Thursday, May 25, 2017

Notes on ESPN's College Football Opening Weekend Release

If you haven't seen ESPN's initial schedule release, take a look at it, then I'll try to answer a few questions about what was announced.

Where are the ESPN2 games? The opening weekend of college, Week One since there's a Week Zero now...coincides with ESPN televising the US Open tennis championship.  Since 2015, ESPN2 has been largely missing from the opening Saturday so that they can devote a full day to tennis.  Unless there's a change afoot, I think that plan will stay in place.

What SEC game do you think CBS will take for Week One? Maybe the better question revolves around whether CBS will air any college football over Labor Day weekend, and potentially not the following weekend either.  In 2015 and 2016 they had two SEC games the first two weeks of the season through a sublicense with ESPN, which happens to coincide with the US Open moving over to ESPN and absorbing coverage that used to air on CBS.  Those games didn't appear to be the top choice that CBS normally has throughout the season.  They looked to be anywhere from the second to fourth best game available.

For the opening weekend, the remaining SEC games are a pair of matchups vs. Sun Belt schools and two other games vs. FCS opponents.  Provided t The sublicensing agreement remains in place and if it isn't specifically tied to the SEC (ie. any two games they can agree upon), maybe CBS would have a game from outside the SEC.  If I were in CBS's shoes and a general sublicense were still in place, I'd pass on all four.  As for Week Two, CBS's best options appear to be Fresno St. at Alabama, TCU at Arkansas and South Carolina at Missouri.  Everything else is a game vs. a FCS opponent.

Its quite possible that the agreement has expired and there was no plans on either side to continue it.  ESPN did manage to stuff four games on "The Mothership" the opening weekend.  All four games are being played in locations in the Eastern & Central Time Zone, with the first three games in telecast windows of either three hours or three hours & fifteen minutes compared to what seems to be the normal three hours & thirty minutes.

EDIT: Regarding the two strikethrough items, I have been able to confirm that ESPN and CBS do have an existing sublicense agreement in place for college football games this season and for 2018.

When will they announce more start times for the first three weeks? ESPN's release says "at a later date".  Wouldn't be surprised to see the later date be next week.  The Big 12 website pegs June 1st as the date they want to release their early season & special date games.

That Oklahoma at Ohio State start time is weird.  Why is it 7:30pm ET? Great question because I didn't know.  I thank many of you for sending stuff in that you find.  Here's the answer in a pair of tweets:

So there you go.  Its a thing for Big Ten games.  No idea if we'll know games or specific weeks in advance of the season.

Hey, when are the going to announce the new Big Ten rights agreements, especially with ESPN picking five Big Ten games over the first two weeks?  Where's my shoulder shrug emoji?  Seriously, I don't know when they'll announce them.  I thought the marketing upfronts that ESPN and FOX did over May 15-16 would be a good time for that.  FOX clearly did as you'll see in a moment.

CBS acknowledged this week that they'll have the Big Ten men's basketball championships, even with the date change for 2018.  FOX announced they'll have the Gavitt Games matchups with the Big East split between FS1 and BTN.  The conference put it in a press release about the 2017 Friday night football games and Jim Delany spoke about them at football media days last summer.  So its not a secret at this point.  Maybe the basketball items, which Delany mentioned in the video towards the end, have been resolved now that CBS found a Selection Weekend replacement for 2018 with the American Athletic Championship.

What do you think FOX will pick up for games in the early part of the season? If you haven't seen this image from FOX Broadcasting's marketing upfront about ten days ago, take a look:
Most of the games in the image are played after Week Three, except Texas at USC.  Besides that one and Texas A&M at UCLA on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I think its fair to look at Pittsburgh at Penn St., Louisville vs. Purdue, Maryland at Texas and either Stanford at USC or Nebraska at Oregon as possibilities for FOX or FS1.  Washington at Rutgers & Colorado St. vs. Colorado could be a FS1 doubleheader on Friday 9/1.  Remember that ESPN2 comes back into play starting with Week 2, though ESPN will drop a window for the US Open women's final.


daniel anderson said...

How is the ABC pregame that going impact syndicated programming at 7:00?

Serge said...

Great recap; B1G said they'll release Weeks 1-3 on Wed 5/31; FOX announcement will probably follow soon after (including Big XII and Pac-12, of course)...

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Yeah and I can confirm another conference (sorry, can't divulge which one) has also been told to be ready for 5/31.

Anonymous said...

@Daniel: For OU-Ohio State, ABC will go from its 3:30 ET game back to the studio, then to Saturday Night Football at 7:30 ET.

Howard Salwasser said...

Regarding the lack of games available for CBS to select, the neutral site games that could have gone to CBS maybe controlled by the ACC and BYU respectively, this making them unavailable. We should be getting the week 2 selections for the SEC shortly, that will tell is whether the sublicensing deal was extended or no. If not, then it's back to 2014 rules for CBS.

Morgan Wick said...

This has been bouncing around in my head for a while, with me not wanting to put forth something too completely implausible, but I think at this point it's time to bring it up: is it possible they just won't formally announce the new agreements at all, that they figure the widespread reporting on them is "announcement" enough, and they're just going to start announcing games airing on the networks in question as though they had announced it, with the Fox upfront being the closest thing to a huge "we have the Big Ten now" thing? Maybe not wanting to announce the sorts of details that would go in a formal press release?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

@Howard - Very possible with either game. I don't know that BYU vs. LSU would have been available to CBS. ESPN has operating rights to the game in Houston through ESPN Events, but they've set up games before & ended up having them show up elsewhere, such as UCLA vs. Texas in 2014. I was told last year's game between Oklahoma & Houston was granted to UH / American to keep the game primarily under ESPN control.

@Morgan - That's plausible. From the few times I've had contact about it with folks on multiple sides (TV and the conference), they had said an announcement was in the works.