Friday, January 24, 2020

2020 Early Season CFB TV Guesses

Here's the first two weeks of CFB TV guesses for 2020.

To set up the posts:

* This is a first stab.  I tend to take one mulligan on these things.  I looked through the opponents for the American, MAC, MW and Sun Belt schools and don't see an intraconference game from those schedules being announced for Weeks 0, 1 or 2.

Edit: Boise St. at Air Force is available to be played in Week 2.

* There's a lot not yet known about potential programming conflicts, like MLB on FOX & FS1, Big3/Fireball3 on CBS and WNBA on CBSSN.  I've assumed one MLB game on FS1 on Saturday in both Week 1 & 2.

* I have no idea regarding what the plan is with Big 12 games on the FOX Sports branded & affiliated RSNs.  I elected not to place them on RSNs and use FS2 where I could.

* No clue as to whether any AAC games get sublicensed to CBS Sports Network.  At this point, I assumed none.

* For those keeping track, I assumed FOX Sports & ESPN had the top Saturday choice for these conferences in the Weeks 1 & Two

Week 1
ESPN: Big Ten (Bowling Green-Ohio St.) & Pac-12 (Alabama-USC)
FOX Sports: Big 12 (Buffalo-Kansas St., by default)

Week 2
ESPN: Big 12 (Tennessee-Oklahoma)
FOX Sports: Big Ten (Iowa St.-Iowa) & Pac-12 (Ohio St.-Oregon)

* The following choices were made regarding the Big 12 member retained games, because they set up the choices made for Weeks 1 & 2, and will help with week 3.

Week 1
New Hampshire at Kansas
Missouri St. at Oklahoma
USF at Texas

Week 2
North Dakota at Kansas St.
Prairie View A&M at TCU
Alabama St. at Texas Tech
Eastern Kentucky at West Virginia

Week 3
UIW at Baylor
UNLV at Iowa St.
Western Illinois at Oklahoma St.

Without further ado, Weeks 0 & 1 and Week 2.  Week 3 will be linked here when ready.

2020 Week Two CFB TV Guesses

If a game:

* is in bold, the network, time & date is confirmed
* is in italics, the network & date is confirmed, but not the start time
* is in red, I made the date change to accomodate TV and that date change is not confirmed by anyone.
* isn't listed, its likely to be streamed through various streaming platforms (C-USA or MW for Facebook, MW Network, ESPN3, ESPN+, CBS All-Access etc.).

NOTE: Boise St. at Air Force is not yet a scheduled game.  I've added it here as a possibility since the two schools are not scheduled to play another opponent.

7pm ACCN: Appalachian St. at Wake Forest
7pm ESPN2: San Diego St. at Toledo

12pm ABC: Penn St. at Virginia Tech
12pm FOX: Iowa St. at Iowa
12pm ESPN: Kentucky at Florida
12pm ESPN2: Memphis at Purdue
12pm FS1: Tulsa at Oklahoma St.
12pm ESPNU: Central Michigan at Nebraska
12pm SECN: East Carolina at South Carolina
12pm BTN: Ball St. at Michigan
12pm BTN: Southern Illinois at Wisconsin
12pm CBSSN: Pittsburgh at Marshall
12pm ACCN: Mississippi St. at NC State
12:30pm ACC RSN: Samford at Florida St.
2pm Pac-12: Fresno St. at Colorado
3:30pm ABC: North Carolina vs. Auburn
3:30pm FOX: Ohio St. at Oregon
3:30pm NBC: Arkansas at Notre Dame
3:30pm ESPN2: Georgia St. at Alabama
3:30pm FS1: Kansas at Baylor
3:30pm NFLN: Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss
3:30pm BTN: Connecticut at Illinois
3:30pm BTN: Tennessee Tech at Minnesota
3:30pm CBSSN: Lafayette at Navy
4pm SECN: Southeast Missouri at Ole Miss
4pm SECN: North Texas at Texas A&M
4pm ACCN: Ohio at Boston College
4pm NESN+: Troy at Massachusetts
5pm Pac-12: Houston at Washington St.
5pm Pac-12 Bay Area: Cal Poly at California
7pm ESPN: Texas at LSU
7pm ESPN2: Tulane at Northwestern
7pm CBSSN: Boise St. at Air Force
7:30pm ABC: Tennessee at Oklahoma
7:30pm FOX: Syracuse at Rutgers
7:30pm ESPNU: East Tennessee St. at Georgia
7:30pm SECN: Vanderbilt at Missouri
7:30pm BTN: Western Kentucky at Indiana
7:30pm BTN: Northern Illinois at Maryland
7:30pm ACCN: Louisville at Clemson
8pm Pac-12: Colorado St. at Oregon St.
8pm Pac-12 Mountain: Montana St. at Utah
8pm AggieVision: Akron at New Mexico St.
10:15pm ESPN2: Michigan St. at BYU
10:30pm ESPN: New Mexico at USC
10:30pm FS1: Stanford at Arizona
10:30pm CBSSN: Arizona St. at UNLV
11pm Pac-12: Sacramento St. at Washington
11:59pm Spectrum PPV: Fordham at Hawai'i

2020 Weeks Zero & One CFB TV Guesses

If a game:

* is in bold, the network, time & date is confirmed
* is in italics, the network & date is confirmed, but not the start time
* is in red, I made the date change to accomodate TV and that date change is not confirmed by anyone.
* isn't listed, its likely to be streamed through various streaming platforms (C-USA or MW for Facebook, MW Network, ESPN3, ESPN+, etc.).

Week Zero
2pm ESPN: Notre Dame vs. Navy
3pm CBS: California at UNLV
10pm FS1: Hawai'i at Arizona
10:30pm Pac-12: New Mexico St. at UCLA

Week One

6pm SECN: Coastal Carolina at South Carolina
7pm ESPN: Clemson at Georgia Tech
7:30pm SNY: Massachusetts at Connecticut
8pm FS1: Oregon St. at Oklahoma St.
8pm ACCN: NC State at Louisville
8pm BTN: FAU at Minnesota
9pm SECN: Nevada at Arkansas
10pm ESPN: BYU at Utah
10pm Pac-12: Northern Arizona at Arizona St.

6:30pm CBSSN: Bucknell at Army
7:30pm ACCN: Syracuse at Boston College
8pm ESPN: North Carolina at UCF
8pm FS1: Indiana at Wisconsin
8pm BTN: Illinois St. at Illinois

12pm ABC: West Virginia vs. Florida St.
12pm FOX: Purdue at Nebraska
12pm ESPN: Northwestern at Michigan St.
12pm FS1: Buffalo at Kansas St.
12pm ESPNU: Eastern Washington at Florida
12pm SECN: Eastern Michigan at Kentucky
12pm SECN: Central Arkansas at Missouri
12pm BTN: Kent St. at Penn St.
12pm ACCN: Miami (OH) at Pittsburgh
12:30pm ACC RSNs: Middle Tennessee at Duke
3pm Pac-12: North Dakota St. at Oregon
3:30pm ABC: Bowling Green at Ohio St.
3:30pm CBS: Colorado at Colorado St.
3:30pm FOX: Michigan at Washington
3:30pm ESPN: Baylor vs. Ole Miss
3:30pm ESPNU: Rice at Houston
3:30pm BTN: Monmouth at Rutgers
3:30pm BTN: Towson at Maryland
4pm CBSSN: Washington St. at Utah St.
4pm SECN: New Mexico at Mississippi St.
4pm SECN: Mercer at Vanderbilt
4pm ACCN: Liberty at Virginia Tech
6pm FS2: South Dakota at Iowa St.
7pm Pac-12: William & Mary at Stanford
7pm Sooner Sports PPV: Missouri St. at Oklahoma
7:30pm ABC: Alabama vs. USC
7:30pm ESPNU: Charlotte at Tennessee
7:30pm SECN: Abilene Christian at Texas A&M
7:30pm SECN: Alcorn St. at Auburn
7:30pm BTN: Northern Iowa at Iowa
7:30pm ACCN: Temple at Miami (FL)
8pm CBSSN: Texas Tech at UTEP
8pm Longhorn: USF at Texas
9pm FS1: Georgia Southern at Boise St.
10pm FS2: Louisiana Tech at UNLV
10:30pm ESPN: TCU at California
11pm Pac-12: Portland St. at Arizona
11:30pm CBSSN: UCLA at Hawai'i

8pm ESPN: Virginia vs. Georgia

Friday, January 10, 2020

Several Notes From the Mountain West Rights Agreements

Wanted to compile items I found interesting from the media call transcript for the announcement of the Mountain West's rights agreements with CBS Sports and FOX Sports.

* First, it is pretty rare for a conference commissioner to reveal a dollar amount publicly, though MW Commissioner Craig Thompson did couch it by noting that he wasn't going to reveal what either party was going to pay.

* CBS Sports paid for the possibility to carry ten extra games across either linear TV or CBS All-Access.  The All-Access service is branching out into exclusive sports with its upcoming coverage of UEFA Champions League.  These extra 10 games will be after both CBS Sports and FOX Sports "draft" their top 46 selections in football and men's basketball, so they can't place a top game on CBS All-Access, but an intraconference matchup is very likely.

There's also some flexibility here if CBS Sports and ESPN elect not to continue a sublicense agreement for American Athletic Conference content, excluding the agreement made for dividing up Navy's home football games, as some of these games could fill open spaces on linear TV.

Distributing live college sports exclusively via digital means isn't new to CBS Sports either, showing three football games and six men's basketball games per athletic yea via Facebook from Conference USA starting with the 2018-19 athletic year.

* The guarantee of three football games airing on CBS broadcast network is new.  Granted they will have open space once their SEC package moves on to ESPN in a few years(?), but with those top game selections, they can use open space during the first couple weeks of the season and Week Zero to potentially show those games since the SEC games wouldn't be likely to start before Week Three.  Possibly airing either Army or Navy's visit to Air Force would be a way to use the third if it is part of CBS Sports' selections.

* The conference's fact sheet noted the earliest start time of 11am local (1pm ET if Mountain Time school, /2pm ET if Pacific Time school/4-5pm ET if Hawai'i), but FOX Sports President Mark Silverman strongly hinted that they would like to position the Florida St.-Boise St. football game in their Big Noon window, which would be a 10am local start.  I suspect that 11am local could be the earliest start time for any games that could set during the season, but if a school agrees to it, there's some wiggle room, especially for broadcast television.  Everything's negotiable.

* Hawai'i will now get a cut of TV revenue from the conference, though that will supplement whatever they receive locally.  It was noted that Hawai'i had to contribute four of the games covered by the conference's TV parameters to be involved and it would be on top of any revenues they receive from any contract with Spectrum Sports in Hawai'i to show games on the islands.

A formula will be used calculate the difference once the distribution to members is figured out and Hawai'i finalizes its agreement.  Once the difference is computed, Hawai'i will get 80% of that difference.

As to the number of games the school has to contribute to the conference's media rights deal, contrinbuting four games is not out of range compared to previous seasons with the exception of 2019.  Here's the number of MW controlled Hawai'i games carried by CBS & ESPN packages since 2013 when the expiring TV deals began:
  • 2013: 3
  • 2014: 4
  • 2015: 3
  • 2016: 2
  • 2017: 4
  • 2018: 4
  • 2019: 5 (excludes MW Championship game)
I think its possible that this allows Hawai'i to be less concerned about missing revenue targets if they don't contribute a number of games to maximize their payout from any local TV deal.  The 2017 schedule only allowed for six PPV football games, which is one short of what Spectrum required to achieve their maximum payout.  This could allow UH to be flexible knowing that they could receive revenue from the MW to help with any gaps.

* Men's basketball scheduling could become more flexible.  Wednesday & Saturday dates form the base of the conference's schedule, with TV sliding games to Tuesdays & Sundays.  The media call suggested up to six days a week.  My uneducated guess is that Thursday & Friday could be in play, potentially for FOX Sports, especially for FS1 appearances.  Maybe some Big Ten + Mountain West Friday doubleheaders?

* FS2 is in play for FOX Sports.  It was prominently mentioned throughout the FOX Sports portion of the call and noted on graphics the conference posted on Twitter.

* Boise St.'s football media rights will no longer be negotiated separate from the rest of the conference.  This deal where FOX Sports gets the home games and CBS Sports Network gets the MW controlled road games appears to be the last time the conference will do this and it sounds like this is something Boise St. has agreed to.

* FOX Sports can and appears likely to use Labor Day, Friday after Thanksgiving, Week Zero to get the conference unique football exposure windows.  These special dates are outside of the maximum of ten Friday football games combined across CBS Sports and FOX Sports.

* There's more to come, likely from a digital streaming package.  Commissioner Thompson broke down the distribution based on 75 games:
  • 46 to the two national partners
  • 10 more to the pool that CBS Sports can be flexible with
That leaves around 19 games.  Some of those are going to go back to Hawai'i to form their own rights agreement.  But the conference said there would be a third tier, some of it via digital means.

* The remaining item that I didn't see explicitly spelled out was whether any games would have their start times set during the season.  There will be a draft of games, so we know that a large portion of the conference's football games will be claimed in advance.  We know there are parameters are start times, but does that apply to setting start times during the season, or will everything be set in advance?

Monday, January 6, 2020

What I'm Looking Forward to for College Football on TV in 2020

There's a few things I'm curious about coming into the 2020 college football season.

* First, we're back to 13 weeks to accomplish the regular season, plus a few stragglers in Week Zero.  But Week Zero is increasing.  Besides Notre Dame vs. Navy being played in Dublin, three of Hawai'i's four home Mountain West opponents are scheduled to play that weekend (Nevada, New Mexico and UNLV), plus New Mexico St. as one of the Warriors non-conference opponents.

The Mountain West schedule likely won't be out until sometime in the next 4-8 weeks, but its also possible that Boise St. could be asked to move a game to this date if they or the conference's TV partners wanted to.  Each of those schools playing at Hawai'i can also pick up a 13th regular season game if they so desire.  Same with Notre Dame & Navy, though I think the Fighting Irish won't do that.

* Speaking of Mountain West TV partners, the news that FOX Sports was coming in to replace ESPN appeared before the holidays.  It was met with some conjecture as others were reporting that the deal had not been completed.

My opinion is that the deal could be completed and a number of things could have occurred:
  • Legal departments are still vetting terms though a verbal agreement or a basic term sheet/memorandum of understanding is in place.
  • One of the reports' sources had not received word of an agreement in principle.
  • Grey areas, such as how to handle Boise St.'s home games which were separate from Mountain West TV deals and Hawai'i's Spectrum Sports.
  • The end of year holidays placing a hold on the news cycle
I do get the feeling that at least a deal for around 16 football games and 30+ basketball games has been completed.  

* With the addition of the Mountain West, plus an expected change in operations with the FOX Sports' branded regional sports networks coming in the spring, I'll be interested to see if FS2 ends up with more live content, such as a few Big 12 football games and a decent share of Mountain West sports.  I've been guilty of believing that FS2 should have been utilized earlier, but I think we might be closer to a point of that being a reality.

* BYU's TV deal with ESPN is ready to be announced supposedly, so is it in the same holding pattern, waiting for people to be in place to have media announcements, etc.?

* CBS Sports Network retaining the Mountain West and most Navy home games keeps their schedule relatively intact when added to their existing Army football and C-USA commitments, but I'm curious to see whether ESPN continues to sublicense any content to them from the American Athletic Conference.  The AAC is arguably the 2nd highest profile conference to place content on ESPN+ after the Big 12, so will ESPN be more apt to maximize that service's offerings vs. selling content?  Consider that CBSSN and ESPN continued their MAC sublicensing arrangement for four more athletic calendar years starting with 2019-20.

* I'd like to know if the Mountain West's partnership with Stadium will increase into the area of linear TV?  The WCC added a package of linear TV games to the partnership after having a handful of enhanced online productions for a few years.

* My own personal gripe is Stadium having the inventory content rights to the Patriot League, Mountain West and West Coast Conference, but dismantling their phone app & Roku channel.  Fun fact: not everyone wants to consume streaming content on a laptop or phone.  I had been told they were changing over their content distribution network, and maybe the addition of the FOX Sports branded RSNs will be part of a new online strategy for this content.

* Assuming the SEC and ESPN are finalizing an agreement for the package of football and men's basketball games that currently air on CBS, I really don't forsee CBS giving up control of the package multiple years in advance.  CBS will be a lame duck for around four years, but its four years of a significantly viewed product at a relatively cheap rate.  If CBS can sell ads against it and either make money or break even while pumping up their other TV properties they'll keep it.

* UConn's football rights for 2020 are another interesting property.  Would they be stuck going the route of UMass and New Mexico St., where regional linear TV was packaged with an over-the-top rightsholder for folks living outside of the regional TV areas?  I can't forsee a great demand for the product nationally, but if the school can regularly schedule Power 5 schools for a few home games, they should find some interest for a few national TV opportunities.

Would also be curious to see if UConn would continue to try to get a weeknight home game or two for national TV.  National TV tends to set those things to get games televised that wouldn't otherwise get significant viewership on Saturdays.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

SEC Goes All-In With ESPN?

First, read this from Sports Business Journal.

* My first take is that CBS did make a credible offer.  They knew the value of 15 football games plus seven MBK games was more than $55 million and it wasn't just 2x or 4x, it was somewhere between 5x-6x.  To me, that's not a lowball offer.  Clearly not bid winning, but not standing pat.

Also sounds like CBS truly didn't have a right of first refusal if both ESPN & FOX were able to make offers and talk contractual terms this far in advance.

* Assuming FOX doesn't come in with a bid that blows away ESPN, I believe you'll see changes in a few places, both related to having all rights under one roof:

  • Less exclusive windows.  If there's a SEC game on ABC. its quite possible that you'll see a SEC game programmed on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.  The SEC on CBS was one of the last places television window exclusivity existed.  With everything under one roof, I assume that changes.
  • More SEC in primetime on ABC.  How many?  Its hard to say, but my guess is that it would be more than one.
  • Possibly no more appearance limits.  CBS was limited to showing five games involving a SEC school, excluding the conference championship game.  Those limits are put in place to protect the secondary rightsholder, in this case ESPN, so that their rights agreement retains value and that they have the chance to select games from every school.  Otherwise CBS could choose Alabama every week if it desired.  With everything under one rood, ESPN no longer has that need to be protected, especially from itself. 
  • Maybe more gamesmanship on where the "best" SEC game airs every week.  The appearance limits that CBS had imposed on them do influence selection orders, but that could lead to the occasional gaming of the system by ESPN.  Maybe the best game is to be in primetime on ESPN instead of ABC, therefore, is it the 2nd best game on ABC and is it at 12pm instead?
* Remember that this doesn't take effect until the 2024-25 athletic year unless arrangements are made to release CBS from their obligations.  Expiration dates for other P5 rights agreements:
  • Big 12: 2024-25
  • Big Ten: 2022-23 (see note re: BTN below)
  • Pac-12: 2023-24
So all three of these would know the landscape far in advance.

* CBS can always pour that money into another NFL deal down the road and with NFL rights, down the road is never far away.  Thursday Night Football, until the recent five year deal with FOX, was usually a 1-2 year deal, sometimes with year two as an option.  The 2022 season seems to be the big year for nearly all agreements.

CBS also is spending to retain PGA Tour rights and Mountain West rights.

* I made some comments that CBS could look to the Big Ten and one of the incumbent packages.  Let me reiterate a couple items and expand in other areas, because I also wasn't thinking about the entire picture:
  • Just because CBS is coming in doesn't mean they would automatically go for FOX Sports' package of rights.  ABC/ESPN's could be in play too.  FOX does have a long term relationship with the conference via BTN, but the BTN deal is on a different timeline as it ends after 2031-32.  That said, its a relationship that has been strengthened over the years.
  • When I was discussing this via Twitter on Friday night, I made mention of how CBS could, in theory, pick up a football package and not have to televise any of them on CBS Sports Network. Pick them up, distribute them wherever you want and in this case, broadcast TV.  Roughly a doubleheader a week.

    Where I didn't think this through is the extra items that would get picked up like men's basketball.  CBS could take some of those men's basketball games for broadcast TV and strengthen their existing package of games, but the conference wouldn't be as likely to accept CBSSN as it stands right now.  They'd either have to carve a lot of the basketball games out of the deal, take them on and sublicense them to other entities, or keep them and figure out another place for them.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mountain West Rights Agreements On The Move

* First, read this from Sports Business Journal as it gives the initial highlights of the Mountain West rights moving from ESPN to FOX Sports and remaining with CBS Sports.

Here's the items running through my head
* The article mentions Boise St. and Hawai'i with separate agreements.  Don't know if Boise St. just gets paid more to have their football games move over to FOX Sports or if they can have their home games remain with ESPN. 

Maybe the Broncos would be amenable to a 10am start if the opponent is worthwhile and FOX is convinced it would draw, or if their choices from the Big Ten and Big 12 are limited.  Or maybe something special around when Air Force hosts Army or Navy.  Again, I think FOX would need to be convinced it would draw.

Hawai'i's issue isn't a national TV deal, but their expiring agreement with Spectrum Sports for carriage of several sports, not just football.  Spectrum uses football to help recoup costs as it is distributed via pay-per-view within the state and shown via streaming externally.  Hawai'i typically had to have seven football games shown via PPV for them to get their full payout.  They did not receive television money from the Mountain West agreements.  Remember that they are an affiliate member of the Mountain West and a full member of the Big West.

* Does this hurt ESPN all that much?  I'm not certain it does.  It might help in terms of the content that they could be replacing it with.  Many of those Saturday Mountain West games air late evenings on ESPN2 and ESPNU.  ESPN+ happens to carry a lot of UFC and Top Rank Boxing.  Maybe an event or two in spring or summer ends up on ESPN+ instead of linear TV while a late summer or fall event shows up on ESPN or ESPN2. 

As for football, the Sun Belt had a slight increase in their minimum number of games starting in 2020 as their new rights agreement officially kicks in.  Maybe another weeknight game or two for them.

* Placement of the football games should be interesting.  Will FS2 be allowed for any games?  Depending on the number of football games FOX Sports is paying for, it will be a tighter squeeze to get games on FS1 on Saturdays without some creative scheduling, likely involving some weeknight games. 

* Did the conference ask for more certainty in start times from FOX Sports vs. the flexibility of the 12 day assignment that ESPN provided?

* Did CBS maintain their priority pick status in football and, I believe, men's basketball?  CBS was allowed to take a few games, six to eight games is the range that sticks in my mind, and reserve those.  I believe that was a bit of an equalizer since Boise St.'s home games could not be chosen to air on CBSSN, with the exception of ESPN being allowed to trade one Boise St. home game to CBS for one of the school's road games.

* I don't get the feeling that the conference's men's basketball schedule rotation has to change.  Currently the Mountain West is on a Wednesday-Saturday rotation, with the allowance of games being moved to Tuesday or Sunday for TV purposes.

* Did anything swap from the ESPN, now FOX Sports, package over to CBS?  Did anything get tied into these rights agreement that wasn't in place?  The conference's football championship was initially aired on CBS when they had the first crack at negotiating for it.  The game switched to ESPN when CBS declined to continue as the rightsholder after a two year agreement, but it seemed to be its own agreement independent of all other items.  Did the men's basketball championship stay with CBS Sports?

* Last, and not least: Are AT&T Sports continuing as a regional partner for football and men's basketball?  Is Stadium continuing as the "inventory" streaming partner, along with a handful of elevated streaming productions that have aired on Facebook, plus several other sports that air regularly on Stadium for the conference, like women's basketball?