Thursday, August 25, 2016

A few CFB TV items coming into the 2016 regular season.

* I'll start doing guesses on the 12 day in-season picks starting on September 11th, which will be for games scheduled on September 24th.  There are a handful of games on 9/10 and 9/17 that have their start time set but are awaiting a finalized television outlet.  Typically these decisions reside in the same network family, such as "ABC or ESPN" or "ESPN or ESPN2".

* TV apps are becoming more useful for watching college football.  To be honest, it can be easier for me to flip between apps at times vs. going from apps to channels on my TV receiver.  Here's what I could find out several national sports networks and their offerings on Apple TV, Google Cast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

Several conferences, such as the Southland and OVC, have Roku channels available.  Also, some channels maybe be easily sent to a TV if you are using providers like Sling TV, Playstation Vue and TWC TV (which I have no idea how that's been affected with Charter/Spectrum taking over).

* BTN released their non-conference men's basketball TV schedule, with one game to be announced.  BTN will carry all four of the Big Ten controlled Gavitt Games while FS1 will have the Big East side.  My expectation is that other conferences will be releasing their conference TV schedules over the next few weeks.

* Sinclair's American Sports Network will stream select football games this year on their website.  Typically, these are games that would not be offered through ESPN3 and are not being sublicensed from ESPN.

* Campus Insiders and BAMTech are going to look for strategic partnerships, with BAM's tech features to be incorporated into Campus Insiders, so the LiveStream app might be changing for Google Cast users for CI.  BAMTech's backbone, used on several apps, is very friendly with nearly all castable hardware items.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A few thoughts on Big 12 expansion from a television standpoint

Regarding Big 12 expansion, I have had three things that have floated across my mind:

* The current Big 12 contracts were finalized in early September of 2012 and that's when the provision was added to simply provide for any new schools an extra revenue share for TV instead of a full renegotiation for television.  We're now getting the "why did they (they being ESPN & FOX) do that?  What a dumb move."

Whether it was really true or not, there was a lot screaming going on in Tallahassee & Clemson about leaving the ACC and its disadvantages (some of it misinformed), and those schools certainly would have warranted an equal share of  TV revenue from the Big 12's television partners.

For ESPN and FOX (more for ESPN as an ACC TV rightsholder), the Big 12 provision could be viewed as a hedge against the ACC imploding and losing out on televising games from those schools.  Wasn't a bad hedge at the time, but with the ACC doing its own Grant of Rights in April of 2013, it kinda limited the Big 12's expansion targets to outside the Power Five conferences.  And we're now at a crossroads of sorts.

* Television networks, when it comes to college football, value flexibility.  See the Pac-12 for example, though that's a bit of a cautionary tale because the way some of their coaches talk about it with respect to night games, maybe they gave away too much of the farm (they're trying to fix it this year).

A few weeks back, I brought up how scheduling more games on weeknights, probably with any new members hosting, would be one way to provide a bit of value back to the television networks.  Another way to do it: targeting schools to the west of the conference's footprint.

The conference is currently dominated by schools in the Central Time Zone with West Virginia being the outlier in the Eastern Time Zone.  West Virginia has hosted eleven Saturday 12pm ET starts on various networks since joining the Big 12 from 2012 to 2015, more than any other Big 12 school (tied for second are Iowa St. and Kansas at ten each).

As noted above, FOX and ESPN have been given a bit of grief from the Pac-12 about nighttime starts in the Pac-12, but if they could schedule a 10pm ET / 8pm MT game, those could be more valuable than adding another school in the east and trying to fit the game on FSN or ESPNU.

* First, let me say as I was researching the paragraphs written below, I came across this piece by Scott Pierce of the Salt Lake Tribune, who puts forth the point that BYU would have no problem getting out of their TV deal with ESPN if it were to enter the Big 12.  I was researching whether BYU's football TV contract with ESPN was, possibly, more of a stumbling block.  Here's my thinking behind that:

  • Consider that we have both past (East Carolina, mid 90s in C-USA) and current (Navy with the American) precedent with an independent TV deal remaining in force when the school moved its football program into a conference.  Neither of those TV deals, as I understand it, are or were as lucrative to the schools as BYU's is.
  • There is a difference with the potential for BYU since ESPN is a Big 12 TV partner, so absorbing it into the Big 12 TV contract wouldn't be as unique as all Navy home games remaining on CBS Sports Network & CBS or ESPN picking two East Carolina games before FSN could take their C-USA games.  
  • ESPN pays BYU far less for its football rights than the combined TV share than a Big 12 school earns for all athletics, which would seem to be quite palatable for ESPN in the short term.  Big 12 could add a school, but ESPN in theory could continue to enforce the BYU football contract at whatever rate schedule is in force (I have read they get paid based on the network the game airs on).  Meanwhile, the Big 12 only gets a bump for adding BYU only in all other sports except football, unless they add them for football only, which means they could get no extra revenue from a TV deal.  
  • The Big 12 doesn't want to add someone that, in theory, won't add to their pile of cash or could actually pull money away from everyone else.  To my knowledge, Big 12 television partners aren't cutting eleven individual checks for TV; its a check to the conference who then divides it up.  BYU, in that sense, could be in more of a pay-to-play situation because they'd be paying to enter a conference and not reaping the benefits of increased income for a period of time.
  • On the FOX side of that house, if the ESPN contract were to remain in force, unless provisions were made by ESPN, FOX would have no access to BYU home games and limited access to four BYU conference road games as part of the Big 12 television deals.  I say "limited" because of the weekly selection process that most TV partners work with on their conferences.  There would also be virtually no access to BYU men's basketball (ESPN is national rightsholder), so FOX would have limited access to BYU athletics in the sports they are largely paying the most money towards existing Big 12 schools.

Pierce notes that when speaking to ESPN executives that "BYU can do what is best for BYU", but let's be clear that ESPN is also going to do what is best for themselves too, and that could include contract enforcement.

BYU should keep an eye on this whole thing, because if they were to stay independent in football, they may be able to gauge the market rate for themselves if they want to see what the market will bear for them in the next couple years.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Weeknight scheduling in a future Big 12, ASN and C-USA.TV

* There's a lot out there regarding the Big 12 and FOX and ESPN being upset regarding the addition of schools at higher than intended prices.  I encourage you to read as many of possible and draw your own conclusions.

I think there is one way to make both sides a bit more receptive to taking on extra schools and that is for the conference to be a bit more open to weeknight games.  Currently, the Big 12 allows TV partners to request four Thursday games and a Labor Day Sunday game.  My assumption is that the conference and TV partners can work within those parameters to also move games to the Friday after Thanksgiving and when necessary during the season.

The additions the Big 12 is expected to make will come from outside the Power Five conferences and these are conferences where playing on Thursday and Friday nights are regular occurrences in the yearly schedule.  My expectation is that any additions will come with a caveat from one side of the table or another to allow for more Friday night games, potentially with the incoming schools to be the ones hosting those games at first.   Both TV networks I would think would be receptive to an extra game from these conferences 3-4 times a year on Thursdays & Fridays.  Currently, the Pac-12 television contract requires a total of eight Thursday & Friday games (four from each day of the week) to be provided to TV partners.

For example, when Pittsburgh & Syracuse were added to the ACC, a deal was made to schedule some Friday night games with Boston College and Syracuse agreeing to be primary hosts for those games.  Since 2013, the schools hosting Friday night football in the ACC, excluding Black Friday and Friday before Labor Day:

Boston College - 4
Syracuse - 2
Florida St. - 1
Louisville - 1
Virginia - 1
Virginia Tech - 1
Wake Forest - 1

Louisville, added in 2014, was also not a stranger to hosting weeknight games in Conference USA and the Big East.  Same with Virginia Tech.  West Virginia, a current Big 12 member, played quite a few weeknight games as a Big East football member

Schools like Iowa St. & Kansas might be willing to move a game or two off Saturdays and I'm willing to bet that any incoming school won't be against maintaining a weeknight game.  And TV loves for a conference who is willing to be creative with their scheduling.

* Sinclair's American Sports Network released their telecast schedule on Wednesday.  Here's a brief overview:
  • The Sun Belt will have around seven to eight games and the American will have five games on ASN per the release.  The AAC games have already been accounted four.  It appears that the Sun Belt will have two to three twelve day selections during the year.
  • November 26th appears to be wide open for both the Sun Belt and Conference USA based on the following:
    • FCS conferences are in playoffs or have completed their seasons
    • All MAC games that week are on weeknights or Black Friday / November 25th
    • This assumes there won't be any additional American Athletic Conference games
  • Massachusetts will have four games on ASN.  I'm unsure if these will be carried on ESPN3, nor what the plans are for the FIU (9/17) and Wagner (10/29) games.  Wagner's game will start at 1pm ET, which doesn't seem to fit in any ASN telecast window.
Since ASN operates on a syndication basis & a full time over-the-air subchannel, the games that will air on your local station will vary.  My expectation is that C-USA games will, more likely than not, take priority on the national feed and that many FCS telecasts will be focused to local markets and maybe regional sports networks that will serve a large portion of a conference's land area.

* Several C-USA schools have loaded their non-televised home games into CUSA.TV.  Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee loaded several updates to their schedule, including some games on ESPN3 and the game at North Texas on Campus Insiders.  I've reached out to Campus Insiders but have not yet heard back from them.

Monday, August 1, 2016

CFB Notes: Possible hint on Red River Rivalry start time, more FBS on ASN

* The date and location of UFC 204 has been announced as October 8th in Manchester, England.  Both are important as they may provide a clue as to when Oklahoma vs. Texas (aka the Red River Rivalry/Shootout) may air on FS1.

October 8th falls within FS1's window of televising the National League Division Series, but they must provide two games to MLB Network.  In 2014, a Saturday game was sent over  (Dodgers-Cardinals Game 2) and in 2015, room was made for FS1 to televise the CONCACAF Cup match between the USA and Mexico.  At the moment, the soccer conflict doesn't seem to be in play, but MLB should be, but I do think that MLB Network will end up with a NLDS game that day.  To be clear, the entire MLB playoff schedule is in process of being finalized and usually isn't known until early September.

Since the UFC event is in England, five hours ahead of the US Eastern Time Zone, I think it is realistic to have the following schedule, assuming the prelim fights remain on FS1 (BST = British Summer Time, even though its no longer summer):

UFC Pre-Fight (12pm ET, 5pm BST)
UFC Prelims (1pm ET, 6pm BST)
Oklahoma vs. Texas (3pm ET, 8pm BST)
Pac-12 Game (10pm ET)

The Pac-12 game could always move up a few hours too, depending on what filler programming is utilized, such as UFC post-event programming that has been shown on FS1 or FS2 after pay-per-view events.

Note that the UFC 201 prelims aired on FS2, so the last few paragraphs may be worthless speculation.

* Besides ESPN appearing to strike another partnership with Sinclair's American Sports Network for Sun Belt football, ASN showed up at the American Athletic Conference media days.  Shortly after the first few tweets from them, Tulsa's account noted the following:
The conference's primary communications person for football noted that some details were still being finalized, but didn't deny the existence of the deal.

If any games from the first three weeks of the season were to be sent to ASN without changing any existing start times, I could see the Lamar at Houston on 9/10 at 12pm ET showing up here.  So far, no games have been scheduled for ASN in this telecast window.