No. 21 Stanford and No. 25 Washington State faced off Saturday in a battle of ranked teams, with major implications for the Pac-12 North standings.
And yet for most of the country, most of the contest was broadcast on, of all channels, Fox Business Network.
Stanford and Washington State were supposed to play on Fox, as soon as the Michigan State-Penn State game in East Lansing wrapped up. But in the second quarter of the latter contest, Spartan Stadium was hit by a lightning storm, forcing an evacuation of the venue. Fox quickly announced that the Cardinal and Cougars would air on Fox Business Network, everywhere but in Northern California and Eastern Washington.
The delay in East Lansing dragged on long enough that Fox could the first half of Stanford-Washington State around the country, after all, but that was only a temporary solution. Around 4:40 p.m. ET, the Spartans and Nittany Lions resumed play, leaving two matchups of ranked teams running at the same time, scheduled for the same network. Fox could have simply bumped one of the games to FS1, but No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 11 Oklahoma State were already squaring off there. It could have utilized FS2, but that network has relatively meager reach. That left Sports Business Network.
This is not the first time this season Fox has relegated football games to Fox Business Network. In September, Purdue and Michigan began there when a Cubs-Brewers game on Fox went long. The network is an obviously poor fit for sports, but the fact that it’s included on most cable packages makes it preferable to FS2, apparently.
Anyway, when Michigan State and Penn State resumed, the Northern California and Eastern Washington markets saw the rest of Stanford and Washington State on Fox, while the rest of the country got the Spartans and Nittany Lions. All games were also available digitally on FoxSportsGo. The Cardinal and Cougars were only midway through the second quarter when they were bumped.
Per FOX, when Penn St-MSU game resumes, Pac 12 game will stay on there only in local markets. Fox Business Network for everyone else.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 4, 2017
What a mess. In the end, Fox was doomed here by three factors:
- The strength of its own lineup. With marquee games airing on Fox and FS1, an otherwise appealing matchup was suck on a network known for stock-market analysis.
- Its failure to build FS2 into a viable network with enough reach to carry a notable college football game.
- Mother Nature.
No. 1 is ultimately a good problem to have. No. 2 is something worth working on. And No. 3 is, well, out of even the most powerful TV executives’ hands.