Bay Area Raiders fans got a grim reminder of their tenuous hold on their favorite team when KPIX-TV (Channel 5) pulled the plug on them late in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons.
The message was clear: As soon as the Raiders fail to be a competitive team, there’s no guarantee their games will be televised in the Bay Area.
With the Raiders getting clobbered 43-6 with less than five minutes left, the local CBS affiliate switched its coverage to show viewers a different blowout during the final two minutes of the Titans’ 19-point win over the Colts.
If the Raiders still called Oakland home, we could have expected to see every depressing snap of Nathan Peterman’s debut as their backup quarterback. It’s almost unheard of for local NFL affiliates in home markets to leave their team’s broadcast until the game’s over.
But ask the folks in Las Vegas who watched the game if we missed anything.
It wasn’t as though viewers in the Bay Area lodged complaints about not witnessing the final ugly minutes of the Raiders’ loss. In fact, KPIX general manager Kevin Walsh said he was unaware of the station hearing even one person protest the switch. More likely, many Raiders fans had already turned off the game by the time KPIX switched over to show the final kneel-downs in Indianapolis after Colts backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett was sacked.
The timing of the Raiders’ awful showing was still unfortunate for their fans, though. Should the Raiders do the unthinkable and fail to beat the winless Jets this Sunday, it could set up for an interesting decision for KPIX on the Raiders’ game against the Colts in two weeks.
Because the Bay Area is now solely the 49ers TV market, their games take precedent, especially when the 49ers have a televised home game. It just so happens Sunday, Dec. 13 marks the first time this season the Raiders will be playing in the same time slot while the 49ers are at home (or Arizona, in this instance). Under old NFL broadcasting rules, the Raiders game couldn’t be shown opposite the home market 49ers’ game. An updated rule instituted last season weakens that “singleheader protection rule” for the home team. The rule now allows another network to show a different game at the same time as the home market team up to four times per season.
The good news for Raiders fans is KPIX’s tentative schedule shows CBS has asked for an exception in order to televise the Las Vegas-Indianapolis game on Dec. 13 at 1:05 p.m. — just minutes before the 49ers and Washington kick off their game in Arizona that day.
“We have the ability to show the (Raiders) game, yes,” Walsh said Monday afternoon. “But we’re still a little far out from the game and things change. But the way it looks now, we are slated to televise the Raiders.”
Walsh, though, said it’s far too early to commit to televising the Raiders’ regular-season finale Jan. 3 at Denver. That game is also in the same time slot as the 49ers’ home game against the Seahawks.
Then again, it’s not as though KPIX or Walsh will be calling the shots on any of the Raiders’ upcoming games. The decisions on which games to show and which games to switch out of for competitive purposes lies with CBS’ sports programming department.
“We normally go with what the network chooses because it makes good decisions,” said Walsh.
While it makes a difference to the network that the Raiders still have a following in the Bay Area, their decisions are mostly driven by the ratings and not by their wish to placate Raiders fans here.
Fortunately for Raiders fans, the ratings have not been an issue this season.
“The Raiders ratings are up compared to last year because of two factors: One is because TV viewing of all sports has gone up, the second factor is the Raiders are more competitive this year,” Walsh said. “They’re still in the wild card hunt and looking to go to the playoffs, and they have a strong fanbase still in the Bay Area.”
But, as the Raiders showed on Sunday, there are no guarantees in the NFL. There’s really just one way to ensure Bay Area fans can keep watching them without having to buy the NFL Sunday Ticket: Just win, baby.
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Author: Jon Becker