Sunday, August 31, 2014

A look at upcoming men's basketball scheduling items

* Was going through the non-conference schedules of C-USA for men's basketball and there are a few games vs. Power 5 & higher profile opponents that should be worthwhile for selection by FOX Sports 1 and CBS Sports Network.
  • Washington St. at UTEP (11/14)
  • Miami (FL) at Charlotte (11/25)
    • This game is attached to the Charleston Classic event
  • South Carolina at Marshall (12/1)
  • Penn St. at Marshall (12/6)
  • LSU at UAB (12/18)
  • Arizona at UTEP (12/19)
  • Louisville at Western Kentucky (12/20)
  • Creighton at North Texas (12/21)
* Looked over the CAA non-conference schedules as NBCSN picked up ten conference games, three of which are part of the conference tournament.  A couple non-conference games that the network could end up choosing, if they want them, are Virginia at James Madison on 11/14 and Temple at Delaware on 12/18.  Both dates appear open at the moment on NBCSN as 11/14 was skipped on the NBCSN college hockey schedule.

* Based on existing programming announcements, here's some items re: the non-conference Big East schedule.  These assumptions were based on non-conference schedule announcements that have been made.
  • If FS1 shows a Big East game on November 14th, it will be at 6pm as there is a NASCAR Truck Series race at 8pm ET
  • Any games on 11/15, 11/21, 11/22 or 11/29 will be on FOX entities.  CBSSN is booked for the entire day.
    • Note that FS1 has a lot of programming on those days too.  Consider these FS2 or FSN days
  • 11/20 has one game scheduled and FS1 has a college football game, so FS2 or CBSSN is a possibility
  • 12/6 is the final Saturday of the college football regular season.  FS1 is scheduled to air a Big 12 game at 3pm ET, so it is possible that one basketball game will need to move to CBSSN
  • 12/2, 12/6, 12/10 & 12/22 are days where there are three or more games, so a game could move to another outlet from FS1.
None of this takes into the account that FS1 picks up a C-USA or Pac-12 on any of these dates, which could necessitate other scheduling changes.

* With the American announcing its conference TV schedule along with the schedule for the conference tournament, it seems plausible that the Big 12 semifinals will air on ESPN2 on Friday night of "Championship Week" with the ACC semis on ESPN and the 2nd half of the American quarterfinals on ESPNU.

* I'm told the next batch of TV schedule announcements should be out this week and could include both the Pac-12 and WCC.  The Big East would be on target to be released this week, but that depends on the slotting of games.

* Just like last year, CBS Sports Network selected 25 American games.  This year they had the ability to choose up to 30 games but stayed at the lower level even though more games were available to them with eleven schools' games.

I don't think CBS Sports Network has access to the non-conference games that the American schools control, which is different to the sublicense that CBS has with FOX for Big East games.  I think the American schools retain rights to most of their non-conference games after ESPN selects any that they want to televise.  Of the games not selected, they may not be able to offer them to another national TV outlet.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A few men's basketball scheduling items after ACC & A-10 announcements

Atlantic 10 (conference schedule only)

* It looks like ESPN is preparing for the possibility of a NFL Wild Card game on 1/3/15.  If you look at many of their college basketball games, they have the possibility of two tip times and the bowl game from Birmingham does not have a network confirmed for it.

My guess is that they are planning for at least a 90 minute pregame show.  If the NFL game is a 4:30pm game, they could go with filler programming (maybe one MBK game), the game at 4pm or 4:30pm, a postgame then UNC-Clemson at 8pm.  The bowl game at 1pm on ESPN2 with college basketball to follow it starting at 4pm.

If the NFL game is at 8pm, the bowl game can air on ESPN at 1pm, then North Carolina-Clemson at 4:30pm, then a pregame show at 6:30pm leading into the game.  The college baskeball games could start at 2pm on ESPN2.

Sunday is open for a game on ESPN too, but I think the fluidity of the tip times on ESPN leads me to believe they are being targeted for Saturday.  CBS appears to be earmarked for a Sunday Wild Card game too with UNLV at Kansas with a tip time of "to be determined".

* The North Carolina at Duke game on 2/18, as the first of the two matchups during the regular season, again features the dueling broadcasts of ESPN and the ACC Network, but there is a new twist.  The ACC Network has a split window that evening themselves with Boston College at Florida St. also scheduled for a 9pm tip time.  Forces more folks to tune in to the ESPN telecast of the game if they aren't aware of the availability of the ACC Network's webcast through the conference's website.

* The ACC appears to have at least two College Gameday slots.  On 1/31, either Duke at Virginia or North Carolina at Louisville will air at 7pm.  This particular Saturday appears to have an earlier College Gameday tip time due to ESPN carrying an NBA game at 9pm.

Duke at North Carolina on 3/7 is tentatively scheduled to air at 6pm or 9pm.  It isn't immediately apparent to me whether there is another game at could take the 9pm slot.  Maybe Kansas at Oklahoma or Virginia at Louisville.

The Syracuse at Duke game on 2/28 is also set specifically as an ESPN game, without the ESPN2 designation, so it may end up as the College Gameday game that evening.

* The A-10's schedule released with a couple games missing.  I counted one non-conference game missing from both NBCSN and CBS Sports Network.  From the schedules that were released, it looks like Temple at St. Joseph's and the North Carolina vs. Davidson (at Time Warner Cable Arena) games were missing.  Maybe Pittsburgh vs. Duquesne at CONSOL Energy Center too, but that one looks like Pitt's home game.

The Philly Big 5 game on 12/3 would fit on CBSSN as a doubleheader with Villanova at La Salle on the same evening.  NBCSN has an NHL game that evening at 8pm and usually has a pregame show.

That should leave UNC-Davidson for NBCSN, though they might need to alter the start time from 2pm ET.  NBCSN has a CAA football game scheduled for 3:30pm that day.

* Keep an eye on ESPN2 on Fridays.  Looks like they might be opening a regular college basketball telecast window.  The A-10 has two Friday ESPN2 telecasts this year (1/23: VCU at Saint Louis, 2/6: GW at Dayton) and one Big 12 game (3/6: Texas Tech at Baylor).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Site updates & expectations

Hi.  You might have been directed here by a friend online or stumbled across the college sports schedules site by some other means.  Wanted to give you a brief primer on how I tend to push updates to the schedule through the football season:

* Mondays (after September 8th) - This is the point as to when networks will set kickoff times twelve days in advance, sometimes as late as six days in advance.   I'll try to note this where I can on my Twitter timeline and at some point in the evening I'll post a more polished schedule.

* Tuesdays & Wednesday - I'll be working to finalize any RSN or affiliate lists.  You will usually find those links in the CoverageNotes section next to each game

* Wednesdays & Thursdays - If there is a coverage map released by ESPN, those will typically get released on Wednesdays or Thursdays before a game.  I'll add those to the CoverageNotes section

* Fridays - I try to shore up any links for streaming and any other coverage notes I missed.

* Saturdays - I'm not necessarily at home, nor can I solve your problem with ESPN, FOX, CBS, ESPN3 or (insert network here).  May I suggest you seek out the appropriate network on Twitter (you don't need an account) as they usually note channel changes, etc.

* Sundays - Any games where a network or kickoff time for the following Saturday should be set at some point during the day, if they were not set at some point on Saturday.  On Sundays, I also try to predict the network assignments that could come down on Monday based on available TV windows.

A few other items:

* If you email or tweet me, I may not get back to you right away.  For various reasons.  Could be that I don't know the answer.  Could be that your email isn't asking a question.  Could be that I have other things to do and don't have the time to respond.  Like you, I have a primary job & responsibilities.  Neither of them involve the schedules site or this blog.  Please don't feel slighted.

* This time of year (August-October) tends to have a lot of men's basketball scheduling announcements too.  I'll try to note those with MBK at the beginning or somewhere in the tweet.  Because there is more games involved with men's basketball, getting those games in takes a fair amount of time too.

* I want to be clear that I do not represent any network, their line of thinking or their preferences, real or perceived.

* I do not list announcers, nor do I have any real preferences around 99% of them.  Networks tend to post them at the beginning of the week on their press sites.  You can find those at ESPN Media Zone or the FOX Sports press site.

* Over the past couple years, I've taken the position not to cheerlead or promote any TV provider.  I believe that is a personal choice and if a cable, satellite or telco provider meets your needs, that's great.  And if they don't or they differ from mine or someone else's point of view, that's cool too.

* I rarely know when network X chose a game over network Y.  I really don't know selection orders anymore as the television landscape has changed a lot.  Plain & simple: the rules are not as hard & fast as they used to be.  Lots of grey areas.

* Same goes for blackout rules, unless the info is readily available online.  If something is not correct with a blackout, please contact your provider.

* Please do not ask me to predict a game's kickoff time more than 12 days in advance.  If you're asking me to predict the kickoff time for a game in November and its still August, that requires me to make far too many assumptions about available TV windows, team records, etc. that I'm not willing to do.

* This also goes for travelling to a game that does not yet have a kickoff time.  My suggestion is to not send that email or tweet, but book your travel to arrive early.

Please enjoy the season & good luck to your school.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Men's basketball related scheduling items from the SEC, Big 12, ACC & Big Ten

Big 12

The Big 12 was the first of the Power 5 conferences to release the dates for all conference games and television details.  As you may be aware of by now, the Big 12 Network syndication has ended in favor of more games on ESPNU & ESPNEWS, but there is also an increase of Big 12 games that will appear on ESPN or ESPN2.  Last year 38 regular season games appeared on those two network and this year there will be 45.  Tack on five more games on ESPNU, twelve games on ESPNEWS and three games that could air on ESPNEWS or ESPNU, that accounts for 27 games moving from syndication to national cable.

I counted 99 regular season games as part of the Big 12 regular season national TV schedule in '13-'14 and 93 so far for '14-'15.  Note that several Big 12 schools have not released any television information for non-conference games, so there may be additional telecasts to tack on.

The Big 12 did not explicitly have an ESPN College Gameday game set aside for them, but a lot of the TV times were not set, just TV networks.  If I were to guess, I believe the following games are being looked at as possible College Gameday games: 1/17: Kansas at Iowa St. & 2/28: Texas at Kansas.


The SEC released its conference schedule Friday evening and the SEC Network will host 58 of the 126 conference games to be played.  The newly debuted network will have doubleheaders on Tuesdays & Wednesdays during conference play along with 2-3 games every Saturday.  For comparison purposes, last year the SEC syndication package carried 39 regular season games.  CSS and ESPN3 each carried nine conference games, so the network is nearly a direct replacement for those three packages.

Otherwise, the number of games per network comes close to mirroring the '13-'14 season.  On a regional basis, FSN will carry 13 games in conference play and that number matches last season.  Those games are all on Saturdays this year and will move over to the SEC Network next athletic year.  ESPNU will have 18 conference games and had 17 last year.  CBS has five games while it had six last year.  ESPN & ESPN2 carried 32 games last year.  They'll have 31 games this year.

The conference has one College Gameday appearance: February 7th when Kentucky visits Florida.

Other notes

* The ACC Big Monday schedule was released.   Note that the date skipped, January 12th, is the date of the FBS Playoff Championship game.

* With the release of the NBA schedule, you can tentatively pencil in North Carolina at Duke (I believe Duke hosts first this year) for February 18th.  This particular Wednesday is the only Wednesday that ESPN skips on their NBA telecast schedule in February.

* For the moment, it is likely safe to assume the return visit to Chapel Hill on March 7th ends up as the College Gameday game that evening.

* The Big Ten's Super Tuesday schedule was also released this week, along with the TV schedule for the ACC/Big Ten & Big 12/SEC challenge series.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Conference Networks: They Aren't All Created Equal

Over the past decade four conference specific networks have sprouted up: BTN, The mtn., Pac-12 Networks and SEC Network.  None were created with the exact same specifications and when it comes to the profitability of these networks for the conferences and any network partners attached to them, there is a lot of variability.

When you look straight up at the ownership of the four there's a fair amount of uniqueness to them:
  • BTN started out as a 51-49 partnership between the Big Ten and FOX Cable Networks with the conference originally having the controlling interest. A few years the controlling interest flipped to FOX.
  • The mtn. was a 50-50 partnership between CSTV, then later CBS and Comcast.  It was a piece of the conference's rights agreement with CSTV.  The MWC never had any equity in the network.
  • The Pac-12 Networks have no equity partners.  The conference owns the network in full.
  • The SEC Network is owned by ESPN and is an extension of their cable rights agreement with the SEC.
The controlling interest sometimes correlates to the profitability of the network and, by extension, any profits that are directly received by the conferences.  We know the mtn. had a ton of struggles when it came to the operations of the network and that is a big reason why it no longer exists, but on the surface the conference had little risk (but took a lot of criticism), much like the SEC has little risk with their network.  Granted, the two conferences and their popularity nationally are vastly different, but the SEC isn't having to invest in the major costs of studio space, paying on-air & production staff, etc.  The SEC may have one item that the mtn. allegedly did not have for the MWC and that is the ability to share in any profits of the network.

(Yes, the SEC schools do have costs to buy equipment to produce secondary events that will not be shown on TV in most cases, but the big events will be produced & directed by ESPN)

The Pac-12 has the most exposure with respect to risk, and it did come out that the conference provided far less TV money back to its members compared to other conferences.   With no partners, they have 100% risk and have to do all their own negotiations for carriage, production costs, on-air staff, streaming equipment.  And they went with the unique dual feed for in-market customers (ie. the six RSNs plus the national feed).  The network, per the LA Times, only has 11 million subscribers out of a potential 60 million available homes.  But Larry Scott says the network has made a profit and has made some unique deals that have benefited conference members when it comes to signage in arenas and becoming official conference partners.  The deals the Pac-12 did with Dish and AT&T had those unique components and I'm not sure another conference could do that when they are tied to an entity like Disney or NewsCorp.  But I think I can understand why someone like DirecTV or Verizon FIOS, as a business, wouldn't like being second fiddle.

BTN is the hybrid where the conference and the attached network (FOX/NewsCorp) both have equity and have risk & reward, and it is the network that others look at as the reason for Pac-12 Networks & SEC Network exist and why the ACC has been working with ESPN on feasibility, etc.  But BTN had its carriage issues too

Where all of these networks seem to struggle is with the content available in football and basketball.  When it comes to football, the Pac-12 takes a lot of flak for the number of non-conference duds early in the year, especially vs. FCS opponents, but that isn't very different compared to BTN or SEC Network.  Where the Pac-12 is a little bit stuck is the directive each school received regarding when they can schedule those games, and it has been used against them, in some ways unfairly.  A few years ago, the conference collectively decided that all non-conference games should be wrapped up in the first three or four weeks of the season, with the exception of games vs. Notre Dame since USC & Stanford would usually host the Irish at the end of the year.  BYU looks like they'll be filling that role as well to help out with scheduling too.  But the Pac-12 isn't unique here either.  The Big Ten wants their non-conference wrapped up early too.  The SEC has been hands-off in this regard, which is why we usually see a week in November with a load of games vs. FCS opponents.  

In men's basketball, there is also the need for good content and a lot of that gets siphoned off in the case of the Big Ten by CBS and ESPN and a fair amount by FOX and ESPN for the Pac-12.  The SEC probably will be able to shift content in basketball to the conference network, much like it will for football, though CBS will continue to get a small cut of games.  Basketball is different though as you can sometimes have a game become more important as the season evolves and the conference network has extra importance.  Where that doesn't always work is with the Big Ten where there are a few "wildcard" selections made late in the year so that CBS and ESPN can show the best available game, usually on the weekend.

So that leads me into the future and that being the possibility of an ACC Network since the Big 12 has went the route of returning content back to the schools to sell as they please.  The ACC is even more tethered to ESPN and that could certainly help from a content standpoint as a proposed ACC Network could be built a lot like the SEC Network's content board making the decisions as to which football/basketball games air on the network, but without ceding the top football game each week and a handful of basketball games to CBS. But ESPN made different deals for sublicensing and it was done at a time when the ESPN was supposedly concerned about syndication of both the SEC and ACC in common markets, so they sublicensed the both the over-the-air syndication & regional cable packages to Raycom, where with the SEC packages they only passed along the regional cable rights to Comcast & FOX. 

And it isn't just that the content was sublicensed, it was the length of the sublicensing agreement with Raycom (allegedly the entire length of the ACC's rights agreement with ESPN) compared to the SEC where the sublicense agreement length for Comcast was five years and with FOX for six years.   That provided the SEC and ESPN the flexibility to change directions on a conference network as the original deal with ESPN was to keep the SEC from moving towards a conference branded network.  For the ACC to go to a conference network, it now falls in the hands of not just ESPN, but in the hands of Raycom and maybe FOX too since FOX may have been sublicensed the control of the regional cable package.  I'm not 100% sure how the management of the RSN package works.  Supposedly the dollar figure for the ACC rights agreement would be increased if ESPN felt that the feasibility of a network was not worth the risk instead of starting a network with similar revenue distribution terms as ESPN and the SEC have (ie. 50-50 profit split).  To buy out Raycom or FOX for over a decade of future content, or maybe take them in as partners, might not be desirable for ESPN.  Or maybe the cost is worth it.  I'm not sure if Raycom kicked in any additional money when the ACC rights agreement changed due to the addition of Pittsburgh & Syracuse.  Raycom did get additional games in the RSN package for football and in both packages for men's basketball.

One other item could be factored - mergers/acquisitions in the pay TV industry.  DirecTV being purchased by AT&T, Comcast purchasing Time Warner Cable, Charter re-configuring itself as part of Comcast's TWC purchase, who would negotiate for Bright House Networks (would it even exist?) and a new company being formed out of a portion of the customers from Charter, TWC and Comcast to satisfy regulatory concerns.  These are all items to be factored in.  Disney completed negotiations with Comcast in '12 and for SEC Network in '14.  They completed deals with Dish for all Disney properties earlier this year.  They are working with DirecTV right now and in the case of AT&T, they completed an agreement for Disney in '13.  What is the appetite of both parties to occupy sides of a table and make another deal?  You can look at services like WatchESPN typically not being available to providers until they sign on for a new deal with Disney and wonder if something wouldn't be five or six years down the road.

That's all I have.  More than welcome to take your comments on this one.  I haven't done many articles like these lately, so I figured it was about time to do one.  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SEC Network & DirecTV: Will you have it?

* As you probably saw, Verizon FIOS is the last big holdout for the SEC Network.  DirecTV agreed to carry the channel at launch.

What wasn't 100% set in stone were the following

  • What programming package is needed to view the network outside of SEC states?
  • If you want to watch the digital exclusives, is that possible right now or is WatchESPN required?
    • And if it is required, is DirecTV working on it?
USA Today reported that SEC states, which I'm told will include all of Texas and Missouri and not just targeted areas in those two states, need the Choice package.  A decision needs to be made for non-SEC states.  

So the 80-90 million number being thrown around is that it is available to that many homes.  Available.  Key word.  CBS Sports Network uses it when they say their network is available to 99 million homes.  Available does not equal subscribers.  The PR folks know this I assume and they aren't being misleading, but I think this is an item being conflated by a lot of writers.  An example is that CBSSN is supposedly subscribed to by around 54 million of those 99 million homes.  Pac-12 Networks are in 11 million subscribed homes out of 60 million & BTN in 57 million of 90 million available homes, per the Los Angeles Times.

Dish & AT&T set a high bar of making the channel available in national packages, but every programmer is free to negotiate their own deal, especially if you are a cable company that doesn't have a large footprint in SEC states or if you are going to be downsizing your footprint through merger/acquisition.  DirecTV is closer to Dish than a cable company, but I am interested to see how they provide the channel, especially when you look at how they carry BTN to nearly all customers.

Re: WatchESPN - it was presented to me that WatchESPN had to be agreed upon to add the SEC Network.  While it wasn't mentioned in the releases on Monday, I would not be surprised if terms around the product were agreed upon and waiting for signoffs.

What is more crucial re: WatchESPN is how quickly they can integrate DirecTV as an authenticated partner once an agreement is announced, if it isn't being worked on already.  Usually when companies announce authentication agreements, like Time Warner with FOX Sports Go or AT&T with Pac-12 Networks as examples, the ability to log on to the app takes a few weeks to be integrated.  I don't know if there is an authentication standard used by TV networks & pay TV providers or if each sets their own standards.

Last, but not least is that WatchESPN could be on hold until DirecTV finishes an agreement for all Disney properties.  Not just the sports ones.  All of them.  Dish's agreement with Disney is what DirecTV is working towards completing.