Saturday, May 31, 2014

Notes on SEC TV selections & other general TV items

SEC Controlled TV Schedule
Google Docs Flex Schedule by Network

* The SEC released their early season TV schedule Friday and this is the earliest date in several years where the national TV schedule has been completely set.  For a while they would release the CBS, ESPN & ESPN2 games in May or June, then the ESPNU, syndication, sublicense and PPV games at media days.  Then they went to releasing all early season items at media day for a couple years.

Let me say that it will be nice to not receive an email or a tweet every other day asking "Where are the SEC kickoff times?".  Gets old after the 2nd or 3rd time.  Sometimes from the same person.  During the same week.

* The Big Ten is the only "Power 5" who has not released their early season TV schedule.  Of the "Group of 5" conferences, the American likely has a few televised games that are waiting to be set in the early season.  Many of the "Group of 5" conferences have weeknight games that are also waiting on kickoff times that have not yet been set.

What is open & can be filled?

Week 1 (8/28 & 8/30)
  • Likely a lot of ESPN3 exclusives from the G5 conferences
  • Tulane at Tulsa on 8/28 appears to be waiting to be set for CBS Sports Network.  ESPN has announced when they are carrying a weeknight game, so this one kinda sticks out.
  • Openings on ABC & ESPN's primary cable networks (ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU) appear to be:
    • 12pm ESPN2
    • 12pm ESPNU
    • 3:30pm ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror opposite West Virginia vs. Alabama
  • A mid afternoon opening exists on CBS Sports Network between the completion of the Ohio St. vs. Navy game and the beginning of the Washington at Hawai'i game, though CBSSN could show US Open tennis during this time.
Week 2 (9/6)
  • Oklahoma at Tulsa from the American was guaranteed television coverage on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
  • Air Force at Wyoming is guaranteed to be shown on an ESPN platform
  • Available openings include the following:
    • All ESPN primary network windows at 12pm, plus the possibility of an ABC window at that time
    • A mid-afternoon ESPN2 window at around 3:30pm.  If USC at Stanford is turned into a reverse mirror game, this would be the other half of the reverse mirror
    • CBS Sports Network has a mid afternoon window open for an American game.  
    • A late evening ESPNU window after the 7pm SEC game
  • More ESPN3 exclusives from the G5 conferences
Week 3 (9/13)
  • It appears there will be an ABC window at 12pm.  There are openings across ESPN's primary networks at that time too.
  • CBS Sports Network is once again open in the mid-afternoon for an American game if they choose to air one.
  • It looks like there could be a reverse mirror between Arkansas at Texas Tech and another game, probably from the Big Ten or American.  ESPN would be the reverse mirror network as ESPN2 looks to be carrying a NASCAR race during the mid afternoon followed by a pair of SEC games starting at 6pm ET.
  • The Tennessee at Oklahoma & USC at Boston College games also appear to be filling the two open slots at 8pm ET on ABC & ESPN.  The games could be reverse mirrored or air nationally one of the two available networks
  • Additional ESPN3 exclusives
Not mentioned is that ESPNEWS will be carrying some games.  Only one game has been set for the network (San Diego St. at North Carolina on 9/13), but there should be a game or two on the network on 8/30 & 9/6, along with maybe another game on 9/13.

I also don't know if there will be any MAC or Sun Belt syndication packages.  For selfish reasons, I hope to hear some MAC kickoff times as I'll be traveling to Central Michigan in mid-September.

* LSU at Texas A&M was not mentioned as part of the SEC release today, which I find interesting.  I wonder if we'll hear more about this game during SEC Media Days.  I agree with others who mentioned the following: ESPN could be considering showing it on SEC Network.  

* CBS Sports Network is supposed to air around 13-15 American games.  I'm unsure whether CBSSN will have games off the top or if they will select games through the 12 day selection process.  It would make sense if they were set during the 12 day process as ESPN would also be choosing games.  CBSSN, in terms of subscribing households, has less than any of the ESPN platforms, so if there was a 12 day process, they may receive a choice before games are set aside for ESPN3.

These are open slots they could fill.  There are around 20 of them, but they won't all be used:
  • 8/28 (Thursday) - could be for Tulane at Tulsa
  • 9/6 (3:30pm)
  • 9/13 (3:30pm)
  • 9/20 (12pm & 7pm)
  • 9/27 (12pm)
  • 10/4 (7pm)
  • 10/11 (7pm)
  • 10/18 (3:30pm)
  • 10/25 (after 4:30pm)
  • 11/1 (12pm, only if Air Force at Army is not on CBSSN)
  • 11/8 (12pm)
  • 11/15 (7pm)
  • 11/22 (3:30pm & 7pm)
  • Black Friday 11/28 (12pm)
  • 11/29 (7pm, but only if they have no other men's basketball event conflicts)
  • 12/6 (all day)
* A couple random thoughts:
  • The SEC Network is supposed to have exclusive video content for channel subscribers along with the network feed online.  The Longhorn Network has a online video feed for subscribers too.  I wonder if it would be easier, and a one-stop portal, if those networks were added to the WatchESPN site where one login would provide all of the online content for a subscriber.  
  • With the SEC sublicense package ending and Comcast's CSS RSN closing up, I'm drawing a blank on whether Comcast's RSNs will have any FBS football.  I kinda wonder if they some of them would be willing to make up with FOX to carry FSN content.  CSN Mid Atlantic has the ACC RSN package & MASN2 is affiliated with FSN, so a fair amount of the Mid Atlantic region is covered, but the RSNs in Chicago, Northern California and maybe Philadelphia might desire some of the content.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Notes on Partial Pac-12 TV Schedule

Pac-12 Controlled TV Schedule
My Google Docs Spreadsheet

* As I alluded to last night, Michigan St. at Oregon airing on FOX, to me, is a bit of a surprise.  The other unique item about the game is the 6:30pm ET start, the only evening FOX broadcast network game not starting at 7:30pm.  ABC does not have a primetime game on September 6th due to a NASCAR race and ESPN is airing the Virginia Tech-Ohio St. game at 8pm.   I don't know if it was to capture the audience coming out of the mid-afternoon games and hold them, but if the start was by design, fair play to them.

* FOX's broadcast network used up four of its required eight Pac-12 selections and two of the four required primetime game.  With that said, remember that FOX did not air enough primetime games last year, but FOX now has flexibility with their MLB postseason schedule to place Division Series & League Championship Series games on FOX Sports 1, so each telecast window on the broadcast network is Pac-12 "friendly".  They aren't locked out of a particular timeslot.  Overall, FOX has used nine of their 22 selections.

The FOX Sports 1 schedule has up to four available late evening windows for the conference to fill, one less than 2013.  If FOX just sticks to the minimum on their broadcast network, and it has more windows (18) than the required minimums combined for the Big 12 (6) and Pac-12 (8), FS1 should have at least nine games in the early/mid-afternoon Pacific Time Zone windows.

* ABC has two Pac-12 games selected already, but still needs to pick up a game to air in primetime.  ESPN used seven of their selections, so they will have fifteen selections available throughout the rest of the year.

* The early Pac-12 Networks schedule again looks...weak, though I'm not sure it will look a lot different than what you see when BTN's early season schedule come out.  A lot of games vs. FCS schools.  Comparatively speaking, this is the first year FOX's cable nets (FX or FS1) were not stuck with a Pac-12 vs. FCS game.  This is really a function of the way the conference or TV partners desire to stack the early season with mostly non-conference games, then slide into nearly 100% conference games from late September through November.

Still not a fan of slotting games into three hour windows like the network did on September 13th to air four games nationally.  Yes there is streaming and the complimentary regional networks in many areas out west, but I've never warmed up to it.

The other item I noticed is that the Pac-12 Networks didn't announce any other in season selections beyond week three.  The two prior seasons they had a choice or two selected after week three, presumably because they had the top choice in a particular week with a game they really wanted.

* USC and Colorado were the two schools that did not have an early season game selected by Pac-12 Networks.  Pac-12 TV rules dictate that a school cannot appear more than nine times in the 44 games held by FOX and ESPN.  By my count, both Colorado & USC will have two games on Pac-12 Networks at some point during the season.  Both of USC's games will likely be against Pac-12 opponents as their remaining non-conference game is Notre Dame.

* My assumption is that FOX knows their MLB postseason schedule and was comfortable about the selection of Utah at Oregon St. on October 16th and that it would not conflict with any MLB postseason games that FS1 would air.

* Each network gets to use two priority picks during the year.  I'm not sure if they have to claim them in advance of the season, but it seems likely since both ESPN and FOX in prior years have set aside late season games involving Notre Dame.  Let's assume for the moment that Michigan St. at Oregon was a priority pick for FOX.  The two games involving Notre Dame might be priority picks (at Arizona St., at USC).  That would leave a fourth "priority pick" out there, assuming there are no parameters about the type of game the priority picks must use (non-conference vs. intraconference).  Maybe Oregon at Stanford or Oregon at UCLA?

* The slightly later start for the Pac-12 Championship game has to be a nod to the previous two games that aired on FOX which started at 5pm local time.  6pm isn't much better, especially for a Friday game, but it allows local travellers an extra hour.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Notes on the Partial Big 12 TV Schedule

Big 12 Controlled TV Schedule

* As I mentioned in the FOX release post, I was really stunned to see the UCLA vs. Texas game end up on FOX as ESPN helped facilitate the matchup.  Upon further reflection, this might make more sense.

ESPN announced in November of '11 that would be bringing the game to Arlington and that they would be televising it.  The date the game was contracted is extremely important.  At the time, ABC was only allowed to air Big 12 games as part of their TV contract while any Big 12 games on ESPN were typically part of a sublicense agreement between FOX Cable Networks and ESPN.  Conversely, FOX could not air any Big 12 games on their broadcast networks.  Just FX and FSN.  This was seven months after FOX had made an increase in their Big 12 commitment after the defections of Nebraska & Colorado, but ten months before both FOX & ESPN modified their deals with the conference following additional changes in conference membership.

The big modification by both TV partners?  ESPN could air games on pay TV without having to sublicense from FOX.  Conversely, FOX could air games on their broadcast network.  I think this revision is where things changed.  Previously, one could argue the deck was stacked in favor of the Disney properties to carry the game.  ABC usually selected ahead of FOX.  Even with sublicensed games, they probably could have shuffled things around.

Once FOX gained access to air games on their broadcast network and select ahead of the Disney properties, and maybe 9/13/14 was that week, they exercised their right to choose a game organized by a rival.  UCLA vs. Texas was contracted to be played under a vastly different TV agreement, but by being played in Texas, FOX may have asserted that the game was a Big 12 controlled game, not just a random neutral site game, and either TV partner could choose it.

Tennessee at Oklahoma isn't a bad consolation prize though.

* FOX has a relatively low minimum number of games they have to carry on FOX Sports 1 (six games).  With the early season & special date games they've chosen, plus a telecast window on December 6th, at least eight Big 12 games will air on the network.

* If the remaining C-USA flex selections all air on FSN, that would leave the Big 12 with at least nine games on FSN.  This number is not counting the four institutionally controlled games that will air across the regional networks.

* Fifteen selections remain for ABC/ESPN.  Or maybe fourteen if the Florida St. vs. Oklahoma St. game counts since the game is in Arlington much like UCLA vs. Texas.  Neutral site games & classifying them make my head hurt.

* North Texas at Texas is considered Texas' institutionally controlled Longhorn Network game.  I'm sure they'll be looking to air one intraconference game.  When they do, it will count towards the nineteen games ESPN is allotted to air across their platforms.

* I found it interesting but not surprising that FOX chose to designate Iowa St.'s game vs. Toledo as their institutionally controlled game and not the North Dakota St. game.  The Bison have made a name for themselves over the past few seasons, including a win over Kansas St. last year.  If FOX had chosen to give the Cyclones the NDSU game, they may have elected to sit out Saturday as none of the other available games may have been worth carrying nationally.  It also provides FOX a bit of flexibility on October 11th since it looks like they'll be airing a MLB playoff game in the evening, so they can maximize their available telecast windows.

Notes on C-USA Preliminary TV schedule

C-USA Controlled Telecast Schedule

* Feels kinda light doesn't it?  Especially on the CBS Sports Network end, where just seven conference controlled games were selected.  Assuming no contract terms were modified to their television contract, CBSSN didn't even take the ten selections it is allotted between FOX's first ten selections and their second batch.

As it was pointed out to me, CBSSN only took one Saturday intraconference game (Rice at Louisiana Tech on 11/29) and only three of the seven selections were games between two C-USA schools.  Not sure how much they really value the conference, especially with the sublicense package they'll have from the American Athletic Conference which has several former C-USA members.

* Another reason the schedule feels kinda light, I assume, is the lack of a regional sublicense partner for CBS Sports Network.  CSS, who sublicensed C-USA content from CBSSN, will shut down on Saturday night.  They typically aired 10+ football games per year plus men's basketball games.  CBSSN may be working with local stations and regional networks from Time Warner, Cox and Comcast, maybe FOX RSNs too, to try to get more C-USA games on television if CBSSN is required to do so.

I took a quick look over NBCSN's availability.  They have scheduled MLS telecast windows most Saturdays through late October, plus some English Premier League, Formula 1 and CAA football commitments.  They may also have some Ivy League games too.

Otherwise, the C-USA Digital Network will have a lot more exclusive games.

* FOX set six games of its twenty games to air on FOX Sports 1.  Last year, FS1 guaranteed that ten conference-controlled games will air on the network.  That guarantee was not in the conference's release, but could be found in UTSA's press release.  Not sure if UTSA added something on their own or if the stipulation no longer exists.

* FSN is airing the FAU at FIU game on October 4th.  I assume this was done because FS1 will be carrying a MLB Division Series game.

* On 10/25, FOX only has three telecast windows across their primary networks.  I don't think C-USA will be shown in the 3:30pm ET FOX window.  While it is possible for a 9pm local time start (just look at the Texas Tech-UTEP game on 9/13), I don't see them being shown in the late FS1 window.  I think North Texas at Rice would air on FSN at 12pm ET.

* The 11/15 North Texas at UTEP game is also unique as FOX could fit it in nearly any available telecast window, though that means possible 10am (FSN) & 8pm (FS1) local time kickoffs, neither of which are ideal.  In previous years, UTEP has went for early afternoon kickoff times for November home games.  That would lead one to believe that UTEP would prefer the mid afternoon windows currently scheduled for either FSN or FS1.

Notes about the FOX Sports CFB schedule release

I'm going to do another post at some point tomorrow about the Big 12, Pac-12 and C-USA TV schedule releases.  I just want to concentrate on the FOX entities as a whole in this one.

FOX College Football schedule
My Google Docs spreadsheet

* I'm really surprised that FOX ended up with both Michigan St. at Oregon and UCLA vs. Texas.  Oregon, Michigan St., Wyoming and others changed their schedules, per this release from Wyoming at ESPN's request.  That would seem to indicate that ESPN intended to air Michigan St.-Oregon from Eugene with the condition around the game not being a night game, at least it does to me.  One thing that I can think of is that FOX and ESPN continue to select two games each before the season that they want to air, regardless of who has first pick in that week or where the game occurs during the season, and FOX selected this one as a priority pick.

UCLA vs. Texas is a bigger head scratcher to me.  ESPN helped organize and bring this matchup to AT&T Stadium back in 2012.  You would figure that since they were involved in setting up the game, they would be the ones showing it.  Then again, the game is being played in Texas, so while it is a one-off game, it appears to be covered as part of the Big 12 TV contract and FOX had the option to select it.

* If you look at October, you'll notice that FOX has 7:30pm ET windows every Saturday except on October 25th.  That Saturday likely falls during the World Series.  A conference call from earlier this year about FOX's MLB plans noted that they were looking to show their League Division & Championship Series games on FOX Sports 1.  I think this is why FS1 is open one Thursday & two Saturdays in east coast primetime during the month.

* FS1 cut back quite a bit on the number of Thursday night games they've decided to show.  Excluding the special dates of Thanksgiving and the opening Thursday night, they'll show just four games on Thursdays.  Some games are airing on Fridays as well, but I'm curious as to whether FOX made a conscious decision to back aware from most Thursday nights where they'll compete not just with ESPN's Thursday night schedule, but a schedule of NFL games airing partially on CBS.

* On the other hand, FOX broadcast network is once again airing a game during the opening weekend.  Last year, possibly due to the push of FOX Sports 1, "Big FOX" did not carry any game that weekend.  The number of games on FOX is flat compared to last year, but they only have one doubleheader scheduled (September 13th) as of right now.  Last year, FOX had only one doubleheader scheduled and ended up with three after adding a couple mid-afternoon games in November.

* For comparison, FS1 aired 49 games last year.  This year, they are currently scheduled to air 42 games.  FSN aired 15 games in '13 after excluding any of the institutionally held Big 12 games which aired across multiple FSN regions.  In '14, FSN will have 21 games after excluding the extra Big 12 games.

* No college football scheduled to air yet on FOX Sports 2, but C-USA still has ten games on FOX College Sports.  Supposedly FS2 will be in more homes with soon as this article on Mike Francesa's radio simulcast notes and Time Warner will have access to FOX Sports Go soon, so the channel will have more visibility.

FOX set aside the 21 FSN windows, sixteen regular season FOX broadcast windows and 42 FS1 windows for a total of 79 games.  They'll have access to 22 regular season Pac-12 games, 20 C-USA games on FSN or FS1, which leaves 37 Big 12 games to be spread out between FOX, FS1 & FSN.

56 Big 12 games are available to ESPN & FOX after taking out the institutionally held games, one per school.  ESPN can carry up to nineteen games, which leaves FOX exactly 37 Big 12 games to play with.  As it stands, FOX can account for all their games on the broadcast network, FS1 and FSN without using FS2.

* The C-USA release had an interesting line in it about FOX.  Here's the line from the '13 release:
The 2013 football season marks the third year of a multi-platform media rights agreement between Conference USA and FOX Sports Media Group broadcasting a minimum of 20 games.
And here's the language in the '14 release:
The 2014 football season marks the fourth year of a multi-platform media rights agreement between Conference USA and FOX Sports to broadcast a minimum of 30 games.
I guess the one takeaway I have is that games on FOX College Sports, which appeared to be extras in prior years, are now part of FOX's overall bucket.  It should be noted that when the '13 release came out, FOX College Sports games had not yet been selected.

* To set expectations for FOX, it should be noted that even though they publish one of these TV schedules every year, it is indeed subject to change and it often does change with FOX as other events are added to the calendar.  FOX's MLB schedule, for example, has 4pm ET games on FS1 on both 9/20 & 9/27.  On the CFB schedule, both days have football games scheduled to air at that time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Notes on early SEC on CBS selections

TV schedule of SEC controlled games

* No real surprise that Georgia at South Carolina was selected to open the schedule.  I think most people could figure that out after the SEC Network selections were chosen.  Same with Florida vs. Georgia on November 1st.  In the case of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (I don't care that they've tried to de-emphasize the name), the only item I was curious about was whether the SEC Network could choose it if they wanted to, but it sounds like CBS is committed to the game every year.

* CBS is again waiting until after their US Open coverage ends to start up their college football coverage.  I will be curious to see whether that changes in future years.  I don't think CBS will have more than their 14-15 regular season games plus the SEC championship game.

* A reminder on the October 11th CBS doubleheader: CBS does not have the top two choices of SEC games that week.  They have the top choice and the 4th choice for that week.  When they have their primetime doubleheader on November 8th, CBS does get to choose the top two games that week.

* With CBS moving Arkansas at Missouri to Black Friday, it appears to be confirmed that ESPN has rights to the LSU at Texas A&M game on Thanksgiving.  I suppose it could air on SEC Network.  That should also leave the TCU at Texas game for FOX Sports 1 or FSN to pick up.

* There are a couple items outstanding with respect to the CBS schedule.  Notre Dame's neutral site/road game vs. Navy on November 1st is scheduled for CBS and the Air Force at Army game could air on CBS or CBS Sports Network.  CBS announcing their coverage of the Sun Bowl is also missing in action, though the organizing committee for the game has already announced the date & start time.  There are a lot of moving parts to get this sorted out from the CBSSN side of things:

  • Hasn't set their C-USA schedule, which could be waiting on FOX to finalize their first ten selections.  FOX gets to choose ten games, then CBSSN gets to choose ten, then FOX gets another ten.  CBSSN can pick after FOX again if they want.
  • No longer has a sublicense partner in CSS which carried a lot of their C-USA content regionally in the southeast
  • Now has 13-15 American conference games to slot in, sublicensed from ESPN.  I'm unsure if those are to be decided twelve days in advance after the early portion of the season or if they'll be selected earlier.
  • Assuming they have Patriot League rights in 2014, they need to choose 1-2 games.
I had heard that there might be a unique start time for Air Force-Army.  If it is on CBS and Notre Dame-Navy can be played at night (M&T Bank Stadium FedEx Field is open the next day as the Ravens Redskins play on the road on 11/2), the schedule might look something like this.  All times Eastern:
  • 11:30am - Air Force at Army
  • ~3pm - SEC Pregame Show
  • 3:30pm - Georgia vs. Florida
  • Sometime after 7pm - Notre Dame vs. Navy
The 11:30am start for AFA-Army is based on CBS's kickoff time the last two games between Air Force & Navy.  Both kicked off at 11:30am ET and led into SEC pregame.  This allowed for the pregame to be short in event the game ran long instead of running into the SEC telecast window.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Looking over today's ACC & American kickoff time announcements

Here's the early season ACC controlled TV selections, along with the kickoff times for the Thursday & Friday night games.  There was also a shift in the kickoff time for BYU at Connecticut & a kickoff time set for UCF at East Carolina.  Some brief thoughts:

* Kickoff time for Clemson's road game at Georgia, along with any other non-conference game where the ACC is the road team, should be announced as the conference controlling the TV rights works with their TV partners.  Working under the assumption that CBS isn't airing a game on 8/30 as they should have US Open tennis, a late afternoon kickoff on ESPN (5pm or 5:30pm ET) sounds about right as it would lead into the LSU-Wisconsin game from Houston starting at 9pm ET.  Since it is a SEC home game, ABC cannot show it and I don't think it would air on ESPN2 at 12pm or ESPNU.

* I am under the impression that the ACC RSN night game on 9/6 (The Citadel at Florida St.) means that there could be SEC, Big 12 and/or C-USA games on FOX RSNs in the early & mid afternoon that day.  There do not seem to be many conflicts for the SEC RSNs carrying at 4pm, so that could end up as their window.  The earlier window coincides with a FOX broadcast network MLB window, where there are only two games being played & both airing on the network.

* On 9/13, it appears that ABC will have a tripleheader with East Carolina at Virginia Tech possibly airing at 12pm ET.  It is possible the game could be:

  1. Reverse mirrored with an American, Big 12 or Big Ten game, along with a SEC game on ESPN or ESPN2 nationally
  2. Air regionally on ABC alongside an American or Big 12 game.  To my knowledge, these three conferences do not have requirements that every ABC game be 100% national either through ABC solely or through a reverse mirror.
  3. They don't bother with the reverse mirror (personal preference of mind) and just air a game each on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.  

Also on 9/13, I think the USC at Boston College is headed for ESPN or ESPN2.  UCLA vs. Texas from AT&T Stadium still seems like the best available game for ABC.  Can't see a reverse mirror situation here with two Los Angeles schools playing at the same time.

* The kickoff time for BYU at Connecticut has moved up one hour to 7pm ET.  Mildly important, because it keeps ESPN alive to air a Pac-12 game afterwards if they so desire.  When I said that I thought Colorado St. vs. Colorado was destined for FOX Sports 1 and UNLV at Arizona penciled into Pac-12 Networks, that was this morning (written last night when UTSA at Houston moved from ESPNEWS to ESPNU) and the kickoff time change happened today.

If either one happens to air on ESPN, I'd expect a 10:15pm ET start, possibly a 10pm ET start if they were to select the Colorado game to allow the game to kick off shortly after 8pm MT.  With that said, or written, UNLV at Arizona to me would be a better fit if they are trying to box the Connecticut game into a three hour window or 3:15 slot, a pet peeve of mine because these games rarely go three hours or less.  UNLV at Arizona could start at 7:15pm local time and fit nicely.

* With the move of UTSA at Houston to ESPNU from ESPNEWS, the game now falls under the "primary" TV portion of the American's TV deal.  A minimum of twenty-eight conference controlled games are to air on a mix ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.  Seventeen games have been selected to air on those networks so far.

* The last item involves the kickoff time for UCF at East Carolina on 12/4 and it is more for the basketball implications.  There are four games that evening on ESPN's networks from the SEC-Big 12 challenge.  With the football game on ESPN at 7:30pm, it locks that channel out of airing any basketball games, so expect those games to air on a mix of ESPN2, ESPNU and possibly ESPNEWS for the Big 12 home games.

A reverse situation exists for the games on 12/5.  The MAC football championship is on ESPN2, probably at 8pm, so it appears that the Kentucky at Texas & Florida at Kansas games could be bundled as a doubleheader on ESPN with the Missouri at Oklahoma game on ESPNU or ESPNEWS.  Over the past three years, ESPN has bypassed airing a NBA game opposite the MAC title game twice, choosing instead to show doubleheaders from the former Big East-SEC challenge.  Last year, ESPN aired a NBA game before showing the Kentucky vs. Baylor game from Arlington.  I think its reasonable to assume they'll go back to the arrangement of no NBA game that evening.

A few FOX Cable CFB items

* Quick PSA: A few college basketball scheduling items are starting to trickle out and more will come out in July.  I haven't put a link to it on the main page, but you can go here to look at what has been scheduled or confirmed so far.

* Last year, FOX Sports 1 had nineteen Big 12, eleven Pac-12 and four C-USA on Saturdays.  34 total games.  After looking at last year, I think they can still get close to that number, but they'll be working around a few more live event conflicts.

Last year, FS1 slotted most of their games into four hour telecast windows, allowing for filler in between games to show highlights, analysis, etc.  They did have a few programming commitments to honor besides college football last year, like the NASCAR Truck Series, UFC and the occasional sportscar racing.

MLB is a newer, bigger wrench when you plug it in at least once a week through September and the likelihood of postseason games to be played on the network.

I have attempted to document the conflicts here.  I do not have any possible MLB postseason conflicts listed as MLB does not confirm their postseason schedule until early September.  For the 2013 season, FOX released their tentative college football telecast schedule in June, but the schedule did change during the season.

(The other week, I mentioned that I thought the Tudor United SportsCar series race from Austin on 9/20, racing at around 1pm-3:50pm ET, would possibly be on FOX Sports 1 and could cause the network not to air any early afternoon college football.  Well, forget about that, because the NASCAR Truck Series already has a race scheduled for that afternoon with race programming starting at 1pm ET.)

Four items are tentatively known on the FS1 schedule
  • Per Old Dominion beat writer Harry Minium, ODU ran an advertisement at their spring game noting that the Friday night game vs. Middle Tennessee on 9/26 would air on FS1.
  • I have been able to find five of CBS Sports Network's seven Division II Thursday night games.  One of them conflicts with the Arizona at UTSA game on 9/4.  To me, that means FS1 will air the UTSA game.
  • CBSSN is also showing a pair of games from the Paradise Jam on 11/21, followed by Air Force at San Diego St.  That should mean that the UTEP at Rice game will air on a FOX platform, probably FOX Sports 1 since they are not known to be any other events that evening.
  • UTSA at Houston was moved from ESPNEWS to ESPNU on 8/29.  By doing that, I think it closes the door on an ESPN platform carrying the Colorado St.-Colorado game, unless it airs on ESPNEWS, which I'm told is not an option.  That should allow for the Rocky Mountain Showdown to air on FS1.
    • Side note: That should also put the UNLV-Arizona game on the Pac-12 Networks and the Bowling Green-Western Kentucky game on CBS Sports Network.

Some other dates worth looking at 
  • 9/20 - The afternoon is blocked by NASCAR & MLB.  FOX could end up doing a Big 12/CUSA-Pac-12 doubleheader, if they do two games.  Either way, I think they'll carry a Pac-12 game late.  Whether they carry a Big 12 or C-USA game before that depends on if ABC carries a Big 12 game at 3:30pm ET as there are only two Big 12 games to choose and only one intraconference game (Oklahoma-WVU).  FOX carries MLB on their broadcast network in the afternoon and could end up putting a Big 12 game on FSN in the early afternoon, then carrying a C-USA in the early evening on FS1 (Louisville-FIU ??), or vice versa with a C-USA game on FSN and the Big 12 game on FS1.
  • 9/27 - FS1 is blocked nearly the entire day except for an early afternoon game, which would seem likely to be a Big 12 game as their schedule isn't exactly strong that day.  FS1 could then carry the UCLA-Arizona St. game on Thursday 9/25, the Middle Tennessee-ODU game on 9/26 and FOX could take on another Pac-12 game as their broadcast network game.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gavitt Tipoff, SEC & Big 12 men's basketball scheduling and a small FS1 CFB note

* A few weeks ago, FOX added the start times of the 9/20 & 9/27 MLB games for FOX Sports 1.  Both are 4pm ET games.

For 9/20, it is possible that FOX Sports 1 will not have a 12pm ET game.  FOX Sports 1 & 2 carry various portions of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship and the series has a timed race that day from Circuit of the Americas from 1pm-3:50pm ET. has not yet listed television plans for this event.  It is something that is worth keeping an eye on.  Some of the races are being carried live while others are being shown on a day's delay on TV.  For example, the event from Road Atlanta in early October is being shown live on FS2 and on delay on FS1.

* The Gavitt Tipoff Series between the Big East and Big Ten is a great idea, and it is a small boon for FOX Sports 1 as they'll have some good games involving another power conference as part of their non-conference Big East games starting in 2015.

And I did receive a few tweets who mentioned that the entire series may end up completely on FOX Sports 1, as the agreement to play extends past the Big Ten's rights agreement with ESPN.  I don't think they are incorrect as time will tell as to whether the Big Ten rights get to the open market for a chance to be bid on by FOX.  But I am still pessimistic at the moment.

But I do believe that the majority of the series will end up on FOX owned properties, specifically the Big Ten Network and FS1.  The series is to be played Tuesday-Friday in early-mid November.   The main ESPN channel is usually tied up the majority of three of these four days with NBA (Wednesday & Friday) & college football (Thursday).  On Tuesdays, they'll carry the college football playoff rankings show, though I am not sure how many minutes the show will run for.  ESPN2 carries MAC football most Tuesdays & Wednesdays in November, plus a Friday night game.  ESPNU sometimes carries a football on Thursday nights, so that channel might be the best bet of those three.  ESPNEWS is also an option too, but I do not know if the Big Ten is amenable to allowing these games on the channel.

It also depends on the matchups themselves.  I'm sure that if ESPN is given the available games (the conference commissioners will determine the pairings and I don't know if TV will have a say) & possible dates and either doesn't like the matchups or just can't make things work to their best interests, they'll pass.  They still have the ACC/Big Ten challenge, so they'll have seven Big Ten non-conference home games right there.

I could see the best Big Ten home game available showing up on ESPN2 on Thursday, then the others appearing on ESPNU on Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, but there are always other games out there and commitments to other conferences and exempt events, which is where games could also fall to BTN.

* The creation of the SEC Network has had an effect on football, but there will be an effect on college basketball scheduling for the upcoming network and other conferences who have their rights held by ESPN.  Press releases note that the network will carry over 100 men's basketball games, including the first, second and quarterfinal rounds of the men's basketball tournament.  Some items to look into:
  • Will SEC basketball games during non-conference play be carried via overflow channels similar to the football scheduling on 9/6/14, as schools typically schedule for themselves instead of around the other conference members?  Or will some games end up on RSNs or be streamed exclusively online?
  • As I look at last year's packages by network, the SEC TV syndication package carried 37 games, along with another ten from the conference tournament, and the Comcast package had 24 games.   ESPN3 also carried nine conference games exclusively, so that gets the count of regular season games up to 70.  ESPN will get back the men's basketball sublicense package from FOX RSNs in 2015-16, so they'll add another 20-25 games in future years, but will the number of games on ESPN (21), ESPN2 (19) and ESPNU (29) decrease slightly to fill in time on the new network?
    • A side item to this is the end of Big 12 Network syndication.  The Big 12 Network games are expected to end up on ESPNEWS or ESPNU.  More on that below.
  • Assuming the SEC men's tournament stays on the same days (Wednesday-Sunday), could the tournament semifinals & finals see their tip times change?  There was some discussion about the ACC title game moving to Saturday night.  If the ACC semifinals move along with other dates/times from other conferences (American ??), could the tournament semis move off of ABC and to one of the ESPN cable networks?
    • This is also where the absence of NASCAR on ESPN's schedule in February & March will come into play.  They'll have time on Saturdays to show basketball in places where there was previously a Nationwide Series race.
* To the Big 12, where I briefly mentioned the end of Big 12 Network syndication above - There was this tweet from Iowa St. AD Jamie Pollard this week.
That isn't necessarily new news.  It came out at the Big 12 tournament about games moving to a national platforms.  I don't think you'll see any more games sublicensed out to other networks to make sure they get every game on TV, at least beyond what is sublicensed to CBS and the 20 non-conference games that seem to be allowed to air over most FOX RSNs.   I know what Mr. Pollard's tweet says but I think he's focused more on the end of Big 12 Network syndication.  CBS has a deal, ending after the 2015-16 season, for four Big 12 appearances per year.  Remember that appearances don't equal games.  They could be Big 12 conference controlled games (intraconference game = 2 appearances, non-conference home games = 1 appearance).  I believe that ESPN could sublicense them a game an ACC or Pac-12 controlled game where a Big 12 school is the road team.

Something to note - the Big 12 Network games always counted in the 100-105 games that ESPN could air across their networks every year.  Unless Mr. Pollard has been informed of a change in the contractual obligations of ESPN and they are indeed carrying every Big 12 intraconference game, I don't think this "fixes" anything when a game involving two Big 12 schools isn't selected by ESPN or sublicensed to CBS.  And ESPN3 can carry a small number of games exclusively, though this is probably for non-conference games.  If they don't pick it, it still falls to the local packages for the home team to air.

So unless there has indeed been a big change in the requirements of ESPN carrying Big 12 basketball games, yes, there is still a way for ESPN to "game" the system to get certain games to fall to the Longhorn Network.

Friday, May 2, 2014

SEC Network Scheduling Thoughts & a Nod to Legal Cord Cutting

* You may have seen that the SEC Network released their first three weeks of telecasts, plus the Troy at Georgia game on 9/20.  If not, here's the list.

I decided to compare it against the Pac-12 Networks schedule from '12 & '13.  Not in terms of quality but on the basis of the number of intraconference games.  One of the items that is noticeable in the SEC Network schedule is three conference games (Texas A&M at South Carolina on 8/28, Arkansas at Auburn on 8/30 and Kentucky at Florida on 9/13).

The Pac-12 has had some guidelines in non-conference scheduling and really prefers not to schedule non-conference games after the 3rd or 4th week of the season, with the notable exception of Notre Dame, though BYU may be making some inroads as an allowed exception as they will be playing Cal, Utah, Stanford and USC late in the season at various points in the next decade.  Anyways, neither '12 or '13 had the Pac-12 Networks carry a single intraconference game until week four in '12 and week five in '13.

Much of the SEC Network is still of a lesser quality to the fan outside of the SEC footprint.  No offense to an A&M fan, but I'm not going to be glued to my set while you guys get ready to play Lamar.  But ESPN has given the network a solid head start, definitely due to ESPN essentially allowing it to exist on their terms since its ESPN's content rights stocking the network, as they try to negotiation for the channel to be carried .  Not just with DirecTV, which a lot of folks seem to have a focus on.  Maybe it is because they passed on the Pac-12 Network & Longhorn Network, maybe because there are products like WatchESPN and ESPN3 that DirecTV hasn't negotiated to carry.

Just to tack on (or pile on, depending on your view), there were only two Pac-12 intraconference games available for any TV partner in the first three weeks of the season in '13 (Utah at Oregon St. & Washington St. at USC, both on FS1) and just one in '12 (USC at Stanford on FOX).

Changing up the philosophy on non-conference games, or stacking some weeks where the conference's network can gain access to games that more fans would have interest in, in my opinion, would be worth looking at, but it requires a dance partner and that partner's conference also has to be willing to allow those mid-season non-conference games.

And if the Pac-12 decides to once again release their opening Pac-12 Networks slate on Twitter, one game at a time every 10-15 minutes, have some better games.  Apologies for the bad imagery that's about to come up, but its almost like passing bad gas, letting it linger, then doing it again...and again....

* As for the rest of the SEC schedules for those weeks, they should hopefully come out earlier than media day in July, but I have my doubts.  Either way, I think the following items have been set in motion:

  • Georgia at South Carolina is the only game involving two SEC members on 9/13.  By default, I think it puts this game on CBS.
  • On 9/20, five games remain.  Here's how I see things shaking out, though these likely won't have kickoff times and networks set until 9/8 as 9/20 is beyond the first three weeks of the season:
    • In my opinion, Florida at Alabama is the CBS game, when compared against South Carolina at Vanderbilt and Mississippi St. at LSU.  Either way, I think CBS takes one of these three games.
  • Of the remaining four, two are conference games and two are non-conference.  I believe they would split the difference, with SEC Network taking one conference game and one non-conference game and the other two airing on ESPN/2/U.
  • I have no knowledge of whether either of these items are a guideline or a rule, but I believe that they will try to schedule soft against the CBS 3:30pm window with the SEC Network.  Also, I wonder if the reason for the 4pm starts is to give CBS a chance to start their game unopposed.

* A general reminder re: the SEC - FOX RSNs is that they should still have rights to around eight football games this year and somewhere north of 20 men's basketball games, plus some baseball, softball, women's basketball, etc.  Their agreement to sublicense content from ESPN was one year longer than the agreement with Comcast.  When discussions first came up about Project X, some thought was given to waiting until the 2015-16 athletic year to starting the network because all sublicense agreements would have expired.  When the decision was made to move the timeline up one year, the decision was made to not buyout the agreement with FOX, but to let it naturally expire and regain control of the content in a year.
* I would like to do a longer post on legal cord cutting at some point.  Maybe this summer when there is a quiet period after early season college football scheduling assignments are set and before college basketball schedules come out.

First, I do want to to thank Twitter follower MiamiO_Fan, who has pushed me on the topic of cord cutting and to do more research behind it.  I wanted to bring up that he mentioned that CBS Sports Network can be purchased through SkitterTV for $5 a month as part of a package with other channels.  I'm not aware of any other way to watch CBSSN legally online.  The other three sports networks tied to broadcast entities have their online access tied directly to your pay TV subscription, though there are some online TV providers out there where you can pay to have an online-only access to the channels, like NimbleTV

Whether that is a deal to you or not depends on how much it would cost you to add it as part of existing television subscription, how much you'd actually watch it, etc.  Just wanted to bring it to your attention as CBSSN has been behind the the other three when it comes to subscribing households.