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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.