Saturday, June 28, 2014

Catching up on CFB & MBK TV items

* Housekeeping:  If there are updates after July 1st, I probably won't be picking them up until after July 13th.  Going to try to take some time off.

* The Big Ten remains the only holdout for their early season television schedule.  Per a Scott Dochtermann article quoted in a previous post, July 1st still appears to be a date that ESPN and BTN must submit their selections.

BTN has struck a deal with Comcast to get the channel in more homes in the NY tri-state area plus Maryland & Washington, DC, so if negotiations with Comcast were holding up the announcement, that is no longer an issue.

ESPN MediaZone currently shows openings at 12pm on ESPN2, ESPNU & ESPNEWS, plus the second half of a ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror at 3:30pm and another ESPNEWS game at 4pm.  If the Big Ten doesn't fill all of these slots, you could see games that were set as ESPN3 exclusives earn an upgrade.

Navy at Temple also appears to be waiting for the Big Ten decisions to be made.

* The quiet around when the Big Ten early season selections is interesting.  You may know that their ESPN rights agreement ends after the 2016-17 athletic.  I have no basis in fact for this one, no behind the scenes knowledge: What if ESPN were proactively trying to extend the Big Ten rights?

It has happened when Big 12 rights were reconfigured in 2012 as the ESPN agreement was extended beyond the 2015-16 athletic year so that it would end at the same time as FOX's agreement.  The Mountain West had its rights reconfigured to allow for the ESPN package and the changes tacked on years to their CBS agreement.  If you are not aware, the International Olympic Committee extended NBC's agreement into the 2030s this spring.  NBC's original agreement was for four Olympic games through 2020.

Just a thought.  Probably not happening.  The Big Ten isn't making any waves yet about what it wants to do with its next rights agreement, unlike when the Pac-12 went to the market.

* The Mountain West announced three extra national TV selections, along with a time change on the Washington at Hawai'i game to accommodate one of the added games.  I was curious as to how & why both ESPN and CBS Sports Network could add games since they had each selected 22 games, which to my understanding was the maximum both parties could select.  And 22 is the max, but at the same time it isn't.

As it was explained to me, both CBSSN and ESPN take their 22 game packages.  After ROOT Sports and Campus Insiders select games for their packages, CBSSN and ESPN can come back and select two more games each if they want to pick up any extra games.  CBSSN is limited by being a single screen channel compared to ESPN, particularly ESPN3, so it is more likely that ESPN would pick up extra games.

This does make some sense.  Late last summer, a pair of early season MW games were selected to air on ESPN3 after all other TV packages were set.  The two games took ESPN's count up to 25, but one of the games was a sublicensed game from CBSSN, so after accounting for that game, ESPN aired 24 games that they owned.

* I was looking over Chris Dobbertean's Blogging the Bracket the other day as I was applying some updates to the men's basketball TV as he has a list of the early season exempt events.  One of the events that caught my eye was the Corpus Christi Challenge, specifically Bradley's inclusion as they will be in an event at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas before Christmas.  I *think* that would exclude them from appearing in the CCC.

After thinking about it more, I'm not sure if the Corpus Christi Challenge will be played this year.  I can see the event being replaced in the CBSSN lineup by the Emerald Coast Classic, which happens to be set for the same dates that the CCC would fill.  The ECC may or may not be looking for a TV partner, but CBSSN could be available, though the Corpus Christi Challenge was listed as an event in a recent press release.

* I have been told that the Ivy League and NBC have not extended their rights agreement.  Could mean they are negotiating a completely new deal with NBC.  Could also mean that the conference is looking elsewhere.  One thing about the Ivy League: It isn't a conference that needs the money.  They do just fine financially.

NBC may be strapped for space on Saturdays for Ivy football, with NASCAR coming in next year alongside existing Formula 1 and Barclays Premier League coverage.  I left IndyCar off the list as the compressed schedule doesn't put them in conflict with the fall season.  Could also be the case for their basketball after January as the conference is a Friday-Saturday scheduled conference for the most part.

* July 1st is the first day of the NCAA athletic year.  Some conference & school athletic websites will be changing hosts.  If you have bookmarks you might need to replace them.  A big push for a lot of schools is to make their sites responsive so that they can be viewed on computers, phones & tablets.  If you aren't aware of what responsive design is, here's a Mashable article about it.  CBS College Network, now under the CBS Interactive banner, was a little behind in this area.  It chose to create separate mobile templates that weren't always as usable or didn't carry the same content.  Because of that some schools were choosing hosting from Sidearm Sports, Presto Sports and Neulion which had solid mobile platforms.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Notes on American & Sun Belt TV selections, Mountain West on ROOT & Big Ten

American controlled TV schedule
Sun Belt controlled TV schedule
TV windows Google Docs spreadsheet

* In terms of the primary networks for the American, one game was selected for the early season (Boise St. at Connecticut on 9/13).  The rest fell into the secondary package of ESPNEWS, CBS Sports Network, SNY and ESPN3.  Eighteen games have been set aside in the primary package, leaving at least ten more games to be selected for ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU through the remaining twelve weeks of 2014.

* CBS Sports Network took an American game for each of the first three weeks of the season.  It appears that they will select at least one game per week, depending on telecast window availability.  Those selections would be handled twelve days in advance of the game date alongside any other selections by ESPN.  I do not know if, or how many times, ESPN or CBSSN can put their selection on hold until the Sunday before a game.

* The kickoff time for Air Force at Army may have been set by CBS, though neither side has announced it.  An 11am ET kickoff, per the MW website, could lead to Notre Dame vs. Navy from FedEx Field airing on CBS in the evening.

* The Big Ten is the last conference to hold off releasing any telecast information for the early season, except for the two weeknight games during the opening week.  Scott Dochtermann of the Cedar Falls Gazette reported a few interesting items this week:
  • The conference is working with its TV partners, specifically ESPN it appears, to place games on ESPNEWS and ESPN Classic
  • July 1st is the latest date that ESPN can pre-select a Big Ten game to air in primetime.  It is also the latest date the network can make its selections for the early season.
  • No side deals.  No third parties.  
The Big Ten was going to need help placing games early in the season, if they did not want to stack a ton of games on BTN.  I have been told that ESPN has rights to a few more Big Ten games due to the increase in membership.  Not sure how many though.  ESPNEWS might be used only for a game or two so that the network can meet some of its requirements with other conferences.  I would not expect ESPN Classic to be used as it is supposed to be ending as a 24/7 channel per the agreement made with Dish Network with Disney.

I think that is why the Navy at Temple game remains TBA in the American package.  If ESPN is allowed to air a Big Ten game on ESPNEWS, it might push Navy-Temple to ESPN3.

As for the possibility of an extra night game selection, November 8th's matchup of Ohio St. and Michigan St. seems to be the one that is desireable to move.  CBS happens to have a night game that day as well from their SEC package.

The "no side deals" part just puts it out there that games won't be showing up on FOX, FOX Sports 1, etc. even though FOX is the primary owner of BTN.  FOX's other entities do not have the room when you consider their schedule of Big 12, Pac-12 and C-USA games.  FS2 doesn't seem to be available for those conferences either at this time.

If you want to see which openings are available for the Big Ten on ABC and ESPN's networks, take a look at the Google Docs spreadsheet at the top.

* Much like the MAC, the Sun Belt has a couple games on ESPNEWS at the beginning of the year.  The Sun Belt doesn't have a publicly known syndication deal, so they may be working with ESPN to maintain one or move them on to ESPN3 or get a few extra games via ESPNEWS throughout the year.

Sun Belt media day is July 22nd.  Maybe more will be announced at that time.

* ROOT Sports selected their Mountain West regional package.  Compared to last year it is a couple less games.   I counted three less MW controlled games compared to last year, so that may have something to do with it after you consider the following:
  • CBS Sports Network and ESPN take 44 games off the top.
  • Hawai'i has to have seven games available to maximize its PPV package as it does not share in MW television revenue
  • Campus Insiders takes a handful of games to produce themselves
  • ROOT is somewhat limited as its RSN footprint does not cover the entire conference
The last point is really relevant to ROOT.  If ESPN and CBSSN take a lot of games involving schools that reside inside ROOT's in-market area, ROOT may have fewer options that appeal to them.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Some Basketball Scheduling Related Items About Big 12 & Early Season Tournaments

* I was able to get some clarification from the Big 12 on a few TV items now that the Big 12 Network syndication package is ending & games moving to other ESPN national platforms like ESPNU and ESPNEWS.
  • The number of games ESPN holds rights to has not changed.  Somewhere in the range of 90-105 games, which includes the conference tournament.
    • This includes non-conference games as well, which means that the possibility exists for a handful of intraconference games that could be returned to the home teams for their own institutional packages
  • When FOX aired a number of Big 12 games on non-Big 12 footprint RSNs, it is because FOX is allowed to offer any third tier game to its full compliment of RSNs.  Not that different than that Texas' ability to showcase their institutional content on Longhorn Network wherever it is carried.  These were not elevated games or additional sublicenses from ESPN.
  • ESPN3 can air an intraconference game, but the likelihood is very low and would be used only when there was no other option to carry the game.
In not so many words, really no changes to the underlying deal itself.

* Big 12 schools generally don't play on Sundays during conference play, and while non-conference play is a little different since the schools set up their own schedules, keep an eye on the UNLV-Kansas game on January 4th.  The date falls during the NFL's wild card weekend, a time of year where CBS seems to schedule a basketball game to be played before or after their game on a particular day.  Very similar to Kansas hosting San Diego St. at the beginning of 2014.

* One exempt event has changed TV partners.  The Las Vegas Invitational, which had at least a portion of its event shown on ESPN's networks for several years, is moving to FOX Sports 1, where all four of its "championship" round games will be televised.  The event moved from Friday-Saturday after Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving day & Friday last year.  The Disney nets are usually quite busy on both days as they show multiple exempt event tournaments that they own, plus a few college football games.

One interesting item is that the two basketball games are not being shown back to back, but are bookends around the TCU at Texas football game on Thanksgiving evening.

* A couple new exempt events have sprung up this offseason and not much has been said about who would be televising them.  Both events are being presented by Global Sports and have schools involved from power conferences.  ESPN as we know shows a ton of college basketball, but these are on dates where ESPN might not be able to carry them due to other existing commitments unless they are tournaments shown on ESPNEWS or exclusively through ESPN3.
  • The MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas on November 24th & 26th.  Based on the dates, I think FOX Sports 1 could end up with the event.
    • ESPN's primary networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) appear to be booked very solidly with the Maui Invitational (both dates), CBE Classic & Legends Classic (11/24) and the Battle 4 Atlantis and presumably the NIT Tip-Off (11/26).
    • NBCSN is typically tied up with NHL games on these dates
    • CBSSN has the Paradise Jam on 11/24 and Cancun Challenge & Great Alaska Shootout games on 11/26.
  • The Emerald Coast Classic on the Florida Panhandle on November 28th & 29th.  I think this one depends on if NBCSN is interested in replacing their coverage of the Battle 4 Atlantis with this event or balance this event alongside the Barclay Center Classic, which they showed three of the four games from last year.
    • ESPN has their two events from Orlando & Anaheim, plus presumably the finals of the NIT Tip-Off and college football games both days.  
    • CBSSN has college football and in a recent press release indicated they would be televising the Corpus Christi Challenge again this year.  Assuming the Challenge occurs over Thanksgiving again and on top of college football games and the Great Alaska Shootout, CBSSN looks to be booked too.
    • FS1 is booked on the 28th with college football at noon ET and the championship round of the Las Vegas Invitational in the evening and college football most of the day on the 29th.

      NBCSN is the only one left, short of Turner getting involved or FS2 airing it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Thoughts on the Pac-12 Networks and Late Morning Start Times

If you saw my Twitter timeline later on Sunday, most of this is repetitive, but there is newer stuff here.

The Pac-12 announced Sunday that they would be scheduling a 11am PT / noon MT football telecast window for the Pac-12 Networks this year.  Here's a few thoughts on it:

* I have a feeling that schools will have the flexibility to choose the 11am window if they don't want a night game.  This change is only for the Pac-12 Networks per the release.   ESPN and FOX Sports 1 will continue to have evening kickoffs out west.  This doesn't eliminate the Pac-12 Networks carrying them as there are three Saturday games on Pac-12 Networks airing at 7pm PT or later during the first three weeks of 2014.     For example, the Arizona schools have typically asked for night games early in the year due to heat issues if a game is not on broadcast TV.  I'd expect those schools to continue with night games.

In case you were wondering, in 2012, fifteen Pac-12 Networks games on Saturdays started at 9:45 pm ET or later.  In 2013, eleven Saturday games started at 9:30pm ET or later.

* Starting games at 11am local time is nothing new for most central time zone schools.  ESPN and FOX typically start their scheduling with noon eastern as the base.  Doesn't mean that the fans will like it.  To paraphrase Bryan Fischer, the complaints about the evening games have turned into pre-noon kickoffs for most of the conference.  If you go back to 2012, you'll see that the Pac-12 had three games on F/X in November that started at either 11:30am or noon local time.  Colorado periodically had 10am & 11:30am local starts on FSN or ABC going back to the Big 12 as the outlier with all the other Big 12 schools one time zone to the east.

* Per the Pac-12, any lead-in games to the exclusive primetime window for FOX and ABC must be completed before the broadcast network window starts.  If the number of night games are truly going to decrease, this would lead one to believe that Pac-12 Networks will have multiple games at the same time, assuming a school prefers to play a day game vs. a night game and that a particular week has a broadcast network TV window.  It doesn't appear that the conference will be allowed to do back-to-back games at 11am PT and 2pm/2:30pm PT if there is a broadcast network game at 4pm or 5pm PT.  The conference talked about using the regional nature of the Pac-12 Networks to schedule games concurrently.

* I thought this would be a decent move for the conference because it allows more of the conference's games to be available earlier in the day, particularly for eastern viewers or for the conference to tell providers who are balking at taking the channel that they'll have games available at times that are friendlier to the entire country.  Maybe that's shortsighted though as the conference will now be competing with other eastern conferences.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

News & notes from the past week (5/31/14 - 6/7/14)

* If you have been following anything with the O'Bannon vs. NCAA court case, you may have seen tweets from Steve Berkowitz of USA Today & Jon Solomon of CBS Sports reporting that the Big 12 & C-USA asking for details of their TV deals to remain private if discussed during the court case, possibly through closed courtroom proceedings.
I don't know what harm C-USA feels they would incur.  Initially I thought there might be details related to their settlement with ESPN over the lawsuit the network filed a few years back that were not made public that would come out, but that doesn't seem to be the case if the Big 12 is also requesting rights agreement info to remain private.

FOX is a common rightsholder between the two conferences.  The Pac-12 had their term sheet with ESPN and FOX released last summer.  Maybe a connection can be drawn there as it would open up all of FOX's college football rights agreements to public scrutiny.  C-USA will start the fourth year of their five year rights agreements with CBS Sports Network and FOX Sports on July 1st.  Maybe they have concerns about their deals being made public as they could be negotiating their next set of TV deals in a year.

* BYU has a pair of home games set for ESPN, vs. Houston on September 11th and the Utah St. game on October 3rd.  The remaining three home games vs. Virginia, Nevada and UNLV should be set around twelve days in advance of the game date.  The school's contract with ESPN requires at least three games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 and at least one game on ESPNU, so at least one of those three games will end up on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 and at least one on ESPNU.

BYU's home game vs. Savannah St. has been set aside for a telecast by BYUtv.

* With the Air Force-Wyoming game set for ESPNU at 10:15pm on September 6th, the Mountain West's early season is set for national TV.  The ROOT Sports regional TV package is likely being finalized along with the games that will be available through the conference's Campus Insiders portal, some of which are exclusively produced by CI.

Speaking of ROOT, a few of their Big Sky telecasts have had their kickoff times set.  The others may be waiting for the Mountain West package to be set as they could be scheduled around those games.

* The MAC and ESPN set many of the early season games under MAC control for ESPN3 with a few exceptions, including the notable one of Missouri at Toledo possibly airing on ABC at 12pm.  I wonder if that means the Oklahoma-Tulsa game will be earmarked for noon ET once it is set, hopefully next week.  June 15th is a deadline date for a lot of conferences when setting their kickoff times & telecast options.

 For the games that were listed as TBA in the MAC release (there were ten MAC controlled games listed that way), nine of those games are homecoming games.  I don't think that affects whether the game would be on ESPN3 or a regional sports network.  This may have been a request of many of the schools to be allowed to set those kickoff times far in advance, similar to what the Big Ten does.

I noticed that there were no games set aside for ESPN Regional Television and those could be on the way, but I am unsure if this package still exists and reached out to the MAC for clarification (not sure I'll get an answer).  Think about this for a minute.  The SEC's package ends as games will be folded into the SEC Network.  The Big 12 Network has ended with its basketball games moving to ESPN national cable networks, including ESPNEWS.  The American Athletic Conference will no longer have a syndication package in football, choosing to allow for games on ESPNEWS and sublicensing of content to CBS Sports Network.  The branding of ESPN Plus has disappeared in favor of ESPN Events, managing standalone events like bowl games, neutral site basketball tournaments and a couple other items.

So would they keep it around for MAC syndication?  I'm not sure I would.  If ESPNEWS is going to air more live events, fold the six MAC games into ESPNEWS and call it a day.  I don't think they have to renegotiate a TV deal to do this.  The Big 12 finished up the second year of a 12 year deal with ESPN and the Big 12 Network is gone.  If you wanted to point out that the games are in less homes with over-the-air coverage in some markets plus ESPN3 in outer markets, its a fair statement.  It could be argued that the games have greater visibility for folks nationally who are channel flipping on a Saturday & don't have a laptop, tablet, cell phone in front of them.

ESPNEWS & ESPNU have a similar number of subscribing homes.  Through most of 2013, ESPNEWS was slightly ahead of ESPNU.

* Available Black Friday slots on ESPN's networks should be more noticeable once the network announces the schedule for several early season basketball tournaments they show.  Normally this schedule comes out in late July or early August.

* Several bowl games have not publicly announced their game dates and kickoff times.  Here's a guess at the ones not yet set
  • Miami Beach - Expected to air on ESPN.  12/23/14 is the rumored date per FBSchedules and it is also my understanding that this is a pre-Christmas bowl.  Let's go with a 2:30pm ET kickoff
  • Military - 12/26/14 at 4:30pm
  • Independence 12/27/14 at 2pm
  • Russell Athletic - 12/27/14 at 5:30pm
  • Liberty - 12/30/14 at 12pm
  • Music City -  12/30/14 at 3:15pm
  • Outback - 1/1/15 at 1pm on ESPN2
  • Buffalo Wild Wings - 1/2/15 at 10:15pm.  Should put the Gator at 3:15pm.
  • Birmingham - 1/3/15 at 1pm
  • GoDaddy - 1/4/15 at 9pm
The Detroit bowl game, which is supposed to pit the ACC and the Big Ten and is backed by the Detroit Lions, is a ghost to me at the moment.  Both myself and the guy who runs have been unable to find an online presence for the game, either through social media or the Lions themselves.  I found registered by someone in Michigan, but it doesn't appear to be someone connected to the game.  Maybe the game has a sponsor and it will be part of the URL.  FBSchedules has a tentative date for the game of 12/30, but I don't know anything else about the game.

* I'll go out on a small limb with the remaining early season kickoff times since the American, Big Ten and Sun Belt remain

Week 1
Thursday - 8pm CBSSN - Tulane at Tulsa
Saturday - 12pm ESPN2 - Appalachian St. at Michigan
Saturday - 12pm ESPNU - Western Michigan at Purdue
Saturday - 3:30pm ABC/ESPN2 Reverse Mirror - California at Northwestern

Rest of the Big Ten games on BTN & the American and Sun Belt games on ESPN3.

Week 2 (all on Saturday)
12pm ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 - Oklahoma at Tulsa
12pm ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 - Akron at Penn St.
12pm ESPNU - Ball St. at Iowa
12pm ESPNEWS - Maryland at USF
3:30pm ESPN2 - Georgia Tech at Tulane
3:30pm CBS Sports Network - Navy at Temple

Rest of the Big Ten games on BTN & the American and Sun Belt games on ESPN3.  Maybe Duke at Troy becomes a mid-afternoon ESPNEWS game.  I don't think there will be a reverse mirror at 12pm between the two games above plus Missouri at Toledo.

Week 3 (all on Saturday)
12pm ABC/ESPN2 Reverse Mirror - East Carolina at Virginia Tech
12pm ABC/ESPN2 Reverse Mirror - Iowa St. at Iowa
12pm ESPN - Kent St. at Ohio St.
3:30pm ABC/ESPN Reverse Mirror - West Virginia at Maryland (w/Arkansas at Texas Tech)
3:30pm ESPNEWS - Boise St. at Connecticut
3:30pm CBS Sports Network - NC State at USF
7pm ESPNEWS - Mississippi St. at South Alabama

Rest of the Big Ten games on BTN & the American and Sun Belt games on ESPN3.