Monday, January 6, 2020

What I'm Looking Forward to for College Football on TV in 2020

There's a few things I'm curious about coming into the 2020 college football season.

* First, we're back to 13 weeks to accomplish the regular season, plus a few stragglers in Week Zero.  But Week Zero is increasing.  Besides Notre Dame vs. Navy being played in Dublin, three of Hawai'i's four home Mountain West opponents are scheduled to play that weekend (Nevada, New Mexico and UNLV), plus New Mexico St. as one of the Warriors non-conference opponents.

The Mountain West schedule likely won't be out until sometime in the next 4-8 weeks, but its also possible that Boise St. could be asked to move a game to this date if they or the conference's TV partners wanted to.  Each of those schools playing at Hawai'i can also pick up a 13th regular season game if they so desire.  Same with Notre Dame & Navy, though I think the Fighting Irish won't do that.

* Speaking of Mountain West TV partners, the news that FOX Sports was coming in to replace ESPN appeared before the holidays.  It was met with some conjecture as others were reporting that the deal had not been completed.

My opinion is that the deal could be completed and a number of things could have occurred:
  • Legal departments are still vetting terms though a verbal agreement or a basic term sheet/memorandum of understanding is in place.
  • One of the reports' sources had not received word of an agreement in principle.
  • Grey areas, such as how to handle Boise St.'s home games which were separate from Mountain West TV deals and Hawai'i's Spectrum Sports.
  • The end of year holidays placing a hold on the news cycle
I do get the feeling that at least a deal for around 16 football games and 30+ basketball games has been completed.  

* With the addition of the Mountain West, plus an expected change in operations with the FOX Sports' branded regional sports networks coming in the spring, I'll be interested to see if FS2 ends up with more live content, such as a few Big 12 football games and a decent share of Mountain West sports.  I've been guilty of believing that FS2 should have been utilized earlier, but I think we might be closer to a point of that being a reality.

* BYU's TV deal with ESPN is ready to be announced supposedly, so is it in the same holding pattern, waiting for people to be in place to have media announcements, etc.?

* CBS Sports Network retaining the Mountain West and most Navy home games keeps their schedule relatively intact when added to their existing Army football and C-USA commitments, but I'm curious to see whether ESPN continues to sublicense any content to them from the American Athletic Conference.  The AAC is arguably the 2nd highest profile conference to place content on ESPN+ after the Big 12, so will ESPN be more apt to maximize that service's offerings vs. selling content?  Consider that CBSSN and ESPN continued their MAC sublicensing arrangement for four more athletic calendar years starting with 2019-20.

* I'd like to know if the Mountain West's partnership with Stadium will increase into the area of linear TV?  The WCC added a package of linear TV games to the partnership after having a handful of enhanced online productions for a few years.

* My own personal gripe is Stadium having the inventory content rights to the Patriot League, Mountain West and West Coast Conference, but dismantling their phone app & Roku channel.  Fun fact: not everyone wants to consume streaming content on a laptop or phone.  I had been told they were changing over their content distribution network, and maybe the addition of the FOX Sports branded RSNs will be part of a new online strategy for this content.

* Assuming the SEC and ESPN are finalizing an agreement for the package of football and men's basketball games that currently air on CBS, I really don't forsee CBS giving up control of the package multiple years in advance.  CBS will be a lame duck for around four years, but its four years of a significantly viewed product at a relatively cheap rate.  If CBS can sell ads against it and either make money or break even while pumping up their other TV properties they'll keep it.

* UConn's football rights for 2020 are another interesting property.  Would they be stuck going the route of UMass and New Mexico St., where regional linear TV was packaged with an over-the-top rightsholder for folks living outside of the regional TV areas?  I can't forsee a great demand for the product nationally, but if the school can regularly schedule Power 5 schools for a few home games, they should find some interest for a few national TV opportunities.

Would also be curious to see if UConn would continue to try to get a weeknight home game or two for national TV.  National TV tends to set those things to get games televised that wouldn't otherwise get significant viewership on Saturdays.

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