From the General Manager

ACC vs. SEC football on Saturdays

Posted September 16, 2013

ACC logo - white on blue

The complexity of scheduling live sporting events and also trying to fairly serve all of our viewers creates challenges at times. It may not seem like it at a glance, but at WRAL, we take it very seriously and consider all sides when making decisions. We know that by definition we will not make all viewers happy at the same time, but we feel if we follow basic rules and communicate our plans as clearly as possible, most of our viewers will understand and hopefully recognize that we have tried to be fair.

First of several statements of fact.

We have learned from years of listening to feedback from our viewers that many individuals presume most people share their own individual point of view. It’s rarely true.

Sometimes the right decision may not be the most popular, but even small groups of loyal fans deserve to be considered in our decisions.

Contrary to some fans' belief, we have no bias for or against any of the three local universities. However, we do have a long history of choosing the ACC over all others when possible.

In recent years the ACC, not WRAL or Raycom Sports, has chosen to delay to 12:25 p.m. the kickoff of the games we air. We continue to lobby for an earlier start but have yet to get them to budge.

So that brings us to the probable overlap of live games at 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays. I certainly understand that there is strong interest in SEC football.

The goal of our standard procedure is based on honoring our contractual commitments to Raycom Sports and CBS, respecting the viewers who have chosen to spend three hours watching their favorite team in the first game, and trying to provide access for viewers eagerly waiting for the second game.

Our decision generally is to stay with the ACC game until its conclusion and switch as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we are able to utilize our secondary digital channel to assist. At 3:30 p.m., we begin CBS programming on WRAL2 (over-the-air at 5.2 or on Time Warner Cable Ch. 106) for those homes which receive it.

(By the way, we have fought long and hard with AT&T, DIRECTV and DISH to offer it, but they refuse to carry such channels here and across the country. As such our estimates are that 54 percent of the WRAL viewing area can get WRAL2.)

It is not ideal, but the option didn’t even exist 10 years ago. And remember if you live within our signal area, you can use an antenna to augment your viewing and should be able to watch WRAL2. They work well as a solution for many people.

So why did we make an exception Saturday, Sept. 14? We considered the specifics very carefully and, since the ACC game did not include a team of significant local interest AND the CBS game was possibly the biggest national match up of the entire year, we made an exception.

But it wasn’t as simple as a switch at 3:30 p.m. Out of respect to the fans interested in both games, we had our station manager in master control calling the switch at the latest possible moment. In that instance, it helped that the Pitt/New Mexico game was a blowout, but with live sports, there was no guarantee in advance that we wouldn’t be switching away from a very exciting finish. Frankly had it been a game involving UNC, NCSU or Duke, we would not have switched even if it was a lopsided score.

This coming weekend, the ACC game is Pitt at Duke and the SEC game is Tennessee at Florida. Both are interesting matchups for their loyal fans, but we will not be making an exception to the procedures. Frankly we believe it is the right thing to do considering all of the factors, but will continue to examine each situation individually.

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