Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Random thoughts about TV, conference membership

Random TV related items since we're halfway through the season.

  • With the ACC's rights switching to ESPN exclusively next year, I'll be interested to see if ESPN sublicenses any ACC games to other national entities. The press release notes that they have the ability to do so. We know that Raycom will be able to syndicate their content to both over-the-air and cable entities as part of separate packages. ESPN3 was the missing component and now that it is available in many more ACC areas, will the number of ESPN3 exclusives decrease, particularly the number of conference games that the online network picks up?
  • Conference USA still does not have their ESPN deal in place. The silence is defeaning on that front, but if there is more realignment to be done, maybe that is the holdup. Is the Fresno St./Nevada/WAC buyout discussion part of the issue? I can't see C-USA taking all their content to CBSC, unless there is a deal with a larger cable entity. I also assume that ESPN is outside of their exclusive negotiating window with C-USA, if there is one, and that others can solicit offers for the conference's rights.
  • The Sun Belt is nearly halfway through their current contract with ESPN. Unlike other conferences with ESPN, the Sun Belt went for the short term on their agreement, signing just a three year deal. Could be some great foresight by Wright Waters if they can get a better deal as other conferences around them are shifting membership.
  • I'm not sure that the Big Ten will allow night games in November. Adding lights at Michigan Stadium and bringing in Nebraska might necessitate that they play more night games in September and October. Maybe that the Big Ten Network and ABC/ESPN coexist in those slots as the nighttime slot seems to be an exclusive slot today.
  • I counted fifteen games that would air on FSN/CSN regional networks for Pac-10 teams, both conference and OOC games vs. FBS teams. That doesn't include seven more games where Pac-10 teams hosted FBS teams. They have enough content to do a Pac-10 network, especially when you look at how many Pac-10 men's basketball games end up on regionally televised. Add in Utah and Colorado, plus the compression of the schedule due to the last week of the season claiming a conference championship in football, and there should be at least 1-2 football games each week that a Pac-12 network would air. As it stands today, FSN Rocky Mountain should be thrilled to continue their relationship with Colorado moving to the Pac-12. Wonder if Utah can get one done with the RSN.
  • We got a glimpse of the willingness of the Pac-10 to become more proactive in moving games, time slots, exclusivity, etc. late last year. They've done a better job with it this year. Kudos to the presidents and Larry Scott for making those changes.
  • I don't believe the mtn. is going anywhere. Could Comcast sell of their share to someone else, maybe back to CBS College? Yep. Might be necessary if/when Comcast gets approval to purchase NBC Universal. Even with BYU and Utah leaving, there will be a net gain in homes served by the mtn. once Fresno St., Nevada and Boise St. come on board. When that happens for the first two schools is anyone's guess.
  • Speaking of the WAC, extracting the appropriate pound of flesh out of Fresno St. and Nevada is important for the remaining WAC schools. No doubt in my mind that ESPN will look to cut back on the WAC contract with the network, both in appearances for the conference and in rights fees. One rumor that was floated was that Fresno St. and Nevada would go to the MWC for all sports except football. Reason being is that the WAC would be able to maintain eight football playing members and six members in all others sports, the two minimum numbers required to maintain status as an AQ conference in football and keep the auto-bid to NCAA championships in other sports, including men's basketball. To me, that seems like a really awkward solution.
  • The WAC did solicit proposals from four schools recently (Texas St., UTSA, Seattle, Denver) in Dallas. Montana, who has been targeted, did not present anything, though that may not be correct. Taking Montana St. might be a requirement for Montana to move up to FBS. Then someone else mentioned that an existing FBS school has been talking to the WAC. No one is quite sure who that school is. My money is on North Texas, extreme dark horse would be UTEP.

1 comment:

Julian said...

If ESPN loves the SEC as much as they seem to, then it would be in their best interest to get this Conference USA contract done. Seems like half of the non-weekday football games on the family of networks (past the opening week) involving C-USA get on TV because of an opponent from the SEC -- home or away. (Big XII, too -- especially when C-USA is home. Cheap way to get the likes of Texas and Oklahoma on ESPN more without sublicensing.) Many SEC schools actually go on the road occasionally to beat up on "lesser" opponents. The strength and flexibility (see: Tennessee at Memphis, on 6 November) of the SEC's non-conference schedule would suffer without the C-USA ESPN contract, since SEC schools wouldn't schedule C-USA as much without a high probability of a national television slot -- especially in September. I just don't see SEC schools eventually risking losses or too-close games (pollsters don't like those) against the likes of the Mountain West.

As for the WAC and Sun Belt... I can't see ESPN helping them get any more exposure on television past this season. (Maybe online.) ESPN already uses the Sun Belt to get a few teams from other conferences on TV a bit more (surprisingly, not the SEC this year). The days of the WAC owning Friday nights are already over. All but two games on the ESPN national networks or the WAC Sports Network (both early) involve the three teams about to leave. Honestly, ESPN would do much better putting a small package of CAA games on Friday nights after this season -- or poker on tape. The only entity that will help the WAC get on ESPN is BYU.

Can't help but mention the obvious -- that the Mountain West is still completely on cable (on networks that most people either consider third- or fourth-tier for college football, and/or don't have with their subscriptions), and not at all streaming online (one of three FBS conferences like that) or on broadcast. The conference is too good to have a worse TV deal than the Big East. Television contracts influence scheduling, and for the Mountain West to be BCS-legitimate, they can't have CBS College Sports as the best network they can offer to Notre Dame, the SEC, and the Big Ten when (if?) they travel west. College football is a cable TV sport, but that statement usually means ESPN and FSN.

I would love to see Fox broadcast "return" to college football (beyond the Cotton Bowl). Baseball, Cops, and America's Most Wanted (the last two comprising the current longest-running scheduling block on all of American broadcast TV) are in the way. If scheduling could be worked out (especially in the month of September), it would be the perfect network for the Mountain West -- and, if it's possible to share, maybe the Big East in a few years.