Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Mystique Of The Coverage Of High School Football Games

The Mystique Of The Coverage Of High School Football Games

By Touko Fukami
The MiTSS News
September 1, 2072

Because of high school football's mostly limited regional appeal, and because most games take place during prime time (albeit during the Friday night death slot), television exposure of high school football on both a local and national basis tends to be limited to championship games only, or for the regular season to the lower-tier stations in a market such as a MyNetworkTV affiliate or independent television station where no critical programming would be pre-empted. Local public access cable television and local radio stations often air regular season contests, and in some cases, the school's own radio station (or a nearby college) broadcasts the game using student announcers. One such example is San Diego's Prep Pigskin Report. High school football is often an integral part of the modern full service radio format, which centers on local information; radio's prime times are traditionally earlier in the day, and there is far less risk of preemption, since many stations would otherwise be automated or off the air during the times high school football games are played.

There has also been a marked increase in recent years of web-based media covering high school sporting events. Examples include Mid America Broadcasting in Indiana, Champs Sports Network and MSA Sports Network in Western Pennsylvania, MSBN in Minnesota, and BSports.org in Washington. In many television markets, local stations will air 30 or 60-minute 'scoreboard' shows following their late Friday newscast with scores and highlights from games in their coverage area.

Despite increased national media attention, some states restrict the broadcast of high school games. One example is the University Interscholastic League, which governs public school sports in Texas. The UIL has a long-standing ban on television broadcasting of high school football games on Friday nights, believing that doing so could hurt ticket sales (radio broadcasts are allowed, though).[citation needed] Because of this, several games that have been broadcast on ESPN and Fox Sports Net in recent years have had to be played on either Thursday night or on Saturday to avoid the UIL's ban. In Michigan, live television broadcasts of regular season games are prohibited by the state athletic association.

The Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 and Public Law 89-800, which govern the antitrust exemptions given to the National Football League, prohibit the broadcasting of NFL games within 75 miles of any high school football game on Friday nights between September and early December. Because most populated areas of the United States have at least one high school football game within a 75-mile radius, and because broadcasting is an integral part of the NFL's business model (roughly half of the league's revenue comes from television contracts), this effectively prohibits the playing of NFL games in competition with high school football. (These rules do not apply during preseason, when Friday night games are common, nor does it apply at the end of the season, though the only time regular season games are played on Friday in the NFL is on Christmas.) Only recently have national sports television channels fully capitalized on this rule; since 2005, the ESPN family of networks (usually the sub-networks ESPN2, ESPNU and online broadcaster ESPN3, although the main channel also shows occasional games) has aired regular season matchups between nationally ranked teams under the High School Showcase banner. Fox Sports 1 also included high school football in its lineup when it launched in 2013.

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