Michigan Ohio State Fox

It’s long been anticipated that the annual Ohio State – Michigan football game would be moving to Fox following the network’s acquisition of the Big Ten’s Tier 1 rights last summer (the deal begins in 2017-18), as Fox now has first pick of Big Ten games and that game tends to draw the largest audience out of any in that conference, but that move now appears official.

It was predicted in our report on the new TV deals last June and in CBS’ report at the same time, mentioned again (this time as a done deal) in Anthony Crupi’s Advertising Age piece last month on Fox’s upfront preparations, and then actually confirmed by the network at their upfronts Monday, with quite a bit of promotion from Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer (who appeared on a video call there for some reason) as well. Here’s the slide of their football schedule:

Other notable games there include Penn State-Ohio State, Notre Dame-Michigan State, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, and Texas-USC. But it’s the Ohio State – Michigan  one that really matters. That game last year (with the Buckeyes ranked second and the Wolverines ranked third) drew a 10.4 overnight rating on ABC, the best of the college football season, the best noon kickoff rating on record, and the second-best regular-season CFB number in any slot ever for ABC (behind, shockingly, another Michigan – Ohio State game in 2006). It’s not going to hit quite those heights every year, of course, especially if one or both of the teams is struggling, but this is one of the most-watched matchups in college football regardless of the implications, and it can produce some mammoth ratings when the stakes are high. (Oh, and fans presumably get to listen to Gus Johnson call it now, so that should be fun.)

Having that game switch networks is a big deal, and that’s why Fox outbid ESPN for the Tier 1 rights ($240 million annually versus $190 million). Both networks will show the same amount of games each year (25 football and 50 basketball), but Fox gets the first pick every year (ESPN gets second, Fox gets third and so on), so they can take Ohio State – Michigan in perpetuity for the life of the contract (presuming they’d want to, but it seems unlikely anything else will come close in terms of ratings). The Tier 1 rights aren’t just about Ohio State – Michigan, of course; they also include the Big Ten championship game and a few other notable things. But grabbing this matchup is a huge part of why Fox was willing to pay more for what’s mostly the same number of games.

Interestingly enough, Fox also managed to get both Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on board for a video call at the upfronts to help sell this game to advertisers. And Harbaugh really went full tilt:

Meyer did fire off an interesting tweet, though:

So, they got Meyer to promote Fox too, just maybe in not as an over-the-top way. And it’s interesting that Harbaugh would go all-in for Fox, which he doesn’t work for (and only some of Michigan’s games will be shown there; plenty may wind up on ESPN or ABC too). But hey, Fox went all in for him with the Harbus, long before they even won the Tier 1 Big Ten rights. Perhaps turnabout is fair play.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • MrBull

    The end of top college football games on ABC sports…espn has killed tradition…Chris Schenkel and Bill Flemming must be turning over in the broadcast graves….

    • Walt_Gekko

      This has a lot to do with cord cutting. ABC will still have plenty of games to air. Plus, Disney was not in a position to have Ohio State-Michigan in prime time because many ABC stations in the east wanted 7:00-8:00 PM ET for local programming whereas FOX can insist on a 7:00 PM ET start for the game.

      • danderson600

        Even if many ABC stations in the east wanted 7:00-8:00 PM ET for local programming, couldn’t those local shows air after the noon game, allowing for a 5:00 start for the biggest game?

        • Walt_Gekko

          No because ABC has games at Noon & 3:30 PM ET. Most ABC stations in the east air local news following the 3:30 PM games and syndicated programming from 7:30-8:00. They would insist on keeping that.

          FOX doesn’t have this problem because they air what is the 3:30 PM game at 3:00, and with their affiliates having 10:00 PM for late local news (instead of 11:00) could insist on a 6:30 or 7:00 PM ET start.

    • Greenhouze

      Thanks for the hyperbole. Mr Bull is a perfect fit of a name
      If it’s the end of top games on ABC it’s because ABC/ESPN got outbid for the tier 1 rights and money eventually kills every sporting tradition

      • MrBull

        No ‘hyperbole” here…just stating that over the years the most traditional games in college football were shown on abc…espn has seen fit to get away from what was always a key aspect of past sports coverage…

    • rben408

      With the best SEC game on CBS and the best big ten and big 12 games on Fox. Throw in Norte Dame on NBC and ESPN has very little worth watching. Setting aside the Kickoff Games in week 1, ESPN/ABC best game will be FSU Clemson each year with a bunch of mediocre second tier games. Is Gameday going to be on the road for all non espn games

  • Walt_Gekko

    Now the question is, will FOX insist on Ohio State-Michigan being a night game, most likely with a 7:00 PM ET kickoff? FOX being able to start at 7:00 PM as opposed to 8:00 PM on ABC likely is a BIG difference (no pun intended) in that regard.

    • BIG ED

      I doubt it I think all B1G schools have there games done by 7pm ET on Thanksgiving Weekend.

      • Dale Moog

        You are correct in the past that was the case, but money talks and FOX may demand the late start. I think 7 EST will be the start time unless the BG10 lays down the hammer

      • Walt_Gekko

        There’s a big difference between starting at 7:00 as opposed to 8:00 PM ET. FOX likely is in a position to insist on a 7:00 PM ET kickoff for that game.

  • Matt

    Big Ten basketball will help the Pac-12 and Big East on FS1. I wish the contract would be offical. So, we can see how many games the networks get. Not just rumors. What Big Ten Tourney games fall on what network and so on

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