Monday, January 27, 2014

College Basketball Viewers Guide - 1/27 to 2/2

No conference gets cheated here.  The SWAC & MEAC games tonight have schools towards the top of the standings.  With smaller conferences, the autobid via the conference tournament is so important for NCAA play and the NIT bid gets secured via winning the regular season.  For them, every game does matter in conference play when it comes to the postseason.

The whole shebang

Duke at Pittsburgh - 7pm, ESPN
Norfolk St. at Savannah St. - 7pm, ESPNU
Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma - 9pm, ESPN
Alabama St. at Southern - 9pm, CST

Michigan St. at Iowa - 7pm, ESPN

Richmond at Saint Louis - 8pm, FOX Sports Midwest/FCS Atlantic
Iowa St. at Kansas - 9pm, ESPNU
Arizona St. at California - 11pm, ESPNU

Cincinnati at Louisville - 7pm, ESPN
Canisius at Quinnipiac - 7pm, SNY
Chattanooga at Davidson - 7pm, MI-Connection (its a small cable company around three outer areas of Charlotte)
Bryant at Robert Morris - 8pm, ESPNU

Manhattan at Iowa - 9pm, ESPNU

Ohio St. at Wisconsin - 12pm, ESPN
George Washington at Dayton - 12pm, NBCSN
Kentucky at Missouri - 1pm, CBS
Memphis at SMU - 2pm, CBSSN
Kansas at Texas - 4pm, ESPN
Oklahoma at Iowa St. - 4pm, Big 12 Network
Duke at Syracuse - 6:30pm, ESPN

Virginia at Pittsburgh - 12:30pm, ESPNU

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How do you juggle college football and MLB if you are FOX Sports 1?

I was going through some modeling for the first three weeks of college football for 2014.  One of the positives for FOX Sports 1 is that they will have live MLB games on Saturdays during most of 2014.  But it presents a bit of an issue from Labor Day through the rest of the season, at least one I perceive.

Last year FOX aired their September MLB windows at 12:30pm with 1pm first pitch.   FOX now has 52 game windows with possibly 40 of them airing on FOX Sports 1.  I count 26 Saturdays during the upcoming 2014 MLB season, so it is fairly safe to assume two windows per week.  There are five Saturdays that would coincide with the MLB regular season, along with possible postseason action from the division series and league championship series rounds that could possibly conflict.

Let's assume for the moment that FOX Sports 1's regular MLB telecast window is 4:05pm or 4:15pm ET.  They probably can get away with a brief pregame show that doubles as a college football game break at approximately 3:30pm ET.  No real harm there.

Where I see a possible issue is whenever the game ends and if you devote any postgame coverage to MLB before going back to a college football game.  The average MLB game last year ran 2:59 last year.  Average.  My impression is that it does not take into account the possibility of weather delays and is strictly first pitch to last pitch and includes time between innings.  I do not know what the median game time is and where it is in relation to the mean.

(Side note: Did not know nationally televised MLB games get an extra 20 seconds of commercial time at every break)

So here's how I see a few Saturdays possibly looking if there is a postgame after MLB:

12pm-3:30pm: College Football
3:30pm-4pm: Gamebreak/Filler
4pm-7:15pm: MLB (assume a 4:15pm first pitch)
7:15pm-7:30pm: Gamebreak/Filler
7:30pm-11pm: College Football

A four hour block with the MLB game plus wraparound programming really cuts out two college football game windows.  I don't forsee regular 11pm ET start times for the Pac-12, though there was one last year.

Anyways, do you bother with an MLB postgame show and how much should that hold the start time of your next event?  A few items I thought of.

1) Don't bother with a postgame & go right to the next event.
2) Have a postgame exclusive to FOX Sports Go or push the MLB postgame to FOX Sports 2
3) Use FOX Sports 2 for one college football game per week 
4) Add an extra game on FSN with FOX College Sports simulcast

Regarding FS2, the Pac-12 is supposed to have around 14 games on a national cable outlet, and since FOX managed to mess up and not carry enough games on their broadcast network in 2013, I don't think it is wise to give them another reason to be ticked off.  Besides, they have the Pac-12 Network.  The Big 12 only requires six nationally televised games on a FOX national cable outlet, so they can get to that number fairly easily over fifteen weeks.  Conference USA may have flexibility with their twenty games, depending on how many are placed on Thursday nights.  Last year they were guaranteed ten games on FS1 and twelve games aired on the network, but only four of the twelve aired on Saturdays.

I don't think No. 4 is ideal because of regional pre-emptions and several areas without an FSN affiliate.  FOX didn't bother simulcasting every FSN game on FOX College Sports either.  Can't move Pac-12 games there either.

Nos. 2 or 3 are feasible if FOX Sports can convince more programmers to pick up FS2 and sign deals for FSGo.  I don't know if FOX has any expiring contracts with programmers in 2014 that can give them a boost.  Conferences would also have to be willing to move a game or two early in the season to FS2.  

Your thoughts?  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

College Basketball Viewers Guide - 1/20/14 to 1/26/14

Looks like a solid Big East-Big 12 Big Monday, even though Creighton got rolled by Providence on Saturday night and assuming Baylor will remain ranked.  Just on different networks.

It is hard to get a gauge on Colorado's strength since losing Spencer Dinwiddie vs. Washington.  The Buffs might not be ranked by the time they play at Arizona.

Gonzaga leads the WCC with BYU a game back, just like the WCC coaches thought back in October.  Gonzaga is 3-1 vs. BYU during the regular season, all since the Cougars joined WCC with the last three meetings in Gonzaga's favor.

As for some of the lesser known schools listed here, Vermont and Stony Brook are currently the top two schools in the America East and were 1-2 in the AE coaches' preseason poll.  The Quinnpiac-Iona matchup has two schools currently near the top of the MAAC with the Bobcats currently tied with Canisius and Manhattan at six conference wins & the Gaels at five wins.

La Salle at VCU is a meeting of "reality meets paper".  La Salle is tied at the top of the Atlantic 10, while VCU was the preseason favorite.

This week's schedule

Creighton at Villanova, 7pm FOX Sports 1
Baylor at Kansas, 9pm ESPN

Texas A&M at Kentucky, 9pm ESPN

Iowa at Michigan, 7pm BTN
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 9pm BTN

Colorado at Arizona, 9pm ESPN2

Vermont at Stony Brook, 9pm ESPNU
Quinnipiac at Iona, 9pm ESPN3

La Salle at VCU, 12pm ESPN2
Towson at Delaware, 12pm NBC Sports RSNs
Georgia at Kentucky, 1:30pm SEC  TV
Michigan at Michigan St., 7pm ESPN
BYU at Gonzaga, 10pm ESPN2

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is the Big East overexposed on FOX Sports 1?

Going back to my blog post re: conferences and the tiers of networks their games appear on, the Big East had a clear lead in the Tier I category with their contract with FOX Sports with nearly 120 Big East games on FOX Sports 1 alone.  My assumption is that the fan bases of the ten schools are happy with the increased coverage when compared to games that might go without TV or be shown as internet exclusives or only via regional TV.

FOX's investment for the amount of games, averaging just under $42 million per year to the conference ($500 million over 12 years), with some portion of that presumably being taken off their hands by sublicensing to CBS.  That amount is roughly three times what FOX and CBS together pay C-USA today and slightly less than double what the American receives from ESPN (basketball & football) and CBS (basketball) starting with the 2014-15 athletic year.  In year one, it looks like an massive overpay.  One can't predict the future though.   One thing on the Big East's side is that they now have the tangible asset of being able to show a recruit what FOX Sports 1 is, compared to last year where they were recruiting with a future channel in their pocket.

My take is that the number of games on FS1 is a bit of a Big East overload, particularly when FOX didn't mix in many games from outside the conference during non-conference play in November & December.  Before the Big East marathon on New Year's Eve, the split on FOX Sports 1 was 45 Big East games, four C-USA games, three neutral site games and one Pac-12 game.  Nearly a 5:1 ratio when combining the games not part of the Big East contract.  The ratio does get slightly better as conference season started with 21 of the Pac-12 games contracted to FOX, three Pac-12 tournament games and six of the ten C-USA games FOX has rights to.  I do not know what the parameters were for the Big East contract except that CBS can take ten more games starting next year for airing on CBSSN or CBS.  Whether CBS's sublicense number accounts for the possibility of a 12 team conference, I do not know.

Over time, I would try to see if more of non-conference games could air on FSN, at least regionally, or FS2.   FOX is in a bit of a bind trying to push viewers over to FS1 & getting FS2 in more homes.  Is it worth taking that content elsewhere in the company when the "crown jewel" needs live events?  Is it worth airing Manchester-Butler for example for two hours or investing in something else?

FOX could also use a fourth conference to move into mix.  FOX College Sports, via simulcasts from MidCo Sports Network, shows the Summit League.  ROOT Sports apparently has the rights to Big Sky basketball along with football from the conference, but you wouldn't know that because ROOT has never aired a game from the conference.  As a cheap alternative, maybe a few of those games could be moved up or bought just to get someone new in the mix.

Of the rights that could be out on the open market, the obvious one is the Big Ten whose rights come up for bid in a couple years.   Of the conferences that FOX has regional relationships with, the Missouri Valley comes up for bid in 2016 as well.  The Big West might be available, but the conference recently began working with ESPN to stream games via a unique mobile production unit.  The CAA will be available in 2017 but they have had a long relationship with Comcast, especially when you look at the conference's footprint and where FOX doesn't have their RSNs.  The Ivy League could be available after this athletic year too, though FOX might also have to commit to Ivy League football as well on either FS1 or FS2.

Your thoughts?

Monday, January 13, 2014

College Basketball Viewers Guide - 1/13/14 to 1/19/14

Virginia at Duke is on here more for how poorly Duke has started in the ACC.  Both of the Friday night ESPNU games match schools at the top of the Horizon League & MAAC, respectively.  Right now, Saturday at 4pm is quite stacked.

All times are Eastern.  If you click on the link below, you can choose your time zone.

The full schedule

Virginia at Duke - ESPN, 7pm
Kansas at Iowa St. - ESPN, 9pm

Oklahoma at Kansas St. - ESPN2, 7pm
VCU at George Washington - CBS Sports Network, 7pm

Georgetown at Xavier - CBS Sports Network, 7pm
Missouri St. at Indiana St. - ESPN3, 7pm

Arizona St. at Arizona - FOX Sports 1, 9pm
Gonzaga at Pepperdine - Time Warner SportsNet/ROOT Sports RM & NW/CSNBA, 10pm

Green Bay at Wright St. - ESPNU, 7pm
Canisius at Iona - ESPNU, 9pm

Oklahoma at Baylor - ESPN, 2pm
Oklahoma St. at Kansas - CBS, 4pm
Pittsburgh at Syracuse - ESPN, 4pm
Indiana St. at Wichita St. - ESPN2, 4pm
Michigan at Wisconsin - ESPN, 6pm
Michigan St. at Illinois - BTN, 8pm

Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss - FOX Sports 1, 1pm

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snapshot of College Basketball Conferences by Network Tier

With the 2013-14 season being a year of realignment and a conference splitting into two, I thought it was worth taking a look at the conferences who appear the most often on television, or at least were scheduled for television the most

Minimum of ten games total over the three network tiers. Includes conference tournament games.

Tier 1 - ABC, CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FOX Sports 1
Tier 3 - BTN, CBS Sports Network, FOX Sports 2, Pac-12 Network
Not yet classified - Games that could end up in one tier or another.

How did I come up with the tiers?  I tried to use subscriber numbers where possible.  Tier 1 was 85 million subscribers plus the broadcast networks.  Tier 2 was anything above 65 million (the three listed are all in the mid 70 millions).  Tier 3 was anything below 65 million but above 30 million.  Estimates I've seen for the Pac-12 Network before their deal with AT&T Uverse had them slightly under 30 million homes, so I think its safe to put them above that & include them in Tier 3.

Games from events like the Maui Invitiational are not included here.  Also, games on CBS tend to count towards both the home & away team even though they could be from different conferences.  CBS pays for appearances instead of a specific number of games.  For simplicity in this list, I went strictly by the home team when counting games on CBS.

I did not include syndication packages such as the Big 12 Network, SEC Network or ACC Network because distribution can change on a game-by-game basis and many syndication networks offer split telecast windows.  I also did not include major RSN packages for the ACC or SEC, plus the FSN packages of the Big East and Big 12.  While the Big East one and probably the ACC one could fall in line with Tier 2, again, the number of RSNs (and in the case of the Big East package, local stations) & alternate feeds can change depending on other commitments and it is somewhat hard to put a solid number on distribution of a game.

You also might be curious about the Pac-12 number of 128.  That is the unique # of time slots that they offered men's basketball games.  145 games were made available over the 128 time slots, but not every game was made available via the main Pac-12 Network feed.

Why not list ESPN3?  Fair question.  I wanted to stick to traditional television delivery as a medium, which ESPN3 isn't even though conferences and ESPN themselves tend to use the word "televise" when discussing events on ESPN3.

Maybe next time I do one of these sheets I'll include a Tier 4, which could encompass ESPN3 plus any blended TV/internet simulcasts like what Campus Insiders offers from the WCC and Mountain West, which allows a game to go national via a webcast while being televised within the conference's markets.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

College Basketball Viewers Guide - 1/6 to 1/12

I'm going to try to bring back the men's basketball viewers guide to the blog.  This is just my opinion of the games to look forward to this week.  I'm bound to overlook a game you feel is important.  My plan is to use a combination of standings, rankings and preseason polls so that I don't overlook any conference.

This week's entire schedule

Maryland at Pittsbugh - ESPNU, 7pm

Baylor at Iowa St. - ESPN2, 7pm
Ohio St. at Michigan St. - ESPN, 9pm

Kansas at Oklahoma - ESPN2, 7pm
Harvard at Connecticut - ESPNU, 7pm
Ohio at Kent St. - Time Warner-Ohio, 7pm
Illinois at Wisconsin - BTN, 9pm

Memphis at Louisville - ESPN, 7pm
Arizona at UCLA - ESPN, 9pm
Oregon at California - FOX Sports 1,  11pm

Saint Louis at Dayton, ESPN2, 11am
North Carolina at Syracuse - ESPN, 12pm
Florida at Arkansas - ESPN2, 1pm
Kansas St. at Kansas - ESPN, 2pm
Wichita St. at Missouri St. - ESPN3, 8pm
Hawai'i at CS Northridge - ESPN3, 10pm

SMU at Louisville - CBS Sports Network, 1pm
Iowa at Ohio St. - CBS, 1:30pm
Green Bay at Milwaukee - Time Warner-Wisconsin, 2pm
Xavier at Creighton - CBS Sports Network, 3pm