Friday, December 30, 2011

Year end marker

Its the end of 2011.  As you saw in the year end piece, the year saw a lot of changes in college sports coverage.  Some positive, some negative.  2012, hopefully, will be a quieter year.  Yes there will be some alterations to the SEC contract and those probably will come out in the spring.  Big East negotiations will start towards the end of the year and who knows what type of market they'll find out there for their rights.  Whatever formation MWCUSA takes.  To AQ or not to AQ.  That is the question.

I am very appreciative of those who emailed or commented re: the site.  I am trying to find a happy medium with the TV site & blog going forward.  Have not yet found it.  Haven't started programming towards an updated site and don't intend to for a few weeks.  Suppose I'm thankful that most conferences haven't figured out how to schedule themselves for 2012.  Heck, West Virginia's home for 2012-13 will likely be decided in the court system and one of those cases won't be heard until near the end of the athletic calendar year in June.

I do software development for eight hours a day.  To come home and do more doesn't strike me as something I desire to do right now.  To be quite honest with you: I would not expect a football schedule listing at my site for 2012 until at least April.  I will keep track of it as much as possible, but I make no guarantees beyond that.   The twitter and facebook pages remain active, but I've turned off being notified when a post/comment hits the account, so unless I'm looking at the site, don't expect a quick answer.

I'm going to go spin a few records now.   Vinyl has made a comeback, after cassette, 8 track, CD, DVD-Audio, SACD, DualDisc, digital download and others tried to make it irrelevant.  Sound quality still matters, and so does being unable to skip a track.

Thanks.  Happy New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011: Year In Review

Plenty of changes in sports television and coverage of colleges in 2011.  Got started fairly quickly too.

1/5/11 - Conference USA and FOX Sports announce a new media rights deal.  After months of negotiating a new deal with ESPN, C-USA elected to move on and signed a deal with FOX for double the money, double the number of football games, plus ten men's basketball games and eight women's basketball games.

Analysis: I think it worked out well for the conference.  With any deal on FSN, there were clearance/pre-emptions for local coverage of other sports, but the conference had more opportunities to be seen.  I would be curious to know if teams saw attendance increases since the number of weeknight games decreased.

1/6/11 - FOX acquires rights to the inaugural Pac-12 football championship game.

Analysis: FOX also purchased an additional six college football games and ten men's basketball games for its FSN package.  Coupled with the C-USA rights, ongoing negotiations with the Big 12 and Pac-12 plus the purchase of the first six Big Ten football championships, FOX clearly established itself as a player in college sports.

1/18/11 - The FCC makes Comcast's purchase of NBC official.

Analysis: More later, but the beginning of a competitor in the college rights / broadcasting area.

1/19/11 - ESPN announces a channel dedicated to the University of Texas

Analysis: ESPN makes a big play after FOX appeared to be the leader of the channel, paying close to five times more than what FOX intended to pay.  Created a chasm within the conference membership that would widen later in the year.

3/15/11 - The new format of broadcasting the NCAA men's basketball tournament begins as TruTV broadcasts the first of the two "First Four" doubleheaders

Analysis: I didn't catch much of the opening weekend (I attended games in Cleveland), what I saw I was impressed with.  CBS and Turner followed through on their promise of noting when close & interesting games were going on and where to find those games.  Every game was televised nationally.  Some may complain that the games weren't on CBS or that they had trouble finding TruTV right away.  My take is that it was known in advance where to find the games.  Not to mention that Turner improved on the online March Madness package.

3/28/11 - FOX announces that F/X will get into the college football business, carrying a game of the week starting in 2011.

Analysis: F/X began broadcasting sports events a month later with matches from the UEFA Champions League semifinals and this announcement formally re-entered the channel into the college sports broadcasting business after a decade out of the game.  The deal with Conference USA allowed for some games to air on FOX and F/X, and the Big 12 & Pac-12 agreed to allow some of their games from FSN to move over to F/X.  Initially F/X intended to air its games at 8pm ET, but over half the package aired at 12pm ET and in mid-afternoon.

3/30/11 - ESPN sues Conference USA over the manner in which C-USA signed their rights agreement with FOX.

Analysis: In some ways, it felt like ESPN was using C-USA as a example for those leaving ESPN (ie. don't  cross us).  In other ways, it made sense as ESPN did has rights to negotiate with C-USA before the rights could go on the open market.   ESPN felt that C-USA did not properly provide a formal counter offer during a critical point in the negotiation, where C-USA disagrees.

4/14/11 - The Big 12 and FOX Sports announce a new 13 year television contract for broadcast of football on cable along with other Big 12 sports.  Men's basketball was not included as it is part of ESPN's deal for football games on ABC.

Analysis: FOX paid for 40 football games and the ability to license games to other cable networks, such as the existing deal with ESPN.  The money being paid to the conference was though to be a pacifier when it came to the Longhorn Network and the conference voted to share more of its ESPN & FOX TV revenue equally.  Instead loopholes within the contract, specifically regarding institutionally controlled games, ended up being a catalyst for further changes in the landscape.

5/3/11 - After months of major negotiations and open bidding, ESPN and FOX sign agreements with the Pac-12.

Analysis: Larry Scott became the model for a new style of conference commissioner.  One with an open mind.  After Comcast got involved and was set to sign the conference for all rights, they engaged ESPN and FOX to join together into a single bid for various pieces of rights.  ESPN became the primary rightsholder in men's basketball, while FOX gained football games for their over-the-air network.  The conference also noted that they held back a fair number of events and intended to create their own television network.

Late May - The Big East, after agreeing to basic terms of a contract extension with ESPN, elects to back away from the deal after the announcements of the Big 12 and Pac-12 rights deals

Analysis: The rumored terms were close to on par with the ACC's deal for around $13 million per team, per year for all sports members.  The initial analysis felt like this was in the Big East's best interest and suitors from Comcast were extremely interested in bidding on the conference's rights.  This move, along with other changes in the national landscape, turned out to be costly for the conference.

7/5/11 - The Longhorn Network elects to pick up Texas's football game vs. Rice.  It also announces that it intends to air a 2nd football game involving Texas and one of its Big 12 conference games.

Analysis: ESPN was able to work with FOX to get a second game for Longhorn Network (eventually selecting the 10/29 game vs. Kansas) and the rumor is that FOX was granted the ability to air a Big 12 game or two on its over-the-air network within the coming years.  Coupled with concerns regarding broadcasting of high school football on the network, this became the breaking point for Texas A&M and Missouri with the Big 12.

7/27/11 - The Pac-12, in conjunction with inDemand, announces that they will create Pac-12 Networks.  One national network and six regional networks based on the conferences' natural rivalry areas (Washington, Oregon, Arizona, NorCal, SoCal & Rocky Mountain).

Analysis: The second game changer the Pac-12 pulled off.  By engaging inDemand as a partner, the conference essentially has agreements in place with Time Warner, Comcast, Cox and Bright House.  All rights not granted to ESPN and FOX go to Pac-12 Networks.  The "TV Everywhere" concept is also included in this agreement and those cable networks will be able to show the networks' events via the internet in an authenticated manner.

8/16/11 - ESPN, C-USA resolve lawsuit.  FOX granted ESPN the rights to the C-USA football championship game for the length of the contract between the conference and FOX.

Analysis: In June, the court set the schedule for the trial between ESPN and C-USA.  The schedule meant that FOX would at least get to air all their intended games during the 2011 football season.  At that point, ESPN & FOX worked together to resolve the suit with C-USA.  Note that FOX was not a party to the suit, but wanted to help the conference resolve the suit so that all parties could move on.

Late summer & through the fall, part I - Several conferences (America East, Atlantic Sun, MAAC, MVC, SoCon, Sun Belt, WCC) sign new deals with ESPN.  Major parts of several of those deals involve exclusive   packages of games on ESPN3.

Analysis:  In some cases, the move to ESPN3 pays off because those conferences did not have many, if any, regular season games on ESPN's television networks.  In other cases, the ESPN3 packages came at the expense of cancelling the regional syndication package of games.

Late summer & through the fall, part II - A&M.  Syracuse & Pitt.  Missouri. WVU. TCU. MWCUSA. The Big East & West.  Exploring options.  Pac-??.

Analysis: The whole thing drives me batshit.  Equal parts ego bruising and conference mismanagement.  Rumors of ESPN spearheading some of these moves, thanks to the Boston College athletic director.  All in the name of chasing the almighty dollar because someone has more than someone else.

10/24/11 - CBS and ESPN are able to negotiate to allow CBS to air the LSU-Alabama game in primetime after CBS already has exhausted its single SEC primetime window earlier in the year.

Analysis: The negotiation wasn't acrimonious by any means.  CBS did guarantee that the 2012 Alabama-LSU game would air in primetime on their network.  ESPN in turn gained some form of "scheduling considerations" in 2012 from CBS.  One rumor is that ESPN would be allowed to earmark a few marquee SEC games and hold them from CBS.  As for the game, 9-6 LSU in OT and CBS earned an excellent 11.5 national rating.