Saturday, August 6, 2011

What's New for college football on TV in 2011?

What's new in broadcasting:

ACC - A brand new rights agreement with ESPN should allow for more games to air on TV.  Not necessarily on ESPN or ABC though.  Raycom will manage a pair of syndication packages, one for over-the-air networks and one for regional cable networks.  Fox Sports South (including the Carolina subfeed) & Fox Sports Florida/Sun Sports will carry games from the regional cable package.  Also appears Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic will have some games.  It is unknown who would be an affiliate in New England, but NESN was part of FSN's affiliate group for ACC games, so they may be in the mix again.

C-USA - Also starting a pair of new rights agreements, one with CBS Sports Network (formerly CBS College Sports) and one with Fox Sports Media Group.  C-USA will increase its national game coverage by over 60%, not to mention their right fee revenue, by moving to FSMG from ESPN.  The FSMG deal has not been without controversy, as ESPN has sued the conference, believing that C-USA did not negotiate in good faith.  Most of the FSMG games will air on FSN and the conference's championship game will air on F/X or on FOX's broadcast network.

F/X - FOX decided to take some of its inventory and place it on F/X.  Games from the Big 12, Pac-12 and C-USA will air on the network with Gus Johnson signed to the network to be the primary voice of the package of games.

Big Ten - Besides negotiating their championship game rights with FOX, the conference also was able to strike a deal with ESPN that would allow ABC telecasts to coexist with BTN games (BTW, the Big Ten Network is now officially going by the acronym of BTN).  This will lighten the load of 3-4 games in the same time slot on BTN, plus allow the Big Ten to retain its stance of no night games in November.

Pac-12 - FOX signed up the Pac-12's championship for 2011 in a one-year deal that will also provide an additional six games for FSN & F/X to air this season.  Their package of pay-TV games increased from 18 games to 24.  None of the added games are being sublicensed to Versus, who will retain their seven game package of games sublicensed from FSMG.

With the Pac-12 Network and regional nets starting up next year, Utah (KJZZ) and Colorado (rumored to be Fox College Sports) will make agreements to have their 3rd tier games aired.

BYU - Armed with their own TV deal with ESPN, plus at least one game on BYUtv, the Cougars start life as a football independent.  They'll have at least four home games on ESPN/ESPN2 (including the "neutral" site game vs. TCU in Arlington), plus possibly three games on ESPNU (San Jose St., Idaho & New Mexico St.) with the Idaho St. game on BYUtv.

WAC - The biggest casualty in realignment, the conference will see its exposure cut at least in half, while their rights fee with ESPN may have been cut even more.  Won't get any easier for the conference next year.

Versus - After the season, the network's name will change to NBC Sports Network as Comcast is now the primary stakeholder of NBC Universal.  No word as to whether there will be more college sports programming besides the package of games they have from the Ivy League, Mountain West and Pac-12.

ESPN - Per ESPN PR's Mike Humes, both halves of a Reverse Mirror game should be available in HD to all viewers.  Sadly, it appears that the Game Plan package will remain HD-less and will not carry ESPNU games live, though users of the WatchESPN app & ESPN's authenticated services will be able to watch ESPNU on their PCs and mobile devices.

Longhorn Network - Saving the most controversial for last, the ESPN-owned and University of Texas-centric network struck a deal with FOX to allow for games from the ABC inventory of Big 12 games to appear on the network in 2011.  At least the opener vs. Rice will appear on the networks, plus the possibility of a conference game as long as the competing schools and the conference grant approval.  I'm not going to go into the messy situation regarding the possibility of high school games airing on the network.

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