There was a lot of (understandable) grumbling when the Pac-12 announced that the Washington State Cougars’ marquee matchup next week at the Utah Utes was slated to be a 7 p.m. pacific time kickoff. After all, as long as both teams take care of business this weekend, it’s shaping up to be one of just two games nationally between ranked teams in week 5. Despite that, the game won’t start until 10 p.m. eastern time.
It’s something Pac-12 fans are used to... But not exactly thrilled about. And whether you like it or not, you can probably guess that it’s here to stay. Jon Wilner of the Pac-12 Hotline for the Mercury News checked in on Monday to recap how these late night games came to be... And why they’re not going anywhere.
It all dates back to 2011 when the Pac-12 desperately needed a new media rights deal and made certain concessions to get the maximum amount of money possible. Those concessions included more 7 p.m. or later kickoffs and the now customary six and 12 day selection window.
Of course, frustrations with the late kickoffs have been around for a while. And the juiciest tidbit from Wilner’s story came from Duane Lindberg, the associate commissioner for television. At one point, the Pac-12 talked to their TV partners at Fox and ESPN about changing the trend of those late kicks. The response was probably exactly what you predict.
“The tradeoff that was proposed by our TV partners … was a financial figure,” Lindberg said, “and it was significant enough that membership said it wasn’t an issue that we would explore anymore.”
The article is well worth a read and also included an especially interesting statistic. The decreased visibility of 10 and 10:30 p.m. eastern time kickoffs isn’t the only issue with conference. There’s also the lackluster distribution of the Pac-12 Network, available in just 17 million homes. Last season, the conference controlled the TV rights for 77 games and, of those, 34 were on the hard-to-find Pac-12 Network, while 23 were on an ESPN or Fox network at 7 p.m. pacific or later. That’s 74 percent of conference games with limited visibility nationwide.
The conference doesn’t have an option to renegotiate their TV rights until after the 2024 season. So no matter how you feel about 7 p.m. kickoffs (or later)... You can be sure that they’re here to stay.
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