Some officials haven’t been too pleased by ESPN’s 12-year, $3 billion deal with the Pac-12. One notable detractor was University of Washington head coach Chris Petersen, who lamented having to play night games every week to cater to the primetime preferences of ESPN in broadcasting games. Petersen claimed that constantly having late games hurts their national exposure.

One such person who took offense was Kirk Herbstreit. On College Gameday, Herbstreit took Petersen’s comments to task and said that people like him should be thanking ESPN for providing nationwide coverage for the Pac-12.

“The reality is, as an advocate on this show for the Pac-12 for the last 20 years, wanting to try to bring as much exposure to that conference as we can, you should be thanking ESPN for actually having a relationship thanks to Larry Scott with the Pac-12 because your games are seen. Before, there was a black hole when it came to the Pac-12 and now, you can actually tune into the Pac-12 and see them if you live in the ACC or the SEC or the Big Ten. So I understand [Petersen’s] point but be careful. Would you rather be on at 3:30 on the Pac-12 Network eastern when nobody’s watching?”

First off, let’s not act like ESPN is some sort of charity and is giving the Pac-12 an opportunity to make a name for itself. ESPN wouldn’t be in business with the Pac-12 if they didn’t think they could have a financially lucrative partnership with them. And that’s the same with the Pac-12 in partnering with ESPN. That’s what a business relationship is supposed to do, for both sides to benefit. And while Herbie probably shouldn’t have rubbed Petersen’s nose into it saying that he “should be thanking ESPN,” Herbstreit isn’t exactly wrong either.

Call what Herbstreit said as ESPN displaying “East Coast bias” in giving the Pac-12 too little credit or whatever, but the ratings that are coming in kind of strengthen Herbstreit’s argument. The Seattle Times reported that despite games starting after midnight in the East Coast, ratings are 12% higher than afternoon games. For games just on ESPN2, that figure is 72% higher for late night games compared to those in the afternoon. And when it comes to demographics based on time zones, 65% of viewers of late night Pac-12 games are from the Eastern and Central time zones compared to 60% from that same time zone for afternoon games.

Herbstreit raises a crucial point and he’s right. You could play at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon on the Pac-12 Network, a network not everyone has (including DirecTV) and you are competing against dozens of other games featuring top teams being played at the same time. Yes, when playing a game that starts at midnight eastern, many people have gone to bed and may not be watching. But at the same time, you don’t have nearly as much competition for the eyeballs of college football fans. The entire Eastern half of the country is definitely not going to have games going on so that means less competition and a better chance at getting on a network like ESPN with wider distribution than other sports networks.

By that logic, maybe Petersen should get used to playing later than he’s used to, it seems to be working out for everyone so far.

[The Seattle Times]

About Phillip Bupp

News and soccer editor for The Comeback and I occasionally write for Awful Announcing and Freezing Cold Takes. I also do video highlight game coverage for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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  • kelly

    Let them eat cake.

    • Parts

      mmmmm cake….I’ll eat the hell outta that…..

  • Transport

    Let’s take a look at the games on at say 2 to 5 pm on ESPN today Western Michigan at Buffalo Minnesota at Purdue……………huh, Herbstreit must be right…………..who wouldn’t want to miss those two barn burners, the ratings should go right thru the roof on those two games

  • greg adkins

    Ok Kirk,by the way is Les Miles still coming to Michigan to be the head coach.(PRICK)

  • Jason Fults

    I do enjoy watching West Coast night games. It is unique. Almost like watching a Friday night High School game. Great energy! If it gets old playing at night, play in the day and let ESPN show someone else. If you keep winning, they will line up to put your game on whenever you want to play it. Of course once you lose a bit, they will definitely screw you.

  • Grumpy Old Man

    There are only 2 daytime windows the PAC 12 can play in: 3:30 and 7:00 eastern time.
    Today there were 10 national telecasts in the 3:30 window.
    Today there were 10 national telecasts in the 7:00 window.

    And there were only 4 nationals in the 10:00 eastern window, 2 from the Pac12 – WHICH JUST HAPPENS TO BE PRIME TIME IN THE PAC 12 CONFERENCE TERRITORY.

    Peterson’s bitch should be with the conference, not the networks. The planning and distribution of the Pac12 Network is a joke..

    Let’s turn this around. The University of North Carolina could argue they are hosed because their games start at 9:00AM on the West Coast. How can they recruit when their games start so early?

    Peterson was barking up the wrong tree.

    • John Yang

      Petersen (not “Peterson”) did not criticize the networks. He apologized to the fans for the late starts. Herbstreit is the one who took it upon himself to take it as a criticism of ESPN. Read the facts Grumpy.

      • Grumpy Old Man

        John Yang,

        First, thanks for the spell check.

        So far this season, here are start times after 6:00 local time:
        Alabama – 4 of 6
        Clemson – 4 of 6
        Washington – 4 of 6

        Funny, I have not heard Saban or Swinney complain.

        By the way, it’s hard to believe you don’t see Petersen’s apology as a full frontal swipe at the networks – who just happen to schedule the games he’s apologizing for!

        • Al Wasser

          Of course, if you look at start times after 5 p.m., Washington is 6 for 6.

      • Matt

        ESPN is so touche. FS1 didn’t respond to this.

  • Marlon Nicholson

    Well if the PAC 12 would have signed with NBC a few years ago then the exposure would be exclusive to NBC & NBCSN and better start times but instead they chased the dream ESPN sold them knowing the other conferences are more of a priority. ACC SEC etc.

    • Matt

      Pac-12 deal is also with FOX/FS1. 50/50 split.

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  • Matt

    Well, the new Pac-12 deal is also with FOX/FS1. Of course, another ESPN hack in Herby doesn’t say that.

  • Matt

    Looking at Washington’s schedule so far…Why is ESPN responding back. Other than this weekend, Washington has not played on the WWL. 2 games were on FS1 and 3 on the Pac-12 Networks.

  • Mario

    I have yet to be able to see a game, as I have the most basic of cable. I remember when we could watch Huskies games on broadcast TV. Like last season. Thanks though, PAC12. I used to enjoy being able to watch them.

  • marcus813

    I dozed off on the Cal/Washington, San Diego State/UNLV (MW, but still the same idea) and Stanford/Utah games only because I had my sleep interrupted that morning, causing me not to be able to stay up as late as I wanted to here in the Eastern Time Zone. Otherwise, I would’ve watched more of those games. I’m speaking only for myself here. I can’t speak for others in my time zone. Earlier starts would be easier for me, though, and I would still watch the Pac-12’s games.

  • This is what happens when a sports league with amateur players get television and sponsorship contracts with professional-sized payouts.

  • Parts

    What an arrogant prick. NOBODY out here likes the night games. Petersen is echoing the sentiment of the season ticket holders, the boosters, the fan who watches/listens at home. NONE of whom give a rats ass about ratings.

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