Put Harvard-Howard on an NBC Network This Season

The second annual Truth and Service Classic between Howard-Harvard could be a relative ratings win for NBC’s cable networks. Let’s talk about it!

Harvard’s DeMarkus Stradford zooms past Howard’s Ray Williams (7) and Deionte Davis (36). The Crimson sophomore scored three times, on rushes of 33 and 59 yards and on an end-zone recovery of a punt he blocked.
Source: Time O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Yesterday, Howard revealed their second annual Truth and Service Classic would be a date with Harvard. A few months ago, I wondered whether the Crimson was the best choice for the classic as the rest of the Bison's home slate was underwhelming in terms of fan interest.

Now the opponent is set, which brings us to the next question, who will televise this game? As of this writing, the MEAC has yet to release their ESPN linear TV schedule, so a tape-delay airing of this game on ESPNU is possible.

However, a much better option exists in one of the networks in NBC's family (USA or CNBC). USA and CNBC rank lowly in the US' most-watched TV network rankings, with the USA Network ranking 19th below networks such as TLC and The Hallmark Channel, while CNBC ranked at #67. Both networks could benefit from live sports programming. CNBC is already broadcasting Howard's matchup in the HBCU NYC Classic against Morehouse on September 17, while USA has televised two live college football games in recent memory.

They broadcasted a 2020 matchup between South Florida and Notre Dame, which drew a 0.54 overall rating and was the network's most-watched program that day among the 18 to 49-year-old demographic, with a rating of 0.25. Additionally, they notably shifted part of their coverage of Notre Dame and Clemson's primetime matchup in 2020 to USA to broadcast President Biden's victory speech. The portion of the game that aired on USA drew a rating of 0.55 among the 18 to 49-year-old demographic, easily USA's most-watched program of the day.

All random TV stats aside, a game between two of not only FCS football, but American academia's most prominent brands would also draw on the network. Also, the schools are situated in two of the country's biggest media markets in Washington D.C. and Boston. Avoiding time slots where Boston College and Maryland play that day could pay dividends for the network.

Furthermore, the NBC family of networks would be going back to its roots as its #FridayNightIvyLeague broadcasts were the last bit of non-Notre Dame college football programming along with the Bayou Classic before the Ancient Eight sold their rights to ESPN.

There are hardly any better things USA or CNBC could be broadcasting on a Saturday afternoon. Either of the two networks could be primed for a huge sports day if they have Premier League coverage as the lead-in to this monumental clash in Washington D.C. The decision is a no-brainer, but will either network take the chance?