Monday, January 14, 2019

Big 12 Football Championship Game Rights Leaving FOX Sports

Sports Business Journal reported this morning that FOX Sports had given up their rights to the Big 12 football championship games, not just in future odd numbered seasons, but this coming season (2019).  The publication's First Look podcast noted two items were in play:

1) The cost of the game to FOX, reported to be in the $20 million range, didn't justify the return FOX could get for carrying the game. EDIT: a separate SBJ piece for their Daily publication notes that FOX gained the rights to the 2017 game only through mediation involving conference expansion that didn't occur.

2) Scheduling.  I'll go into this one in further details.

So let's handle this Q&A style:

What are the scheduling concerns that I see?

When the game came on the market and was listed as rotating between ESPN and FOX, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby mentioned several times that Friday night was a potential time slot for the game, subject to AT&T Stadium availability.  Go figure, the Cowboys playing Thursday night games at home the Thursday after Thanksgiving, the day before a Friday championship game (a week after Black Friday), may have cut into that stadium availability.  Sports Business Journal mentioned Friday was a non-starter in their podcast, but that's incorrect based on the history of trying to set the 2017 date.

Another hit to the possibility of a Friday night game on FOX is the start of WWE Smackdown in 2019.  Assuming FOX is hooked to airing Smackdown only on the broadcast network, that would leave FS1 as your broadcast outlet, which might have been less palatable to the conference.

(And yes, that could be a concern for the Pac-12 in future years, though if they aren't concerned about TV ratings & want better attendance, Saturday might be ideal)

So we keep it anchored to Saturday with FOX, who has the Big Ten championship on their broadcast network in primetime through 2022, so the Big 12 is locked out of a nighttime game unless its FS1.  Play alongside the SEC championship in the afternoon?  Seems like a losing proposition compared to 12pm ET, which I know fans of the conference dislike.

Financials didn't work for FOX?

I guess not.  Without parroting everything from the First Look podcast linked in the first paragraph, FOX sought to have their payout decreased, maybe in exchange for guaranteeing the early afternoon slot on the broadcast network or for the game to air on FS1 at night (I know neither of these things to be factual, so take those with a grain of salt).  It sounds like the minimum the Big 12 would take for a rights fee was still too much for FOX to pay.

The 2017 game had a 3.8 rating for FOX (Oklahoma vs. TCU).  It had a 6.2 for Texas vs. Oklahoma, and maybe FOX looks at that as a barometer for what the game can get on its best matchup & everything else being less than that for the cost it pays.

Both ratings numbers came from Sports Media Watch.

Where's the game going to air?

ESPN was the leader per Sports Business Journal.  I tend to believe that & the rights in even numbered years already reside here too.  They can play around with putting it in primetime at the same time as the ACC championship, flexing both games based on the matchup to air on ESPN or ABC.  This used to happen with the Big 12 when they had regular season games up against the ACC championship.  Compared to the perceptions of a game moving from FOX to FS1, a game moving between ABC & ESPN has a less negative perception.  That option could end up relegating the Mountain West over to ESPN2 for the final championship game of their current agreement.

If ESPN elects to stay with their current agreement & not add these games, maybe CBS would enter the picture, but I'm not picturing that scenario.

What's FOX going to air that Saturday?

College basketball seems likely.  They had around 400K-700K viewers for a tripleheader of Big East & Pac-12 games this year per ShowBuzzDaily.  That's a time of the year where they now schedule the opening of Big Ten intraconference play, so maybe they can get a matchup for the broadcast network like they did in 2017 with Ohio St. vs. Wisconsin before the conference's football championship game.  That one got over a million viewers.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 College Football Scheduling Notes

* So far, only Arizona at Hawai'i is scheduled for "Week 0".  And since 12 games can be played over 14 weeks this year, the need for "Week 0" is greatly diminished.  That said, the following FBS schools could end up moving a game to "Week 0" and/or adding a 13th game:

Oregon St.
Air Force
Fresno St.
San Diego St.
San Jose St.

The game being moved does not have to be a home game for these schools.  In my opinion, Army is the least likely to make any moves since their schedule already stretches over 16 weeks when the Army-Navy game is accounted for.

* Ohio St. at Northwestern was moved to a Friday, October 18, 2019 and in my opinion, that one will be an ESPN televised game for a couple reasons:
  1. It is right in the middle of FOX's MLB postseason coverage.  It would fall right around the Game 6-7 area of the American League Division Services, which should be on FS1.
  2. FOX broadcast network will be on its 3rd week of airing of WWE Smackdown, which starts at the beginning of October. 
It gives ESPN a nice game with a flagship college football school to counterprogram with.  If you look closer at that week, you'll see that both the Big 12 (TCU at Kansas St.) and Pac-12 (UCLA at Stanford) have Thursday night games that week.  Both conferences have a full compliment of games on Saturday 10/19 too.  Don't know if that means ESPN is going to take all three games that week because they'll have several selections from those conferences & FOX could be limited in the number of TV windows.

Penn St. at Maryland (9/27) and Iowa at Nebraska (11/29, Black Friday) are the other intraconference Big Ten games being played on a weekday/weeknight.  South Dakota St. at Minnesota, Tulsa at Michigan St. & UMass at Rutgers are being played on weeknights as well.

* The ACC Network received a pair of selections to start 2019, with Georgia Tech at Clemson on Thursday 8/29 and Notre Dame at Duke on Saturday 11/9.  For those who avidly pay attention to TV ratings of sporting events, the ACC Network might fall into the same camp as the SEC Network, which is not rated nationally by Nielsen.

* Interesting conundrum for CBS for the upcoming season with the choice of their primetime CBS game.  Will it be on 9/21, where Notre Dame at Georgia is an option, or will they stay with the Saturday that LSU at Alabama falls (11/9)?  I feel the setup is better for a doubleheader on 9/21 with five SEC intraconference games plus Notre Dame at Georgia, where 11/9 has only three SEC games plus LSU at Alabama.

* The following agreements, either rights or sublicenses, ended at the end of the 2018 regular season and I'm not aware of any continuation of these agreements at this time:
  • MAC on CBS Sports Network
    • Twelve games sublicensed from ESPN
  • Conference USA on beIN Sports
  • ESPN sublicense of SEC games to CBS
    • Two game sublicense from ESPN.  
    • Existing rights for SEC on CBS is a separate deal.
* The following rights agreements expire after the 2019 season:
* FOX has swapped its UFC commitments in exchange for Premier Boxing Champions events, with potentially less conflicts.  Two Saturdays will have FS1 cards: 9/21 & 11/9.  Both dates happen to have a Pac-12 game scheduled for the Friday night before.  Sunday 9/1 also has a PBC card scheduled for FOX.  It isn't known if the card is in the afternoon or evening (we don't really know anything about the time of day about any of the cards), so FOX could still request a game for the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.

One other FOX Sports commitment, besides MLB which will shape the September schedule & we'll know more about in the next 6-10 weeks, is they should have coverage of the Walker Cup on one of their platforms.  The event is in England in 2019, so some of the coverage would be outside of the coverage time of college football, but there could be some overlap in the early afternoon.  In 2017, FS1 carried the event in the early afternoon & early evening hours, leaving one college football game to air on FS2. (EDIT: Walker Cup 2019, since it is R&A hosted, has its rights with NBC).

* MLB has released FOX & FS1 static windows (ie. the ones where they select a game in advance).  8/31 has one game at 6pm & 9/7 has a pair of games after 4pm.

* ESPN, on the other hand, has scheduled three four (EDIT:  Q1 release table has ESPN+ for 3/30 but paragraphs identify it as ESPN) of its ten linear TV UFC Fight Night over the first six months of 2019 (Q1 & Q2).  They might pack more of those Fight Night cards into Q3, specifically July & August, but in September-November I would think they would have some PPV prelims plus 1-2 Fight Night cards with more ESPN+ cards in the fall.  Would assume the same applies to any Top Rank commitments ESPN would have over the final six months.  For those events it will be interesting to see how they schedule games around these multi-hour event slots.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Sun Belt TV Facts & Figures

NOTE: For the purposes of these statistics, I counted the games that were played.  Not the games that ended up being cancelled due to weather or other issues.  This also does not include the network placement of any conference championship game.

Here's the games that were counted

Some statistical notes
* This was the first year of an enhanced Sun Belt TV contract.  The linear TV enhancement for the regular season won't happen until 2020.  This update accounts the conference championship game airing on one of ESPN's TV platforms and the addition of games to the ESPN+ service.
* Texas St. accounted for the production of the local TV games.  Four of the five games aired on ESPN3.  Only the UL-Lafayette game aired on ESPN+.  Adding those games into the ESPN3 & ESPN+ appearance columns would put Texas St. at five ESPN3 appearances (most of any Sun Belt school).
* Overall, the number of regular season games on national linear TV platforms dropped from nine in 2017 to seven in 2018. One of the games in 2017 was on Championship Saturday, so even if you tack on the airing of the conference championship in 2018, they're still down a game.  One of the 2018 games was on ESPNEWS, so in terms of ESPN2 and ESPNU games, they were down three on those two channels from 2017.
* Somewhat rare: UL-Lafayette never appeared in the conference's linear TV package during the regular season, which is often set in advance of the season & is almost always weeknight games, but managed to appear in the conference championship game.
* UL-Monroe's last national linear TV appearance in a Sun Belt controlled game was Thursday 11/19/15 at Texas St. 
* Coastal Carolina has yet to appear as part of the Sun Belt linear TV package.  Coastal did appear on ESPNEWS in 2015 & 2016 vs. Liberty in Thursday night games.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

2018 SEC TV Facts & Figures

NOTE: For the purposes of these statistics, I counted the games that were played.  Not the games that ended up being cancelled due to weather or other issues.  This also does not include the network placement of any conference championship game.

Here's the games that were counted

An alternate breakdown is group together all CBS games, and two separates groups for Pay TV.  The primary pay TV group is ESPN & ESPN2 and the secondary pay TV group is SEC Network, ESPNU and ESPNEWS

Some statistical notes
* As of now, this is the final year of the agreement for ESPN to sublicense two games to CBS.  The two parties could negotiate a new agreement if they see fit.  The two games that were sublicensed in 2018 were West Virginia vs. Tennessee & Georgia at South Carolina.
* Alabama was the only school to get to the maximum of five CBS appearances under the CBS contract.  As mentioned above, one of Georgia's appearances were in a game sublicensed from ESPN.  It does not count as part of CBS's contract with the conference or the appearance maximum in that deal.
* ESPNEWS is not considered to be a network that SEC games are available to air on, but the channel was used to air Middle Tennessee at Georgia on 9/15 due to schedule changes from weather related cancellations and start time changes.
* 26 games appeared on ESPN & ESPN2 in 2018, down from 31 on those two channels in 2017.
* A start time that most SEC schools hate is noon ET.  Ten SEC games started at that time of day which ended up on ESPN (8), ESPNEWS (1) or ESPNU (1).  This combined number is the same as 2017.
* Taking into account all noon ET starts across all networks, here's the breakdown of times a school appeared in a SEC controlled game at noon ET and the number of times a school hosted a game at that start time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2018 Pac-12 TV Facts & Figures

NOTE: For the purposes of these statistics, I counted the games that were played.  Not the games that ended up being cancelled due to weather or other issues.  This also does not include the network placement of any conference championship game.

Here's the games that were counted

ESPN and FOX Sports are on equal footing with respect to the number of games they can carry, up to 22 games.

In terms of broadcast networks vs. primary pay TV.  For this, it is a different dicing of the ESPN vs. FOX Sports table.

Some statistical notes
* Why does ESPN's count only equal 21?  Apparently the Washington-Auburn game from Atlanta in week one counted towards both the SEC and Pac-12.  Figuring out neutral site TV rights kill me every year.  If someone from ESPN can help clarify why this occurred & its accuracy, I'd be grateful.
* Utah is the first Pac-12 Championship Game participant who had no appearances on broadcast television during the regular season.
* Oregon St. appearing just twice on ESPN or FOX Sports, in this case just twice on FOX Sports, is the lowest number of combined appearances on those two entities since Colorado appeared just twice between those two network groups in 2013.  The prior season, the Buffs had only appeared once on FS1 with their remaining Pac-12 controlled games on Pac-12 Networks.
* The five appearances by Washington, coupled with Utah being not shown on broadcast television, is the lowest number of combined appearances for the two championship game participants since both FOX and ABC started showing games on their broadcast network.  In 2011, the championship game participants had four appearances, but ABC was the only partner allowed to show regular season games on broadcast television.
* The 34 games on Pac-12 Networks occurred over 32 unique windows.  Two games were shown only on regional feeds while the national feed carried a primary game.
* ESPNU is available for Pac-12 games to be shown on but is rarely used.  The last ESPNU Pac-12 game was 9/9/17 (Houston at Arizona)
* Seven Saturday primetime games were shown on broadcast television, equaling 2017.  Both seasons had another non-Saturday primetime appearance.
* The number of regular season broadcast television games decreased by one from 2017.
* Four Saturday selections for shown full national on ESPN, ESPN2 or FS1 starting earlier that 7pm PT / 8pm MT.  In 2017 there were two of these games.

Monday, December 17, 2018

2018 Mountain West TV Facts & Figures

NOTE: For the purposes of these statistics, I counted the games that were played.  Not the games that ended up being cancelled due to weather or other issues.  This also does not include the network placement of any conference championship game and a few other instances that I'll detail below.

Here's the games that were counted

And a breakdown of games carried on CBS Sports Networks vs. ESPN's linear TV & digital platforms.  CBS gets first choice of games after Boise St. home games are set aside for ESPN.

Some statistical notes
* Not included in the counts are the games Hawai'i shows on pay-per-view, which are part of a side deal the school has with Spectrum within the state.  Those games get shown on Stadium's mobile & tablet app outside of the islands.  Also not included are the three games that schools elected to produce their own webcasts for after they were not selected to air on CBSSN, ESPN Networks, Stadium via Facebook or AT&T SportsNet.
* As mentioned above, Boise St. has its home games set aside for airing on ESPN's platforms.  Its a bit surprising to see Fresno St. eclipse Boise St.'s appearance count on ESPN's platforms.
* Two games were chosen by ESPN to air on ESPN3 after AT&T SportsNet and Stadium made their selections.  Those games were Incarnate Word-New Mexico & Nevada-San Jose St.
* Three games did not have any video distribution.  This choice was made by the home school similar to the choice to stream after all other TV partners bypassed the games.
* Seeing Utah St. be skipped entirely by CBSSN isn't surprising.  Looking back at last year, UNLV made all of their linear TV appearances on ESPN platforms.  What is surprising is that it was during a season where Utah St. made it into the top 25 late into the season.  In the past, ESPN worked with Campus Insiders on a game swap when Fresno St. was undefeated, taking a game at Wyoming and placing it on ESPN2 and sending Nevada-Colorado St. to CI.
* Eighteen of the games that ESPN selected before the season started both their start time & TV network decided during the season (excluding weeknights & 1st three weeks, where UConn-Boise St. had its TV network decided & Oregon St.-Nevada was elevated due to weather cancellations & schedule changes).  Of those games, the network choices were as follows:

  • ESPN: 1
  • ESPN2: 4
  • ESPNU: 11
  • ESPNEWS: 2
* For those in-season ESPN linear TV decision, the timeslots were as follows, using Pacific Time as the base:
  • 12pm & before 4pm: 4
    • None in 2017
  • 4pm & before 7pm: 2
    • Equal to 2017
  • 7pm & later: 12

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 MAC TV Facts & Figures

NOTE: For the purposes of these statistics, I counted the games that were played.  Not the games that ended up being cancelled due to weather or other issues.  This also does not include the network placement of any conference championship game.

Here's the games that were counted

Some statistical notes
* Seven regular season games on ESPN2 ties the 2008 and 2016 seasons as the second highest number of games on that channel.  2005 had eight games on the channel.
* Buffalo's seven games on national linear TV is the most for any school since Western Michigan also appeared seven times during their Cotton Bowl season.
* For the two local TV games, the Buffalo at Toledo game aired outside the Toledo & Buffalo markets on ESPN+.  Cincinnati vs. Miami game aired on ESPN3 in markets where the game was not shown on local television.
* CBS Sports Network had six of their ten games chosen through the in-season selection process where they had a choice of more than one game, either as the first choice or in the case of Black Friday, the second choice after ESPNU.  In other words, I'm not including the situations where there were two games and ESPN took theirs first & left the latter to CBSSN.  For those six games, a game involving Buffalo was chosen three times.  Akron was involved in two of those games.  An interesting side note: two of those games involved Army, whose rights are owned by CBSSN.
* There were six situations where a pair of weeknight games were set aside and the network decision was made about 6-12 days in advance, either where both games were on ESPN platforms or one game was on an ESPN platform and one was set aside for CBSSN.  Western Michigan appeared in three of the games that were chosen by the network that is subscribed to in more homes or in one particular case, linear TV vs. ESPN+.