Saturday, April 30, 2016

Notes from Mountain West 2016 CFB TV Releases

Mountain West controlled TV schedule

* 29 Games are available for ROOT Sports and Campus Insiders to form their game packages.  After that, both CBSSN and ESPN can come back and choose two more games each if they want.  In 2015, Tulsa at New Mexico on ESPN3 was the only choice made after ROOT Sports and CI chose their league-wide packages.

* Eight Hawai'i games are available for their Oceanic Cable pay-per-view package:

9/10 vs. UT Martin
10/1 vs. Nevada
10/8 at San Jose St.
10/15 vs. UNLV
10/22 at Air Force
10/29 vs. New Mexico
11/19 at Fresno St.
11/26 vs. Massachusetts

Last year, ROOT and Oceanic Cable provided separate productions of Hawai'i's road game at New Mexico, so I think its reasonable to believe that the road game at Air Force could end up on ROOT & be a PPV game on the islands.  The other seven should be PPV exclusive with the webcast of the game on Campus Insiders for the mainland.  That leads me to...

* So which games are likely to air on ROOT Sports and Campus Insiders, specifically Campus Insiders produced vs. school productions?  Here's what I'm thinking.  Note that some schools could not or elected to not produce their own webcasts last season, which is possible this year too:

Jackson St. at UNLV09/01/2016CI (School Produced)
Weber St. at Utah St.09/01/2016CI (School Produced)
Cal Poly at Nevada09/02/2016CI (School Produced)
New Hampshire at San Diego St.09/03/2016Campus Insiders
Abilene Christian at Air Force09/03/2016ROOT Sports
South Dakota at New Mexico09/03/2016CI (School Produced)
Georgia St. at Air Force09/10/2016ROOT Sports (RM only due to Mariners)
UTSA at Colorado St.09/10/2016Campus Insiders
Sacramento St. at Fresno St.09/10/2016CI (School Produced)
UT Martin at Hawai'i09/10/2016Oceanic PPV
Portland St. at San Jose St.09/10/2016CI (School Produced)
Northern Colorado at Colorado St.09/17/2016CI (School Produced)
Arkansas St. at Utah St.09/17/2016ROOT Sports
Buffalo at Nevada09/17/2016Campus Insiders
UC Davis at Wyoming09/17/2016CI (School Produced)
Idaho at UNLV09/24/2016Campus Insiders
San Jose St. at New Mexico10/01/2016Campus Insiders
Nevada at Hawai'i10/01/2016Oceanic PPV
Hawai'i at San Jose St.10/08/2016Oceanic PPV
Air Force at Wyoming10/08/2016ROOT Sports
UNLV at Hawai'i10/15/2016Oceanic PPV
UL-Monroe at New Mexico10/22/2016Campus Insiders
Hawai'i at Air Force10/22/2016ROOT Sports / Oceanic PPV
Colorado St. at UNLV10/22/2016Campus Insiders
New Mexico at Hawai'i10/29/2016Oceanic PPV
Fresno St. at Colorado St.11/05/2016ROOT Sports
Wyoming at UNLV11/12/2016ROOT Sports
Hawai'i at Fresno St.11/19/2016Oceanic PPV
Massachusetts at Hawai'i11/26/2016Oceanic PPV

* As a few of you noted. the Mountain West's Saturday schedule on CBSSN is slanted heavily toward games starting after 10pm ET / 8pm MT / 7pm PT.  For those of you who are fans of schools in the American & the MAC, plus potentially C-USA if their games remain with CBSSN, here's a look at the available TV windows.  

* CBSSN and ESPN did not trade any Mountain West controlled Boise St. football games.  They are allowed a swap of one game each.

* The CBSSN telecast of Boise St. at Hawai'i starting at 1pm HT / 4pm MT / 6pm ET on 11/12 seems odd, especially with an hour break until the next game (San Diego St. at Nevada).  I don't know if a mistake was made with respect to accounting for when Daylight Savings Time ends (Sunday 11/6) or if CBSSN plans to air something other than football once the Tulsa at Navy game ends, as Hawai'i does not observe DST.  There would be roughly 2.5 hours between the games, so its possible they would be showing a basketball game since it is in season at that point.

* The two hour break between the end of San Jose St. at Fresno St. & the start of Colorado St. at San Diego St. on 11/26 does follow a pattern that CBSSN employed last year.  At 7pm ET last year the championship of the Emerald Coast Classic aired and the championship of the Great Alaska Shootout aired following the 9pm ET start of Colorado St. at Fresno St. in 2015.  Expect the same again this season.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TV Guesses for '16 Big 12, Pac-12 & C-USA (??) Weeknight FB Games

Last year, I tried placing the outlets of the weeknight games hosted by the Big 12, C-USA and the Pac-12.  C-USA's rightholders for '16 aren't yet known, but I'm going to lump them in here and assume they're still going to end up with American Sports Network, FOX Sports & CBS Sports Network, though there's a real chance that one or more of those outlets will be on the outside looking in (more on that later).

Here are the games.  Apologies for the font change.  Needed to fit everything in.

Game Date  Options
Southern Utah at Utah 9/1/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Indiana at FIU 9/1/2016  FOX Sports, ASN or CBS Sports Network
Rice at Western Kentucky 9/1/2016  FOX Sports, ASN or CBS Sports Network
Kansas St. at Stanford 9/2/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Colorado St. vs. Colorado 9/2/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Maryland at FIU 9/9/2016  FOX Sports, ASN or CBS Sports Network
Arizona St. at UTSA 9/16/2016  FOX Sports, ASN or CBS Sports Network
USC at Utah 9/23/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Kansas at Texas Tech 9/29/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or FSN
Stanford at Washington 9/30/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech 10/6/2016  FOX Sports, ASN or CBS Sports Network
Oregon at California 10/21/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
California at USC 10/27/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Oklahoma at Iowa St. 11/3/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or FSN
UCLA at Colorado 11/3/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Utah at Arizona St. 11/10/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Baylor vs. Texas Tech 11/25/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or FSN
TCU at Texas 11/25/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or FSN
Washington at Washington St. 11/25/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Arizona St. at Arizona 11/25/2016  ESPN Networks, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss 11/25/2016  FOX Sports, ASN or CBS Sports Network

Here's where I think the games are going to air, alongside any conflicts that would preclude another network.  At the moment, I don't think any games will air on FS2 from C-USA or the Big 12:

Game My TV Option Guess  Notes
Southern Utah at Utah Pac-12 Networks  Low game on the totem pole for that night
Indiana at FIU FS1  First C-USA controlled game to change date
Rice at Western Kentucky CBSSN  Moved later by 2nd (??) TV partner
Kansas St. at Stanford ESPN  If ESPN or FS1 bids to show USMNT road WC qualifer (unlikely), could air on P12 Nets
Colorado St. vs. Colorado FS1  See above
Maryland at FIU FS1  2nd C-USA game moved to weeknight
Arizona St. at UTSA CBSSN  FS1 is scheduled for a NASCAR Trucks race on Friday night
USC at Utah FS1  ESPN has TCU-SMU, airs after ARCA racing
Kansas at Texas Tech FS1  ESPN has UConn-UH
Stanford at Washington ESPN  If Toledo at BYU on ESPN, could air on FS1 or Pac-12 Networks
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech CBSSN  Moved later by 2nd (??) TV partner, potential MLB NLDS conflict with FS1
Oregon at California FS1  Could air on ESPN as doubleheader w/USF-Temple if MLB NLCS  conflict
California at USC FS1  FS1 has aired game on WS off day 2 of last 3 yrs (if its an off day)
Oklahoma at Iowa St. FS1  FS1 has aired game on post WS Thursday 2 of last 3 yrs
UCLA at Colorado ESPN  CU will probably insist on start time no later than 7pm local time
Utah at Arizona St. FS1  After DST ends.  ESPN has UNC-Duke
Baylor vs. Texas Tech ABC/ESPN  Could be a 12 day decision
TCU at Texas FOX/FS1  Could be a 12 day decision, doubleheader w/Pac-12 on FS1 or FOX
Washington at Washington St. FOX/FS1  One on FS1, the other on FOX
Arizona St. at Arizona FOX/FS1  One on FS1, the other on FOX
Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss CBSSN  Doubleheader (??) with a MAC or MW game. Could be ASN or FS1 too.

Because there has also been chatter that ESPN may be in the mix for C-USA rights (how true that is, I honestly don't know), it should be noted that ESPNU is currently open on 9/1, 9/9, 9/16 and 10/6.  ESPN is also open on 9/16 at the moment.  ESPN2 could be open on both 9/16 and 10/6 too, but should be unavailable due to other events on the other September dates (US Open tennis on both dates and Louisville at Syracuse on 9/9), though ESPN occasionally tacks on MLB games late in the season on Friday nights.  ESPNU is potentially open on 11/25 too, but there may be other football games that day in addition to men's basketball events such as the NIT Tip Off and ESPN owned events from Anaheim and Orlando.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Notes on the Future for the Big Ten and FOX Sports

A few items I found interesting about the Big Ten's potential rights agreement with FOX Sports, reported by Sports Business Journal.  Liberal use of the words "potential", "presumably" and "potentially" are by design in the notes below because the 2nd part of the primary rights are still available to other bidders.

* $250 million per year is a big number for 25 football games, 50 men's basketball games and, presumably, some women's basketball, Olympics sports, etc.  Consider that the Pac-12 will be paid in 2019 slightly north of $250 million combined from FOX and ESPN for 45 football games (44 regular season games & the conference championship game) and 68 men's basketball games (65 regular season games & three conference tournament games), per the term sheet entered as evidence as part of the Ed O'Bannon vs. NCAA lawsuit.

* Remember that the Big 12 had some fairly low guarantees in their TV deal with respect to the number of games that a FOX broadcast network and a national cable outlet had to carry on a yearly basis: Six games a year on each platform.  So after those 12 games, plus the 23 earmarked for ESPN, both FSN and FS2 could reap the rewards of additional football games.  FOX, potentially, has a full year to ramp up carriage of FS2 if this is where they plan to add some of these football games.  I'm not as big on F/X taking on any of these games since FOX didn't get everything that ESPN has today.

If more Big 12 games move to FSN, the conference that is hurt is C-USA, who is trying to wrap up rights for next athletic year and had around 13-20 games per year on FSN.  Mitch Vingle noted that FOX apparently did not bid for C-USA football, but also had sources who seemed to believe the Big Ten would be disappointed when taking their rights to the market.  If the SBJ numbers are right, $250 million per year for half the available content is 2.5X what they were making in the previous deal for all of the available content ($100 million/year from ESPN).  That doesn't yet strike me as a number to be disappointed at.

* The synergy between the Big Ten and Big East will ramp up in men's basketball.  FOX will have the potential to control all eight of the Gavitt Games each season with four on FS1 through the Big East and the prospects of all four on FS1 & BTN on the Big Ten side.   The 2018 men's basketball tournament at MSG, during the first athletic year of the new agreement, will be held the week before the Big East tournament, leading to a large part of two weeks of premium conference tournament play potentially on FOX platforms.  Conversely, how does this affect the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, or does it?  ESPN and FOX Sports split the Big 12 - Pac-12 challenge series before it ended due to conference realignment in 2011, so there is precedent for two TV partners sharing an event based on conference media rights.

CBS's sublicense for the Big East allows for up to 30 games a year for CBS and CBS Sports Network.  FOX has sent 20 their way so far.  Maybe that increases.

* Per the article, the Big Ten seems willing, and desires, to sell some rights to digital media companies if the price is right.  The Pac-12 discussed things with digital media outlets, but they didn't have the "safety net" of BTN already in place, instead using those rights to create the Pac-12 Networks.  The Big Ten is in the catbird seat to make a splash with a few events.

If we take the 25 football games and 50 men's basketball games, assume a 2nd TV partner gets an equal size package of games and use the numbers from the 2015-16 athletic year for events on ESPN and CBS (58 football games, 119 men's basketball games including conference tourney games on both networks), a digital package of eight football games and 15-20 men's basketball games in possible, maybe in conjunction with the BTN+ subscription package.

* For ABC & ESPN, this frees up space to air games from other conferences, moving games up from ESPN to ABC, ESPN2 to ESPN, ESPNU to ESPN2, etc., plus the addition of four Big 12 games starting this season.  There's also a chance that ESPN won't replace every telecast window lost on ABC, for example, and go back to only select weeks with tripleheaders.  Allegedly, there is also a decision to be made regarding an ACC branded television channel and whether ESPN would simply pay an upgraded rights fees instead of starting the channel.

* The Chicago Tribune, citing SBJ, says that CBS wants to keep its package of Big Ten basketball games, but I can't for the life of me find where that was said in the article.  Maybe it was in the context of CBS being a bidder on the remaining Big Ten primary package.

* Dan Wolken of USA Today pointed out a huge item regarding the length of the deal at six years: It allows the Big Ten to go to the market again. Instead of using a "look-in", which was how the SEC was able to get the SEC Network off the ground, the Big Ten can do the following:

1) Go back to the market to get more money in a short period of time compared to other rightsholders
2) Potentially dump any partner that may not be favorable to them with respect to production or other issues, such as scheduling.
3) Not be stuck with a rightsholder who, technologically, can't deliver games to the masses in the ways we could be consuming them in less than a decade.

An end date of 2022-23 allows the conference to go back to the market a year before the Pac-12 for both ESPN and FOX & the SEC on CBS (ending 2023-24) and two years before the Big 12 (2024-25).  For pro sports, they may also be out in the market at the same time as Major League Baseball, a FOX Sports property, has their agreement end after the 2021 season and the NFL (2022).  They should be in the market ahead of NASCAR (2024) and the NBA (2024-25).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

MBK Odds & Ends for 2016

* The Gavitt Games matchups were reported by CBS's Jon Rothstein last night:

Providence at Ohio St.
Villanova at Purdue
Seton Hall at Iowa
St. John's at Minnesota
Rutgers at DePaul
Maryland at Georgetown
Northwestern at Butler
Wisconsin at Creighton

Maryland at Georgetown was scheduled as a rematch when the 2015 games were announced.  Wisconsin at Creighton may be in doubt, per Creighton's radio play-by-play announcer, and Xavier was led to believe they'd be hosting a game and Creighton wasn't expecting to.  Marquette is out as expected.

The first four listed will air on either ESPN Networks or BTN with the last four on FS1.  I believe FOX Sports has committed to keeping the Gavitt Games matchups & not sublicensing them to CBS Sports.

Based on existing tournaments involving Villanova (Charleston) & Creighton (Paradise Jam), expect those schools' games to be played earlier in the week, assuming that the games will be played during the period of November 14-18.  Coming back to Xavier, as the article above notes, they also had limited availability due to committing to a Puerto Rico tournament.

On the Big Ten side of the house, the pattern from last year was that no school hosted a game in both the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and the Gavitt Games, nor be on the road in both.  I would assume that continues in 2016.  Last year, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchups & dates showed up in mid-May.

* Per the Gazelle Gourp website, the 2K Sports Classic from MSG will be held on Thursday, November 17th & Friday, November 18th, moving back from being held as a Friday-Sunday event in 2015.

Expect that this event, alongside other ESPN Events tournaments from Charleston & Puerto Rico, to lead into the UNLV at Boise St. game on an ESPN platform later that evening.  Likewise, the Memphis at Cincinnati game on CBSSN that evening should be played after the Paradise Jam, assuming it remains on CBSSN as it has in previous years.

Overall for exempt events in DI men's basketball, Chris Dobbertean's Blogging The Bracket post here is a very good reference.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Notre Dame at Texas TV Options

As you may have seen Friday, Notre Dame at Texas has moved from Saturday, September 3rd to Sunday, September 4th with both schools noting it would be a night game.  ESPN's Brett McMurphy, in a tweet sent out on Friday, noted that the game would be on ABC or the ESPN family of networks, but no one else (ESPN PR or the schools) was willing or able to corroborate that.  So which networks could it air on, including FOX or FS1, because they are Big 12 TV partners?

ABC or FOX - Assuming it stays in the Disney family and I don't have any reason right now to completely doubt that, ABC seems to be the most logical place.  In most years, the fall TV schedule appears after Labor Day and its an event that would seem to draw well for ABC.  Same goes for FOX, especially if they elect to bow out of airing any sports on 9/3 as FS1 will have two MLB games that day.

FS1 - Reasonable chance if McMurphy was wrong about being on a Disney network.  FS1 is scheduled to air NHRA qualifying from the US Nationals from 5-7pm ET.  MLS is off on 9/4 with games pushed to mid-week, so they should be free in the evening.

ESPN or ESPN2 - Nearly zero without some shuffling.  ESPN is expected to have an MLB game on Sunday and ESPN2 should have US Open tennis, based on last year's schedule and assuming they don't sell off a portion of the rights to another entity, as they have until last year's event and tried to last year, with no success.

ESPNU or ESPNEWS - ESPNU carried a high school football game last year on Sunday, but it ended in the early evening.  Otherwise, I think it be a waste of moving the game to air it on one of those two networks.  I doubt both Texas & Notre Dame athletic departments agreed to move the game to Sunday to have it end up on one of these networks.  I'm also unsure if ESPNEWS can air Big 12 games going into this season since 2016 is the first season of some minor parameter changes to the Big 12 football TV deals.  ESPNEWS wasn't listed in this press release from 2012, but as I've had to adjust to, press releases don't always tell the whole story.

Longhorn Network - I'd give it a reasonable chance of airing the game if it wasn't Notre Dame and they didn't have to agree to move the game too.  LHN has been an asset of Disney's that been kicked around for being a financial drain and the 800lb gorilla of the Big 12, but this would be a way to get some mileage out of that asset.  I'm also not sure that you would have anything else compelling on LHN at that time.  As much as I bet they would love to pop a huge number on the board for the network, they also have to be realistic about getting eyeballs to this game.  A LHN game that gets 2 million households is nice.  A game on ESPN that draws 3-4 million is better.

So how could LHN get access to the game?  Remember that FOX Sports is the one that selects your institutionally held game and if you don't use it, FOX Sports gets the game back.  I would be willing to guess that the UTEP game on 9/10 is the game FOX has permitted LHN to air.  From there, the Big 12, per a correspondence I had with them, has their TV partners "draft" when they'll pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc each week.  At least that's what they told me.  From there they select games for the early season & twelve day selection process starting with week four.

If ESPN was able to get access to the top choice for week one, they could have worked with both schools on the move OR worked behind the scenes before submitting the date they wanted a top choice.  If there's no place to air the game, and neither Texas nor ND could be convinced to move the game date, there's little sense to intending to draft the top game choice for a particular week.  The same goes for later in the year when FOX's MLB playoff commitments are fluid.  Either way, I don't know if there is a stipulation that the top choice in a given week has to air on either a broadcast network (ABC or FOX) or one of the primary cable platforms (ESPN, ESPN2 or FS1).

FSN, FOX College Sports or FS2 - Trying to cover all the bases since someone will point these three out as options.  To me, they fall under the same category as ESPNU or ESPNEWS, with less national viewers for FOX College Sports & FS2 compared to the two Disney networks, and FSN not really a "national" option without finding a way to strike agreements with other non-FSN affiliated regional sports networks.

FOX Sports Go or ESPN3 exclusive - Nope.  Don't think either one has the ability to air Big 12 football exclusively online at this time, at least not without extenuating circumstances.

Friday, April 8, 2016

CFB Schedule changes this week & TV related items

* Conference USA had a pair of date changes, presumably both for TV.  Rice at Western Kentucky was moved from Saturday 9/3/16 to Thursday 9/1/16 and Maryland's visit to FIU moved to Friday 9/9/16 from Saturday 9/10/16.

As written in this space recently, and probably overdone, overstated, overwrought, etc., C-USA doesn't publicly have any TV rights deal for the upcoming athletic year.  With that said, at this time, incumbent rightsholders CBSSN and FS1 both have 9/9/16 and 9/1/16 open.  Be aware that Indiana at FIU was also moved to 9/1/16, so a pair of C-USA games should have national TV platforms on the opening Thursday night.  Also, Sinclair's American Sports Network had three Southland football games on Thursday nights in 2015, so it can't be ruled out that ASN, if they were to remain rightsholders or moved up the food chain, would take on one or two of these games.

* In a surprising move to me, Notre Dame at Texas was moved to the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend (9/4/16) with a note by both parties that the game would be in an exclusive evening national telecast window.  Brett McMurphy for ESPN announced that the game would be on ESPN or ABC, but no one from the schools, Big 12 or ESPN would corroborate that.  I asked ESPN PR for comment and they noted that they were still putting together their schedule for Labor Day weekend and that it would be released in the coming weeks.  I appreciate their response, but I must it admit that it neither confirmed nor denied McMurphy's tweet, but since his tweet hasn't disappeared yet, I suppose its fair to consider it a minor confirmation.

I have to admit that I wouldn't have expected the game to move to a Sunday, nor that it would air (likely?) on an ESPN network.  ESPN typically has MLB commitments on Sunday nights & the US Open on ESPN2, provided it isn't moved or sold elsewhere.  FS1 is scheduled to show qualifications for the NHRA US Nationals from Indianapolis from 5-7pm ET.  I think its possible for either ABC or FOX to provide some airtime to show this game.

* As we've seen this week, April is typically when the final weeknight pieces are put in place for the upcoming season along with the first few Saturday TV start times.  Based on last season, April should yield C-USA's final weeknight date changes, the Mountain West's weeknight & Saturday national packages for CBS Sports Network and ESPN Networks & the Big Ten's night game schedule, based on previous seasons.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

C-USA & Big Ten Rights (Non-)Update

Running out of different ways to title these posts.

* Per an interview conducted by WMXI in Laurel, MS with Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis, negotiations are ongoing with potential C-USA rightsholders for 2016-17 and, presumably, beyond.

McGillis did discuss Sinclair's American Sports Network at length compared to other existing C-USA rightsholders FOX Sports and CBS Sports Network, which could be a tell for future agreements.  He did mention that there were some growing pains seeing those games in the state of Mississippi vs. people in far flung areas of the U.S. having no issue seeing those games.  He also mentioned that the exposure of those games outweighed, at the time, the financial rewards, which I believe are very small, if anything.

He also said that the baseball tournament held over May 25-29 was the final event under the existing deal and that more should be known by the spring meetings, which are May 23-25.  To hear the interview, go to , click Menu on bottom left, choose On Demand streams & go to Pine Belt Sports Drive for 4/4.

Hat tip to the posters at CUSABBS who posted about this interview in advance.

As for weeknight scheduling of football games for 2016, I suppose it is possible that game date chances have been finalized and are waiting for an official public announcement.  The Indiana at FIU game, as a non-conference C-USA controlled game, may have required an earlier deadline for a date change.  The rest of the date changes, if any, could be between member schools and be announced at any time.

For me, the lateness of the finalization of the deal(s) is interesting.  Conferences that don't sponsor football can go a bit longer without finalizing a rights deal because the first televised event, often in men's basketball or a fall championship, won't be until mid-November at the earliest.

* As for Big Ten rights negotiations, please take a look at the article in Sports Business Journal, which is now freely viewable.  A few things do strike me as interesting:

  • ESPN didn't discuss concrete terms for an agreement with the conference.  Maybe the feeling was that it would be a waste of time to drive up the price by themselves without knowing who the actual bidders are.
    • Conversely, when ESPN decided not to bid on NASCAR and allowed their exclusive negotiating window to end, I believe (and I'm still trying to properly source this) ESPN kept quiet at the request of NASCAR so that they could get the best possible deal out of NBC.
  • The conference is not outsourcing negotiations to a media consultant.  Jim Delany is going to negotiate.
  • ESPN has run numbers on both a full rights renewal and partial packages, so they're braced to split rights with another entity
  • Turner appears to be interested in a small package of men's basketball games as a trial run for the NCAA tournament, which is similar to what they do with their Sunday MLB package as a lead-in to their playoff coverage, as it runs during the back half of the season.  They could, for example, look to get 5-6 games on Saturdays or Sundays where CBS, for example, isn't televising a Big Ten game, or run a doubleheader with the CBS game.