Thursday, April 28, 2011

A possible CBS Sports Network football telecast schedule

Its really hard to gauge which Thursday night games CBS Sports Network will air from Conference USA, but with the Army, Navy and MWC game times annnounced, we can take a stab at how Saturdays will look on CBS Sports Network

The windows in black I'm considering to be unavailable for C-USA because those dates do not have any C-USA school residing in the eastern time zone hosting a game on that Saturday.

The Patriot League could also fill in a game window or two, but I'd expect C-USA to fill all open 3:30pm and primetime open slots, which would be fifteen games and does not include any of the Thursday night games that have been set aside that they could end up doing as well.

Late April Musings

First, we've had a lot of nasty weather out there.  My hope is that your family and property are safe.

* The Big 12 signed a shiny new deal with Fox Sports Media Group for their pay TV football and others sports.  The 1st thing that sticks out is grabbing 40 games and the 1st thing I look at is "Wow, that's a lot more games than they take today.  But it isn't.  Last year there were 24 games on FSN as part of the Big 12 contract (3 others were national in nature but not part of the deal, so we're not counting them).  In addition, ESPN sublicensed six games and FOX College Sports took on eight games, so we're at 38 games.  My suspicion is that the ESPN sublicense continues and that some of the FSN games (5-6) end up on F/X.

The real key to this deal is that for those eight games on FOX College Sports schools will now be paid for those as part of the national contract.  Previously, FOX gained rights to those games essentially for free and the teams were paid with the exposure of the game being on TV.

Also, FOX can dictate which game reverts to a school's local package, usually before the season starts.  Doesn't mean a game can't air on PPV though since that could be the way a school decides to air that game, like the SEC schools do.

* Big 12 schedules changed again slightly the other day and we'll see two Friday telecasts on ESPN, making the Big 12 the third of the AQ conferences scheduling Friday night games this fall with the Big East, who has been doing Fridays for nearly a decade, and the Pac-12.

* C-USA will have possibly seven Thursday night games this fall (UCF @ UAB not announced yet officially).  That's a lot more than I anticipated, but I suppose it beats being scheduled on Tuesdays & Wednesdays. Unfortunately, the conference or its television partners as of this moment (FSMG and CBS Sports Network) can't acknowledge which network these games will air on due to the lawsuit ESPN has against the conference.

* The Big East has accepted an ESPN request to have two Friday night games on October 21st (Rutgers at Louisville, West Virginia at Syracuse).  I really wish the conference had not accepted this request as it cannibalizes two games into a single time slot.  Sure it happens on Saturdays with the SEC, ACC and Big Ten, so what's the big deal?  Generally by moving a game to a Friday, you move it to get away from the competition for viewers on Saturday.  With two games there, there's that competition even if its from conference mates. 

I do suppose that its possible that there may have been compromises involved.  I have a gut feeling that Syracuse's home game vs. Wake Forest over Labor Day weekend was close to being moved off Saturday and this could have been a compromise.  Again, gut feeling, no inside knowledge.

* The Big Ten has interest in moving games to 1pm ET (12pm CT) to avoid pre-noon kickoffs.  Per the Quad City Time, Jim Delany wants to start games "at noon, 3:30pm and 7pm".  The writer assumes central time, so lets go with that (1pm, 4:30pm, 8pm).  Its a big issue if the conference is able to push this request to ESPN and ABC.  That pushes the possible start times back in other conferences to allow for the ABC "reverse mirror" game in the mid-afternoon and forces the ESPN/ESPN2 noon windows to start later.  I think they can accomplish this with the Big Ten Network windows more than the Disney ones.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Crux of the C-USA lawsuit

ESPN's lawsuit against Conference USA is ongoing and according to the court system, a pretrial hearing will be held on June 1st, 2011 in Manhattan.   Much of this entry is word for word what I posted on's C-USA board.

In ESPN's complaint, linked here (the zip file contains their complaint and the existing C-USA/ESPN contract), they detail a series of communications between commissioner Britton Banowsky and Burke Magnus, ESPN's collegiate sports division executive.

As a general summary, and again this is ESPN's timeline, a deal was close to being executed in June. They continued to work through the fall, then in late December C-USA presented an offer that was drastically different that the "Ten Points" they had been discussing (must be the framework of a deal). ESPN's complaint guesses that the C-USA BoD had soured on weeknight football.

ESPN's complaint revolves around the First Offer/First Refusal clause. According to the complaint, C-USA properly followed up after the exclusive negotiation window expired (which was mutually extended twice from the end of April until before Memorial Day 2010) within three days with an email as part of the negotiation that included a rights fee that C-USA was willing to live with ($22.5 million for five years). ESPN contends that this email was not an official first offer as part of the clause, even though the correspondence was sent within the three day time frame.

From there, because ESPN doesn't consider the correspondence an official "First Offer" and ESPN believes they didn't provide a "First Refusal", C-USA's rights should have not been negotiated with a third party (FOX).

Key thing about this lawsuit is that while ESPN is fighting to protect their own contractual rights, this suit will be watched by all sports rightsholders as a matter of contract law.  Depending on how this case goes, or is settled, expect lawyers to stipulate even further how a written offer should be constituted.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

MWC 2011 Television Schedule Released, CBS College Sports Filling Their Schedule

The MWC released its 2011 television schedule today, so it seems like all is set with existing television partner CBS Sports Network, along with secondary partner Comcast.  I say Comcast is a secondary partner because they don't actually own any MWC football rights.  They've gained clearance to air games as the owner of the mtn., plus through sublicensing games on Versus.

Anyways the schedule looks about the same as prior seasons, though there is one less game on CBS Sports Network than compared to previous years.  With each team carrying one more non-conference game and in some cases having to fill the game with a 2nd FCS team or an away game, CBS didn't have quite the picks they used to.  Also the mtn. is carrying a few more games vs. FCS teams than they have in the past.  It allows them to maintain a schedule of 30 games, which is right around what they've carried in prior year.  One item that is new is a Friday night game on CBS Sports Network, something the conference has not done with the network.  They have played games on Fridays, but most were on Black Friday and the other game traditionally is played on a Friday (Utah St.-BYU).

With the games in place, CBS Sports Network is beginning to flesh its schedule out.  Assuming that all Army games will kickoff at 12pm and Navy games at 3:30pm, it leaves likely around 15-18 games that C-USA could fill on the network, plus eight MWC games.  In the case of the C-USA schedule, it depends on what games FOX Sports wants to air and whether any C-USA games will air in 12pm slots that could be available for the eastern time zone schools.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Random Items for 4/2/11

Just spitballin'.  Not throwing the #Fastball.
  • Have to say that I was extremely impressed with the CBS/Turner arrangement for the NCAA men's tournament. Although I did not see any TV from the Friday-Sunday games of the 1st weekend (was at Quicken Loans arena for games there), I was impressed on how well the talent was able to let the viewer know where to find a close game and how well Turner talent meshed with the CBS talent when the crews were mixed both courtside and in the studio.  The online aspect of the tournament was improved as well with Turner providing more social networking features to the March Madness On Demand product.  I'm sure there are items that they would like to improve, but it was a great first run.

  • Still waiting on a fair amount of early season college football telecast information
    • Big East - Marshall at West Virginia & Wake Forest at Syracuse were designated as games that could move to another date during the 1st week of the season.  Thursday & Friday night are still open for ESPN, and I'm told one of the games is likely to be moved to Sunday
    • Big 12 - The conference has still not made its schedule official as games are expected to be moved to Championship Saturday and to Thursday nights.  One article notes fans are getting restless as they want to start prepping for road trips and plan for lodging & transportation, particularly airfare which increases by the day.
    • C-USA - Besides the likely Miss St.-Memphis Thursday night opener, FOX Sports Media Group & CBS College Sports are finalizing their schedules.  Does not look like games will be selected on a 12 day basis.  More on C-USA later as they have other rights issues
    • MWC - I expect that their TV schedule is in flight.  Likely being decided in tandem with the C-USA schedule for CBS College Sports, with select games on Versus.
    • WAC - When the schedule was announced, it was said that additional telecasts would be selected as only one has so far (Boise St. at Fresno St.).  There are other games on the schedule that are worthy for TV, just depends whether they'll be in season selections or if ESPN will move games to weeknights.  With the WAC expecting a severe rights fee and appearance cut, there might only be 2-3 more ESPN/ESPN2 appearances.
    • Service academies - In the same boat as other conferences tied to CBS College Sports.  Only item we're waiting on is the kickoff time 
  • Regardless of whether you like that C-USA signed a deal with FOX Sports for their telecast rights and/or you feel ESPN wronged the conference while they were a rightsholder, we have to be mindful of the legal issues surrounding ESPN's lawsuit against the conference.  ESPN has their opinion of what went down, so does C-USA.  Its possible that either side could be wrong and we have to let that run its course.  I do believe competition is good and I don't believe that ESPN is suing to directly damage FOX in any way.  FOX will become involved, likely to establish timelines of negotiations and probably to protect the agreement that ESPN has requested to be voided.

  • Fantastic move by NBC to convince Notre Dame to move their home game vs. USC to a night game.  First on-campus night game since 1990 vs. Michigan.  Arguably the marquee Notre Dame home game this year.  I know that the administration there does not like to do night games due to possible crowd/tailgating issues.  Looking over the available games for ABC, that might be better than anything that they can offer for Saturday night.

  • Larry Scott has been monitoring the NFL lockout and has thought about moving games to Sundays in the event the lockout reaches September.  Some conferences this works better than others.  I believe all conferences have had discussions about this, possibly in conjunction of setting television schedules. CBS might be an SEC rightsholder, but I don't think it works for their conference due to the traveling nature of most fan bases.  Might work with the Pac-12 or the Big East, though with so many weeknight games in the Big East already, it might not work either.  Small conferences might be a worthy target, for the right price, but I think those decisions need to be made now.  Not in August.

  • With Pac-12 rights for 2012-13 and beyond on the open market, we'll see whether Comcast & Turner, or maybe another unknown party, will challenge FOX or ESPN for existing rights.  If its true that the conference wants to consolidate their rights under a single partner, that might leave Turner or ESPN out.  Don't count out ESPN though.  They might not be able to offer as many timeslots on ABC or the various ESPN networks, but they have a solid digital platform and by starting up the Texas network, they'll be able to discuss their ability to do a Pac-12 network.  Like others, I do believe that FOX is still likely to offer most of what the Pac-12 wants.

  • F/X moving back into sports programming, particularly college sports, is a welcome move.  The network televised games from the Big 12, Pac-10 and Conference USA, when C-USA had a contract w/FSN from its inception until 2000. Similar to "ESPN on ABC" and "Golf Channel on NBC", these games will be known as "FOX Sports on F/X" and they'll likely take up the single best of all available games on a weekend.  I'm guessing the majority of these games will be at 7pm, where FSN used to have plenty of preemptions due to regional pro sports.  It likely becomes the regional window for the SEC, Pac-12, ACC (new sublicense from ESPN via Raycom) and C-USA where available.