Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SEC Network & DirecTV CSRs, American Athletic football on CBSSN and a way to see a few more Pac-12 MBK tournament games

* Clay Travis tweeted that DirecTV had told a customer asking about their SEC Network plans that they had no plans the network.  The tweet got a lot of publicity and Clay's site has the contents of the email in full if you'd like to read.

If you look in the response, DirecTV's service account responds and informs Clay that an incorrect response was sent out.

Now here's why it isn't that big of a deal just yet.

Its a form email.  I worked as a phone & email customer service representative in college for a company who bought the customer support rights to various products from large corporations.   There are four items we were often graded on:

1) When the on the phones, first call resolution and the time it took to resolve the issue
2) When on email duty, first email resolution and how many emails you could go through in an hour

And when it came to email resolution, the easiest way to churn through your email "quota" was to have email templates in place for common questions.  Reading over the email that Clay posted, I feel fairly comfortable that there's a spot where "SEC Network" was placed that looked more like (insert network here) or _______ to the person who sent that email out.

I do not want to diminish the role of the CSR for DirecTV, but if you are taking their word as gospel on a programming decision, you need to reflect and consider the source, especially if you believe every single one of them has heard of the forthcoming network.  I have dealt with DirecTV's CSRs before.  Some are very knowledgeable on the subject you are discussing with them.  Some are not and relying on prepared documentation on software, hardware and programming.  But they are not the PR department and PR isn't looking over every support email sent out.

Does this mean that the email was 100% wrong? No.  It is possible that DirecTV will not have the network at launch.  If it is something you absolutely need, request it.

* With CBS Sports Network sublicensing 13-15 American Athletic Conference football games from ESPN, the conference is generally out of the picture when it comes to establishing any sort of selection order for the networks.  My guess is that CBSSN will have the opportunity to choose roughly a game per week after two selection "groups".  Group A would be ABC & the three ESPN channels that primarily carry live sports: ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU as those four networks must carry a total of 28 games from the conference.  Group B would be ESPNEWS, which doesn't have a set count of games, but along with the Group A networks and CBS Sports Network, they have to carry around 90% of the conference's games on TV.  I would expect CBS Sports Network to choose after ESPNEWS as it has about close to 20 million less subscribing homes.  Anything left would then go to ESPN3.

* Last week I wrote about quirks in the Big 12 contract with ESPN for men's basketball, where intraconference games can slip through the national TV deal and be left up to individual schools to allow for the away Big 12 team to either simulcast or produce their own telecast.

That is the structure that was agreed to by the conference, and by association, the schools.  The unintended consequence revolves around ESPN's ownership of Longhorn Network.  In choosing around 105 games, both from conference and non-conference play, conference games involving Texas can be set aside by ESPN for LHN.  And since they are Texas's home games, falling under the school's institutional package, they have the ability to approve or deny the road team's request for a local television production.

Seven Big 12 intraconference games fell to institutional packages with four of them being Texas home games.  I can respect ESPN's desire to stock LHN with quality content throughout the athletic year, but I do believe a check needs to be put in place.  Maybe a limit on the number of intraconference home games per team that can be set aside for those local packages, along with:

a) Automatic approval of a road team production provided the telecast is not available via a regional sports network or webcast.  Has to be TV only


b) The road team requests for the Longhorn Network production to be carried to the road team's markets, provided that the Longhorn Network is not available on cable television systems in that market

* This last item is more of a "what if" scenario.  Bear with me.

I understand the Pac-12's desire to place most of their men's basketball tournament on Pac-12 Networks, but I think they could give both of their national partners' networks a little more than the three tournament games they currently place on them.

If you start the tournament's first round and quarterfinal days at 11am PT /  2pm ET and leave the evening sessions at their current times, you could conceivably fit three more games on both ESPN and FOX.  The 2nd game each day should start around 1:30pm PT / 4:30pm ET, where the afternoon sessions of east coast based tournaments are ending.  Here's what it would have looked like on FOX Sports 1 this year:

2pm & 4:30pm: Pac-12 afternoon first round
7pm & 9:30pm: Big East first round

12pm & 2:30pm: Big East afternoon quarterfinals
4:30pm: Pac-12 quarterfinal #2
7pm & 9:30pm: Big East evening quarterfinals
11:30pm: Pac-12 Quarterfinal #4

Here's what it would look like on ESPNU

Wednesday (ESPNU)
2pm: Pac-12 First Round
4:30pm: Pac-12 First Round
7pm: American First Round

Thursday might be a mix of ESPN & ESPNU depending on the start times.  Using 11am PT as the start for the Pac-12 quarterfinals, the 2nd quarterfinal could be slotted on ESPN between ACC 2nd round sessions with the evening quarterfinal on either ESPN or ESPNU.

Where it doesn't fly as well on ESPN is that you eliminate the 6pm SportsCenter, though there would be 1.5 hours to catch up on ESPN2 between the end of the Big 12 afternoon session and the start of the Big Ten evening session.

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