Saturday, June 1, 2019

Thoughts on Initial CFB TV Selections For 2019

FOX Sports

* Looks like FOX's MLB postseason schedule will give them those Friday openings for Colorado at Oregon on 10/11 & Ohio St. at Northwestern on 10/18.  I was playing the incorrect hunch that FOX Sports' ALCS or NLCS schedule had not started on the Saturday since 2014, which is incorrect because they started the 2016 NLCS on a Saturday night on FS1 too.

2014 happened to be the year they got themselves in a bit of a jam with a weeknight football game, having to move Utah at Oregon St. from FS1 to FS2 plus Pac-12 Networks coverage.

* Its been drilled into my head that FOX Sports RSNs would be managed by FOX for some period of time after Sinclair takes over.  Don't know the closing date for that transaction yet, but Sinclair seemed optimistic that it could happen in the 3rd Quarter of 2019.  So we'll have at least a few Big 12 games on their channels, plus a package of ACC games.

I'm not going to speculate if Big 12 games will continue there beyond 2019, but the ACC games will be there well into the 2020s.  My personal opinion is that its not worth guessing how Sinclair is going to manage these RSNs or how FOX manages this subset of content, at least in their near term.

* Apparently Liberty's one year of games on ESPN3 was a bridge year to ESPN+, where most of their Atlantic Sun athletic contents reside.

* This is old news, but if you have the FOX Sports GO app on your phone, you've likely been directed to get the FOX Sports app & to watch content from FOX, FOX Deportes, FS1, FS2 and BTN, where FOX Sports Go & is the place to watch your FOX branded RSN content.  I've made that delineation on the schedule site as well.  My working theory is that FOX Sports Go will be sent over to Sinclair in the RSN transaction so that authentication to those channels remains seamless once they take over those RSNs.

I assume that the FSN football games from the Big 12 & ACC, plus Big East content later this fall & winter, will require the FOX Sports Go app & not be available via the FOX Sports app.  Confused?

* One immediate change with the addition of the ACC Network: No games were scheduled for ESPNEWS over the first three weeks of the season.  Maybe that's where the UFC PPV prelims for the Abu Dhabi event on 9/7 will end up airing as ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU are all in use.

* Speaking of UFC, the Fight Night card on 12/7 on ESPN means that the Mountain West championship will air at 4pm ET, at the same time as the American on ABC (3:30pm for them) & SEC on CBS.

Also, the Michigan St. at Ohio St. on 10/5, preselected to air at 7:30pm on ABC or ESPN, happens to be on the same evening that ESPN is tentatively scheduled to air UFC PPV prelims.  Unless the PPV prelims move to ESPN2, I'd expect the football game to be on ABC as its already been set with the new ABC primetime start time of 7:30pm ET.

* The agreement for CBS to sublicense SEC games from ESPN, usually during the first two weeks of the season, ended after the 2018 season and appears to have not been renewed or renegotiated, so CBS's schedule will start as it did in most prior years when it carried US Open tennis (the weekend after the US Open final).  CBS and ESPN kept their MAC sublicense alive for at least 2019, with ten scheduled games on CBS Sports Network.

In my opinion and I'm not alone in this boat, the placement of the SEC primetime game on CBS on 9/21 is for Notre Dame at Georgia.  They don't have to make that announcement until 9/9 when TV assignments for 9/21 are made.  Also, CBS's schedule only has the one telecast window on 11/9 at 3:30pm ET.  That Saturday is notable as it is the date of the LSU at Alabama game, which has been played in primetime since 2011.

* Still no CFB game scheduled for Thursday 9/13 after North Carolina at Wake Forest was moved from that date to Friday 9/14.

* A couple folks have asked about the strategy that FOX has implemented, intending to place their best game at noon ET, then looking at the choices made over the first three weeks and being underwhelmed.  I'm not going to toe the company line for them.  They went with draws (Michigan & Ohio St.) in those slots.  Will those games be compelling to watch?  Can't say, so I do understand that part of the skepticism.  But these weren't going to be Pac-12 games, so Oklahoma at UCLA wasn't going to land there.  If there's a quibble between using Ohio St. at Indiana over Arizona St. at Michigan St., I can understand that one but Ohio St. draws.  They just do.

* There's some interesting info from a list of timeslots passed along to me for FOX broadcast networks game times:
  • Only one game at 12pm on 9/21 and 10/12.  I understand the reason in mid-October (MLB postseason) and Texas vs. Oklahoma is a good one to have.  Same with Wisconsin at Michigan on 9/21, but I can't figure out yet why only one game, unless they'll be moving a MLB window from FS1 over there, or a PBC card scheduled for FS1 that evening gets elevated.
  • It seems that FOX is going with MLB in primetime on 9/28, unless that game window is moving. 
  • 11/9 has a opening in mid-afternoon with no plan to air a game.  Would happen to be the weekend of LSU at Alabama, so if it stays in mid-afternoon, is FOX just laying out?
* So ESPN appears to have highly valued the Notre Dame at Michigan game (maybe that goes against the World Series on FOX, or try to take a bite out of them at 12pm?) and LSU at Texas with (instead of?) the Red River Shootout going to FOX for the second straight year.  I'm curious where Bedlam ends up on 11/30 since it's often a game that gets locked into a network family early.

Beyond those decision (ESPN also seems to value the 2nd week of the season with the Big Ten usually, just an observation), several Big Ten homecoming games interest me because of where they likely won't air:
  • The FOX listing sheet that I was sent says 9/28 has their broadcast network games earmarked for the Big 12 & Pac-12, so Indiana at Michigan St. won't air there.  FS1 also has a MLB window to slot, so once that gets settled, Indiana at Michigan St. might not be available at all for them,
  • None of the three games available on 10/12 (Michigan St. at Wisconsin, Rutgers at Indiana, Maryland at Purdue) would air on FOX because they don't have any other games after Red River, plus there's a NASCAR truck series race on FS1 in the early afternoon, so Rutgers at Indiana & Maryland at Purdue, both 12pm starts, wouldn't be available to them either.
  • Indications are that both games on 10/19 on FOX will come from the Big 12, so Purdue at Iowa, Wisconsin at Illinois and Minnesota at Rutgers wouldn't be on the broadcast network.
  • Iowa at Northwestern on 10/26 could air on FOX, but not FS1 with a NASCAR truck series race currently scheduled around the football game's 12pm start.