Wednesday, May 25, 2016

C-USA TV Rights Agreements Announced

Conference USA confirmed its television rights agreements today with the four partners that had been rumored for the past month: ESPN, CBS Sports Network, American Sports Network and beIN Sports.

Here's the particulars for regular season games:

Television Platform Football Men's Basketball
ESPN Networks 5 0
CBS Sports Network 6 6
ASN 15-30 13-59
beIN Sports 10 10

ESPN will carry the conference championship in football while CBS Sports Network gets it in men's basketball.  ASN will have the option to select additional championships to air.

The agreements appear to be for two athletic years (2016-17 & 2017-18) as the press release:
  1. Doesn't mention a term length
  2. Only discusses championships in 2016 & 2017
    1. I'm assuming CBSSN has the 2018 basketball championships
I've been able to confirm from C-USA that each TV partner retained digital rights to the events it will televised, meaning the ASN does have the digital rights to its games.  This lines up with the other three TV partners who have authenticated digital streaming access (WatchESPN, beIN Sports Connect and limited access to watch CBSSN online).  Could Sinclair make an agreement with another party to stream those games?  Sure, but ASN has shown the ability to stream events online before, so it is feasible for them to do so.  Whether they do is another story.
As for why ASN has ranges of the number of events, I assume this is to allow for flexibility with their network and the potential to be more selective in the quality of the events they will air.

What it looks like is that ESPN will have the top choices for football and CBSSN will have them for men's basketball.  CBSSN appears to be second in line for football, though the conference did not confirm any selection orders.  If CBSSN were to be second in line for football, here's are some possibilities for their TV package:

Rice at Western Kentucky (Thursday, 9/1)
Maryland at FIU (Friday, 9/9)
Army at UTEP (Saturday, 9/17)
Louisville at Marshall and/or Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky (Saturday, 9/24)
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech (Thursday, 10/6)
Old Dominion at Western Kentucky (Saturday, 10/22)

So where are the digital packages, such as the items that Old Dominion AD Wood Selig alluded to?  The C-USA office says announcements for digital packages will happen at a later time.  When "a later time" exactly is, I don't know.  

Per the TV release, the remainder of the TV schedule will be announced next week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Roundup: C-USA, Pac-12, MBK Conference Challenge Events

* beIN Sports, it appears inadvertently, announced themselves as a C-USA rightsholder on Monday.  They'll have ten football games, ten men's basketball games and a host of other C-USA events.

A couple other reports have come out regarding C-USA rights over the past ten days.  Here's a recap:
  • Old Dominion AD Wood Selig gushed about a move to ESPN and talked about ESPN3 quite a bit
  • Chuck Landon's report that ESPN and CBS Sports Network would take five games each, then American Sports Network would have 15-20 games.
With beIN Sports taking ten football games, that would cover about half of the games under C-USA control for the 2016 season (35-40 out of 80 games total).  ESPN3, presumably, would cover some portion of the rest.

In terms of linear television, it would be a sharp decrease in the number of televised games compared to 2015 where games aired on FS1, FSN, FOX College Sports, CBSSN and ASN, but that would depend on where you're viewing these games from with some of those networks having limited or no visibility in some parts of the country or requiring an additional package of programming to receive programming from one of those networks, though the same will be required for many to watch beIN Sports, which is on many sports packages and could also require some to purchase an app like Fubo.TV or SlingTV to watch the channel's games.

With the MAC, ESPN3 worked with the schools to upgrade infrastructure, often at the schools' expense.  I'm not sure how many schools have their production equipment up to the standard that ESPN prefers for self produced events.  Couldn't tell you what those standards are because I don't know them.  I do know that Ohio U., Kent St. and Akron were the three schools that did not self-produce home men's basketball for ESPN3, instead sending it through their respective athletics' websites for free.  That could be a bridge for some C-USA schools.

* The Pac-12 announced that they would alter their TV deals with FOX and ESPN to allow for more flexibility with respect to Pac-12 Networks night games, which the conference defined as starting at 7pm local time (9pm or 10pm ET).  Games could start at 2:30pm or 6pm local, allowing for more of a Pac-12 Networks game to overlap a broadcast network game. 

The conference believes it will eliminate about four nighttime windows on Pac-12 Networks, which would cut the number of night game windows by slightly over half when comparing against 2014 & 2015, which had seven Saturday telecast windows in both seasons.

Not affected: Night games for ESPN and FOX Sports, which will still have the ability to air games at 7pm or 7:30pm local time out west.

* Both the ACC-Big Ten and Big 12-SEC Challenge men's basketball events were announced today.  The Big 12-SEC event will again be played on the Saturday in between the NFL's conference championship games and the Super Bowl, while the ACC-Big Ten will be played the week following Thanksgiving.

One minor change from last year: Rutgers will be on the road in both the Gavitt Games and the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, where last year no Big Ten school participating in the Gavitt Games played in either series both games at home or on the road.

* Utah St.'s home game vs. Arkansas St. was moved to a Friday night for a CBS Sports Network telecast.  It is the 23rd selection by CBSSN, which would typically occur after ROOT Sports and Campus Insiders make their selections of Mountain West games, plus whatever Hawai'i games are set aside for airing on Oceanic Cable's pay-per-view package.  I would assume this means that those selections have been made and are ready to be announced, or that both entities told CBSSN and ESPN which games would be released back to them to choose.  Since this also required a date change, that could be the reason why this selection came out earlier than normal.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Notes on Early Season & Special Date ACC selections

ACC Controlled TV Schedule

* Outside of the Georgia Tech vs. Boston College game in Dublin, only four other Saturday games were set for ABC or ESPN's television networks, matching 2014 & 2015.  The conference, because of several end of season rivalry games with SEC schools, ends up with a slightly backloaded non-conference schedule in November every other year, with 2016 being one of those years.

* Eight of the fourteen members will play at least one game on ESPN3 during the first three weeks and five of the six remaining members play a game on either the RSN package or ACC Network during that time.  Only Boston College skips playing on those three networks / packages and they happen to play two ACC games over the first three weeks, which are usually more valued by broadcasters, and a road game at Massachusetts which could air on ESPN3 or another network depending on any broadcasting contracts that UMass signs for its football games.

* The Charlotte at Louisville game on the ACC RSNs makes sense, or in general that an ACC RSN game is airing on Thursday 9/1 instead of Saturday 9/3.  September 1st has only three MLB games in the evening with only two primary feeds of FOX RSNs being used (North for the Twins & Florida for the Marlins).  Saturday has no major MLB conflicts in the early afternoon, which might be a place to show multiple Big 12 games that might be labeled as Member Retained Games, utilizing RSNs that have an alternate / PLUS feed.

The Astros at Rangers game on 9/3 also presents a small roadblock, as any Big 12 game could end up on an alternate feed in parts (all?) of Texas as the baseball game is airing on both FS1 and FOX Sports Southwest as it is a non-exclusive FS1 telecast.

* The two 7:30pm Friday start times look new to me.  Not sure if there was anything behind starting those games a half hour earlier than most Friday night games.

* Three weeknight games look set to be or will be part of doubleheaders
  • Louisville at Duke (7pm) looks to have Mississippi St. at BYU following it on 10/14, probably at 10:15pm, unless the game in Provo starts earlier on ESPN2.
  • Miami (FL) at Virginia Tech (7pm) and BYU at Boise St. (10:15pm) will be a doubleheader on 10/20.
  • With Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh starting at 7pm, that leads me to believe California at USC will air on ESPN around 10:15pm or 10:30pm ET on 10/27.
* As it was noted to me, North Carolina at Duke on 11/10 likely means Utah at Arizona St. would air on FS1 or possibly the Pac-12 Networks, unless it airs on ESPN2.  At that point in the year the state of Arizona is aligned with the Mountain Time Zone, meaning a doubleheader on ESPN would have the game start around 8:45pm local time in Tempe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

C-USA TV Deals Coming Together & Opening Saturday for ESPN and ABC Revealed

* Our long (regional, but this conference takes up a lot of land) nightmare is over it appears.  C-USA, who have taken a longer than usual amount of time finalizing their TV deals for upcoming years, have found their partners.

Three are the usual suspects, per Chuck Landon of the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, WV.  Per Chuck's information, around 30-40% of the games this season (25-30 games out of 80 C-USA controlled games), will be earmarked for returning partner ESPN (5 games) and existing partners CBS Sports Network (5 games) and the American Sports Network (15-20 games).

What is new is that BeIN Sports will enter the college football marketplace.  I typically know of BeIN through its association with top soccer properties of La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy) and Ligue 1 (France), along with picking up MotoGP from FS1 this year and the WTA in starting in 2017.  The network announced at a media presentation on Monday that they would be adding US college sports programming, but did not announce the conference.  Posters from did some great work and noticed that the ad sales page for BeIN now includes a C-USA logo at the bottom.  Someone also posted BeIN's video pitch and if you go to the 13:30 mark, they discuss college sports highlighting C-USA schools.

No idea on the number of games that BeIN would be airing or any rights fee.  Per Virginian-Pilot writer Harry Minium, C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod mentioned the conference would have a couple digital partners.  BeIN Sport also provides an authenticated live feed.  I don't have any idea on the production by BeIN Sport games.  As sportswriter Jonathan Tannenwald noted, a fair amount of existing BeIN Sport programming is world feed video with announcers either in a studio or provided as part of the video feed.  In other words, they aren't necessarily taking on the cost of producing the events for television themselves.

With UTSA athletics directory Lynn Hickey telling Dallas-Fort Worth alums that the Arizona St. game would be on ESPN2, and Landon's article noting one Marshall game on an ESPN network, possibly the Louisville game on 9/24 or maybe a date change to 9/23, the ESPN schedule might end up being a majority of non-conference games with games such as Baylor at Rice and FIU's two Big Ten opponents (Maryland and Indiana) being available for C-USA TV partners.

* ESPN announced its CFB opening week schedule for both ABC and ESPN, with ESPNU, SEC Network, ESPNEWS and ESPN3 to be announced soon (ESPN2 should have US Open tennis).  Notre Dame at Texas will be on ABC in primetime on Sunday night, and the possibility of College Gameday airing at Lambeau Field is still alive with LSU vs. Wisconsin starting at 3:30pm ET.  Also announced was the opening Thursday night game of South Carolina at Vanderbilt, while the opening Friday game is still to be determined, if there is a game to be aired by their networks.

CBS could end up with the UCLA at Texas A&M game if they are indeed available to sublicense a SEC game from ESPN this particular week.  Games such as Missouri at West Virginia, BYU vs. Arizona and Rutgers at Washington could be earmarked for FOX broadcast network or FS1.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Roundup: Foster Farms Bowl, C-USA Rights and other items

* ESPN released their bowl game schedule for the 2016-17 bowl season and one notable absence was the Foster Farms Bowl, played at Levi's Stadium the past couple years between the Big Ten and the Pac-12.  When the Football Bowl Association released their schedule of games, it was listed as TBA. Here's what I've been able to confirm.

1) The bowl game's communications director confirmed that the game will be played & is certified, but that the date, time and TV network were "to be announced" but would be announced soon.  I checked the Levi's Stadium, AT&T Park and Coliseum websites for their events lists, but none of them list the game at this time (let's assume it's staying at Levi's Stadium).  The same person who manages communications for the Foster Farms Bowl is also the head of communications for the entire Football Bowl Association, Mr. Doug Kelly.

2) ESPN politely declined comment on the status of the bowl game on their networks, pointing to the schedule they released.

Furthermore, the AP's Ralph Russo hinted that the bowl game had some news coming.
What I draw from all of that is ESPN is not going to televise the game, but that someone else will.  Most bowls had TV contracts running for six years to cover half of the current CFP cycle, but I don't know the status of the Foster Farms Bowl as to whether its contract was up or not.  It is also feasible that the bowl has changed over with respect to the operators / organizers.  If it has changed over to new owners, those new owners may have elected to cancel or buy out the existing TV deal if it had any remaining years or start fresh and seek new TV partners.

With the news of FOX Sports allegedly agreeing to the parameters of a rights deal for a portion of what is available from the Big Ten, being a partial rightsholder to the Pac-12, getting into the events management game with two Las Vegas college basketball events, and working to increase their presence in the area of marketing rights with several schools, FOX buying into the event would not stun me and placing it on their broadcast network or FS1.

It isn't out of the realm of possibility that someone else like NBC, Turner, CBS(SN) or Sinclair's American Sports Network has bought the TV rights either.  For example, NBCSN televised the Medal of Honor Bowl all-star game, which was being converted into a traditional bowl game until a moratorium was placed on the creation of new bowl games.  Charleston had been working on establishing a bowl game in since 2013 which NBCSN had intended to televise.  So stay tuned.

* Conference USA is expected to announce its football telecast schedule, or at least a portion of it, sometime this month.  One of the items that did come out through a roadshow that UTSA athletics was doing for alumni groups was that, at the tour stop in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, UTSA's AD Lynn Hickey telling the crowd that the Arizona St. game on Friday, September 16th would be on ESPN2, which seems to confirm reports out there that ESPN was working to bring the rights of the conference back into the fold and that FOX either declined to bid or passed on matching the bid that ESPN offered.
* The D1Ticker news service had me on for their 1 Question feature last Sunday & Monday discussing trends in college sports broadcasting if you'd like to listen to it.  On Sunday I touched on the Big Ten, Big 12 and C-USA from a television standpoint.  Monday's question involved trends to look at for the upcoming season and why I started doing all of this.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Brief notes on 2016 Big Ten ESPN Primetime Selections

* If you haven't had a chance to see the seven games selected by ESPN for airing on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, here you go.  The start time for both Michigan road games (at Rutgers, at Iowa) will start at either 7pm or 8pm ET.  My assumption is that the 8pm start is for ABC with the 7pm start for either ESPN or ESPN2.

* Brett McMurphy passed along five games last week that would air on BTN at night.
I would assume that there will be a couple more.  Six schools were not featured in the ESPN list.  Of those six, two were part of McMurphy's tweet: Minnesota & Illinois.  This leaves the following schools yet to be accounted for: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan St. and Purdue.  While there isn't a stated promise to get every Big Ten school one conference controlled night game, I believe they do strive for that.  For example, in 2015, Purdue did not play a Big Ten controlled night game.  Neither did Illinois, though they were scheduled to play Kent St. on Friday 9/4 on BTN until Mother Nature intervened to the point that it had to be played on Saturday afternoon.

Purdue appears to have an aversion to hosting Big Ten primetime games on BTN, due to having to front the expenses for temporary lighting.  Games on ABC & ESPN are another story (no idea how that works with a potential new rightsholder in FOX Sports in future seasons).

Michigan St. faces Indiana in Bloomington and Purdue heads to College Park (Maryland's homecoming game, more on that in a moment), both on 10/1, which is one of the weeks ESPN did not select a Big Ten night game, so one of those games could be selected for BTN to air.  ESPN and BTN will occasionally air concurrent primetime games from the Big Ten, so there's a chance a selection could be made for one of the October weeks where ESPN has already selected a game.  Also, not listed in McMurphy's list is Furman at Michigan St., which seems like it would be destined for BTN.

While probably unlikely, a possible way to fill in those four schools on 9/24 and 10/1 to get each of them one night game:

9/2 - Furman at Michigan St.
9/24 - Wake Forest at Indiana
10/1 - Purdue at Maryland

* The Big Ten also sets aside its homecoming games and prefers to have the start times for those weekends set in advance of the season.  Those games are:

9/26 - Ohio at Minnesota
10/1 - Northwestern at Iowa, Illinois at Nebraska, Rutgers at Ohio St., Purdue at Maryland
10/8 - Maryland at Penn St.
10/15 -  Nebraska at Indiana, Iowa at Purdue, Northwestern at Michigan St., Illinois at Rutgers
10/22 - Indiana at Northwestern, Illinois at Michigan
10/29 - Minnesota at Illinois
11/12 - Illinois at Wisconsin