Georgia Football

TV Gets What it Wants: More UGA and Alabama

August 7, 2019

ATHENS - For UGA a trip to Tuscaloosa has been on the slate for some time. 

And now it looks like that game, Georgia-Alabama, is going to be the crown jewel in next year’s SEC slate. It is important to note just what the 2020 schedule means for UGA, the SEC and their TV partners. SEC football is now, more than ever, at the beck and call of what TV wants. 

Now we know, almost with certainty, when CBS will broadcast it’s yearly night game in 2020… September 19, 2020. Georgia-Alabama once more - except this time at night for the first time since 2007. 

The two schools won’t have to go through the trouble of winning their divisions, or having to win CFP Semifinal games to face off in this game. Instead the two schools will lock horns in the regular season for only the second time since 2009. 

It’s a shame what TV has done to the SEC - I think about that each time I travel halfway across this country to cover UGA playing at Missouri. But every now and then we get what we want. And what we want are these huge early-season match-ups - now likely in prime time. We don’t know (yet) that CBS will put this game in primetime; that hasn’t been announced. Then again I don’t know (yet) that I will have to take the trash out later this week, either, but that’s going to happen.

Nighttime in T Town with an all-but-certain new quarterback for both the Tide and the Dawgs. But quarterbacks will just be one storyline for CBS. The network made certain to coordinate with the SEC to make the colossal matchup in week three, which is when CBS is contractually allowed to broadcast its first SEC games of the year. Week one and two are property of ESPN (during this contract), and getting those games would involve CBS paying ESPN to broadcast them. 

Georgia’s entire schedule has been moved around thanks to the TV gods. If UGA is going to get around $45 million a year to have its games broadcast they are going to move them the way they want. Have a look at the games that matter, and the influence of TV on them:

Sept. 7 - Virginia - UGA’s season opener is on a Monday - for TV - in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. 

Sept. 19 - Alabama - CBS will kick off its SEC season with the game it thinks will be a rematch of the 2019 SEC Championship, and perhaps the 2020 CFP National Title Game. The average UGA-Alabama audience over the last decade? 17.3 million viewers a game…

Oct. 10 - Auburn - TV partners were glad to move this game forward in the schedule to get bigger games at the end of the year. Auburn-UGA, which is a very big TV game, was moved up so that UGA-Tennessee, Auburn-LSU and Auburn-A&M can all be in November. 

Oct. 31 - Gators - 3:30. Jacksonville. Be there. A staple for CBS.

Nov. 14 - Tennessee - There was a time when the Vols were one of the first conference games of the year for UGA. Now both programs will have to settle a scheduling rotation that involves a late-season clash with division ramifications. Again, this was about swapping to get some games later in the year. 

All of this - scheduling; playing Virginia on a Monday night; moving Tennessee and Auburn - is all about TV. And pleasing TV is all about getting the most money possible in a few years when CBS has to pay up for a new rights deal. And they will be paying up. 

The SEC isn’t going to front load its most valuable inventory (football games) any more. Games like LSU-Auburn, UGA-Tennessee, Florida-Tennessee are now later in the year than I remember them ever being. That Auburn closes with LSU and Alabama in back-to-back weeks means to me that Auburn winning the SEC title anytime soon has very little chance of happening. 

Look at how TV has structured the weeks so that CBS/ESPN always have the matchup they want from the SEC. The biggest takeaway is that there’s not a weekend on the schedule where Alabama and or Georgia, specifically, are not featured, or where another classic matchup doesn’t occur (Gators-Vols). The only time those conditions are not met is the week LSU hosts mighty Texas.

That’s a lot of Bama and the Dawgs; and that’s because the networks want those two on TV. And they want them because people watch them. 

Week one: Alabama-USC; UGA-Virginia 

Week two: Texas at LSU; Kentucky at Florida

Week three: Georgia at Alabama; Auburn at Ole Miss; Missouri at South Carolina; Colorado at Texas A&M

Week four: Florida at Tennessee; Arkansas vs. Texas A&M

Week five: South Carolina at Florida; Alabama at Ole Miss

Week six: LSU at Florida; Auburn at Georgia; Tennessee at South Carolina

Week seven: Texas A&M at Auburn; Mississippi State at Alabama

Week eight: Alabama at Tennessee; Mississippi State at LSU; Texas A&M at South Carolina

Week nine: Florida vs. Georgia

Week ten: Alabama at LSU; Georgia at South Carolina

Week eleven: Tennessee at Georgia; South Carolina at LSU

Week twelve: LSU at Auburn; Texas A&M at Alabama

Week thirteen: Mississippi State at Ole Miss; Auburn at Alabama; Georgia Tech at Georgia; LSU at Texas A&M

TV is getting what it wants. Fans, however, might be a little upset about only having five true home games… the power of TV indeed. 

Tags: Football, 2020
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