Thursday, July 31, 2014

TV Updates on Football & Men's Basketball for 7/31/14


* Nearly every FBS game for the first three weeks of the season has been accounted for with respect to a kickoff time and/or television arrangement.  There are a few items remaining at the FCS level:
  • Ivy League - The conference allowed its deal with NBC to lapse.  No idea if they are talking to NBC once again for a new deal or have solicited bids from other networks.
  • MEAC - I believe they are finalizing their TV schedule, especially for any Thursday night games being requested for airing on ESPNU
  • Webcasts - Once conferences set up their main rights package, whether it is TV or streaming, schools then get to work on their own packages for self-produced webcasts or local TV
* Starting with the games on 9/20, FBS games have their kickoff time and, usually, their network assignment set twelve days in advance.  Usually two Mondays before the date of the game.  Each conference allows for a limited number of times where a network(s) can wait until the Sunday before a game to set the time & TV.

* Regional sports networks will also start releasing their schedules over the next few weeks.  I try to pick up as many of these as I can, but if you see one, please pass it along.  Same with any affiliate lists for the American Sports Network or Raycom's ACC Network.

Men's Basketball

* The Mountain West, via the schools themselves, began releasing their TV schedules.   In terms of the placement of the games on networks, the distribution is very similar to last year.  For regular season games, the breakdown is as follows:
  • CBS Sports Network: 30
  • ESPNU: 10
  • ESPN2: 2
  • ESPN3: 20
Not every schools released their non-conference schedule, so they should be additions to the list.  The games were also released without tip times, but I would expect most of the ESPN2 & ESPNU games to be late evening on the east coast and the CBSSN weeknight games to be at 9pm or 11pm ET.

I can't remember if CBS retained the top choices to Mountain West basketball like they do with the conference's football selections, but if you believe that San Diego St., New Mexico and UNLV are the best known schools in the conference, CBS did lock up the six round robin meetings between these three teams and it could be argued, so far, that they've selected the best available non-conference games too.

* The MGM Grand Showcase & Main Event events will be televised & webcast by ESPN.  Per the Main Event's website, their bracket will be announced on August 5th.  This might be the date that other ESPN owned/televised events will have their brackets released.

* West Virginia vs. NC State is the marquee game for the Gotham Classic on 12/20.  To be honest, the entire exempt event is centered around this game.  It should be on ESPN2 or ESPNU.  ESPN is booked with bowl games.

* A few CBS telecasts have come out.  Some are attached to other events on the network:
  • Wisconsin at Marquette - Sublicensed game from FOX on 12/6.  Should lead into pregame coverage of the SEC Football Championship.
  • North Carolina at Kentucky - With a noon ET tipoff on 12/13, it would be the lead-in for Army-Navy pregame.
  • CBS Sports Classic on 12/20 - A doubleheader of North Carolina-Ohio St. & UCLA-Kentucky starting at 1pm ET.
  • UNLV at Kansas - Wrote about this one earlier.  CBS has picked this one up and the start time is likely to be dependent on the NFL playoff schedule.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The American Sports Network

When I saw the name Doron Gorsheim attached to the American Sports Network, I had some doubts as to whether this entity would actually get off the ground before reading the entire press release.  Doron spearheaded the effort to create the America Channel around 2005, but had not been able to reach enough carriage agreements to go live.

But the American Sports Network is truly different in its composition from America Channel, so whether it is viewed as a success will be dependent on how Sinclair Broadcast Group executes providing the games to its local stations, along with local stations not owned & operated by Sinclair negotiating to pick up the games..

To clear up one item since I've been asked whether it is going to be on DirecTV, Dish, etc. - what is currently being put together is not a standalone channel that is fighting to be carried.  American Sports Network is essentially a syndication package that will air primarily on Sinclair's over the air broadcast stations and be offered to other local stations in markets where they do not own a local station.

Another question is whether Sinclair stations will be carrying these games either out of market or possibly overlaying games being offered by ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC.  Sinclair, at one point and this may continue to be true, owned the largest number of FOX affiliates outside of FOX Television Stations. The ASN press release states these games will end up on the company's CW or MyNetwork TV affiliates or on digital subchannels, so I would not expect to miss games provided by the national networks unless the local station is in a market where one of these schools exist.  At that point, the local station needs to make a decision.

Because of the use of digital subchannels, you might have to drag out a set of rabbit ears (assuming your TV has a digital TV tuner) possibly to view these games if your local station is not making the game available on their main feed.  Cable companies have been hit or miss when it comes to providing the -2 subchannels that are not affiliated with the Big Four, CW or MyNet.  I believe DirecTV & Dish are even more unlikely to carry the digital subchannels in this case.  Can't speak to how AT&T & Verizon FIOS handle it.

As I read over Sinclair's press release again, I did see an answer to one item I was concerned about and that was digital distribution.  Seems like they have it as part of their plans.
Sinclair’s broadcast stations will either be carrying the games and original content as part of the primary program line-up (generally on the Company’s CW and MyNet affiliates) or as part of second channels (sub-channels of the primary station’s signal), complimented by access and distribution on digital platforms
Dave Weekley, a radio host in West Virginia who has also freelanced for regional syndication packages like ESPN Regional Television, was able to confirm from the Conference USA office that these games would be offered on the C-USA Digital Network online package.  I cannot confirm whether online packages like CAA.TV, Patriot League Network, etc. would also have access to these games.

When looking at the schedules released by Conference USA and the Southern Conference, there are a few overlaps in terms of games running concurrently.  When the Big South noted that they were part of the venture, they were very specific about where their games would be shown.

Finally, would Sinclair ever look to expand this effort?  Possibly.  They noted that once they get carriage agreements with local stations, development of new cable networks around the programming exists as a possibility.  Consider that a forward-looking statement and not a fact though.  

So, Doron Gorsheim's America Channel...maybe it still exists in the future.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

CFB & MBK TV Roundup for 7/17/14

* The Big Ten released its remaining early season kickoff times and television assignments on Wednesday afternoon.  As Scott Dochterman reported earlier, ESPNEWS will carry a couple Big Ten controlled games.  I do not know whether ESPNEWS is ahead, behind or somewhere in between BTN selections.  I do know that ESPN has more Big Ten selections available to them compared to previous years.  Not sure how many.

* The Sun Belt announced that the conference had partnered with ESPN3 to air around 50 events per year from various sports.  I believe this is a direct replacement for the Sun Belt Network television package that was jointly managed by Comcast and Cox.  For football, I'd expect ESPN3 to exclusively air nearly every football game that is not televised, so that would mean ESPN3 would tack on an additional 10 football games.  In men's basketball, they'll probably carry a "game of the week" type package plus, as they announced, every game not on TV from the conference's basketball tournament.

* Sinclair Broadcast Group announced a new venture called the American Sports Network which will include athletic contests from the Big South, C-USA, CAA, SoCon and Patriot League.  The venture is run by Sinclair COO Doron Gorshein, who previously tried starting up a national cable venture called the America Channel using several conferences' events as backing.  The channel never got off the ground.

This venture differs from the America Channel because the ASN will be syndicated on over the air stations, so it has a better chance at success.  Per the press release, the Big South will have football games on the network and Western Carolina's AD acknowledged the existence of a deal with Sinclair last week.

* Per, ESPNU will not have late evening (10:15pm or 10:30pm) telecast windows on 9/20 or 9/27.  On those dates they are currently scheduled to show tape delayed airings of games from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities).  That may affect where ESPN places Virginia at BYU on 9/20 and UNLV at San Diego St. on 9/27, along with any possible Pac-12 selections.

For the Virginia-BYU game, ESPN has to place one more BYU home game on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 to satisfy a contract requirement of at least three BYU home games on the previously mentioned channels.

* The bowl schedule has been finalized.  ESPN has rights to nearly every bowl game.

* The Corpus Christi Challenge, now known as the Corpus Christi Coastal Challenge, is alive and well.  Bradley, TCU, Mississippi St. and Saint Louis will make up the "championship" portion of the field.  CBS Sports Network was not mentioned in the press release for the event, but my guess is that they will remain involved if earlier press releases touting the event by CBS are accurate as the dates for the event fall at a time that CBS Sports Network can air it.

* Last year, ESPN released several of the brackets for their early season basketball events on July 17th, so they should be appearing sometime in the next 2-3 weeks.  After that, conferences should start announcing their schedules.  One event that may look different is the NIT Tip Off.  Minnesota set off some alarm bells by posting that they are looking for a game on a date that would seem to conflict with the rounds that the host schools would play home games and the event may not have enough teams for the schools to be able to take advantage of rules regarding the number of games that can be played as part of an exempt event.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ESPN September TV Windows

Open CFB TV Windows

ESPN's CFB TV windows for September were posted to except for ESPNU.  Hat tip to Jason Leimer who found these online.  Consider these windows tentative as the NASCAR windows don't necessarily line up with what shows.  A few notes

* September 4th will not have a Thursday night game on ESPN or ESPN2.  ESPN has US Open tennis.  ESPN2 has Mexican national team soccer.
* The Connecticut-USF on September 19th is tentatively set for ESPN.  Fresno St.-New Mexico on September 26th is tentatively set for ESPN2.
* September 6th & 13th at noon appear to be ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror windows.  September 13th at 3:30pm also appears to be a reverse mirror, this time with ABC & ESPN.
* September 20th looks like it will have a Pac-12 late evening game on ESPN or ESPN2.  ESPN is tentatively set with it as it has a 7pm telecast window.  ESPN2 has an 8pm window.  September 27th also has a late evening option.  Unlike the 20th, the 27th has a Mountain West option with UNLV at San Diego St.  EDIT: Forgot Virginia at BYU on 9/20.
* ESPNEWS looks set for three games a week through September with 12pm, 4pm and 8pm telecast windows except for September 20th when it carries a Nationwide Series race at night.
* ESPNU windows should appear later in July.

A couple other items
* I do not know where Big Ten kickoff times are.  Was hoping they would have shown up by now.  If I see them over the next week, I'll update.
* Campus Insiders set its Mountain West Network package of games.  Of the remaining MW controlled games, seven are games involving Hawai'i and should be available on PPV on the islands and via the MWN on the mainland.  The other two games (Northern Colorado-UNLV & UC Davis-Colorado St.) should be on the MWN but may be produced by the UNLV & Colorado St., respectively.