Thursday, February 14, 2013

The possibility of a Big East & Catholic 7 void on ESPN

With a second report from the AP regarding the Big East accepting an offer from NBC to move their sports programming over there and off of ESPN is interesting, more from the ESPN point of view.  The Big East due to the size of the conference, particularly in men's basketball, represents a huge amount of programming from September - March.  Let's look at various programming items.

The Big East doesn't necessarily alter ABC or ESPN programming very much when it comes to Saturdays.  Virtually all of the ABC slots the conference has taken up have been regional, usually paired with a Big Ten or Big 12 game.  The conference fill around 4-6 Saturdays slots during the year on ESPN or ESPN2 and those could be replaced by games from other conferences.  They also filled around seven Saturday ESPNU slots per year and those could end up being extra ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or SEC games.

The weeknight slots will be somewhat tougher to fill.  The ACC and Pac-12 will allow for a limited number of Friday games as will BYU, but the Big 12, Big Ten & SEC typically do not.  It is possible that more games from the MAC & Sun Belt will show up on Fridays instead of mid-week.  If ESPN successfully bids on a subset of MWC games, possibly the Boise St. home games or another package, they could also fill Fridays.

Basketball is the bigger hole to fill when you look at is as losing games from the 10 team Big East plus the Catholic 7.  Some of those slots will come back to ESPN as they pick up additional ACC games with the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the conference.  As Louisville enters the ACC and Rutgers & Maryland shift to the Big Ten, the networks could get a few more slots, but that doesn't seem like its enough to fill all the time available.  Its possible that they'll take additional ACC games from inventory, maybe from Raycom's ACC package along with their own regional SEC package before they announce the 24/7 SEC Network, but its a huge hole.  Around 5-7 games.

Regional Syndication
RSNs like SNY and MASN would lose some key programming supplied from ESPN Regional TV, but don't be surprised if SNY maintains a Big East presence, particularly with its connection to NBC Sports Regional Networks.  A network like MSG may be out in terms of taking on a portion of the regional package from SNY but could end up aligning itself with the Catholic 7 as could MASN.

But there's a catch...
Always is.  It is possible that ESPN could match the offer NBC presented the conference and keep this content.  There would still be a hole in men's basketball, but a much smaller hole and one that can be easily filled.  The AP article also noted that NBC would have the ability to sell games to other networks, which could mean that ESPN could buy some Big East content for their networks.  Same with the Catholic schools if FOX elects they want a variety of programming.  Trading games with ESPN?  Maybe.  Who knows.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Value and Negotiating Power of the new Big East

By now you've probably read the media reports coming from ESPN that NBC has made an offer to the Big East for a rights fee of $23 million per year.  Feels like a low number, and it may well be a low number, but apparently it is a number that the conference does feel willing to accept and must take back to ESPN for them to accept or reject.

There's a few contractual things here at work that adversely affect the Big East's negotiating power

1) What they must offer third parties after exclusive negotiations with ESPN end - Please accept the premise that I am using another conference's old TV contract.  I'm using C-USA's old TV contract with ESPN that was entered into evidence in their lawsuit against the conference, plus the outcome of the Pac-12 television negotiations.

The C-USA contract from 2005 (Big East was signed in 2006) states the following
(a) Negotiating Period. Conference shall negotiate exclusively with ESPN·for a
period of 30 days (the "Negotiating Period") commencing on a date selected by ESPN
(but not later than Aprill, 2010) with respect to the acquisition by ESPN for one or more years of rights to the package of Events set forth herein. It is of the essence of this Agreement that Conference offer ESPN the same package of rights set forth in this Agreement, and, should the parties not reach agreement, that the Conference make the exact same package of rights available to third parties.
The key part is in bold.  If the ESPN contract states that their contract encompasses all rights not granted to CBS for men's basketball plus some rights CBS Sports Network has for women's basketball, they have to give other third parties that same rights package.  In the case of the Big East, I believe that includes national and regional rights.  I don't think they are separate deals.

If you look at the before & after of the Pac-12 television negotiations, materially you end up with the same total number of football games (44) and men's basketball games (65) that were granted to ABC and FOX Cable in both cases.  FOX Cable had nearly all the basketball games and had the majority of the football games (24) in the old deal.   I suppose its possible that both parties co-signed a deal, then have their own contract between those two parties to divide up the content.

A key note with the Pac-12 deal.  In both the old contract and the new deal(s), the conference never provided exclusive rights to all events or any form of "umbrella" contract where the number of available events to the rightholder(s) was vague.  It provided concrete numbers of games it provided to their national rightsholders with the schools retaining a portion.  The school retained portions are what was pooled into the Pac-12 Networks.

2) The requirement to provide ESPN the ability to match an offer - When the Big East allegedly requested $300 million per year from ESPN for them to retain their existing TV rights, it was done before several future  membership changes were set in motion.  The problem now with a number that high, so high that it is apparently more than any conference gets from their TV contract(s) today, is that they had to hit that number in an offer so they didn't have to offer ESPN the ability to match.  With the marketplace as it stands, it looks like ESPN will always be at the table, at least in a position to allow the Big East to move on or not.

From the C-USA contract:
(b) Offer/Reoffer Procedure. If ESPN and Conference have not reached an agreement by the end of the Negotiating Period, Conference shall make a written offer (the "Offer") within three days thereafter to ESPN of the monetary consideration on which it is willing to license such rights to ESPN. With the exception of monetary consideration, Conference's Offer shall not contain any terms or conditions which are different from those contained in this Agreement("Nonconfonning Terms") other than as permitted by section (d), below. If ESPN does not accept the Offer within fourteen days of its receipt by ESPN, Conference may then enter into an agreement with a third party with respect to the same package of events set forth herein, but not for monetary consideration less than that contained in the offer without first offering to ESPN the same monetary terms as offered to the third party ("the Reoffer"). ESPN shall accept or reject a Reoffer by Conference no later than seven days from its receipt.
3) Nonconforming Terms - This is the wildcard.  It is mentioned prominently in the First Negotiation/First Refusal portion of the contract and as the contract language states, section (d) provides the allowable Nonconforming Terms.  The problem with this C-USA deal, and maybe it was because the C-USA deal did not cover exclusive rights to all conference events, is that section (d) doesn't exist.  Why it doesn't exist and why they didn't clean up this contractual language, I'll never know and no one probably will give me a good reason for it.  This is the sliver of hope the Big East could hang on to, provided their contract has this section.  Maybe they are allowed to divide up their packages.  For their sake, I hope they can.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Revised CFB Opening Week TV Guesses

EDIT: 2/2/13 - I'm taking a mulligan on New Mexico St. at Texas.  The change is listed below.

You will probably ask yourself "Why does this look so different from what you published in December?". Well, the Pac-12 & C-USA schedules were announced, four conferences changed membership for 2013-14, some schools completed their non-conference schedules and overall it tightened up the matchups for the opening week.

I'll look over weeks two (9/7) & three (9/14) after the ACC & Big East schedules are announced.  There's enough holes in those two where conference games can fit in.  Same w/the Mountain West, although they've stated that their schedule might not come out until April.

* It sounds like Ole Miss-Vanderbilt will be one of the Thursday night opening games, instead of UNC-South Carolina.
* I split the Rutgers-Fresno St. and USC-Hawai'i games onto different networks  With both games out west, in the case of Hawai'i far out west, it doesn't lend itself well to a doubleheader.  Yes, its possible that USC-Hawai'i could end up on ESPN as part of a package of games sold to them from the Mountain West.
* I went with Utah St.-Utah as the 2nd half of the ESPN doubleheader.
* Someone is going to have to bite the bullet like FOX did and take a FCS vs. Pac-12 matchup when they took Portland St. vs. Washington for an F/X game.  This year ESPNU gets that honor.
* Georgia-Clemson deserves its own slot without being regional or a reverse mirror option.
* I'm making an assumption that the Pac-12 Network will jump up and take one of the three available games between FBS teams
* I moved the Oklahoma St.-Mississippi St. game played at Reliant Stadium to Sunday to fit it in.  I don't think it has the requirement that the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff and Cowboys Classsic games where they are currently tied to primetime on ABC or ESPN.
* The final weekend of NFL preseason games could affect date/time of some of these games.  Not necessarily in places where stadiums are shared either.  A school like Cincinnati could have their opener's date affected based on when the Bengals close their preseason, if they are at home that week.
* I don't know what the ESPN will do for a primetime game on Labor Day.  It is supposed to be an ACC game.  Every ACC team is scheduled to play out of conference, so some games need to be moved around.  It is possible ESPN will consider another conference's game(s).  Five ACC teams currently do not have a game set for 9/7 and could move their FCS opener to that date leaving 8/31 open (Boston College, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh & Wake Forest).  Whether the FCS team has the ability to move the game to another date is another story.

7pm ESPN: Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
7:30pm Big East: Towson at Connecticut
8pm BTN: UNLV at Minnesota
9pm CBSSN: Rutgers at Fresno St.
10:15pm ESPN: Utah St. at Utah
11pm NBCSN: USC at Hawai'i

8pm ESPN: Purdue at Cincinnati
10pm Pac-12: Northern Arizona at Arizona


12pm ESPN: Penn St. vs. Syracuse
12pm ESPN2: Central Michigan at Michigan
12pm ESPNU: BYU at Virginia
12pm BTN: Indiana St. at Indiana
12pm BTN: Western Michigan at Michigan St.
12pm FOX Sports 1: UL-Monroe at Oklahoma
12pm CBSSN: Morgan St. at Army
12pm SEC Network: UL-Lafayette at Arkansas
12:30pm ACC Network: Louisiana Tech at NC State
3pm ACC RSN: FAU at Miami (FL)
3pm Pac-12: Eastern Washington at Oregon St.
3:30pm NBC: Temple at Notre Dame
3:30pm ABC: Georgia at Clemson
3:30pm ESPN2: Buffalo at Ohio St.
3:30pm ESPNU: Washington St. at Auburn
3:30pm CBSSN: Miami (OH) at Marshall
3:30pm BTN: Wyoming at Nebraska
3:30pm BTN: Southern Illinois at Illinois
4pm FOX Sports 1: Northwestern at California
4:30pm ESPN: North Carolina at South Carolina
6pm PPV: Austin Peay at Tennessee
7pm ESPNU: Rice at Texas A&M
7pm SEC/FOX RSNs: Toledo at Florida
7pm FSMidwest: North Dakota St. at Kansas St.
7pm ROOT Sports: William & Mary at West Virginia
7pm PPV: Murray St. at Missouri
7:30pm FOX: Nevada at UCLA
8pm ABC: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama
8pm ESPN: LSU vs. TCU
8pm CBSSN: Colorado vs. Colorado St.
8pm BTN: Massachusetts at Wisconsin
8pm BTN: Northern Illinois at Iowa
8pm Longhorn: New Mexico St. at Texas
8pm CyclonesTV: Northern Iowa at Iowa St.
10pm Pac-12: Boise St. at Washington
10:30pm ESPNU: Nicholls St. at Oregon

3:30pm ESPN: Oklahoma St. vs. Mississippi St.
7:30pm FSN: New Mexico St. at Texas

4pm ESPN: Texas Tech at SMU

ESPN3 Exclusives (all on Saturdays unless noted)
FIU at Maryland
Stony Brook at Boston College
Wofford at Florida St.
Elon at Georgia Tech
McNeese St at USF
Southern at Houston
Ohio at Louisville
Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky
Akron at UCF (Thursday)
NC Central at Duke
Presbyterian at Wake Forest