's got one large bargaining chip, the OSU-Wisconsin game.

That's expected by the TWC folks, where spokesman Chris Thomas tells the PD:

"...nothing will change until the Big Ten Network backs off its demand, considered unreasonable by Time Warner, to be included on extended basic cable."

The loser?

Ohio State football fans, of course. No matter who's "right or wrong" in all this, a lot of diehard Buckeyes fans will have to find a friend with satellite TV or the AT&T service (the former much more likely than the latter), or shoehorn into one of a gazillion sports bars to share a screen with a few dozen of their newest friends...

ANOTHER NON-SEEN GAME: It's being touted as almost an in-season Super Bowl, but there are only three television markets in the entire country which will not see CBS' Sunday NFL broadcast of the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.

Guess which area is among them?

That's right - no matter how much Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO/19 may want to show it, they will not be showing Patriots/Colts to viewers in this area.

Are the folks at "Cleveland's CBS 19" being mean? Did they spend too much on their HD news conversion that they can't afford the game?

No, easy as it is for us to "Blame Reserve Square", this one falls on the shoulders of the National...Football...League.

With the voice of late NFL Films great John Facenda ringing in our heads, the explanation is simple - the Cleveland Browns schedule this weekend.

If the Browns were playing a CBS game with a 1 PM start, as is usual, this would be a no brainer. WOIO would be able to carry the Browns at 1, followed by the Colts/Patriots at 4. It is, after all, a CBS Doubleheader week.

But the Browns are playing the Seattle Seahawks at 4 PM this Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The mere placement of that game would preempt New England vs. Indianapolis on "CBS 19" here, but the Seahawks are in the NFC...which means the Browns/Seahawks will be carried Sunday on WJW/8 "FOX 8" in the Cleveland market.

(The conference of the away team determines which network carries their games, at least on Sunday afternoons between CBS and FOX. NBC and ESPN, and the NFL Network, aren't bound by those guidelines, since their games are all national.)

WOIO is not allowed, by NFL rules, to program a competitive game against the home team... so it can't carry the Colts vs. the Patriots. It's also not allowed to pick up CBS' other 4 PM game, the Oakland Raiders hosting the Houston Texans.

And those are the other two areas involved.

The Houston market will get that game instead of the "mid-season Super Bowl", and so will the tiny Eureka CA market in extreme Northern California.

The San Francisco Bay Area and other parts of the Raiders' home market territory won't be able to televise the Raiders/Texans, since the game won't be sold out at the Oakland Whatever Big Software Company It's Named For Now Coliseum.

So, this map of carriage of the 4 PM CBS games is a wide swath of red (New England/Indianapolis), with a small splash of blue up in far Northern California and in southern Texas (Houston/Oakland).

The maps, by the way, are a fan-driven effort by one Mr. J.P. Kirby, who scours local TV listings and news to determine what games air where.

And what about the Cleveland TV market? It's a big patch of "No 4 PM CBS Game Here" gray.

But look over to the southeast of Cleveland on the map.

That's right, Youngstown market CBS affiliate WKBN/27 plans to carry the Patriots and Colts.

As a secondary market to Cleveland, they're allowed to make the competitive programming decision. And besides, Browns/Seahawks will be on their own sister station, WYFX "FOX 17/62". Youngstown goes by sellout/blackout rules being close enough to Cleveland, but the market's stations aren't barred from airing games up against the "home" team.

That'll drive some folks in the Cleveland, Akron and Canton areas to aim their antennas at Youngstown.

And those with digital over-air tuners, a good shot at Youngstown, and a decent enough antenna can easily pick up WKBN's powerful digital signal - and will only need a remote control to flip between the Patriots/Colts game on WKBN-DT 27.1, and the Browns/Seahawks game on WKBN-DT 27.2 - the digital home of the aforementioned "WYFX".

Confused? You won't be, after this episode of "As The NFL Turns"...


chuck said...

Thankfully I get the Big 10 Network here in Toledo via Buckeye Cable.

A note... a few weeks back the Michigan/Purdue game was to have been on the Big 10 'Net. Instead it was OSU/Kent. I was pleased by that. Apparently an uplink issue with the UM game.

yekimi said...

I don't care if Time-Warner gets the BTN or not, I do not have cable and will NEVER have cable as long as they make me pay for channels I do not want or need. Why should I have to pay for religious or infomercial channels or ones where I don't speak the language? I looked at their basic channel lineup and out of the 18 listed, there is only 9 or 10 that I would actually want! My good old antenna can get me all the stations I need and a few from Canada also.

RadioLave said...

I believe that both Pittsburgh & Cleveland share home team status with WKBN. Heinz Field is actually about 10 miles closer to WKBN than Cleveland Browns Stadium. The 4pm Buffalo away game last week blacked out the Steelers or Browns 1pm games for those in Erie, because CBS only had a single game. Fortunately, I could pull in KDKA DT 25 for the Steelers while checking WKBN DT for the Browns contest. The rematch between Pit. & Cle. on November 11th will also be blacked out in Erie by another Buffalo road game. This despite heavy interest by fans of both teams who outnumber those very few Bills fans who live in the Erie market. For me, it's definitely good to have an outdoor antenna & rotor.

Matt said...

Ohio St. has not had any conference games on the BTN (Wisconsin-OSU will be the first one). Only non-conference games vs. Akron, Kent St. and Youngstown St. have been on the BTN. The BTN says that each team must have one conference game (two total games) on the BTN

johns said...

ah, what ever became of the good ol days when you could catch the OSU games on WVIZ.

BTW that NFL rule been in effect for quite a while

yekimi said...

When did they have OSU games on WVIZ, the 1800's? I don't ever recall them being on WVIZ but then again I'm not a big football fan.

Geoff said...

WVIZ used to show rebroadcasts of OSU games for many years, usually late Saturday nights. I don't recall when they started, (60s?-I know they were on in the 70s) but they ran until the late 80s/early 90s.

the games were produced by WOSU for other pub tv stations to show. This was in the pre-ESPN days, when the NCAA limited a team's appearance on network tv, to something like 3 times in 2 years. Usually, this meant that only the michigan game was shown on ABC. Therefore to give fans around the state a chance to see the team, WOSU offered the rebcsts.

WOSU stopped due to cost considerations. Plus, there was a rule change, now teams weren't limited to a certain amount of games on tv. ESPN etal came into prominence and showed all the games, so there was no need for rbcsts.

As a kid, I was big fan. We'd listen to the game on the radio and then wait until Saturday night to watch them.

Morgan Wick said...

I'm tempted to make a comment about DirecTV viewers actually rejoicing, as Patriots-Colts on Sunday Ticket would probably look 1000 times better than it would on WOIO (assuming I have the NFL's rules right).

Which says a lot, as I live at least 1000 miles away from Ohio.

ohiobiz said...

Both games in question will probably be available somewhere online illegally.

Mark Dallas said...

Colts/Pats looks great on OTA HD out of Youngstown. i can never pick up 19 anyways.

chuck said...

Patriots/Colts were on here in Toledo on the CBS affiliate (WTOL). Colts/Pats were in HD too.

And the Browns/Seahawks were on the local FOX affiliate.

Best of both. Love it!