Friday, March 30, 2012

Recapping the week 3/25 - 3/30

* Pacific leaving for the Big West has been rumored for a while.  The cultural fit for them is with the private schools of the WCC compared to the state schools of the Big West as they were the only private school in the conference.  The WCC likely moves to a round-robin 18 game conference schedule in basketball, but I don't expect the conference to realize a windfall of dollars from expansion nor a large increase in appearances as part of ESPN's package of games.  CSN Bay Area/California will probably pick up a number of games involving the Tigers, so that could be where they get more exposure.

In my opinion, I could see a school like Gonzaga being less in favor of this much like Memphis was not in favor of C-USA moving from 14 to 16 conference games a few years ago because it takes away opportunities to schedule marquee non-conference games.

There is some conjecture about where the WCC is headed and whether BYU will be part of that future.  You can read more about that at The Upset Blog.  To me, BYU's future with the WCC is tied to degree of difficulty in scheduling in football, but I think that their ability to re-join a conference will also be tied to television.  If rumors about what BYU has requested of conferences in regards to BYUtv and retaining all home game rights are accurate, and the truth of that may be debatable, then they have some decisions to make.  Either way, ESPN has given them a good deal in football through most of the decade and the WCC provides them with a stable conference, so why not use it to your advantage.

* FOX apparently is interested in starting up a full time sports network, according to multiple published reports. Bloomberg reports that Fuel is the channel, Sports Business Journal says Speed is the one being targeted according to tweets from John Ourand.  Speed is in many more homes (82 million) than Fuel (36 million) so that could give them a running start.  FOX has wanted to move NASCAR Nextel Cup races to Speed and has plenty of sports rights to get a channel off the ground when you consider the following items:

  • Barclay's Premier League
  • Champions League
  • World Cup '18 & '22
  • NASCAR Nextel and Truck Series
  • Formula One
  • Big 12 Football
  • Pac-12 Football and Basketball
  • C-USA Football and Basketball
They would probably leverage their major properties on Big FOX (MLB and NFL) to do some bumper programming like highlight shows and pre/post games.  I could see a re-negotiation with MLB looking to place some of those games on cable on Saturdays.  And having a full time channel can only help them as rights to the Big East and Big Ten come up in the next few years.  For FOX's NFL playoff games, maybe some additional postgame programming.

It also might signal that FOX did not get the bump that they wanted out of placing some college sports and Champions League programming on FX.  I personally don't think sports when I look at FX on my channel guide, where I do with TNT, though TNT has had a longer presence with sports programming.  I also don't believe FOX Soccer is in danger of being the channel that gets flipped.  That channel has a very popular niche.

Last item to consider: Versus, a strong channel in subscriber base, was flipped.  CBS Sports Network, with a base of subs that is less than both Versus and Speed, was converted from its college base.  FOX has to be aware of how hard it would be to grow a Fuel from 39 million to 80+ million vs. taking Speed and its sub base and flipping it.

* MAC and Big East schedules came out this week, filling virtually all holes in the 2012 football schedule as Temple may elect to play 11 games.  When I look at the MAC television schedule, it feels light on the ESPN side.  I suspect they'll move a game or two around to a Friday for ESPNU and maybe take one of their early season non-conference games to get to the minimums of the contract they signed a few years ago.  Its also possible that as part of Temple leaving the conference that ESPN decreased the number of minimum games they had to televise from the conference, much like ESPN did with the WAC when Boise St. left.  Note that on that schedule the ESPNU Black Friday window is not listed.

As for the Big East, 13 of their 17 ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 games were selected.  None of the minimum five ESPNU games were picked yet.  The conference does have some worthwhile non-conference games that were not set aside for TV (Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh, Kentucky at Louisville) and the Rutgers at USF game on 9/15 was released with the notation of "date subject to change" and could end up as ESPN's 14th television choice as a Thursday or Friday game.

* Enjoy the Final Four!

No comments: