Major League Baseball has announced the 2018 Postseason schedule, starting with the National League Wild Card game on October 2nd on ESPN and ending as late as October 31st with Game 7 of the World Series on Fox.
This year, the National League games (with the exception of the Wild Card game on ESPN and two Division Series games on MLB Network) will air on Fox and FS1, and the American League games will air on TBS. Fox, as usual, has the entire World Series.
The 2018 Postseason will begin on Tues., 10/2 with the NL Wild Card presented by Hankook on ESPN, followed by the AL Wild Card Game presented by Hankook on Wed., 10/3 on TBS. The 114th World Series presented by YouTube TV begins on Tues.,10/23. pic.twitter.com/4V4MH5HScc
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) August 2, 2018
And now, the most important part of the schedule – where will baseball potentially run into conflicts with football?
On October 4th, the first day of the NLDS, Fox and NFL Network will be airing a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Colts and Patriots. At least there won’t be a potential conflict with the Red Sox. I would fully expect the two games to start at something like 7 PM ET and 10 PM ET instead of something more palatable to a sports fan that might actually maximize viewership in the face of TNF, like 1 PM ET and 4 PM ET.
On October 7th, both NLDS matchups will have their third game. The Sunday Night Football matchup is Cowboys-Texans (again, great news for Astros fans), but the 4 PM ET NFL window features a host of National League markets in the playoff hunt, including Philadelphia, Arizona, San Francisco, and both Los Angeles teams.
October 8th could end up being a four-game day for MLB, with at least the two Game 3s of the ALDS matchups taking place. The Monday Night Football matchup is Redskins-Saints, which could create a conflict for Nationals fans.
October 11th could host Game 5 of both ALDS matchups. TNF features the Eagles taking on the New York Giants, and that could be awful news for TBS. “Hey, you’ve got the Yankees in primetime…head to head with the Giants. Have fun!”
Flashing forward to the LCS, Game 2 of the ALCS takes place on October 14th, and Red Sox fans could be faced with a tough decision as the Patriots host the Chiefs on SNF that night. Game 3 of the NLCS takes place on October 15th during a 49ers-Packers MNF matchup, creating potential conflicts for Giants and Brewers fans. A potential Game 5 of the ALCS would go head to head with the Broncos-Cardinals TNF matchup (two NL markets), and a potential Game 7 on October 21st would be staring down a Rams-49ers SNF matchup.
The World Series avoids any possible conflicts with both TNF and MNF, with the two travel days of the series falling on Thursday and Monday. The one NFL conflict could come on October 28th during Game 5, featuring a Saints-Vikings SNF matchup.
As for college football, many of the game times are yet to be announced. The premium matchups on October 6th include Florida State-Miami, Notre Dame-Virginia Tech, Nebraska-Wisconsin, Alabama-Arkansas, LSU-Florida, and Washington-UCLA. I imagine that at least two of those will be in primetime and at least one will be in the late afternoon timeslot, head to head with both of the two ALDS games on the day.
October 13th has a pair of premium SEC matchups, Tennessee-Auburn and Georgia-LSU, and a couple of strong Big 10 matchups, Michigan State-Penn State and Wisconsin-Michigan. The NLCS and ALCS each have a game on this day, and both will probably end up dealing with head to head competition (including from Fox or FS1 itself).
October 20th could be a huge night in baseball, with a potential ALCS Game 6 and NLCS Game 7 on the schedule. College football is countering with Michigan vs Michigan State, Oklahoma vs TCU, and Alabama vs Tennessee.
Finally, there’s October 27th, featuring Game 4 of the World Series. Navy-Notre Dame is already earmarked for 8 PM ET on CBS. Clemson-Florida State, Texas-Oklahoma State, and Iowa-Penn State highlight the rest of a schedule that looks to be the weakest of the four college football Saturdays during the MLB Postseason.
All in all, this could have worked out a lot worse for MLB. Fox clearly had some influence with their National League schedule, since only two NL games (on the same day) are matched up against Fox’s pricey new Thursday Night Football package. TBS really seems to be getting the shaft here, going head to head with a bunch of great-looking college football during the ALDS, and potentially as many as two TNF matchups, two SNF matchups, and one MNF matchup.
But in reality, what will matter most for MLB’s ratings this Postseason is which teams qualify and whether or not they make deep runs. If the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees all make the Postseason, MLB will be able to cope with their football conflicts and escape the playoffs with a solid year of ratings.