Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Comparing college sports TV content, 2019-20 to 2020-21 (Part 2)

Finally got around to post #2 in this series.  We're going in alphabetical order and taking into account Division I conference who play FBS football and those with a significant amount of televised men's basketball.  So come back to post #1 if you haven't checked it out yet.

Big Ten - The big thing here, no pun intended, is that nearly every football number is down across the board due to the conference playing roughly half a season compared to 2019. The FS1 number being equal is interesting. In a couple places they ended up pulling games from BTN to replace games that were canceled.

When you look at both ESPN and FOX Sports* normally carrying 27 games for their respective rights packages, both networks fell far short in the regular season.  ESPN carried 15 and FOX Sports carried 16 plus the conference championship game.  And its one thing to look at it from a quantity standpoint.  Look at it from a quality standpoint and you'll remember that FOX lost out on Ohio State vs. Michigan at the end of the season, which pops a big number in TV ratings most years and may drive a better than average number when it comes to advertising sales.    

In basketball, most numbers are similar to what you would find in a full season, minus the BTN+ number going down. Some BTN+ games ended up on BTN as schedules shuffled during the non-conference portion of the schedule.  CBS's number is up when you consider they were able to air the conference tournament, FOX Sports' overall count when aggregating FOX and FS1 is only down one game, and ESPN's number is mostly the same when taking solely ESPN & ESPN2 (2019-20: 27, 2020-21: 31).  ESPNU is where there was a sharp decline (2019-20:12, 2020-21: 1).


ESPN Networks3932

*FOX Sports had 29 regular season games plus the conference championship game due to extenuating circumstances around the ALCS keeping a scheduled FS1 game from airing on that network.  FOX appears to have received two additional games during the regular season as a make-good.  

CAA - The CAA took a huge hit in visibility in 2020-21 in men's basketball.  One of the tenets from getting paid from their FloSports rights agreement was to reinvest that rights fee and pay for airtime on CBS Sports Network for men's basketball regular season games.  With the pandemic tightening the budgets at the conference and its schools, it appears that the decision was taken to not buy time in 2020-21 after airing eleven regular season men's basketball games in 2019-20.

CBSSN did continue to air the conference semifinals and the championship game as they did in 2019-20, but I believe the agreement to air games from the conference tournament is not tied to whatever the CAA elects to do with their money during the regular season.


C-USA - Conference USA was all over the map.  NFL Network disappeared as a TV partner for the conference's football content and to my knowledge this has never been acknowledged by either party.  ESPN aired games on linear TV for several weeks before the Big Ten and Pac-12 restarted play and CBSSN picked up several more games until Mountain West play started again.

Also, Facebook received no games to sublicense during the regular season from Stadium or CBS Sports except for a couple men's basketball quarterfinal games. And Stadium shifted their football games from the 24/7 OTA feed to the regional sports networks owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group. 

The conference did get a game on CBS though when a scheduled game involving BYU and Army was canceled.

What can you extract from any of this? I have no idea. Might need to see how TV is set up for 2021 to know how things shake out in the future for the conference.  Suppose that I could see a lessened use of Facebook, at least on the CBS Sports side as they continue to push Paramount+.

ESPN Networks010
ESPN Digital5021
NFL Network100
Over The Air
Stadium RSNs011

CBSSN Facebook75
Regional TV with
School Streaming
ESPN Networks55
ESPN Digital &
Regional TV with ESPN Digital
Stadium Over The Air816
Stadium Facebook92

MAC - One of the things that intrigued me with the pandemic affected season is how sublicenses seemed to be paid attention to a bit more.  With both the MAC and the next conference in the list, the MVC, ESPN sublicenses content to CBS Sports Network and it seemed like they wanted to do their best to make sure CBSSN got its full allotment so that it could contribute its fees back to ESPN.

And in the case of the MAC, who played a limited football schedule, CBSSN still got in eight of the ten football games it would normally be allocated over a full season, plus it appears they received their expected allotment of 11 regular season men's basketball games and the semifinals of the conference tournament.

And ESPN carried 13 games on linear TV, so they were right around the amount of games you would normally find on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU during a season.  Digital is where the dropoff could be found as that's where the majority of MAC games end up until the weeknight games start in late October and November, which in 2020 is where the MAC decided to start their season.

ESPN Networks1713
ESPN Digital4311

ESPN Networks66
ESPN Digital159107
Non-ESPN Streaming62

MVC - The MVC juggled their schedule a ton during the season, almost as often as the MAAC did and it often seemed like it was done to make sure that their secondary and sublicense partners in CBS Sports Network and the MVC TV Network RSNs were taken care of.  And they pulled it off.  The MVC had a full conference tournament in both seasons, so the comparison is pretty close and the difference in digital can be explained mostly with the shorter non-conference season and any lost games in conference play.

ESPN Networks1010
MVC TV Network2221
ESPN Digital & Other Regional TV11889

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Comparing college sports TV content, 2019-20 to 2020-21 (Part 1)

One of the key things about the completed regular seasons for football and men's basketball is that rights fees could be prorated for the athletic year because of the number of events that were canceled.  I was a bit curious to see how far off some of these conferences were for what they provided linear TV platforms.    

I'm not necessarily trying to make apples-to-apples comparisons.  Most conference, in football, revised their schedules to only play 80% or less of what they would normally provide as inventory, and then lose games due to COVID-19 cancelations.  Same with men's basketball.

I'm hoping I haven't flubbed any numbers.  Took these from my compiled data.  Have not triple checked these, but did try to keep up on network changes, etc. as best I could.

I don't know how many parts this series will take.  Going to try to do five conferences per post, in alphabetical order, so this series may take 3-4 posts.  I'm not going to do every conference because some have a very small presence on TV.  Post #1 has the ACC, American, Atlantic 10, Big 12 and Big East.

ACC - There seemed to be a conscious effort to keep the game count close to pre-pandemic standards on ACC Network, particularly during the basketball season where I noticed several games that were originally announced for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU switch over to ACCN. I would assume that this was to keep pressure on any providers who don't yet carry the network, like Xfinity.

The increase for games on ABC is mostly from early in the season when the ACC and Big 12 were the only two Power 5 conferences that could air games on ABC.

The ACC RSN package, being that it is sublicensed out to Sinclair's RSNs for management, is also one that I would assume ESPN would want to keep its number provided close to its stated contract amount so that ESPN can paid back for that content provided



American - The conference doesn't have a very good apples-to-apples comparison because the 2020-21 athletic year meant that it was transitioning to a new television deal with ESPN which would increase digital distribution of games on ESPN+ and drop sublicensing to CBS Sports Network.  The loss of UConn as a member also changed the availability inventory slightly.

Particularly in football, a few games aired on both linear TV and ESPN+ and I've counted them as linear TV games.  The games were originally to air exclusively on ESPN+, but aired on both platforms as ESPN had to fill linear TV slots.

Not pictured here is what the conference may have lost from UConn women's basketball exposures as those not only left the conference, but moved to FOX Sports. Also, this excludes any Navy home football games that aired on CBS Sports Network.

Digital &
Regional TV

Digital &
Regional TV

Atlantic 10 - Basketball only for the A-10, but they did work hard to satisfy their national partner contracts. The numbers you'll see for 2020-21 are up for CBS Sports Network and NBCSN because they carried games part of the conference tournament that were lost in 2019-20.

There was a slight dip in regular season games on ESPN and a decline in games carried via ESPN+, either exclusively or from regional TV partners.  There just seemed to be a desire to get as many games on NBCSN and CBS Sports Network as possible, where ESPN's window was often on Friday nights, so it was harder to replace a game, but not impossible.  The ESPN+ bucket is where they went to raid when a game was needed for national TV.

Digital &
Regional TV

Big 12 - The Big 12 was a bit weird.  The conference allowed for one non-conference game, and I believed that it was originally done to satisfy requirements that each school has to have one football game as part of their "institutional" rightsholder package.  That didn't seem to happen, or only happened for Oklahoma and Texas.  Several schools were to move over to ESPN+ as their institutional package platform as well, but as best as I can tell, that didn't happen in football.

And why is FOX's Big 12 count so high? Remember that until the Big Ten and Pac-12 returned, the Big 12 was the only conference FOX Sports had playing, so they used it on their broadcast network as much as they could.

As for men's basketball, the Big 12 was pretty good about getting in the majority of their intraconference play, so the numbers for linear TV are relatively similar.  The only differences overall in the ABC + ESPN Networks count might be the conference tournament being missed for the most part last year.

Not pictured here is that it appears that the FOX Sports national networks are no longer carrying other Big 12 sports, like women's basketball.  Those appear to have transitioned over to ESPN.

20 or 1 ??
102 or 3 ??

ESPN Networks8276
Digital &
Regional TV

Big East - Another basketball only conference, the Big East's primary TV partner, FOX Sports, also had to make sure that a sublicense agreement with CBS Sports was satisfied and it appears that they did so with a slight increase in games.

The large drop of games on FOX cable networks wasn't noticeable when you look solely at FS1.  96 games were carried on FS1, up one from 2019-20.  FS2 was barely used (2 games) and FSN appears to no longer be an option since it is no longer part of FOX Corporation.

Not pictured is FOX Sports picking up additional Big East women's basketball games, specifically those played by UConn.