Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A few notes on new American Athletic Conference rights agreement

A quick comparison of the number of games each season vs. the new minimums announced in the new 12 year agreement with ESPN.


The conference championship game is not counted in this table below.

So the new minimum of 40 games across the four primary networks is more than each of the previous five seasons.  The even numbered seasons also had games where Navy "hosted" Notre Dame, so you could add one more to each year, then take one more Navy home game to each season started with 2015 (2014 didn't have Navy nor a conference championship game) to get a more true apples to apples comparison.

With that said, if you add in the CBS Sports Network games of around 14 games per season, you'll likely get close to the planned minimum in at least 2015 & 2016.  2017 & 2018 would be well above the minimum.  In my opinion, this is where the American would be taking advantage of some ACC content moving over to the new ACC Network.

Men's Basketball

The conference tournament games are not counted in this table below.

The first thing I would caution is that the 2018-19 season had one more week available for games to be played compared to the other four years.  Also, Wichita St. joined for the 2017-18 athletic year, which gave the conference more available games for television.

CBS Sports Network received 30 games per season via sublicense.  The minimum increasing will help out a little, but ESPN+ is more likely to be the platform receiving the bump in content as I don't see those 30 games being added to both ESPNU and ESPNEWS.

Networks in use

ESPN+ was added as a platform, but ESPNEWS, ESPN3 and CBS Sports Network were not mentioned.  I get the feeling from the language of the release that CBS Sports Network could be out, though it is not confirmed by anyone with knowledge of any of the agreements.  ESPN3 and ESPNEWS weren't mentioned either with the exception of the "About ESPN" section, so I don't know the status of using those two linear TV channels.  If anything, one could make a reasonable leap that the ESPNEWS content could be what ends up adding to the new contract minimums, and the content that was on ESPN3, CBSSN and some schools' streaming packages become the ESPN+ package.  ESPNEWS carried six football games in 2018 and 15 men's basketball games in the 2018-19 regular season.

I should also mention that ESPN allows conferences like the Ivy League, SoCon and others to regionally televise ESPN+ games, unless schools were counseled not to sign new regional television deals, such as the deal UConn has with SNY.

EDIT: A transcript of the media call announcing the agreement has details that sublicensing could continue and that ESPN would need to sit down with relevant parties to gauge their interest in continuing these arrangements.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Guess At The Remaining Thursday & Friday Night CFB Schedules for 2019


ESPN (main channel) has mostly set its Thursday night schedule with the ACC & American taking up nearly every Thursday night, but there are some holes.  The holes happen to already have available games for those dates

8/29: UCLA at Cincinnati
9/5: No game (US Open tennis)
9/12: North Carolina at Wake Forest
9/19: Houston at Tulane
9/26: Navy at Memphis
10/3: Temple at East Carolina
10/10: Syracuse at NC State
10/17: No game yet
10/24: SMU at Houston
10/31: No game yet
11/7: Temple at USF
11/14: North Carolina at Pittsburgh
11/21: NC State at Georgia Tech
11/28: No game yet

Here's what I think ESPN will end up for a schedule, with additions in red.

8/29: UCLA at Cincinnati & Utah at BYU

9/5: No game (US Open tennis)
9/12: North Carolina at Wake Forest
9/19: Houston at Tulane
9/26: Navy at Memphis
10/3: Temple at East Carolina
10/10: Syracuse at NC State
10/17: UCLA at Stanford
10/24: SMU at Houston
10/31: West Virginia at Baylor
11/7: Temple at USF
11/14: North Carolina at Pittsburgh
11/21: NC State at Georgia Tech
11/28: Ole Miss at Mississippi St.

C-USA and the Mountain West hasn't yet set its weeknight schedule, which would primarily impact CBS Sports Network.  For the games currently set for Thursdays not included here & not set for television, here's where I think they'll end up:

ESPN3/+: South Carolina St. at UCF (if it remains on Thursday night), three MAC games, Alabama St. at UAB, Wagner at UConn (also probably on SNY)
CBS Sports Network: FIU at Tulane
BTN: South Dakota St. at Minnesota
MW Network: Northern Colorado at San Jose St.
Pac-12: Kent St. at Arizona St.


Fridays should have more variance when it comes to networks.  I think you'll see the ACC Network involved for a few Fridays along with FS1 & CBSSN.

I decided to go with a table to cover all the potential networks.  Anything in red is a guess for either the network or possibly the game itself.  You'll need to click on the image to read it likely.

I left Black Friday off the table (day after Thanksgiving).  Keep reading for that.

Back to Black Friday, here's how I think it will go (not necessarily in the order of the games being played):

ABC: One American Athletic game, one ACC game
CBS: Missouri at Arkansas
FOX: One Pac-12 game, Iowa at Nebraska
ESPN: One Big 12 game
FS1: One Pac-12 game, one Big 12 game
ESPNU: One MAC game
CBSSN: One American Athletic game, one MAC game

Friday, March 8, 2019

A passing thought or two on WarnerMedia: Why not the Mountain West?

I want to make sure off the top that you, the reader, know that there's no informed, behind the scenes thought behind this topic.

So the wheels are turning at WarnerMedia at the executive level & my first thoughts about regular season collegiate content they could acquire stopped at one place where they have a foot in the door regionally: The Mountain West, whose rights agreements with CBS Sports & ESPN expire at the end of the 2019-20 athletic year.  The conference has had a small package of football & men's basketball games on the AT&T Sports RSNs for several years.

This got me to thinking that this could be a worthwhile partnership. The Mountain West hasn't been thrilled about some of the slotting of their games, specifically in the areas of start times. Meanwhile, the linear TV channels of TNT, TBS and TruTV have a decently open canvas on weekends for live sports.  I believe the channels also have enough subscribers to support any requirements Boise St. home football games would have as they have a slightly separate deal for themselves.

Beyond those linear channels, B/R Live has gained traction through their coverage of UEFA championships, limited live NBA games, a small set of AAF games & other niche properties. The platform did have the failure of the PPV purchasing system for the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson golf event, but the stream seemed to hold up.  The conference has experimented with current partner Stadium for events on Facebook when linear TV wasn't an option. I realize the "free vs. pay" option is another hurdle, but it has gained a level of acceptance.

Regional games on AT&T Sports & Spectrum Sports PPV could stay & use B/R Live out of market, assuming there is some location services component to protect the in-market rights.  Maybe leverage Audience Network for some additional carriage of those games on DirecTV & AT&T UVerse or partner up with AT&T's telecom resources.

One quote that got to me and also leads me to believe that WarnerMedia wouldn't need to be the sole distributor of this content comes from the head of WarnerMedia, John Stankey.  While he was talking about entertainment content, I see no reason that it couldn't apply to sports as well:
...Well, look, we invest as much in WarnerMedia as Netflix does every year. In some cases we keep it for ourselves and in some cases we license it to them. Our ability to build content of scale and quality is really second-to-none in terms of an in-house production capability. And now Bob will make the decision about how much we should hold on our own platforms and how much we should license to third-party distributors....
There's no reason to believe that they couldn't seek out other distribution partners while maintaining control of rights.

Would like to hear your thoughts.