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NFL: Why local TV stations know they'll hear from some fans about 'their team' not being on

Houston Hunt's email will have lots of new messages Monday morning.

Ditto for his voicemail.

Griffin Communication's vice president for marketing knows he'll have plenty of feedback from viewers after the first Sunday of the NFL season. It won't be because of what the company's affiliates are showing. Rather, it will be because what Channel 9 in Oklahoma City and Channel 6 in Tulsa aren't showing.

The Cleveland Browns are on.

The Kansas City Chiefs aren't.

"We love the passion that people bring to football," Hunt said, "and sometimes, unfortunately, we can't show every game everyone is passionate about."

On the day the NFL starts in earnest, there are more teams with as much interest locally as ever. Cleveland and Arizona have Oklahoma quarterbacks at the helm, and if Ben Roethlisberger's injury history is any indication, Pittsburgh may well have an Oklahoma State quarterback leading the way before the season is over. Add that to Dallas and Kansas City, a pair of teams in the region expected to contend for a championship, and lots of interests are factored into the games broadcast locally.

So, how do the stations make decisions about which game to show?

They actually don't.

"It's not our call usually," said Myron Patton, sports director at Channel 25, the Fox affiliate in Oklahoma City.

Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN broadcast the NFL's regular-season games, and while NBC does Sunday nights and ESPN does Monday nights, the afternoon games on Sundays are shared by Fox and CBS. A handful of those games are designated by the networks as national games and are shown in virtually every market. The rest, however, are regional broadcasts.

The networks assign those games to the local affiliates.

A CBS affiliate like Channel 9 receives its assignments about two weeks in advance.

"CBS looks at regionality, local ties and past ratings, and then they chose each game ... they feel is going to do best in that market," Hunt said. "They want to provide the game that the most people are going to be interested in and that the most people are going to watch."

Usually, the network is spot on.

This week, for example, Hunt expected both Oklahoma City and Tulsa would get Cleveland's game against Tennessee instead of Kansas City's against Jacksonville. That's because the stations did an analysis of the games they broadcast last year and saw the Browns games were among their most highly watched.

It's the Baker Mayfield Effect.

"We have a lot of Cleveland Brown fans in Oklahoma now," Hunt said.

That means the Browns will be broadcast here Sunday and the Chiefs won't. While that will anger plenty of Oklahomans who bleed red and gold, Hunt couldn't argue with the decision.

The bottom line, after all, is the bottom line.

That's why Dallas is a virtual lock in our market. While CBS has a couple Cowboy games this season — both are national broadcasts — Fox is the primary broadcaster for NFC games. And no one is happier about that than Patton.

"The Cowboys are gold," he said, "and not just here."

He said Dallas regularly accounts for at least half of the top 10 regular-season games in the national ratings annually.

"They have a huge pull," Patton said, mentioning the "America's Team" moniker Dallas has carried for decades. "That means you've got a lot of people that love 'em, but you've got a lot of people that hate 'em. But they don't ignore them. They may be rooting against them, but they watch."

Affiliates can petition for a change in the game they've been assigned if they think another game will do better and draw more viewers. Having happy customers, after all, is their goal, even if viewers sometimes think otherwise.

Patton once worked in Shreveport, Louisiana, which was regularly assigned Dallas instead of New Orleans. Shreveport is actually closer to Dallas, but Saints fans were rarely happy to see the Star instead of the Fleurs-de-Lis.

Angry calls would flood the station.

"Why don't you have the Saints game on?" they would say.

"Because I don't like the Saints," Patton would sometimes retort.

The caller would often go silent in shock.

"No, that's not it," Patton would tell them. "I'm just kidding."

Patton feels for fans who don't get to watch their team; he grew up a New York Jets fan and rarely got to see their games on TV. He tries to assuage angry viewers by at least explaining why one game is on instead of another.

Hunt at Griffin Communications knows some viewers will never be satisfied with any explanation.

"But you know what?" he said. "If they're calling ... it means they're watching, and that's what we're all about."

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or jcarlson@oklahoman.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.

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ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

Here's a look at the remaining NFL games during opening week being broadcast in the Oklahoma City TV market:

Sunday

Noon: Tennessee at Cleveland, KWTV-9 (Cox 10)

Noon: Washington at Philadelphia, KOKH-25 (Cox 12)

3:25 p.m.: New York Giants at Dallas, KOKH-25 (Cox 12)

7:15 p.m.: Pittsburgh at New England, KFOR-4 (Cox 4)

Monday

6 p.m.: Houston at New Orleans, ESPN (Cox 29)

9:15 p.m.: Denver at Oakland, ESPN (Cox 29)

Related Photos
<strong>Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Cleveland Browns will be on TV in the Oklahoma City TV market Sunday on CBS against the Tennessee Titans. [AP Photo/David Richard, File]</strong>

Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Cleveland Browns will be on TV in the Oklahoma City TV market Sunday on CBS against the Tennessee Titans. [AP Photo/David Richard, File]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-477a23393247522a9bb1b3f7b8810aac.jpg" alt="Photo - Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Cleveland Browns will be on TV in the Oklahoma City TV market Sunday on CBS against the Tennessee Titans. [AP Photo/David Richard, File] " title=" Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Cleveland Browns will be on TV in the Oklahoma City TV market Sunday on CBS against the Tennessee Titans. [AP Photo/David Richard, File] "><figcaption> Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Cleveland Browns will be on TV in the Oklahoma City TV market Sunday on CBS against the Tennessee Titans. [AP Photo/David Richard, File] </figcaption></figure>
Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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