Monday, June 20, 2016

Big Ten Finalizing Future Media Rights (FOX, ESPN and CBS)

First, read John Ourand's Sports Business Journal piece on ESPN picking up their half of the Big Ten rights, what they've paid, what they'll show, along with CBS retaining their half.  I don't want to regurgitate any of John's info, so here's a few add-ons.

* ESPNU is going to take the hit with respect to Big Ten content it appears.  So who will benefit?  Probably the American and Mountain West, who currently have a handful of games on ESPNEWS that will probably elevate themselves up to ESPNU.  Here's the number of games from the Big Ten that aired on ESPNU and ESPNEWS in 2014 & 2015, along with the games on those networks after week four, when intraconference play tends to start.  Note that with nine game intraconference schedules starting in 2016, the measuring stick will typically start with games after week three.

An indirect benefit should appear for the ACC too, who may end up with more games on the top three networks.  Whether that affects a future ACC Network, I can't say, but if it were me, I'd just pay the extra rights fee to them and call it a day.

* Not much was mentioned with respect to men's basketball, so I am curious if ESPN retained any part of the men's basketball tournament since FOX retains the football championship game.  There were some synergies to be gained from FOX getting a piece of the men's basketball tournament in 2018 with the tournament at Madison Square Garden along with FOX's existing Big East coverage.

My assumption for men's basketball is that CBS will cherry pick select men's basketball games on the weekends and that ESPN and FOX will figure out weeknights.  It wouldn't surprise me to see FS1 try to spotlight Thursday nights since that was a night they usually aired an evening Pac-12 basketball game.  Tuesdays could stay with ESPN with their Super Tuesday doubleheader with the SEC, Wednesday could be an exclusive BTN night with the Big East on FS1.  Saturday and Sunday could be mixed up among all TV partners.

* I would expect FOX and ESPN to try to sort themselves out with respect to selection orders for the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.  Those three will be tied together.  Expect some gamesmenship.  Some network will try to get both Ohio St.-Michigan & Notre Dame-USC at some point.

* Commentary: ESPN is still paying a pretty penny, but FOX looks like they got a lot of the perks.  They'll be paying more, they'll have some priority in selection and they keep the football championship game.  From the notes in SBJ (again, read it), either the Big Ten was bent on strengthening ties with FOX Sports outside of BTN or ESPN incorrectly read how much FOX was willing & able to pay to get a portion.


Hokie Mark said...

Matt, I was surprised at how little selection preference Fox really got for the extra $50 million. I guess a big part of that money is the B1G CCG?

I also noticed that last year ABC aired 21 games and ESPN+ESPN2 aired 18 more for a total of 39. Now they will only have 25 games to choose from (and it sounds like some of them may be on ESPNU, though probably not many at that price!). So that's about 1 less B1G game per week on those networks, which I do expect will mostly go to the ACC now. As for the possibility of an ACC Network channel - if there was ever a chance this would not require buying back the Raycom/Fox/RSN content, that just went out the window - now they MUST buy it back, IMO.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I don't think we know how much preference they got for the regular season in football, but the article says they'll have some preferential treatment, which might be where John O. surmises they'll have Ohio St.-Michigan more often than not. And from the article, it sounds like very few will be on ESPNU.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

As for ESPN buying back ACC content, do they have to? If Raycom is willing to pay a third of the rights fee costs today, assuming the percentage didn't change from the additions of Pitt, SU and ND in sports other than FB, and I have American Athletic content that I'm barely paying a quarter of the costs for compared to the ACC on ESPNEWS, why would I (I being ESPN) want to go pay to get that content back when I can fill those ESPNU slots with mostly(?) cheaper programming.

That's really what I see. If I'm going to spend a ton of money for buying back content from Raycom & FOX, spend for infrastructure for a network, or pay the ACC an extra $50 million per year and call it a day...I might lean towards the extra $50 million vs. the unknown.

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Further, the Big 12 inventory w/ESPN jumps from a max of 19 to 23 starting this year and there's a handful of games on SEC Network that get dumped to an alternate channel. There's ways to fill those gaps.

Hokie Mark said...

Matt, sorry I probably wasn't clear... I meant that if the ACC wants to launch a network with ESPN, then the ACC would need to buy back that content so that there would be enough to supply ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 and the ACC Network. The ACC is in a slightly different situation from the SEC in that ABC/ESPN owns the tier 1 games, but they may still need additional content.

Serge said...

This deal is even better than I envisioned for FOX... they get to keep the CCG and have game-selection preference every year... Hopefully they'll be able to pick up a couple of bowl games to further increase its profile as a force in the college game...

As for ESPN, they still have a ton of inventory and the prestige as the go-to network for CFB, so they'll be alright... Interesting that the $50M per year ESPN is paying less than FOX for the B1G is the money they need to pay extra to the ACC to keep them happy... Coincidence???

PS - Sorry to brag Matt, but... I told you last year FOX would go big for the B1G... ;)

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Had to re-read, because either an addition was made re: FOX selecting first every year or I glossed over it. But there it is.

As for whether I thought FOX could bid, I didn't doubt it. From what I wrote at the beginning of 2015: "With that said, if FOX were to get to the negotiating table, I do agree that FOX should be able to make a decent offer for a portion of the rights."

Where I was a short was that budget issues would erode ESPN so much that their ability to make a competitive bid at the beginning of open bidding to keep everything, or at least priority on the football side. My initial package for FOX overall was about 2/3rd's there for football (17 games, partially keeping the champ game) with limited selection preference. Basketball was where they made out, with over double what I thought they could get.

Hokie Mark said...

Matt, if you get a chance, could you walk us through a simulated Fox/ESPN week/game draft of the top 50 Big Ten games of 2015? I'm curious how this thing might work out for the 2 networks, and you are unquestionably the guy to do that kind of analysis!