Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gavitt Tipoff, SEC & Big 12 men's basketball scheduling and a small FS1 CFB note

* A few weeks ago, FOX added the start times of the 9/20 & 9/27 MLB games for FOX Sports 1.  Both are 4pm ET games.

For 9/20, it is possible that FOX Sports 1 will not have a 12pm ET game.  FOX Sports 1 & 2 carry various portions of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship and the series has a timed race that day from Circuit of the Americas from 1pm-3:50pm ET. has not yet listed television plans for this event.  It is something that is worth keeping an eye on.  Some of the races are being carried live while others are being shown on a day's delay on TV.  For example, the event from Road Atlanta in early October is being shown live on FS2 and on delay on FS1.

* The Gavitt Tipoff Series between the Big East and Big Ten is a great idea, and it is a small boon for FOX Sports 1 as they'll have some good games involving another power conference as part of their non-conference Big East games starting in 2015.

And I did receive a few tweets who mentioned that the entire series may end up completely on FOX Sports 1, as the agreement to play extends past the Big Ten's rights agreement with ESPN.  I don't think they are incorrect as time will tell as to whether the Big Ten rights get to the open market for a chance to be bid on by FOX.  But I am still pessimistic at the moment.

But I do believe that the majority of the series will end up on FOX owned properties, specifically the Big Ten Network and FS1.  The series is to be played Tuesday-Friday in early-mid November.   The main ESPN channel is usually tied up the majority of three of these four days with NBA (Wednesday & Friday) & college football (Thursday).  On Tuesdays, they'll carry the college football playoff rankings show, though I am not sure how many minutes the show will run for.  ESPN2 carries MAC football most Tuesdays & Wednesdays in November, plus a Friday night game.  ESPNU sometimes carries a football on Thursday nights, so that channel might be the best bet of those three.  ESPNEWS is also an option too, but I do not know if the Big Ten is amenable to allowing these games on the channel.

It also depends on the matchups themselves.  I'm sure that if ESPN is given the available games (the conference commissioners will determine the pairings and I don't know if TV will have a say) & possible dates and either doesn't like the matchups or just can't make things work to their best interests, they'll pass.  They still have the ACC/Big Ten challenge, so they'll have seven Big Ten non-conference home games right there.

I could see the best Big Ten home game available showing up on ESPN2 on Thursday, then the others appearing on ESPNU on Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, but there are always other games out there and commitments to other conferences and exempt events, which is where games could also fall to BTN.

* The creation of the SEC Network has had an effect on football, but there will be an effect on college basketball scheduling for the upcoming network and other conferences who have their rights held by ESPN.  Press releases note that the network will carry over 100 men's basketball games, including the first, second and quarterfinal rounds of the men's basketball tournament.  Some items to look into:
  • Will SEC basketball games during non-conference play be carried via overflow channels similar to the football scheduling on 9/6/14, as schools typically schedule for themselves instead of around the other conference members?  Or will some games end up on RSNs or be streamed exclusively online?
  • As I look at last year's packages by network, the SEC TV syndication package carried 37 games, along with another ten from the conference tournament, and the Comcast package had 24 games.   ESPN3 also carried nine conference games exclusively, so that gets the count of regular season games up to 70.  ESPN will get back the men's basketball sublicense package from FOX RSNs in 2015-16, so they'll add another 20-25 games in future years, but will the number of games on ESPN (21), ESPN2 (19) and ESPNU (29) decrease slightly to fill in time on the new network?
    • A side item to this is the end of Big 12 Network syndication.  The Big 12 Network games are expected to end up on ESPNEWS or ESPNU.  More on that below.
  • Assuming the SEC men's tournament stays on the same days (Wednesday-Sunday), could the tournament semifinals & finals see their tip times change?  There was some discussion about the ACC title game moving to Saturday night.  If the ACC semifinals move along with other dates/times from other conferences (American ??), could the tournament semis move off of ABC and to one of the ESPN cable networks?
    • This is also where the absence of NASCAR on ESPN's schedule in February & March will come into play.  They'll have time on Saturdays to show basketball in places where there was previously a Nationwide Series race.
* To the Big 12, where I briefly mentioned the end of Big 12 Network syndication above - There was this tweet from Iowa St. AD Jamie Pollard this week.
That isn't necessarily new news.  It came out at the Big 12 tournament about games moving to a national platforms.  I don't think you'll see any more games sublicensed out to other networks to make sure they get every game on TV, at least beyond what is sublicensed to CBS and the 20 non-conference games that seem to be allowed to air over most FOX RSNs.   I know what Mr. Pollard's tweet says but I think he's focused more on the end of Big 12 Network syndication.  CBS has a deal, ending after the 2015-16 season, for four Big 12 appearances per year.  Remember that appearances don't equal games.  They could be Big 12 conference controlled games (intraconference game = 2 appearances, non-conference home games = 1 appearance).  I believe that ESPN could sublicense them a game an ACC or Pac-12 controlled game where a Big 12 school is the road team.

Something to note - the Big 12 Network games always counted in the 100-105 games that ESPN could air across their networks every year.  Unless Mr. Pollard has been informed of a change in the contractual obligations of ESPN and they are indeed carrying every Big 12 intraconference game, I don't think this "fixes" anything when a game involving two Big 12 schools isn't selected by ESPN or sublicensed to CBS.  And ESPN3 can carry a small number of games exclusively, though this is probably for non-conference games.  If they don't pick it, it still falls to the local packages for the home team to air.

So unless there has indeed been a big change in the requirements of ESPN carrying Big 12 basketball games, yes, there is still a way for ESPN to "game" the system to get certain games to fall to the Longhorn Network.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

The Big 10 allowed football games on Espn Classic a few years ago, and ESPN news is in about as many homes as ESPNU, so I don't see why that would be an issue

Morgan Wick said...

Is there a chance Pollard meant all *Iowa State* Big 12 games would air on one of those networks?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

He might know that right now, but the Big 12 doesn't release the conference TV assignments usually until July.