Monday, July 31, 2017

Commentary & Analysis on Big Ten Content Numbers

Read this post first so you'll have some context about this information.

* If you caught me ranting a few days ago about how the numbers didn't add up based on a set of Reddit CFB notes about BTN's football game coverage, its less justified than it was on that evening.  In short, I was ranting that the number of 40 BTN football games and FOX Sports and ESPN Networks splitting 50 football games, 25 games a side, left five games unaccounted for with the conference at 95 games under their control in 2017.  With the  maximum number at 27 each for ESPN and FOX Sports, the BTN game number of 40 is still one game short, but I'm willing to let that go and bet they'll have a 41st game.  By using 27 as the base number with FOX Sports telecast windows instead of 25, it also makes the math work over there (its a long story, I thought FOX Sports had two too many game windows if you read the post & comments).

* Does the requirement for two football appearances from each school, with at least one intraconference game, still stand for BTN?  I believe it does, or lets say I've seen or read nothing to dissuade me of that opinion.  Frankly, I think FOX would want it around, even if it slightly neuters their own package of games since they have majority ownership in BTN.

* By doubling their coverage of the men's basketball tournament, BTN has essentially picked up the games that ESPN previously carried within the men's conference tournament.  This is the same coverage that the SEC Network provides for their conference tournament until the semfinals and final are covered on ESPN.  Looking over the three days that ESPN previously carried games (one on Wednesday mid-afternoon, two on Thursday evening and two on Friday afternoon), my expectation is the following:
  • No replacement of the Wednesday game.  There's nothing to move up of equal value.
  • On Thursday, the Big 12 evening quarterfinals could move from ESPNU to ESPN2, and the American Athletic First Round could air in full on ESPNU instead of game 1 on ESPNU and the last two on ESPNEWS.
  • On Friday, the American Athletic afternoon quarterfinals could move from ESPN2 to ESPN.  If there was a desire to air another conference tournament during the afternoon on ESPN2, the Sun Belt could be moved from an ESPN3 exclusive.  The SEC Network has the SEC's tournament and I struggle with moving their tournament off that network, but it is possible that they could leapfrog the American onto ESPN as a simulcast of sorts.
  • I had a hard time believing FS1 would get any portion of the conference tournament after looking over the game times that ESPN had.  FS1 usually will have commitments to NASCAR on Fridays for practice (either Las Vegas or Phoenix based on the schedule) plus the Big East tournament most years.
* It appears that the plan is for the two primary football TV partners to have around 15-18 primetime football games a year.  BTN will continue to have night games too.  I swear I read that the plan was for 30 primetime football games per year among all three entities, with nearly all coming before November, or at least through the first weekend of November.

* Why is FOX's number of football games more elastic where ESPN's is more concrete? I don't know the exact reason, but there's always variability in the number of home non-conference games you may end up scheduling.  If we assume seven home games per school, at 14 schools, you would have 91 regular season games.  With 27 games for ESPN, the low end of 24 for FOX Sports and a base number of 40 for BTN, you end with 91 games.  

FOX could also be  attempting to cover themselves with respect to other programming commitments like MLB, NASCAR, UFC (if renewed).  There's also the matter of whether Friday football games will continue to be in future season schedules.  FS1 is scheduled to air four of the five Friday games in 2017.  The Friday that ESPN is airing a game happens to be one that FS1 also has one.

* I don't have any minimums or maximums around the number of games that will air on any of these networks, with the exception of the ten regular season basketball games on CBS.

* The game counts for both ESPN and FOX Sports in the area of men's basketball are interesting.  The number of conference controlled games that previously aired on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS in the regular season each of the past three seasons was either 70 or 71 games, including the five conference tournament games that will air on BTN in the future.  If you're comparing the number of regular season games that ESPN Networks and FOX Sports will have rights to, the number increases from 65 games last athletic year to anywhere from 77 to 85 games.  It should be noted that 25-26 additional conference controlled games aired on ESPN3 last year, usually non-conference games.  It could be inferred that some of the ESPN3 games are being absorbed by the new TV deals of ESPN and FOX Sports, but some of those could end up with BTN or to beef up the BTN+ subscription package, which I guess is still a thing.

* ESPNU appears to be limited to non-conference football and a handful of men's basketball games.  I don't have any sense around whether FS2 or FSN is involved on the FOX Sports side.  My magic 8 ball says "no" for football & "unlikely" for men's basketball, especially when you consider that FOX doesn't have a RSN that they own or are affiliated with in Illinois, part of Iowa and a large portion of Pennsylvania.  FS2 has distribution issues but will have at least two Big 12 non-conference football games and could have one Big 12 intraconference game depending on the number of games played in the AL Championship Series.  I would expect FS2 to continue airing a select number of Big East men's basketball games too.

* If CBS is limited to Sundays for their regular season basketball windows, expect FOX to roll with Big East-Big Ten doubleheaders on Saturdays on the broadcast network.  Going back to the 2014-15 athletic year, only three of the 25 regular season games on CBS were scheduled for Saturdays and none last season:
  • 1/17/15: Michigan St. at Maryland
    • CBS had the AFC championship on Sunday
  • 12/5/15: Temple at Wisconsin
    • Lead-in to SEC football championship pregame show
  • 2/6/16: Michigan St. at Michigan
    • CBS had Super Bowl 50 on Sunday
* I couldn't get a lot of information about Olympic Sports and women's basketball, other than ESPN's coverage.  I would expect BTN to remain involved in that area.  As for events on FOX or FS1, I'm less certain on that.  They may be willing to let coverage stay with BTN.

A Few Content Parameters for the Big Ten Rights Agreements

A source was able to provide me with more concrete numbers & facts about the Big Ten rights agreements, so lets get some of that information out to you, in alphabetical order of the rightsholder:

I have some thoughts about these items here.

  • As previously announced, the agreement with the conference and FOX Entertainment Group has been extended by five years to 2032.
  • The men's basketball tournament will now have ten games air on the network, up from five.  
  • Rights maintained to the semifinals and championship of the men's basketball tournament.
  • At least ten regular season games per season.
  • Sundays will be the primary day for Big Ten basketball to air on CBS.
  • All of these parameters are about the same as the previous agreement.
ESPN Networks
  • 27 football games
    • All intraconference games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
    • At least six primetime games per season on ABC or ESPN
  • 38 men's basketball games
    • Most intraconference games on ESPN or ESPN2
  • Broad coverage of women's basketball and Olympic sports
FOX Sports
  • 24 to 27 football games per year
    • Nine games total in primetime on FOX and FS1
  • Top pick in the draft of weeks to select first in football
  • Football championship game every year
  • 39-47 men's basketball games
    • Potentially ten of those games on FOX broadcast network
It was stressed to me that CBS, ESPN Networks and FOX Sports will share priority with respect to game selection within men's basketball.  FOX Sports has priority with the respect to choosing first when choosing the weeks they want top choice in football, but ESPN will be choosing first some weeks.  You could also word that as FOX has top overall choice of football games.

You'll also see some co-branding when it comes to on screen logos.  ESPN started running them in the past year or two with the "Big Ten on ESPN", similar to "SEC/ACC/American on ESPN".  Expect FOX (and CBS?) to do the same.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A (TV) Window Into The Future For 2017 CFB & MBK

* ESPN's telecast schedules were published for October and November for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS and SEC Network.  ESPNU will likely following in the next month or two.  As with anything related to TV, these are subject to change.

A few things I noticed:
  • ESPNEWS has a college football window on Thursday, November 16th at 7pm.  My best guess for the game to be potentially shown is Tennessee St. at Jacksonville St.  ESPNEWS has carried Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina on the Thursday before Thanksgiving the past two seasons.
  • The addition of the PK80 Invitational has had a couple side effects:
    • ABC (12pm & 3:30pm), ESPN (8pm) and ESPN2 (11am) are the only college football game windows over those three channels on Black Friday.  Based on the available games, I believe they'll be splitting the American & ACC games over those four windows.  Navy at Houston might end up being on ABC at 12pm to keep them away from a 10am local / 11am ET start.

      Expect one MAC window on ESPNU on Black Friday since their television schedule note they would have a game on the network that day, probably in the morning.

    • ESPNEWS will get used on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Sunday 11/27 to show college basketball that is being pushed off ESPN2 and ESPNU (presumably since we don't know ESPNU's intended schedule) from events such as the Advocare Invitational, Wooden Legacy and NIT Tip Off.  I do not know if ESPN3 will get used for any of the events moving for the PK80.  My assumption is that the PK80 was given priority over other ESPN owned events as I see nearly all their games on ESPN or ESPN2 so far.

    • Six games from the Battle 4 Atlantis will again be on ESPN and ESPN2.  The championship is listed as airing on ESPN before the 3rd place game on ESPN2 on Black Friday.  The other six games have been carried by AXS.TV the past couple years and I do not know of any changes to that arrangement.

    • More of an administrative thing than anything else, but I've stripped the scheduled matchups off the PK80 telecast windows.  Not because the matchups are in doubt, but because it is not known which matchups will be scheduled for a particular time.
  • SEC Network, provided these times hold up, could be playing around with some alternative telecast start times in November.  November 11th and 25th have the 2nd telecast window at 3:30pm ET instead of 4pm, while November 18th has all three windows adjusted with start times of 1pm, 4:30pm and 8pm ET.

    The 18th does have five of its nine games being played at sites in the Central Time Zone with one of the five being a game vs. a FCS opponent (Mercer at Alabama), which would seem to be destined for the network along with Wofford at South Carolina.  The 18th will also have two CBS telecast windows (12pm & 3:30pm), which should pick off two of the five intraconference games available.

    October 7th only has one game listed for 4pm too, but I bet there's more to be shown on that day besides one game.

  • In the overnight hours on Monday 11/13 to Tuesday 11/14, I did not see any scheduled college basketball telecast windows on ESPN or ESPN2, which would normally be the time of the year for ESPN to present their 24 hour tipoff marathon.  While this is subject to change and we should know more in the next few weeks, its possible that the entire event has moved over to ESPNU or that they've elected to not do it.

    So far, the only games scheduled for 11/14 are on ESPN.  Those would be the Champions Classic doubleheader.
  • ESPN2 has a pair of generic listings for "SEC College Basketball" at 9pm ET and "Pac-12 College Basketball" on 11/20 at 11:30pm ET.  Two SEC games are currently available on 11/13, but I expect the 11/20 game to be North Carolina at Stanford.
* Patrick Marshall of White And Blue Review passed along a release from FloHoops that the subscription website would now be the exclusive rightsholder for the Paradise Jam, which previously had about half of the event on CBS Sports Network and the rest on streaming services.  FloHoops happened to be the subscription streaming service for the games that went without TV last year.  For FloHoops, the deal is for all events organized by Basketball Travelers, Inc.

FloHoops costs about $30 a month or about half of that per month if you buy a yearly subscription.  Both Patrick and I are curious to see whether the lack of a linear TV partner will affect the quality of the field in future events. 

For CBSSN, maybe that opens up the possibility of carrying the Cayman Islands Classic, which runs from Monday 11/20 to Wednesday 11/22.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Group of Five Conferences, TV Rights & Their Convergence in 2019-20

There could be a large amount of college sports to renegotiate with the rights agreements for three of the Group of Five conferences (the American, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt) plus Army football expiring after the 2019-20 athletic year.   Its a lot of inventory to potentially hit the open market, or at least the negotiating table, all at the same time in both football and men's basketball, presumably in late 2018 or early 2019.

Before that, C-USA will be negotiating new rights agreements starting this year for deals expiring from ESPN, CBS Sports Network and STADIUM after 2017-18, while their agreement with beIN Sports runs for an additional year to 2018-19.  BYU's agreement with ESPN for football will expire after the 2018 season and they should be working through exclusive negotiations in the near future.  The WCC, where BYU competes in most other sports, has its contract with ESPN expire after 2018-19 as well.

(The MAC, if you're wondering, starts the ten year extension they signed on their previous TV deal during the 2017-18 athletic year)

EDIT: BYU's contract has an option year for 2019 that can be exercised by ESPN, so they could be included in this group of conferences.  Per AD Tom Holmoe, they'll be talking with ESPN soon per an interview from March.

These conferences plus Army all hit the market at roughly the same time with sports broadcasting at a bit of a crossroads.  Yes, the Big Ten got paid, but in the process ESPN laid off a bunch of on-camera personnel and are looking to retool key parts of their programming.  Digital-centric broadcaster STADIUM is entering the market this summer.  The American believes that there is a Power 6 that they are a part of and the Mountain West has been unhappy with how often their football games end up as evening games which has contributed to a decline in season ticket bases for at least one Mountain West school.

The movement of about 25 Big Ten games to FOX Sports plus the creation of the ACC Network, whether it happens using existing channel space like ESPNEWS or a completely new outlet similar to how the SEC Network started up, should provide some open space on Saturdays for a few more games from these conferences, probably on ESPN2 and ESPNU, but a better judge of that would be once we see how many telecast windows ESPN ends up using across their networks during the 2017 season.

Where the Group of Five conferences do hold value to ESPN is on Thursday & Friday nights, especially when games are scheduled vs. Power 5 schools or for a school that is expected to compete for the Group of Five spot within the New Years Six.  For the 2017 football season, they have at least one game air on ESPN or ESPN2 for 13 of 23 through mid-November. I excluded Thanksgiving & Black Friday, more because Black Friday has a lot of TV windows, but even that day you'll find two American Athletic & one Mountain West game for their TV partners in 2017 with the two American games to air on ABC or ESPN.

Eyeballing the table at Sports Media Watch for the 2016 season, most of the non-Power 5 Friday games had 500K-600K average viewers where the Thursday night games typically drew above a million viewers, though Houston as a potential New Years Six representative for the Group of Five helped drive some of those numbers.  Yes, the Thursday night games go against the NFL and the Friday games shift to ESPN2 once the NBA is in season.

CBS Sports Network, on the other side of the equation, is dependent on the Group of Five conferences and, right now, ESPN provides them some of that content with their MAC and American live events coming to CBSSN through sublicenses.  That handcuffs them a bit, because that content could go away if ESPN opts not to sublicense to them or the American were to move on from ESPN and doesn't have CBSSN as a direct rightsholder.  CBSSN will lose Navy as a direct partner next season as their football rights are to return to ESPN after this season.   Some of the Mountain West's anger regarding evening start times extends to CBSSN as well.  All of this leaves CBSSN with a lot of grey area with respect to how much programming space they truly have to offer a conference if they want to be the primary rightsholder for any of these conferences.

My early gut feeling is that ESPN will try to engage with each of these conferences they have rights for to try to retain them, potentially earlier than their exclusive negotiating window to try to take advantage of an uncertain marketplace as we truly don't have a great idea what major digital companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Netflix, Amazon, etc. will pay for college football and, to be honest, college football that is not from one of the conferences that draws a lot of viewers on Saturdays.   They'll work to provide an increase in rights without overbidding for programming that, right now, costs a lot less to own the rights for.  Maybe hoping the conference will take a discount in return for a longer agreement.

As for Army, I feel would stay with CBS Sports Network,  A hunch, nothing more.  Army wasn't really thrilled with games on ESPN3 a few years back and both Army and Navy have extended their agreement with CBS to carry the Army-Navy game well into the next decade.

Where I do think these conferences have some wiggle room, potentially, is the pattern several TV agreements have moved towards: caps on the number of games a TV partner can carry with special provisions, such as the Mountain West, Pac-12 and Big Ten granting a maximum number of games to each primary rightsholder or C-USA signing their various agreements, though C-USA's agreements were more out of necessity and not necessarily by design.  For example, I can envision scenarios where a rightsholder doesn't increase the dollar amount of their rights fee to one of these conferences or provides a smaller increase, but instead relinquishes their status as the exclusive rightsholder in exchange for terms that are more favorable (ie. taking 10-15 games, maybe nearly all Thursday & Friday games in football or games on a specific night of the week in basketball).  If the conference can then swing it where they still have good inventory for a second or third rightsholder to buy in, then it could remain lucrative for them, especially if they want to test the digital waters for themselves.

So what do you see happening in three years?  Shorter or longer agreements? More or less use of linear television in these agreements?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Notes: Holiday Bowl, Cayman Islands Classic & Men's Basketball Scheduling Considerations

* The Holiday Bowl has changed TV partners, moving from ESPN to FOX Sports with FS1 televising the upcoming matchup on December 28th.  In regards to why FS1 over FOX broadcast network where the Foster Farms Bowl airs, I can't give you a good reason if you are solely looking at the stature of the two bowl games.  The Foster Farms Bowl is behind the Holiday Bowl in the Pac-12's selection order, while the Big Ten is more proactive about placing schools at bowls to avoid recent reappearances at bowl games, even if it is to be believed that the Holiday is placed in a tier above the Foster Farms Bowl.

Either way, I suspect the date chosen for the Holiday Bowl was planned around the start of men's basketball conference play for the Pac-12 and Big East.  For the Pac-12, conference play is expected to start on 12/27 & 12/28, so if FS1 has interest in any games over those two days, they could be targeting 12/27.  Big East openers could be spread over the evening of Friday the 29th (Cotton Bowl at night) & afternoon of Saturday the 30th with the Fiesta & Orange Bowl games starting at 4pm ET, and FS2 or FSN could pick up a game or two if needed.  CBS Sports Network could also take a Big East game through their sublicense with FOX Sports too.

As for the Big Ten, they appear to be playing non-conference basketball during much of the week between Christmas & New Years based on non-conference games scheduled for Wisconsin, Purdue, and likely Ohio St. but that doesn't mean FS1 couldn't try to take one if they can fit one in.

* I exchanged tweets a few weeks back with Joe Wright, the CEO of the Cayman Islands Classic requesting information about television rights for the tournament being played November 20-22 and released its bracket yesterday.  Joe replied back that the information would be announced in eight weeks, which would peg the announcement to mid-July.  So where could it air?

  • ESPN's group of networks - This one feels less likely without using ESPN3 and ESPNEWS.  ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU are expected have basketball from the Maui Invitational, CBE Classic, Battle 4 Atlantis and Legends Classic, coupled with Monday Night Football, the possibility of the NBA on Wednesday and one MAC football game for ESPNU on Tuesday.  The Men Who Speak Up Main Event has also had its championship game carried over this time frame in previous seasons too but the championship game has typically been at a time that would not interfere here.  
  • FOX Sports' group of networks - A large portion of the Big East's non-conference schedule is unknown, so I can't say that the schedule is open for their networks.  Right now, I spot two non-conference games over those three days.  EDIT: Per the comment at the bottom of the post, UEFA Champions League has a matchday scheduled for the US afternoon of 11/21 & 11/22, so there may be a conflict.
  • NBCSN - With the NHL schedule not yet released, along with NBCSN's telecast schedule, I can't give you a yes/no answer on that one.
  • CBS Sports Network - They should be tied up with final day of the Paradise Jam on Monday and the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday and Wednesday.  They could certainly be involved in the afternoon portions each day.
  • STADIUM - Same as NBCSN.  No real idea what programming they could have planned for those dates.
  • AXS.TV - I threw them in here because they are partial rightsholders for the Battle 4 Atlantis.
  • The field - Turner Sports? beIN Sports? Paid streaming of the event by a 3rd party?
The interesting part about the scheduling of the event is the semifinal games being split apart with one at 2:30pm ET and the other at 7:30pm.  From that point of view, if ESPN were the TV partner, maybe they figure out a way to use ESPN for Maui or the Cayman Islands in the afternoon as ESPN wasn't used on these dates, though it is the middle of NFL season where ESPN produces a lot of NFL studio programming.

Either way, it will be interesting to see where this event gets slotted in.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Notes on STADIUM, ROOT Sports Rebranding & Bowl Schedule Updates

* I didn't catch something, or catch onto something that was brought up to me as a point of clarification about STADIUM, but its an important distinction to take note of as it was something that was mentioned in the Mountain West's release of their initial 2017-18 men's intraconference basketball schedule:
Regional partner AT&T Sports Net/ROOT Sports and the Mountain West Network on STADIUM will begin their picks after the national television lineup has been announced.
I'll get to the AT&T Sports Net part in the next section, but the part about Mountain West Network on STADIUM is what I'm calling out as it wasn't clear to me, or went right over my head, that the Campus Insiders brand is going away, along with the 120 Sports name.  It doesn't mean that much in terms of actually watching the games, but I think I'll have to be more clear about STADIUM the 24/7 single feed platform & STADIUM as the back end video provider for the Mountain West, Patriot League and WCC for live events. Maybe the STADIUM folks, conference and schools will be doing the same.  I think what I'll need to do for those events is go by the brand names those conferences use (MW Network, Patriot League Network, TheW.TV).

* Three of the four ROOT Sports regional sports networks will be rebranding to AT&T SportsNet in July.  ROOT Sports Northwest, which is not rebranding as it is majority owned by the Seattle Mariners, will retain a loose affiliation it appears as they'll continue to carry Big Sky and Mountain West sports.  I assume they'll continue be involved in the WCC's Game of The Week men's basketball package as well.

* Two of the three bowl games on December 26th have had their start times set with the Quick Lane Bowl at 5:15pm ET and the Cactus Bowl following at 9pm ET.  The Heart of Dallas Bowl could slot into a 1:30pm ET start with all three scheduled to air on ESPN.

So, where does this leave the Holiday Bowl?  Good question.  Based on those start times, I don't think it would be on ESPN on 12/26, which may have been the date left open by ESPN if they were to come to an agreement to televise the game as a post Christmas bowl.

The other date & time open on ESPN, potentially, is December 23rd at 10:30pm ET following the Dollar General Bowl.  Holiday Bowl executive director Mark Neville indicated they would like a post Christmas date, but did not rule out a pre-Christmas date.  It would be the only bowl game involving two Power 5 conference with primary tie-ins played before Christmas.

I would not rule out the possibility of the Holiday Bowl on ESPN2 as the Independence, Gator and Outback have aired on The Deuce in prior years so that ESPN could get multiple New Years Day bowls on the air at about the same time, or air a bowl game on a Monday without cutting into Monday Night Football pregame.  Bowl games on ESPN2 usually happen 1-2 times a year, so its not worth dismissing the possibility.  Could happen with the Heart of Dallas Bowl too if they wanted to run the game back to back with the Holdiay Bowl.  The Heart of Dallas Bowl originally started out as a New Years Day bowl game on ESPNU until ESPN bought the game a few years back.

Outside of ESPN televised bowl games, the Foster Farms Bowl had its date & start time set too.

Friday, June 9, 2017

More CFB TV Odds & Ends

I probably did give the short end of the stick to ESPN and CBS Sports Network by not giving their selections their own notes post.  Here's a few additional items on them you might find interesting.

* I was a bit surprised that ESPN didn't pick up California at North Carolina, but upon closer inspection, maybe we shouldn't be.  I don't know the order of events on how selections were made, but when you see that Bowling Green at Michigan St. is on ESPNU, I guess a conclusion that could be drawn is that it was the last selection for either ESPN or FOX Sports on the opening weekend.  Add that Troy at Boise St. being played at 3:45pm, maybe a concession to the concern about so many evening start times in the Mountain West, it left very little room for the game on ESPN's channels.

Akron at Penn St. might be the one game you would point to & ask "That one over a game with two Power 5 schools"?  My assumption there is Penn St.'s position in several early top 25 predictions played a role.  Might be more interest in the Nittany Lions too nationally compared to the Bears & the Heels.

Also, to be clear about this, to my knowledge ESPN does not set Raycom Sports' telecast time for the ACC Network and apparently it can vary from week to week, with their window on 9/9 at 7pm ET.   I realize that it isn't ideal for Pac-12 schools to travel east & get set for a noon game, but with this one not on ESPN, I don't think they had much sway on the start time.

And regarding the 7pm start time for ULM at Florida St. on Raycom's ACC Network over-the-air syndication package, it is my understanding that Florida St. has made requests for no early afternoon starts in September going forward, similar to how the Pac-12 Arizona schools strongly prefer night games during September.  The key goal being staying out of the heat.

* I realize some of the releases from 2013 for Florida vs. Michigan indicated the game would be a primetime game and at one point, the game was targeted for a move to Sunday, September 3rd, presumably to meet that primetime goal.  My suspicion is that once the two schools decided to stay on Saturday, a decision had to be made about whether to play the game with some overlap with Alabama vs. Florida St., maybe on ESPN in the evening.  From the final result, the decision was made to play the Cowboys Classic in the afternoon and have (roughly) back-to-back high profile neutral site games on ABC.

* Found it slightly amusing to see Colorado St. move up the start time of their opener vs. Oregon St. by 30 minutes to 2:30pm ET / 12:30pm MT, touting that it was so it could be the first FBS game played "according to current schedules".  Portland St. at BYU was set for the same original start time (3pm ET) before the start time change.

The "according to current schedules" part is amusing because Hawai'i at Massachusetts does not yet have a start time, nor a known TV partner, but could conceivably be the first game started.   Unless CBS Sports Network has something planned for approximately 90 minutes of fill time between the end of this game & USF at San Jose St. that truly needs 90 minutes, the move could be pointless unless an agreement has been reached to start UMass's game after CSU's.

* As we are awaiting start for a fair portion of SEC games being played in the first three weeks, I did find it odd that the start times for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU games were released, but only by ESPN and the schools themselves.  I can't find anything on the conference website regarding a release for these games and their start times.

So where are the SEC Network games?  "Coming soon" is the best answer I can give, or more precisely the answer I've been given when asked.  Maybe ESPN is crafting a schedule with the schools, or maybe its ready and we're waiting for...something (College World Series to complete?).

* With the BTN early season schedule announced, all Big Ten schools have a home night game scheduled except for Iowa, Maryland and Michigan.  From Scott Dochterman, the Big Ten schools will now have the potential for night games to be set during the season, but cannot be flexed into the evening on a six day hold.  Maybe it is possible for a six day hold to occur where a game is scheduled for 7:30pm ET or 8pm ET with the only remaining item to be set is the TV outlet.

* 38 C-USA controlled games remain without a planned TV or streaming media partner.  Many of those could end up with CUSA.TV.  Last year, Campus Insiders carried six games online exclusively, but with STADIUM coming into play combining both ASN and Campus Insiders, I'm unsure if there will be STADIUM online exclusives that will be separate from those being shown on the 24/7 feed.

It was mentioned in the C-USA TV release that ESPN3 would be adding games and schools like Old Dominion, Charlotte and Rice were working towards being able to self produce ESPN3 content, so we may see the use of school productions for ESPN3 pick up the slack.

* Looking over the CBS Sports Network schedule openings,  I gather that the openings for the AAC & MAC are the following:

9/23: 12pm MAC or AAC
9/30: 12pm MAC or AAC
10/7: 12pm & 7pm MAC or AAC
10/14: 3:30pm & 7pm MAC or AAC
10/21: 7pm MAC or AAC
10/28: 11:30am & 6:30pm MAC & AAC
11/4: 12pm AAC
11/11: 7pm AAC
11/18: 12pm AAC
11/25: 12pm AAC

The MAC has nine scheduled telecast windows so far on CBSSN, so my belief is they will have windows on the three dates with two open telecast windows (10/7, 10/14, 10/28).  That would leave the AAC, excluding the Navy home games that are under a separate television agreement, with 14 sublicensed windows from ESPN which is in line with the agreement the two television entities have.

In case you're wonder why the Boston College-Connecticut game at Fenway Park is on CBSSN, the game was originally a UConn home game and remains as such with the venue change.

* With the American at 14 selections on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, they'll need 14 in-season selections for those same networks to hit what appears to be a minimum of 28 games on those four channels.  With 73 conference controlled games available to ESPN as a rightsholder (five other games are part of Navy's TV rights), the end of season breakdown should look something like this, assuming the 28 game minimum is realized:

  • ESPNEWS & CBS Sports Network: 30-38
    • 13-15 of those games on CBS Sports Network
  • ESPN3 & local/regional TV: 7-15 (10-20% of games)
    • 13 already set for ESPN3 or local/regional TV

Friday, June 2, 2017

Additional Look at FOX College Football Schedule Release

Since FOX sends out a release that details out the when and where of their entire college football schedule, which usually has a few alterations when needed, it does allow for the entire schedule to get a look at.  Unfortunately, ESPN has not published a giant release with all their openings throughout the year in a few years, and frankly with the amount of games and channel space they have to fill and are solely devoted to college football most Saturdays, trying to do any "analysis" is a bit moot compared to FOX Sports where the number of games are more fixed and there are other events to work around, such as NASCAR, UFC and MLB postseason.

Here we go...

* Using the release, I do have a bit of a math discrepancy that I'm trying to resolve as I count one more telecast window than they have games available to televise.

With 64 regular season Big 12 games and not counting the conference championship game, after removing 33 games (ESPN's maximum 23 & 10 member retained games, including Tulsa at Oklahoma St.), FOX Sports should have 31 Big 12 games.  When that gets added to 25 Big Ten and 22 Pac-12 games, the total number of telecast windows for these three conferences should be 78 games.

After counting up telecast windows on FOX Sports outlets, removing the Big 12 member retained games on FSN and FS1 and conference championship games, I come up with 79 telecast windows:
  • 31 on FOX
  • 39 on FS1
    • 9 weeknight & Black Friday games, once again excluding Tulsa-Oklahoma St.
    • 30 on Saturday
  • 7 on FSN
    • Excluding these Big 12 member retained games: Eastern Washington at Texas Tech, UTSA at Baylor & Jackson St. at TCU
  • 1 on FS2
  • 1 on either FS1 or FS2
Maybe one of the FSN telecasts or the "swing" FS1/FS2 window disappears, or the ESPN Big 12 game count won't hit the maximum of 23 games, pushing another game into FOX Sports's Big 12 package.

* After the Big Ten released the start times for their homecoming games, I tried to match up which games FOX Sports couldn't carry based on the released start times for their college football schedule.  Each should be available for ESPN's platforms and BTN.
  • Both 9/23 games would only be available for FOX broadcast network with FS1's windows currently at 3pm, unless these games could be moved up 30 miuntes.  Currently, their start times are 3:30pm or 4pm ET.
  • Michigan at Indiana on 10/14 is only available to FS1 due to FOX clearing out their schedule that day for what appears to be the ALCS.  At that hour, the conflicting programming on FOX is a NASCAR Truck Series race.
  • On 10/28, since FOX has only three windows across the broadcast network & FS1 and Penn St. at Ohio St. is already scheduled for FOX at 3:30pm ET, it is highly possible that neither Rutgers at Maryland, Wisconsin at Illinois or Indiana at Maryland air on FOX or FS1
    • The first two are 12pm ET starts.  FOX is not scheduled to carry a game at that time and FS1's first window does not start until 3pm due to a NASCAR Truck Series race.
    • Similar to the 9/23 games, unless Rutgers at Maryland can move up to 3pm, it will not be available to FS1.  
* With three scheduled Big 12 controlled FS1 games to start the year, including Tulsa at Oklahoma St. which does count toward meeting FS1's Big 12 minimums, three more Big 12 games have to appear on FS1 during the course of the season.  Similarly, with two FOX broadcast network games scheduled, four more will need to air on FOX.  

Bedlam (Oklahoma at Oklahoma St.) will fall into one of the two categories once it is slotted.

* With four Pac-12 games on FOX, they've already scheduled half of their required games for the season.  Three of those four are primetime games too, so they only need one more primetime game out of the minimum four remaining to be scheduled.

* Overall, 16 of FOX Sports's 22 Pac-12 telecast windows are accounted for and there's something to be deduced from that.
  • Four already scheduled for the broadcast network
  • Six FS1 selections used on weeknights, special dates and early season Saturdays
  • Per FOX's schedule release, six Saturday FS1 in-season selections to start between 10pm & 11pm ET
With FOX required to air at least four more games on the broadcast network, there are two remaining windows that are "wildcards" and can air on either network at any time.

* One item I picked up on was that some portion of the Las Vegas Invitational, scheduled to air on FS1 on November 23th & 24th appears to be headed to either FS2 or FSN.  With FS1 scheduled to carry football games on Friday the 24th with telecast windows at 12pm, 4pm and 10:30pm ET, it appears that the event will have a window at 8pm, but the 10:30pm game would be on another outlet.  What could occur is FOX prioritize the championship game on Friday for FS1 & move the 3rd place game on either FS2 or FSN.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Notes From An Avalanche of Kickoff Time Announcements

3pm ET hit Wednesday and it was kinda like a perpetual Ice Bucket Challenge that you didn't have control of the buckets, nor passing off the challenge to someone else.  Here's a few of the items that I and others took notice of, along with the CBS release from the day before.

Here's the opening three weeks if you'd like to immerse yourself there to start

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

Tulsa at Oklahoma St. was a member retained game & can air on FS1? In my opinion, this may come down to the combination of the Cowboys' schedule, as the Tulsa game is their only home non-conference game, and a desire by FOX, who makes the choices on the member retained games in the Big 12, to not choose an intraconference game.  I suppose the game could have aired on FSN but there are a handful of MLB games that evening, including a Rangers game and FOX Sports Southwest / Oklahoma would be the primary outlet for this game.

It is my understanding that since it is airing on FS1, it can be counted towards the minimum of six Big 12 games on a national cable network even though it is a member retained game.  A unique situation.

Did I read correctly that the Pac-12 Championship will be on a Friday on ABC or ESPN?  That's how I read the schedule and press release too.  The game was missing from ESPN's release for some reason, but the conference made it known as part of theirs.  Meanwhile, the MAC title game has now moved to Saturday.

Any idea why the Big 12 title game doesn't have a date set yet? It could be coming as part of spring meetings or at the Big 12 media days in July, but the conference may have its championship game on a Friday, which I guess would line up with the Pac-12 as those two games rotate TV partners each season between FOX and ESPN.

They really chose Portland St. at BYU to air on ESPN? Yep.  Their call, but when you add that game to the Wisconsin game on either ABC or ESPN and the Boise St. game on ESPN, they've met their three game minimum of BYU home games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.  This frees up either of the Utah & San Jose St. games to air on ESPNU, which is another requirement of their agreement.

Also, BYUtv took the UMass game, so that requirement has been fulfilled.

And FOX really chose Montana St. at Washington St. for FS1? I guess, but they probably got in on Texas A&M at UCLA as the top choice and with ESPN not taking a Pac-12 game the opening week, FOX was probably committed to taking a Pac-12 game & it ended up being that one on the back end.

Fun fact: FOX cable networks FS1 and F/X have ended up with three FCS vs. Pac-12 games so far during the current TV contract (2012: Portland St. at Washington, 2013: Nicholls St. at Oregon) .  ESPN has not had any yet.

Did Pac-12 Networks really short window a game in Week One to 2 hr, 45 minutes?  Yep.  Consider the Pac-12 Networks' National feed the "whiparound" feed for the purposes of joining games a little late & use the regional and online feeds to see the games in full.

Penn St. at Ohio St. isn't a night game? When the question was posed to me by multiple people, I had not read any of the releases in any great detail with respect to context.  But as several of you pointed out, FOX should be in the middle of their World Series coverage on October 28th and that is the priority.

You should also note that FOX broadcast network has no college football scheduled for October 14th and that October 21st has a night game scheduled for either FS1 or FS2.  My expectation is ALCS Game 1 or 2 can air in the evening on the 14th on the broadcast network and the football game on the 21st can be moved to FS2 with short notice if the ALCS goes to six or seven games.

I've typically believed that this particular window, not the matchup itself, should be at 12pm to guard against the possibility of weather impacting the start of the game, which it has in the past, pushing FOX to move games, say, to FOX News.

Hey! FS2 has East Carolina at West Virginia on September 9th.  Why? Surprise! Seriously though, due to FS1's coverage of the Walker Cup plus UFC prelims, the space they had to carry games that day is extremely limited.  My expectation for the possible FS2 game on 10/21 is that it will be a Big 12 game, probably the last of five selections that day, and if FS1 had more room on 9/9, it would be carrying this one.

So CBS didn't take a Week One game, but took TCU at Arkansas and now has a third doubleheader?  Yes.  It looks like CBS has a bit of freedom as to the weeks when they sublicense games from ESPN.  I'm in process of trying to figure out which games or telecast windows are the sublicenses.  TCU at Arkansas might be one and I am under the assumption that the second one is one of the two 12pm ET windows on November 11th or 18th.  For their usual 12pm & 3:30pm doubleheader, CBS picks 1st (3:30pm) & 4th (12pm) so it would make sense to do the same on the new doubleheader.

Besides the BTN and SEC Network games that haven't been announced, there were no start times or TV set for FIU at UCF, Liberty at Baylor and Cincinnati at Miami (OH).  Any idea why?  For the first two, I believe there might be some work being done to not play those games in the extreme heat of 12pm ET.  That's the current openings available on CBS Sports Network, who doesn't have an AAC game on 9/2, and FSN, respectively.  UCF says things will be finalized in the next two weeks, so maybe there's a date change in process to get out of the heat.

Baylor also says they Liberty game will be finalized in the near future.  The UTSA game appears to be the Bears' member retained game, so Liberty looks to be part of one TV partner's national package, probably FOX Sports.

As for Cincinnati at Miami (OH), I'm assuming there is no sublicense to STADIUM going forward, so maybe this one will end up on BCSN & Spectrum Sports.

Side note: If UCF truly is trying to stay out of the heat - USF, what are you doing with a 4pm kickoff on Labor Day weekend for an ESPN3 game?

STADIUM! You've brought that up before.  No C-USA announcement as to their games? Not yet, but I'm told they have a presentation for advertisers & media next week, so hold tight.

Any other fun facts?
  • Remaining Pac-12 in-season selections
    • ESPN: 14
    • FOX Sports: 12
  • Remaining Big 12 in-season selections
    • ESPN: 19
      • Maximum of 23 games for the season
      • Kansas-Texas on Longhorn Network counts as a ESPN selection
    • FOX Sports: 22
      • After subtracting one game per school as member retained games & the conference championship, FOX Sports will have 31 Big 12 games as part of their national package
      • For now, since it was listed as member retained, Tulsa-Oklahoma St. is not part of the 31.
  • Remaining Big Ten in-season selections, assuming 25 selections each for ESPN & FOX Sports
    • ESPN: 15
    • FOX Sports: 15
    • BTN will have 45 games to air, assuming there isn't another partner to be announced.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Notes on ESPN's College Football Opening Weekend Release

If you haven't seen ESPN's initial schedule release, take a look at it, then I'll try to answer a few questions about what was announced.

Where are the ESPN2 games? The opening weekend of college, Week One since there's a Week Zero now...coincides with ESPN televising the US Open tennis championship.  Since 2015, ESPN2 has been largely missing from the opening Saturday so that they can devote a full day to tennis.  Unless there's a change afoot, I think that plan will stay in place.

What SEC game do you think CBS will take for Week One? Maybe the better question revolves around whether CBS will air any college football over Labor Day weekend, and potentially not the following weekend either.  In 2015 and 2016 they had two SEC games the first two weeks of the season through a sublicense with ESPN, which happens to coincide with the US Open moving over to ESPN and absorbing coverage that used to air on CBS.  Those games didn't appear to be the top choice that CBS normally has throughout the season.  They looked to be anywhere from the second to fourth best game available.

For the opening weekend, the remaining SEC games are a pair of matchups vs. Sun Belt schools and two other games vs. FCS opponents.  Provided t The sublicensing agreement remains in place and if it isn't specifically tied to the SEC (ie. any two games they can agree upon), maybe CBS would have a game from outside the SEC.  If I were in CBS's shoes and a general sublicense were still in place, I'd pass on all four.  As for Week Two, CBS's best options appear to be Fresno St. at Alabama, TCU at Arkansas and South Carolina at Missouri.  Everything else is a game vs. a FCS opponent.

Its quite possible that the agreement has expired and there was no plans on either side to continue it.  ESPN did manage to stuff four games on "The Mothership" the opening weekend.  All four games are being played in locations in the Eastern & Central Time Zone, with the first three games in telecast windows of either three hours or three hours & fifteen minutes compared to what seems to be the normal three hours & thirty minutes.

EDIT: Regarding the two strikethrough items, I have been able to confirm that ESPN and CBS do have an existing sublicense agreement in place for college football games this season and for 2018.

When will they announce more start times for the first three weeks? ESPN's release says "at a later date".  Wouldn't be surprised to see the later date be next week.  The Big 12 website pegs June 1st as the date they want to release their early season & special date games.

That Oklahoma at Ohio State start time is weird.  Why is it 7:30pm ET? Great question because I didn't know.  I thank many of you for sending stuff in that you find.  Here's the answer in a pair of tweets:

So there you go.  Its a thing for Big Ten games.  No idea if we'll know games or specific weeks in advance of the season.

Hey, when are the going to announce the new Big Ten rights agreements, especially with ESPN picking five Big Ten games over the first two weeks?  Where's my shoulder shrug emoji?  Seriously, I don't know when they'll announce them.  I thought the marketing upfronts that ESPN and FOX did over May 15-16 would be a good time for that.  FOX clearly did as you'll see in a moment.

CBS acknowledged this week that they'll have the Big Ten men's basketball championships, even with the date change for 2018.  FOX announced they'll have the Gavitt Games matchups with the Big East split between FS1 and BTN.  The conference put it in a press release about the 2017 Friday night football games and Jim Delany spoke about them at football media days last summer.  So its not a secret at this point.  Maybe the basketball items, which Delany mentioned in the video towards the end, have been resolved now that CBS found a Selection Weekend replacement for 2018 with the American Athletic Championship.

What do you think FOX will pick up for games in the early part of the season? If you haven't seen this image from FOX Broadcasting's marketing upfront about ten days ago, take a look:
Most of the games in the image are played after Week Three, except Texas at USC.  Besides that one and Texas A&M at UCLA on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I think its fair to look at Pittsburgh at Penn St., Louisville vs. Purdue, Maryland at Texas and either Stanford at USC or Nebraska at Oregon as possibilities for FOX or FS1.  Washington at Rutgers & Colorado St. vs. Colorado could be a FS1 doubleheader on Friday 9/1.  Remember that ESPN2 comes back into play starting with Week 2, though ESPN will drop a window for the US Open women's final.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What is STADIUM? Here's A Few Answers

I had the opportunity to interview Adam Anshell, VP of networks & live events for Silver Chalice Ventures, about STADIUM, its potential programming and how easy it will be to consume the content being provided from American Sports Network, Campus Insiders & 120 Sports.

From Adam's brief overview of STADIUM, the key point I took away is that STADIUM wants to provide a multi-platform sports network that is consumable via connected devices, Twitter, linear television, mobile devices...virtually any type of product able to receive a television signal or has internet capability.  The main difference is that STADIUM is not requiring authentication to a pay TV provider, unlike the requirements many of us have when watching ESPN online.  I suppose a comparison could be drawn to HBO Now, where you the consumer can go directly to HBO without needing a TV provider, except there's no charge for STADIUM where there's a cost for HBO Now.  With that said, I brought up how Campus Insiders currently had a deal with Sling with Sling itself being a TV provider, and he said that partnership would continue, but would be separate from STADIUM.

EDIT: Per further clarification, the Sling TV component will also be branded as STADIUM, but not part the 24/7 network.

My next question involved how much non-live event programming would come from existing partners at 120 Sports, such as MLB through Baseball Advanced Media (BAM), the PGA, the NHL and Sports Illustrated.  Adam noted that programming from those partners would be showcased on STADIUM and that they were working with those partners to determine what programming is available to be shown on STADIUM that does not run afoul of existing rights agreements and what can air exclusively via digital means vs. adding over-the-air television.

I then brought up how there was a mix of technology in use with respect to streaming on Campus Insiders and 120 Sports, and asked if there was a plan to streamline the technology to be used to serve up content both online & through native apps, as apps such as Campus Insiders haven't been updated in some time.  Adam was able to provide that the bulk of the content would be shifting to a backend being redesigned with the help of BAM along with their web portal, which will be located at when it launches over the next few months.

With respect to the content that Sinclair was bringing over as part of ASN, Adam noted that many of the programming deals ASN had in place have expired or would be expiring in the near future.  For the deals being carried forward to STADIUM, which does include Conference USA, I asked about how non-Sinclair owned and/or operated television networks would be able to view STADIUM live events and he noted that the new entity would be working to meet the contractual obligations of those deals as they carried forward to STADIUM.  He also noted there was more than one existing ASN contract coming over to the new partnership but was not able to comment on who those other entities are.

I then brought up how ASN had stretched themselves to cover multiple events within a single "telecast window" & asked if that would continue.  Adam provided that the plan was to not regionalize live events & to provide a single 24/7 network, though the digital side would have multiple live events going on.  He did allow that existing contractual obligations from ASN might require syndication of multiple games in a single window at the start.

Next, I asked about the potential for content over at Campus Insiders that was exclusive to their platform, such as live events from the Mountain West and WCC, and the feasibility of events from those entities airing on STADIUM who were not on ASN.  Similar to what he shared earlier with respect to content from professional sports entities, STADIUM was working through all existing partnerships to determine what they could delivery both digitally & over-the-air vs. digital only.

My final question involved how heavy the schedule would rely on live events vs. studio programming, and whether STADIUM would have nightly live events.  He said live events would be a differentiator and not just in the areas of football & men's basketball, but there would be a studio presence along with programming similar to what is currently presented on 120 Sports, and that schedule would be formulated over coming weeks and months.

I appreciate Adam taking some time out of his schedule to entertain these questions and I'm very interested to see how these entities execute delivery of this new platform to its various destinations both digitally & via television.  The model is very unique and I imagine others are paying attention to its successes and improvements over time.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bowls, Upfronts With Sports & Scheduling Around Soccer

* A large portion of the bowl schedule, mostly ESPN's bowl schedule if we're being honest, was announced on Thursday.  There are four bowls remaining to be scheduled.

  • The Frisco Bowl, formerly the Miami Beach Bowl as it is moving to Frisco, TX, is awaiting its finalized date & time.  The game was recently purchased by ESPN Events from the American Athletic Conference.  As Sean O'Leary noted on my Twitter timeline, December 20th would be an ideal date to place the game as there are no bowl games that evening.

    Further, when the game was played in Miami it was played on the Monday afternoon before the last Monday Night Football game before Christmas.  With Christmas falling on a Monday year, that leaves the MNF game before Christmas on the 18th, which might be a bit far away from the holiday to expect people to take a Monday afternoon off for a bowl game.
  • The Holiday Bowl is in process of negotiating a new television agreement, and per the game's organizers, is talking to ESPN and other outlets about a new deal.  December 26th seems like the planned date ESPN is holding open for the game with three other bowl games on that date all without start times.
  • The Foster Farms Bowl, who was in the same position last offseason as the Holiday Bowl is this offseason, will be on FOX but no date has been set yet.  The last 49ers regular season game is scheduled for Christmas Eve.  If I were to guess on a bowl game date, I'd look for something on December 27 or 28.  The 29th might not be a bad date either but with the Cotton Bowl at night, that date might require a earlier start to stay away from a TV window involving a NY6 bowl.
  • The Arizona Bowl's date is set for December 30th, but is awaiting for a finalized start time.  CBSSN may be finalizing the possible men's basketball games they could be carrying that day and working to fit everything in.
* ESPN's soccer sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks mentioned she's be on the sidelines for the US Men's National Team World Cup qualifiers on Friday 9/1 and Thursday 10/6, which has some implications for college football programming on 9/1, particularly with respect to the two Big Ten games scheduled that evening.

With ESPN carrying the match from Harrison, NJ along with shoulder programming like pregame & postgame, it will likely be on ESPN as ESPN2 should be carrying US Open tennis & likely means ESPN will only have one football game.  Depending on the start time of the match, either Utah St. at Wisconsin or Colorado St. vs. Colorado should be on ESPN.  

Washington at Rutgers appears to fit more within the FOX family, along with whatever game ESPN doesn't take.  FS1 has the Mexican National Team's World Cup qualifier too and may not have as much sway, or any, around when that game can start.

Colorado St. vs. Colorado could conceivably end up on Pac-12 Networks, though I'm guessing that the game wasn't scheduled for a Friday to not be picked up by either FOX or ESPN.

As for 10/6, ESPN has a college football doubleheader, so soccer may end up on ESPN2.

* FOX, as a programming entity & not just the sports division, and ESPN have their upfront presentations to advertisers this week, FOX on Monday & ESPN on Tuesday.  Coupled with spring meetings from several conferences, we might see the first early season TV announcements.  I've believed that this is the time we'll see announcements regarding the Big Ten's TV deals with FOX, ESPN and CBS (can't forget the basketball deal with CBS).  AdAge reports that it has been discussed with advertising executives, so I'm unclear as to the holdup unless it is with one of the other parties.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How I Go About Those Weekly CFB TV Guesses

I don't have much to write about at this point.  I try to stay narrowly focused on college football & men's college basketball and right now the topics are either limited or non-existent, so I figured this would be a neat "behind the curtain" post about how I've went about those weekly CFB TV guesses,  These guidelines don't apply to those ones done in advance of the season, but the guesses of the 12 day picks that would occur on Mondays during the season.

Setup work
The first things I try to make sure I do is head to media sites that FOX, CBS and ESPN operate and note the start times of the telecast windows they have scheduled for their networks.  From there, if any games have already been placed for a specific start time and/or television network, I'll try to plug them in first.  Example of those would be any Big Ten games set aside as night games and/or homecoming games set for a specific start time.  I'll also work to look for any selection rules that need to be adhered to, particularly as the season progresses.

Order of operations
From here, I'll start with the SEC and choose the game I think will air on CBS.  After that, I'll figure out any SEC game(s) to air on ESPN and SEC Network.  I usually slot the top SEC Network as the fourth best SEC game of any given week.  There are exceptions to this in the 12 day process, such as the couple weeks where CBS has two SEC games.

After that, I'll slot in the Big Ten games.  Starting this year I'll have to take into consideration the number of windows available on FOX Sports, but in previous seasons I'd place the Big Ten games, usually at 12pm and 3:30pm ET.  Also, if I felt the ACC had the best overall game for the week, I'd set that for 8pm ET on ABC to get that out of the way.

The next tier I usually slotted was a combination of the Big 12 and Pac-12.  I'd usually try to take into account the number of windows on FOX Sports along with the start times, which usually gave a reasonable indicator of which conference had the broadcast network games.  For both conferences, I'd often work backwards based on the number of Pac-12 Networks telecast windows & if FSN was scheduled for the Big 12.  With both conferences having a fixed number of games for their TV packages (ESPN & FOX Sports with 22 Pac-12 games each, ESPN with 23 Big 12 games, FOX Sports with the remaining Big 12 games minus one game per school), I can usually figure out the number of games per network in a given week, but can't always figure out who has that first choice.

I'll probably look to continue placing a portion of the Big Ten in before the Big 12 and Pac-12, but not the conference in full, now that ESPN and FOX Sports will be splitting the rights of three conferences.

The ACC comes up next.  At this point, I'll make a few adjustments as the ACC may have multiple worthwhile games compared to the Big Ten or Big 12.  I'll also use advance listings to figure our the number of ACC RSN games and if there might be split telecast window for the syndicated ACC Network.

Next up is the American, Mountain West (usually ESPN Networks only) and BYU.  Those three entities will often take up any remaining openings on ESPN Networks or CBS Sports Network.  Lastly, any openings set aside for the MAC on CBS Sports Network will get filled, along with any openings for the Sun Belt Conference.  If there's any remaining games, and there usually are, I'll note the games that would air on ESPN3.

Conference USA isn't listed here because the majority of their television appearances are set before the season and are often capped far in advance.  Usually a couple C-USA games for ESPN are set to air on ESPN Networks but don't have a network or start time finalized, so I'll set those as needed in with the other Group of Five conferences.  At the end, my goal is to make sure I don't miss listing any games, though that has happened to me lately with the early season selections.

If anything, you could look at that & say "wow, there's some clear bias towards the Power 5 when it comes to TV selections that you project", but I'd argue that I'm following the trends that the networks themselves seem to be using as they try to schedule as best they can to get people to watch their games.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Some Big Ten Notes, ESPN and Sublicensing

* The matchups for the third year of the Gavitt Tipoff between Big Ten & Big East schools should be announced in the next few weeks (they showed up on May 3rd last year).  For the first time that I can recall, there appears to be no conflicts with respect to either a Big East or Big Ten school being in another event that would preclude them from a game.

I would like to believe that Michigan St. would be involved as they are the only Big Ten school to have not appeared in the first two years, though they will face Duke in Chicago earlier in the week.

* While we wait on the Big Ten announcement of rights deals with FOX Sports and ESPN (do believe its coming, more on that in a moment), Ad Age reports that FOX Sports has already begun marketing pitches to advertising agencies and those presentations have included that FOX Sports will have Big Ten events.   I realize we, myself included, can get a bit tinfoil hat-ish when an announcement isn't immediately following credible reports from sports media, but we're in the window of the marketing junkets for the next television season and neither side would likely be willing to talk about these items in front of advertising execs if they didn't have the goods.

* You've probably heard from several outlets regarding layoffs at ESPN, and it sucks because some of those people's work you've either read or heard from them on television, radio or podcasts.  In any field, no one wants to see layoffs.  To dovetail this into why there hasn't been a Big Ten rights announcement, here's my thoughts, some of it anecdotal:

These ESPN layoffs have been rumored for multiple months, and during these months, I can't quite recall ESPN announcing any major rights acquisitions, though they were included in bid BAMTech made for the UEFA Champions League rights.  There may have been some smaller announcements.  Sure, many rights have been locked in for some time too, so there haven't necessarily been any major rights floating out there.  From a PR standpoint, I believe these layoffs had to be done far enough in advance to allow the "smoke to die down" before going in front of advertisers and saying anything about new agreements or programming initiatives (the rumored Mike Greenberg morning show).

In my opinion, with a marketing upfront in mid-May, the layoffs had to have "space", whatever that timeframe turns out to be.  I've seen, first hand, layoffs in front of me and then a major marketing initiative that had multi-million dollars committed announced within 24-48 hours.  It left those who weren't laid off with a terrible taste in their mouths and a PR staff trying to tell those who were still employed that this initiative wasn't related to those layoffs, the cost of that initiative would pay long-term dividends and was a small part of that marketing budget.

* Had someone ask about whether ESPN would either broaden sublicense agreements or adjust existing ones.

1) I don't think they'd adjust existing ones, namely because if the terms of that agreement are of a favorable price to the other party, such as CBS Sports Network with the MAC and American Athletic Conference, or presumably whatever bundle of men's basketball games CBS buys from ESPN to air on their broadcast network, what incentive does CBS have to adjust it if it increases what they pay to ESPN if those agreements are locked in for 2-3 years?

2) Could ESPN try to sublicense other properties that they aren't today?  Certainly possible, but the price point has to be right and there has to be a market for that content where others are willing to buy.  A few years back, ESPN wanted to sublicense a portion of their US Open tennis content to Tennis Channel but TC found the price ESPN had set too high.  Maybe ESPN goes back to the market to try to re-sell those items.

Over the past few years, ESPN has sold off its final year of the The Open Championship to NBC instead of working a lame duck year.  Same with rights to NHRA, which were cancelled a year early so they could start an agreement with FOX Sports.  Properties like IndyCar, which are expiring in the next 18 months and had layoffs with two on-air people, could be targeted for an early non-renewal or the possibility of the rights being sold off if a new rightsholder comes in for those races.

And if you think Longhorn Network is a good buyout target, pump the brakes.  If you think they could get out from under by selling to, say, BAMTech, note the part about ESPN (or Disney??) having to majority own BAMTech, which they do not at this time but have the option to become the majority owner over the next several years.  And, to be honest, selling to BAMTech feels like it would be an accounting trick & just moving a property over to someone else's balance sheet to make yours look good, but I don't know how Disney's balance sheet is structured.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Notes: Big Ten Homecoming, Arizona Bowl, Links to Previous Articles

* While we wait on finalization of the Big Ten TV contracts, here's the list of Big Ten homecoming games that have been set so far.  In the past, the start times were set for these in April or May, usually after night games were designated unless a homecoming game was moved to the evening.  I do not know if they will continue to have homecoming start times set in the spring.  Nearly all Big Ten stadiums will have permanent lights coming into the 2017 season due to the expiring TV contracts where primary networks (ie: ABC/ESPN) paid for temporary lights, so this process could be changing.

I was unable to find homecoming dates for Nebraska or Rutgers through the schools or other news reports.  I am currently connecting Ohio St.'s homecoming to this page about the Nursing major's events for homecoming.

9/23 - Michigan at Purdue, Rutgers at Nebraska
10/7 - Illinois at Iowa, Penn St. at Northwestern, Maryland at Ohio St.
10/14 - Michigan at Indiana
10/21 - Indiana at Michigan St., Illinois at Minnesota, Maryland at Wisconsin, Purdue at Rutgers
10/28 - Wisconsin at Illinois, Rutgers at Michigan, Indiana at Maryland
11/11 - Rutgers at Penn St.

FOX has their network upfront on 5/15 and ESPN has theirs the following day, so maybe those are the two dates to look out for.

* One of the items that may not have carried over as part of the Campus Insiders & ASN joint venture is the rights to the Arizona Bowl, which have been picked up by CBS Sports Network.  A few years back, it was thought that the game would end up on CBSSN, but never did.

An astute observation on the date of the game (December 30th):
To be clear, the Fiesta Bowl organizing committee does also hold the license to the Cactus Bowl, but the Arizona Bowl is under its own operating committee.  With that said, the games will probably overlap in their timeslots as my expectation is the Fiesta will lead into the Orange Bowl, which has been scheduled for a primetime start.

* In the area of self-promotion:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Breakdown of D1 Men's Basketball on TV For 2016-17 By Conference

I've done this in prior seasons, skipped it last year and decided to bring it back for this year.  Here's a breakdown of men's basketball on TV by conference.  I broke the games down in the following categories:
  • Broadcast network
  • Pay TV
  • Syndication & Regional Distribution
    • Includes ASN, ACC Network, ACC RSNs, FSN, NBC RSNs, ROOT Sports
The TV rights are those contracted with the home school's conference, so BYU's home games on BYUtv are nowhere to be found here (add 13 to the 60-80 million column if you want to include them).  All counts include conference tournaments games that were televised.  

The reason syndication was set aside is that the number of viewers is often variable and I wasn't interested in calculating it on a game by game basis, hence it gets its own bucket.  The fact is the data in this column probably isn't as reliable as it could or should be because I am likely under reporting the number of games.   For example, the WCC count is solely their "Game Of The Week" when I could be adding in a lot of other games, but those other games could be contracted out by the schools with the telecasts regionally shared.  I just don't know enough in that area which is why I tried to stick to situations where a conference had entered into an agreement with an entity. An example of that would be the Big 12, who had about 16 institutionally held games distributed through FSN & several Texas games on Longhorn Network.

Anyways, here's the link.  Have fun.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Way Too Early CFB TV Guesses for Week Three For 2017, Take Two.

Took a final crack at Week Three.

If the game has both its time & TV network set (see link above), I'm not going to re-list it here.  If one of the two is missing, I'll list it since something is in doubt.  The links at the top of each week will have those games.  Also, I'm not going to list games that are scheduled for ESPN3, ACC Network Extra, Campus Insiders, CUSA.TV, etc. since the start times for those games are often set by the schools.

Only a handful of games have been changed from the original post in February and that post has some of the external event considerations and selection orders I considered.  If its in bold below, either the time or network changed from the original post, likely due to a schedule release or date change, or in the case of Massachusetts at Temple, I elected to set a start time & network for it.  The four Saturday games that changed have notes on them.

Massachusetts at Temple, 7pm ESPNU

Notre Dame at Boston College, 12pm ABC
Army at Ohio St., 12pm ESPN
Georgia St. at Penn St., 12pm ESPN2
Tulane at Oklahoma, 12pm FS1
UCLA at Memphis, 12pm ESPNU
Iowa St. at Akron, 12pm ESPNEWS
SMU at TCU, 12pm FSN
Purdue at Missouri, 12pm SEC
Samford at Georgia, 12pm SEC
Kansas at Ohio, 12pm CBSSN
FIU at Indiana, 12pm BTN
Morgan St. at Rutgers, 12pm BTN
Connecticut at Virginia, 12:30pm ACC Network
San Jose St. at Utah, 2pm Pac-12
Delaware St. at West Virginia, 2pm ROOT Sports Pittsburgh
Central Michigan at Syracuse, 3pm ACC RSNs
Miami (FL) at Florida St., 3:30pm ABC
Tennessee at Florida, 3:30pm CBS
Oklahoma St. at Pittsburgh, 3:30pm ESPN
Arizona St. at Texas Tech, 3:30pm ESPN2
Baylor at Duke, 3:30pm ESPNU
Georgia Tech at UCF, 3:30pm CBSSN - previously at 7pm on CBSSN where Oregon at Wyoming will air
Bowling Green at Northwestern, 3:30pm BTN
Northern Illinois at Nebraska, 3:30pm BTN
Virginia Tech at East Carolina, 4pm ESPNEWS - had on Thursday night & needed to find a home for it.
Mercer at Auburn, 4pm SEC
UL-Lafayette at Texas A&M, 4pm SEC
Air Force at Michigan, 4:30pm FOX
Oregon St. at Washington St., 5pm Pac-12
LSU at Mississippi St., 7pm ESPN
Colorado St. at Alabama, 7pm ESPN2
Kansas St. at Vanderbilt, 7pm ESPNU
North Carolina at Old Dominion, 7pm beIN Sports - originally on ASN
Kentucky at South Carolina, 7:30pm SEC
North Texas at Iowa, 7:30pm BTN
Middle Tennessee at Minnesota, 7:30pm BTN
Clemson at Louisville, 8pm ABC
Texas at USC, 8pm FOX
Rice at Houston, 8pm ESPNEWS - was at 4pm on ESPNEWS
Northern Colorado at Colorado, 8pm Pac-12
Wisconsin at BYU, 10:15pm ESPN2
Ole Miss at California, 10:30pm ESPN
Fresno St. at Washington, 11pm Pac-12

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The New ASN: Silver Chalice TV?

The news finally appeared that Sinclair Broadcasting's American Sports Network would be changing in its format, with the creation of a new entity involving Sinclair, Silver Chalice and 120 Sports.

From the point of view of college athletics, Campus Insiders and ASN will be providing the live events where 120 Sports, with equity partners including pro sports & media entities, would provide a great deal of the studio programming.

Its hard for me to completely describe the relationship between 120 Sports and Campus Insiders.  I look at them as first cousins.  120 Sports, at this time, doesn't have any live events to contribute, but the equity partners they have should be able to provide the network with a ton of unique content.  The Silver Chalice umbrella counts White Sox & Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf as its chairman.

Campus Insiders and Sinclair have direct relationships with the following collegiate conferences for live events:
  • Conference USA 
    • It is believed that this may be the only live events agreement that Sinclair is bringing from ASN in addition to a schedule of games on Campus Insiders.
  • Mountain West
    • SportsLabs, a media platform in the Silver Chalice family, is the platform running the conference's website.  Campus Insiders also provides the framework for the Mountain West Network digital network.
  • Patriot League
  • WCC
    • Similar to the Mountain West, the conference's website and digital network are in the Silver Chalice family.
All three entities have partnered on distributing the Arizona Bowl the last two years, with ASN providing the telecast and both Campus Insiders and 120 Sports handling digital delivery and exclusive second screen programming.

The ACC's website is also maintained by SportsLabs, along with websites from multiple schools, including Wyoming, Penn & Kansas St.  Digital network repositories for both the ACC and Big 12 exist over at Campus Insiders too.

For the new entity, the feeling I get it that Sinclair will provide it with the distribution outlet of digital subchannels on several Sinclair owned TV stations that previously housed the 24/7 ASN feed.  From that point of view, you might view it as Sinclair getting out of the business of actively managing a sports channel and reducing its risk by providing the blank canvas of airspace to Silver Chalice and 120 Sports to program over it, with those two entities, hopefully, providing better distribution digitally, better content and improved event production over what Sinclair provided.

So what events could make it to the new network?  My initial expectation is Conference USA will be there at the start.  Maybe this network tries to attract another former ASN tentpole in the Atlantic 10, who has prior experience with Campus Insiders.  After that, I don't know because I don't know how the existing contracts are structured for the Mountain West and WCC with their TV partners to handle another national TV partner if this entity is considered as such, particularly in cases where the "conference footprint" is designated as in-market with streaming in the out-of-market areas.  Over time, I could see it being a player for media rights, particularly with a conference like the Mountain West who has expressed dissatisfaction with existing TV partners over the number of evening football games and how it has eroded ticket sales.  Or maybe a conference like the Big Ten, who has elected to go with shorter term rights deals with ESPN and FOX Sports, would look at Campus Insiders to handle something a package of content like BTN Plus, but with a few football & men's basketball games in the future.  Whether they could pony up the cash to get a deal done is anyone's guess, and as anyone who follows Sports TV Ratings on Twitter will tell you, digital viewers do not equal TV viewers, so the revenues from linear TV can't necessarily be derived through digital distribution.

What I'm also curious about is the linear television distribution beyond Sinclair's multicast channels.  Campus Insiders has been able to provide live content through several different mediums, such as Verizon's go90 mobile video delivery app, Dish Network's Sling TV and Twitter.  Will the network continue to have dedicated feeds, or live event programming through those delivery methods?  ASN had live events provided to several RSNs in the Xfinity family along with unaffiliated RSNs like Altitude, NESN, MASN and Cox Sports.  Will that continue or end, particularly if a standalone channel is started?

More questions than answers, but hopefully it will provide easier access to these games for fans, higher quality programming and a better return to the schools, either financially at the gate through more control of start times or a rights fee off the production of live events.