Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roundup on Rights: C-USA, ACC & Big Ten

* Credit goes to CUSABBS on this one.  Southern Miss AD Bill McGillis was interviewed recently and noted that C-USA's TV partners have until April 1st to select and move any games to weeknights, and that's interesting on two fronts:

1) C-USA has TV partners for next year, which he did not name.  That tells me that a deal has been completed.

2) April 1st has typically been the date where FOX Sports and CBSSN had to finalize its planned weeknight games, though who would be televising the games would be withheld.

Since the conference has yet to announce any formal plans for television next year, it is possible that they elected to go with a short term deal or extension with all partners. Also possible that any finalized weeknight games on or around April 1st will include an announcement about future TV partners.

* Joe Ovies had an interesting discussion regarding the possibility of an ACC 24/7 channel with commissioner John Swofford.  Also touched on during the interview was the long-rumored item that the ACC, at some point, will earn an automatic rights fee bump in the event ESPN doesn't start a dedicated channel during the period covered by the current television contract.

I've personally believed that an ACC channel will cost more to get off the ground because of the amount of content sold to Raycom for the life of the current TV deal, or cutting them (and FOX?) in with equity, provided that the deal has not been shortened behind the scenes or has a buyout price to end it.  Consider that around 30 football games and 80 men's basketball games, plus baseball, women's basketball and other sports are aired either through syndication or regional cable distribution.  Presumably, the simulcasts of the ACC men's basketball tournament and the first Duke vs. North Carolina basketball games would end too.

* Sports Business Journal reports that ESPN and the Big Ten recently met, with the conference informing ESPN that they would be looking to take their rights to the open market.  Presumably, a first offer/first refusal clause was in place, allowing ESPN to name a price &, possibly, contractual format (ie. games on OTA vs. pay TV, etc.) that they would be willing to match.  If you remember, ESPN held this option with the American Athletic Conference when they matched NBC Sports' offer.   Be aware that when the conference started marketing those rights, they had a planned membership that was different from the membership that was constructed when the deal was signed.  This clause appears to have also been the sticking point when ESPN sued Conference USA.

I do not know if the CBS basketball contract will go to the open market as well.  I assume it has separate clauses.

I wrote up a pair of items almost a year ago on the Big Ten.  Since then, we've seen buyouts, cutbacks, cord cuts/shaves and an overall decrease in the number of subscribing homes to many pay TV channels per Nielsen measurements.  How much weight should be given to those items and what can & will be offered by a network group remains to be seen.  Presumably, the conference has an idea on what will be offered on the open market and did not make this decision blindly.

Based on the 2014 & 2015 seasons, which were the two seasons at 14 member schools in football and men's basketball, it looks like around 55-58 football games from ESPN (around 20 on broadcast TV), the conference football championship on FOX and just under 100 men's basketball games from ESPN are up for bid, along with other sports events.  Also not up for bid is content currently on BTN, which has a 25 year agreement with the conference.

One possible item to consider is that the conference will look to sync up both the primary and BTN deals so that they expire at the same time.  It is possible that a new deal will target an expiration date of the completion of the 2031-32 athletic year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Units earned by conference in the 2016 NCAA MBK Tournament

Have tracked this the last couple years.  Here's some information from last year on how much a unit pays out over a six year period.

Since they tournament starts tonight, 68 units have been earned, simply by qualifying for the tournament as an at-large or conference champion.  A unit is earned for each game played, except for the national championship game.  Essentially the unit count is frozen once the Final Four is set.  A win in the First Four is no different than a credit earned at any other time.

The conferences listed are those who have earned more than one credit.  This will be updated upon the close of games each night or the following morning.

ACC - 25
American - 5
Atlantic 10 - 5
Atlantic Sun - 2
Big 12 - 16
Big East - 12
Big Ten - 15
Big West - 2
C-USA - 2
Ivy League - 2
Missouri Valley - 5
Pac-12 - 11
Patriot League - 2
SEC - 6
Southland - 2
Sun Belt - 2
WCC - 3

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Who can carry the Ivy League basketball tourneys & a C-USA non-update

* C-USA's future rights are still a bit of a mystery.  The CUSABBS account noted a column from the Charleston Gazette-Mail's Mitch Vingle saying that FOX Sports did not bid on C-USA football, but it was more of a passing mention compared to Harry Minium's report for the Virginian-Pilot that FOX Sports and CBS Sports Network were going to continue as rightsholders, which was sourced from reps at three C-USA schools.

I don't know if lawyers from C-USA and the aforementioned television partners are finalizing language, or if C-USA is indeed moving on and working with, say, Sinclair's American Sports Network, as a single rightsholder.  C-USA could also be making sure they dot every "i" and cross every "t" since the last time their rights were up for bid a lawsuit was filed, when the FOX Sports deal came out of nowhere after everyone assumed the ESPN deal was being completed.

I looked for media interviews with C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod this week and the only one I found was with Birmingham's WJOX and it, understandably, focused on UAB and nothing was asked about future TV rights.

* The Ivy League has relented and added a four school tournament in both men's and women's basketball starting next season, a Saturday-Sunday event at the Palestra in Philadelphia, and that location is a stroke of genius.  Anyways, I've always held the belief that the conference doesn't need TV money to balance budgets in athletics, though I doubt they'd turn it down either.  So who would televise future Ivy League tournaments?  It's hard to say.  The championship game would on Selection Sunday.  Looking at the existing networks on the comparable date in 2017 using 2016 games, plus the knowledge that the Pac-12 championship will be on ESPN, here's Saturday:

ABC - Evening NBA
ESPN - SEC semis & three P5 MBK championships (ACC, Big 12, Pac-12)
ESPN2 - American semis & five championships (America East, MEAC, MAC, Southland, Big West)
ESPNU - One WBK final (WAC), three MBK finals (WAC, SWAC & Big Sky) & two men's lacrosse games

FOX - NASCAR Xfinity Racing & Big East MBK championship
FS1 - Live NASCAR practices & qualifying, C-USA MBK championship, Formula E Racing, AMA Supercross.
FS2 - Bundesliga & FA Cup.  Most of evening was rerun programming.

NBC - PGA golf & EPL replay (could be live EPL in 2017)
NBCSN - Live Premier League in the morning, auto auctions, Premiership Rugby, cycling & other various taped programming.

CBS - Big Ten semis & MW championship
CBSSN - A-10 MBK semis & two WBK finals (Patriot League & C-USA)

Sunday would be a tad more constricted, but there are options for the final

ABC - IndyCar & afternoon NBA
ESPN - SEC & American championships
ESPN2 - Sun Belt championship
ESPNU - Two WBK finals (Horizon League & NEC)

FOX - NASCAR in mid-afternoon
FS1 - FA Cup & NASCAR pre-race
FS2 - Bundesliga & CONCACAF U-17 3rd place & championship

NBCSN - EPL and auto auctions

CBS - A-10 & Big Ten finals
CBSSN - Southland WBK final & taped/studio programming

If I were to guess, here's some potential options

ABC & ESPN Networks - WBK on ESPN3 with final on ESPN3 or ESPNEWS. Men's semifinals on ESPN3 or ESPNEWS with the final on ESPN2 after the Sun Belt.

FOX Sports - There's a dependency as to whether FOX would continue with C-USA.  FS1 did budget for an Ivy League playoff this season and it would have followed the C-USA final and, presumably, the Formula E race would have aired on FS2.   Two possibilities:

  1. If C-USA sticks around: One MBK semi on FS2, one on FS1. MBK final on FS1 after NASCAR pre-race (2:30pm ET). 
  2. If C-USA is gone: Both MBK semis and the final on FS1. 
WBK could air on FS2, FSGo or remain in the hands of the conference for Ivy League Digital Network.  FSN isn't really an option for the Ivies because several of the schools reside in areas where there isn't a full-time FSN affiliate.  FOX could work to clear games on NESN, CSN New England or CSN Philly but if they wanted to have their games syndicated, ASN could be a better proposition, though there were times that ASN didn't air some Ivy League games live in home markets, such as a couple Columbia games airing delayed.

FOX College Sports has also carried Ivy League football in recent season, but I believe a championship event like this would be out of the question as an exclusive on that suite of channels.

NBCSN, to me, is a real option.  Has an open slate in the middle of the afternoon.  Might be the best option.

CBSSN seems to be out, unless they were to take only a championship game and leave the other games with the conference to do what they want.  C-USA is also a consideration here and maybe CBSSN could take on game on Saturday and Sunday if C-USA moves elsewhere.

What also isn't known here is if a conference would shift their dates to earlier to carve out a spot for the Ivy League, or if there's a dark horse, like Turner Sports, who could bid on something like this.

Your thoughts?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Odds & Sods

* The Sun Belt released their schedule on March 3rd and noted in the release that one more game would be set aside for a Thursday or Friday night game on ESPN or ESPNU.  If they are considering a non-conference game, Boise St. at UL-Lafayette or Miami (FL) at Appalachian St. could be moved.

Boise St.at ULL could easily fit on the opening Thursday or Friday night on ESPNU, or potentially leading into a Pac-12 game on ESPN on Friday if ESPN selects either Kansas St. at Stanford or Colorado St. vs. Colorado.  As for Miami (FL) at Appalachian St., ESPN currently does not have a Friday night game on 9/16 and no other games have been moved to a weeknight.

It is also possible that the final move involves the finalization of the Arkansas St. at Georgia St. game, which will be determined once the NFL schedule is set in April.  Depending on the date of the Georgia St. game, ESPN could move another Sun Belt game to either Thursday or Friday to air on ESPNU.

* Mountain West schedules showed up on 3/2 with two weeknight games already set for ESPN with two Boise St. home games moving (BYU to Thursday 10/20, UNLV to Friday 11/18).

The BYU game could end up as a doubleheader with Miami (FL) at Virginia Tech, though they might want to start the ACC game a bit earlier to allow for BYU at Boise St. to start around 8pm Mountain Time.  They could show the game on ESPN2 as well with an earlier start time.  UNLV's visit will likely be after college basketball games as ESPN has carried games from the 2K Sports Classic around this Friday previously.  In those cases, ESPN2 usually shows a Mountain West or Pac-12 game following basketball.

As the conference noted, both ESPN and CBSSN will start working to move some games to Thursday and Friday nights.  Those moves have been announced in mid-April in prior seasons along with the networks televising the games.

* Army at Temple moving to Friday 9/2 is the 3rd Friday night game for CBSSN for 2016, as they'll also have games on 11/4 (Central Michigan at Miami (OH)) and 11/18 (Memphis at Cincinnati).  I believe 11/11 will remain open for the possibility of another Veterans' Classic men's basketball event, especially since it would fall on Veterans' Day.  Also, the start time for Memphis at Cincinnati should be determined once start times for the Paradise Jam are set, assuming CBSSN will be carrying the event again.

* Right now, the following openings exist in the ESPN/ESPN2 Thursday & Friday schedules:

  • 9/1: Options include Oregon St. at Minnesosa and South Carolina at Vanderbilt
  • 9/8: Should be closed due to US Open Women's Semifinals
  • 11/3: Oklahoma at Iowa St. and UCLA at Colorado are available
  • 11/24: LSU at Texas A&M
As mentioned above, a doubleheader could happen on 10/20, along with the potential for one on 10/27 with California at USC being available along with Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh already on ESPN.  On 10/29/15, a comparable date last season, North Carolina at Pittsburgh and Oregon at Arizona St. were a doubleheader on ESPN.

  • 9/2: Two primary options are Kansas St. at Stanford and Colorado St. vs. Colorado
  • 9/16: No games have been moved to this date
  • 9/30: Toledo at BYU and Stanford at Washington are available
* Last but not least, the Riviera Division of the Cancun Challenge was announced and once again, CBSSN will be televising that portion of the event.