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.


bigddan11 said...

I don't think ESPN sees any big loss. They probably look and see that the loss of the Big East Basketball Tournament would allow them to move the entire Big 12 Tournament from Big 12 Network to ESPN Networks. Their new ESPN3 deals could also be expanded to put conference semis on the ESPN Networks instead of ESPN3. And lets not forget that they'll need room to expand the WCC Quarterfinals next year. Currently the 2 quarterfinals air on ESPNU. Next year the WCC goes to 10 teams, and with it they go to 4 quarters. Does the WCC want to split up the quarters between BYUtv and ESPNU, or do they want them all on one network?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I don't think there's a concern about the WCC quarterfinals. Those would be on Friday and conference more affected by the addition of those games would be the OVC who has their 1st semifinal on Friday at 7pm ET leading into the WCC Friday games.

As for the Big 12, I agree. They'll probably look to fit in more games from both the SEC and Big 12 tournaments on Thursday and Friday.

Morgan Wick said...

I would think ESPN would have at least a sentimental attachment to one of the conference's two spinoffs given what the Big East and ESPN have meant to each other... what am I kidding, we live in a world where the Border War isn't being played anymore.

bigddan11 said...

I tend to forget that the WCC Quarters are a week before most other tournaments, so you're probably right. The WCC will probably have all 4 quarters on ESPNU Friday starting next year, or at least I assume it will be Friday. There is the slight chance they could have them go on Thursday, like CBS Sports is having the MWC do. You can expect the WCC Tourney to look something like this next year.

Wednesday- 4 games- 2 men's and 2 women's on BYUtv
7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9

Thursday- 4 games- I suspect it will be the women's with all 4 games on BYUtv
1 vs. 8/9 winner, 2 vs. 7/10 winner, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5

Friday- 4 games- I suspect it will be the men's with all 4 games on ESPNU
1 vs. 8/9 winner, 2 vs. 7/10 winner, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5

Saturday- 4 games- 2 women's semi's on BYUtv and 2 men's semi's on ESPN2

Monday- 2 games- women's final on ESPNU and men's final on ESPN or ESPN2

Of course I'm hoping they'll reup their contract with the Orleans and keep the tourney in Vegas. Personally I think all tourneys should have a neutral site for their tournament championship.

bigddan11 said...

Well we don't have to worry about the void now. ESPN has matched NBC Sports Network's offer for the Big East rights and will remain the Tier 1 provider for Big East football and basketball. I guess this means Big East Network won't fade into oblivion anytime soon.