Georgia State-Charlotte, #MACtion and The Quest for Exposure


America’s insatiable hunger for football is the demand. There’s no shortage of supply, with 128 programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and another 125 in the Championship Subdivision.

However, finding distribution for the product — vis a vis, live-game telecasts — can bit a struggle. Even with more channels dedicated to sports than at any other time, the competition for space is heated. Non-traditional and lower-division programs have to get creative to gain some of the crucial exposure needed to build.

Georgia State head coach Trent Miles hasn’t minded being creative when it comes to getting his fledgling program exposure. Miles is one of the leading champions of satellite camps, having welcomed such powers as Penn State into Atlanta.

Miles’ Georgia State is also opening the college football season in an unorthodox manner for a second straight, as a way of giving it some national exposure. The Panthers kick off during the workday Friday against the Charlotte 49ers.

Like Georgia State, Charlotte is a newcomer to the college football scene. 49ers head coach Brad Lambert said in his press conference that part of that move means “TV dictates everything.”

However, the early kickoff on a Friday means Charlotte and Georgia State will “get it over before [the high schools] start,” Lambert said. That’s an interesting takeaway of this game being on a Friday, a night typically reserved for preps.

Friday’s early kick isn’t Georgia State first foray into creative scheduling for television purposes.

It tested something similar last season, hosting FCS opponent Abilene Christian on the Wednesday night before kickoff Thursday. The game drew an estimated 287,000 viewers for a 0.2 TV rating — not bad considering it outpaced most other games aired on ESPNU the first football weekend of 2014.

If Friday’s Georgia State-Charlotte contest moves the needle at all, it might plant the seeds for future midday games on special occasions.

The sports broadcasting’s current model for daytime programming is pretty standard. The ESPN family of networks feature a plethora of low-cost, easily produced debate programs. Competitors like CBS Sports air simulcasts of radio shows, a cost effective plan of attack Fox Sports 1 is likely to emulate in the coming year.

Studio shows and radio telecasts are cheap — much cheaper than airing a live game. However, networks already own the broadcasting rights to many games that they can’t fit on Saturday.

Peruse the schedule for this week, and it’s jam-packed. There are some high-quality matchups available for streaming, too.

When Georgia State played Abilene Christian on a Wednesday night, the Panthers weren’t breaking new ground. Midweek college football has become a staple over the last decade, with both the Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference playing regular Tuesday and Wednesday night affairs.

Tuesday and Wednesday night #MACtion in November arguably fueled Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch’s run to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in 2013.

The midweek broadcast works for these lower-exposure programs. Similarly, the FCS has seemingly found a stage with its Week 0 showcase.

In it’s second year, the FCS Kickoff scored a 0.7 rating last Saturday. That’s an absolute bonanza for the subdivision, especially given the lackluster promotion the game had on ESPN and ABC properties. That fans sought out the Montana-North Dakota State contest shows a growing interest in lower-division football.

Having perhaps already recognized the demand, ESPN worked with the Big South Conference to move the regular-season finale between nationally ranked league front-runners Liberty and Coastal Carolina to Thursday night, ensuring TV exposure.

Like midweek games or the growing reach for the FCS, Georgia State-Charlotte could set a trend.

Viewers aren’t as confined to set times as they were even 10 years ago. More Americans are telecommuting for their jobs than ever before. Employers have TVs set up in their offices. Others still can stream televised games through the internet.

The NCAA Tournament has flourished with record ratings midday Thursday and Friday. Of course, that’s a special event for which ardent fans take the day off. It’s unlikely anyone is calling the boss with a fake cough to see a Sun Belt-Conference USA football crossover.

That said, an English Premier League match on Monday of last week between Liverpool and Arsenal drew 469,000 viewers for NBC Sports Network. That’s a considerable number for that network, and sizable for any channel at 3:30 p.m. ET on a Monday.

Though I wouldn’t anticipate afternoon weekday kickoffs becoming a weekly occurrence, Friday’s midday broadcast attracting viewers for two programs in need of exposure just might spark a new trend like #MACtion.