Friday, March 28, 2014

TV Contracts & One-Off Neutral Site Games

On the pages where I track a conference's games in relation to their TV contract, one-off neutral site games are often tricky for me, specifically the three organized events in Houston (Texas Kickoff), Arlington (Cowboys Classic) and Atlanta.  The Houston event is organized by ESPN while the Atlanta event is organized by the Chick-Fil-A Bowl committee and contracted to television by ESPN.  The Arlington event is co-organized by ESPN and the Dallas Cowboys.

I bring this up because some television contracts, specifically the Big 12 and possibly others I am not aware of, had clauses in their TV contracts regarding neutral site games that occurred within the conference's footprint.  This goes back to a neutral site between Baylor and Notre Dame that was being planned for Arlington.  The problem was that because the game was being played in Texas, ESPN enforced a clause in their TV deal with the Big 12.

The Notre Dame-Baylor game originally was to have been played at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as a Notre Dame home game. But the ESPN contract with the Big 12 precludes any nationally televised game within the league's seven-state footprint being aired on any other network, and NBC would have had the rights to the game, thus forcing the move to another site.
 TV contracts and networks can often be flexible or have what I'll term as negotiable points or selective enforcement.  We saw it last season with the Pac-12 where FOX didn't meet its commitment for broadcast network telecasts.  Anyways, back to the subject.  There have been 13 of these games part of these three events.  So if we were to use the competing teams, the channel showing the game and the location of the game, how many could be attached to a conference's TV deal?

2008 Chick-Fil-A: Alabama vs. Clemson
2009 Chick-Fil-A: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama
2010 Chick-Fil-A: LSU vs. North Carolina

The first three instances of the Chick-Fil-A Classic aired on ABC.  If we use that as the primary indicator, all three of these would be part of the ACC television contract.

2012 Chick-Fil-A I: NC State vs. Tennessee
2012 Chick-Fil-A II: Clemson vs. Auburn
2013 Chick-Fil-A: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama
2013 Cowboys: LSU vs. TCU

These four games aired on ESPN or ESPNU.  With all four of these games, both competing teams were within their conference footprint and the network airing the game had rights to both conferences.  To me, it is not really possible to tell whose TV contract the game falls under.

2009 Cowboys: BYU vs. Oklahoma

The game was played within the Big 12 conference footprint and while it aired on ESPN at a time when they did not have rights to air Big 12 games, ESPN and FOX Sports had a sublicense agreement in place for Big 12 games to air on ESPN or ESPN2.  It could be argued that this game fell under the sublicensing agreement.

2010 Cowboys: TCU vs. Oregon St.

When I look at the Pac-12's contract total for 2010 on ABC/ESPN, this game did not count towards their total as they had twenty other games as part of that contract.  From what I was told, the Mountain West and their TV partners granted TCU a waiver for this game to air on ESPN.

The Mountain West may have had a loophole regarding neutral site events that BYU previously exposed for a basketball game vs. Michigan St. that was played in Salt Lake City.  The game was originally selected by Versus but in the week leading up to the game, it was moved over to BYUtv.  One of the beliefs was that the Mountain West TV contracts were either narrowly defined to only cover events at the schools' designated home sites or did not include any provisions re: conference footprint.

So the possibility of granting a waiver for a game to another TV outlet may have been a compromise.

2011 Cowboys: Oregon vs. LSU

Neither conference could claim Texas as part of their conference footprint in 2011, so it is truly neutral.

2012 Cowboys: Alabama vs. Michigan

This one aired on ABC, which if we were to take into account the SEC's conference footprint, should not have been allowed since the state of Texas became part of the footprint in 2012 with the addition of Texas A&M.  Maybe this game was granted a waiver to air on ABC since the game was likely organized before Texas A&M was added, but I really don't know.

2011 Chick-Fil-A: Boise St. vs. Georgia

This one aired on ESPN and Georgia was playing in Atlanta, so a reasonable conclusion could be drawn that this could count towards the SEC TV contract.

2013 Texas: Mississippi St. vs. Oklahoma St.

The game aired on ABC, so it theoretically eliminates the SEC TV contract.  Also includes a Big 12 team whose games could air on ABC.  When you also tack on that the ESPN portion of the Big 12 TV contract is a game or two light (19 games at a maximum, but I only count 17), this one could be tacked on to the Big 12.  You might also count LSU-TCU from Arlington as well for the Big 12 too in that scenario.

These games really drive me nuts and why I really have tried to get a hold of schools, conferences, networks to make sure my own record keeping is accurate, but it isn't perfect.   Conference footprints are now so wide and sometimes disjointed and not contiguous, so they aren't nearly as good an indicator for a TV contract as they used to be.  They are a bit of a relic from contracts that are starting to be renegotiated.


Hokie Mark said...

Matt, I'm SURE I'm right this time. the line

2012 Chick-Fil-A II: Clemson vs. Alabama

should read

2012 Chick-Fil-A II: Clemson vs. Auburn

Matt Sarzyniak said...

You are. Must have been on a roll with Alabama in Atlanta. Thank youl

bigddan11 said...

You are missing BYU/ TCU football from Cowboys Stadium in 2011 on your list. It was TCU's final season in the MWC, but the game fell to ESPN because of the very rule you mentioned.

I can help clarify why BYUtv aired those Salt Lake City games because I have asked about it before.

BYU wanted the rights to broadcast any non-conference basketball home games that Mtn. didn't pick up. However Mtn. refused to return those rights to the University. As a result, BYUtv did some research into what games Mtn. could actually broadcast. They learned Mtn's contract with the MWC teams only covered true home games on their network, not neutral site games, and not pre-season tournament games.

Now the first tier rights covered any game. That's what Versus had. When Versus dropped the BYU/ Michigan State broadcast, it reverted back to BYU because it wasn't a home game at the Marriott Center. Had it been at the Marriott Center, it would have reverted to Mtn. Since it was at EwnergySolutions Arena, BYU could use any group to broadcast the game, including ESPN. They had all the needed means onhand with BYUtv, so they moved the game to BYUtv.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Re: TCU/BYU game - I did consider it, but did not write about it because it was not part of the three organized events. It was brokered as a separate event. I have counted it under BYU's TV deal because I had several BYU fans tell me that the school told them it fell under their TV deal and not TCU's. Maybe that is incorrect.

My recollection or interpretation of your wording re: BYU-Michigan St. is similar to yours. If I remember right, Versus had the choice to take eight MW games out of the pool that CSTV had, which included the Mtn. games. They just chose off the top, then CSTV chose theirs and the mtn. got the rest. As you said, BYU found the loophole re: neutral site games that it seems neither the conference nor the TV partners knew about. I don't think Versus necessarily dropped it (again, that might be me misinterpreting your words) vs. never truly having the rights and not knowing it until it was closer to the game date. They might have tried to negotiate towards getting those rights and as you state, they could have taken those rights anywhere. Not sure if ESPN would have been an option on short notice. If my memory hasn't failed completely, the decision to go with BYU TV was made with about 48 hours before tip time.

12thMan said...

What about Wazzu/ND (Alamo Dome) in 2009? Or since ESPN didn't have the Big 12 deal yet that was just good timing?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

The two competing teams were an independent and a Pac-10 team, so the Big 12's TV deal does not apply. It applied in the case of Baylor-ND because it was a Big 12 team playing inside the Big 12 footprint.