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Big 12 football: OU & OSU go head-to-head

by Berry Tramel Published: November 27, 2012

OU plays TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN. OSU plays Baylor at 11 a.m. Saturday on FX.

Here we go again. On Nov. 10, the Cowboys hosted West Virginia at 2:30 p.m. on ABC, and the Sooners hosted Baylor at 2:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Net. That makes for some unfortunate viewing in our state.

While there are some OU fans that have no interest in watching OSU, and some OSU fans who wouldn’t dare watch an OU game, there are a ton of fans of both crimson and orange bent who would like to watch the other side’s game, even if it’s to hope for a defeat.

In Oklahoma, it hurts the television ratings of both games. But get used to it. The conference’s new television contract has de-regulated the televising of Big 12 games.

In previous years, the Big 12 had exclusive windows – 11 (or 11:30 a.m.), 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m. Exceptions were made, primarily for an ABC 7 p.m. window.

But now there is no exclusivity. Games can go head-to-head at most any time. And the number of networks has increased.

ESPN and Fox are in partnership. ESPN shows games on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2. Fox shows games on Big Fox, Fox Sports Net and FX.
There’s been a change in philosophy among the networks, said Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda.

“The TV approach has been inventory and content,” Burda said of the new contract. “They want to put as many games out there as they can, all day. Now they’re putting multiple games out there across multiple platforms.”

And so we get OU and OSU head-to-head. It hurts the ratings in Oklahoma, but our state’s population makes barely a ripple nationally.

While OU is a national brand, and OSU is building a decent brand with its recent success, the eyeballs in Oklahoma are not what drive that. That brand means, would someone in California or Georgia or Ohio flipping channels, come across an Oklahoma, or a Texas, or a Nebraska, or a whoever, and stop to watch?

That’s why West Virginia’s in the conference. The Mountaineers come from a state of 1.8 million people. But West Virginia football has a brand. People elsewhere will watch the Mountaineers, and the networks know it. The networks told the Big 12 West Virginia was an acceptable replacement for Missouri.

I can understand all this, but here’s what I don’t understand? With no exclusive windows, why still embrace the particular windows? Why make seemingly every game in college football start (Oklahoma time) at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. or at night?

Why not stagger? OSU-Baylor is FX’s only game on Saturday afternoon. Why not kick off the Cowboys and Bears at noon, or even 1 p.m.? The discerning fan could then catch the end. With all these games starting at the same time, they’re all ending at nearly the same time. Stagger the starts, and you stagger the end, which means viewers can migrate to the drama.

If you’ve got five Big 12 games on a Saturday – we don’t this week – start them at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Same with other conferences. The Big Ten sometimes has three games going head to head at 11 a.m. – on ESPN, ESPN2 and the Big Ten Network. It makes no sense.

Another factor that has gone from orderly to organized chaos is the selection order. In the old days, ABC had first pick, then Fox Sports had the second pick for its night game and the third pick for its morning game.

Now, Fox and ESPN share the selections on an alternating basis. And it’s not necessarily week by week. Some weeks, Fox has the first pick. Some weeks, ESPN (ABC). Some weeks, they trade.

Burda said one network will trade a pick for future considerations, like the NBA draft or something. So unless you’re on the inside of the television industry, there’s no way of knowing who even has first pick in a particular week.

We just know this. Expect more OU games and OSU games to be televised head to head.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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