Sunday, January 26, 2014

How do you juggle college football and MLB if you are FOX Sports 1?

I was going through some modeling for the first three weeks of college football for 2014.  One of the positives for FOX Sports 1 is that they will have live MLB games on Saturdays during most of 2014.  But it presents a bit of an issue from Labor Day through the rest of the season, at least one I perceive.

Last year FOX aired their September MLB windows at 12:30pm with 1pm first pitch.   FOX now has 52 game windows with possibly 40 of them airing on FOX Sports 1.  I count 26 Saturdays during the upcoming 2014 MLB season, so it is fairly safe to assume two windows per week.  There are five Saturdays that would coincide with the MLB regular season, along with possible postseason action from the division series and league championship series rounds that could possibly conflict.

Let's assume for the moment that FOX Sports 1's regular MLB telecast window is 4:05pm or 4:15pm ET.  They probably can get away with a brief pregame show that doubles as a college football game break at approximately 3:30pm ET.  No real harm there.

Where I see a possible issue is whenever the game ends and if you devote any postgame coverage to MLB before going back to a college football game.  The average MLB game last year ran 2:59 last year.  Average.  My impression is that it does not take into account the possibility of weather delays and is strictly first pitch to last pitch and includes time between innings.  I do not know what the median game time is and where it is in relation to the mean.

(Side note: Did not know nationally televised MLB games get an extra 20 seconds of commercial time at every break)

So here's how I see a few Saturdays possibly looking if there is a postgame after MLB:

12pm-3:30pm: College Football
3:30pm-4pm: Gamebreak/Filler
4pm-7:15pm: MLB (assume a 4:15pm first pitch)
7:15pm-7:30pm: Gamebreak/Filler
7:30pm-11pm: College Football

A four hour block with the MLB game plus wraparound programming really cuts out two college football game windows.  I don't forsee regular 11pm ET start times for the Pac-12, though there was one last year.

Anyways, do you bother with an MLB postgame show and how much should that hold the start time of your next event?  A few items I thought of.

1) Don't bother with a postgame & go right to the next event.
2) Have a postgame exclusive to FOX Sports Go or push the MLB postgame to FOX Sports 2
3) Use FOX Sports 2 for one college football game per week 
4) Add an extra game on FSN with FOX College Sports simulcast

Regarding FS2, the Pac-12 is supposed to have around 14 games on a national cable outlet, and since FOX managed to mess up and not carry enough games on their broadcast network in 2013, I don't think it is wise to give them another reason to be ticked off.  Besides, they have the Pac-12 Network.  The Big 12 only requires six nationally televised games on a FOX national cable outlet, so they can get to that number fairly easily over fifteen weeks.  Conference USA may have flexibility with their twenty games, depending on how many are placed on Thursday nights.  Last year they were guaranteed ten games on FS1 and twelve games aired on the network, but only four of the twelve aired on Saturdays.

I don't think No. 4 is ideal because of regional pre-emptions and several areas without an FSN affiliate.  FOX didn't bother simulcasting every FSN game on FOX College Sports either.  Can't move Pac-12 games there either.

Nos. 2 or 3 are feasible if FOX Sports can convince more programmers to pick up FS2 and sign deals for FSGo.  I don't know if FOX has any expiring contracts with programmers in 2014 that can give them a boost.  Conferences would also have to be willing to move a game or two early in the season to FS2.  

Your thoughts?  

3 comments:

agentofamour said...

Those of us that have Cablevision as our service provider will lose the 3 channels of Fox College Sports at the end of this month (I am not sure of the reason why). A few years ago we lost Tennis Channel. Since I pay extra for the "sports pack" I feel that they owe me 4 decent chanels as replacements, although I am not about to hold my breath on that.

Thomas said...

Matt

Its possible they could move MLB games to Noon during September, which could allow CFB to start at 3:30. They could also move more afternoon CFB games to Fox broadcast in the late afternoon window (now that Fox Broadcast won't have baseball). Depending on inventory those early weeks, you could see some of the less compelling games on FS2 . They could also add more windows over summer and drop baseball on selected weekends in September (as Fox used to do with GOTW). Depending on pennant races you could also see a late night baseball game at 1030 (think Rangers at Angles). All in all, this is the kind of problem sports networks love to have.

Serge said...

My question is at the other end of the schedule... April 12 has a horse race scheduled for 4:30-6:00pm ET... assuming FS1 does a doubleheader for baseball (it's only their second Saturday with MLB)... do they do one game at 1:00 and another one in primetime?

Also... jumping ahead to 2015, it could get really crowded on Saturdays with NASCAR, golf and soccer coming to FS1... to answer your question Matt, I think FSMG has to step up their efforts to get more distribution for FS2 and/or enhance their streaming options... OR (and this is jumping the shark) get FX back in the game...