Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Second Look at a Potential FOX Bid for Big Ten Media Rights

Since the time is growing closer to the Big Ten deciding its future television home for its sports content, I wanted to take a second look at the future compared to something I wrote at the tail end of 2013 regarding the potential of FOX as a rightsholder.  Its a longer read, but I think there is a lot of items to consider from that piece, the comments that others wrote and where FOX stands with its sports properties.

Before more long-winded stuff: BTN is not part of this next negotiation.  FOX Cable Networks and the Big Ten have the content rights for the network for fifteen more years after the current ABC/ESPN & CBS agreements end, which is after the 2016-17 athletic year.  While alterations to the existing TV deals have been made as schools have entered the conference, to my knowledge the BTN contract cannot be opened to extract games for another entity.

The broadcast network with football
FOX's current schedule for national telecasts is anywhere from sixteen to nineteen regular season games.  At a minimum, FOX has to show six Big 12 and eight Pac-12 games each year (yes, FOX screwed up in 2013 with respect to the Pac-12) into the next decade.

Can they air more?  It depends a few factors
  • Are regional telecasts or combining with a FOX pay TV property to target games to specific markets a consideration, such as ABC's use of the reverse mirror option for many Big Ten games?
    • Do the television contracts with the Big 12 and Pac-12 allow for it?  I don't think they are for the Pac-12.
  • Could telecast start times be adjusted to allow for more telecast windows?
  • What does the Big Ten want?  Do they require a minimum number of games to air full national on a broadcast network?
Of the twenty Big Ten games that aired on ABC in 2014, nine games were full national, eight of them on Saturdays and one on Black Friday

Where FOX may have to make a decision involves its MLB telecast windows on the broadcast network.  Around seven or eight Saturdays (typically all of September & at least two or three in October) are set aside for MLB regular season, playoffs & World Series.  While FOX can air games right after MLB regular season games end and could move the night games back thirty minutes to 8pm possibly, the MLB playoff windows are tougher to work around and FOX typically has to work on the assumption that a game WILL be played vs. the possibility a game WON'T be.

The broadcast network and basketball
For the first time, FOX had a regular season series of games, mostly from the Big East with two games from the Pac-12.  From Sports Media Watch, the package was not a hit from a ratings standpoint though FOX did well with the Duke-St. John's game since it was the 1,000th win for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

FOX has the space to air additional games on the broadcast network on weekends if they want to and did a few doubleheaders.  On the other hand, the Big Ten appears to have a decent relationship with CBS and the importance of the NCAA tournament airing on that network, in my opinion, can't be ignored.  Until the 2013-14 season when FOX aired a couple Big East games, CBS had been the only broadcast network airing regular season college basketball for five years as ABC's regular season coverage ended.

In that sense, I'm not sure what FOX can offer the conference from an exposure standpoint, though its possible FOX can have year over year improvement.  Remember that regular season college basketball isn't a big ratings hit.

In my opinion, CBS, like ESPN in the pay TV area, has established itself as the "go to" network and having the championship of the sport makes it an ideal destination for games to be shown.

The pay TV side for football
When you look at Saturdays on FOX Sports 1, they don't have the 100% open canvas that one might think, at least right now.  There will be MLB regular season and playoff games on the network each Saturday through mid-October.  UFC Fight Night and PPV prelims take up space at least through 2018.  And there are NASCAR truck series races occasionally on Fridays & Saturdays.

From a football standpoint, they are committed to at least six Big 12 games plus around 14 Pac-12 games per year.  At the moment, I am not counting Conference USA because their rights agreement with FOX expires after this football season, but the number of Saturday telecasts on FS1 has been minimal.  Four in both 2013 and 2014.

The Big 12 agreement appears to offer much more flexibility than the Pac-12 one does on the pay TV side, so it is possible that other FOX properties (currently FSN & FOX College Sports, maybe FS2 in future once it is in more homes) can take games.  If C-USA were to stick around, I would expect FSN, FS2 and FOX College Sports to be their primary outlets for Saturday telecasts.

The pay TV side for basketball
To provide a starting point, here's the number of Big Ten controlled games that ESPN platforms showed in 2014-15.  These numbers do not include five games from the conference tournament shown on ESPN or ESPN2, but its worth keeping those in mind.
  • ESPN: 31
  • ESPN2: 14
  • ESPNU: 22
  • ESPNEWS: 3
  • ESPN3: 26
The first three channels listed carried a mix of conference and non-conference games where ESPNEWS & ESPN3's 29 games were strictly non-conference games.

Right now, FS1's schedule is very heavily weighted towards the Big East.  They have the ability to sublicense up to 30 games per year to CBS for airing on CBS and CBS Sports Network, but the first two athletic years have seen the minimum of twenty games sent over to CBS.  The Big East contract appears to be flexible enough to allow for games on FS2 and a subset of games air on FSN, typically on weekends.  The Pac-12 games appear to be less flexible and look like they must air on FOX Sports 1.  As for C-USA, I believe their content allows for flexibility between FS1 and FSN.  I am unsure about FS2, but that could be part of a future agreement for them.

Not part of this is the number of games on BTN and BTN Plus, BTN's online subscription service where many productions are staffed by students.  I'm unsure of the availability of the BTN Plus items and if they fall under the rights umbrella of BTN or if they could be unlocked and made available.  BTN's content rights remain with the channel and, as I understand it, will remain unchanged as the Big Ten & FOX partnership was a 25 year agreement.

The content parameters of a FOX agreement
I want to get something out of the way immediately:  ESPN and CBS don't have a space problem when it comes to fitting all these games in.  I would assume that both have the opportunity to negotiate exclusively with the conference first before FOX can provide an official offer, and that both would be able to provide a counteroffer in some cases if FOX were to bid on all rights.  In the case of ESPN, they have executed new carriage agreements, as part of larger Disney agreements, with mulitple pay TV providers and I believe they'll have the cash to keep all of the Big Ten rights they currently have as long as they want to.  CBS's pool of rights, while smaller in content and presumably smaller in rights fees, should be relatively easy to keep.

With that said, if FOX were to get to the negotiating table, I do agree that FOX should be able to make a decent offer for a portion of the rights.  Here's what I would try to frame from a content standpoint (I'm not going to make a guess on the money side of things):

Football
I believe increased use of FOX Sports 2 for the Big 12 & potentially C-USA, plus some amendments regarding start times for their current football telecast windows, make this a viable option and does not require regional telecasts on FOX broadcast network.
  • Seven games on broadcast TV & up to ten games on FOX Sports 1
    • Minimum of two games in primetime broadcast television and two additional primetime windows on FS1
    • Maximum of three noon ET games on broadcast television
    • A guaranteed Black Friday window on either FS1 or FOX
    • At least one Thursday night game on FS1.  
      • No more than two on FS1 with approval of conference
      • Only in September
      • One must be the opening Thursday night of the season
    • Top selection rights for three broadcast network games a year
    • Top pay TV selection for two Saturday games per year
    • The opportunity to pre-select Ohio St. vs. Michigan for FOX broadcast network every X number of years 
      • Would count as one of the three "top" broadcast network games FOX would have
    • Goal of staying away from ABC's Big Ten telecast windows during FOX's broadcast network games.
  • The Big Ten championship game every other year (maybe the years FOX doesn't have the Pac-12 championship)
Basketball (all on FS1)
I want to preface this portion by saying it would be imperative for FOX to work with the Big East to either send the full allotment of 30 games over to CBS for airing on CBS and CBSSN (maybe work on scheduling them on nights when CBSSN can take them) or place a few more games during conference play on FS2.
  • Up to twenty regular season games per year
    • One game on Wednesdays during conference season
      • Approximately 10 games per year
      • These could come from ESPN's existing Thursday inventory of ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU games, along with any of ESPNU's Big Ten games on Tuesdays
    • All Big Ten controlled games part of the Gavitt Tipoff series (4 games per year)
      • ESPN would keep all games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge
    • Up to six other non-conference games
  • One opening round game from the conference tournament (see Wednesday at 4:30pm) every year or every other year
    • Would line up with the two first round games in the evening from the Big East.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Updated Guesses to 1st Three Weeks for CFB TV in 2015

I made some alterations based on the MAC, American and Mountain West schedules being released, along with FOX's MLB schedule.   I would expect the Mountain West to have a few weeknight games and those should come out over the next couple months.

The alterations are relatively minor.  I don't want to oversell them.

Since these posts typically make my Twitter timeline & a Facebook page, I'm going to take the three posts and link there here instead of linking three separate posts to my timelines.

Week One
Week Two
Week Three

One channel I haven't placed games on is FOX Sports 2.  They won't have the NASCAR commitments that they did last year and the slightly compressed schedule might mean the channel becomes a place to dump a game or two instead of FSN each week from the Big 12 or C-USA.  The channel is now subscribed to by around 45 million homes.  I'm unsure where that compares to FOX College Sports, but would like to believe the number is similar or higher since the FCS channels are usually on a sports tier.

Updated Week Three TV Predictions for 2015

The changes to week three are extremely minor.  Moved one FS1 game to FOX to create a FOX doubleheader at 4pm & 8pm since FS1's MLB game will be at 7pm ET.  Changed the 12pm ABC game to a reverse mirror based on a suggestion in the original guesses post.

Thursday

7:30pm ESPN: Clemson at Louisville (confirmed)
7:30pm FS1: Rice at North Texas

Friday

8pm ESPN: Florida St. at Boston College (confirmed for this date)
10pm CBSSN: Utah at Fresno St.
10:15pm FS1: New Mexico at Arizona St.

Saturday

12pm ABC/ESPN2: Nebraska at Miami (FL)
12pm ABC/ESPN2: Virginia Tech at Purdue
12pm ESPN: South Carolina at Georgia
12pm FS1: Tulsa at Oklahoma
12pm ESPNU: USF at Maryland
12pm ESPNEWS: Northwestern at Duke
12pm FSN: UTSA at Oklahoma St.
12pm CBSSN: Wake Forest at Army (semi-confirmed)
12pm BTN: UNLV at Michigan
12pm BTN: Kent St. at Minnesota
12pm SEC: Connecticut at Missouri
12pm SEC: Western Carolina at Tennessee
12:30pm ACC Network: Central Michigan at Syracuse
12:30pm ACC RSNs: William & Mary at Virginia
1pm Pac-12: Colorado St. vs Colorado
3:30pm ABC/ESPN: SMU at TCU
3:30pm ABC/ESPN: Rutgers at Penn St.
3:30pm CBS: Ole Miss at Alabama
3:30pm NBC: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame
3:30pm ESPN2: Pittsburgh at Iowa
3:30pm ESPNU: Illinois at North Carolina
3:30pm FSN: Louisiana Tech at Kansas St.
3:30pm CBSSN: East Carolina at Navy (confirmed)
3:30pm BTN: Northern Illinois at Ohio St.
3:30pm BTN: Air Force at Michigan St.
4pm FOX: BYU at UCLA
4pm SEC: Austin Peay at Vanderbilt
4:30pm Pac-12: San Jose St. at Oregon St.
4:30pm Pac-12: Wyoming at Washington St.
7pm ESPN2: Texas Tech at Arkansas
7pm ESPNU: Nevada at Texas A&M
7pm CBSSN: NC State at Old Dominion
7:30pm SEC: Florida at Kentucky
7:30pm SEC: Northwestern St. at Mississippi St.
7:45pm ESPN: Auburn at LSU
8pm ABC: Stanford at USC
8pm FOX: California at Texas
8pm BTN: Troy at Wisconsin
8pm BTN: Western Kentucky at Indiana
10pm Pac-12: Northern Arizona at Arizona
10pm Pac-12: Georgia St. at Oregon
10:30pm ESPN2: Utah St. at Washington

Updated Week Two TV Predictions for 2015

The amended items are a bit minimal here.  They involved FOX's choice of game, the possibility / probability of Longhorn Network airing Rice at Texas, and what appears to be a confirmation from Boise St. that the road game at BYU will be a Saturday game.  

Here's what I initially though week two would look like.

Thursday
8pm FS1: Kansas St. at UTSA

Friday
8pm FS1: Miami (FL) at FAU
9:30pm ESPN2: Minnesota at Colorado St.

Saturday
11:30am ESPN: USF at Florida St. (confirmed)
12pm ABC: Notre Dame at Virginia
12pm FS1: Iowa at Iowa St.
12pm ESPNU: Miami (OH) at Wisconsin
12pm ESPNEWS: Indiana St. at Purdue
12pm FSN: UTEP at Texas Tech
12pm CBSSN: North Texas at SMU 
12pm BTN: Washington St. at Rutgers
12pm BTN: Buffalo at Penn St.
12pm BTN: Eastern Illinois at Northwestern
12pm SEC: Jacksonville St. at Auburn
12pm SEC: Fresno St. at Ole Miss
12:30pm ACC Network: Houston at Louisville
12:30pm ACC RSNs: Tulane at Georgia Tech
2pm Pac-12: Utah St. at Utah
3:30pm CBS: Oklahoma at Tennessee
3:30pm ABC: Oregon St. at Michigan
3:30pm ESPN2: Hawai'i at Ohio St.
3:30pm ESPNU: Wake Forest at Syracuse
3:30pm FSN: Memphis at Kansas
3:30pm CBSSN: Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky
3:30pm BTN: FIU at Indiana
3:30pm BTN: Western Illinois at Illinois
3:30pm BTN: South Alabama at Nebraska
4pm ESPNEWS: Temple at Cincinnati 
4pm SEC: Georgia at Vanderbilt
4pm SEC: Toledo at Arkansas
6pm Pac-12: Massachusetts at Colorado
6pm Pac-12: Sacramento St. at Washington
7pm ESPN2: Middle Tennessee at Alabama
7pm ESPNU: East Carolina at Florida
7pm CBSSN: Arizona at Nevada

7:30pm FOX: UCF at Stanford
7:30pm SEC:Kentucky at South Carolina
7:30pm SEC: Ball St. at Texas A&M
7:45pm ESPN: LSU at Mississippi St.
8pm ABC: Oregon at Michigan St.
8pm ESPNEWS: Missouri at Arkansas St.

8pm Longhorn: Rice at Texas
10pm Pac-12: Idaho at USC
10pm Pac-12: Cal Poly at Arizona St.

10:15pm ESPN2: Boise St. at BYU
10:15pm FS1: San Diego St. at California
10:30pm CBSSN: UCLA at UNLV

Updated Week One TV Predictions for 2015

Updates to the original week one TV predictions.

Games not listed will be available as webcasts or regional telecasts.

Thursday
7pm SEC: North Carolina vs. South Carolina
7:30pm ESPNU: Oklahoma St. at Central Michigan
8pm CBSSN: Duke at Tulane (network confirmed)
8pm ESPN: TCU at Minnesota
9pm FS1: Michigan at Utah
10pm Pac-12: UTSA at Arizona
11:30pm CBSSN: Colorado at Hawai'i


Friday
7pm ESPN: Michigan St. at Western Michigan
7pm CBSSN: Fordham at Army (confirmed)
8pm FS1: Mississippi St. at Southern Miss 
8pm ESPNU: Baylor at SMU
8pm Pac-12 Networks: Weber St. at Oregon St. (time confirmed)
9pm BTN: Kent St. at Illinois (confirmed)
10:15pm ESPN: Washington at Boise St.

Saturday
12pm ESPN: BYU at Nebraska
12pm ESPNU: Penn St. at Temple
12pm FSN: Georgia Southern at West Virginia
12pm CBSSN: Colgate at Navy (confirmed)
12pm SEC: UL-Lafayette at Kentucky
12pm BTN: Southern Illinois at Indiana
12pm BTN: Norfolk St. at Rutgers
12:30pm ACC Network: Texas St. at Florida St.
12:30pm ACC RSNs: Troy at NC State
3pm Pac-12: Eastern Washington at Oregon
3:30pm ABC: Arizona St. vs. Texas A&M
3:30pm ESPN: UL-Monroe at Georgia
3:30pm ESPNU: UT Martin at Ole Miss

3:30pm CBSSN: FIU at UCF
3:30pm BTN: Richmond at Maryland
3:30pm BTN: Illinois St. at Iowa
4pm SEC: Bowling Green vs. Tennessee
4pm SEC: Southeast Missouri at Missouri
6:30pm Pac-12: Portland St. at Washington St.
7pm ESPN: Auburn vs. Louisville

7pm ESPNU: New Mexico St. at Florida
7:30pm NBC: Texas at Notre Dame
7:30pm SEC: UTEP at Arkansas
7:30pm SEC: McNeese St. at LSU
8pm ABC: Alabama vs. Wisconsin
8pm BTN: Stanford at Northwestern
10pm FS1: Arkansas St. at USC
10pm Pac-12: Grambling at California
10:30pm ESPN: Virginia at UCLA


Sunday
11:30am ESPN2: South Carolina St. vs. UAPB
3pm FS1: Purdue at Marshall
7pm SEC: Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt

Monday
8pm ESPN: Ohio St. at Virginia Tech

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Credits earned in 2015 NCAA Tournament by Conference

NCAA credits are earned for each game played before the Final Four.  Games in the First Four also are eligible to earn credits.

Per Forbes from last year, a credit was expected to earn $255,379 as a starting point per year with the 2015 tournament.  The unit is paid in full over six years with around 2% growth per year.

Updated as of the Sweet Sixteen.  This page will be updated at the end of each round.

ACC - 17
American - 3
Atlantic 10 - 5
Big 12 - 12
Big East - 11
Big Ten - 14
C-USA - 2
Pac-12 - 11
MEAC - 2
Missouri Valley - 5
Mountain West - 4
NEC - 2
SEC - 9
Sun Belt - 2
WCC - 4

Any conference not listed has earned a single credit in this tournament so far.

Here's how conferences did in the 2014 tournament.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Few MBK Early Season Event Notes for 2015-16

* Thanks to Jeff Wirth on this one.  The 2K Sports Classic is moving to a Friday-Sunday event, at least for 2015.  Jeff found that one of Billy Joel's concerts is scheduled for Thursday 11/19/15.  My guess is that the need for exclusive use of the facility for setup & tear down means that MSG was unavailable to host the basketball event on Wednesday 11/18.  It might also mean that St. John's, if they were to host a game in the Gavitt Tipoff series, would be locked into a game on Tuesday 11/17 if they were to host a game at MSG instead of at Carnesecca Arena.

The times on Friday (5pm start) still allow for a football game on ESPN2 at 9:30pm (more likely than ESPN I believe due to NBA) and the Sunday start at 1pm might indicate that ESPN will show the championship round after Sunday NFL Countdown, assuming ESPN2 carries the Hall of Fame Tipoff games, along with games from their Charleston & Puerto Rico events airing over ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.

* Sports Business Journal reports that FOX Sports will take over additional duties for the Las Vegas Classic & Las Vegas Invitational early season MBK events, including team selection.  Per Blogging The Bracket, six of the eight "host" spots for these are filled.

I would be curious to know if FOX:
  • is looking to expand these events to an eight team tournament or will stay with the four hosts, which can be more palatable for the host teams.
  • was involved in team selection for 2015
  • is interested in moving the dates of these events around.  The Las Vegas Invitational was slotted on Thanksgiving & Black Friday with the Thanksgiving games scheduled as bookends for the TCU at Texas football game.
    • With that said, there is no guarantee that FOX Sports 1 will have a college football game on Thanksgiving.
* Admittedly, I didn't pay much attention to this either, but the Cincinnati at USF football game on Friday 11/20 may be waiting for CBS Sports Network to work with the organizers of the Paradise Jam event to determine which games will be available for them to air.  Last year, CBSSN carried two games at 4pm & 6:30pm with a Mountain West football game at 9:30pm.  If CBSSN is still the rights holder for the event (I am checking with the tournament organizers), the basketball event times might shift slightly to get to an 8pm ET start for the football game or the football game could be slotted to start right at 8:30pm ET.