Designated Hitter: TV 101 explains why Patriots are missing on some TV airwaves


My Twitter feed and other social media channels blew up Thursday night because of the New England Patriots.

Nobody was complaining about Tom Brady not playing, Jacoby Brissett stinking out Gillette Stadium or the fact that Roger Goodell was sitting in the Kraft Family Box and posed for photos with Patriots fans who claim to hate him.

What had the venom flowing Thursday night was that most of us could not watch the first exhibition game on television.

Need I remind you that it was a preseason game, and you really didn't miss anything.

Here in Berkshire County, we should be used to the idea of missing a few games here and there. But since there was such a reaction, I thought it was time to convene a class.

Welcome to NFL and TV 101. Here is everything you need to know.

The reason many of you missed the first preseason game is simple. WBZ in Boston is the originating station for Patriot preseason games, and they offer the games to stations in other markets throughout New England.

In Western Massachusetts, WWLP in Springfield has carried the games for a number of years.

This past spring, Charter-Spectrum pulled WWLP from the TV lineup in Berkshire County. Now I can't watch my friend Rich Tettemer do the news at noon any more. But I digress.

This is the first time in a number of years that the Patriots will not show up in a preseason game on one of the NFL's network partners, so the broadcasts are all local.

If you live in Adams, North Adams or elsewhere in Northern Berkshire County, WBZ is on your cable system. That goes back to the old Adelphia days, if you remember Adelphia. So North Adams residents got to watch Bill Belichick patrol the sidelines.

Those residents will also get to watch New England in its three remaining exhibition games — Aug. 19 at Houston, Aug. 25 at Detroit and Aug. 31 at Gillette against the Giants.

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For the rest of us who just have cable, we will get to see one of those three remaining games. That is because WNYT in Albany broadcasts the Giants' preseason games. So when the G-Men and Pats play on the 31st, flip to Channel 13 to watch the game. You will, of course, have to listen to Giants broadcasters Bob Papa and Carl Banks. They are very good, but they'll be mostly talking about Big Blue.

I'm not sure how to solve this problem, short of getting WWLP back on the air.

The regular season, however, is another story entirely.

The Patriots play 16 regular-season games, and every one of them will be televised somewhere. In Berkshire County, we will see 15 of the 16 games.

The lone outlier comes on Oct. 1, when the Carolina Panthers come to Foxborough. Here is where the NFL telecast rules first come into play.

CBS and Fox are the two Sunday afternoon broadcasters. Which network gets which games is generally easy. Usually, the visiting team's network does the broadcast. That means that AFC road games are seen on CBS and NFC road games are on Fox. Those don't count the Sunday night NBC and Monday night ESPN games, which are seen nationwide.

Now, on this particular Sunday afternoon, the Panthers-Pats game will be on Fox. Berkshire County has a Fox affiliate on the cable in WXXA from Albany. No problem? Just a second.

In addition to the network splits, CBS and Fox also take turns broadcasting doubleheaders. It isn't exactly every other week, but it is close to that.

The Patriots-Panthers play at 1 p.m., while the New York Giants are at Tampa for the 4 p.m. game window. Here's where the problem lies. That weekend is a CBS doubleheader weekend, which means that WXXA can only broadcast one football game. Obviously, WXXA will choose the Giants at 4 p.m. So what could have been a no-sweat Sunday becomes just the opposite.

Should Berkshire County have a Massachusetts-based Fox affiliate on its cable system? The obvious answer is yes, but that is an issue that is way above my pay grade.

That is how the NFL on TV works.

There will be a test before Oct. 1.

Reach sports columnist Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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