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.


Serge said...

Great info Matt! Thanks!!!

* I believe the 30-primetime-games comment came from Comm. Delaney last week during his media day speech (I'll double-check on that);

* While the number of games for each partner is very important, I still wonder about TV window distribution between ESPN/U and FS1. I'm considering ESPN keeps its (Super) Tuesday and (U) Thursday windows, with FS1 taking those same nights trying not to overlap with ESPN (ESPN 7p / FS1 9p or the opposite) with BTN keeping Wednesdays... Weekends should be a mixup with all partners involved...

* I hope the WCBB championship game is shown on FS1 (at least every other year)... it would build a strong WCBB block on the network, with the Big XII and Big East finals airing there Mon-Tue...

* ...and as for the number of B1G games on FOX/FS1 windows (which, following your logic, is at 27 this season)... back to the drawing board!!!

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Serge, in regards to the WCBB champ game, the impression I got is that ESPN is the network that content will air on every year.

Serge said...

Matt, just a head's up:

Today's FOX release RE: Big Ten basketball states "...up to seven games on the FOX broadcast network and more than 30 on FS1..." so at least for this season the number of games given to you will be on the low end on FOX's side.