On Wednesday, MLB announced that Game 4 of the Astros-Yankees ALCS would be postponed due to rain, and would take place on Thursday. As a consequence, that bumped Game 5 of the series to Friday night, unleashing some unforeseen consequences for Fox Sports.
On Friday night, Fox already has two live sporting (ish) events scheduled: WWE SmackDown airs at 8 PM on Fox, and Ohio State-Northwestern was scheduled for 8:30 PM ET on FS1. With three events on at the same time, something was going to have to be moved to a less desirable network.
Given that only two episodes of SmackDown have aired so far on Fox in the first year of WWE’s massive deal with the network, it’s logical to assume that the game wasn’t moving. Besides, moving SmackDown wouldn’t have solved much of anything – an event that would have aired on FS1 anyone would have been promoted to Fox, and SmackDown would have been demoted (if you want to look at it that way) to FS1 or another network. That would not please WWE, and would still create an issue about where either OSU-NU or Astros-Yankees would air (unless SmackDown was like, a digital-only airing, which you could assume would not please WWE).
That left a couple options for the ALCS and for the Big Ten. One event could air on FS1, and one could air on what has become the de facto Fox Sports overflow channel, Fox Business. Fox Business has a similar household count to FS1, and while you would think the target audiences for both networks are somewhat different, at least there’s the opportunity to get a similar amount of eyeballs on Fox Business.
The other option for Ohio State-Northwestern is the Big Ten Network, which is also owned by the New (lean, mean, slim, trim) Fox. BTN has live soccer and volleyball matches airing on Friday, and while it might not be “fair” for those Olympic sports to be bumped for football, football is king for conference networks – especially when you can get a live game featuring top-tier program like Ohio State. The downside of this is that BTN is in roughly 25 million fewer homes than FS1 and Fox Business, meaning that the game would likely draw fewer viewers, even if BTN is a better “fit” based on the programming it airs.
As for the ALCS, their only other possibility is one completely out of left field – MLB Network. MLBN airs two playoff games a year that are cut out of Fox’s playoff package, and they would have welcomed the game with open arms. But would Fox really have wanted to give up a third playoff game (not to mention one featuring the Yankees), and would MLB be happy with a playoff game airing on a network available in roughly the same amount of households as BTN?
It turns out that the ALCS issue was handled quickly. Game 5 will air on FS1 on Friday, college football be damned.
Here is MLB's official release on the Game 4 postponement with an updated schedule: pic.twitter.com/PkOrxvWvG7
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) October 16, 2019
And a little while later, the college football issue was handled. Ohio State-Northwestern will air on the Big Ten Network on Friday, Olympic sports and lower carriage be damned.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) October 16, 2019
This once again reiterates a point that we tried to make years ago – if Fox Sports had put more effort into building up FS2 from launch instead of treating it as a repository for clip shows, maybe its carriage could have increased, and maybe it could have been a viable overflow/secondary network instead of Fox Business. Fox lucked out in this case by having a Big Ten conference game as the one caught up in the MLB postponement, and if we had been looking at a Big 12 or Pac-12 game in this timeslot, we’d probably be talking about the game airing on Fox Business instead.