Pac-12's Scott Says No Wiggle Room On Late-Night TV Schedule After Petersen Comments
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott on Saturday said that there is "no wiggle room in altering the night-game schedule" until its deal with ESPN and Fox expires after the '24 season, according to Adam Jude of the SEATTLE TIMES. Scott's comments come after Washington coach Chris Petersen's comments last week on late starts. Scott said that the night games are the "tradeoff for increased revenue and exposure for the Pac-12." It was Scott who "negotiated" the conference’s 12-year, $3B deal that began in '12. Scott said he “delivered exactly what the schools were asking for” in the deal. In the first five years of the TV deal, Scott "claimed night games drew on average an audience" that was 12% larger than audiences for day-time games. UW started its game Saturday against Cal at 7:50pm PT, one of the "latest start times ever at Husky Stadium." Petersen on Saturday "apologized to the commissioner" because he felt his comments "were 'overblown'" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/8). Petersen: "We just need to move on to a new topic. Let's pick something next week that we can really care about. I think we beat this one up enough" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/9). ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said, “You should be thanking ESPN for actually having a relationship thanks to Larry Scott with the Pac-12 because now your games are seen. Before there was a black hole when it came to the Pac-12 and now, you can actually tune in to the Pac-12 and see them if you live in the ACC or the SEC or the Big Ten. I understand his point, but be careful. Would you rather be on at 3:30 on the Pac-12 Network eastern when nobody's watching?” (“College Gameday,” ESPN, 10/7).
PICKING A FIGHT? The TIMES' Jude wrote under the header, "Trying To Make Sense Of ESPN's Spat With Chris Petersen." Things got worse during ESPN’s broadcast of Saturday night’s Cal-UW game. Late in the third quarter, ESPN sideline reporter Quint Kessenich "placed three cupcakes -- like, actual cupcakes -- on the Husky Stadium turf to represent the Huskies’ three nonconference opponents." Jude: "Can you imagine ESPN pulling that kind of stunt -- lining up three cupcakes on the sideline during a game -- at, oh, Alabama?" In the fourth quarter, ESPN play-by-play man Mark Jones "piled on more." Jones said, "So 38-7 ... maybe this will assuage the irascible and somewhat cantankerous head coach, Chris Petersen. ... He didn’t have much time for us this week.” Analyst Rod Gilmore said, "He declined to see us this week." But Jude noted that is "nothing new for Petersen, who does not do in-person interviews with any of the broadcasting crews the day before games." Instead, what he "does do is a phone interview with the broadcasters; in this case, ESPN declined the phone interview with Petersen." Petersen is "savvy enough to know that he shouldn’t pick a fight with ESPN." For one, it would be "difficult to overstate ESPN’s widespread influence on college football." Secondly, it is "rare for Petersen to publicly criticize someone or something anyway, and he had nothing to gain in this situation by calling out ESPN over his frustrations with late kickoffs" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/8). THE ATHLETIC's John Walters wrote ESPN's "onslaught" against Petersen "carried with it more than a whiff of hubris." It was "delivered with an ominous tone" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/8).
HELP EACH OTHER OUT: In San Jose, Jon Wilner wrote Herbstreit's response to Petersen went "far beyond what seemed necessary." Herbstreit is "correct: The Pac-12 is fortunate to have a relationship with ESPN." But ESPN is also "fortunate to have a relationship with the Pac-12." The network "benefits from the distribution of content that has value with viewers and advertisers" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 10/8). Scott said there is "no doubt" that playing late games "have been beneficial for the Pac-12." Scott: "ESPN and Fox came to us and said, 'We think there's demand for more football to extend the day, and Pac-12 is the perfect property because we are the only major games that can kick off after 7:00pm Pacific Time" ("Cal-Washington," ESPN, 10/7). In Seattle, Matt Calkins wrote late games are not "hurting" UW's national exposure. They are "helping it." The national viewership for Pac-12 games after 9:00pm has been 12% "greater than for those played in the afternoon." And on ESPN2, the national viewership has been 72% "greater for late-night Pac-12 games versus those played during the day." Viewership from the Eastern and Central time zones "didn’t shrink for games starting" after 9:00pm -- "they grew." Calkins: "The reason? Simple. Fans don’t have any other games to watch" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/7). In Tacoma, John McGrath wrote, "Spare me, please, the whining about the late kickoffs. The Pac-10 hired Larry Scott to revive it from the doldrums, and Scott has delivered" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 10/7).
HERBIE'S HEADHUNTERS: Numerous Twitter commentators took exception to Herbstreit's comments. The Athletic's Stewart Mandel: "Did ESPN’s Herbstreit just lecture Chris Petersen about TV kickoff times?" Seattle-based KCPQ-Fox' Aaron Levine tweeted while Pac-12 schools "get a ton of $" from ESPN, they "still deserve respect from TV partners." SB Nation's UW Dawg Pound feed: "Dear @KirkHerbstreit I’d like to thank you in advance for voting TCU ahead of UW after your full night’s sleep. #ESPNBias." Seattle-based KJR-AM's Dick Fain: "I'm wondering if @KirkHerbstreit stayed up to watch that 2nd half?" Seattle-based WARM-FM's Ashley Ryan: "Gee @KirkHerbstreit thanks so much! We probably wouldn't even have electricity or running water way out here on the west coast without ESPN!" The RedditCFB feed: "ESPN Exec: 'We're hemorrhaging young viewers who think we're egotistical and out of touch!' @KirkHerbstreit: 'Don't worry, I got this!'"