Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bowls, Upfronts With Sports & Scheduling Around Soccer

* A large portion of the bowl schedule, mostly ESPN's bowl schedule if we're being honest, was announced on Thursday.  There are four bowls remaining to be scheduled.

  • The Frisco Bowl, formerly the Miami Beach Bowl as it is moving to Frisco, TX, is awaiting its finalized date & time.  The game was recently purchased by ESPN Events from the American Athletic Conference.  As Sean O'Leary noted on my Twitter timeline, December 20th would be an ideal date to place the game as there are no bowl games that evening.

    Further, when the game was played in Miami it was played on the Monday afternoon before the last Monday Night Football game before Christmas.  With Christmas falling on a Monday year, that leaves the MNF game before Christmas on the 18th, which might be a bit far away from the holiday to expect people to take a Monday afternoon off for a bowl game.
  • The Holiday Bowl is in process of negotiating a new television agreement, and per the game's organizers, is talking to ESPN and other outlets about a new deal.  December 26th seems like the planned date ESPN is holding open for the game with three other bowl games on that date all without start times.
  • The Foster Farms Bowl, who was in the same position last offseason as the Holiday Bowl is this offseason, will be on FOX but no date has been set yet.  The last 49ers regular season game is scheduled for Christmas Eve.  If I were to guess on a bowl game date, I'd look for something on December 27 or 28.  The 29th might not be a bad date either but with the Cotton Bowl at night, that date might require a earlier start to stay away from a TV window involving a NY6 bowl.
  • The Arizona Bowl's date is set for December 30th, but is awaiting for a finalized start time.  CBSSN may be finalizing the possible men's basketball games they could be carrying that day and working to fit everything in.
* ESPN's soccer sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks mentioned she's be on the sidelines for the US Men's National Team World Cup qualifiers on Friday 9/1 and Thursday 10/6, which has some implications for college football programming on 9/1, particularly with respect to the two Big Ten games scheduled that evening.

With ESPN carrying the match from Harrison, NJ along with shoulder programming like pregame & postgame, it will likely be on ESPN as ESPN2 should be carrying US Open tennis & likely means ESPN will only have one football game.  Depending on the start time of the match, either Utah St. at Wisconsin or Colorado St. vs. Colorado should be on ESPN.  

Washington at Rutgers appears to fit more within the FOX family, along with whatever game ESPN doesn't take.  FS1 has the Mexican National Team's World Cup qualifier too and may not have as much sway, or any, around when that game can start.

Colorado St. vs. Colorado could conceivably end up on Pac-12 Networks, though I'm guessing that the game wasn't scheduled for a Friday to not be picked up by either FOX or ESPN.

As for 10/6, ESPN has a college football doubleheader, so soccer may end up on ESPN2.

* FOX, as a programming entity & not just the sports division, and ESPN have their upfront presentations to advertisers this week, FOX on Monday & ESPN on Tuesday.  Coupled with spring meetings from several conferences, we might see the first early season TV announcements.  I've believed that this is the time we'll see announcements regarding the Big Ten's TV deals with FOX, ESPN and CBS (can't forget the basketball deal with CBS).  AdAge reports that it has been discussed with advertising executives, so I'm unclear as to the holdup unless it is with one of the other parties.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How I Go About Those Weekly CFB TV Guesses

I don't have much to write about at this point.  I try to stay narrowly focused on college football & men's college basketball and right now the topics are either limited or non-existent, so I figured this would be a neat "behind the curtain" post about how I've went about those weekly CFB TV guesses,  These guidelines don't apply to those ones done in advance of the season, but the guesses of the 12 day picks that would occur on Mondays during the season.

Setup work
The first things I try to make sure I do is head to media sites that FOX, CBS and ESPN operate and note the start times of the telecast windows they have scheduled for their networks.  From there, if any games have already been placed for a specific start time and/or television network, I'll try to plug them in first.  Example of those would be any Big Ten games set aside as night games and/or homecoming games set for a specific start time.  I'll also work to look for any selection rules that need to be adhered to, particularly as the season progresses.

Order of operations
From here, I'll start with the SEC and choose the game I think will air on CBS.  After that, I'll figure out any SEC game(s) to air on ESPN and SEC Network.  I usually slot the top SEC Network as the fourth best SEC game of any given week.  There are exceptions to this in the 12 day process, such as the couple weeks where CBS has two SEC games.

After that, I'll slot in the Big Ten games.  Starting this year I'll have to take into consideration the number of windows available on FOX Sports, but in previous seasons I'd place the Big Ten games, usually at 12pm and 3:30pm ET.  Also, if I felt the ACC had the best overall game for the week, I'd set that for 8pm ET on ABC to get that out of the way.

The next tier I usually slotted was a combination of the Big 12 and Pac-12.  I'd usually try to take into account the number of windows on FOX Sports along with the start times, which usually gave a reasonable indicator of which conference had the broadcast network games.  For both conferences, I'd often work backwards based on the number of Pac-12 Networks telecast windows & if FSN was scheduled for the Big 12.  With both conferences having a fixed number of games for their TV packages (ESPN & FOX Sports with 22 Pac-12 games each, ESPN with 23 Big 12 games, FOX Sports with the remaining Big 12 games minus one game per school), I can usually figure out the number of games per network in a given week, but can't always figure out who has that first choice.

I'll probably look to continue placing a portion of the Big Ten in before the Big 12 and Pac-12, but not the conference in full, now that ESPN and FOX Sports will be splitting the rights of three conferences.

The ACC comes up next.  At this point, I'll make a few adjustments as the ACC may have multiple worthwhile games compared to the Big Ten or Big 12.  I'll also use advance listings to figure our the number of ACC RSN games and if there might be split telecast window for the syndicated ACC Network.

Next up is the American, Mountain West (usually ESPN Networks only) and BYU.  Those three entities will often take up any remaining openings on ESPN Networks or CBS Sports Network.  Lastly, any openings set aside for the MAC on CBS Sports Network will get filled, along with any openings for the Sun Belt Conference.  If there's any remaining games, and there usually are, I'll note the games that would air on ESPN3.

Conference USA isn't listed here because the majority of their television appearances are set before the season and are often capped far in advance.  Usually a couple C-USA games for ESPN are set to air on ESPN Networks but don't have a network or start time finalized, so I'll set those as needed in with the other Group of Five conferences.  At the end, my goal is to make sure I don't miss listing any games, though that has happened to me lately with the early season selections.

If anything, you could look at that & say "wow, there's some clear bias towards the Power 5 when it comes to TV selections that you project", but I'd argue that I'm following the trends that the networks themselves seem to be using as they try to schedule as best they can to get people to watch their games.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Some Big Ten Notes, ESPN and Sublicensing

* The matchups for the third year of the Gavitt Tipoff between Big Ten & Big East schools should be announced in the next few weeks (they showed up on May 3rd last year).  For the first time that I can recall, there appears to be no conflicts with respect to either a Big East or Big Ten school being in another event that would preclude them from a game.

I would like to believe that Michigan St. would be involved as they are the only Big Ten school to have not appeared in the first two years, though they will face Duke in Chicago earlier in the week.

* While we wait on the Big Ten announcement of rights deals with FOX Sports and ESPN (do believe its coming, more on that in a moment), Ad Age reports that FOX Sports has already begun marketing pitches to advertising agencies and those presentations have included that FOX Sports will have Big Ten events.   I realize we, myself included, can get a bit tinfoil hat-ish when an announcement isn't immediately following credible reports from sports media, but we're in the window of the marketing junkets for the next television season and neither side would likely be willing to talk about these items in front of advertising execs if they didn't have the goods.

* You've probably heard from several outlets regarding layoffs at ESPN, and it sucks because some of those people's work you've either read or heard from them on television, radio or podcasts.  In any field, no one wants to see layoffs.  To dovetail this into why there hasn't been a Big Ten rights announcement, here's my thoughts, some of it anecdotal:

These ESPN layoffs have been rumored for multiple months, and during these months, I can't quite recall ESPN announcing any major rights acquisitions, though they were included in bid BAMTech made for the UEFA Champions League rights.  There may have been some smaller announcements.  Sure, many rights have been locked in for some time too, so there haven't necessarily been any major rights floating out there.  From a PR standpoint, I believe these layoffs had to be done far enough in advance to allow the "smoke to die down" before going in front of advertisers and saying anything about new agreements or programming initiatives (the rumored Mike Greenberg morning show).

In my opinion, with a marketing upfront in mid-May, the layoffs had to have "space", whatever that timeframe turns out to be.  I've seen, first hand, layoffs in front of me and then a major marketing initiative that had multi-million dollars committed announced within 24-48 hours.  It left those who weren't laid off with a terrible taste in their mouths and a PR staff trying to tell those who were still employed that this initiative wasn't related to those layoffs, the cost of that initiative would pay long-term dividends and was a small part of that marketing budget.

* Had someone ask about whether ESPN would either broaden sublicense agreements or adjust existing ones.

1) I don't think they'd adjust existing ones, namely because if the terms of that agreement are of a favorable price to the other party, such as CBS Sports Network with the MAC and American Athletic Conference, or presumably whatever bundle of men's basketball games CBS buys from ESPN to air on their broadcast network, what incentive does CBS have to adjust it if it increases what they pay to ESPN if those agreements are locked in for 2-3 years?

2) Could ESPN try to sublicense other properties that they aren't today?  Certainly possible, but the price point has to be right and there has to be a market for that content where others are willing to buy.  A few years back, ESPN wanted to sublicense a portion of their US Open tennis content to Tennis Channel but TC found the price ESPN had set too high.  Maybe ESPN goes back to the market to try to re-sell those items.

Over the past few years, ESPN has sold off its final year of the The Open Championship to NBC instead of working a lame duck year.  Same with rights to NHRA, which were cancelled a year early so they could start an agreement with FOX Sports.  Properties like IndyCar, which are expiring in the next 18 months and had layoffs with two on-air people, could be targeted for an early non-renewal or the possibility of the rights being sold off if a new rightsholder comes in for those races.

And if you think Longhorn Network is a good buyout target, pump the brakes.  If you think they could get out from under by selling to, say, BAMTech, note the part about ESPN (or Disney??) having to majority own BAMTech, which they do not at this time but have the option to become the majority owner over the next several years.  And, to be honest, selling to BAMTech feels like it would be an accounting trick & just moving a property over to someone else's balance sheet to make yours look good, but I don't know how Disney's balance sheet is structured.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Notes: Big Ten Homecoming, Arizona Bowl, Links to Previous Articles

* While we wait on finalization of the Big Ten TV contracts, here's the list of Big Ten homecoming games that have been set so far.  In the past, the start times were set for these in April or May, usually after night games were designated unless a homecoming game was moved to the evening.  I do not know if they will continue to have homecoming start times set in the spring.  Nearly all Big Ten stadiums will have permanent lights coming into the 2017 season due to the expiring TV contracts where primary networks (ie: ABC/ESPN) paid for temporary lights, so this process could be changing.

I was unable to find homecoming dates for Nebraska or Rutgers through the schools or other news reports.  I am currently connecting Ohio St.'s homecoming to this page about the Nursing major's events for homecoming.

9/23 - Michigan at Purdue
10/7 - Illinois at Iowa, Penn St. at Northwestern, Marylan at Ohio St.
10/14 - Michigan at Indiana
10/21 - Indiana at Michigan St., Illinois at Minnesota, Maryland at Wisconsin
10/28 - Wisconsin at Illinois, Rutgers at Michigan, Indiana at Maryland
11/11 - Rutgers at Penn St.

FOX has their network upfront on 5/15 and ESPN has theirs the following day, so maybe those are the two dates to look out for.

* One of the items that may not have carried over as part of the Campus Insiders & ASN joint venture is the rights to the Arizona Bowl, which have been picked up by CBS Sports Network.  A few years back, it was thought that the game would end up on CBSSN, but never did.

An astute observation on the date of the game (December 30th):
To be clear, the Fiesta Bowl organizing committee does also hold the license to the Cactus Bowl, but the Arizona Bowl is under its own operating committee.  With that said, the games will probably overlap in their timeslots as my expectation is the Fiesta will lead into the Orange Bowl, which has been scheduled for a primetime start.

* In the area of self-promotion:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Breakdown of D1 Men's Basketball on TV For 2016-17 By Conference

I've done this in prior seasons, skipped it last year and decided to bring it back for this year.  Here's a breakdown of men's basketball on TV by conference.  I broke the games down in the following categories:
  • Broadcast network
  • Pay TV
  • Syndication & Regional Distribution
    • Includes ASN, ACC Network, ACC RSNs, FSN, NBC RSNs, ROOT Sports
The TV rights are those contracted with the home school's conference, so BYU's home games on BYUtv are nowhere to be found here (add 13 to the 60-80 million column if you want to include them).  All counts include conference tournaments games that were televised.  

The reason syndication was set aside is that the number of viewers is often variable and I wasn't interested in calculating it on a game by game basis, hence it gets its own bucket.  The fact is the data in this column probably isn't as reliable as it could or should be because I am likely under reporting the number of games.   For example, the WCC count is solely their "Game Of The Week" when I could be adding in a lot of other games, but those other games could be contracted out by the schools with the telecasts regionally shared.  I just don't know enough in that area which is why I tried to stick to situations where a conference had entered into an agreement with an entity. An example of that would be the Big 12, who had about 16 institutionally held games distributed through FSN & several Texas games on Longhorn Network.

Anyways, here's the link.  Have fun.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Way Too Early CFB TV Guesses for Week Three For 2017, Take Two.

Took a final crack at Week Three.

If the game has both its time & TV network set (see link above), I'm not going to re-list it here.  If one of the two is missing, I'll list it since something is in doubt.  The links at the top of each week will have those games.  Also, I'm not going to list games that are scheduled for ESPN3, ACC Network Extra, Campus Insiders, CUSA.TV, etc. since the start times for those games are often set by the schools.

Only a handful of games have been changed from the original post in February and that post has some of the external event considerations and selection orders I considered.  If its in bold below, either the time or network changed from the original post, likely due to a schedule release or date change, or in the case of Massachusetts at Temple, I elected to set a start time & network for it.  The four Saturday games that changed have notes on them.

Friday
Massachusetts at Temple, 7pm ESPNU

Saturday
Notre Dame at Boston College, 12pm ABC
Army at Ohio St., 12pm ESPN
Georgia St. at Penn St., 12pm ESPN2
Tulane at Oklahoma, 12pm FS1
UCLA at Memphis, 12pm ESPNU
Iowa St. at Akron, 12pm ESPNEWS
SMU at TCU, 12pm FSN
Purdue at Missouri, 12pm SEC
Samford at Georgia, 12pm SEC
Kansas at Ohio, 12pm CBSSN
FIU at Indiana, 12pm BTN
Morgan St. at Rutgers, 12pm BTN
Connecticut at Virginia, 12:30pm ACC Network
San Jose St. at Utah, 2pm Pac-12
Delaware St. at West Virginia, 2pm ROOT Sports Pittsburgh
Central Michigan at Syracuse, 3pm ACC RSNs
Miami (FL) at Florida St., 3:30pm ABC
Tennessee at Florida, 3:30pm CBS
Oklahoma St. at Pittsburgh, 3:30pm ESPN
Arizona St. at Texas Tech, 3:30pm ESPN2
Baylor at Duke, 3:30pm ESPNU
Georgia Tech at UCF, 3:30pm CBSSN - previously at 7pm on CBSSN where Oregon at Wyoming will air
Bowling Green at Northwestern, 3:30pm BTN
Northern Illinois at Nebraska, 3:30pm BTN
Virginia Tech at East Carolina, 4pm ESPNEWS - had on Thursday night & needed to find a home for it.
Mercer at Auburn, 4pm SEC
UL-Lafayette at Texas A&M, 4pm SEC
Air Force at Michigan, 4:30pm FOX
Oregon St. at Washington St., 5pm Pac-12
LSU at Mississippi St., 7pm ESPN
Colorado St. at Alabama, 7pm ESPN2
Kansas St. at Vanderbilt, 7pm ESPNU
North Carolina at Old Dominion, 7pm beIN Sports - originally on ASN
Kentucky at South Carolina, 7:30pm SEC
North Texas at Iowa, 7:30pm BTN
Middle Tennessee at Minnesota, 7:30pm BTN
Clemson at Louisville, 8pm ABC
Texas at USC, 8pm FOX
Rice at Houston, 8pm ESPNEWS - was at 4pm on ESPNEWS
Northern Colorado at Colorado, 8pm Pac-12
Wisconsin at BYU, 10:15pm ESPN2
Ole Miss at California, 10:30pm ESPN
Fresno St. at Washington, 11pm Pac-12

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The New ASN: Silver Chalice TV?

The news finally appeared that Sinclair Broadcasting's American Sports Network would be changing in its format, with the creation of a new entity involving Sinclair, Silver Chalice and 120 Sports.

From the point of view of college athletics, Campus Insiders and ASN will be providing the live events where 120 Sports, with equity partners including pro sports & media entities, would provide a great deal of the studio programming.

Its hard for me to completely describe the relationship between 120 Sports and Campus Insiders.  I look at them as first cousins.  120 Sports, at this time, doesn't have any live events to contribute, but the equity partners they have should be able to provide the network with a ton of unique content.  The Silver Chalice umbrella counts White Sox & Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf as its chairman.

Campus Insiders and Sinclair have direct relationships with the following collegiate conferences for live events:
  • Conference USA 
    • It is believed that this may be the only live events agreement that Sinclair is bringing from ASN in addition to a schedule of games on Campus Insiders.
  • Mountain West
    • SportsLabs, a media platform in the Silver Chalice family, is the platform running the conference's website.  Campus Insiders also provides the framework for the Mountain West Network digital network.
  • Patriot League
  • WCC
    • Similar to the Mountain West, the conference's website and digital network are in the Silver Chalice family.
All three entities have partnered on distributing the Arizona Bowl the last two years, with ASN providing the telecast and both Campus Insiders and 120 Sports handling digital delivery and exclusive second screen programming.

The ACC's website is also maintained by SportsLabs, along with websites from multiple schools, including Wyoming, Penn & Kansas St.  Digital network repositories for both the ACC and Big 12 exist over at Campus Insiders too.

For the new entity, the feeling I get it that Sinclair will provide it with the distribution outlet of digital subchannels on several Sinclair owned TV stations that previously housed the 24/7 ASN feed.  From that point of view, you might view it as Sinclair getting out of the business of actively managing a sports channel and reducing its risk by providing the blank canvas of airspace to Silver Chalice and 120 Sports to program over it, with those two entities, hopefully, providing better distribution digitally, better content and improved event production over what Sinclair provided.

So what events could make it to the new network?  My initial expectation is Conference USA will be there at the start.  Maybe this network tries to attract another former ASN tentpole in the Atlantic 10, who has prior experience with Campus Insiders.  After that, I don't know because I don't know how the existing contracts are structured for the Mountain West and WCC with their TV partners to handle another national TV partner if this entity is considered as such, particularly in cases where the "conference footprint" is designated as in-market with streaming in the out-of-market areas.  Over time, I could see it being a player for media rights, particularly with a conference like the Mountain West who has expressed dissatisfaction with existing TV partners over the number of evening football games and how it has eroded ticket sales.  Or maybe a conference like the Big Ten, who has elected to go with shorter term rights deals with ESPN and FOX Sports, would look at Campus Insiders to handle something a package of content like BTN Plus, but with a few football & men's basketball games in the future.  Whether they could pony up the cash to get a deal done is anyone's guess, and as anyone who follows Sports TV Ratings on Twitter will tell you, digital viewers do not equal TV viewers, so the revenues from linear TV can't necessarily be derived through digital distribution.

What I'm also curious about is the linear television distribution beyond Sinclair's multicast channels.  Campus Insiders has been able to provide live content through several different mediums, such as Verizon's go90 mobile video delivery app, Dish Network's Sling TV and Twitter.  Will the network continue to have dedicated feeds, or live event programming through those delivery methods?  ASN had live events provided to several RSNs in the Xfinity family along with unaffiliated RSNs like Altitude, NESN, MASN and Cox Sports.  Will that continue or end, particularly if a standalone channel is started?

More questions than answers, but hopefully it will provide easier access to these games for fans, higher quality programming and a better return to the schools, either financially at the gate through more control of start times or a rights fee off the production of live events.