Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thoughts on exclusive TV windows, more on MLB on FS1 and '14 CFB scheduling

* Jon Wilner wrote about Pac-12 requesting some relief for the conference from the number of evening Pacific time games that ended up on the Pac-12 Network, specifically due to the exclusivity of the east coast primetime window that ESPN and FOX share.

In my opinion, it is a reasonable request.  Consider these items:
  • CBS relaxed its window exclusivity for the SEC so the forthcoming SEC Network could show a game at the same time.  CBS retains exclusivity against ESPN in their telecast window.
  • After adding Nebraska in 2011, the Big Ten and ESPN agreed to drop complete exclusivity around ABC's telecast windows (they used to make some exceptions around the Saturday with Ohio St.-Michigan).  The relief was provided to allow for less concurrent games on BTN.  Central time zone schools a new kickoff time option instead of pre-noon or nighttime.
  • When the Big 12 renegotiated its television contracts, specifically the finalized deals from 2012, it stripped ABC of its exclusive windows.  A game on FOX can be played concurrently on ESPN and games on FOX's cable outlets can start at the same time as one on ABC.  The only trend I've noticed, and it seems to be true with the Pac-12 as well, is that ABC and FOX try really hard not to air games at the same time.
I think this is absolutely doable for the Pac-12.  What could it cost?  Probably nothing monetarily, but maybe ABC and FOX get another "priority" game selection before the season or the Pac-12 Network loses its ability to select ahead of ABC and FOX a couple times a year.  

* A FOX affiliate has posted the proposed schedule of telecast windows that the broadcast network will be carrying MLB this season (times on the schedule are Central time).  Assuming two MLB windows total per Saturday on FOX and FS1, I would assume it means that FS1 will have two windows on 8/30 and one window each Saturday in September.  

I'm starting to warm up to the idea that FS2 will have some early season games on Saturdays, otherwise they might have to triple up on MLB game windows during other parts of the year to keep FS1 strictly open for college football, excluding the occasional UFC and auto racing commitments.  Many FOX RSNs clear the ACC RSN package from Raycom and still have local MLB games to carry.

Remember that FOX's minimum for carrying Big 12 games on a national cable network, which may or may not have some level of subscribing homes attached to it, is low.  Just six games.  The Pac-12 threshold is much higher.  C-USA's might be higher than the Big 12's, but C-USA's number can be filled on many Thursday nights.

FOX Sports 2 might be getting some additional content in 2015 with Major League Soccer coming aboard, though no official announcement has been made.  Early season college football wouldn't be a bad addition either.

* Looked over the conference opponents list that the American released this week.  I mentioned in my early guesses for week one that Sunday could be a place for an American conference game involving some combo of Cincinnati, Tulane and Tulsa.  Tulane at Tulsa seems to be the option.  Cincinnati does not face Tulsa and Tulane hosts Cincinnati, but Tulane did ask the American schedule makers to start on the road so that Yulman Stadium would be ready.  And maybe that becomes a Friday night game in Tulsa with UTSA-Houston on Sunday.  As a Houston fan reminded me recently, UH may not open on Saturday due to the LSU-Wisconsin game at Reliant Stadium.  Last year UH opened vs. Southern on Friday due to the Oklahoma St.-Missouri St. game at Reliant the next day, but it should be noted that Houston played multiple home games at Reliant and Reliant was not going to double host.

I'll probably take one more crack at all the early season weeks once the four remaining conferences release their schedules.  Those are the American, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt.  I believe the Sun Belt is required to have their schedule finalized by March 1st.  BYU has not yet finalized its schedule either.  While they do have twelve opponents in place, they could be working to place additional games on Thursdays or Fridays.


Unknown said...

the only thing that's holding up the mls deal is espn and fox have to decide how many usmnt games fox gets and I heard espn wants atleast 1 champions league game from fox. the 1 thing im worried about fs2 is its not in enough homes. Comcast is still the only major provider not to have added the channel. fox can easily move the early season c-usa games to fs2.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I don't think C-USA is the problem. FOX can plan ahead with C-USA better than they can with the Big 12 because they get to choose 10 C-USA games right off the top. The next ten essentially can be filled in as needed after CBS Sports Network takes their first ten. FOX can be picky based on knowing what possible Big 12 and Pac-12 commitments they have.

FOX can control which Big 12 institutional games they want to give to the schools, so that helps a little and most of those games should be during the first two weeks of the season. After that, FOX is stuck with a game if ESPN doesn't want it. ESPN has 19 selections to spread over 15 weeks. Whatever ESPN doesn't want, it filters back down to FOX to take. When ESPN and FOX choose their Pac-12 games, a Pac-12 Network is behind it for the inventory. FOX doesn't have that luxury. Has to find a home for it whether its FSN or FS1 or ???.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Also, FOX burns off a lot of C-USA on Thursday nights. Seven of the 12 FS1 games were Thursdays. One on Black Friday too.

Serge said...

Just wondering: How many homes would FS2 be able to gain if they're picked up by Comcast?

I think one of the reasons Comcast is not eager to add FS2 is because FOX's grand plan might be for FS1 to compete against ESPN2 with mainstream content, and place the more niche content on FS2, competing more with NBCSN. Of course, both of FOX's offerings have ways to go to be considered "competitors" in each segment.