COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Gathering around the television and watching Ohio State Buckeye football on a Saturday afternoon is a time-honored tradition. That tradition may be tested this weekend as the only way to watch the Buckeyes is on NBC Universal’s streaming platform Peacock.
I was frustrated. It’s like, I’m used to being able to go to Spectrum and watch the game. And when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do that, it kind of made me mad,” explained Patti Askins of Lima. After she realized she needed to get Peacock, she downloaded the app and soon found another problem. “Only to find out the TV in my living room isn’t compatible with Peacock,” she said.
It’s frustrating for some business owners too. “It’s crazy. Because it’s not like the information’s out there just to get very easily. You have to look it up and research it yourself,” explained Ed Gaughan, owner of ‘The O on Lane’ just a block away from The Shoe.
“We have 23 TV’s that we have to get ready to go. And it’s more of a process than you think. Because you have to have one source or else, you’ll have a play ending on one tv and starting on another,” he explained. It’s a process much more difficult than just changing the channel on a remote control. To get all 26 televisions streaming the game at the exact same time, with no delays between TV’s, it has to come from one source. A box, just one piece of many, that cost him thousands of dollars to get set up for the game.
“We started on this weeks ago and as you can see while you’re in here there’s wires hanging and it’s going to be up to tomorrow and kind of last minute to get it done,” he said.
Gaughan is optimistic heading into the weekend. He thinks the streaming only aspect may bring some new folks to check out his establishment. “I think the first-time people might get excited to go out to a bar which may be nice and be in a group that are all looking at the same thing and cheering at the same point. But in the long run I don’t know how it’s going to work out,” he explained. “Other than that, I’m excited. Yea, it’ll be fun because I know we have some, my neighbors are coming down and some people that normally wouldn’t go out and watch a game they’re all going to come down,” he added.
So why is this one Buckeye game on a streaming platform and not on broadcast or even cable television? The answer lies in the $7-8 billion (reports differentiate on the exact numbers) television contracts between the Big Ten Conference and NBC, CBS, and FOX. As a part of the contract, NBC Universal has the right to air 8 Big Ten football games exclusively on their streaming platform Peacock during the 2023 football season. Only one of those games involves Ohio State. That’s this Saturday in West Lafayette vs. Purdue.
Longtime sports business reporter Darren Rovell spoke with NBC4 Thursday morning. He said it comes down to a strategy to gain subscribers.
“They need football to serve as a carrot to kind of get you to subscribe. It’s no mystery that football is going to get you to do whatever you need to do. Even if you’re never going to watch this channel again,” he explained.
“I think that the schools have not been good in general in realizing how much of a pain point this is for fans. Schools haven’t done a great job addressing it. They should be more overt about talking about this is where it is, and this is why. Because the fan just thinks you’ve sold out,” he added.
There is something to that. Ohio State Athletic’s official X (Twitter) page shares no mention of where fans can find the game on Saturday.
It’s a pain for fans. And likely one that will cause panic all the way up to game time for some. “No matter who you’re playing whether it’s Purdue or Michigan, each game is very important. And you don’t want to have to miss it or scramble for it,” said Rovell.
Rovell doesn’t think this is just a flash in the pan either. “There’s going to be a game or two that is going to be streaming and I think it’s going to happen more and more,” he said.
In fact, Ohio State men’s basketball has five games this upcoming season that will only be available to watch on Peacock. For Browns and Bengals fans with hopes of making the playoffs, there’s an NFL Wild Card Weekend matchup that will only be aired on Peacock as well.
“They get you to put your credit card in and hopefully it rolls over and you forget about it. That’s a real business model. And I know it doesn’t make people so happy, but it is what it is,” explained Rovell.
But for now, “I hope everything works out and I can see the game on Saturday without any problem. That having been said, Go Bucks!” said Askins.