Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Mock Draft for the Big Ten with ESPN & FOX Using 2015

Had a comment left on the Big Ten/ESPN agreement blog post asking to try to do a mock draft of Big Ten weeks for FOX and ESPN based on 2015.  Granted, this is steeped in hindsight since the season was played, but here's how it might go.

What isn't known at the moment is the selection order within a given week.  For example, if FOX gets the first pick on a given week, do they alternate with ESPN and where does BTN fit in?

Here's the top available games for each week in 2015.  Added in a few BTN games.  Apologies in advance if your game isn't listed:

9/5 - Stanford at Northwestern & BYU at Nebraska
9/12 - Oregon at Michigan St. & Oregon St. at Michigan
9/19 - Air Force at Michigan St., Virginia Tech at Purdue, Rutgers at Penn St., Pittsburgh at Iowa
9/26 - BYU at Michigan
10/3 - Iowa at Wisconsin, Ohio St. at Indiana
10/10 - Northwestern at Michigan, Wisconsin at Nebraska
10/17 - Penn St. at Ohio St., Iowa at Northwestern, Michigan St. at Michigan
10/24 - Ohio St. at Rutgers, Northwestern at Nebraska
10/31 - Games of similar stature
11/7 - Minnesota at Ohio St., Michigan St. at Nebraska
11/14 - Ohio St. at Illinois
11/21 - Michigan St. at Ohio St., Michigan at Penn St., Northwestern at Wisconsin
11/28 - Ohio St. at Michigan, Penn St. at Michigan St. & Rivalry Games

And here's the order I would choose the weeks, alternating FOX and ESPN with FOX going first.

FOX: 11/28, 9/12, 10/17, 9/19, 10/10, 11/7, 10/31
ESPN: 11/21, 9/5, 10/3, 9/26, 10/24, 11/14, 10/10

So these might be the games that end up on ESPN and FOX using 2015 as a guideline and I'm aware BTN ended up with a few of these games.  Again, some of these weeks would be picked coming into the season, some during the season.  As some schools still don't have lights, that would also affect the network decisions being made.

ESPN
BYU at Nebraska
Oregon St. at Michigan
Pittsburgh at Iowa
BYU at Michigan
Ohio St. at Indiana
Wisconsin at Nebraska
Michigan St. at Michigan
Ohio St. at Rutgers
Michigan St. at Nebraska
Ohio St. at Illinois
Michigan St. at Ohio St.
Northwestern at Wisconsin
Penn St. at Michigan St.

FOX
Stanford at Northwestern
Oregon at Michigan St.
Rutgers at Penn St.
Iowa at Wisconsin
Northwestern at Michigan
Penn St. at Ohio St.
Iowa at Northwestern
Northwestern at Nebraska
Minnesota at Ohio St.
Michigan at Penn St.
Michigan at Ohio St.
Best of 10/31

And this is a bit of a futile exercise, because we don't know where BTN will fit in, if homecoming games will continue to have their start times set far in advance, how many night games will require advance notice beyond 12 days for the purpose of renting lights, etc.  The need to rent lights will lessen with I believe twelve of the fourteen schools having permanent lights by the time the contract starts in 2017.  Michigan St. intends to install permanent lights in time for the 2017 season, leaving Purdue and Northwestern with the only stadiums to not have permanent lights.

This exercise also works with the Big Ten in a vacuum and not taking into account the fact that the Big 12 and Pac-12 have similar processes for the determination of which weeks both FOX and ESPN will pick first, along with a external programming decisions (MLB postseason, US Open tennis, etc.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Big Ten Finalizing Future Media Rights (FOX, ESPN and CBS)

First, read John Ourand's Sports Business Journal piece on ESPN picking up their half of the Big Ten rights, what they've paid, what they'll show, along with CBS retaining their half.  I don't want to regurgitate any of John's info, so here's a few add-ons.

* ESPNU is going to take the hit with respect to Big Ten content it appears.  So who will benefit?  Probably the American and Mountain West, who currently have a handful of games on ESPNEWS that will probably elevate themselves up to ESPNU.  Here's the number of games from the Big Ten that aired on ESPNU and ESPNEWS in 2014 & 2015, along with the games on those networks after week four, when intraconference play tends to start.  Note that with nine game intraconference schedules starting in 2016, the measuring stick will typically start with games after week three.


An indirect benefit should appear for the ACC too, who may end up with more games on the top three networks.  Whether that affects a future ACC Network, I can't say, but if it were me, I'd just pay the extra rights fee to them and call it a day.

* Not much was mentioned with respect to men's basketball, so I am curious if ESPN retained any part of the men's basketball tournament since FOX retains the football championship game.  There were some synergies to be gained from FOX getting a piece of the men's basketball tournament in 2018 with the tournament at Madison Square Garden along with FOX's existing Big East coverage.

My assumption for men's basketball is that CBS will cherry pick select men's basketball games on the weekends and that ESPN and FOX will figure out weeknights.  It wouldn't surprise me to see FS1 try to spotlight Thursday nights since that was a night they usually aired an evening Pac-12 basketball game.  Tuesdays could stay with ESPN with their Super Tuesday doubleheader with the SEC, Wednesday could be an exclusive BTN night with the Big East on FS1.  Saturday and Sunday could be mixed up among all TV partners.

* I would expect FOX and ESPN to try to sort themselves out with respect to selection orders for the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.  Those three will be tied together.  Expect some gamesmenship.  Some network will try to get both Ohio St.-Michigan & Notre Dame-USC at some point.

* Commentary: ESPN is still paying a pretty penny, but FOX looks like they got a lot of the perks.  They'll be paying more, they'll have some priority in selection and they keep the football championship game.  From the notes in SBJ (again, read it), either the Big Ten was bent on strengthening ties with FOX Sports outside of BTN or ESPN incorrectly read how much FOX was willing & able to pay to get a portion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Notes on 2016 SEC & Big Ten Early Season & Special Date Selections

Big Ten Controlled Games

* I have included the LSU vs. Wisconsin game in the Big Ten list.  I don't actually know if it falls under here, but its being played in the state of Wisconsin, so I felt it was best to list it as a Big Ten game.

* I don't believe you'll see a reverse mirror scenario with Penn St. at Pittsburgh & UCF at Michigan on 9/10 at noon ET.  One should occupy ABC nationally & the other on ESPN.  I personally feel that Penn St. at Pittsburgh should be on ABC, but ESPN's programming department knows a lot more than I do.

* Five early season games are scheduled for ESPNEWS, which is on par compared to 2015.  

* With respect to BTN appearance requirements (two appearances, at least of the two as an intraconference game), Illinois, Michigan, Ohio St., Purdue & Wisconsin need an intraconference game.  Indiana needs one more appearance, regardless of opponent.  IU is a regular participant on BTN during conference play, so a second appearance shouldn't be hard to squeeze in.

* Ohio St. already has five scheduled appearances on ABC or ESPN.  Michigan has four.

* How did Colorado at Michigan end up on BTN?  I suspect that BTN was able to leapfrog ESPN & ESPN2 to select the game.  Note that it is the only 12pm or 3:30pm game on BTN over the first three weeks that will not have a second BTN game running concurrently.  So either BTN valued the game to jump up in the order, or if it fell to them (let's be fair, Colorado's been down in football for a while), BTN valued the game enough to not schedule a second game against it.

SEC Controlled Games

* Included in the SEC's list is the Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff between North Carolina & Georgia.

* Five games, so far, have been set for the SEC Network's alternate channel.  Looking through the rest of the season.  My expectation is that the alternate channel will be required on 11/19 when eleven SEC games are available (five vs. FCS opponents).  The possibility also exists on 10/1 & 11/7, when eight games are offered.  11/7 happens to be CBS's exclusive doubleheader at 3:30pm & 8pm ET, where any games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU would be in the 12pm ET window.

* While announced earlier, I'm told that Tennessee made an exception to host Appalachian St. on a Thursday night as the stadium is on campus & classes are in session.  Parking tends to be limited in situations like these, so some accommodations are probably in flight (night classes cancelled?).

* I am working under the assumption that the UCLA at Texas A&M & Kentucky at Florida games were sublicensed from ESPN.  UCLA at Texas A&M because there were, arguably, better games available from the SEC and, in the case of Kentucky at Florida, a concurrent SEC game on ESPN2 starting at 3:30pm ET (Western Kentucky at Alabama).  In the case of both games, the appearances by Florida, Kentucky and Texas A&M should not count towards any appearance requirements on CBS, as last year's Louisville vs. Auburn & Georgia at Vanderbilt games did not.

* Twelve of the fourteen schools will make at least one SEC Network appearance over the first three weeks of the season.  Not pictured: Alabama & LSU.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Remaining TV slots for CFB Weeks 1-3 for 2016

This is a bit of a "Captain Obvious" post since most television windows are set.  The Big Ten, American, MAC and Sun Belt are still out there.

Google Sheets doc showing openings & filled slots.

Week 1
Open slots: ESPNU at 12pm & 3:30pm, ESPNEWS all day, CBS Sports Network at 3:30pm and 7pm.

The Big Ten will probably take the two ESPNU slots and the early afternoon ESPNEWS slots.  Two out of San Jose St. at Tulsa, SMU at North Texas and Texas St. at Ohio could end up on CBS Sports Network and Boise St. at UL-Lafayette could be the nighttime ESPNEWS game.

Week 2
Open slots: ABC or ESPN at 12pm, ABC at 3:30pm, ESPN2 at 12pm or 10:15/10:30pm, ESPNU at 12pm, ESPNEWS all day and CBS Sports Network at 7pm.

The Big Ten will probably end up filling the 12pm openings on either ABC or ESPN and ESPN2, plus the ABC 3:30pm opening, even if there aren't necessarily high quality games to put on ABC from the Big Ten.  A dark horse for ABC would be Washington St. at Boise St., though I think the late evening ESPN2 slot is more likely for them.  The American would then fill the ESPNU and CBS Sports Network openings, allowing ESPNEWS to go with two Big Ten games, or possibly add Boston College at Massachusetts or the Washington St. at Boise St. game into the mix.  Boise St. already has their minimum of three ESPN/ESPN2 games through weeknight telecasts, so ESPN is free to place the remaining games on whatever platform they choose.

Week 3
Open slots: ABC at 3:30pm, ESPN at 12pm, ESPN2 at 12pm & 3:30pm, ESPN or ESPN2 at 10:15pm/10:30pm, ESPNU at 12pm, ESPNEWS all day and CBS Sports Network at 12pm, 3:30pm and 7pm.

Best remaining games on offer come from the Big Ten and UCLA at BYU.  I think UCLA at BYU is being held for the late evening ESPN/ESPN2 slot but could fit at 3:30pm on ESPN2 too.  To me, Colorado at Michigan and Oregon at Nebraska are earmarked for ABC at 3:30pm and ESPN at 12pm (choose your order).  After that I would expect the Big Ten to take the 12pm ESPN2 slot and probably one ESPNEWS slot, with the American taking ESPNU at 12pm, one or two ESPNEWS slots and one or two CBSSN slots.  I would look to ESPNEWS for Miami (FL) at Appalachian St. and one CBSSN slot could be used by Conference USA.

Speaking of Conference USA, Harry Minium of the Virginian-Pilot posted the beIN Sports C-USA schedule.  You can find it on the left hand side of the page in full view or if viewing on a smartphone, it is at the bottom of the page.  Per Middle Tennessee AD Chris Massaro, beIN Sports games are to have a consistent start time of 5:30pm ET / 4:30pm CT / 3:30pm UTEP.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Big 12 & Pac-12 TV Selections Notes

The Big 12 and Pac-12 announced their early season & special date television schedules for the 2016 season.  These two conferences are typically packaged together when announced because they share a pair of common rightsholders, ESPN and FOX Sports.

If you want to see how games are slotted by network, take a look at this Google Sheets document and here's the schedule by week.

Big 12
FOX picked up both the Red River Rivalry, which will air on FS1 on 10/8 at a time to be determined, and Ohio St. at Oklahoma on September 17th.  Hey, FS1 has to try to provide some value to their network and I guess this is how they're going to try to deliver.  Its possible, though not guaranteed, that the game could be used as a lead-in to a NL Division Series game if FOX has one available that day and doesn't send it over to MLB Network.

Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman brought this important tidbit as to how FOX got the RRR:
And from Kirk Bohls, also of the AAS:
A case could easily be made that FOX ended up with the first selection in week three, plus week six, where ESPN had the opening weekend's top choice, selecting Notre Dame at Texas, and in week two where Arkansas at TCU will be on ESPN or ESPN2 in the evening.  FOX will also carry all three Big 12 games on December 3rd, the final Saturday of the regular season (excluding Army-Navy).

FOX and ESPN split the Black Friday games with Baylor vs. Texas Tech from Jerry's World on ESPN and TCU at Texas on either FOX or FS1.  If TCU at Texas airs on FOX, it will be their first Big 12 Black Friday game.  They also split the Thursday night games with Kansas at Texas Tech on FS1 and Oklahoma at Iowa St. on ESPN.

There were no real surprises in the games FOX set aside for the schools as the schools' "member retained" game:

9/3
Northwestern St. at Baylor (moved to Fri 9/2, FSN)
Southeastern Louisiana at Oklahoma St. (FSN)
Rhode Island at Kansas (Jayhawk TV)
South Dakota St. at TCU (FSN)
Stephen F. Austin at Texas Tech (FSN)
Northern Iowa at Iowa St. (Cyclones.TV)

9/10
UTEP at Texas (LHN)
Youngstown St. at West Virginia (???, more on that one)
UL Monroe at Oklahoma (Sooner Sports PPV)

9/24
Missouri St. at Kansas St. (K-StateHD.TV)

Starting this season, ESPN has up to 23 selections to use and has used six so far.  Remember, Iowa St. at Texas, which will air on both Longhorn Network and Cyclones.TV, counts here as UTEP at Texas was UT's member retained game.

With the Big 12 offering their TV partners 67 total games, subtracting the ten member retained games leaves us with 57 games.  FOX has a total of 56 games telecast windows (17 broadcast network, 33 on FS1 & six on FSN, again excluding Big 12 member retained games.).  Accounting for 22 Pac-12 windows, 34 would remain for FOX to fill with Big 12 games.  The remaining number of 34 games coupled with ESPN's maximum of 23 games lines up with the total number of games available to national partners of 57 games.

Based on the FOX release for their schedule, besides the Ohio St.-Oklahoma game, the Big 12 should also fill the 12pm window on 10/29 plus 12/3, so they'll need to have at least three more games on the broadcast network to fulfill their minimum required number of broadcast network telecasts.  On the FS1 side, they'll have fifteen guaranteed telecast windows, occupying eleven 12pm telecast windows, the 3:30pm window on 9/10 (SMU at Baylor), the Red River Rivalry on 10/8 (time TBD) and the 3:30pm window on 12/3.

Why WVU doesn't have a telecast option yet for the Youngstown St. game is something I cannot answer.  I believe they still have a deal with West Virginia Media Holdings which had farmed out portions of the rights to ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, who has a Pirates game that night, but would not interfere with a 2pm start for the Mountaineers.  Could be much ado about nothing though.

Pac-12
For me, I was surprised there was no announcement regarding a carrier for the Hawai'i vs. California game from Sydney on 8/26, but looking back at it, I can potentially understand why nothing has been announced:
  • If the rights to the game are owned by the Pac-12 as expected, would selecting this game have counted towards FOX or ESPN's 22 respective selections?  If so, do I really want to send a production crew clear across the world for a game that may not be that appealing?   
  • If the Pac-12 Network was stuck with this game, I can't see how it will go over positively for Larry Scott.  Now, if they have the ability to sell the game telecast independently of their TV deals, or sublicense it, maybe it is worthwhile for someone else.
Looking over the Pac-12 Networks schedule, you can see they are indeed programming telecast windows to overlap each other, so you'll need some way to stream a regional network or pony up for the regional feeds if they are't in the TV package you subscribe to, which they alluded to in their release:
...all games will be carried on Pac-12 Network and the Pac-12 Network regional carrier in the home team’s market.
Two windows are set up as three hour telecast windows, which admittedly are often a joke because most games, anecdotally, run at least three hours and fifteen minutes and most often that not, three hours and thirty minutes.  Also, the early portion of the season is where there is more of a tightly compacted schedule due to the number of games, plus guidelines that the Arizona schools play only night games early in the year, so these weeks also aren't good examples of the new TV scheduling guidelines for the Pac-12 Networks with respect to start times.

Similar to the Big 12, FOX and ESPN split the weeknight games with five each.  ESPN came away with four Friday games and one Thursday game while FOX took three Friday games and two Thursday games.  While FOX will air either the Apple Cup & Texas at TCU at the same time (one on FS1, one on FOX), ESPN chose a doubleheader with Baylor vs. Texas Tech followed by the Territorial Cup.

FOX has fourteen remaining selections to use, three of which will be used on FS1 telecast windows starting after 10pm ET on 10/8, 10/29 and 11/12.  ESPN also has fourteen remaining selections.

On the FOX side of the house, at least nine games will air on FS1 of a maximum of fourteen games, counting four Thursday & Friday night games (Kansas St. at Stanford, USC at Utah, UCLA at Colorado & Utah at Arizona St.) and five Saturday late evening games & windows (BYU vs. Arizona, Texas Tech at Arizona St. & late windows on 10/8, 10/29 & 11/12).  With BYU at Utah on the broadcast network, at least another seven games will need to be selected during the season.  For ESPN, the USC at Stanford game on ABC at 8pm counts as their required Pac-12 primetime / 5pm PT game, meaning they have flexibility for the rest of the season regarding the timeslot they can air their other ABC game.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

C-USA TV Rights Agreements Announced

Conference USA confirmed its television rights agreements today with the four partners that had been rumored for the past month: ESPN, CBS Sports Network, American Sports Network and beIN Sports.

Here's the particulars for regular season games:

Television Platform Football Men's Basketball
ESPN Networks 5 0
CBS Sports Network 6 6
ASN 15-30 13-59
beIN Sports 10 10

ESPN will carry the conference championship in football while CBS Sports Network gets it in men's basketball.  ASN will have the option to select additional championships to air.

The agreements appear to be for two athletic years (2016-17 & 2017-18) as the press release:
  1. Doesn't mention a term length
  2. Only discusses championships in 2016 & 2017
    1. I'm assuming CBSSN has the 2018 basketball championships
I've been able to confirm from C-USA that each TV partner retained digital rights to the events it will televised, meaning the ASN does have the digital rights to its games.  This lines up with the other three TV partners who have authenticated digital streaming access (WatchESPN, beIN Sports Connect and limited access to watch CBSSN online).  Could Sinclair make an agreement with another party to stream those games?  Sure, but ASN has shown the ability to stream events online before, so it is feasible for them to do so.  Whether they do is another story.
As for why ASN has ranges of the number of events, I assume this is to allow for flexibility with their network and the potential to be more selective in the quality of the events they will air.

What it looks like is that ESPN will have the top choices for football and CBSSN will have them for men's basketball.  CBSSN appears to be second in line for football, though the conference did not confirm any selection orders.  If CBSSN were to be second in line for football, here's are some possibilities for their TV package:

Rice at Western Kentucky (Thursday, 9/1)
Maryland at FIU (Friday, 9/9)
Army at UTEP (Saturday, 9/17)
Louisville at Marshall and/or Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky (Saturday, 9/24)
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech (Thursday, 10/6)
Old Dominion at Western Kentucky (Saturday, 10/22)

So where are the digital packages, such as the items that Old Dominion AD Wood Selig alluded to?  The C-USA office says announcements for digital packages will happen at a later time.  When "a later time" exactly is, I don't know.  

Per the TV release, the remainder of the TV schedule will be announced next week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Roundup: C-USA, Pac-12, MBK Conference Challenge Events

* beIN Sports, it appears inadvertently, announced themselves as a C-USA rightsholder on Monday.  They'll have ten football games, ten men's basketball games and a host of other C-USA events.

A couple other reports have come out regarding C-USA rights over the past ten days.  Here's a recap:
  • Old Dominion AD Wood Selig gushed about a move to ESPN and talked about ESPN3 quite a bit
  • Chuck Landon's report that ESPN and CBS Sports Network would take five games each, then American Sports Network would have 15-20 games.
With beIN Sports taking ten football games, that would cover about half of the games under C-USA control for the 2016 season (35-40 out of 80 games total).  ESPN3, presumably, would cover some portion of the rest.

In terms of linear television, it would be a sharp decrease in the number of televised games compared to 2015 where games aired on FS1, FSN, FOX College Sports, CBSSN and ASN, but that would depend on where you're viewing these games from with some of those networks having limited or no visibility in some parts of the country or requiring an additional package of programming to receive programming from one of those networks, though the same will be required for many to watch beIN Sports, which is on many sports packages and could also require some to purchase an app like Fubo.TV or SlingTV to watch the channel's games.

With the MAC, ESPN3 worked with the schools to upgrade infrastructure, often at the schools' expense.  I'm not sure how many schools have their production equipment up to the standard that ESPN prefers for self produced events.  Couldn't tell you what those standards are because I don't know them.  I do know that Ohio U., Kent St. and Akron were the three schools that did not self-produce home men's basketball for ESPN3, instead sending it through their respective athletics' websites for free.  That could be a bridge for some C-USA schools.

* The Pac-12 announced that they would alter their TV deals with FOX and ESPN to allow for more flexibility with respect to Pac-12 Networks night games, which the conference defined as starting at 7pm local time (9pm or 10pm ET).  Games could start at 2:30pm or 6pm local, allowing for more of a Pac-12 Networks game to overlap a broadcast network game. 

The conference believes it will eliminate about four nighttime windows on Pac-12 Networks, which would cut the number of night game windows by slightly over half when comparing against 2014 & 2015, which had seven Saturday telecast windows in both seasons.

Not affected: Night games for ESPN and FOX Sports, which will still have the ability to air games at 7pm or 7:30pm local time out west.

* Both the ACC-Big Ten and Big 12-SEC Challenge men's basketball events were announced today.  The Big 12-SEC event will again be played on the Saturday in between the NFL's conference championship games and the Super Bowl, while the ACC-Big Ten will be played the week following Thanksgiving.

One minor change from last year: Rutgers will be on the road in both the Gavitt Games and the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, where last year no Big Ten school participating in the Gavitt Games played in either series both games at home or on the road.

* Utah St.'s home game vs. Arkansas St. was moved to a Friday night for a CBS Sports Network telecast.  It is the 23rd selection by CBSSN, which would typically occur after ROOT Sports and Campus Insiders make their selections of Mountain West games, plus whatever Hawai'i games are set aside for airing on Oceanic Cable's pay-per-view package.  I would assume this means that those selections have been made and are ready to be announced, or that both entities told CBSSN and ESPN which games would be released back to them to choose.  Since this also required a date change, that could be the reason why this selection came out earlier than normal.