Friday, May 28, 2021

My Takeaways From 2021 Early Season & Special Dates CFB TV Releases

Here's what surprised me in the early season CFB TV releases:

Talk is kinda cheap when it comes to the Mountain West and wanting a specific range for start times. This isn't necessarily shade towards the Mountain West office, but it was highly touted that the conference would only go outside of the boundaries of their "earliest" start time of 11am local and in the first "real" season of the deal, CBS used all three of their broadcast network windows for games that would start locally at 9am (Boise State at San Diego State), 10am (Boise State at Utah State) and 10:30am (Army West Point vs. Air Force being played in Arlington, TX).

I do remember that the conference was willing to make exceptions outside the early bound of their early game start time as there were strong hints dropped that FOX wanted to bring their Big Noon Kickoff crew to Boise when they would have hosted Florida State last year. And there is the matter that all three of these games will lead into SEC telecasts, which is kinda cool.

The ESPN Thursday night schedule feels a bit lackluster, even if it truly isn't.  Both the Big 12 and Pac-12 are missing from ESPN's Thursday night schedule, leading it to be a rotation of games from the American, ACC and Sun Belt until the SEC contributes the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving (I'll be watching Bills-Saints that night, thank you).  Maybe I feel this more because of seeing the Sun Belt on Thursday nights on ESPN, but the conference admirably contributed to the schedule last year when called upon during the first year of a new rights agreement. Boise State at UCF seems nice, but it doesn't sound like either one will be in the Top 25 to start the year and if either or both are, they'll be at a place where only one will be in the Top 25 after the weekend.

And its not new to see the Thursday schedule become de-emphasized compared to Fridays.  This has been a thing for several years and coincided with the NFL going full season on Thursdays.  I'll be curious to see if this flips in 2022 as the NFL's Thursday night games move to Amazon Prime for the vast majority of viewers.

"Pac-12 After Dark" hits broadcast TV.  I've seen cases where networks have slotted a Pac-12 game after 10pm ET and said "Yes, (ABC or FOX) is possible" and often thought to myself "No, it isn't. Stop it".  Then last year we had a a Utah-UCLA game tentatively scheduled for 10:30pm ET on FOX before it was cancelled due to COVID issues.

But now we have a legit scheduling choice being made, and part of this is due to FOX's MLB commitments as the Yankees will host the Mets at 7:30pm ET on 9/11, pushing FOX to air Stanford at USC after the baseball game.

I'm also curious if this is a way to do the reverse of placing Pac-12 games at noon ET or if this is truly a one-time deal.

They're going to phase in use of ESPN+ for the SEC fans. This seems to be a way to push SEC fans over to ESPN+ by moving over a handful of football games to the platform, but giving the fans the ability to watch them online via the SEC+ portal this year, which only requires a SEC Network subscription.

And this also seems to mean that the SEC Network Alternate is going to go away as a usable platform, though I could see it popping up in the event of games running long due to weather or other issues.

No early Black Friday game on ABC? At the moment, that's a question because I'm curious on the plans.  They noted that the three Black Friday games that intend to air on ABC and ESPN would be at 3:30pm and 7pm ET.  Maybe the early slot will end up with the NHL or college basketball like the Battle 4 Atlantis 3rd place and championship games.

What was the deal with the Oklahoma statement about when they wanted their game vs. Nebraska to air? Sounds like they didn't like the choice of 11am locally / 12pm Eastern even if it gets preferential pregame treatment from FOX. The network has USC at Washington State in mid-afternoon and MLB in the evening.

I'm going to stay out of the competitiveness of this matchup.  I understand this is a big anniversary for this game.  I don't know if FOX was able to choose this ahead of ESPN or if ESPN prioritize selecting first from another conference to air a different game as ABC has Auburn at Penn State in primetime and an ACC game to be determined in mid-afternoon.

I suspect that if Nebraska at Oklahoma wanted to be on at a different time, it might have had to accept airing on ESPN or FS1, and didn't like either option.

Other things that seemed noteworthy, or overparsed, by me.

  • When the Pac-12 noted that three games would be aired on Pac-12 regional networks, they did it using the branding of the Pac-12 Now online app instead of those regional networks.  Feels like they're greasing the wheels for folks to get behind using the app exclusively in the future for situations like these.
  • Fresno State at San Jose State on Thanksgiving on FOX or FS1 is interesting. I could see this on FOX after Bears at Lions, or in the late evening after whatever FOX and FS1 settles on for their Las Vegas Invitational schedule.
  • At some point, FOX's MLB postseason commitments will become known, probably in September, and that will cut into a few TV windows they can offer, along with their Premier Boxing Champions schedule. Then again, there are rumblings that the PBC on FOX contract may be mutually agreed to end early.
  • Similar to FOX's commitments, we'll need to see if any Top Rank Boxing and UFC cards are plugged into ESPN's schedule, along with any special Saturday NBA or NHL games.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Quick Hit On Oregon-Ohio State TV Announcement

You might have caught the news that FOX would be televising Oregon-Ohio State on 9/11 in their network's marquee slot of Noon Eastern Time.  I had a recurring of responses and they involved what games FOX didn't announce.

The announcement was made on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.  

I think its important to note that this announcement was centered around the weekend of 9/11 and 9/12.  This wasn't a college football centered announcement.  This was a "We got some big stuff planned for the 9/11 weekend".  Note that they didn't give away their full plans for the weekend either as they have an opening in the mid-afternoon for college football and announced nothing about it, so that doesn't mean for sure that a specific Big 12, Pac-12 or Big Ten game will be on ABC in primetime.  This programming announcement had a focus on specific tentpole events that would lead into the NFL schedule, which was released the prior evening.

The second thing is that there was an assumption that FOX chose this game over Ohio State-Michigan or another Big Ten game.  The fact is that we don't know that either.   We don't have any clue about the draft orders that are associated with these conferences except for the times that they discuss them in public. If this was more of a college football centered announcement, Mike Mulvihill would have been discussing if they had taken Auburn-Penn State, Notre Dame-Wisconsin, Oklahoma-Texas, Notre Dame-Stanford and Ohio State-Michigan.

But it wasn't, and that's OK. The fact that both they and ESPN made game announcements (Egg Bowl to Thanksgiving this year and 2022) was great, because near this time last year, we were told that TV announcements would be delayed and we ended up with a summer of rescheduling.  No one found that fun.  I find the fact that anything was announced today was a positive and I'm looking forward with some optimism, and I'm a pessimist by nature, to a nice day and evening of schedule updates in about 2 weeks.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Final Revision of CFB TV Week 3 Guesses for 2021

I don't have anything major to revise from Week 2 except for a couple items.
  • North Carolina A&T at Duke moved from Saturday to Friday.  I'm expecting it to air on ACCN at 7pm ET.  I expected the game to be streamed and did not have it listed
  • Toledo at Notre Dame has had its start time confirmed at 2:30pm ET on NBC.
As for Week 3, the reason I have to make revisions is due to FOX's MLB schedule, which will televise games at night on Saturday.

Revisions from the original Week 3 guesses are in red

No games yet have been moved to Thursday.  My choice to move to Thursday would be the Baylor-Kansas game.  FS1 has a NASCAR Truck Series race scheduled for 9pm ET.  I think that limits their ability to move any game to this night.

7:30pm ESPN: Baylor at Kansas

8pm ESPN: UCF at Louisville

  • CBS starts its schedule of SEC games this particular week.
  • Typically, BTN will not have a night game when ABC is carrying the Big Ten in primetime, which is why I don't have one as I've placed Auburn at Penn State in primetime on their network.
  • Since FOX doesn't have an open window in the evening, I've had to place a 2nd game on FS2, moving a Big 12 game there and taking the game that was scheduled for FOX and placing it on FS1. Also had to alter the start time for the afternoon FOX game.  I think a good argument could be made to swap the 3:30pm FS1 and FS1 games too.
12pm ABC: Michigan State at Miami (FL)
12pm FOX: Nebraska at Oklahoma
12pm ESPN: South Carolina at Georgia
12pm ESPN2: Mississippi State at Memphis
12pm FS1: Nevada at Kansas State
12pm SEC: Stanford at Vanderbilt
12pm BTN: Northern Illinois at Michigan
12pm BTN: Delaware at Rutgers
12pm CBSSN: UConn at Army West Point
12pm ACCN: Northwestern at Duke
12:30pm ACC RSNs: Furman at NC State
2pm Pac-12: Minnesota at Colorado
3:30pm ABC: Georgia Tech at Clemson
3:30pm CBS: Alabama at Florida
3:30pm NBC: Purdue at Notre Dame
3:30pm FOX: Cincinnati at Indiana
3:30pm ESPN: Virginia at North Carolina
3:30pm ESPN2: Maryland at Illinois
3:30pm FS1: Virginia Tech at West Virginia
3:30pm BTN: Tulsa at Ohio State
3:30pm BTN: Kent State at Iowa
3:30pm CBSSN: ECU at Marshall
3:30pm ACCN: Western Michigan at Pitt
4pm SEC: Georgia Southern at Arkansas
5pm FS2: FIU at Texas Tech
5pm Pac-12: Stony Brook at Oregon
5pm Pac-12 Bay Area: Sacramento State at California
7pm ESPN: New Mexico at Texas A&M
7pm ESPN2: Central Michigan at LSU
7pm FS1: Oklahoma State at Boise State
7pm CBSSN: Iowa State at UNLV
7:30pm ABC: Auburn at Penn State
7:30pm SEC: Tulane at Ole Miss
7:30pm ACCN: Florida State at Wake Forest
8pm Longhorn: Rice at Texas
8pm Pac-12: Arkansas at Washington
9pm FS2: Utah State at Air Force
10:15pm ESPN2: Arizona State at BYU
10:30pm ESPN: USC at Washington State
10:30pm FS1: Fresno State at UCLA
10:30pm CBSSN: Utah at San Diego State
11pm Pac-12: Northern Arizona at Arizona
11pm Pac-12 Oregon: Idaho State at Oregon State
Midnight PPV: San Jose State at Hawai'i

Friday, May 7, 2021

Final Revision of CFB TV Weeks 0 & 1 Guesses for 2021

I'm under the impression that start times and TV info will be released on their usual schedule at the end of May or early June, right after Memorial Day.  I looked over what I originally guessed for Weeks 0 and 1 and see a few places to make changes.

Here's what I'm changing:
  • I wasn't aware that the Las Vegas Kickoff Classic game between BYU and Arizona is organized to the Las Vegas Bowl. Why is that important? ESPN Events owns the Las Vegas Bowl.  I had FOX televising this game and I can't see an ESPN Events operated game being televised by another network
  • Apparently there are rumblings that Boise State at UCF could end up on Thursday night.  If that's the case, I'm under the impression that it is being moved to air on ESPN, not ESPNU.  ESPN2 should be busy that night with the US Open. If this game is truly being moved to Thursday to air on ESPN, I think that means Ohio State at Minnesota will air on FOX or FS1.
  • A few minor changes, swapping games from one time to another.
The changes are in red

4pm FOX: Nebraska at Illinois
5pm ESPN2: North Carolina Central vs. Alcorn State
10pm CBSSN: UConn at Fresno State
10pm Pac-12: Hawai'i at UCLA
10pm AggieVision: UTEP at NM State

8pm ESPNU: UAB vs. Jacksonville State

I expect one SEC game to move to Thursday night.

7pm ESPNU: ECU vs. Appalachian State
7:30pm ESPN: Boise State at UCF
7:30pm ACCN: USF at NC State
8pm FS1: Ohio State at Minnesota
8pm Pac-12: Weber State at Utah
8:30pm SECN: Kent State at Texas A&M
11pm Pac-12: Southern Utah at Arizona State

North Carolina at Virginia Tech has been confirmed as a Friday game.

7pm ACCN: Old Dominion at Wake Forest
8pm ESPN: North Carolina at Virginia Tech
10pm Pac-12: Northern Colorado at Colorado 

12pm ABC: Oklahoma at Tulane
12pm FOX: Indiana at Iowa
12pm ESPN: Texas Tech vs. Houston
12pm FS1: West Virginia at Maryland
12pm ESPNU: Syracuse at Ohio
12pm SECN: Central Michigan at Missouri
12pm SECN: Bowling Green at Tennessee
12pm BTN: UTSA at Illinois
12pm BTN: Western Michigan at Michigan
12pm CBSSN: Holy Cross at UConn
12pm ACCN: Colgate at Boston College
12:30pm ACC RSN: Northern Illinois at Georgia Tech
2pm Pac-12: Nevada at California
3:30pm ABC: Alabama vs. Miami (FL)
3:30pm ESPN: Rice at Arkansas
3:30pm BTN: Temple at Rutgers
3:30pm BTN: Oregon State at Purdue
3:30pm CBSSN: Marshall at Navy
4pm FOX: Penn State at Wisconsin
4pm ESPNU: Miami (OH) at Cincinnati
4pm SECN: Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State
4pm SECN: ULM at Kentucky
4pm ACCN: William & Mary at Virginia
5pm Pac-12: Montana at Washington
7pm ESPN: Stanford vs. Kansas State
7pm CBSSN: Duke at Charlotte
7:30pm ABC: Georgia vs. Clemson
7:30pm SECN: Florida Atlantic at Florida
7:30pm SECN: Akron at Auburn
7:30pm BTN: Michigan State at Northwestern
7:30pm BTN: Fordham at Nebraska
7:30pm ACCN: UMass at Pitt
8pm FOX: LSU at UCLA
8pm ESPNU: Baylor at Texas State
8pm Longhorn: Louisiana at Texas
8pm Pac-12: San Jose State at USC
10pm FS1: Fresno State at Oregon 
10:30pm ESPN: BYU vs. Arizona
11pm Pac-12: Utah State at Washington State

7:30pm ABC: Notre Dame at Florida State

8pm ESPN: Ole Miss vs. Louisville

Monday, May 3, 2021

Comparing college sports TV content, 2019-20 to 2020-21 (Part 3)

Since I took a few weeks off to not check social media or think much about college sports, I neglected to finish this series of articles. Luckily I only had one to go.  To refresh you memory of what I was reviewing, take a look at parts 1 & 2.

Mountain West - Similar to the MAC, Big Ten and Pac-12, the Mountain West started its football schedule later and with cancellations, lost a fair number of games.  The conference was also in the unenviable position of starting a new series of rights agreements with FOX Sports, CBS Sports and Stadium, FOX Sports replaced ESPN as a rightsholder.  I don't know if there's an apples-to-anything comparison that can be made for the conference.

The Stadium deal seemed to be added for sports on linear TV that they were not already carrying, like men's basketball.  My assumption is they've been added for football too, but the short season, and the need to get games to both national TV partners and Hawai'i's PPV agreement kept them out of the game in 2020.

AT&T SN Regional80
ESPN Networks23N/A
MW Digital & Stadium Facebook90
Spectrum PPV76
FS1 & FS2N/A16

AT&T SN Regional240
ESPN Networks19N/A
MW Digital, Local TV & Stadium Facebook9255
Stadium TVN/A5

Pac-12 - Besides the shortened season, the big change was to not use the Pac-12 Networks during football season to make sure they had as many games as possible for national TV rights holders, and even then, due to cancellations, they fell short of the 22 games that both ESPN (14) and FOX Sports (16, plus the conference championship game) typically pay for.

Pac-12 Networks reappeared to provide coverage during men's basketball.  Overall, the conference was about flat its it numbers when it came to national partners in that sport.

ESPN Networks1611
Pac-12 Networks351

ESPN Networks4044
Pac-12 Networks139106

SEC - CBS went into the season knowing that their rights agreement for the SEC would be expiring in a few years, though the formal announcement by Disney didn't come until December.  They came into the season choosing more games up front and airing less games.

The ABC appearance for the SEC was a unique circumstance where an ACC game was canceled that morning and CBS had already had their SEC game canceled for the week and replaced with a Mountain West game.  ESPN had a SEC game already and since CBS was dark for the conference that week, it appears that there was no issue with ABC airing it.

The large decrease in football games on ESPN/2/U is a bit surprising but, similar to the ACC, I believe it was done to keep SEC Network fully stocked as ESPN could draw from so many other places to fill up their other networks.

Continuing a theme that you'll see for most conference, the basketball numbers for linear TV were pretty close to pre-pandemic levels.  Digital was often sacrificed to keep those numbers up.

ESPN Networks4020
SEC Network
& Alternate

ESPN Networks6258
SEC Network114112
SEC Digital6116

Sun Belt - Much like Conference USA, the Sun Belt benefitted from the late start of several Power 5 conferences, filling holes on Saturdays and on ESPN's weeknight schedule.  2020 would have been the first year of a new rights agreement to have a slight increase in games, but they really took advantage of the decisions that other conferences made to postpone their season's start.

In men's basketball, the majority of games remained on digital outlets like ESPN+ and school produced platforms, but there was a slight uptick in games on ESPN Networks linear TV (4, up from 2).

ESPN Networks1532
ESPN Digital4723

WCC - Our final conference is the West Coast Conference, who has three national linear TV partners in ESPN Networks, CBS Sports Network and Stadium.  Stadium also backs the conference's streaming service, WCC Network, and provides out of market streaming for most non-national TV games.

And while the conference consistently scrambled to have games available for schools to play to feed the mouths of those TV partners, they mostly matched the previous season guessed it...taking from their digital inventory when they had to.

ESPN Networks2221
Stadium TV99
Other TV and streaming13572