Monday, July 31, 2017

Commentary & Analysis on Big Ten Content Numbers

Read this post first so you'll have some context about this information.

* If you caught me ranting a few days ago about how the numbers didn't add up based on a set of Reddit CFB notes about BTN's football game coverage, its less justified than it was on that evening.  In short, I was ranting that the number of 40 BTN football games and FOX Sports and ESPN Networks splitting 50 football games, 25 games a side, left five games unaccounted for with the conference at 95 games under their control in 2017.  With the  maximum number at 27 each for ESPN and FOX Sports, the BTN game number of 40 is still one game short, but I'm willing to let that go and bet they'll have a 41st game.  By using 27 as the base number with FOX Sports telecast windows instead of 25, it also makes the math work over there (its a long story, I thought FOX Sports had two too many game windows if you read the post & comments).

* Does the requirement for two football appearances from each school, with at least one intraconference game, still stand for BTN?  I believe it does, or lets say I've seen or read nothing to dissuade me of that opinion.  Frankly, I think FOX would want it around, even if it slightly neuters their own package of games since they have majority ownership in BTN.

* By doubling their coverage of the men's basketball tournament, BTN has essentially picked up the games that ESPN previously carried within the men's conference tournament.  This is the same coverage that the SEC Network provides for their conference tournament until the semfinals and final are covered on ESPN.  Looking over the three days that ESPN previously carried games (one on Wednesday mid-afternoon, two on Thursday evening and two on Friday afternoon), my expectation is the following:
  • No replacement of the Wednesday game.  There's nothing to move up of equal value.
  • On Thursday, the Big 12 evening quarterfinals could move from ESPNU to ESPN2, and the American Athletic First Round could air in full on ESPNU instead of game 1 on ESPNU and the last two on ESPNEWS.
  • On Friday, the American Athletic afternoon quarterfinals could move from ESPN2 to ESPN.  If there was a desire to air another conference tournament during the afternoon on ESPN2, the Sun Belt could be moved from an ESPN3 exclusive.  The SEC Network has the SEC's tournament and I struggle with moving their tournament off that network, but it is possible that they could leapfrog the American onto ESPN as a simulcast of sorts.
  • I had a hard time believing FS1 would get any portion of the conference tournament after looking over the game times that ESPN had.  FS1 usually will have commitments to NASCAR on Fridays for practice (either Las Vegas or Phoenix based on the schedule) plus the Big East tournament most years.
* It appears that the plan is for the two primary football TV partners to have around 15-18 primetime football games a year.  BTN will continue to have night games too.  I swear I read that the plan was for 30 primetime football games per year among all three entities, with nearly all coming before November, or at least through the first weekend of November.

* Why is FOX's number of football games more elastic where ESPN's is more concrete? I don't know the exact reason, but there's always variability in the number of home non-conference games you may end up scheduling.  If we assume 6.5 home games per school, at 14 schools (at least half the conference has seven home games), you would have 91 regular season games.  With 27 games for ESPN, the low end of 24 for FOX Sports and a base number of 40 for BTN, you end with 91 games.  

FOX could also be  attempting to cover themselves with respect to other programming commitments like MLB, NASCAR, UFC (if renewed).  There's also the matter of whether Friday football games will continue to be in future season schedules.  FS1 is scheduled to air four of the five Friday games in 2017.  The Friday that ESPN is airing a game happens to be one that FS1 also has one.

* I don't have any minimums or maximums around the number of games that will air on any of these networks, with the exception of the ten regular season basketball games on CBS.

* The game counts for both ESPN and FOX Sports in the area of men's basketball are interesting.  The number of conference controlled games that previously aired on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS in the regular season each of the past three seasons was either 70 or 71 games, including the five conference tournament games that will air on BTN in the future.  If you're comparing the number of regular season games that ESPN Networks and FOX Sports will have rights to, the number increases from 65 games last athletic year to anywhere from 77 to 85 games.  It should be noted that 25-26 additional conference controlled games aired on ESPN3 last year, usually non-conference games.  It could be inferred that some of the ESPN3 games are being absorbed by the new TV deals of ESPN and FOX Sports, but some of those could end up with BTN or to beef up the BTN+ subscription package, which I guess is still a thing.

* ESPNU appears to be limited to non-conference football and a handful of men's basketball games.  I don't have any sense around whether FS2 or FSN is involved on the FOX Sports side.  My magic 8 ball says "no" for football & "unlikely" for men's basketball, especially when you consider that FOX doesn't have a RSN that they own or are affiliated with in Illinois, part of Iowa and a large portion of Pennsylvania.  FS2 has distribution issues but will have at least two Big 12 non-conference football games and could have one Big 12 intraconference game depending on the number of games played in the AL Championship Series.  I would expect FS2 to continue airing a select number of Big East men's basketball games too.

* If CBS is limited to Sundays for their regular season basketball windows, expect FOX to roll with Big East-Big Ten doubleheaders on Saturdays on the broadcast network.  Going back to the 2014-15 athletic year, only three of the 25 regular season games on CBS were scheduled for Saturdays and none last season:
  • 1/17/15: Michigan St. at Maryland
    • CBS had the AFC championship on Sunday
  • 12/5/15: Temple at Wisconsin
    • Lead-in to SEC football championship pregame show
  • 2/6/16: Michigan St. at Michigan
    • CBS had Super Bowl 50 on Sunday
* I couldn't get a lot of information about Olympic Sports and women's basketball, other than ESPN's coverage.  I would expect BTN to remain involved in that area.  As for events on FOX or FS1, I'm less certain on that.  They may be willing to let coverage stay with BTN.

A Few Content Parameters for the Big Ten Rights Agreements

A source was able to provide me with more concrete numbers & facts about the Big Ten rights agreements, so lets get some of that information out to you, in alphabetical order of the rightsholder:

I have some thoughts about these items here.

  • As previously announced, the agreement with the conference and FOX Entertainment Group has been extended by five years to 2032.
  • The men's basketball tournament will now have ten games air on the network, up from five.  
  • Rights maintained to the semifinals and championship of the men's basketball tournament.
  • At least ten regular season games per season.
  • Sundays will be the primary day for Big Ten basketball to air on CBS.
  • All of these parameters are about the same as the previous agreement.
ESPN Networks
  • 27 football games
    • All intraconference games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
    • At least six primetime games per season on ABC or ESPN
  • 38 men's basketball games
    • Most intraconference games on ESPN or ESPN2
  • Broad coverage of women's basketball and Olympic sports
FOX Sports
  • 24 to 27 football games per year
    • Nine games total in primetime on FOX and FS1
  • Top pick in the draft of weeks to select first in football
  • Football championship game every year
  • 39-47 men's basketball games
    • Potentially ten of those games on FOX broadcast network
It was stressed to me that CBS, ESPN Networks and FOX Sports will share priority with respect to game selection within men's basketball.  FOX Sports has priority with the respect to choosing first when choosing the weeks they want top choice in football, but ESPN will be choosing first some weeks.  You could also word that as FOX has top overall choice of football games.

You'll also see some co-branding when it comes to on screen logos.  ESPN started running them in the past year or two with the "Big Ten on ESPN", similar to "SEC/ACC/American on ESPN".  Expect FOX (and CBS?) to do the same.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A (TV) Window Into The Future For 2017 CFB & MBK

* ESPN's telecast schedules were published for October and November for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS and SEC Network.  ESPNU will likely following in the next month or two.  As with anything related to TV, these are subject to change.

A few things I noticed:
  • ESPNEWS has a college football window on Thursday, November 16th at 7pm.  My best guess for the game to be potentially shown is Tennessee St. at Jacksonville St.  ESPNEWS has carried Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina on the Thursday before Thanksgiving the past two seasons.
  • The addition of the PK80 Invitational has had a couple side effects:
    • ABC (12pm & 3:30pm), ESPN (8pm) and ESPN2 (11am) are the only college football game windows over those three channels on Black Friday.  Based on the available games, I believe they'll be splitting the American & ACC games over those four windows.  Navy at Houston might end up being on ABC at 12pm to keep them away from a 10am local / 11am ET start.

      Expect one MAC window on ESPNU on Black Friday since their television schedule note they would have a game on the network that day, probably in the morning.

    • ESPNEWS will get used on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Sunday 11/27 to show college basketball that is being pushed off ESPN2 and ESPNU (presumably since we don't know ESPNU's intended schedule) from events such as the Advocare Invitational, Wooden Legacy and NIT Tip Off.  I do not know if ESPN3 will get used for any of the events moving for the PK80.  My assumption is that the PK80 was given priority over other ESPN owned events as I see nearly all their games on ESPN or ESPN2 so far.

    • Six games from the Battle 4 Atlantis will again be on ESPN and ESPN2.  The championship is listed as airing on ESPN before the 3rd place game on ESPN2 on Black Friday.  The other six games have been carried by AXS.TV the past couple years and I do not know of any changes to that arrangement.

    • More of an administrative thing than anything else, but I've stripped the scheduled matchups off the PK80 telecast windows.  Not because the matchups are in doubt, but because it is not known which matchups will be scheduled for a particular time.
  • SEC Network, provided these times hold up, could be playing around with some alternative telecast start times in November.  November 11th and 25th have the 2nd telecast window at 3:30pm ET instead of 4pm, while November 18th has all three windows adjusted with start times of 1pm, 4:30pm and 8pm ET.

    The 18th does have five of its nine games being played at sites in the Central Time Zone with one of the five being a game vs. a FCS opponent (Mercer at Alabama), which would seem to be destined for the network along with Wofford at South Carolina.  The 18th will also have two CBS telecast windows (12pm & 3:30pm), which should pick off two of the five intraconference games available.

    October 7th only has one game listed for 4pm too, but I bet there's more to be shown on that day besides one game.

  • In the overnight hours on Monday 11/13 to Tuesday 11/14, I did not see any scheduled college basketball telecast windows on ESPN or ESPN2, which would normally be the time of the year for ESPN to present their 24 hour tipoff marathon.  While this is subject to change and we should know more in the next few weeks, its possible that the entire event has moved over to ESPNU or that they've elected to not do it.

    So far, the only games scheduled for 11/14 are on ESPN.  Those would be the Champions Classic doubleheader.
  • ESPN2 has a pair of generic listings for "SEC College Basketball" at 9pm ET and "Pac-12 College Basketball" on 11/20 at 11:30pm ET.  Two SEC games are currently available on 11/13, but I expect the 11/20 game to be North Carolina at Stanford.
* Patrick Marshall of White And Blue Review passed along a release from FloHoops that the subscription website would now be the exclusive rightsholder for the Paradise Jam, which previously had about half of the event on CBS Sports Network and the rest on streaming services.  FloHoops happened to be the subscription streaming service for the games that went without TV last year.  For FloHoops, the deal is for all events organized by Basketball Travelers, Inc.

FloHoops costs about $30 a month or about half of that per month if you buy a yearly subscription.  Both Patrick and I are curious to see whether the lack of a linear TV partner will affect the quality of the field in future events. 

For CBSSN, maybe that opens up the possibility of carrying the Cayman Islands Classic, which runs from Monday 11/20 to Wednesday 11/22.