Friday, January 10, 2020

Several Notes From the Mountain West Rights Agreements

Wanted to compile items I found interesting from the media call transcript for the announcement of the Mountain West's rights agreements with CBS Sports and FOX Sports.

* First, it is pretty rare for a conference commissioner to reveal a dollar amount publicly, though MW Commissioner Craig Thompson did couch it by noting that he wasn't going to reveal what either party was going to pay.

* CBS Sports paid for the possibility to carry ten extra games across either linear TV or CBS All-Access.  The All-Access service is branching out into exclusive sports with its upcoming coverage of UEFA Champions League.  These extra 10 games will be after both CBS Sports and FOX Sports "draft" their top 46 selections in football and men's basketball, so they can't place a top game on CBS All-Access, but an intraconference matchup is very likely.

There's also some flexibility here if CBS Sports and ESPN elect not to continue a sublicense agreement for American Athletic Conference content, excluding the agreement made for dividing up Navy's home football games, as some of these games could fill open spaces on linear TV.

Distributing live college sports exclusively via digital means isn't new to CBS Sports either, showing three football games and six men's basketball games per athletic yea via Facebook from Conference USA starting with the 2018-19 athletic year.

* The guarantee of three football games airing on CBS broadcast network is new.  Granted they will have open space once their SEC package moves on to ESPN in a few years(?), but with those top game selections, they can use open space during the first couple weeks of the season and Week Zero to potentially show those games since the SEC games wouldn't be likely to start before Week Three.  Possibly airing either Army or Navy's visit to Air Force would be a way to use the third if it is part of CBS Sports' selections.

* The conference's fact sheet noted the earliest start time of 11am local (1pm ET if Mountain Time school, /2pm ET if Pacific Time school/4-5pm ET if Hawai'i), but FOX Sports President Mark Silverman strongly hinted that they would like to position the Florida St.-Boise St. football game in their Big Noon window, which would be a 10am local start.  I suspect that 11am local could be the earliest start time for any games that could set during the season, but if a school agrees to it, there's some wiggle room, especially for broadcast television.  Everything's negotiable.

* Hawai'i will now get a cut of TV revenue from the conference, though that will supplement whatever they receive locally.  It was noted that Hawai'i had to contribute four of the games covered by the conference's TV parameters to be involved and it would be on top of any revenues they receive from any contract with Spectrum Sports in Hawai'i to show games on the islands.

A formula will be used calculate the difference once the distribution to members is figured out and Hawai'i finalizes its agreement.  Once the difference is computed, Hawai'i will get 80% of that difference.

As to the number of games the school has to contribute to the conference's media rights deal, contrinbuting four games is not out of range compared to previous seasons with the exception of 2019.  Here's the number of MW controlled Hawai'i games carried by CBS & ESPN packages since 2013 when the expiring TV deals began:
  • 2013: 3
  • 2014: 4
  • 2015: 3
  • 2016: 2
  • 2017: 4
  • 2018: 4
  • 2019: 5 (excludes MW Championship game)
I think its possible that this allows Hawai'i to be less concerned about missing revenue targets if they don't contribute a number of games to maximize their payout from any local TV deal.  The 2017 schedule only allowed for six PPV football games, which is one short of what Spectrum required to achieve their maximum payout.  This could allow UH to be flexible knowing that they could receive revenue from the MW to help with any gaps.

* Men's basketball scheduling could become more flexible.  Wednesday & Saturday dates form the base of the conference's schedule, with TV sliding games to Tuesdays & Sundays.  The media call suggested up to six days a week.  My uneducated guess is that Thursday & Friday could be in play, potentially for FOX Sports, especially for FS1 appearances.  Maybe some Big Ten + Mountain West Friday doubleheaders?

* FS2 is in play for FOX Sports.  It was prominently mentioned throughout the FOX Sports portion of the call and noted on graphics the conference posted on Twitter.

* Boise St.'s football media rights will no longer be negotiated separate from the rest of the conference.  This deal where FOX Sports gets the home games and CBS Sports Network gets the MW controlled road games appears to be the last time the conference will do this and it sounds like this is something Boise St. has agreed to.

* FOX Sports can and appears likely to use Labor Day, Friday after Thanksgiving, Week Zero to get the conference unique football exposure windows.  These special dates are outside of the maximum of ten Friday football games combined across CBS Sports and FOX Sports.

* There's more to come, likely from a digital streaming package.  Commissioner Thompson broke down the distribution based on 75 games:
  • 46 to the two national partners
  • 10 more to the pool that CBS Sports can be flexible with
That leaves around 19 games.  Some of those are going to go back to Hawai'i to form their own rights agreement.  But the conference said there would be a third tier, some of it via digital means.

* The remaining item that I didn't see explicitly spelled out was whether any games would have their start times set during the season.  There will be a draft of games, so we know that a large portion of the conference's football games will be claimed in advance.  We know there are parameters are start times, but does that apply to setting start times during the season, or will everything be set in advance?


Matt said...

Why is the FOX Sports numbers such a wide gap? Football 16-23 games, basketball 16-32. Wouldn't any network want to take the max since that is what they are paying for?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I think the gap is dependent on availability of programming space. This contract has a timeframe that runs past their all of their existing college sports deals except for the Big East I believe.

I think it also has to do with any other programming agreements that could expire or presently take up programming space, like NASCAR and Premier Boxing Champions cards.

Matt said...

Makes sense. Since, FOX is paying for it. They should use it, I would think. Tons of room on FS2 to max out. I think it's been long overdue for FS2 to get live programming. Heck, basketball side there is room to add more games on FS1 because of the time zone.

Serge said...

FS2 is not the white canvas it appears, at least football-wise; they have NYRA horse racing commitments until late October and coverage usually runs from 2-6pm ET on Saturdays; plus FS2 shows Liga MX soccer games at least twice a month at 7 or 9pm. FOX also likes to use FS2 for FIFA content, which runs all over the place depending on where the games are played.

Ironically, the best place to schedule CFB on Saturday afternoons is not FS2 but FOX Business, a much-better-distributed net which shows infomercials only from Noon-7pm on weekends; alas, FOX has not used this option yet...

Serge said...

RE: college basketball scheduling, FS1 regularly shows Pac-12 games on Thursdays and Sundays, plus WWE Backstage every Tuesday at 11pm ET, so the MWC games fit nicely on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays late night...

FS2 has some room weeknights, so I assume that's where the old ESPN3 games will end up (on Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays)...

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I think they want to keep FOX Business free for overrun & delay purposes, so now that their RSNs are departing the family, FS2 has a higher chance of being utilized.

For example, 6pm ET after NYRA is a great time for MW on FS2. Whatever Liga MX they take can be worked into the schedule. In the end, they don't have a set number, so if they fall a game short of the maximum, it isn't the end of the world.