Friday, July 31, 2015

Quick hitters on the Bayou Classic, MBK events and MVC on CBS & CBSSN

Some random stuff, quick hits, etc.

* As mentioned in a previous post, the Missouri Valley Conference and ESPN struck a new rights agreement.  One of the items that caught my eye was that ESPN retained the rights to the men's basketball conference tournament semifinals, since they had aired on the MVC TV Network previously, along with the championship game.

Now we have a home for the semifinals: CBS Sports Network.  The semifinals along with eight regular season men's basketball games will air on CBSSN and CBS will remain as the home of the tournament championship game.  CBS had aired the championship for ten years and the 2016 game would have been the last game under an existing sublicense agreement.

The semifinals will air on CBSSN starting this year.  ESPN currently sublicenses events from the American, MAC and MVC to CBSSN.  CBSSN also has a sublicense with FOX for Big East content.

My expectation is that the regular season games on CBSSN will be in addition to games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU and not that games will be moving from ESPN outlets over to CBSSN.

* Also, as part of the MVC-ESPN rights agreement, local & regional television agreements, including the MVC TV Network that has aired on regional sports networks will be retained per the teleconference announcing the agreement.  As for the ESPN3 production equipment rollout, I do not know how quickly that will happen, but Southern Illinois appears to be one of the schools getting their equipment soon based on the TV outlet for their home non-conference men's basketball schedule.  Indiana St. will also show games on ESPN3 this year and is looking for students to help out.


* The Maui Invitational and Paradise Jam television schedules have been released, at least most of the schedule for Maui as the game times for 11/25 are to be determined.  Game times for the Paradise Jam have been adjusted from the original bracket to account for CBSSN airing a football game on the evening of November 20th.

* When the SWAC released their TV schedule, they originally had a graphic that had the Bayou Classic game (Grambling vs. Southern) on NBC with a start time of 7pm ET and I found that a bit odd.  Southern had noted a few months back that the game had moved to a 3pm ET start.  So when I asked the SWAC's twitter account the time, another interesting tidbit was provided.
For now, I'm expecting NBC or NBCSN to carry the championship round of the Barclays Center Classic event that day.  That day also has English Premier League matches & qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, though those two events would occur, mostly, during the morning hours.  But to read that the SWAC is expecting the game to move to NBCSN would break a run of 24 straight airings on broadcast TV, specifically NBC.

* The Ivy League TV schedule will include six games on NBCSN with five of the six on Friday nights.  Only "The Game" aka Harvard-Yale will be played on a Saturday on NBCSN.

* Credit to American Sports Network, who is taking up a lot of FCS telecasts alongside their largest package from C-USA.  Whether the Big Sky game (Northern Iowa at Cal Poly) is contracted through the conference or just through Cal Poly, I don't know, but for the sake of Cal Poly as the home team, I'm listed it as "Big Sky" for now.

The Ivy League, Big Sky (see above), OVC and Southland are new additions to ASN for football.  The Ivies and OVC had basketball games on ASN during the 2014-15 season.

Also, the Southland count includes five games that will be announced during the course of the season.

Big Sky1
Big South3
C-USA30
CAA9
Ivy League7
OVC6
Patriot League2
SoCon3
Southland12

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ESPN making deals, MW on ROOT/CI & Emerald Coast Classic adds TV

* ESPN has been active outside of the Power 5 football conferences, signing new contracts with the Southern, Southland and Missouri Valley conferences within the past month.  The big events for both the SoCon and Southland are the championship game of the men's basketball tournament and most of the events for those two conferences will be webcasts through ESPN3.  In the case of the SoCon and MVC, the schools will start receiving production equipment from ESPN to start self-producing events for ESPN3.  Over the last two to three years, ESPN has worked with multiple conferences, such as the Atlantic Sun, ACC, MAC and SEC, to take on production of games & events not shown on television.

The semifinals of the MVC men's basketball tournament have been added to ESPN's rights.  Previously these were packaged with the quarterfinals and first round games to be shown on regional TV (ie. FSMidwest, CSN Chicago, etc.).  ESPN already had rights to the men's basketball championship game which has been sublicensed to CBS for about a decade.  For the moment, it is not clear on the status of the sublicense of the game in future years.

EDIT: Per a teleconference announcing the deal, local and regional telecast deals have been preserved.  With respect to who will produce it, on-air talent, etc., I'm not sure.

Also, the existing sublicense of ESPN basketball to CBS ends after the 2015-16 season.

* The Mountain West released its ROOT Sports and Campus Insiders packages.  ESPN also used one of their supplemental picks on Tulsa at New Mexico.  Three games remain without live video at the moment.

Southern Utah at Utah St. (9/3)
New Hampshire at San Jose St. (9/3)
Mississippi Valley St. at New Mexico (9/5, a telecast is expected)

It has already been announced that the North Dakota at Wyoming game will not be televised or webcast.  Two other games, UC Davis at Hawai'i & Hawai'i at Nevada, have not had a TV announcement but other Hawai'i games not selected by CBSSN, ESPN and ROOT Sports have been picked up by Oceanic PPV with a companion webcast available through the MW Network.


* The Emerald Coast Classic semifinals and championship game will air on CBS Sports Network.  Last year CBSSN aired the championship game only.  The semifinals are scheduled for after the conclusion of the Boise St. at San Jose St. game on Black Friday and the championship game will fit in the two hour time slot between the conclusion of BYU at Utah St. and the start of Colorado St. at Fresno St.

I do not know what this means for the airing of the Corpus Christi Challenge which has aired on CBSSN during this timeframe the past couple years.  The Great Alaska Shootout is also during this time of the year and I'm told from a source that they are working to continue their relationship with CBSSN.
  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Some Mid-July Thoughts on Budgets, C-USA and College Basketball

The nice thing about college sports is that it essentially takes a break from late June to after July 4th.  There wasn't much to write about, at least in the areas I try to stick to covering.  There is one "big picture" item though that I felt was worth touching on.

* As you've probably read in several places, ESPN is making personnel changes outside of their college sports broadcasting departments and have allowed some of the event programming they carry to move on to other entities (NHRA to FOX Sports, Open Championship to NBC, etc.).  You also may have seen that their subscribing household number has dipped as well as cord cutting in pay TV is providing consumers more choice.  Unfortunately, the cost of subscribing to the channel, or the suite of channels, isn't decreasing, but that's another story.

Paying a rights fee isn't just the only cost for a product.  Costs of producing a live event (ie. staffing both on & off air, equipment, transportation, etc.) can be a hidden cost to us that gets defrayed through ad sales & subscriber fees.

I can't say what this means for upcoming negotiations for the Big Ten rights that they currently carry.   Or for a potential bid on English Premier League rights with tender sheets going out recently.  Or any rights coming up for bid over the next two to three years.  Reports are that ESPN is going to make adjustments to future budgets.  What I'm not sure of is how the 2016 & 2017 budgets are structured compared to 2015 before mandating cuts.  My guess is that 2016 and 2017's budgets were not flat compared to 2015, so the context of a cut of $100 million or $250 million isn't necessarily known.  It could be the difference of a 5% increase in spending vs. a 10% increase.

In some ways, with the sports rights market being relatively stable for the next few years, this is a place where ESPN and FOX, who also made some cuts with respect to their news coverage both in the field and in the studio, can reassess priorities and ways to make money.  These aren't charities.  And its also a place where NBC, CBS and others could be more active if the price is right.

* One rights agreement that could be decided soon is Conference USA's.  C-USA's commissioner, Britton Banowsky, has announced he is stepping down to take a role with the College Football Playoff Foundation and I would assume that he has announced this with negotiations for future rights finished, or at least in the hands of lawyers who are finalizing the language.

The best parallel that I can recall for something like this is when the MAC and ESPN finalized a new agreement and announced it on January 28, 2009.  A day later, MAC commissioner Rick Chryst announced that he would resign from the conference at the end of the 2008-09 athletic year.

Conference USA's media days are Tuesday, July 21 & Wednesday, July 22.

* With nearly all start times in the FBS conferences accounted for through the first three weeks of the season (mostly C-USA and Mountain West games are awaiting start times or broadcast outlets), men's basketball scheduling announcements should start to appear later this month and August.  Pairings on a handful of events have been announced or leaked.  Usually the Big 12 is the first conference to have its television schedule released.

If you want to peruse through the basketball listings, here you go.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A few thoughts on Big 12 membership with respect to TV

I hate realignment.  But people open their mouths, articles get written, facts come out, etc.  And I'm not going to handicap whether they add anybody or whether one school is more likely than another.

CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon wrote a very good article on the Big 12 and wanted to point two items he wrote that I believe get lost in the whole realignment thing.  First one:
There's a line of thinking among some lower-budget Big 12 schools that the 10-member conference has incredibly helped their television exposure. Instead of playing some important football and basketball games on a conference network, some Big 12 schools are getting more attention than ever by playing on ESPN and Fox.
And it is mostly valid.  I've mentioned this before, probably back when the Pac-16 was a possibility, that we're limited to around nine hours on a Saturday when games can feasibly start for Big 12 schools (11am - 8pm locally).  Assuming no new distribution methods are created on the scale of FOX Sports 1 or ESPNU, where do those other games go?  FSN, which isn't a 100% national distribution?  Do you grant exclusive distribution via digital outlets like ESPN3 and FOX Sports Go?  Are you amenable to games on television networks like FOX Sports 2 and FOX College Sports, which aren't in nearly as many homes?  Are you willing to have Friday night games while high school football is going on?  The answer to some of these questions might not have been the same as a few years ago when your TV contracts were built around network exclusivity.

Second item:
Would expansion reopen the Big 12's TV contracts that are through 2025? "The answer is we would suggest that it does," Bowlsby said. "I don't know if our TV partners would agree with that."
This is the biggest risk of expansion.  The television rightsholder generally has the say-so when it comes to paying more or less, and its why they are usually consulted during the vetting process.  Granted I'm citing the C-USA contract from 2005-11 with ESPN because it was entered as evidence as part of a lawsuit, but its details say two things re: conference composition (paraphrasing):

1) If teams leave (the members the agreement covers are generally specified by name), both the network and conference can negotiate in good faith to determine a new rights.  Incoming members will be considered as part of those negotiations. In the case of the C-USA agreement, if no agreement between the parties was reached, ESPN at its sole discretion could reduce the rights fee proportionally by the number of lost teams compared to previous number of membership (ie. Cut rights fee by 16% if you lose two members out of a 12 member conference and do not replace them.  This was where ESPN and FOX cut the Big 12 a break originally when they went from twelve to ten).

2) If teams are added only & increase the number of members, good faith negotiations occur.  In the C-USA TV deal being referenced, and I know I'm extrapolating to a Big 12 TV deal that I have not seen, but by Bob Bowlsby's quote above, there's no guarantee that existing TV partners are required to pay more or would pay enough to make all existing Big 12 schools "whole" with respect to the current amount they receive from the Big 12 TV deals.

In short, ESPN and FOX don't care how you, as a conference, decide to distribute the TV money they pay the conference.  That's on you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Potential MBK 24 Hour Tip Off Games for 2015 & Other Items

* ESPN's 24 hour college basketball tipoff marathon is starting to take shape.  The event culminates with the Champions Classic doubleheader in Chicago with Kansas vs. Michigan St. & Kentucky vs. Duke, but the undercard is always interesting.  Three other games that appear to be set for the event are San Diego St. at Utah, Nevada at Hawai'i and Manhattan at St. Mary's.  The St. Mary's game, per Jon Rothstein, was noted to be a 2am ET / 11pm PT start.

ESPN tends to classify the marathon games as starting around 6pm or 7pm on Monday evening.  Other potential games that could be part of the marathon:

Tennessee at Georgia Tech (11/16)
Virginia at George Washington (11/16)
Baylor at Oregon (11/16)
Colorado at Auburn (11/17, a rematch from last year's marathon)
Oklahoma at Memphis (11/17)
Georgetown at Maryland (11/17)

The event also is a place where ESPN can burn off appearances for smaller conference, usually during the Tuesday morning games.  Prelim / "home rounds" of events like the CBE Classic or Legends Classic end up here too, along with a few women's basketball games.  Expect to see games hosted by schools from conferences like the MAAC, Big South, SoCon and other small conferences during the Tuesday morning rounds.

* With the remaining American Athletic Conference games in the early portion of the season set for telecasts or webcasts, the first three weeks of FBS telecasts is just about set.  There may be a few digital exclusives added from the Mountain West or C-USA digital networks, a possible ASN game for C-USA (one game is to be added at some point of the season) and a few Big 12 games are awaiting their final destinations.  FCS games will start to be set in July on the schedule pages as I like to wait until after conferences and schools make any possible website hosting changes, which usually occur on July 1st.

"Shameless schedule plug"

* For the American, twelve games have been set for ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.  To get to a minimum of 28 games on ABC plus the three networks already mentioned, sixteen games will be selected through the in-season selection process (ie. 12 days in advance, sometimes as late as six days) over ten weeks (weeks four through thirteen).

* The Southland Conference has joined up with the American Sports Network to produce football telecasts in 2015.  From what I have been told, this will replace the Southland TV Network syndication package.  The conference will make television & webcast decisions for the ASN & ESPN3 packages during the year instead of in advance.

I am somewhat interested to see how these telecasts are placed into the schedule as the Southland and Conference USA share a very concentrated footprint of the states of Texas & Louisiana.

* SBNation's Blogging the Bracket writer Chris Dobbertean pointed out to me that the Barclays Center Classic & the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (the latter does not yet have any teams set for it) have not been placed on the Barclays Center event calendar, nor has the potential move of the NIT Tip Off to Brooklyn as the dates needed for the event at MSG were unavailable.

The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, using last year's dates, would have been played on Friday 11/20 & Saturday 11/21.  The NIT, again based on previous dates, would have been played Wednesday 11/25 & Friday 11/27.  For both events, both of the quarterfinal / first date of games happen to be taken by Islanders games.

The Barclays Center Classic has schools attached to it and regional rounds scheduled.  The BCC has typically been held the two days after Thanksgiving and the arena is allegedly scheduled to host a Louisville vs. Saint Louis neutral site game over that weekend, per Jon Rothstein.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Potential MW Secondary TV packages (ROOT, MWN) desingations

While we wait for a handful of football games to be set for weeks one & two from the American, BYU and Mountain West...

ROOT Sports (regional TV) and the Campus Insiders' Mountain West Network (digital network) get the next set of selections for the Mountain West.  Usually the ROOT Sports package has a slant towards the schools located in the areas where ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain is the primary RSN.  ROOT Sports Northwest happens to serve the rest of Idaho and ROOT Sports Southwest has a slice of New Mexico which overlaps with the Rocky Mountain RSN, but the Rocky Mountain RSN has five Mountain West schools within its territory: Air Force, Colorado St., New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah St. and those schools are often the ones featured in their package of games.  All Boise St. games, which would also be a geographical fit, have been earmarked for the ESPN and CBS Sports Network packages.

Here's the available games and what package they could be set for.  Considerations were made with respect to the close of the Colorado Rockies season, which has games on four of the first five Saturdays of the season.  Several of the ROOT Sports games could be paired with games already selected for ROOT's Big Sky football package.

As far as I know ROOT and Campus Insiders pick the games they intend to produce.  It is a key distinction as many games airing on the Mountain West Network are produced by the schools.  After that ESPN and CBSSN can come back and select two games each if they desire.  

Also, Hawai'i has its own PPV package as it does not receive revenues from the conference's television packages, so those eight games will be set aside for those packages.


ROOT SportsMountain West NetworkHawai'i PPV
Morgan St. at Air Force (9/5)Southern Utah at Utah St. (9/3)UC Davis at Hawai'i (9/19)
New Mexico at Wyoming (9/26)Abilene Christian at Fresno St. (9/3)San Diego St. at Hawai'i (10/10)
New Mexico St. at New Mexico (10/3)UC Davis at Nevada (9/3)Hawai'i at New Mexico (10/17)
New Mexico at Nevada (10/10)New Hampshire at San Jose St. (9/5)Hawai'i at Nevada (10/24)
New Mexico at San Jose St. (10/24)North Dakota at Wyoming (9/5)Hawai'i at UNLV (11/7)
UNLV at Colorado St. (11/14)San Diego at San Diego St. (9/5)Fresno St. at Hawai'i (11/14)
Colorado St. at New Mexico (11/21)Savannah St. at Colorado St. (9/5)San Jose St. at Hawai'i (11/21)
UNLV at Wyoming (11/28)Mississippi Valley St. at New Mexico (9/5)UL-Monroe at Hawai'i (11/28)
Tulsa at New Mexico (9/12)
Eastern Michigan at Wyoming (9/12)
South Alabama at San Diego St. (9/19)
Idaho St. at UNLV (9/26)
UNLV at Nevada (10/3)
San Jose St. at UNLV (10/10)
San Jose St. at Nevada (11/14)

A few notes on my selections

* New Mexico at Wyoming and Northern Arizona at Montana, in this scenario, would be played at the same time with the Mountain West game on ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain and the Big Sky game on ROOT Sports Northwest.  Both RSNs are scheduled to carry MLB games in the evening.
* Morgan St. at Air Force was placed on ROOT Sports because it is the only Air Force game available to be carried outside of the national television packages, which gave it the nod over the North Dakota at Wyoming game.
* I considered placing Southern Utah at Utah St. on ROOT Sports, but there is a Rockies game that evening.  ROOT does have the capability of doing secondary feeds as they do them to show Utah Jazz games.  In most cases, pro sports trumps college sports on RSNs, but exceptions do occur.
* The Hawai'i PPV package requires seven games for the school to receive a minimum payout of $2.3 million.  Since there are eight games in the package listed above, I do not know if one of the games can be selected by ESPN, CBSSN or air on the Mountain West Network.  ROOT Sports could certainly simulcast one of the PPV games as well.
* In the end, there is some flexibility.  During Fresno St.'s undefeated run in 2013, ESPN and the MWN swapped games on 11/9.  ESPN swapped their pre-selected Nevada at Colorado St. game in exchange for Fresno St. at Wyoming, which they placed on ESPN2.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

'15 Early Season Schedule Notes & Misc. Items

Overall Notes
* Potential openings for the following games:
  • 9/5 
    • Penn St. at Temple: 12pm on ABC or 3:30pm on ESPN.  I still believe that ESPN2 will be used for all day US Open coverage.
  • 9/12
    • Boise St. at BYU: The only remaining ESPN or ESPN2 opening is after East Carolina at Florida on ESPN2.  Could be a 10:15pm ET start.  
      • The opening on ESPN at ~3pm is for the US Open women's final
    • San Jose St. at Air Force: 8pm ESPNEWS or 10:15pm ESPNU, if either opening is used.  It could also air on ESPN3
    • Army at UConn, North Texas at SMU & Temple at Cincinnati:  12pm CBSSN and/or 8pm ESPNEWS.  One game, it appears, will be on ESPN3.
    • Stephen F. Austin at TCU: I don't think it is an ESPN platform game.  If it is, I don't think the Big 12 contract allows for ESPN3 exclusives or ESPNEWS games, unless something is being worked on.
Other Mountain West and C-USA games should air as part of regional or web exclusive packages.  Sun Belt ESPN3 games without a start time could be decided at any time.  Could have been waiting for SEC game decisions for game placement.

* It appears that ESPN will not have a Thursday night game on Thanksgiving.  The last year that ESPN did not air a college football game on Thanksgiving was 1997, courtesy the lists at 506Sports.com.

Big Ten
* Six games will air on ESPNEWS over the first three weeks.  Five games total aired on ESPNEWS in 2014, none after the fifth week of the season.  A possible consequence of the slightly compressed schedule in 2015 with one less week on the schedule, but BTN has only one game scheduled for 9/5 and a pair of single game telecast windows, both at 3:30pm ET, on 9/12 and 9/19.

* "Sigh" on ESPN going with a three hour telecast window for North Carolina vs. South Carolina, which means you'll probably need to fire up WatchESPN to watch the start of TCU at Minnesota or look to ESPNEWS, maybe.

MAC
* Since CBSSN took UNLV at Northern Illinois, the MAC should have two other Saturday games on the network.  Specific windows were not announced in the MAC release.  Both 11/7 and 11/21 have two potential openings, which could allow CBSSN to take both an American & MAC game if they want.

Other possibilities, if Navy's home game is the only American conference game for a particular week (it would not count towards their sublicense agreement with ESPN) are 10/3 at 12pm (six available games), 10/24 after 4:30pm (six available games), 10/31 at 7pm (two available games) and 11/14 at 7pm (two available games).

* The two MAC Thursday night games on CBSSN will be set at least 12 days in advance.

SEC
* More of a personal item - neutral site games and whose rights they belong to will be my bugaboo.  FBSchedules.com had the goods on the contract for Louisville-Auburn having a CBS offer in it, and AL.com Alabama beat writer Michael Cassagrande published some key items on the contract for the Alabama-Wisconsin game in Arlington.  What was one of those key items?  SEC controls the TV rights.  So how does it end up on ABC, who cannot air SEC games?  No idea, so from here on out, they don't get listed on the conference specific pages.

* During the telecast windows for the games that ESPN has sublicensed to CBS on 9/5 and 9/12, ESPN will carry concurrent games on ESPN2 and ESPNU.  This would normally not be allowed during CBS's telecast windows, but since these were games that ESPN sold to CBS, they seem to be classified as ESPN telecast windows where they can air as many games as they need to.  Once 9/19 comes around and CBS's contract windows kick in, only the SEC Network can air a concurrent game during the mid afternoon.

Miscellaneous Notes
* The new Patriot League rights deal with CBS Sports Network will no longer require football games to be aired, per Patriot League PR.  The previous deal required two football games to be chosen by the network.  The new deal is for a minimum of 24 Patriot League events to be aired by CBSSN and they can come from any sport.  Would expect around half of them to be men's basketball games.

* FOX Sports 1 will again carry the championship & 3rd place games of the Las Vegas Classic.  FOX has taken over operations of both Las Vegas events previously run by Basketball Tournaments, Inc.

* Keep an eye on the potential Baylor vs. Cal game in Australia in 2016.  I'm curious to see if this article still holds true and that the media rights will belong to the Pac-12 or if it is signed as part of a series where there will be a game in Berkeley, which would mean the game gets classified as a Big 12 game.

Also, is the organization of this game tied to the potential bowl game to be played in Melbourne, including the potential network?