The weirdest college football season in recent memory (or ever?) rolls on with another week filled with game postponements and COVID-19 concerns, all of which have sent TV broadcasters into a tizzy trying to maintain their schedules and fill spots that are constantly opening up. As we saw this Saturday, that scramble can even take place in a matter of hours as one canceled game can have a huge ripple effect for various networks.
The ACC game between the Clemson Tigers and Florida State Seminoles scheduled for noon today on ABC was postponed early Saturday morning following the news that a Clemson player had tested positive for COVID and FSU officials decided they were not comfortable playing. The official date and time of the game are unknown, but postponing it means a huge hole had just opened up in the middle of ABC’s college football broadcasting schedule.
Lucky for ABC, they’ve got a corporate partner in ESPN, and the two decided to use some good old-fashioned corporate synergy to fill that gap.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) November 21, 2020
Originally scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN, the SEC game between the Florida Gators and Vanderbilt Commodores was moved to fill that open ABC spot. It might not be the flashiest game in the world, with the No. 6 Gators favored by 31.5 points over the 0-6 Commodores, but hosting an SEC game is going to get some eyeballs no matter what.
This does raise an interesting point that others made…how is it that ABC has the rights to show an SEC game nationally? Yes, ESPN and ABC are part of the same corporation, but they are separate broadcasting entities, and CBS has a fairly vested interest in being the national home of the SEC (for now).
Yeah, but Kevin's point is correct that ABC doesn't have rights to show the SEC on broadcast TV. Then again, its 2020 and things do change.
— Matt Sarzyniak (@mattsarz) November 21, 2020
There doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong explanation for how it can happen, other than, well, technically it’s an ESPN on ABC production. Also, ESPN/ABC is considered the most likely destination for the SEC in 2023 when the longtime deal with CBS ends. CBS walked away from negotiations last year and the Disney duo is expected to pay upwards of $300 million for exclusive rights to some of the top conference match-ups each season. So if anything this feels like a preview of what’s to come and, perhaps, a flex to let CBS know what they’re gonna be missing.
Until then, however, it’s a pretty big deal to see an SEC game on ABC. In fact, per Timothy Burke, Florida-Vandy will be the first SEC regular-season game to be broadcast on ABC since 1995. ABC did carry multiple SEC Championship games in the 2000s.
Florida-Vandy has been moved to ABC. By my research, here is the last time an SEC regular season game aired on ABC: November 18, 1995—more than 25 years ago. (ABC did air the SEC Championship game for a few years after this.) pic.twitter.com/l4KAFRizRd
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 21, 2020