Explaining ins and outs of the TV sports listings

Published 8:55 am Thursday, October 13, 2016

Every day in the sports section during their respective seasons, we list the week’s televised college football and basketball games. There’s probably a hundred ways to do this, and we’ve gotten just as many suggestions.

The way we do it is to list the games by their network, instead of the exact cable or satellite channel they’re on. In this age of 800 channels and 30 games on TV every Saturday, and a dozen different options to find them, we’d probably fill up the entire sports section if we listed the channel numbers.

I thought it might be helpful to explain what some of these channels are. Many are on deep cable, which is that portion of the spectrum inhabited by regional sports channels, knife salesmen and Red Bull air races.

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For example, the SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences have their own channels. When they’re not showing live football games, they’re usually showing old football games.

There’s also the SEC Alternate Channel. This is an overflow channel available on a handful of cable systems. It’s mostly used when a game runs long, or whenever they’re contractually obligated to put Vanderbilt on TV.

CBSSN and NBCSN are the CBS and NBC Sports Networks, respectively, and FS1 is Fox Sports 1. These are fairly new channels affiliated with their parent networks. NBCSN shows more NASCAR than football. CBSSN shows more bull riding than football. FS1 shows way too much Skip Bayless and not nearly enough football.

Some games are designated as “ABC or ESPN2,” and this is because ESPN is jerks. They control a family of networks — ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News, ESPN8 (the Ocho), etc. — and can shuttle games between them by flipping a switch. This means they don’t have to make a decision on what game is going where until the last minute, and they usually don’t. It’s usually Tuesday, and sometimes as late as Thursday, before they set the lineup.

Maybe they can give their production people an ESPY next year for “Best Procrastinator.”

So there you have it. A quick scan through the TV guide and what everything means. If you can’t find something, you’ll still have to hit the guide button on the remote to find the right channel and check your local listings.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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