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Fox Is Expanding Its College Football Coverage. What’s Behind the Move?

  • Fox Sports will air Big Ten, Big 12, and Mountain West games on Friday nights this fall.
  • Premium matchups will get prime-time slots on Fox’s main broadcast network.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the past several college football seasons turning early Saturday afternoons (and mid to late mornings for a lot of the country) into a must-see TV window, Fox Sports is moving into yet another often underutilized time slot for the sport.

Armed with premium inventory from the expanding Big Ten and Big 12 conferences, Fox’s broadcast network will air prime-time games on Friday nights this fall. The move is unprecedented because while there were 26 Division I college football games played on Fridays between weeks 2 and 12, they came on cable channels such as ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, CBS Sports Network, and Big Ten Network—and only one featured teams ranked in the AP Top 25. (Friday games are commonplace during the season kickoff mania on Labor Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend late in the season.)

What’s Behind the Decision?

Fox appears to be mimicking the strategy it used to successfully build up its Big Noon Saturday matchups. In 2019 the network launched its Big Noon Kickoff show—which itself is starting to compete with ESPN’s College GameDay—and began putting its best matchup of the weekend at noon ET. In ’23, Big Noon Saturday averaged 6.74 million viewers on Fox, making it the most-watched CFB TV window of the season. So, this fall, what’s to stop Fox from putting its second-best, if not its top, matchup of the weekend on Friday night? 

Big Noon Saturday stayed away from home games for most Pac-12 teams due to the 9 a.m. local kickoff time that would have meant. But why not put Big Ten newbies USC, UCLA, Oregon, or Washington in that Friday night slot? Deion Sanders and Colorado—entering the Big 12 alongside Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah—would surely love to play in front of a major national TV audience under the Friday night lights. Not to mention the extra lure the Mountain West (Fox also has a deal with that conference) will have by way of its scheduling partnership with Pac-12 leftovers Oregon State and Washington State.

Will Fox’s Friday night move be good for college football fans overall? That’s to be determined. But will they watch? If we’ve learned anything from this country’s never-ceasing love of football—college and pro—the answer is almost assuredly yes.

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