Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Random commentary on bowls, TV contracts, etc.

* Have come across a couple responses back at me regarding the TV coverage, or lack of it, for the Arizona Bowl.   But isn't this part of hitting the saturation point for a product?

I'm fully aware that some of you will embrace and watch every bowl, and that you can't get enough of them because its college football.  That's fine, that's your prerogative.  But at the same time, what value do you put on those bowl games, or what value should be put on those games?  If you consider them strictly exhibitions, should we care that a game has went back to the syndication model & having trouble being cleared in some markets, albeit with a free streaming option?  Isn't that the market determining the value of said bowl?  Or if we stamp it with it airing on ESPN or ESPN2 does it increase the value because of its status as the go-to network for nearly every bowl game?

I remarked before that bowl season can be a time that a game that only fans of the competing schools would watch on ESPN3 in week two, yet becomes a game in mid-December that draws a 1.2 rating.  I probably took some liberties on that, but I don't believe its far off because of how there are 50-60+ games a week with probably 15-20 running at the same time, either with the same or staggered start times.

* I don't know the status of C-USA's rights agreement negotiations, but I admit that I'm not beating down the door for info because it doesn't pay to do that anymore.  I still believe that CBS Sports Network may be moving on, or drastically scaling back at least in football, with the sublicensing they've done from ESPN for other conferences' content and how those agreements feel like they would overlap with places where C-USA content resides.

I am curious if C-USA will be broadening its agreement with Sinclair's American Sports Network, maybe even taking on primary rights.  A show labeled "C-USA Spotlight" is now appearing on ASN's schedules starting in January and I assume it is similar to the show ASN produces for the Atlantic 10.  FOX Sports has aired "C-USA Showcase" over the life of its TV contract and it wouldn't be the first time a conference has had a magazine show from two separate rightsholders, with both ESPN and FOX Sports producing Big 12 shows.

ASN is also the TV rightsholder for the previously mentioned Arizona Bowl and C-USA would have provided a school to the bowl had there been enough eligible schools from the conference.  The bowl's digital rightholder, Silver Chalice's Campus Insiders, might make sense to take on C-USA's digital assets from CBS Sports' College Sports Live product, similar to their work with the Mountain West as C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod has been open about the conference trying new distribution methods and a need to increase the conference's profile in men's basketball.

* I am also curious to see who exactly is pushing the Ivy League to add a men's basketball tournament.  FOX Sports has picked up three regular season games from the conference and will air this year's playoff game if it is needed.  Incidentally, its the same number of C-USA controlled regular season games that will air on FS1, though C-USA allows its games to air on other FOX platforms such as their regional networks.

CBS Sports Network aired Ivy League games last year and could have room if they do not keep the C-USA semifinals.  ASN aired the game in 2014 with an ESPN3 simulcast and they are also airing Ivy League basketball again this year.

One item that I wasn't aware of, or just didn't consider, is that the NIT doesn't have to take a representative from the Ivy League in the event there are two schools that are tied for first in the standings.  Suppose this makes sense though as I think other conferences are in the same boat, regardless of whether they use divisions or not, and since the Ivy League uses the playoff instead of head-to-head tiebreakers, they truly only crown an outright champion in the regular season.  By going to a tournament, the conference could potentially claim an NIT automatic bid if the regular season champion loses in a tournament.

I've always believed that the Ivy League schools have leverage with respect to money when it comes to athletics.  In short, they don't need television money to fund athletic programs because they are so self-sufficient as schools with their endowments and a perception that athletics are secondary.  If they decide to move into the realm of a conference tournament, even if its a four team tournament or just between the top two schools (maybe a best of three like the CBI?), maybe they'll reconsider their stance on playing in the FCS playoffs.  Or not.

I'm not sure I want the Ivy League to change though, at least in men's basketball.  I like the fact that conference play, the "14 game tournament", means something and that they haven't, so far, taken the money of a conference tournament or championship game.  If they do, my only hope is that if they decide on a championship is that the Palestra is the place to play it.

* When I go through the listings for men's basketball games on ESPN College Extra, I'm extremely underwhelmed.  Sure, I get that so many conferences have elected to start their own networks that it has left ESPN largely devoid of content to put on the former Game Plan & Full Court packages.  But, at least on the basketball side, the only games that are being placed on the package are games that are being televised either locally or regionally, which is different from the football side where ESPN3 exclusives did end up on College Extra.

I guess no one should complain since they're giving away the package as long as you buy the right tiered package from your TV provider, though if you were expecting a step up and hoping for HD quality, you're not getting it from most providers and might be better off investing in a Roku, Chromecast or Apple TV that can push ESPN3 content directly to your TV screen.

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