• Loading stock data...
Sunday, April 21, 2024
  • -
    days
  • -
    hours
  • -
    minutes
  • -
    seconds

Friday Night College Games Are Good for Fox—but Could Be Terrible for High School Football

  • The National Federation of State High School Associations is ‘disappointed’ by Fox’s encroachment this fall.
  • The ‘Friday Night Lights’ tradition is still important to many communities. 
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a revealing moment in Jurassic Park in which doubting scientist Dr. Ian Malcolm asks businessman John Hammond about the ethics of his plan to bring extinct dinosaurs back to life. 

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should,” notes Malcolm.

I thought of that line when Fox Sports announced it will air a new package of “elite Friday Night college football games” from the Big Ten, Big 12, and Mountain West conferences this fall.

This may prove to be good business for Fox. But it could prove to be more bad news for high school football. 

As chronicled in the book, movie, and TV series Friday Night Lights, Friday night high school football games are a tradition throughout the country. These games knit small towns together. Lest we forget, high schools are the feeder system that bulk up teenagers into college football and NFL players. 

Due to the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, even the rapacious NFL rarely schedules games on Friday nights. But college football conferences and their TV partners have been increasingly scheduling more games inside Friday night windows, viewing it as an “underutilized” time slot. 

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is “disappointed” and “concerned” about Fox’s plan, says CEO Karissa Niehoff. 

Her group wants to protect the “Friday Night Lights” community tradition. At the micro level, many high school football programs are struggling with coaching, referee, and money shortages.

“I’m not surprised. But it’s a little disappointing when you think that we’ve really tried to showcase high school football on Friday nights. We hope that all our eyes will turn our way on that evening,” Niehoff said. “But it’s been disrupted for a bit now. So not surprised. Disappointed. But we’re still going to really try to champion Friday nights for high school football.”

An estimated million students play high school football at nearly 16,000 U.S. high schools. The NFHS has not yet reached out to Fox or the college conferences. But it may once it learns more about their strategy. 

“We’re not just going to be quiet when changes are made that invade our space, so to speak,” Niehoff adds.

Fox has never been a big respecter of tradition. As it jousts with ESPN for college football TV supremacy, Fox sees Fridays as an opportunity just waiting to be plucked.

Mike Mulvihill, president of insight and analytics for Fox Corp., was the savvy operator who seized the chance to put the network’s best college football games at noon ET on Saturdays. For three years in a row, Fox’s Big Noon Saturday window has televised the most-watched regular-season game across any network. This year, Big Noon Saturday had its best year ever, averaging 6,739,000 viewers, an 8% increase. Once Fox lost WWE SmackDown to USA Network, it saw another big opportunity.

“We’ve built our collegiate business by seizing opportunities in previously underutilized timeslots, first with Big Noon Saturday and now on Friday nights,” Mulvihill said in a statement Thursday. “Our goal this fall is to have the No. 1 college football game on both Fridays and Saturdays and the top NFL game on Sundays.”

By some measures, college football has become the country’s second-most popular sport after the NFL. With viewers demonstrating a boundless appetite for both pro and college football, it probably won’t be long before TV networks are airing games seven days a week. 

So yes, Fox can ignore the “Friday Night Lights” tradition. But before they do, maybe they should stop and think whether they should.


Michael McCarthy’s “Tuned In” column is at your fingertips every week with the latest insights and ongoings around sports media. If he hears it, you will, too.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Everything You Need To Know About the Legal Attempts To Kill the ACC

Four lawsuits involving the conference, Clemson, and FSU could determine the future.

Stanley Cup-Keeper Miragh Bitove is Ready to Protect the Hardware

To safeguard what may be the most-recognizable trophy in all of sports, she’s never more than an arm’s length away from the precious metal.

A Bare-Knuckle Fighter Won His Pro Debut. The Far Right Scored a Marketing Win

With Proud Boys sponsoring him, experts say extremist groups will use his success to elevate their ideologies and recruit new believers.

Nike Cuts Over 700 Jobs In Second Phase of Layoffs

“Nike’s always at our best when we’re on the offense,” the company says.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Why Ian Rapoport Lives for the NFL Draft’s Chaos

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Women’s Basketball Finally Has a TV Deal to Match the Excitement. Now What?

A lucrative new media-rights contract could rectify problems of the past, but the future of March Madness media rights is anyone’s guess.
Mar 16, 2024; Washington, D.C., USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels for the ACC Conference Championship at Capital One Arena.
April 6, 2024

How Two College Seniors Helped DJ Burns Cash In on a Final Four Run

Two college seniors are facilitating deals for NC State’s big man.
Mar 31, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NCAA officials measure the three point line while coaches from the Texas Longhorns and NC State Wolfpack watch with referees in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center center.
April 1, 2024

NCAA Has No One to Blame for Latest Women’s March Madness Transgressions

NCAA is still making avoidable mistakes three years after a complete overhaul.
Nov 16, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; General view of the championship banners at Assembly Hall prior to the game between Austin Peay and Indiana.
March 31, 2024

How to Make It in Basketball: Become a Manager at Indiana

Inside the Hoosiers’ unglamorous, profoundly rewarding incubator for basketball’s biggest names.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Adidas
Multiple - USA Careers
FanDuel
Multiple - USA Careers

Does Golf TV Have A Scottie Scheffler Problem?

Masters ratings were down 20% this year.
April 12, 2024

Will Caitlin Clark Restore Olympics to TV Ratings Gold?

‘Clark is a one-person Dream Team,’ says one marketing expert.
April 15, 2024

Scott Van Pelt’s Podcast Reboot Latest in Peyton Manning’s Budding ESPN/Omaha Fiefdom

ESPN star Scott Van Pelt is joining forces with Peyton Manning.
Sponsored

Rapid Returns: How Technology Is Getting You Back to Your Seat

How Oracle’s POS technology is helping fans get back to their seats faster.
April 9, 2024

Women’s March Madness Championship Tops Men’s for First Time

Iowa–South Carolina drew 18.9 million viewers to 14.8 million for UConn-Purdue.
April 8, 2024

South Carolina’s Title Win Smashes Ratings Records in Caitlin Clark’s Finale

The NCAA title game became the most-watched women’s college basketball game.
ESPN microphone on press table
April 5, 2024

Why Norby Williamson Is Out After 40 Years at ESPN

Conflict between him and ESPN’s No. 2 exec made the move inevitable.
April 4, 2024

Iowa-LSU Was the Most Watched Women’s Basketball Game in Nearly 30 Years

It appears to have been the second-most-watched of all time.