Last week, we told you about University of Washington football Chris Petersen complaining about the Pac-12 scheduling late-night games, making it tough for East Coast viewers to watch. Petersen said he’d rather have his Huskies team play 1 p.m. PT games instead of 7:30 or 7:45 p.m. local starts.

However, the almighty dollar and a partner that pays the Pac-12 conference to schedule those games has the last say. And in the case of ESPN, it’s hitting back.

During Saturday’s Cal-Washington game (which kicked off at 7:45 p.m. PT, by the way), ESPN made sure to let people know who was paying the piper and in this case, even put up a graphic showing that late-night games do well in the ratings and specifically, the Pac-12.

Rarely have we seen a network go out of its way to prove a point, but in this case, ESPN wanted viewers to know that there’s a reason why it and the Pac-12 have scheduled games especially late at night.

First, at that time, most games are over and the Pac-12 has that window for the most part all to itself. Second, ESPN claims that ratings for late night games are higher than other day parts. And third, the conference is getting paid rather handsomely by both ESPN and Fox to schedule games in that window.

Right now, there aren’t going to be any changes in the way the conference schedules its games and Petersen is going to have to bear with the late-night games. Until the next Pac-12 media contract comes around, conference coaches will have to deal with the late-night games and like it.

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • Trump Smash

    ESPN loves doing everything possible to justify its decisions at smart and relevant. They don’t care who they screw over along the way.

    • Matt

      Funny, FS1 never talked about this at all this weekend. They are 50% of the Pac-12 deal.

      • TheOriginalDonald

        How are the ratings of Pac-12 games on FS1?

        • Matt

          Well, FOX and FS1 gets the Pac-12 games. The Washington and Colorado game couple of week ago on FS1 at 10PM ET had over million viewers.

          • Walt_Gekko

            And exactly why I suspect as early as next season, we could see this expand to FOX and ABC with 11:00 PM ET kickoffs on FOX and 11:30 PM ET kickoffs on ABC. The Pac-12 could see even more late (and in some cases, later than now) starts in it’s future.

          • Matt

            Hard to say, as OTA’s like having their local news.

          • Walt_Gekko

            The idea is these would be AFTER late local news.

  • Parts

    ESPN can die a fiery death. Night games suck a$$.

    • Mike

      Night games are OK, but not THAT late.

  • MrBull

    Espn really wants to go down this road – playing petty games over scheduling times….Espn should have been ‘we hear you coach, let’s talk’, and let Washington play afternoon games which is really when most colleges would prefer…but, no espn wants to be arrogant about it…watch viewership drop even more….

    • Walt_Gekko

      ESPN likely gets a ton of millennials who watch after Saturday Night Live ends at 10:00 PM PT/1:00 AM ET.

      • MrBull

        How can they if they are the ones cutting the cable cord….plus, the millennials do not seem that much into sports, some but not the majority.”.

  • SatirevFlesti

    Since when does 7:30pm qualify as “late night”?

    • Bubba

      7:30 pm is Pacific time which is 10:30 Eastern time

      • Shawn Diiorio

        The point? I don’t understand why this is such a big freaking deal. Do these pundits have a problem with the game being on at this time because their mommies won’t let them stay up late?
        These people not only need to put their big boy pants on, they need to figure out how to wipe their own asses first.

        • Nathan Walter

          Have you ever been to a college campus during game day?

          I’ve been to games at 11am, 2:30pm, and even ones that started at 8pm.

          The late game was the worst experience, by a long shot. Worse traffic post-game, because everyone just wants to get home. Nothing is open when the game gets over. The fans who got sloshed have nothing to do to get sober, so they just drive anyway.

          The only people who don’t see this as a major issue are the networks and the conference heads who make money off it. The local communities lose.

    • Matt

      7:45 local start is late for a 3.5 hour college football game.

  • redman913

    Peterson didnt even mention ESPN during his “rant” and it was a valid one. WASH games this year: 8:00 PM EST, 8:00 PM EST, 10 PM EST, 8 PM EST, 10:45 PM EST, 10:45 PM EST, w/ another vs Stanford at 10:30 PM EST. the rest are TBD which i’m sure some will be late too.

    • Walt_Gekko

      And Peterson needs to quit complaining. Those games likely get bigger numbers than they would earlier in no small part because there are fewer games then AND many Millennials (those 18-34) come over to those games after Saturday Night Live ends at 1:00 AM ET/10:00 PM PT.

      If it were up to me, I’d in fact add a new 11:30 PM ET/8:30 PM PT window on ABC and put Pac-12 games in THAT slot (and yes, that would include the occasional 9:30 PM local start at Utah or Colorado).

      • redman913

        every year there’s a Pac12 HC who says the same thing, Pederson is just being latched onto because the team is good.. also i wouldnt give SNL so much credit for anything having to do with CFB ratings. if you compare the way the Pac12 schedules it’s top tier teams as opposed to the SEC/Big10/Big 12 you’d notice a big difference. and in my opinion, it seems he’s not complaining about late games, just having so many of them. throw in a couple 3:30 PST starts.

      • Nathan Walter

        Do people still watch SNL in 2017?

        • Walt_Gekko

          Yes, people do still watch SNL, even more so now out west where new episodes air with the east at 8:30 PM PT.

  • Walt_Gekko

    This is exactly the point. How many people are watching those Pac-12 games on ESPN, FS1 and the Pac-12 Networks that come over after Saturday Night Live ends at 1:00 AM ET/10:00 PM PT (new SNL shows now air live everywhere on NBC)?

    If anything, this should expand to ABC with ABC permanently moving the prime time game to 7:15 PM ET (7:20 PM kickoff) or so and then add a Pac-12 (or occasionally Mountain West) game on ABC at 11:30 PM ET/8:30 PM PT following late local news and FOX should do the same (with the Pac-12). ABC and FOX would likely pick up the audience that doesn’t care about SNL and then pick up the SNL audience after that ends at 1:00 AM ET.

    Chris Peterson needs to realize there are likely a lot of Millennials (those 18-34) who watch those late games on that kick at 10:00 PM or later in the east BECAUSE they are late kickoffs.

    • Nathan Walter

      The problem about night games exist beyond Peterson’s comments.

      Night games are really tough for the communities they are played in. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. When the Huskers played night games, traffic was the worst after the game. On an 11am or 2:30pm start, people didn’t leave as quickly. They stuck around and every business in the community benefitted. Now, they all leave early, because the average fan doesn’t want to be stuck in downtown Lincoln until 1AM.

      It also creates challenges because your potential recruiting base is less likely to watch. Is there some kid in Ohio who might be interested in Washington/Oregon/WSU that feels like no one will watch the games because they are late starts? This puts those schools at stark disadvantages.

      I can see how Peterson feels boxed in. And you should be able to see how night games are a drain on local communities. Everyone I’ve met prefers early college games.

      • Parts

        This. A million times, this.

      • Walt_Gekko

        I get that, but the trade-off is getting a lot of Millennials whom ad buyers crave and are far more likely to watch the late games (especially once Saturday Night Live ends at 1:00 AM ET) than those in the afternoon. That’s why I would not be surprised to see some 8:30 PM PT/9:30 PM MT starts in the Pac-12 as early as next year.

        • Nathan Walter

          How is there a trade-off for communities with the SNL-watching, TV crowd?

          The local businesses in these college towns, many of whom are high-spending boosters, don’t benefit from a constant barrage of night games.

          I was just in Iowa City a few weeks ago for a concert. It happened to be the same night Iowa played Penn State at night. Before the game, the bars were buzzing. But I had to wonder, how many MORE people would show up after the game—Folks who were running late, got stuck in traffic on
          I-80—if the game wasn’t so late. Once the game ended, everyone was leaving town, because it was almost 11pm.

          Also, the players don’t benefit from a constant barrage of night games. I know kids who played for Nebraska. They HATED night games. It meant they had to wait around all day for a game. It meant they couldn’t eat a full meal until around midnight. It messed up their schedule and routine.

          There is zero benefit to the players, the coaches, or their communities for constant night games. It only benefits the stations that air these games and the conferences that receive TV revenue.

        • Nathan Walter

          What trade-off is there for the bar/restaurant owners in Pullman, WA?

          Or for the D-Line coach at Stanford trying to sway a kid to their program?

          Or the fan whose experience is lessened because the game ends at 11pm?

          The only people who benefit are the networks and the colleges. Everyone else loses.

          • Walt_Gekko

            And how about those who stay out until 1-2 AM local time and hit the bars and clubs afterwards? Quite a lot of those two.

          • Nathan Walter

            Yes, but not as much as your fans who live out of town.

            I know restaurant/bar owners in downtown Lincoln. They don’t get anywhere close to the patrons after late games as they do after earlier games.

            Anyone who lives out of town, works in the morning, has kids, has to go to church in the morning, etc., won’t stick around the area after games. Trust me, that’s significantly more people than your 1am bar hoppers.

          • Walt_Gekko

            Maybe I think about it more like a New Yorker, where people often stay out until 4:00 AM when its last call. My experiences see tons of people out at 1:00-2:00 in the morning at the bars and so forth.

          • Nathan Walter

            There’s no doubt those folks. Most of them young, and mostly local.

            But it’s a very small number compared to what they get after day games. In just about every college town I’ve been to (that draws good crowds for CFB), the post-game crowd is massive. Go to downtown Lincoln after a Nebraska day game and try to get a seat at any bar/restaurant. I promise you, you’ll wait a long time.

            Try the same at 1am, you probably won’t have a long wait, if any at all.

    • danderson600

      Maybe ABC could start it’s first game at 2:30, with local news at 6:00, and move the prime time game to 7:15 PM ET (7:20 PM kickoff) or so and then add a
      Pac-12 (or occasionally Mountain West) game on ABC at 11:30 PM ET/8:30
      PM PT. The local news could be delayed if needed, and you’d be able to give the Big Ten the first window each week, or if it warrants it, a Pac-10 or Mountain West game.

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  • Schmolik

    This year the Big Ten entered a contract with FOX where they know split rights with ABC so some weeks FOX has first choice of games and some weeks ABC has first choice. What is it in the Pac-12? Do they take turns or does FOX have first choice? You would think ABC/FOX would want to give the Pac-12 some afternoon slots so it can save the primetime for the more popular Big Ten (and in the case of ABC the ACC).