Tuesday, October 21, 2014

For Colt TV fans, that other team remains the bad-news Bears

Posted on Sept. 18, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Sept. 18, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.

If you were ticked off about the Indianapolis Colts not being televised by any local affiliate in Week 1 of this NFL season, well, be prepared to be ticked off twice more over the next couple months.

Conversely, if you’re a Chicago Bears fan, you have nothing to sweat ... TV-related anyway.

The Colts and Bears faced off in the 2007 Super Bowl, with the Colts winning 29-17, but the Bears still typically win when there are local TV conflicts. The Colts and Bears faced off in the 2007 Super Bowl, with the Colts winning 29-17, but the Bears still typically win when there are local TV conflicts.

It seems unreasonable, even unfathomable, that NFL fans can’t see their typically successful, typically sold-out, home-state team in this day and age without a satellite or without going to a bar that offers one, especially given that TV ratings and the accompanying money are what drives the NFL.

First, though, let’s share those two remaining no-Colt dates this season, and the explanation for how a situation like this even comes about.

The TV rights to Colts home games at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6, against Seattle and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10, against St. Louis each belong to Fox, but local Fox affiliate WSJV will instead be showing Bears games at those times, against Detroit and New Orleans, respectively.

"The reason being, (Fox is) the NFC network, and we typically show the Bears games," WSJV station manager Ed Kral said this week when asked which games would be his station’s choices. "It’s where Bears fans rely on us."

Unfortunately, Colts fans cannot rely on WSBT — an affiliate of CBS, the so-called AFC network — in exactly that same manner.

Otherwise, it would’ve been the Colts who were shown in Week 1, rather than the Bears, when CBS owned the rights to both of those 1 p.m. contests.

Instead, WSBT put out a statement to fans explaining that it was "assigned" the Bears game by CBS.

That same statement included a needless and confusing sentence -- confusing based on what some Colt fans excitedly told me -- declaring that "fortunately, this conflict occurs only this one time this season."

Wrong.

Granted, the station did go on to explain that "Colts fans can rest assured that WSBT will be assigned all remaining Colts games airing on CBS for rest of the season."

The problem is, CBS doesn’t have the rights to all Colts games (in fact, just 10 of the 16), and fans don’t really care which station is showing their team’s games, just whether they’re being shown. So, not sure how "rest assured" even applies.

Colts/BearsMost weeks in this roughly evenly divided Bears/Colts market that is Michiana, there’s no problem with both teams being shown.

That’s because the Colts are in the AFC and the Bears in the NFC. So any week that each team is playing within its own conference, or any week that at least one of them is playing a nationally televised game, be it on ESPN, NBC or the NFL Network, there’s no conflict.

The conflict potentially arises when one, or both, is playing somebody from the other conference in Sunday games controlled by CBS or Fox. Ironically, it’s the visiting team in those inter-conference matchups that brings its "home" network.

So, if the Colts are hosting an NFC team in a non-nationally televised game, the game winds up on Fox, and if the Bears are hosting an AFC team in a non-nationally televised game, the game winds up on CBS.

Follow?

If not, that’s OK.

After all, the bottom line, again, is how many times your favorite NFL team will be on out of its 16 regular-season games.

The Colts will be on just 13 times.

The Bears will be on all 16.

You can’t begrudge Bear fans their joy, nor can you necessarily begrudge CBS assigning WSBT a Bears game if it truly believes that game will draw more viewers, but the situation is ironic.

The Colts have put forth an almost immeasurable amount of goodwill over the years in nearly all areas of Indiana, including Michiana (their presence and contributions during the Fort Wayne Snider at Penn game last week being just the most recent example), while the Bears do nothing close to that in Indiana — not that they are obligated to feel compelled to do anything, either.

Nevertheless, it’s something that should be kept in mind by WSBT if it ever does get to pick its own games, rather than have them assigned.

Further, it seems like not only the NFL could find an easy solution to this if it wanted to in order to maximize viewers, but that it would indeed want to.

"I can’t speak to (the CBS situation), but I can tell you that Fox lets us pick our own games," Kral said.

Kral said he agrees with "the less than scientific polls" that reveal the Bears and Colts as running virtually dead even in local popularity.

He added that the Lions, Packers and Vikings are next-most popular. Conveniently, for WSJV, those are all NFC teams.

As for those Oct. 6 and Nov. 10 dates, what might make them even more frustrating for local Colts fans is that those are also both dates that CBS has the doubleheader rights that it splits over the course of the season with Fox.

Hence, not only will local fans get no Colts that day — again, without satellite or a visit to Between The Buns, or the like — but will instead get two other AFC-involved games on each of those dates on WSBT that won’t mean quite as much to WSBT’s market audience.

On the other hand, if it’s any consolation, the guess here upon examining the schedule is that the second game in each of those doubleheaders will likely involve the Denver Broncos, so it is an extra pair of chances to see former Colt Peyton Manning.