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

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