Friday, May 2, 2014

SEC Network Scheduling Thoughts & a Nod to Legal Cord Cutting

* You may have seen that the SEC Network released their first three weeks of telecasts, plus the Troy at Georgia game on 9/20.  If not, here's the list.

I decided to compare it against the Pac-12 Networks schedule from '12 & '13.  Not in terms of quality but on the basis of the number of intraconference games.  One of the items that is noticeable in the SEC Network schedule is three conference games (Texas A&M at South Carolina on 8/28, Arkansas at Auburn on 8/30 and Kentucky at Florida on 9/13).

The Pac-12 has had some guidelines in non-conference scheduling and really prefers not to schedule non-conference games after the 3rd or 4th week of the season, with the notable exception of Notre Dame, though BYU may be making some inroads as an allowed exception as they will be playing Cal, Utah, Stanford and USC late in the season at various points in the next decade.  Anyways, neither '12 or '13 had the Pac-12 Networks carry a single intraconference game until week four in '12 and week five in '13.

Much of the SEC Network is still of a lesser quality to the fan outside of the SEC footprint.  No offense to an A&M fan, but I'm not going to be glued to my set while you guys get ready to play Lamar.  But ESPN has given the network a solid head start, definitely due to ESPN essentially allowing it to exist on their terms since its ESPN's content rights stocking the network, as they try to negotiation for the channel to be carried .  Not just with DirecTV, which a lot of folks seem to have a focus on.  Maybe it is because they passed on the Pac-12 Network & Longhorn Network, maybe because there are products like WatchESPN and ESPN3 that DirecTV hasn't negotiated to carry.

Just to tack on (or pile on, depending on your view), there were only two Pac-12 intraconference games available for any TV partner in the first three weeks of the season in '13 (Utah at Oregon St. & Washington St. at USC, both on FS1) and just one in '12 (USC at Stanford on FOX).

Changing up the philosophy on non-conference games, or stacking some weeks where the conference's network can gain access to games that more fans would have interest in, in my opinion, would be worth looking at, but it requires a dance partner and that partner's conference also has to be willing to allow those mid-season non-conference games.

And if the Pac-12 decides to once again release their opening Pac-12 Networks slate on Twitter, one game at a time every 10-15 minutes, have some better games.  Apologies for the bad imagery that's about to come up, but its almost like passing bad gas, letting it linger, then doing it again...and again....

* As for the rest of the SEC schedules for those weeks, they should hopefully come out earlier than media day in July, but I have my doubts.  Either way, I think the following items have been set in motion:

  • Georgia at South Carolina is the only game involving two SEC members on 9/13.  By default, I think it puts this game on CBS.
  • On 9/20, five games remain.  Here's how I see things shaking out, though these likely won't have kickoff times and networks set until 9/8 as 9/20 is beyond the first three weeks of the season:
    • In my opinion, Florida at Alabama is the CBS game, when compared against South Carolina at Vanderbilt and Mississippi St. at LSU.  Either way, I think CBS takes one of these three games.
  • Of the remaining four, two are conference games and two are non-conference.  I believe they would split the difference, with SEC Network taking one conference game and one non-conference game and the other two airing on ESPN/2/U.
  • I have no knowledge of whether either of these items are a guideline or a rule, but I believe that they will try to schedule soft against the CBS 3:30pm window with the SEC Network.  Also, I wonder if the reason for the 4pm starts is to give CBS a chance to start their game unopposed.

* A general reminder re: the SEC - FOX RSNs is that they should still have rights to around eight football games this year and somewhere north of 20 men's basketball games, plus some baseball, softball, women's basketball, etc.  Their agreement to sublicense content from ESPN was one year longer than the agreement with Comcast.  When discussions first came up about Project X, some thought was given to waiting until the 2015-16 athletic year to starting the network because all sublicense agreements would have expired.  When the decision was made to move the timeline up one year, the decision was made to not buyout the agreement with FOX, but to let it naturally expire and regain control of the content in a year.
* I would like to do a longer post on legal cord cutting at some point.  Maybe this summer when there is a quiet period after early season college football scheduling assignments are set and before college basketball schedules come out.

First, I do want to to thank Twitter follower MiamiO_Fan, who has pushed me on the topic of cord cutting and to do more research behind it.  I wanted to bring up that he mentioned that CBS Sports Network can be purchased through SkitterTV for $5 a month as part of a package with other channels.  I'm not aware of any other way to watch CBSSN legally online.  The other three sports networks tied to broadcast entities have their online access tied directly to your pay TV subscription, though there are some online TV providers out there where you can pay to have an online-only access to the channels, like NimbleTV

Whether that is a deal to you or not depends on how much it would cost you to add it as part of existing television subscription, how much you'd actually watch it, etc.  Just wanted to bring it to your attention as CBSSN has been behind the the other three when it comes to subscribing households.

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