Tuesday, August 28, 2012

WatchESPN, ESPN3...Where can I see the games.

When you woke up Monday morning and decided to try to use ESPN3, you might have noticed something new and odd.  Blackout maps for ESPN content on ESPN3.  How?  Why?

Well, it makes business sense for ESPN.

ESPN, much like Turner with the NCAA tournament, wants you to subscribe to their networks via cable or FIOS (I would assume other providers in the future too) when watching ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU live events online.  So the user who has ESPN3 access through their ISP, but not access to the WatchESPN authenticated content as a DirecTV subscriber, loses the ability to watch ESPN and ESPN2 live events.

At this time, unlike the NCAA tournament on the Turner nets, you don't have a stand alone option to watch those ESPN & ESPN2 games.  That's what ESPN3 was, but won't be going forward.

ESPN3 is now becoming a place for exclusive online content.  Stuff you won't see on ESPN or ESPN2.  For college sports, GamePlan and Full Court should remain the same.  Just note that ESPN3 will still have online restrictions for SEC PPV and some regional games that might be available on local or regional networks in your area.

Still have questions?  I highly recommend you go to ESPN3.com and go through the FAQ.  I'm not ESPN and don't know 100% of the in's and out's of this change.

MWC, CBS...Don't know whose feet I should lay this at...

...but wow.  I didn't think the regional thing could be completely botched but you've done it.

(This post may end up sounding kinda rambling.  BYU fans, some of you, not all, don't be pricks about this.  You escaped, move on, be happy.  Every time you pound down the MWC you kinda act like you'd still want to be there.  Embrace your independence and the WCC).

EDIT: Added game No. 12 for ROOT/Altitude.

First, let me say that the eleven twelve games on ROOT Sports and Altitude are the only positive.  And I do realize those nets couldn't clear everything, but that was a solid pick up.

But I don't know who was driving this bus and from the reports of Colorado St. and San Diego St., two different pictures were painted.  CSU indicates it was allowed to go out and find a partner for the games themselves, striking a deal to place their games on KTVD.  San Diego St., from comments their AD made a while back on San Diego radio, indicates that the conference and CBS elected to make the decision to sell SDSU games (and its now clear that UNLV and Fresno St. were included) to Time Warner and from the tone of the conversation, he wasn't thrilled about that decision.  You'll notice that the press release announcing the decision to place SDSU games on Time Warner SportsNet was missing comments from the SDSU athletic dept.  Something tells me that wasn't an omission.  Selling games to an outlet that hasn't, to my knowledge, made a deal with any cable/satellite/telco provider besides the one who owns it is extremely risky.  And New Mexico selling theirs to Comcast...I get it but I don't.

But it sounds like the schools in some ways are waiving the white flag when it comes to being seen out of their local area.  And that out-of-market fan, who might have switched providers to DirecTV because they were the one who seemed to provide up the channel nationally via a sports pack or the regional fan who might have switched because their provider dragged their feet in picking up the mtn., probably feels they've been given the middle finger, except for the ROOT and Altitude games.  And who knows, maybe they'll make the dumb decision to black out games too.

There's conflicting reports about whether video streaming will be available for games.  Some schools are doing them for every game they can.  Others...we don't know yet or some are only providing them on a limited basis.

Sure, you could argue that the demise of the mtn., warts and all, was a bad thing.  The schools lost a regional outlet.  They also happened to lose 25% of their rights fee per Craig Thompson at MWC media day.  And now CBS still owns all those rights and could sell them and recoup money.  The schools?  They're getting "exposure dollars".  Something MWC fans used to point out with disgust at WAC fans....who now make up several of the MWC schools.

Could also argue that more MWC games will be seen nationally compared to prior seasons.  I'll note that you have one more team since '10 (two more teams since last year) and you should see a net increase in national games.

Maybe as a DirecTV sub I'm feeling kinda entitled.  DirecTV's had a pretty good track record with sports.  Only exception was the Versus dustup a few years ago (sorry, not counting the Viacom thing, I said sports). I'd like to see the Pac-12 Networks, but I guess I'm not feeling as angry about that one.  I do have a choice there as I could switch to Time Warner.  I don't have that choice with MW sports.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A few reminders regarding the CFB schedules

Good morning.  Games begin to kick off this Thursday.  A few reminders, personal opinions, an FAQ of sorts, to help you and to help me keep my sanity as men's basketball listings and football telecast changes come out all at once.  This, like tax season for accountants, is my "busy season".

* ABC regional coverage and reverse mirror maps tend to come out on Wednesdays.  They might get tweaked into Thursday or Friday if a station wishes to switch out to another game.  I do not create the maps or have any insight into why a local station made the decision it did.  If you have a question, contact your local station.

* ESPN windows change slightly.  Some cases they offer a reverse mirror of the ABC primetime game.  I don't work for ESPN.  I like to believe I have a decent rapport with them to possibly get a question or two answered, but I am not ESPN themselves.

* I don't know why ESPN/FOX/CBS/ABC chose Game X over Game Y.  I'm not an unfeeling person when it comes to that, but I have lesser concerns about that.  I'll watch on ESPN3 if that's what I have to do.

* I don't know where the Pac-12 Network is on DirecTV and I do think cable customers were kinda shafted when their MSOs decided to pick and choose which systems they were to carry the games.  Scream loudly or switch if you can.

* Sometimes, I know why a game is blacked out in your area.  Most of the time, I don't.  If DirecTV or Dish are blacking out a game unfairly, contact them, the network in question, or the conference.  I had this problem with MAC games on SportsTime Ohio.  I live in the Cleveland market and the games were being blacked out inadvertently.  DirecTV didn't know what was going on and emails to STO were my only recourse.

Many of these networks, conferences, MSOs have Twitter and Facebook pages.  Not suggesting that you should get an account to either of these services, but they may have posts there that explain why you aren't seeing a game.

* I really hate predicting television times for people more than a month out.  I don't hate the question, but you really shouldn't be relying on me for that, particularly if you're trying to book a flight.  There's rules in play that the networks have to follow (ie. appearances by teams) and I don't know every one of them.  And as I said before, networks can alter their telecast times.  My advice to you: If you fly on the day of the game, book the first flight in or get there the previous evening.

* FSN regional listings are tentative (really all regional listings are), and with the Comcast Sportsnet RSNs dropping FSN programming, its dicey as to how those games will get cleared in the CSN areas.  I only know of WDCA carrying a handful of FSN games.  If you've seen or heard anything concrete, let me know.  But I'll probably be relying on the sheets that FOX provides to C-USA and the Big 12.

* If I don't acknowledge your question on Twitter or Facebook, it could be for a myriad of reasons.  One could be that I have a day job, one that pays the bills, and I am focused on that.  It's also quite possible that I either want to research something before I answer you.  I may be pissed off, not necessarily at you or your question, and your question might not get an answer you like.  So its possible that you'll be ignored.  Please don't take offense.

And please, before you post something to my Twitter, check to see if I've posted something there about it or on my site to see if I've listed a game.  There's a chance its there.

* I'm often not at home on Saturday.  Believe it or not, after getting the listings set, I tend to leave the house and listen to a game or two on radio.  My F-150 has high miles for a 2 year old because of that, but at least I didn't lease it.

* I really don't care who is announcing the game and I don't post them on my site.  Does it annoy me if an announcer is factually incorrect about something?  Sure, but it doesn't hamper any part of my viewing experience.  Don't let it hamper yours.  The PxP guy and the analyst have never caught a TD, picked off a pass or fumbled the ball while working the game.

And no matter how good an announcer is, he can't shine up a turd of a game into gold.  Sorry, a game doesn't have more impact because Gus, Brent, Brad or Verne is there.  If its a 6-3 cluster with scads of turnovers, its not a great game no matter who the PxP guy is.

* Enjoy the games.  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wrapping things up for the start of the football season

* The Big 12 released its 1st three weeks of telecasts.  No major press release, just a referral to the schedule link at their site.  And if you look at the schedule, besides the two Longhorn Network games, it is all FOX cable and regional games.  I suppose you could see a few ABC or ESPN confirmations today as ESPN intends to release its telecast windows for the upcoming season.  Maybe the addition of TCU-Texas on Thanksgiving, that Bedlam would air on ABC or ESPN, maybe a Championship Saturday selection or two and possibly a time slot for the Red River Shootout.

* If the Red River Shootout is a 12pm ET ABC game, don't be surprised to see the F/X window move to accommodate an exclusive telecast.  I suppose its possible that the F/X window stays at 12pm, becomes an ABC regional window and the 3:30pm slot would be a reverse mirror of Red River Shootout and the Illinois-Michigan game.

* About that leaked FOX schedule from their Reno affiliate...it seems rather legit.  I would caution everyone that the schedule clearly notes "Schedule subject to change", including myself who likes the idea of a UCLA-Cal game at 12pm PT b/c I'll be in attendance for that one.   A few folks are hung up on USC-Oregon possibly airing on FOX.  Just remember that USC-Notre Dame was locked in by ABC as a priority pick it appears.  ABC/ESPN and FOX had two priority picks each.  Clearly its not a reach for FOX to have selected this game if they feel it is the marquee game.

* The only items from weeks 1-3 that aren't set for any webcast or telecast are a handful of WAC and Mountain West games.  The argument can be made that the loss of the mtn. hurts here for the MWC, but the mtn. often did not pick up games vs. FCS schools.  Air Force has elected to webcast its opener and there's still time for others to do the same.

* Meanwhile, the MAC and Sun Belt seem to have increased their presence on ESPN3.  Not great for those who don't have ESPN3 as an option with their ISP, but overall it allows more homes across the country access to these games without paying an extra fee.

* A few have asked about Pac-12 telecast windows.  The conference's telecasts aren't nearly as neatly structured as they used to be.  There aren't set windows, FOX leaked schedule release aside, and while ESPN does have a 10:30pm ET / 7:30pm PT window most weeks, they could always dump that window depending on the games they can televise earlier in the day.  And while the Pac-12 Networks are supposed to stay out of the FOX broadcast window, if FOX doesn't pick up a game, they might have a 3:30pm or 4pm PT game some weeks.

* Comcast Sportsnet appears to be moving forward into football season without FSN programming.  WDCA-20 in Washington DC will have a handful of FSN games and Comcast Sportsnet Chicago will carry nine C-USA and three SEC games from CSS as part of their telecast schedule.  Note that Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic retains the ACC regional cable package as that is sold by Raycom to regional sports networks regardless of affiliation, though most of those affiliated with this package are FOX RSNs.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Its getting late FOX & Big 12. Where are you?

Its August 16th.  Do you know where your Big 12 telecast is going to be shown?  No?  Can't say that we officially know either, short of games where Big 12 teams are on the road at another conference.

FOX was supposed to finish up a deal with the Big 12 for expanded television rights in football, along with an ESPN extension, that would vastly increase each schools' take home pay to around $20 million per year.

Right now?  I guess we're running under the existing ABC deal of 18 games per year.  At a minimum, we should be running under a FOX deal that would provide for F/X, FSN and FOX College Sports to carry 40 games per year.  Plus each school should be able to create their own institutional package with part of the package including one football game (we know that schools could have more than one game, read on).

So what is known, much of which is extremely tentative.  All times Eastern:

Week one
* Marshall-West Virginia, per the C-USA media guide, is set for a 12pm start on F/X.
* Tulsa-Iowa St. is also supposed to air on FSN per the C-USA media guide.  Iowa St. set the kick time at 12pm, which would conflict with the Appalachian St.-East Carolina game.  Some FSN regional listings have the game at 3:30pm.
* Wyoming-Texas, per comments from Mack Brown, will air on the Longhorn Network. Kickoff time TBA, but as others have mentioned, likely an evening kickoff.
* Savannah St.-Oklahoma St., via a NewsOK article, could air on PPV at 7pm.
* South Dakota St.-Kansas will be syndicated through the Jayhawk Television Network at 7pm.
* SMU-Baylor was set for Sunday on FSN at 6:30pm.
* Oklahoma's road game at UTEP will air on FSN as part of the Conference USA television package at 10:30pm (8:30pm El Paso time).

Week two
* Miami (FL)-Kansas St. was set for a 12pm kickoff time.  My assumption, because Penn St.-Virginia is set for a national telecast on ABC, is that this game will air on F/X.
* Rice-Kansas, per the C-USA media guide, will air on FSN at 3:30pm.
* Florida A&M-Oklahoma, per the NewsOK article, could be televised regionally or locally.  It has an evening kickoff time.
* Likely through some negotiation with ESPN, FOX and possibly the Big 12, New Mexico at Texas will air on Longhorn Network at 8pm, again per comments from Mack Brown.
* Road games for Iowa St. (vs. Iowa, 3:30pm, BTN), Oklahoma St. (vs. Arizona, 10:30pm, Pac-12 Networks) & Texas Tech (vs. Texas St., 7pm, ESPN3) will air as part of other conferences' TV packages.

Week three
* Per an FSN regional listing, UL-Lafayette at Oklahoma St. is scheduled to air on FSN at 12pm.
* Because of the previous item, TCU-Kansas should air on F/X at 12pm.
* FOX's press release of FSN telecast times has a 7pm slot on this date.  Two Big 12 games were set for this time: North Texas-Kansas St. & New Mexico-Texas Tech.  One would be selected.
* Texas-Ole Miss (ESPN, 9:15pm ET) will air as part of the SEC telecast package.

ABC did make some future telecast selections (Red River Shootout, West Virginia-Iowa St.) and it seems like TCU-Texas was moved to Thanksgiving just for them.  But its late.  Extremely late.  Two weeks until kickoff of the Thursday night openers.  As I joked a few weeks ago, these games are now in 12 day pick territory, though I suspect the conference and schools are putting on their best poker face when they say they don't know where these games will air.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Comcast Sportsnet dumps FSN programming

Thanks to work from several sources (Curt Pires of CAP Sports Group, Ken Fang of Fang's Bites and John Ourand of Sports Business Journal), we were able to confirm that Comcast Sportsnet has indeed dumped FOX Sports Net programming from their five regional sports networks that carry the programming (Bay Area, Chicago, Mid-Atlantic, New England & Philadelphia).

Could this be why the Big 12 television lineup has not been announced?  Possibly.  FOX could be trying to clear those games on alternate networks, either nationally or regionally in those markets.  For example, FOX Sports Local does have a partnership with NESN for news content.  MASN could be an option, but FOX could be negotiating with Comcast.

FSN did lose a large amount of collegiate programming when the Pac-12 and FOX moved its content to F/X and FOX broadcast network.  The Big 12 covers some of the losses in football, but the loss in basketball was approximately 30 men's games and several women's games.

Fans who are in market for CSN Mid-Atlantic and CSN Chicago are the ones who are concerned.  CSNMA would serve pockets of fans who are West Virginia, Marshall and East Carolina fans & CSN Chicago would have some effect, as I understand it, towards Iowa St. fans.  Iowa St. & ECU appear to have been tentatively set for FSN telecasts during week one.  In general, it affects anyone who wishes to watch these games.

Will be interesting to see whether fans who are in market for the five RSNs are also blacked out of FSN content by paying for sports packages on satellite or telco operators.  The interesting thing is that the dispute isn't between the cable op/telco/satellite provider and a channel, like when Dish Network and FSN had a dispute, but between a channel and its content provider.  Bears watching.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

2012-13 men's basketball schedule releases & a couple football items

Basketball starts this entry, with three conference releasing conference portions of their schedules this week.

* With the SEC, we saw that, at least with basketball, ESPN3 exclusives appear to be acceptable for a portion of the weeknight schedule.  Also saw an increase in the number of ESPNU games for the SEC on the weekend.  FSN and CSS also saw increases in their sublicense packages and the Wednesday appears to be a split window virtually every week.

Pay attention ACC.  This could be your future, even if from top-to-bottom when Syracuse and Pitt enter the league you might be better than the SEC.

* The Big 12 schedule release doesn't look much different than prior years.  Big Monday? Check.  Usually a Wednesday window? Check.  A Saturday window on ESPN/ESPN2.  TCU will benefit quite a bit with five games on ESPN's national networks and a strong syndication package and West Virginia will see an increase in the number of games they'll appear on national television.

* Up next, it sounds like the Big Ten basketball schedule is close to final.  After that the ACC, which tries to release the initial run of televised games in August, then adds to it during the fall.  The Pac-12 has said September for their list and the Big East typically goes in September as well as they have to contend with pro sports and other tenants in some of their arenas.

If you're curious, the AQ football conferences happen to account for 503 men's basketball games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FSN, NBCSN and CBS (at least that's the count in my database), excluding neutral site in season tournaments and one-off neutral site games.  I am counting conference tournaments.  The remaining Division I conferences (excluding Patriot League and a portion of C-USA's and the A-10's schedules) accounted for 182 games in that schedule.  

* Late yesterday, a few of the Mountain West schools began to release the conference portion of their schedules and television assignments were included.  Much like the football schedule, the basketball schedule seems to be very top heavy, geared towards UNLV (9), New Mexico (at least 6), San Diego St. (10), Colorado St. (at least 6) and Nevada (8), at least three of which should make noise in March.  The other four MW schools?  Probably hoping that a regional television solution gets resolved soon.  They currently have a grand total of three appearances, with Air Force at zero.  As those teams schedules are released, I'm sure the number will go up too, especially as the non-conference portion has television attached to it.

Now for football...

* A nice late day surprise, thanks to the FOX College Sports, telecast listings is that national FSN games from the Big 12 and C-USA will once again be simulcast through the FCS channels.  The practice of simulcasting the national games on FCS ended sometime before the 2010 season and a reason was never given.  But now that the Pac-12 has moved their regional games to the Pac-12 Networks, there's a hole in the FCS schedule.  I know a lot of folks, particularly those who miss a FSN game due to other regional obligations, will be thrilled with this result.

* Still waiting on the finalized FOX telecast listings for the Big 12.  Mack Brown mentioned last Sunday that their first two games vs. Wyoming and New Mexico would air on Longhorn Network.  To me, that should have been the last piece of the puzzle for those weeks.  I believe that Tulsa-Iowa St. will eventually move to 3:30pm ET (some FOX regional listings show the game at that time), but an interesting twist is that the Northwestern St.-Texas Tech game is still sitting with a TBA start time.  Maybe Tulsa-ISU stays at 12pm on FSN, Appalachian St.-ECU goes to a smaller distribution of regional affiliates (ie. plus and secondary RSNs) in addition to FOX College Sports, and Northwestern St.-Texas Tech airs on FSN at 3:30pm.

* There's a lot of silence regarding the MWC football games not set for national television.  Lot of unrest among those fans.  Can't blame them.  I can understand delaying some TV announcements as the school is probably trying to sell as many tickets as they can, and since kickoff times have been set for those games, fans can make decision for ticket purchases if they desire.  But the silence, particularly to those fans, also leads to the perception of inaction on TV partner CBS Sports Network, who has been charged with finding regional TV partners.  Here's hoping that it gets resolved within the next week.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What's new in college football broadcasting for 2012

Its a rather abbreviated list in 2012.  Less broadcasting changes, but some are directly tied to each other.

Pac-12 takes control of their broadcasting - The Pac-12, after years of what many have felt were behind the times in terms of broadcasting and rights fees, finally gets a broadcasting makeover.  FOX & ESPN are now co-rightsholders and the conference have built itself their own network system known as the Pac-12 Networks.  Made up of six regional networks and one national feed, the goal is to get more Pac-12 content out to the masses.  Several major cable systems have already signed up for the network while the two satellite companies and the telcos are continuing to negotiate.

ESPN adds the Pac-12 - Mentioned above, ESPN will have rights to 22 Pac-12 games and the conference has elected to continue with Thursday and Friday games, in addition to weekly 10pm or 10:30pm ET games each week.  By doing this, ESPN's primetime window has moved up from 7:45pm to 7pm.

A new player emerges in FOX - As part of the new Pac-12 contract, FOX's broadcast network will broadcast around 20 games this year, plus another 15+ games on F/X.  Besides the Pac-12 and Big Ten championship games on FOX, at least eight regular season games will come from the Pac-12 (22 total when counting games on F/X), Conference USA could appear as well and it appears that the Big 12 could get into the mix due to...

...FOX and ESPN are working towards a form of shared rights model for the Big 12 - It sounds like its just for football, and might be tied to agreements where ESPN's Longhorn Network can pick up more than one Texas game per year.  FOX already has a new agreement with the conference where F/X, FSN and FOX College Sports will carry games, but that appears to be in process of changing.

The Mountain West and CBS appear to be headed towards syndication - In lieu of the mtn's demise, a hole was left in most Mountain West schools' TV schedules, particularly New Mexico which didn't have a single game selected by CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network or ESPN.  News has crept out that a local affiliate in Denver will pick up the balance of the Colorado St. schedule and that Time Warner Cable in San Diego has contracted with the conference to carry San Diego St. games, but the rest of the regional schedule, which commissioner Craig Thompson said at media day would be around 30 games, is still a mystery.

The Sun Belt and ESPN expand their relationship - A small increase, but an increase nonetheless, in the number of ESPN Networks games with the Sun Belt.  The conference will have Thursday or Friday night games on ESPNU sprinkled throughout the season and will have a larger presence on ESPN3 with games to be added throughout the season.

Changes at the FCS level - The Big Sky and CAA made the biggest changes in broadcasting.  The DirecTV owned ROOT Sports networks, knowing that they would be losing a massive chunk of programming of local interest with the FSN service losing Pac-12 games, made a deal with the Big Sky Conference for up to 18 games per year.  Most Big Sky games will air at 3:30pm ET with a few doubleheaders during the year.  The CAA, by renewing their deal with Comcast, also was able to get a number of games on NBC Sports Network.  Finally the Ivy League and NBC Sports Network renewed their deal for several football games.  In the case of all three, the deals also included men's basketball and other sports.

What's next? - SEC "Project X" on the horizon?  Who becomes the suitor for the Big East television rights?  Does the Atlantic 10 continue its shared rights agreement with CBS Sports Network and ESPN?  Stay tuned...