Monday, August 31, 2009

Bowl News

Two items:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Week 1 Viewers Guide

Labor Day weekend is the start of the college football season. Its a mixed bag like in prior years where there are some decent games but a glut of FCS-FBS matchups.

All times Eastern

Really, there is only one good game of note and you should stay up for it.

Oregon at Boise St. (ESPN HD, 10:15pm) - Chip Kelly's 1st game running the ship for the Ducks vs. a juggernaut in Boise St. Kellen Moore needs to avoid any form of the sophomore jinx to give the Broncos a marquee win as they attempt to again represent the non-AQ conferences in a BCS bowl.

Minnesota at Syracuse (ESPN2 HD, 12pm) - Minnesota is coming off a two season stretch where they improved by six wins from 2007 to 2008. Doug Marrone, in his 1st season at SU, is hoping to make a similar leap with the Orange, his alma mater. Plenty of press for the Orange, from the culture changes at practice (more focus on conditioning) and who will be the QB (former Duke point guard Greg Paulus).

Georgia at Oklahoma St. (ABC HD/ESPN2 HD, 3:30pm) - An early season matchup of upper tier Big 12 and SEC teams and a rematch of a 2007 matchup than ended in a 35-14 victory for the Dogs in Athens. Oklahoma St. has made some marked improvements since then, but like a fair amount of the Big 12, it is more known for its offensive firepower than its defensive work. Georgia's balance could be the difference, but they'll need someone to step up to replace both Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno at QB and RB, respectively.

BYU vs. Oklahoma (ESPN HD, 7pm) - This one will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington as part of an agreement between the Big 12, ESPN and the Cowboys to play an opening Big 12 non-conference game there every season. BYU's Max Hall vs. defending Heisman winner Sam Bradford is the QB battle and OU may be the most complete team in the nation, but BYU will not be a cakewalk as coach Bronco Mendenhall will have his team prepared, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (ABC HD, 8pm) - Another neutral site game and the game of the day involving two teams involved in BCS bowls last year. Virginia Tech's top RB had his year cut short and the Hokies will need to control the ground game to keep themselves within reach of the Tide. A blocked punt or two couldn't hurt.

Cincinnati at Rutgers (ESPN HD, 4pm) - Important conference game to start off the Big East season. Rutgers finished strong last year, winning their last seven including their bowl against NC State. Cincy won the Big East for the 1st time but lost the Orange Bowl to Virginia Tech. The key will be the Bearcats defense, which is almost entirely turned over at the starter level.

Friday, August 28, 2009

SU game times announced

I wrote the other day that I took them down and now I have a good reason. They are not being televised (yet) on Time Warner Cable, but they will be webcasted on

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Conference TV Contract: The PAC-10

The PAC-10 has always taken flak for its TV deals, usually from those of us on the east coast. From games that start too late (not for me, but for others), broadcasting entities that some portions of the media will tell you that they can't find to a general lack of televised games available. Will these change over time or are the conference presidents and officers generally happy with the coverage.

The PAC-10 has a contract with ABC for over-the-air coverage with some games on ESPN. The contract calls for 20 telecast windows and 6-8 of those windows can be national telecasts on ESPN. By allowing games on ESPN, the conference can have a few games scheduled on Thursday nights or part of Labor Day or Thanksgiving Friday coverage if it desires. When ABC televises a game at 3:30pm it is exclusive and no other PAC-10 game is available for telecast at that time. The PAC-10 contract with ABC is a five year contract and will end after the 2011 football season. ABC and ESPN can concurrently televise games, but this is the only scenario where ABC can coexist with a PAC-10 cable broadcaster. ABC also televises a fair number of PAC-10 games in their 8pm ET/5pm PT telecast slot, often on split telecast windows.

FSN is the pay-tv rightsholder for the conference and has national rights to 18 telecast windows. FSN sells off five telecast windows per season to Versus and keeps thirteen windows. In the early part of the decade, the five games that FSN has sold off to Versus belonged to TBS and before that they were syndicated on over-the-air networks in the PAC-10 footprint.

The games not chosen for national telecast revert back to the individual schoold to sell for regional telecast. Many of the regional rights holders are affiliates of FSN, but some are not:
  • FSN Northwest: Oregon St., Washington St., Washington
  • Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket: UCLA and USC
  • Fox Sports Arizona: Arizona St.
  • CSN Bay Area/California: California and Stanford
  • Oregon Sports Network: Oregon
  • Arizona Wildcasts Sports Network: Arizona
Since ABC, Versus and FSN do have exclusivity, the conference does hold specific local telecast windows open during the year. FSN/Versus exclusivity can be waived if a regional broadcaster requests for it to be waived for a particular game. Still this often can lead to at least 1-2 PAC-10 games per week not being televised.

One item missing from the PAC-10, particularly with the FSN and Versus games, is an accompanying webstream of the game. The ABC/ESPN games are often accompanied by an ESPN360 stream. Accoring to the FSN contract press release, FSN has new media rights, but it is unclear whether they can stream games live.

One of the interesting things about the PAC-10 is that they often have at least 50% of their ABC/ESPN and FSN/Versus telecasts chosen before mid-June. ABC/ESPN has to provide the conference the games the will televise and telecast windows where there will be a 6-12 day window selection by May 1st before the forthcoming season. FSN and Versus must then choose their game telecasts and selection windows before June 1st.

FSN also appears to have the ability to select specific games ahead of ABC. For example, the USC-UCLA game can be locked in for an FSN telecast one time every four seasons and was locked in for 2009.

As their contract is now at the halfway point, questions have risen as to where the PAC-10 should go next. The FSN portion of the television side continues to be derided and new commissioner Larry Scott, formerly of the WTA tour, has been given the charge of raising the conference profile. Rumors have come out about the conference partnering with the ACC to create some form of east coast-west coast network to try to increase the number of national telecasts. Others want to move more telecasts from FSN over to ESPN.

Whatever the PAC-10 decides to do, it will be interesting if it does indeed raise the profile of the conference east of the Mississippi beyond late night telecasts and the perception of USC and nine other schools.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Note on Syracuse's game times vs. NU and Maine

Earlier you may have noticed that I posted the kickoff times for the Syracuse home games against Northwestern and Maine and that both would be televised on Time Warner Cable. Per a request from the school, I have removed those listings and those games once again appear in the Non-Televised List portion of the week three & four schedules.

I am complying with the request because the school has not officially announced the kickoff time & broadcaster for those games. I've let them know that my source for the listing of these games was the Time Warner Sports websites serving the Rochester and Central NY areas so that they realize that the information that I posted was on a publicly available website and not inside information. The Rochester site appears to have been asked to change the listings to TBD and has done so.

If/when these games are available for television, they will be reflected on the site.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Conference TV Contract: The MWC

The Mountain West has fought for BCS AQ access, paved the way for conference television networks and managed to get a couple wins in BCS bowls. They managed to leave ESPN of their own accord and live to tell about it. And they have the highest paying contract of all non-AQ conferences.

The MWC and CSTV announced a partnership in late 2004 that was slated to start in 2006 and run for seven year. The MWC spurned ESPN's reported offer to stay on the network because ESPN intended to offer the MWC slots for football on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The contract with CSTV covered all MWC sports and would also move the MWC off of Monday nights where they were part of the Big Monday basketball series. The schools were supposedly unhappy about the 10pm MT start times that those telecasts carried and wanted to get away from the 6-12 day windows where kickoff times were set by ESPN.

Two components were key to the agreement:
  • CSTV, which had limited distribution, had to distribute eight football games to a national over-the-air network or national cable network. Supposedly the magic number for a network to be considered national was 70 million homes.
  • CSTV would create a regional sports network for the conference, absorbing SportsWest Productions, which was a syndicator of WAC and MWC football broadcasts.
Both components have been accomplished, but not without some stumbles. CSTV announced the creation of the mtn. at the 2006 Media Day and a day later Comcast was announced as a partner in the mtn. and would be the recipient of the eight games that would have to be distributed on a national network. Those games were given to Comcast's OLN channel, which changed its name over to Versus a few months later. The mtn. struggled to get distribution on satellite and cable systems from the beginning, but deals have since been struck with DirecTV and other cable distributors throughout the MWC footprint. Dish Network remains on the outside, as does the Time Warner system that covers the San Diego area.

The MWC, by requesting its kickoff times be set before the season starts, has no in-season selection order for games. Versus takes on eight games, CBS College Sports (formerly CSTV) usually takes nine games (they have rights to 24 and the count is the sum of the Versus and CBS C games) and the mtn. takes the rest of the games. It appears that the conference has some sort of clause in their contract that makes sure each team appears at least once for a national telecast. The only downside to this is that the national telecasts can often match teams towards the middle or the bottom of the conference, while a key game could end up on a mtn. regional telecast.

One of the quirks of the television portion of the contract revolves around the BYU-Utah game. The game is often the highest profile game that the conference offers and it has been televised on multiple networks two of the past three years, though in 2008 it stayed exclusively with the mtn.

The one component that seems to be missing from the original CSTV-MWC agreement is the web streaming component. Outside of the games on CBS College Sports, games are not webstreamed. Only time will tell if that ever happens.

The MWC has the revenue and on-field comparisons that rival some AQ conferences. Computer rankings show a divide that exists between them and the other four non-AQ conferences. As their exposure rises through increased availability of their TV partners and their on-field performance as a conference continues to improve, the BCS may have a hard time ignoring them.

EDIT: The MWC has a 10 year deal with CBS College Sports. It is a 10 year, $120 million contract.

Conference TV Contract: The MAC

The Mid-American Conference has sat in the shadow of the Big Ten for much of its existence and after achieving a fair amount of success at the beginning of the 2000s, has fallen back in terms of national recognition. Ball St.'s 2008 regular season undefeated run was discounted by a less than stellar set of OOC opponents. The conference has went 2-10 over the last four bowl seasons. But it has upgraded its television contract slightly.

In late January (one day before the commissioner who negotiated the contract stepped down), the MAC negotiated a new eight year contract starting with the 2009 season. The prior contract was a combined contract, like this one, for all MAC sports and generally 7-10 MAC games would air on ESPN/ESPN2 with additional games on ESPNU. The new contract calls for a minimum of eleven MAC games to air on ESPN Networks (six on ESPN/ESPN2, five on ESPNU) with additional games available to be selected by ESPN360. The conference championship game is also available for telecast on ESPN/ESPN2

The MAC has had vast majority of its ESPN/ESPN2 coverage on weeknights, along with some of its ESPNU coverage. A new quirk introduced into the scheduling of MAC games on ESPN is for two games to be scheduled on a weeknight, with the best game provided to the network that has the better coverage, ie (ESPN2 vs. ESPNU or ESPNU vs. ESPN360).

Starting with the 2007 season, the MAC began a package of regional telecasts in conjunction with ESPN Regional Television and that package will continue with the new contract. The package was developed to provide content to many of the local stations in the Big Ten/MAC footprint who lost games when the Big Ten created the Big Ten Network to replace ESPN Regional games.

The MAC has also placed several games for regional telecast on Fox Sports Ohio and Fox Sports Detroit. All other telecast rights revert back to the individual schools to use for local rights packages.

With the exception of the days where ESPN can choose between two weeknight games and place them on multiple ESPN outlets, no weekly selection order exists for the MAC, though ESPN can pick up additional games throughout the year. ESPN generally announces their national telecasts once the MAC releases its schedule for the year. The ESPN Regional games are announced close to mid-June and other telecasts trickle out throughout the summer.

The MAC has also partnered with JumpTV for its web presence and has an online streaming package called All-MACcess where all non-ESPN owned games are streamed live.

For the foreseeable future, the MAC is secure with national telecasts (albeit a rights fee that is rumored to be less than their WAC counterparts and comparable to what C-USA receives from ESPN) and a very solid syndicated package of games reaching the target MAC markets. The conference needs to continue working as individual schools at increasing their local and regional packages. Schools like Buffalo (Time Warner), Bowling Green and Toledo (Buckeye Cable) and Northern Illinois (CSN Chicago) have very strong regional packages, while the Michigan based schools and Ball St. which used to have games on the the Comcast Local regional channel have yet to replace those lost telecasts.

Las Vegas Bowl Renews PAC-10 & MWC agreements

The MWC and PAC-10 will remain as part of the Las Vegas Bowl until the year 2013 under new agreements made between the conferences and the bowl committee. The MWC will continue to provide its top choice for the game while the PAC-10 will provide its No. 5. The bowl is owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television.

This is the 1st MWC bowl agreement under the current shuffle of bowl games that is going on this offseason. This is also the PAC-10's first announced agreement, but agreements are rumored to be announced for both the Sun and Alamo bowl games. If everything holds, the PAC-10 lineup could look like this:

1. Rose
2. Holiday
3. Alamo
4. Sun
5. Las Vegas
6. Emerald

The Pointsettia could end up being the 7th bowl.

USC - Ohio St. to be produced in 3D

ESPN announced today that the USC at Ohio St. game will be produced in 3D. Separate production trucks and announcers will be used for the ESPN 3D and the ESPN HD telecasts. ESPN has been testing 3D for at least two years according to the press release.

The broadcast will not be available to the home viewer. The Galen Center in LA will screen the telecast along with theaters in Columbus, Hartford and Hurst, TX (near Dallas). To gain admittance one must get tickets from local radio stations in those markets.

Addendum to the C-USA discussion

I wanted to share a comment and interesting discussion point that was brought up regarding the C-USA analysis by a poster on MWCboard

One significant omission from your CUSA discussion.

Did you ever wonder why ESPN surrendered exclusivity at the very time that CUSA was weakened by the Big East raid? I could see surrendering something as a concession to strength but as a concession to weakness? Intuitively at least, that makes no sense. So here's the deal...

ESPN basically messed up and, in the CUSA contract, failed to protect
their right to cancel or renegotiate the contract if the membership changed --
which obviously it did when the Big East raided them. If they hadn't left that
out of the contract, then CSTV never would have entered the picture. The ability
that CUSA had to work with both networks wasn't a superior television
attractiveness to the other non-AQ conferences, but an inadvertently strong
negotiating position. ESPN wanted to limit their expenditures for CUSA so they
reached an agreement with CUSA requiring them to broadcast the same number of
games, all on ESPN/ESPN2, but for far less money. And in exchange for that, they
let CUSA work with CSTV to broadcast more games -- enough more games that CUSA was made whole financially.

So it was a win-win-win situation for all parties. ESPN cut their payments to CUSA -- but had to give up exclusivity to do so. In gaining CUSA, CSTV got more product -- which they desperately needed in their infancy. And CUSA got more exposure for roughly the same money and stayed in the good graces of ESPN doing it.

Which brings us to today. My expectation is that ESPN will now require exclusivity and CUSA will have to make a choice between ESPN and CBSC. CBSC will probably still pay more than ESPN will, and will probably give them better broadcast times, so I'm guessing CUSA will go with CBSC. With Memphis basketball suddenly in trouble (I'm referring mostly to the loss of the HC) and the economy shot, I can't imagine that they deserve more than the WAC gets -- but they will probably get a little more anyway.

But the per school / per year income from a CBSC contract should plummet -- perhaps by more than 50% from what they get currently from ESPN/CBSC. How much will probably depend upon how many football games a year they want.

And my response:

It's a fair question Yoda. ESPN did have the DOJ sniffing around many of their
contracts because of their practice of warehousing games from many conferences
(airing 1-2 games and holding the rest from being sold to another network). Karl
Benson (WAC), Rick Chryst (MAC) and others were interviewed by the DOJ (don't
know if C-USA's commissioner was). ESPN made the announcement for ESPNU in
September of 2004 and one would assume that ESPN made it known to C-USA that
they would have a place here if they so desired. I think I remember reading in
Sports Business Journal that ESPN, like they did with the WAC, said that they'd
put games on ESPNU as long as ESPN didn't have to pay anything extra.

I think ESPN may have been dealing with an outside force watching over them (DOJ) and I think its possible that the external force's presence is what led ESPN to
give up exclusivity.

Now I said its feasible. Whether it actually happened like that is another story.

As a postscript, it is a great question. Why did ESPN give up exclusivity to C-USA? Was it a mistake or loophole that C-USA took advantage of? Was the Department of Justice sniffing into ESPN's business deals with college conferences and was this a concession ESPN had to make? Was CSTV making noise that they would expose something in the negotiations to prove that ESPN was going to hold C-USA's inventory hostage?

Fact is that we're 2/3rd of the way through the contract, ESPNU is now entering its fifth season of televising games and CSTV became CBS College Sports and in my opinion, looks far less amateurish in its production values than it did four years ago. But its a great discussion.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Conference TV Contracts: Independents

The three FBS independents have individual TV contracts, with the two service academies with CBS College Sports and Notre Dame with NBC.

Since 1991, NBC has been the exclusive provider of Notre Dame home games, with the current contract ending after the 2015 season. Starting with the 2009 season, Notre Dame plans to schedule opponents on a 7-4-1 basis, seven home games in South Bend, four true road games and one neutral site "home" game. The neutral site "home" game will often be used as a primetime telecast by NBC due to the school's reluctance to schedule night games on campus. Notre Dame's on campus home games will typically kick off at 3:30pm ET and 2:30pm ET after Daylight Savings Time ends.

Navy began a long-term partnership for telecast of on-campus and select neutral sites starting in 2005 and those rights have been extended to end after the 2017 season. Included in a separate contract is the rights to Navy's "home" game with Notre Dame through 2016 with an option for the 2018 game. Included in the deal with CBS College Sports is free web streaming of every home game, operational rights to, HD telecasts for all home games and finalization of all kickoff times by May 1st of the upcoming season.

Army's existing rights are owned by ESPN, but have been sold to CBS College Sports (except for the Friday night home game vs. Rutgers) for the 2009 season and remain with CBS C starting with the 2010 season. Unlike the existing ESPN deal, all Army home games will be played on Saturdays with kickoff times of 12pm or 3:30pm to be decided by May 1st, like the Navy contract. A free web stream of all Army home games will also be provided for. Because the agreement for 2009 was finalized after CBS C had set its C-USA, MWC and Navy schedules, two of the Army home games will be televised via tape delay. Army's recent slate of Yankee Stadium home games (Rutgers-2011, Boston College-2012 and Air Force-2014) will also be televised here. Note that the game vs. Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium is a Notre Dame "home" game and will be televised by NBC.

Conference TV Contract: Conference USA

Conference USA's contracts with ESPN and CBS College Sports are due to the last major conference realignment. The conference has taken a major hit in terms of the lack of a ranked program in final regular season poll since the realignment. Yet they've been able to retain a fair amount of national exposure on weekends.

C-USA, like all of the other non-AQ conferences, does not have a presence on any of the four major, national over-the-air networks and gets all of its coverage on cable. The original eight year contract they signed with ESPN back in 2001 would have ended with this upcoming football season and ABC would have had the option of televising the C-USA football title game if they had been able to get to 12 members before the massive realignment in 2005. Unfortunately that never happened, but after ESPN requested the contract be reopened due to realignment, they managed to retain the same level of coverage on ESPN & ESPN2 of ten regular season games per season, plus ESPN took on the conference championship game when it was established in 2005.

CBS College Sports also entered the picture in 2005. Known as CSTV back then, it was able to score the inventory rights to C-USA that were previously held by ESPN Regional Television. ESPN decided to drop the exclusivity that existed in the prior contract and it allowed the deal to take place between CSTV and C-USA. In exchange for CSTV gaining those rights, ESPN must televise all of their C-USA games on either ESPN or ESPN2. No games may appear on ESPNU or ESPN Game Plan. CSTV also took over the website hosting and maintenance for all 12 C-USA schools.

CBS College Sports earned the right to choose up to 24 games for national telecast, but they have not selected more than 19 games for telecast in a single season, with most seasons around 13-15 games. In 2005, they moved six games over to i television (now known as Ion) and at the end of 2006 began selling games to CSS for regional telecasts.

CBS College Sports has also allowed schools to sell games to local & regional broadcasters beyond CSS. As the contract has gone on, more games have been sold off to local broadcasters.

Since many of the games are selected for telecast before the season starts, there is no selection order during the season, though CBS College Sports leaves open some of their late season telecast windows to get the best available game televised. During the offseason, ESPN selects the games they wish to televise and those games are made public usually when C-USA releases the season's entire schedule. CBS College Sports usually announces its selected games 1-2 months after that. Regional telecasts are generally announced throughout the summer.

C-USA's contracts with both ESPN and CBS College Sports ends at the end of the 2010 football season. C-USA's games on ESPN are often on weeknights unless they are home games against AQ conference opponents. The lack of results on the field, coupled with a sagging economy, an interest in broadcasters to invest in more high-profile entities like the SEC & Big Ten and the upcoming ACC rights negotiation could harm C-USA's ability to increase their rights fee and/or retain the amount of exposure they currently have. Will C-USA schools be willing to continue to play games on weeknights in exchange for television exposure? Will ESPN and CBS C be willing to continue the non-exclusive arrangement or will one attempt to bring all of C-USA's games in house and at what price? Could a third party enter the mix? C-USA officials realize that they may have to receive less actual revenues to get the same number of games on TV.

C-USA needs to favorably increase its football profile on a national scale or the upcoming negotiation could be far less than desirable.

Conference TV Contract: The Big Ten

The Big Ten is one of the most straight-forward contracts around when it comes to multiple network coordination and maximization of exposure. In short, if its at a Big Ten stadium, it is virtually guaranteed to be televised coast to coast.

The Big Ten accelerated the arms race among BCS conferences in the summer of 2006, signing a new ten year deal with ABC and ESPN for the broadcasting of college football, along with a new partnership with Fox Cable Networks called the Big Ten Network.

ABC gets the 1st choice of games every week. Most of these games air at 3:30pm ET and ABC gets up to 17 games per season. A unique quirk about the ABC games is that they have to air in some form of national distribution when they air at 3:30pm. So if a game airs as part of regional distribution on ABC, it has to air on ESPN or ESPN2 to the rest of the nation. This is known as a "reverse mirror" game. I wrote about these briefly in the ACC analysis. Note that this does not apply to games aired on ABC in the 8pm ET. Those games, unlike the 3:30pm ET games, are available on ESPN Game Plan for those not receiving them on ABC.

ESPN & ESPN2 get up to 25 national telecasts and most of those games air at 12pm ET. Because of the way the Big Ten schedules itself currently, they tend to dominate this time slot for most of the regular season until Thanksgiving weekend. ESPN Classic also can choose Big Ten games.

Fox Cable Networks and the Big Ten created the Big Ten Network in 2007 to take the place of games that were televised on ESPNU & ESPN Regional Television, plus games that were exclusively streamed on ESPN360. The Big Ten Network partnership is a 25 year partnership with the Big Ten owning 51% of the network but ceding Fox the day-to-day operations of the network, so it will eclipse the existing ABC/ESPN contract by fifteen seasons. After initial struggles with distribution, the network hits close to 35 million households nationwide. The Big Ten Network essentially owns the inventory of Big Ten games, but can leapfrog ESPN and ESPN2 on occasion. Every Big Ten team must appear on the BTN at least twice and one of those appearances must be a conference game. Initially, some games were not available in HD due to the lack of available HD production trucks, but starting in 2009, all games will be in HD.

Two scheduling quirks are unique to the Big Ten. The conference requests a minimal number of night game selections and none after the last Saturday of October. Many of the schools do not have permanent lighting (ie. Michigan, Ohio St.) and require advance notice so that arrangements can be made to bring temporary lighting in. Also, many schools complete their seasons without a bye week. Starting in 2010, the conference will allow its members to schedule conference games during Thanksgiving weekend and possibly into December. This will allow the Big Ten teams to schedule bye weeks during seasons where 12 games are scheduled over 14 weeks (currently most Big Ten teams schedule 12 straight weeks of games unless they play an OOC game after the Big Ten season is complete).

In short, the Big Ten's place on ABC & ESPN is secure and the Big Ten Network distribution allows for the conference to bring in unprecedented amounts of revenues, supposedly even more than the money that the SEC is now bringing in with their new CBS and ESPN deals. National distribution of virtually every game, the quality of HD telecasts wherever you go and the sound of a cash register bringing in the money means the Big Ten will be there every Saturday and easy to find.

Conference TV Contract: The Big East

The Big East has struggled for respect both on and off the field. This year is no exception with no teams in the top 25 of either the AP and USA Today polls. Feels like 2005 all over again, except they have slightly more stability when it comes to getting games on television.

2008 was the 1st year of a new six year deal with ABC & ESPN for the football rights to the conference. 17 games are guaranteed to be televised on ABC/ESPN and at least three games are supposed to air on ABC. In addition, up to four games can appear on Thursdays on ESPN and two games could appear on Sunday nights if needed. A minimum of five games will also appear on ESPNU. The conference's extra inventory of games is owned by ESPN Regional Television, who syndicates the conference's game of the week under the banner of the Big East Network. The regional game often reaches about 40-50% of the country through a combination of affiliates comprising local over-the-air stations, regional sports networks and local cable channels. Games can also be selected for exclusive web streaming by

One of the issues that affects the schools is the number of weeknight games that make up the games that ESPN selects. ESPN pre-selects many of the best Big East telecasts before the season starts for weeknight telecasts and it often leaves the conference without a marquee game to watch on Saturdays. Over the past four years (three of them under the previous downgraded contract put together when Miami, VT and BC left for the ACC), the Big East has had 63% of their ESPN/ESPN2 telecasts occur on non-Saturdays. That count does include some games played during Labor Day weekend, but it resembles a number that sits much closer to the non-AQ conferences that show games on ESPN than it does the Big East's AQ conference counterparts. Because of the spread out nature of the conference and how some of the states where these schools are schedule high schools, some schools are more receptive than others to the weeknight games than others, particularly the Friday night games.

Another issue that affects the Big East's telecast schedule is a requirement placed in the contract by ESPN that games must be available for selection by ABC/ESPN on the final Saturday of the regular season (aka Championship Saturday). Because the conference is required to schedule this particular week for ESPN and due to the lower number of members, it stretches the regular season schedule out even more. This was more noticeable in 2008 when the regular season was stretched over 15 weeks. Half of the conference had three off weeks and several Saturdays only had a single telecast available. The conference appears to put a lot of value on the Big East Network game, so when only one game is available on a weekend, it automatically reverts to the Big East Network instead of being available for a national telecast.

So where does this leave the conference? The Big East will continue to have a perception problem at least for the remainder of this contract and its get going to get worse before it gets better. Around 1/3rd of the slots on ESPNU on Saturdays will end up going to the SEC. The Big Ten and SEC will own close to 60% of all time slots on ESPN and ESPN2. The ACC will likely be favored over the Big East because of the names of the schools its has, regardless of whether some of those schools are underperforming on the field. And the rumblings of schools being added or leaving will not end as long as long as the Big East remains an eight team football conference inside the body of a sixteen team basketball conference.

The conference, which may have the best coverage of its men's basketball on ESPN, may need to decide at some point whether the lack of Saturday coverage it is receiving on ESPN is worth it.

EDIT 1:24pm 8/23 The five minimum games on ESPNU are separate from the 17 games that have to appear on ABC/ESPN.

Conference TV Contract: The Big 12

The Big 12's TV contract looks like a hodgepodge of games airing on several different networks, but in reality only two entities own those games. The number of games available on TV have increased drastically as the league's cable partner

ABC owns the top choice of Big 12 games every week and they usually air in the 3:30pm ET time slot. ABC owns up to 19 Big 12 games per season including the conference championship games.

FSN owns the rest of the Big 12 games. Over the years these games have been both syndicated to over the air stations and aired of FSN's group of regional sports network affiliates, but these games now air all on cable. The cable side of the house is also where things have really changed.

Until ABC started their Saturday Night Football set of games, the Big 12 TV contract was fairly straightforward:
  • ABC got the top choice of games and could choice as many games as they wanted each week (usually one game per week, maybe two). When ABC aired a Big 12 game at 12pm ET, FSN could air a game at the same time. ABC had an exclusive window at 3:30pm and no game could be aired on FSN, except when ABC chose not to air a game.
  • FSN and TBS would then choose the top cable game each week and air it at 7pm ET
  • FSN would then choose a game to air at 12:30pm ET. These games were previously syndicated on over the air stations.
  • All other games had the option to be telecast on pay-per-view. FSN would approve all PPV telecast and those games had to kickoff outside of the ABC telecast window.
In 2007, things changed drastically after TBS decided not to continue the sublicense agreement. Both ESPN and Versus signed sublicense agreements, ESPN for seven games and Versus for five. ESPN's games could air on Thursday and on Saturdays would be primetime games. Versus's set of games would be early afternoon kickoff, usually at 12:30pm. FSN would retain a set of games and also air games on Fox College Sports, a suite of channels available on digital cable that act like a satellite sports pack. DirecTV also carries the FCS games. The result has been an increase in the number of games televised nationally, but it also can result in confusion as to where a game airs with five different TV outlets carrying Big 12 football.

Since 2007, ABC has retained its exclusive window at 3:30pm when airing a game in this slot. FSN and Versus often air games concurrently in the early afternoon time slot. FSN and ESPN attempt to not compete with each other in the evening slots but if they do they attempt to stagger the start times of games.

Currently the contracts for Big 12 football are not synched up between cable and over-the-air partners with respect to contract length. The ABC contract (which also includes ESPN's rights to Big 12 men's basketball) ends after the 2016 season, where the FSN contract (which includes FSN's rights for women's basketball and many Olympic sports) ends after the 2011 season. The Big 12 has been named in rumors discussing a national network for some of their cable rights with the ACC and it will be interesting to see whether they remain with FSN and continue their current arrangement of sublicensing games to other entities or if this sublicensing has allowed the Big 12 to target a preferred pay-TV partner going forward.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conference TV Contract: The ACC

The ACC is in the uneviable position of having to renegotiate their TV deal at a time when the economy is in poor shape and companies of all sizes are cutting back, including TV networks.

The ACC's primary television contract is with ABC/ESPN. ABC gets the top choice of ACC games each week, then ESPN/ESPN2 can pick games. Raycom follows with their regional game selection, then ESPNU gets to pick a game.

One of the strong points of the ACC contract is that their is no exclusivity with respect to time slots and who can air a game at a particular time. Raycom's time slot is generally fixed at 12pm, but ESPN Networks games can air at the same time. ABC and ESPN Networks can also run concurrently. By doing this, this allows the ACC to have maximum flexibility in getting games on TV.

One of the quirks that benefits the ACC is the "reverse mirror" concept that ABC uses for Big Ten games (more on that later). When ABC area a Big Ten game at 3:30pm ET that is not a national game, markets receiving that Big Ten game receive an alternate game on ESPN/ESPN2 . Because the ESPN has full national cable rights to ACC football, the ACC often shows up for these reverse mirror games to about 25%-75% of the country, depending on the distribution of the Big Ten game on ABC.

For the ESPN part of their TV contract, the ACC also allows for several games to be selected for Thursday nights. The conference also has an agreement with ESPN to provide a game in primetime on Labor Day.

The ACC also allows for ESPN360, ESPN's internet service, to select games to be exclusively streamed online.

Any games not selected could be aired on PPV or on ACC Select, an streaming partnership between the ACC website and CBS College Sports.

So what does the future hold for the ACC? Its tough to tell. The conference offers its members so much flexibility that it will be interesting to see what they do if the shop their rights elsewhere. Supposedly the conference is exploring a multi-conference TV network with the PAC-10 or Big 12. Sports Business Journal reported that Discovery Networks' FitTV was offered up to the ACC, possibly for the joint conference network.

Raycom's portion of the contract will be another piece that could switch, though SBJ also reported in the past that ESPN was not necessarily interested because they would be competing with themselves in many markets that also air SEC regional telecasts.

The ACC hasn't seen the marked improvement it expected when BC, Miami and Virginia Tech showed up, but its not for a lack of getting their games out in the marketspace.

Discussing Conferences & Their TV Contracts

Over the next few weeks leading up to the season, I'm going to throw out various posts regarding each conference's TV contract. The good, bad and the various quirks associated with them.

We'll go in alphabetical order, starting with the ACC and finishing with the WAC. There will also be a post covering all of the FCS conferences.

Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Versus & DirecTV in a carriage spat

Alerted to this on Mike Shaw's twitter feed, Versus & DirecTV are involved in a carriage spat. No idea what Versus & DirecTV want in terms of subscriber fees, contract term, carriage tier, etc., but it will affect the fans of the Big 12, Ivy League, MWC and PAC-10 who have games on the network. This is in addition to the coverage of the NHL and Indy Racing League.

The contract expires on 8/31 and the channel could stick around as long as contract talks are continuing in good faith.

As a DirecTV subscriber, I hope we don't see an outage and I'd prefer to see Versus step up in tier to DirecTV's Choice tier. It currently resides on the Choice Plus tier.

The Bowl Shuffle

The 2010 college bowl contracts are slowly trickling out and so far the Gator, Alamo, Champs and Sun bowl game have new conference partners.

  • Alamo - Rumored over a week ago but still not announced, the PAC-10 is moving a 2nd tie in east to San Antonio. The conference is expected to provide its #3 selection to replace the Big Ten. The Big 12 is also planning on moving its #3 from the Holiday Bowl over here as the bowl plans on increasing its payout.

  • Champs Sports - Big East fans began salivating of a drastically improved bowl lineup as the conference moved its top non-BCS bowl selection to Orlando. The game isn't even the top game played in Orlando during bowl season (that belongs to the Capital One Bowl), but as new commissioner John Marinatto notes that destination, geography and opponent matter more than being on New Year's Day, at least in the conference's mind.

    The PAC-10 is the only other conference that is likely to have a non-New Years Day bowl game for its top non-BCS bowl team.

    The opponent is not yet known, so the ACC may not be sticking around here either.

  • Sun - The sun shone brightly on the Big East as they thought they had the Champs Sports and Sun in place, then the ACC came in out of nowhere and its #5 selection will replace the hybrid selection of the Big 12, Big East and Notre Dame.

  • Gator - The bowl that the Big East and Notre Dame mutually broke away from is exploring a multi-faceted tie-in with the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. The Gator believes in the hybrid tie-ins that the Big East wanted to avoid.
Bowl games covering the entire landscape are rumored to be changing their tie-ins, increasing their payouts and securing the best possible matchup they can. Here's a list of bowl games with the conferences who will be there in 2010:

Champs Sports: Big East
GMAC: MAC (alternating top selection with Motor City Bowl)
Hawai'i: WAC vs. C-USA
International: MAC
Motor City: MAC (see above)
Sun: ACC


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