Kevin Draper of the New York Times has a really cool and fascinating look at the many rules and restrictions and customs that dictate the broadcast map of an NFL football Sunday, exploring how small pockets of viewers in small-market areas wind up being shown this or that out-of-market game on Fox or CBS on a given Sunday. It’s good! You should set aside your loathing of the Golden State Warriors and their miserable fans for long enough to give it a read.
Draper comes at this investigation from an interesting angle: how do football fans in rural Mississippi wind up watching so many Giants games, in a season in which the Giants are absolutely awful? It turns out, once all the various “home blackouts, flexing, cross flexing, prime flexing, constants, mandatory pullouts, primary markets, secondary markets and protected games” are considered, it comes down to someone looking at the Giants roster and making a judgment call:
And what about that portion of Mississippi that will be served Chiefs-Giants? Giants quarterback Eli Manning starred at the University of Mississippi, and CBS believes that a lot of people in the state still want to watch him play.
Individual players are usually not important enough to dictate where a broadcast goes, but there are a few exceptions — mostly quarterbacks who are from, or who attended college in, places other than major metropolitan areas. Besides Manning, Carson Wentz (North Dakota State), Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Marcus Mariota (born in Hawaii) are among the players who might influence a broadcast decision.
“J.J. Watt, as unbelievable of a player he is, is not changing our map,” Correa said. (Watt, who plays for the Houston Texans, is from Wisconsin and was a standout at the University of Wisconsin.)
If you’re a football fan living in rural Mississippi, it might be time to agitate for some sort of ballot measure, certifying that the state is ready to move on from watching Eli Manning play football. To be fair, CBS doesn’t have a real great choice of games for that early slot: there’s Jaguars-Browns; there’s Ravens-Packers; and there’s Chiefs-Giants. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone, even actual Giants fans, preferring to watch the Giants over either of those other games. No hometown kid is worthing watching that absolute shit-show.
The web of factors that influences programming before anyone makes the Eli-is-popular-in-Mississippi call is vastly more complex than you might expect, and the process that eventually beams an early-afternoon football game to your television takes whole weeks to pin down. I highly recommend reading the entire report.