Monday, July 31, 2017

Commentary & Analysis on Big Ten Content Numbers

Read this post first so you'll have some context about this information.

* If you caught me ranting a few days ago about how the numbers didn't add up based on a set of Reddit CFB notes about BTN's football game coverage, its less justified than it was on that evening.  In short, I was ranting that the number of 40 BTN football games and FOX Sports and ESPN Networks splitting 50 football games, 25 games a side, left five games unaccounted for with the conference at 95 games under their control in 2017.  With the  maximum number at 27 each for ESPN and FOX Sports, the BTN game number of 40 is still one game short, but I'm willing to let that go and bet they'll have a 41st game.  By using 27 as the base number with FOX Sports telecast windows instead of 25, it also makes the math work over there (its a long story, I thought FOX Sports had two too many game windows if you read the post & comments).

* Does the requirement for two football appearances from each school, with at least one intraconference game, still stand for BTN?  I believe it does, or lets say I've seen or read nothing to dissuade me of that opinion.  Frankly, I think FOX would want it around, even if it slightly neuters their own package of games since they have majority ownership in BTN.

* By doubling their coverage of the men's basketball tournament, BTN has essentially picked up the games that ESPN previously carried within the men's conference tournament.  This is the same coverage that the SEC Network provides for their conference tournament until the semfinals and final are covered on ESPN.  Looking over the three days that ESPN previously carried games (one on Wednesday mid-afternoon, two on Thursday evening and two on Friday afternoon), my expectation is the following:
  • No replacement of the Wednesday game.  There's nothing to move up of equal value.
  • On Thursday, the Big 12 evening quarterfinals could move from ESPNU to ESPN2, and the American Athletic First Round could air in full on ESPNU instead of game 1 on ESPNU and the last two on ESPNEWS.
  • On Friday, the American Athletic afternoon quarterfinals could move from ESPN2 to ESPN.  If there was a desire to air another conference tournament during the afternoon on ESPN2, the Sun Belt could be moved from an ESPN3 exclusive.  The SEC Network has the SEC's tournament and I struggle with moving their tournament off that network, but it is possible that they could leapfrog the American onto ESPN as a simulcast of sorts.
  • I had a hard time believing FS1 would get any portion of the conference tournament after looking over the game times that ESPN had.  FS1 usually will have commitments to NASCAR on Fridays for practice (either Las Vegas or Phoenix based on the schedule) plus the Big East tournament most years.
* It appears that the plan is for the two primary football TV partners to have around 15-18 primetime football games a year.  BTN will continue to have night games too.  I swear I read that the plan was for 30 primetime football games per year among all three entities, with nearly all coming before November, or at least through the first weekend of November.

* Why is FOX's number of football games more elastic where ESPN's is more concrete? I don't know the exact reason, but there's always variability in the number of home non-conference games you may end up scheduling.  If we assume seven home games per school, at 14 schools, you would have 91 regular season games.  With 27 games for ESPN, the low end of 24 for FOX Sports and a base number of 40 for BTN, you end with 91 games.  

FOX could also be  attempting to cover themselves with respect to other programming commitments like MLB, NASCAR, UFC (if renewed).  There's also the matter of whether Friday football games will continue to be in future season schedules.  FS1 is scheduled to air four of the five Friday games in 2017.  The Friday that ESPN is airing a game happens to be one that FS1 also has one.

* I don't have any minimums or maximums around the number of games that will air on any of these networks, with the exception of the ten regular season basketball games on CBS.

* The game counts for both ESPN and FOX Sports in the area of men's basketball are interesting.  The number of conference controlled games that previously aired on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS in the regular season each of the past three seasons was either 70 or 71 games, including the five conference tournament games that will air on BTN in the future.  If you're comparing the number of regular season games that ESPN Networks and FOX Sports will have rights to, the number increases from 65 games last athletic year to anywhere from 77 to 85 games.  It should be noted that 25-26 additional conference controlled games aired on ESPN3 last year, usually non-conference games.  It could be inferred that some of the ESPN3 games are being absorbed by the new TV deals of ESPN and FOX Sports, but some of those could end up with BTN or to beef up the BTN+ subscription package, which I guess is still a thing.

* ESPNU appears to be limited to non-conference football and a handful of men's basketball games.  I don't have any sense around whether FS2 or FSN is involved on the FOX Sports side.  My magic 8 ball says "no" for football & "unlikely" for men's basketball, especially when you consider that FOX doesn't have a RSN that they own or are affiliated with in Illinois, part of Iowa and a large portion of Pennsylvania.  FS2 has distribution issues but will have at least two Big 12 non-conference football games and could have one Big 12 intraconference game depending on the number of games played in the AL Championship Series.  I would expect FS2 to continue airing a select number of Big East men's basketball games too.

* If CBS is limited to Sundays for their regular season basketball windows, expect FOX to roll with Big East-Big Ten doubleheaders on Saturdays on the broadcast network.  Going back to the 2014-15 athletic year, only three of the 25 regular season games on CBS were scheduled for Saturdays and none last season:
  • 1/17/15: Michigan St. at Maryland
    • CBS had the AFC championship on Sunday
  • 12/5/15: Temple at Wisconsin
    • Lead-in to SEC football championship pregame show
  • 2/6/16: Michigan St. at Michigan
    • CBS had Super Bowl 50 on Sunday
* I couldn't get a lot of information about Olympic Sports and women's basketball, other than ESPN's coverage.  I would expect BTN to remain involved in that area.  As for events on FOX or FS1, I'm less certain on that.  They may be willing to let coverage stay with BTN.

A Few Content Parameters for the Big Ten Rights Agreements

A source was able to provide me with more concrete numbers & facts about the Big Ten rights agreements, so lets get some of that information out to you, in alphabetical order of the rightsholder:

I have some thoughts about these items here.

  • As previously announced, the agreement with the conference and FOX Entertainment Group has been extended by five years to 2032.
  • The men's basketball tournament will now have ten games air on the network, up from five.  
  • Rights maintained to the semifinals and championship of the men's basketball tournament.
  • At least ten regular season games per season.
  • Sundays will be the primary day for Big Ten basketball to air on CBS.
  • All of these parameters are about the same as the previous agreement.
ESPN Networks
  • 27 football games
    • All intraconference games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
    • At least six primetime games per season on ABC or ESPN
  • 38 men's basketball games
    • Most intraconference games on ESPN or ESPN2
  • Broad coverage of women's basketball and Olympic sports
FOX Sports
  • 24 to 27 football games per year
    • Nine games total in primetime on FOX and FS1
  • Top pick in the draft of weeks to select first in football
  • Football championship game every year
  • 39-47 men's basketball games
    • Potentially ten of those games on FOX broadcast network
It was stressed to me that CBS, ESPN Networks and FOX Sports will share priority with respect to game selection within men's basketball.  FOX Sports has priority with the respect to choosing first when choosing the weeks they want top choice in football, but ESPN will be choosing first some weeks.  You could also word that as FOX has top overall choice of football games.

You'll also see some co-branding when it comes to on screen logos.  ESPN started running them in the past year or two with the "Big Ten on ESPN", similar to "SEC/ACC/American on ESPN".  Expect FOX (and CBS?) to do the same.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A (TV) Window Into The Future For 2017 CFB & MBK

* ESPN's telecast schedules were published for October and November for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS and SEC Network.  ESPNU will likely following in the next month or two.  As with anything related to TV, these are subject to change.

A few things I noticed:
  • ESPNEWS has a college football window on Thursday, November 16th at 7pm.  My best guess for the game to be potentially shown is Tennessee St. at Jacksonville St.  ESPNEWS has carried Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina on the Thursday before Thanksgiving the past two seasons.
  • The addition of the PK80 Invitational has had a couple side effects:
    • ABC (12pm & 3:30pm), ESPN (8pm) and ESPN2 (11am) are the only college football game windows over those three channels on Black Friday.  Based on the available games, I believe they'll be splitting the American & ACC games over those four windows.  Navy at Houston might end up being on ABC at 12pm to keep them away from a 10am local / 11am ET start.

      Expect one MAC window on ESPNU on Black Friday since their television schedule note they would have a game on the network that day, probably in the morning.

    • ESPNEWS will get used on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Sunday 11/27 to show college basketball that is being pushed off ESPN2 and ESPNU (presumably since we don't know ESPNU's intended schedule) from events such as the Advocare Invitational, Wooden Legacy and NIT Tip Off.  I do not know if ESPN3 will get used for any of the events moving for the PK80.  My assumption is that the PK80 was given priority over other ESPN owned events as I see nearly all their games on ESPN or ESPN2 so far.

    • Six games from the Battle 4 Atlantis will again be on ESPN and ESPN2.  The championship is listed as airing on ESPN before the 3rd place game on ESPN2 on Black Friday.  The other six games have been carried by AXS.TV the past couple years and I do not know of any changes to that arrangement.

    • More of an administrative thing than anything else, but I've stripped the scheduled matchups off the PK80 telecast windows.  Not because the matchups are in doubt, but because it is not known which matchups will be scheduled for a particular time.
  • SEC Network, provided these times hold up, could be playing around with some alternative telecast start times in November.  November 11th and 25th have the 2nd telecast window at 3:30pm ET instead of 4pm, while November 18th has all three windows adjusted with start times of 1pm, 4:30pm and 8pm ET.

    The 18th does have five of its nine games being played at sites in the Central Time Zone with one of the five being a game vs. a FCS opponent (Mercer at Alabama), which would seem to be destined for the network along with Wofford at South Carolina.  The 18th will also have two CBS telecast windows (12pm & 3:30pm), which should pick off two of the five intraconference games available.

    October 7th only has one game listed for 4pm too, but I bet there's more to be shown on that day besides one game.

  • In the overnight hours on Monday 11/13 to Tuesday 11/14, I did not see any scheduled college basketball telecast windows on ESPN or ESPN2, which would normally be the time of the year for ESPN to present their 24 hour tipoff marathon.  While this is subject to change and we should know more in the next few weeks, its possible that the entire event has moved over to ESPNU or that they've elected to not do it.

    So far, the only games scheduled for 11/14 are on ESPN.  Those would be the Champions Classic doubleheader.
  • ESPN2 has a pair of generic listings for "SEC College Basketball" at 9pm ET and "Pac-12 College Basketball" on 11/20 at 11:30pm ET.  Two SEC games are currently available on 11/13, but I expect the 11/20 game to be North Carolina at Stanford.
* Patrick Marshall of White And Blue Review passed along a release from FloHoops that the subscription website would now be the exclusive rightsholder for the Paradise Jam, which previously had about half of the event on CBS Sports Network and the rest on streaming services.  FloHoops happened to be the subscription streaming service for the games that went without TV last year.  For FloHoops, the deal is for all events organized by Basketball Travelers, Inc.

FloHoops costs about $30 a month or about half of that per month if you buy a yearly subscription.  Both Patrick and I are curious to see whether the lack of a linear TV partner will affect the quality of the field in future events. 

For CBSSN, maybe that opens up the possibility of carrying the Cayman Islands Classic, which runs from Monday 11/20 to Wednesday 11/22.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Group of Five Conferences, TV Rights & Their Convergence in 2019-20

There could be a large amount of college sports to renegotiate with the rights agreements for three of the Group of Five conferences (the American, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt) plus Army football expiring after the 2019-20 athletic year.   Its a lot of inventory to potentially hit the open market, or at least the negotiating table, all at the same time in both football and men's basketball, presumably in late 2018 or early 2019.

Before that, C-USA will be negotiating new rights agreements starting this year for deals expiring from ESPN, CBS Sports Network and STADIUM after 2017-18, while their agreement with beIN Sports runs for an additional year to 2018-19.  BYU's agreement with ESPN for football will expire after the 2018 season and they should be working through exclusive negotiations in the near future.  The WCC, where BYU competes in most other sports, has its contract with ESPN expire after 2018-19 as well.

(The MAC, if you're wondering, starts the ten year extension they signed on their previous TV deal during the 2017-18 athletic year)

EDIT: BYU's contract has an option year for 2019 that can be exercised by ESPN, so they could be included in this group of conferences.  Per AD Tom Holmoe, they'll be talking with ESPN soon per an interview from March.

These conferences plus Army all hit the market at roughly the same time with sports broadcasting at a bit of a crossroads.  Yes, the Big Ten got paid, but in the process ESPN laid off a bunch of on-camera personnel and are looking to retool key parts of their programming.  Digital-centric broadcaster STADIUM is entering the market this summer.  The American believes that there is a Power 6 that they are a part of and the Mountain West has been unhappy with how often their football games end up as evening games which has contributed to a decline in season ticket bases for at least one Mountain West school.

The movement of about 25 Big Ten games to FOX Sports plus the creation of the ACC Network, whether it happens using existing channel space like ESPNEWS or a completely new outlet similar to how the SEC Network started up, should provide some open space on Saturdays for a few more games from these conferences, probably on ESPN2 and ESPNU, but a better judge of that would be once we see how many telecast windows ESPN ends up using across their networks during the 2017 season.

Where the Group of Five conferences do hold value to ESPN is on Thursday & Friday nights, especially when games are scheduled vs. Power 5 schools or for a school that is expected to compete for the Group of Five spot within the New Years Six.  For the 2017 football season, they have at least one game air on ESPN or ESPN2 for 13 of 23 through mid-November. I excluded Thanksgiving & Black Friday, more because Black Friday has a lot of TV windows, but even that day you'll find two American Athletic & one Mountain West game for their TV partners in 2017 with the two American games to air on ABC or ESPN.

Eyeballing the table at Sports Media Watch for the 2016 season, most of the non-Power 5 Friday games had 500K-600K average viewers where the Thursday night games typically drew above a million viewers, though Houston as a potential New Years Six representative for the Group of Five helped drive some of those numbers.  Yes, the Thursday night games go against the NFL and the Friday games shift to ESPN2 once the NBA is in season.

CBS Sports Network, on the other side of the equation, is dependent on the Group of Five conferences and, right now, ESPN provides them some of that content with their MAC and American live events coming to CBSSN through sublicenses.  That handcuffs them a bit, because that content could go away if ESPN opts not to sublicense to them or the American were to move on from ESPN and doesn't have CBSSN as a direct rightsholder.  CBSSN will lose Navy as a direct partner next season as their football rights are to return to ESPN after this season.   Some of the Mountain West's anger regarding evening start times extends to CBSSN as well.  All of this leaves CBSSN with a lot of grey area with respect to how much programming space they truly have to offer a conference if they want to be the primary rightsholder for any of these conferences.

My early gut feeling is that ESPN will try to engage with each of these conferences they have rights for to try to retain them, potentially earlier than their exclusive negotiating window to try to take advantage of an uncertain marketplace as we truly don't have a great idea what major digital companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Netflix, Amazon, etc. will pay for college football and, to be honest, college football that is not from one of the conferences that draws a lot of viewers on Saturdays.   They'll work to provide an increase in rights without overbidding for programming that, right now, costs a lot less to own the rights for.  Maybe hoping the conference will take a discount in return for a longer agreement.

As for Army, I feel would stay with CBS Sports Network,  A hunch, nothing more.  Army wasn't really thrilled with games on ESPN3 a few years back and both Army and Navy have extended their agreement with CBS to carry the Army-Navy game well into the next decade.

Where I do think these conferences have some wiggle room, potentially, is the pattern several TV agreements have moved towards: caps on the number of games a TV partner can carry with special provisions, such as the Mountain West, Pac-12 and Big Ten granting a maximum number of games to each primary rightsholder or C-USA signing their various agreements, though C-USA's agreements were more out of necessity and not necessarily by design.  For example, I can envision scenarios where a rightsholder doesn't increase the dollar amount of their rights fee to one of these conferences or provides a smaller increase, but instead relinquishes their status as the exclusive rightsholder in exchange for terms that are more favorable (ie. taking 10-15 games, maybe nearly all Thursday & Friday games in football or games on a specific night of the week in basketball).  If the conference can then swing it where they still have good inventory for a second or third rightsholder to buy in, then it could remain lucrative for them, especially if they want to test the digital waters for themselves.

So what do you see happening in three years?  Shorter or longer agreements? More or less use of linear television in these agreements?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Notes: Holiday Bowl, Cayman Islands Classic & Men's Basketball Scheduling Considerations

* The Holiday Bowl has changed TV partners, moving from ESPN to FOX Sports with FS1 televising the upcoming matchup on December 28th.  In regards to why FS1 over FOX broadcast network where the Foster Farms Bowl airs, I can't give you a good reason if you are solely looking at the stature of the two bowl games.  The Foster Farms Bowl is behind the Holiday Bowl in the Pac-12's selection order, while the Big Ten is more proactive about placing schools at bowls to avoid recent reappearances at bowl games, even if it is to be believed that the Holiday is placed in a tier above the Foster Farms Bowl.

Either way, I suspect the date chosen for the Holiday Bowl was planned around the start of men's basketball conference play for the Pac-12 and Big East.  For the Pac-12, conference play is expected to start on 12/27 & 12/28, so if FS1 has interest in any games over those two days, they could be targeting 12/27.  Big East openers could be spread over the evening of Friday the 29th (Cotton Bowl at night) & afternoon of Saturday the 30th with the Fiesta & Orange Bowl games starting at 4pm ET, and FS2 or FSN could pick up a game or two if needed.  CBS Sports Network could also take a Big East game through their sublicense with FOX Sports too.

As for the Big Ten, they appear to be playing non-conference basketball during much of the week between Christmas & New Years based on non-conference games scheduled for Wisconsin, Purdue, and likely Ohio St. but that doesn't mean FS1 couldn't try to take one if they can fit one in.

* I exchanged tweets a few weeks back with Joe Wright, the CEO of the Cayman Islands Classic requesting information about television rights for the tournament being played November 20-22 and released its bracket yesterday.  Joe replied back that the information would be announced in eight weeks, which would peg the announcement to mid-July.  So where could it air?

  • ESPN's group of networks - This one feels less likely without using ESPN3 and ESPNEWS.  ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU are expected have basketball from the Maui Invitational, CBE Classic, Battle 4 Atlantis and Legends Classic, coupled with Monday Night Football, the possibility of the NBA on Wednesday and one MAC football game for ESPNU on Tuesday.  The Men Who Speak Up Main Event has also had its championship game carried over this time frame in previous seasons too but the championship game has typically been at a time that would not interfere here.  
  • FOX Sports' group of networks - A large portion of the Big East's non-conference schedule is unknown, so I can't say that the schedule is open for their networks.  Right now, I spot two non-conference games over those three days.  EDIT: Per the comment at the bottom of the post, UEFA Champions League has a matchday scheduled for the US afternoon of 11/21 & 11/22, so there may be a conflict.
  • NBCSN - With the NHL schedule not yet released, along with NBCSN's telecast schedule, I can't give you a yes/no answer on that one.
  • CBS Sports Network - They should be tied up with final day of the Paradise Jam on Monday and the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday and Wednesday.  They could certainly be involved in the afternoon portions each day.
  • STADIUM - Same as NBCSN.  No real idea what programming they could have planned for those dates.
  • AXS.TV - I threw them in here because they are partial rightsholders for the Battle 4 Atlantis.
  • The field - Turner Sports? beIN Sports? Paid streaming of the event by a 3rd party?
The interesting part about the scheduling of the event is the semifinal games being split apart with one at 2:30pm ET and the other at 7:30pm.  From that point of view, if ESPN were the TV partner, maybe they figure out a way to use ESPN for Maui or the Cayman Islands in the afternoon as ESPN wasn't used on these dates, though it is the middle of NFL season where ESPN produces a lot of NFL studio programming.

Either way, it will be interesting to see where this event gets slotted in.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Notes on STADIUM, ROOT Sports Rebranding & Bowl Schedule Updates

* I didn't catch something, or catch onto something that was brought up to me as a point of clarification about STADIUM, but its an important distinction to take note of as it was something that was mentioned in the Mountain West's release of their initial 2017-18 men's intraconference basketball schedule:
Regional partner AT&T Sports Net/ROOT Sports and the Mountain West Network on STADIUM will begin their picks after the national television lineup has been announced.
I'll get to the AT&T Sports Net part in the next section, but the part about Mountain West Network on STADIUM is what I'm calling out as it wasn't clear to me, or went right over my head, that the Campus Insiders brand is going away, along with the 120 Sports name.  It doesn't mean that much in terms of actually watching the games, but I think I'll have to be more clear about STADIUM the 24/7 single feed platform & STADIUM as the back end video provider for the Mountain West, Patriot League and WCC for live events. Maybe the STADIUM folks, conference and schools will be doing the same.  I think what I'll need to do for those events is go by the brand names those conferences use (MW Network, Patriot League Network, TheW.TV).

* Three of the four ROOT Sports regional sports networks will be rebranding to AT&T SportsNet in July.  ROOT Sports Northwest, which is not rebranding as it is majority owned by the Seattle Mariners, will retain a loose affiliation it appears as they'll continue to carry Big Sky and Mountain West sports.  I assume they'll continue be involved in the WCC's Game of The Week men's basketball package as well.

* Two of the three bowl games on December 26th have had their start times set with the Quick Lane Bowl at 5:15pm ET and the Cactus Bowl following at 9pm ET.  The Heart of Dallas Bowl could slot into a 1:30pm ET start with all three scheduled to air on ESPN.

So, where does this leave the Holiday Bowl?  Good question.  Based on those start times, I don't think it would be on ESPN on 12/26, which may have been the date left open by ESPN if they were to come to an agreement to televise the game as a post Christmas bowl.

The other date & time open on ESPN, potentially, is December 23rd at 10:30pm ET following the Dollar General Bowl.  Holiday Bowl executive director Mark Neville indicated they would like a post Christmas date, but did not rule out a pre-Christmas date.  It would be the only bowl game involving two Power 5 conference with primary tie-ins played before Christmas.

I would not rule out the possibility of the Holiday Bowl on ESPN2 as the Independence, Gator and Outback have aired on The Deuce in prior years so that ESPN could get multiple New Years Day bowls on the air at about the same time, or air a bowl game on a Monday without cutting into Monday Night Football pregame.  Bowl games on ESPN2 usually happen 1-2 times a year, so its not worth dismissing the possibility.  Could happen with the Heart of Dallas Bowl too if they wanted to run the game back to back with the Holdiay Bowl.  The Heart of Dallas Bowl originally started out as a New Years Day bowl game on ESPNU until ESPN bought the game a few years back.

Outside of ESPN televised bowl games, the Foster Farms Bowl had its date & start time set too.

Friday, June 9, 2017

More CFB TV Odds & Ends

I probably did give the short end of the stick to ESPN and CBS Sports Network by not giving their selections their own notes post.  Here's a few additional items on them you might find interesting.

* I was a bit surprised that ESPN didn't pick up California at North Carolina, but upon closer inspection, maybe we shouldn't be.  I don't know the order of events on how selections were made, but when you see that Bowling Green at Michigan St. is on ESPNU, I guess a conclusion that could be drawn is that it was the last selection for either ESPN or FOX Sports on the opening weekend.  Add that Troy at Boise St. being played at 3:45pm, maybe a concession to the concern about so many evening start times in the Mountain West, it left very little room for the game on ESPN's channels.

Akron at Penn St. might be the one game you would point to & ask "That one over a game with two Power 5 schools"?  My assumption there is Penn St.'s position in several early top 25 predictions played a role.  Might be more interest in the Nittany Lions too nationally compared to the Bears & the Heels.

Also, to be clear about this, to my knowledge ESPN does not set Raycom Sports' telecast time for the ACC Network and apparently it can vary from week to week, with their window on 9/9 at 7pm ET.   I realize that it isn't ideal for Pac-12 schools to travel east & get set for a noon game, but with this one not on ESPN, I don't think they had much sway on the start time.

And regarding the 7pm start time for ULM at Florida St. on Raycom's ACC Network over-the-air syndication package, it is my understanding that Florida St. has made requests for no early afternoon starts in September going forward, similar to how the Pac-12 Arizona schools strongly prefer night games during September.  The key goal being staying out of the heat.

* I realize some of the releases from 2013 for Florida vs. Michigan indicated the game would be a primetime game and at one point, the game was targeted for a move to Sunday, September 3rd, presumably to meet that primetime goal.  My suspicion is that once the two schools decided to stay on Saturday, a decision had to be made about whether to play the game with some overlap with Alabama vs. Florida St., maybe on ESPN in the evening.  From the final result, the decision was made to play the Cowboys Classic in the afternoon and have (roughly) back-to-back high profile neutral site games on ABC.

* Found it slightly amusing to see Colorado St. move up the start time of their opener vs. Oregon St. by 30 minutes to 2:30pm ET / 12:30pm MT, touting that it was so it could be the first FBS game played "according to current schedules".  Portland St. at BYU was set for the same original start time (3pm ET) before the start time change.

The "according to current schedules" part is amusing because Hawai'i at Massachusetts does not yet have a start time, nor a known TV partner, but could conceivably be the first game started.   Unless CBS Sports Network has something planned for approximately 90 minutes of fill time between the end of this game & USF at San Jose St. that truly needs 90 minutes, the move could be pointless unless an agreement has been reached to start UMass's game after CSU's.

* As we are awaiting start for a fair portion of SEC games being played in the first three weeks, I did find it odd that the start times for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU games were released, but only by ESPN and the schools themselves.  I can't find anything on the conference website regarding a release for these games and their start times.

So where are the SEC Network games?  "Coming soon" is the best answer I can give, or more precisely the answer I've been given when asked.  Maybe ESPN is crafting a schedule with the schools, or maybe its ready and we're waiting for...something (College World Series to complete?).

* With the BTN early season schedule announced, all Big Ten schools have a home night game scheduled except for Iowa, Maryland and Michigan.  From Scott Dochterman, the Big Ten schools will now have the potential for night games to be set during the season, but cannot be flexed into the evening on a six day hold.  Maybe it is possible for a six day hold to occur where a game is scheduled for 7:30pm ET or 8pm ET with the only remaining item to be set is the TV outlet.

* 38 C-USA controlled games remain without a planned TV or streaming media partner.  Many of those could end up with CUSA.TV.  Last year, Campus Insiders carried six games online exclusively, but with STADIUM coming into play combining both ASN and Campus Insiders, I'm unsure if there will be STADIUM online exclusives that will be separate from those being shown on the 24/7 feed.

It was mentioned in the C-USA TV release that ESPN3 would be adding games and schools like Old Dominion, Charlotte and Rice were working towards being able to self produce ESPN3 content, so we may see the use of school productions for ESPN3 pick up the slack.

* Looking over the CBS Sports Network schedule openings,  I gather that the openings for the AAC & MAC are the following:

9/23: 12pm MAC or AAC
9/30: 12pm MAC or AAC
10/7: 12pm & 7pm MAC or AAC
10/14: 3:30pm & 7pm MAC or AAC
10/21: 7pm MAC or AAC
10/28: 11:30am & 6:30pm MAC & AAC
11/4: 12pm AAC
11/11: 7pm AAC
11/18: 12pm AAC
11/25: 12pm AAC

The MAC has nine scheduled telecast windows so far on CBSSN, so my belief is they will have windows on the three dates with two open telecast windows (10/7, 10/14, 10/28).  That would leave the AAC, excluding the Navy home games that are under a separate television agreement, with 14 sublicensed windows from ESPN which is in line with the agreement the two television entities have.

In case you're wonder why the Boston College-Connecticut game at Fenway Park is on CBSSN, the game was originally a UConn home game and remains as such with the venue change.

* With the American at 14 selections on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, they'll need 14 in-season selections for those same networks to hit what appears to be a minimum of 28 games on those four channels.  With 73 conference controlled games available to ESPN as a rightsholder (five other games are part of Navy's TV rights), the end of season breakdown should look something like this, assuming the 28 game minimum is realized:

  • ESPNEWS & CBS Sports Network: 30-38
    • 13-15 of those games on CBS Sports Network
  • ESPN3 & local/regional TV: 7-15 (10-20% of games)
    • 13 already set for ESPN3 or local/regional TV