Thursday, May 29, 2014

Notes about the FOX Sports CFB schedule release

I'm going to do another post at some point tomorrow about the Big 12, Pac-12 and C-USA TV schedule releases.  I just want to concentrate on the FOX entities as a whole in this one.

FOX College Football schedule
My Google Docs spreadsheet

* I'm really surprised that FOX ended up with both Michigan St. at Oregon and UCLA vs. Texas.  Oregon, Michigan St., Wyoming and others changed their schedules, per this release from Wyoming at ESPN's request.  That would seem to indicate that ESPN intended to air Michigan St.-Oregon from Eugene with the condition around the game not being a night game, at least it does to me.  One thing that I can think of is that FOX and ESPN continue to select two games each before the season that they want to air, regardless of who has first pick in that week or where the game occurs during the season, and FOX selected this one as a priority pick.

UCLA vs. Texas is a bigger head scratcher to me.  ESPN helped organize and bring this matchup to AT&T Stadium back in 2012.  You would figure that since they were involved in setting up the game, they would be the ones showing it.  Then again, the game is being played in Texas, so while it is a one-off game, it appears to be covered as part of the Big 12 TV contract and FOX had the option to select it.

* If you look at October, you'll notice that FOX has 7:30pm ET windows every Saturday except on October 25th.  That Saturday likely falls during the World Series.  A conference call from earlier this year about FOX's MLB plans noted that they were looking to show their League Division & Championship Series games on FOX Sports 1.  I think this is why FS1 is open one Thursday & two Saturdays in east coast primetime during the month.

* FS1 cut back quite a bit on the number of Thursday night games they've decided to show.  Excluding the special dates of Thanksgiving and the opening Thursday night, they'll show just four games on Thursdays.  Some games are airing on Fridays as well, but I'm curious as to whether FOX made a conscious decision to back aware from most Thursday nights where they'll compete not just with ESPN's Thursday night schedule, but a schedule of NFL games airing partially on CBS.

* On the other hand, FOX broadcast network is once again airing a game during the opening weekend.  Last year, possibly due to the push of FOX Sports 1, "Big FOX" did not carry any game that weekend.  The number of games on FOX is flat compared to last year, but they only have one doubleheader scheduled (September 13th) as of right now.  Last year, FOX had only one doubleheader scheduled and ended up with three after adding a couple mid-afternoon games in November.

* For comparison, FS1 aired 49 games last year.  This year, they are currently scheduled to air 42 games.  FSN aired 15 games in '13 after excluding any of the institutionally held Big 12 games which aired across multiple FSN regions.  In '14, FSN will have 21 games after excluding the extra Big 12 games.

* No college football scheduled to air yet on FOX Sports 2, but C-USA still has ten games on FOX College Sports.  Supposedly FS2 will be in more homes with soon as this article on Mike Francesa's radio simulcast notes and Time Warner will have access to FOX Sports Go soon, so the channel will have more visibility.

FOX set aside the 21 FSN windows, sixteen regular season FOX broadcast windows and 42 FS1 windows for a total of 79 games.  They'll have access to 22 regular season Pac-12 games, 20 C-USA games on FSN or FS1, which leaves 37 Big 12 games to be spread out between FOX, FS1 & FSN.

56 Big 12 games are available to ESPN & FOX after taking out the institutionally held games, one per school.  ESPN can carry up to nineteen games, which leaves FOX exactly 37 Big 12 games to play with.  As it stands, FOX can account for all their games on the broadcast network, FS1 and FSN without using FS2.

* The C-USA release had an interesting line in it about FOX.  Here's the line from the '13 release:
The 2013 football season marks the third year of a multi-platform media rights agreement between Conference USA and FOX Sports Media Group broadcasting a minimum of 20 games.
And here's the language in the '14 release:
The 2014 football season marks the fourth year of a multi-platform media rights agreement between Conference USA and FOX Sports to broadcast a minimum of 30 games.
I guess the one takeaway I have is that games on FOX College Sports, which appeared to be extras in prior years, are now part of FOX's overall bucket.  It should be noted that when the '13 release came out, FOX College Sports games had not yet been selected.

* To set expectations for FOX, it should be noted that even though they publish one of these TV schedules every year, it is indeed subject to change and it often does change with FOX as other events are added to the calendar.  FOX's MLB schedule, for example, has 4pm ET games on FS1 on both 9/20 & 9/27.  On the CFB schedule, both days have football games scheduled to air at that time.


Serge said...

Great analysis Matt. As soon as the schedules were out I made a little spreadsheet myself, focusing on FS1 Thursday and Friday games; I then accessed your Google Docs file to compare, and you were editing it with the new info! As always, your sheet was spot on and more accurate than mine, hehehe...

I'm also surprised they're not sending any games to FS2; I'd expect at least the last 10 C-USA picks to be there instead of FSN/FCS... Will they keep FS2 clear of live programming on Saturdays in case a FOX/FS1 event runs long and bumps into the next one? Seems like a waste to me... they have other channels available plus FOXSports2Go...

Sean OLeary said...

The Oregon game doesn't surprise me since ESPN also move Va Tech/Ohio State to that date for primetime. And they have the NASCAR race that night.

The UCLA/Texas one is a headscratcher since they basically picked Tenn/Oklahoma over that, which isn't the way I would've gone.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I guess what surprises me most Sean is that ESPN did the legwork on both games and FOX selected them to air. As you said, they moved Michigan St.-Oregon and Virginia Tech-Ohio St. Why move them if you don't intend to air both? That said, September 13th looks a little congested.

You mentioned that ABC picked Tennessee-Oklahoma instead of UCLA-Texas. I don't know if that is true because we don't know which order ABC and FOX made their Big 12 (??) selections for September 13th, again especially because ESPN did all the legwork in organizing the game and it was announced back in 2011 they would be televising the game.

The Big 12 article I wrote up had some other items I considered after writing up this post. In short, ESPN contracted to air the game when FOX was only a cable TV partner to the Big 12 and had no ability to air games on FOX. We now exist with TV deals where each one can air games on broadcast TV and cable without sublicensing and where FOX can select ahead of ESPN. Again, whether that actually occurred, I don't know.

Unknown said...

Hi Serge,I think when FS2 gets more homes subscribing, I think you'll see some early season CFB games.

I agree with you on the last 10 picks. FS2, I bet is in more homes then FCS but C-USA doesn't see that as an option through.

Maybe when the C-USA contract comes to an end in July 2016, I think is when FS2 as an option will get talked about.

RDH said...

How does ABC/Fox/ESPN/FS1/FSN determine who gets pecking order for Big12 games? I used to know the rules but not since Fox entered the picture with network Fox 2 years ago...

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I'm not 100% sure to be honest anymore. I personally believe they are lumped in with the Pac-12 selections since both ESPN and FOX are rightsholders to both conferences. My belief is anecdotal, but I think that whenever one network has the "top" Big 12 selection, the other will have the "top" Pac-12 selection.

The only item I believe is that FSN is at the bottom of the list for the Big 12.