Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pay Per View Football Lives On With Oklahoma.

Yesterday evening, Oklahoma announced that their home game vs. Army on 9/22 would air on pay-per-view, both on linear TV and online.  It got quite a bit of backlash & derision from fans of schools not named Oklahoma in my mentions.  Please don't construe this as an attempt to defend the practice of games airing on pay-per-view, though it happens a lot more than you think, though not at the price point of a single game for nearly $60.  Conference USA was behind a paywall for many games until their recent switch to ESPN+, which itself is a monthly pay service.  Some FCS schools still charge for webcasts on a per game basis.

Here are the things that ran through my head last night in no particular order of importance.

1) The (in)stability of the Big 12 around 2011 created the situation of allowing for each school to monetize a package of athletic events, which includes one football game per year, and there's a personal responsibility for each school undergoing a contract negotiation for these rights to be diligent about where they want these games to air.  Oklahoma gets $7 million per year from these rights and to my knowledge, only Texas' payout from the Longhorn Network is more than this.  From a business standpoint, FOX has to figure out how to make money from holding those rights too and they did not elect to have the full time linear TV channel that the Longhorns do.  FOX holds the cards here.  If Oklahoma didn't want their football game distributed via pay-per-view, they could have forced the issue.  FOX could have pushed back on monetary terms.

2) Pay-per-view is a demand driven business and Oklahoma football is no stranger to the medium. Since 2006, only the 2010 season did not have a pay-per-view game.  I can't say its an accepted practice, but both sides seem to feel there's enough support from a sales & viewer perspective to keep doing it.  It seems to be one that has more of a demand than the other schools that FOX has Big 12 deals with, as those schools usually have their games on FSN.

3) FOX can game the system a bit here.  They are the ones who select the member retained games for each school.  They also are the ones who would receive a game if the school declines to monetize it.  Gaming the system in this case could also be due to scheduling considerations as it looks like FOX will have more available college football windows on 9/1, the date of FAU at Oklahoma, compared to 9/22.

4) Big 12 pay-per-view has always been a unique animal in that the option is supported at a national level, compared to the hybrid nature of how SEC & ACC pay-per-view used to operate, where the pay-per-view territory would be limited to specific states and/or TV markets, then viewable on ESPN3 and ESPN GamePlan.  From that perspective, buys are going to come from fans of the road team too and with this year's opponent being Army, there should be might be more interest in purchases of the game from Armed Forces organizations inside the continental 48 (AFN is showing it free of charge outside this area).

Some credit goes to Oklahoma for scheduling well enough to monetize a game that involves a FBS opponent more often than not.  The last time Oklahoma's pay-per-view game was a FCS opponent was 2012 vs. Florida A&M.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

College Sports Scheduling Odds & Ends for Fall 2018

I haven't written anything of note in a month.  Consider this a collection of tweeted items you may have missed.

* ESPN announced several early season event schedules in men's basketball.  Where this does have some effect on the college football schedule are the following dates is on the day after Thanksgiving.

The mothership has Oklahoma at West Virginia at 8pm, but has men's basketball from 11:30am - 4pm.  That leaves open the for the possibility of a college football game at 4 or 4:30pm ET.

Men's basketball is scheduled from 11:30am - 6:30pm.  There's also a game at 11:30pm ET.  It does leave open for the possibility of a football game here, but the NIT Tip-Off has not been placed into the TV schedule and both games could fit inside the open five hours here.

Playing one NIT game on ESPN then the other on ESPN2 would could leave the college football window short of 30 minutes (not unheard of with ESPN), but in my opinion, the opening here is wide enough for the NIT games.

Basketball games are scheduled from 4:30pm - 9:30pm, though the 7pm game may move to ESPN3.  Maybe one NIT game slots in here, the other slots in on ESPN2 and ESPN looks for other available men's basketball games to show.  With that said, a MAC game should be played in the early afternoon, maybe around 1pm ET or earlier.

Here's the basketball schedule for the week I'm talking about.  Head to Friday for information.

* Don't expect "Pac-12 After Dark" on the main ESPN channel on back-to-back weeks in mid-October.  ESPN MediaZone listings have a Top Rank Boxing event scheduled for 10/13 and 10/20 had a NBA Special Event, which turns out Rockets vs. Lakers as part of the opening week of the NBA schedule.

Plans by ESPN to televise something else on Saturday night must have been in the works for months.  On 10/13, they have Arizona at Utah on Friday and the following Thursday they have Stanford at Arizona St.  10/13 also has only three Pac-12 games available for Saturday.  10/20 might have a Pac-12 game on ABC or in the afternoon on ESPN since FOX may have limitations due to the potential for NLCS Game Seven in primetime on either FOX or FS1, plus a commitment to air Michigan at Michigan St. earlier in the day.

* Speaking of the MLB postseason, the schedule has come out.  Here's the effects on FOX.

  • 10/6 - No NLDS games for FS1 to show, but they have prelims for the UFC pay-per-view event that evening.  Those could get bumped to F/X, but it would allow for FS1 to show a Pac-12 game later in the evening after the prelims.  FOX has rights to Texas vs. Oklahoma this year, so look for it to have some heavy promotion somewhere.  Part of me wonders if a 3pm start leading into the UFC prelims on FS1 is the plan, or to use it to lead into a Big Ten game to get to the UFC festivities.
  • 10/13 - NLCS Game 2 is scheduled and I believe it would air in the afternoon with ALCS Game 1 in the evening.  An advance listing provided to affiliates did not have any college football on FOX broadcast network on this date, so the MLB game could be airing there after the NASCAR Truck Series race.  In a similar spot last year, FOX had NASCAR Trucks, ALCS Game 2 and Premier Boxing on 10/14/17, leaving FS1 to carry four college football games.
  • 10/20 - Potential for NLCS Game 7 leads me to think FOX would try to use a six day pick for the majority of the college football schedule, regardless of the results of the first two NLCS games.  Yankees-Astros Game 7 last year was far from a sure thing when Houston won the first two games, but FOX played for the possibility of the finale & scheduled Kansas at TCU game as their primetime game. 

    FOX has Michigan at Michigan St. and since it can't be moved to a night game on short notice due to Big Ten rules, FOX would either have to be willing for the possibility of the two games at night, or play the Big Ten game in the afternoon.  I'm betting on the Big Ten game in the afternoon, but the available teams for the NLCS could drive FOX's decision and they'll have an idea by the time 10/20 selections have to be made on 10/8 as both NLDS series will have played three games.  Some combo of the Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals and Phillies (probably the first two teams alone, I tossed in the NL East teams due to market & star power) probably helps FOX clear the decks in the evening.  Any involvement with Arizona, Milwaukee & Atlanta gives them pause. 
  • 10/27 - World Series is on FOX in the evening. They have two CFB windows tentatively scheduled earlier in the day.

* When I saw the split of ESPN3 vs. ESPN+ events for the Southland, Missouri Valley Football and SoCon, I really wasn't sure what to make of it.  The Valley lists some of their Game of the Week streams as airing on ESPN+ where some are on ESPN3, while the SoCon has a consistent game each week on ESPN3.  I don't know if some schools want their productions on ESPN3 instead of ESPN+.  Having North Dakota St. behind that paywall for every game looks to be a planned event.

* FloSports announced that Eleven Sports will be providing them with a programming feed that would include New Mexico St. football and other collegiate events.  A source said that Learfield Sports is the one brokering the deal on behalf of the school, which would make some sense.  When I asked the school about this deal, they said they had not signed a deal with them.  Plausible deniability, but also, Learfield manages this on behalf of New Mexico St.  Learfield's doing the work, not the school.

With that said, along with another conversation I had regarding football games being scheduled for Eleven Sports, it sounds like some of these games will air on Eleven Sports Next, the network's Twitch portal.

* A new addition to Stadium's college football schedule is that each game will air on Stadium's College Football page on Facebook.  This page previously only aired Facebook exclusive games.

* Heading back to college basketball, FOX confirmed that a pair of November men's basketball events from Las Vegas would be in the mix around their college football games.

Thanksgiving on FS1
The Las Vegas Holiday Invitational from 1:30pm - 6pm, followed by the Las Vegas Invitational starting at 7:30pm ET

Black Friday on FOX
The finals of the Las Vegas Invitational (Texas, UCLA, UNC & Michigan St.) will air at 4pm ET, in between Nebraska at Iowa (12pm) & the Apple Cup (8:30pm)

Black Friday on FS1
The finals of the Las Vegas Holiday Invitational will start at 10pm ET, after Texas at Kansas (12pm) and the Civil War (4pm).  Maybe a Big East game gets tossed in there to bridge to the Las Vegas games, or another event.

FOX Sports also picked up the Fort Myers Tip Off (Boston College, Wyoming, Richmond & Loyola Chicago) on November 19 & 21.