Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FOX Sports 2 & Distribution for College Sports

Going back through a few items, some related to the Big Ten rights negotiations upcoming in the next year.  The rights that are housed in BTN aren't up for negotiation, but the rest will be and there is the belief that FOX will be active in acquiring a portion of the rights they currently don't have.

Besides the college football that FOX Sports 1 already carries, there is also MLB, NASCAR and UFC that the network carries on Saturdays, so it is rare for the network to have just college football shown on a particular Saturday.  So the focus comes to FOX Sports 2, which doesn't have the distribution number that FS1 has.  Typically FS2 is on a different tier from FS1 or it might not be carried at all.  FS2 was subscribed to in around 33-37 million homes coming into the year compared to around 85-90 million for FS1, so there is a big gap.

For the Big 12Pac-12 & C-USA content that FOX has rights to, there are differences that FOX can exploit.  These come from press releases, not actual contracts, so we don't know the exact language being specified.  Many of these press releases listed FX or FSN as well, but FS1 is more or less a direct replacement for F/X when it comes to FOX's national sports content.

It is probably easier to exploit the Big 12's and C-USA's contract provisions.  Both conferences place games on FSN and FOX College Sports.  The Big 12 has a very low minimum number of just six games on a national cable outlet, so their agreement may have been built to be flexible with a secondary outlet or FSN in mind.  C-USA's agreement may be built to be flexible.  I'm less certain about the Pac-12.

But the ability to schedule a game for a particular outlet may require FOX to guarantee a level of distribution for that channel.  Could be why FOX still puts a decent number of Big 12 & C-USA football on FSN instead of FS2.  

So I ask you - if you were a conference commissioner negotiating rights for a conference and FOX wanted to move games to a secondary outlet like FS2, what would be the minimum number of subscribing homes you could accept nationally?  Does it have to be 1-for-1 with FOX Sports 1?  Can it be closer to ESPNU (~75 million homes) or lower like CBSSN (~60 million) or BTN (~59 million)?

And this isn't saying the network can't grow from there.  Doesn't have to be a big time game either, but what is that minimum that you would accept to schedule a game over there?


Unknown said...

Regarding your discussion of flexibility of distribution, the Pac-12 press release for their contract with Fox Sports Media Group stated that football would be national distribution. The release didn't mention a specific number but that is why Pac-12 football was telecast on FX rather than FSN until the lauch of FS1. Also, that is why the Oregon St vs Utah football game on October 16 that conflicted with the NLCS game 5 was not simply moved to FS2, but was also simulcast on Pac-12 Network and syndicated on local MyNet affiliates in Oregon and Utah. What ever the minimum carriage is FS2 still doesn't qualify.

Unknown said...

Regarding your comment about the network growing from their, I remember about a decade ago the Big 12 signed a new contract with ESPN that placed a significant number of basketball games on the then fledgling ESPNU rather than on the ESPN managed Big 12 Network syndication package. The Big 12 made a statement that they were partnering with ESPN to help grow that network. Now ESPNU has 75 million subscribers. I expect FS2 can go through the same growth. The question is will the Big Ten or any other content provider be willing to go through the growing pains.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I think that helped, as the ACC & Big East were also placing more games on there at the time. The thing that also helped was cable/satellite companies who were given an option to trade the placement of ESPN Classic for ESPNU, presumably with no change in pricing.

Unknown said...

I say there's no reason why FS2 doesn't have the same distribution numbers-wise as FS1. If conferences like Big East (Basketball), Big Ten (if FOX gets a piece of their games) & Pac-12 worked together to put some games on FS2, it might help grow the distribution numbers.