Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Site Redesign

I'm redesigning elements of the site starting with the 2011 football season.  It shouldn't be noticeable to the naked eye.  I'm a computer programmer by trade and I've decided to incorporate more programming into the site.  The big change is that the site will be more database driven.  Currently the text only pages are database driven, but now the main pages for each week will be retrieved via database.  The conference specific pages may be driven via database as well and may include non-conference road games on a portion of each page.

A few things that I won't be able to do:
  • List TV slots without a game.  For example, I used to be able to list games from the Big 12 and Pac-10 on FSN or Versus without listing a game.  A game would be listed as Big 12 Game or Pac-10 Game.  I won't be able to do that.  To compromise, I may provide a link at the top of each page listing time slots where a conference is tentatively scheduled to air or link a press release, like ESPN's schedule of time slots for a season.
  • Put multiple games in a slot.  When kickoff times are being decided on a six-day basis, I have listed multiple games in a timeslot.  Won't be able to do that.  What I may do is list the game on TV and list all available television outlets without gametimes.  I could list, for example, Florida St. at North Carolina with ACC Network, ESPNU and ABC, but not list a gametime.
  • Shading FBS vs. FCS games as yellow.  Still working on that. Got that one working.
I will continue to list web-only games and I'll be able to list games that have not be picked up for TV or web like I currently do. 

Here's the current test page:  The page is still a work in progress.  If you happen to receive an error, there's a good chance I'm doing debugging on the page, so it might be in working order in a few minutes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

College Basketball Viewers Guide, 1/17-1/23

ESPN quadrupleheader due to MLK holiday. All four games are must see, involving seven teams in the top 25, five in the top 10.

Villanova at Connecticut (ESPN, 3:30pm)
Missouri at Kansas St. (ESPN, 5:30pm)
Syracuse at Pitt (ESPN, 7:30pm)
Kansas at Baylor (ESPN, 9:30pm)

St. John's at Louisville (Big East/SNY, 7pm) - St. John's in clearly in the mix to be an NCAA tournament team as it continues to surprise in the Big East. A win vs. Louisville would continue to build their resume.

Texas A&M at Texas (ESPN2, 9pm)  - Could end up being the top teams in the Big 12 not named Kansas.

Washington at Arizona (FSN, 10:30pm) - Meeting of the two teams at the top of the Pac-10 standings.

All over the map of the majors, with two big matchups in the Big Ten and Big 12, the conferences that next year will have trouble with math based on name and number of members.

Ohio St. at Illinois (CBS, 12pm)
Villanova at Syracuse (ESPN, 12pm)
Kansas St. at Texas A&M (ESPN, 2pm)
Texas at Kansas (CBS, 4pm)
Michigan St. at Purdue (ESPN, 9pm)

Monday, January 10, 2011

What to Watch, College Basketball 1/10 - 1/16

Here's my take on the best in college basketball this week.  A little more abbreviated due to the late publishing.


Wisconsin at Michigan St. (ESPN, 7pm) - Are the Spartans showing cracks?

Florida at Tennessee (ESPN, 9pm) - Vols are 0-1 without coach Bruce Pearl, sitting at home on an eight-game SEC suspension. Remember that top two in each SEC division get a 1st round bye.

Pittsburgh at Notre Dame (ESPN, 7pm) & Syracuse at St. John's (ESPNU, 7pm) - Pitt and the Irish are the heavyweight matchup between a pair of top 15 teams. Make sure to keep an eye on the Orange's visit to MSG. The Orange have a definite size advantage, but the Red Storm started out fast and are heavy on experience (nine seniors, one junior).

EDIT: I screwed up and the scheduled game is Pitt at Georgetown.

Oklahoma St. at Texas A&M (Big 12 Syndication, 8pm) - Oklahoma St. gets its another Big 12 test with the Aggies after taking down preseason top ten Kansas St. Conference itself is quite topsy-turvy with both Texas and Missouri losing this weekend, particularly the Tigers loss at lowly Colorado.

UNLV at San Diego St. (CBS College, 10pm) - The MWC has strength again at the top and these two, along with BYU, will be teams to watch in March.

Cincinnati at Syracuse (Big East Syndication, 12pm) - Cincinnati lost their 1st game on Sunday and they don't have the margin of error they may feel they do. Big East wins will be a premium for the Bearcats due to a very weak non-conference schedule.

Missouri at Texas A&M (ESPN2, 1pm) - May be the battle for 2nd place in the Big 12. Right now Kansas is too strong to think that either of these teams can hang with them.

Jackson St. at Texas Southern (ESPN2, 3pm) - Overall records are subpar, but both teams are 3-0 in the SWAC, where conference record is all that matters. Life in the one-bid leagues.

Illinois at Wisconsin (Big Ten, 3pm) - Another game between two ranked teams. The slower pace of Big Ten play is not for my tastes, but it seems to be what matters in March. And with an early Michigan St. misstep, the conference may be wide open.

Austin Peay at Tennessee St. (ESPNU, 4pm) - Top of the OVC right now in this matchup. The OVC plays a 22 game conference schedule, so a team can make up ground, but if APSU gets a big lead in the standings, the conference tournament could be the only way to leapfrog the Governors.

Dayton at Xavier (CBS College, 8pm) - Midwestern battle in the A-10. The A-10's class seems like its Temple and Richmond right now, but neither of these teams should be counted out.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Too Many Games, Too Few Timeslots

Fox's deals with Conference USA and the Pac-12 has given FSN far more telecast rights that they have timeslots to use, at least on Saturdays.  FSN now has the rights to nearly seventy games (24 Big 12, 21 C-USA and 24 Pac-12).  A thirteen week season, with timeslots at 12pm, 3:30pm, 7pm and 10:30pm, allows for 52 games.  So there's going to be games that will not air on FSN, but somewhere else.  Where could those places be?

Fox Networks
Fox has an option with the C-USA contract to place some games on F/X and on Fox Network (ie. your local Fox affiliate).  The contracts for the Pac-12 and Big 12 don't allow for games on Fox because of those conference's contracts with ABC, but F/X could be an option.  This is the year where Fox wants to make a good impression to keep the Big 12 and Pac-12 contracts with FSN as they expire at the end of the 2011-12 athletic year, so why not keep the games on F/X?

EDIT: Confirmed by Fox Sports' Lou D'Ermilio, Big 12 and Pac-12 games can only air on FSN and not another Fox-owned network per contract.  C-USA games can air on Fox, F/X or FSN.

Turner Sports
Turner ended their sublicensing agreement with FSN once they started a package of national MLB games on Sundays, along with a share of the MLB playoffs.  Since then, Turner has become a partner with CBS in the NCAA tournament and Turner Sports executive David Levy has been on-record and being receptive to bringing back college sports to Turner at the right price.   If he were, I'd suspect this would be only for Pac-12 and Big 12 games.

Versus is the current sublicense partner of FSN for seven Pac-10 games this past season.  The Big 12 was not pleased with some aspects of the sublicense arrangement between FSN and Versus (related to the payments to teams), requesting that it discontinued and FSN kept those games.  The Pac-10 did not seem to be as concerned and may be willing to have more games on Versus.  Could also be a place for a few C-USA games.

ESPN already sublicenses six Big 12 football games from FSN (separate from the existing 24 games that FSN will carry) and there's some room for ESPN to tackle more Pac-12 windows in the late evening if they so desire.  FSN did get those extra windows as part of the rights agreement for Fox to televise the 2011 Pac-12 title game, citing extra games being available due to expansion, so ABC/ESPN may also try to extract extra games for their own contract.

Don't forget that the Conference USA deal allows for games to air on Thursdays, so a few C-USA games will air then.  I also expect C-USA to have a presence on Black Friday and on Labor Day, maybe Sunday of Labor Day weekend too.  That helps lighten the load.  FSN could also televise a Big 12 game or two on Championship Saturday now that the conference does not have a championship game.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Recapping C-USA's Deal With Fox

Conference USA, after a lengthy silence after renegotiating with CBS College Sports and an expectation that an ESPN deal was imminent, surprised many and signed a five year contract with Fox Sports Media Group to televise football & men's and women's basketball.  The new deal, according to media reports, will pay $38 million over the life of the contract and is expected to pay C-USA somewhere around $14.6 million per season when combined with the deal with CBSC.

Fox is paying more than double what ESPN paid in the past ($3.3 million/year), but also is getting double the content. 

Fox has the ability to air games football games on F/X, FSN and nationally on over-the-air Fox affiliates.  ESPN did not have that option.  Fox will also have the rights to the football championship game and can air it on F/X, FSN or Fox. It is also expected to end the practice of Tuesday & Wednesday night football games.  I do expect C-USA to have a presence on Labor Day & Black Friday and there will be Thursday night games.

It is also possible that the televised games will be selected on a 12 day basis.  When FSN carried the conference's football games from '96-'00, it selected most Saturday windows as the season went along.

It does not appear that Fox gained the rights to the men's basketball tournament.  It looks like that stays with CBS College and the title game on CBS.

EDIT: Some media reports have stated that this agreement also includes the men's basketball championship game.

C-USA schools could also see increases in regional coverage as FSN affiliates could take an interest in showing games that are not shown nationally by Fox or CBS College.  The press releases also note that C-USA will be starting a digital network for the streaming of events over the internet.

Overall, C-USA will have a dramatic increase in national exposure in football and a slight uptick in men's basketball next season.  C-USA could have close to half of their games on a national network, which would be more than any other non-AQ conference (sorry MWC fans, the mtn. is regional because you have to pay an extra fee to watch it outside the MWC footprint).

What does this mean regarding the negotiation of Pac-12 and Big 12 rights with FSN?  I'm not sure.  I think that F/X will be a big part of any future negotiation and that FSN will be de-emphasized as more of a syndication network for those conferences.  Fox was aggressive in bidding for the ACC, was the initial leader for the Longhorn Network, is still active in negotiations for a network for Oklahoma, outbid ESPN for the Big Ten Football Championship and is expected to be active in the Pac-12's inaugural title game as it is on the open market.

C-USA Release
Fox Release
What C-USA on FSN looked like in 2000

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Breakdown of FSN's National Coverage of College Football in 2010

It has been speculated that FSN is minor league compared to other networks because of the regional nature of the affiliates, who allow pro sports and other content of local interest to trump the national feed.  Thought it would be interesting to chart how well FSN's affiliates do in clearing their national college football games for 2010. 

I sliced up the numbers and here's part of the methodology.
  • I considered a game covered if it was on the main regional network or if it covered on a "plus" or alternate channel. 
  • Regions that have two RSNs that split the coverage were counted as one region, such as Fox Sports West & Prime Ticket, Fox Sports Florida & Sun Sports, Fox Sports South and SportSouth, MSG and MSG Plus, and CSN Philadelphia and Comcast Network. 
  • I did not split Fox Sports Ohio, although a case could be made that I should have.  There are probably ways I could have split the three feeds (Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati) somehow.
  • I did not discriminate whether a game was joined in progress or not.
  • There were four national special presentations (ie. games not original part of the FSN national schedule).  I broke those games out in certain places and did not include them at all when breaking down a conference by time slot.
  • I did not include the Akron-Kentucky game on 9/18/11 which went to nearly all FOX-owned FSNs
So what did I learn:
  • CSN New England is a horrible FSN affiliate, clearing just 18 of the 39 games (18 of 35 when excluding special presentations).  They prioritized the CAA package of games ahead of FSN, particularly with the Big 12 coverage where they cleared only three of the 13 early window games.  Maybe its time for FSN to talk to NESN, especially since the two entities have a digital partnership for sharing news content.
  • Best bet is to be an affiliate out west.  The Arizona, West/Prime, Southwest, and Houston affiliates, in addition to the CSN Bay Area/California combo were the only ones to cover the package in full.  EDIT: FSDetroit also covered every game.
  • Eleven of the nineteen regional affiliates covered at least 90% of the games. Four others covered at least 85%.
  • Time slot is important.  The Big 12 did very well in the 12pm/12:30pm and 3:30pm slot with thirteen of the nineteen regions carrying every game, and four others only missed one.  CSN New England and CSN Philadelphia/Comcast Network's coverage in that slot was replaced with the CAA or SEC Network.  The 7pm evening slot was spotty at best.  For the Pac-10, they did well regardless of the 3:30pm (16/19 carried every game, other three carried four of the six games) or 10:30pm time slot (EDIT: all regions covered every games).
Its something to consider for both of these conferences as they enter negotiations for a new television package.  If FSN stays in the game, it may have to sublicense more games to national networks and try to stay away from the 7pm Eastern window.

FSN Breakdown for 2010

Monday, January 3, 2011

What to Watch, College Basketball 1/3 - 1/9

First week of college basketball and many conferences will push into their conference schedules in force.   Some like the Big East, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-10 started over the holiday break.  Here's what to watch in this week

Georgetown at St. John's (ESPN2, 7pm) - Steve Lavin has excitement back in the Red Storm program and a 2-0 Big East start.  They'll be pests all year and they bite one of the Big East ranked programs at some point this year and the game vs. Georgetown is their Big East opener at MSG.  One item to keep an eye on is that the Johnnies aren't a deep team, nor a team with great size.

Connecticut at Notre Dame (Big East Network, 7pm) - Matchups like this don't often fall to the regional syndication packages.  I'll be surprised if Kemba Walker can maintain his high scoring pace for UConn, but even against Pitt he nearly was 50% of the team's output.  Notre Dame's depth is an issue and a team without a great deal of size, but between the starters all five are threats to score.

Memphis at Tennessee (ESPN2, 9pm) - While Conference USA is showing more diversity with both UCF and Memphis ranked as of today, the Tigers need this final major non-conference test as they failed in prior games vs. Georgetown and Kansas.  This will be Bruce Pearl's final game as Tennessee coach until their game vs. UConn, and then he'll sit again for a few more SEC games due to being discipline for lying to NCAA investigators about an NCAA rules violation.  After huge wins vs. Pittsburgh and Villanova, the Vols have slipped with losses to Oakland, Charlotte, USC and an absolute clunker vs. College of Charleston on New Year's Eve.  Even worse is that three of those came at home (Charlotte was the road game and wasn't played at Charlotte's home arena, but Time Warner Cable Arena).

BYU at UNLV (CBS College, 10pm) - The Mountain West is again looking like the best conference out west and I'm expecting that both of these teams will be ranked coming into this one.  UNLV doesn't have some of the size that BYU does and that may not matter with uber-scorer Jimmer Fredette.  What UNLV does have is the ability to expand the floor with players like Chace Stanback.

Xavier at Cincinnati (ESPN2, 7pm) - The Crosstown Shootout in Cincinnati has been a rough rivalry game as of late as the Musketeers have had the better national profile over the past several years.  The Bearcats come in to the game with an undefeated record, though not necessarily a battle-tested resume.  UC uses the size of Ibrahima Thomas and Yancey Gates to outmuscle opponents, while Xavier relies on their three guard tandem of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dante Jackson.

Cleveland St. at Butler (ESPNU, 7pm) - Butler is still the king of the Horizon League until someone dethrones them, and I think they'll still have a high enough profile at the end of the day to gain some at-large consideration, but Cleveland St. comes in with one loss (but two wins vs. non D-I competition) and the Horizon media thought enough of CSU to believe they'd have a say in the HL standings (3rd in preseason poll, 5 poll points behind Detroit).

George Mason at Old Dominion (Comcast Sports, 12pm) - Both teams were picked at the top of the CAA preseason poll.  The Monarchs won the Paradise Jam, but in their last big non-conference test at Missouri were smoked by 23.  By the time they get to this one on Saturday, both teams will have three CAA games under their belt, including two in the previous five days as both will play conference games on Monday and Wednesday.

Connecticut at Texas (ESPN, 3:30pm) - UConn takes a break from the Big East grind while Texas delays the start of their Big 12 slate.  Texas has great depth and that will help them throughout the Big 12 season and in this matchup with UConn.  So far nine players on the Longhorns average substantial playing time (ie. at least 10 minutes per game), including super-sub J'Corvan Brown.  Texas will use their shooting ability here as they lack size in their rotation.

Missouri St. at Wichita St. (ESPNU, 8:30pm) - These two teams were the preseason 1-2 (well, 2-1 as No. 2 is hosting No. 1) in the MVC preseason polls.   Both teams are great shooting teams (WSU: 48%, MSU 47%), but where Wichita St. excels is team depth.  The term in hockey is just "roll your lines out" and that's what the Shockers do.  Check this out: Ten Shockers average over 13 minutes per game and seven of those players average anywhere from 4.5 - 6.9 points per game.  That is bench power.

PS - If you need additional MVC action, Missouri St. hosts Creighton, no. 3 in the preseason MVC poll, Tuesday at 8pm on FSMidwest and CSN Chicago Plus.  All three MVC teams listed are 2-0 so far in MVC play.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 CFB Scheduling

Took bowl season off, even though I planned to write a column about the best bowls to watch.  Oh well.  Hope your holiday season went well. 

Since the bowls are winding down today I thought it would be interesting to look back at a few things from 2010 and look forward to 2011. 

2011 will be the 1st year of a new rights agreement with ABC/ESPN.  I'm not expecting much to change with the games on ABC or ESPN.  I will be interested to see if they decide to sublicense any games to other networks as they are allowed to do.  Raycom's packages of games (yes, packages is plural) will be interesting as they now have the ability to do multiple packages of games, both to cable and over-the-air stations.  They can also widen their OTA coverage and go outside the ACC states to sell those games.  Raycom seems to have been friendly w/FSN and I'd expect FSN to try to get their hands on some of the ACC Network games and show those on weeks when they aren't showing SEC games sublicensed from ESPN.

I do expect that will retain a heavy ACC presence, but now that the ability to sublicense has increased, I don't think we'll see as many exclusives

The ACC schedule is usually the 1st of the remaining conferences schedules to be released as ESPN moves games to Thursday nights and Labor Day.

Big 12
The Big 12 nearly broke apart over the summer, but are awaiting the start of negotiations with FSN to increase their rights fee on a permanent basis (there are indications that FSN will increase the rights fee this season before their contract expires).  I'm not sure that we will see a Texas or Oklahoma TV network up and running by September, but anything is possible.  There won't be a championship game on ABC next year, but I'd expect a game or two to be moved to the final Saturday of the regular season, along with a few games moved to Thursday nights.  Those announcements will trickle out over the next few months.  The scheduling rotation has been set for 2011 and future seasons.  We do know that ABC and FSN will air the same number of Big 12 games that they would have aired if the Big 12 still had 12 teams, so there should be less games that go without television coverage.

Big East
No real changes here. 2010 was the 1st season that the Big East Network game of the week was available in HD.  Games that were shown as local games in the past often became exclusives.  The Big East schedule should come out shortly after the ACC schedule, sometime in February, as they will have games moved to weeknights.

Big Ten
Nebraska is the newest addition to the conference along with the conference championship game, which will air on FOX.  FOX earned the rights as the championship game was sold separately from the regular season rights that ABC continues to hold.  The Big Ten schedule has been set and the only changes I could see coming is maybe moving a game or two from the opening Saturday of the season to Thursday night.  At this time, I don't see the Big Ten budging on their stance on November night games.  I have not heard whether ESPN and ABC will increase their coverage of the conference, so I'd expect more split windows on the Big Ten Network.

2010 was the final year of C-USA's TV agreements with CBS College and ESPN.  CBS College did renegotiate a new deal, ESPN has yet to do, though I've heard that the framework of a deal is in place.  My suspicion is that ESPN is waiting to see what dominoes fall in conference realignment before any long term deal is finalized with the conference.  ESPN likely wants to know who will be in the conference and whether there will be a conference championship game in football.  My assumption is that ESPN will have some C-USA football in the fall as we know that the conference will have the same 12 teams that it did in 2010, so it will have some influence over the schedule once it gets decided and released.

The massive changes for the MWC aren't coming until 2012, but this year's schedule will have one less team with BYU & Utah leaving, with only Boise St. as a replacement.  I expect Versus and CBS College to remain the rightsholder for 2011, but going past next season I think the conference members will look to consider all offers.  The 2011 schedule will be an unbalanced conference schedule, like the Big East and Pac-12 where some teams have more conference home games.  The MWC schedule has often been the last to be released as television is set for the entire season upon release.

The Pac-12 is the one conference where much isn't known about television for 2011.  Besides the new name, along with the final season for existing deals for ABC/ESPN and FSN, a conference championship game is currently out for open bidding (ABC/ESPN had an exclusive negotiating window for the game that expired), and an existing rigid TV contract that ABC/ESPN and FSN were flexible about last year and will have to be even more flexible about next year to get maximum television coverage, both regionally and nationally.  Versus could have an increased Pac-12 presence if both ABC/ESPN and FSN are allowed to proportionally increase their coverage as Versus buys their games from FSN.

The Pac-12 conference schedule has been released and it has three Thursday night games built in.  At least one is an ESPN and its likely that all three will be.

A conference in complete turmoil going in to 2011 with three lame duck members with Fresno St., Nevada and Hawai'i leaving for the MWC (The Big West will take all sports from Hawai'i except football).  The WAC will miss the presence that Boise St. gave the conference in terms of legitimacy.  In terms of scheduling, I'd expect a few less games on ESPN/ESPN2.  But for the games scheduled, the three schools leaving will likely appear in virtually every game.  The conference works with ESPN to create its final schedule to set up its national television.

The WAC also has a two year scheduling agreement with BYU, who will enter its 1st season as an independent football team.  BYU's presence as a road team will likely influence ESPN picking up a game or two.

Thought it was important to touch on BYU's move to independence.  Their schedule is set and includes two Friday night home games, one vs. UCF and a traditional Friday night game vs. Utah St., held the weekend of the LDS General Conference.  At least three BYU home games will appear on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2, one on ESPNU and one on BYU TV.  No word as to whether BYU will be part of the 12 day selection process or not.  When Army had its TV deal with ESPN, it was part of the 12 day process with one game typically put on a weeknight each season.


One last thing I've noticed is that a large amount of out-of-conference schedules that have been decided.  Take a look at the 2011 schedule spreadsheet in the right hand portion of the page.  We don't have any neutral site games waiting to be filled that require massive schedule changes at this point.  There are teams out there looking for multiple games like California and some MWC & WAC teams due to needing an extra OOC game (possibly due to losing a game vs. a Big 12 team) or, in Cal's case, a series with Colorado that is now a conference game.  We could see schedules be released earlier than prior years, but we might have more tinkering to go.