Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Notes re: C-USA Rights Update

First, read Harry Minium's piece at PilotOnline.  He did the legwork.  The basis of my thoughts are from his article.
* I assume the reason things need to be nailed down sooner rather than later when it comes to C-USA is due to the release of football schedules.  The last two years the base schedules have been released at the beginning of February.  After that, TV partners start to play with the schedule and requests for any weeknight games are usually done.

* I am slightly surprised to see CBS Sports Network staying with C-USA.   I am curious as to what level of coverage they will be required to provide.  I wrote in January of last year that CBSSN's declining coverage of the conference might mean they are on the way out, plus the sublicense agreements with the American (seven members of C-USA in 2011 when that deal was signed) and the MAC, but it appears they've been convinced to stay around in some fashion.  Men's basketball might be the place where CBS Sports Network can work with C-USA more, provided they stay on the Thursday-Saturday scheduling format.

* Regarding FOX - one of the items cited in the original deal was cross-conference opportunities.  The implication was, in my opinion, with the Big 12, though series with Pac-12, ACC and SEC schools were also in place with the latter two having games on FSN through sublicensing agreements:

During that time, I counted 18 games that FOX aired on to either FSN, F/X or FS1 where a C-USA member hosted a school from one of those four conferences.  That doesn't include Big Ten schools, where FOX has a relationship through BTN.  Other C-USA games from these conferences were also televised by CBS Sports Network and ASN and they had choices.  

In 2011 alone, the following schools visited C-USA schools and had games either on FOX platforms or CBSSN (we can quibble later on how good these programs were):

Mississippi St. (2X)
Virginia Tech (2X)
Boston College
Oklahoma St.
North Carolina

2012 had a visit from the eventual Heisman winner (Texas A&M at SMU) and the school who was co-champ of the Big 12 (Oklahoma at UTEP), plus visits by Ole Miss, Missouri, UCLA, Rutgers and Louisville.

2015 had the following Power Five visitors: Mississippi St., Purdue, Miami (FL), Kansas St., Vanderbilt, NC State.  And that's over 13 schools in competition compared to 12 in 2011 & 2012.

Looking over 2016 - 2018, as the conference's footprint has spread out, the number of series with Big 12 schools has dropped (going to nine conference games for the Big 12 hurts others in this case) and overall the number of schools willing to travel to C-USA schools, or in some cases the quality of schools, has decreased using's listing of future schedules.  To be clear, some of those schools are still working out schedules for those years.  Knowing your TV partner always helps when you need a favor and a Power Five school doesn't want a second FCS school on their schedule.

EDIT: For completeness, here's the Power 5 visitors in 2016 - Indiana at FIU, Maryland at FIU, Louisville at Marshall, Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky, Baylor at Rice, Arizona St. at UTSA.  Same count as 2015.

There's also the school of thought that the goal now is to rack up the wins to get the best available Group of Five conference champion ranking and that doesn't always mean challenging yourself out of conference.

In any case, the drop in the quality of non-conference opponents hurts C-USA.  For example, a Charlotte at North Carolina series may mean nothing to ESPN as the ACC rightsholder, but it may be the highest profile game to a C-USA rightsholder when its UNC playing at Charlotte.

* It is a bit surprising, maybe commendable, that all TV rightsholders continued to pay the full rate in 2015 for the conference they signed up in 2011.  The previous ESPN contract did allow for a prorated decrease if a school was unable to compete in a sport, such as UAB's football withdrawal.  In either case, the composition of the conference changed a lot.  

* I can't envision ASN, if it is to remain a rightsholder, continuing to get events for free.  If C-USA and other conferences were given a trial run with ASN, in my mind, it has to command a rights fee for its content.  

Harry touched on streaming and how cord cutting has affected ESPN, but C-USA hasn't followed into that area with as much success.  At a minimum, C-USA needs to work with all TV partners to figure out streaming or figure out a way where it can own streaming rights to games where the TV partner can't stream into an area (ie. no FSN in an area, lack of FSN programming or lack of streaming through provider).  ASN and CBSSN have regressed in streaming over time with ASN not streaming any basketball games live this year and CBSSN not streaming anything, with the exception of Army and Navy football, since the CSTV days.  This is 2016, not 2011.  

FOX has recently agreed to a deal to with the National Lacrosse League to carry webcasts of 50 games for free with no TV subscription required.  Besides theses events, along with some stream sharing with IMSA for sportscar racing & the USGA for its live events, plus the Big East Digital Network, FOX could be starting to work on a build-out of digital exclusives and a move of the C-USA Digital Network could fit here.


Serge said...

One thing I didn't see on your text Matt is regarding the C-USA Championship Game; I expect it to go to FS1, unless ESPN still has a right-of-first-refusal over it.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

That is my impression as well. I'm unsure if ESPN has an actual contract with C-USA for the game or if it was a sublicense from FOX to ESPN that didn't involve anything going back to FOX.

With the news of a Big 12 title game possibly being held in 2016 if it is agreed upon and the conference determines whether to go with a neutral site or top seed as host, that may or may not complicate things.