Category Archives: Fox Sports Numbs My Brain

“We appreciate that there is stated interest in extending the relationship from the CBS side.”

Here’s an excellent deep dive into the upcoming negotiations of the SEC television package currently held by CBS.  Just like everything else Mike Slive did with the conference’s broadcast rights, it’s tremendously undervalued, as all parties recognize.

The question is where things go from here.  This is the one of the gentlemen Greg Sankey has tasked with cutting the next deal:

One factor seemingly working in Disney’s favor is CAA super agent Nick Khan. The SEC hired Khan and Evolution Media’s Alan Gold to represent the league in its negotiations with television networks, signaling to many that it wanted a big payday this time around. Khan represents a lot of the sports media world’s biggest names including top ESPN college football talent like Herbstreit, Rece Davis and Paul Finebaum. Khan has done deals with all the major players — he facilitated the WWE deal with FOX and NBC, for instance — but insiders believe he’s been pushing SEC leaders to strongly consider ABC/ESPN. Among the reasoning, he’s pointed out advantages to aligning closer with a growing Disney company that is making big purchases (21st Century Fox) and investing big in over the top platforms (ESPN+ and Disney+) compared to Viacom/CBS which recently combined in a merger expected to be finalized in December.

If continuing to have a national broadcast platform as it currently does with CBS is of value to Sankey — and I think it should be — Mickey can offer ABC to that end and give the SEC more flexibility with scheduling on one giant platform.  Alternatively, some think that cutting a deal to rotate the top game between CBS and ESPN would be a good compromise.

The part I find most interesting is this:

One key factor is how CBS and SEC each interpret the current contract, which was agreed to in 2008. Within the contract is a provision that states, “CBS would have the right of first negotiation/first refusal for at least the same terms for a term commencing in 2024-25 and beyond for football and basketball.” Those terms include selection priority (CBS gets first pick of SEC games), game time and exclusivity, among other factors.

But in a confidential memo obtained by AL.com addressed to the SEC’s presidents and chancellors, Sankey pushed back on the legality of that specific provision.

“We believe that we have a good faith obligation to offer to enter into an exclusive negotiation period with CBS,” Sankey wrote, “but do not believe that CBS has any first refusal rights for reasons that can best be addressed by our legal counsel.”

If CBS doesn’t retain the rights, the SEC’s legal counsel won’t be the party with the last word.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, SEC Football

“But it’s very hard to get in the way of the ballot box.”

Here comes California, messing with college football again.

What began as SB 206 in the California assembly— and became known nationally as the Fair Pay To Play Act — has help fuel a revolution in college sports.

Now along comes AB 7, which threatens to play havoc with your Pac-12 kickoff times.

Think those 7:30 p.m. games along the west coast are a too late?

If Assembly Bill 7 becomes law, late-season games on Pac-12 campuses will start at 8:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Assemblymember Kansen Chu — and already approved by voters — AB 7 would place California on Daylight Saving Time all year: No more falling back and springing forward.

California would be permanently sprung forward, with all the lifestyle benefits that come with evening daylight and none of the disruptions to our circadian rhythms caused by changing the clock.

Apparently, if this goes into law in California, Oregon and Washington are prepared to follow suit in short order.  And that would make things inconvenient for Mickey.

The entire West Coast would skip the process of falling back, leaving it two hours behind Eastern Time from early November through early March.

That would create a problem for Pac-12 kickoffs in the final month of the season.

ESPN and Fox use three-and-a-half-hour programming windows (approximately) on football Saturdays, starting with 12 p.m. Eastern and followed by 3:30 p.m., 7 or 8 p.m. and then 10:30 p.m.

The final window is reserved for the Pac-12 — the only Power Five conference capable of starting home games as late as 10:30 p.m. Eastern. (And those are sometimes pushed back to 10:40 or 10:45 p.m.)

If the West Coast doesn’t join the East Coast in falling back, the three-hour difference during Daylight Saving Time would become a two-hour difference from early November through early March.

In order for the Pac-12 games to fill the 10:30 p.m. Eastern window, they would have to start at 8:30 p.m. on the west coast.

Pacific Daylight Time in the winter months would be the same as Mountain Standard Time.

Late games would get later.

Eh, not to worry.  I’m sure Larry Scott’s on the mother.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Pac-12 Football, Political Wankery

TFW you’ve got your broadcast partner’s back

Passage of California’s Fair Pay to Play Act was arguably the biggest story of the week affecting college athletics, but you wouldn’t know that listening to the pregame shows on ESPN and Fox ($$).

Judging from social media and even national news programs, which devoted air to the development, the biggest story in college sports last week was California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing into law the “Fair Pay To Play Act.” SB 206, as it’s known on the books, is set to take effect in 2023 and would allow college athletes in the Golden State to strike endorsement deals and hire agents.

This may turn out to be the most revolutionary game-changing legislation in intercollegiate athletics since Title IX was passed, at the federal level, in 1972. And, with college football being far and away the greatest revenue-producing sport under the NCAA umbrella, you’d think quarterbacks and a few other teammates might stand to gain the most.

And given that ESPN devotes three hours and Fox one hour each Saturday morning to pregame football shows, you’d think — nope. Didn’t happen. Not on ESPN’s College GameDay nor Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff show. Not a moment of either program was spent on SB 206.

Which isn’t to say you wouldn’t have seen stars cashing in on endorsements…

This past Saturday morning, Herbie, Lee Corso, Rece Davis, Desmond Howard and Maria Taylor appeared in a commercial for Home Depot; Herbie, in addition, for Wheels Up; and Rece for Hampton by Hilton. You know what that looks like to us? It looks a lot like college football TV personalities striking endorsement deals and capitalizing on their image.

To be fair, Fox’s Rob Stone and Matt Leinart appeared in an ad for Wendy’s, their program’s sponsor, on Saturday.

Don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you, amirite?

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Urban comin’

So… you may remember this tidbit from the spring.

Reggie Bush is not allowed at USC games or practices because of NCAA sanctions but said that won’t prevent him from trying to help his alma mater. Bush — who will be on a new college football pregame show this fall with former USC teammate Matt Leinart, former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and coaching great Urban Meyer — said he and Leinart would recruit Meyer to come out of retirement and take the USC job if Clay Helton struggles again this season.

“We’ll definitely be recruiting him,” Bush said. “What makes you think we won’t be recruiters? Nothing is off the table.”

Bush later claimed he was joking about that, but still, here we are today.

What a coincidence, eh?

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Filed under Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

TFW you throw in the towel on asses in the seats

In case you’re still wondering what the future of college football will look like, the Pac-12 is seriously considering playing some games with a 9AM Pacific Time kickoff… because, Fox.

Hey, that’s why they pay Larry Scott the big bucks, y’all.

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Filed under Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Pac-12 Football

Okay, this may not end in tears…

Why do I have the feeling this isn’t going to end particularly well?

Fox has signed what it feels, as one source put it, is a “Mount Rushmore of college football over the last 15 years,” for its new, yet-to-be-named Saturday morning pregame show that will air on network TV.

Sources say Fox has hired former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and one of the greatest running backs in the college game’s history, Reggie Bush, for its new team.

… Fox feels with Meyer, Bush, Leinart and Quinn, it has put together a similar team of college football legends and hopes they can develop a fun chemistry.

Sure, because the first word that pops into everyone’s mind when you say “Urban Meyer” is fun.

Although, now that I think about it, Corch and Thom Brennaman reminiscing about the GPOOE™ could be a real hoot.  In a nauseating sort of way, that is.

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Filed under Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

“If this comes off, the question is: Does he call games or work the studio?”

Oh, FFS.  Haven’t we suffered enough already?

Sports TV viewers may see a lot more of Urban Meyer on TV this year than they thought they would. Fox Sports is close to finalizing a deal to hire the former Ohio State head coach as its star college football analyst, sources tell Sporting News.

Meyer, who won three national championships between Ohio State and Florida, is being given the choice to work either as a color commentator in the game booth or as a studio analyst at Fox, sources said. Citing serious health concerns, the 54-year-old Buckeyes coach retired after the 2019 Rose Bowl.

A Fox Sports spokeswoman declined comment to Sporting News Thursday night.

Fox just wrapped its most-watched college football regular season ever. The network envisions Meyer as the kind of big-time coaching name/TV talent who could potentially put its “Fox College Football Pregame” show on par with Kirk Herbstreit’s “College GameDay” at ESPN.

Cool.  Maybe Corch and Thom Brennaman can reminisce fondly about the GPOOE™.

If CBS ever loses the SEC to Fox, I’m gonna be one bummed mofo.

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Filed under Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

Et tu, broadcast partner?

Is this good?  I don’t think this is good.

The Big 12 is in the marketplace with three of its conference championship football games, including one that kicks off in just 11 months.

The conference has been shopping the 2019, 2021 and 2023 games to media companies over the last several months after Fox told Big 12 officials that it was not interested.

The Big 12 had hoped that Fox, one of its two primary media partners, would pick up the rights to the championship games in the odd-numbered years. Fox carried the 2017 game as part of a mediated settlement around conference expansion, paying about $25 million for its rights. But the network and the conference could not come to terms on the other three available games. Sources said the last offer made to Fox valued the game in the high teens.

Maybe slapping a conference title game on after a round robin regular season schedule for the purpose of getting that last bit of selection committee attention isn’t such a great marketing strategy.

These guys keep telling themselves they’re geniuses despite all evidence to the contrary.

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Filed under Big 12 Football, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness

Politics and the art of broadcast consolidation

81Dog emailed me about this Wall Street Journal article, provocatively titled “How a weakened ESPN became consumed by politics”.  It begins with this:

John Skipper was furious.

One of his star anchors, Jemele Hill, had sent a tweet calling President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” Mr. Trump’s supporters called for her to be fired. Prominent black athletes defended the anchor, who is African-American.

Sitting in his office last September, Mr. Skipper, then ESPN’s president, lit into Ms. Hill, according to people familiar with the meeting. If I punish you, he told her, I’d open us up to protests and come off as racist. If I do nothing, that will fuel a narrative among conservatives—and a faction within ESPN—that the network had become too liberal.

Mr. Skipper chose to spare Ms. Hill. Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers.”

The president’s tweet was hyperbolic, but it tapped into real anxiety at ESPN. What was the way forward for a company shaken to its foundations by the cord-cutting revolution?

Ooh, Mickey’s doomed!  Is there anything Disney can do?

Before some of you snowflakes get too carried away with the narrative here, it’s worth remembering that the WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who’s not exactly anti-politics himself.  Murdoch, I doubt you need to be reminded, owns Fox.  And Fox just so happens to be a significant competitor in the sports broadcasting world to ESPN.  Let Andy Staples give you an example of that:

This all seems to suggest that broadcast networks NBC, CBS and Fox may be even more interested in college sports than they already were. Meanwhile, ESPN will continue to attempt to dominate the sport. (And games purchased by ESPN are actually being purchased by Disney, which also runs games on ABC using ESPN personnel and branding.) The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC could use their own cable networks as leverage as well by threatening to put the best games on those networks and demanding a higher subscription fee. (The ACC, which will launch its own network next year, won’t have this option because all its rights are owned by Disney/ESPN until 2036.) If even one streaming service such as Amazon Prime or YouTube Red decided to jump into the fray, the bidding could be frenzied. Dean Jordan, who has helped the ACC launch its channel with ESPN and who has worked with the Big Ten and College Football Playoff on media rights deals, believes the competition for rights could be fairly diverse in the next round.

I only see one entity referred to there as dominating.  As the Journal piece grudgingly admits about the WWL, “They have some enormous challenges but they have by far the best brand in sports…”  So what’s a little snotty political questioning between two rivals?

It’s even better than that.  The Murdoch empire is looking to sell a piece of Fox Sports and the front-runner for the purchase is Comcast.  However, there is another interested party.  Who might that be?  You guessed it.

The alternative to a Comcast/Fox deal is Disney buying the Fox properties, which would also boost the size of a TV sports empire by joining Fox’s sports properties with Disney’s national sports channels. The Disney-owned ESPN and ABC have TV contracts for the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, various soccer leagues, and other sports.

ESPN and the Fox regional sports networks “together would account for 30 percent of all affiliate fees for basic cable networks and RSNs and a massive 58 percent of affiliate fees for basic cable sports networks and RSNs,” S&P Global Market Intelligence said in a recent report that Comcast pointed out to Ars.

Either way, a Fox deal would produce a bigger programming giant that could demand higher fees from cable and satellite TV providers that buy access to sports channels.

Wrinkles, wrinkles everywhere.

The only politics any of these assholes are consumed with are the ones that make them the most money.  Buy into the nonsense narratives pushed by the likes of Clay Travis if you want, but realize you’re being played.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Political Wankery

What do fewer eyeballs on college football mean?

Richard Deitsch takes a look at broadcast numbers for the just concluded 2017 regular season and reports a decline.

Per Karp, here’s where the networks finished for average viewership for this year’s CFB regular season:

CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.

ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.

Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.

NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.

ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.

FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.

Some interesting thoughts from Karp in the piece: CBS’s SEC package was the most-viewed individual package for the ninth straight CFB season, but this year’s average was its lowest in well over a decade. ABC’s Saturday Night Football was down 4% from 2016, even though its window remained college football’s most-viewed window with 5.7 million viewers. ESPN was easily the most-viewed cable net for CFB—it has the most games so that lowers its average—but was down with fewer Big Ten matchups. FS1’s average was its best since the network launched but below what the cable net FX averaged for its games in ’11 (1.01 million viewers).

Let’s cut to the chase here:  is it panic time?  Well, far be it from me to speak for the geniuses who run the sport, but Karp seems to suggest that while the numbers are an indication of a problem, it’s not an existential one.

“I don’t think that meant less interest in college football,” Karp said. “If anything, I’d say the interest was higher this season compared to some prior years. If you look at total minutes viewed for college football, it had to be some sort of record this year. There were some really exciting matchups and Fox Sports really stepped up their game this year—the company’s first with the Big Ten regular season lineup. You could often find three college football windows on the Fox broadcast window this season, which never happened before. With a healthy dose on FS1, they are making themselves a destination for college football now. But this is a zero-sum game, particularly as it relates to the Power Five conferences. Fox Sports’ gain was ABC/ESPN’s loss, as the new Big Ten contracts meant Bristol had fewer options with regard to top teams. While Saturday Night Football on ABC still got some bigger matchups, there were just fewer options for Saturday afternoon windows. As good as a team like UCF was this season, matchups from the AAC just aren’t moving the needle.

“For CBS, the SEC was just too top heavy this season,” Karp continued. “They had some bad matchups on the network. Alabama is still a draw, but there is a limit on the number of Alabama games the network can air, and Georgia-Florida or any Tennessee game just aren’t what they used to be. For NBC, Notre Dame fans just didn’t watch early in the season, expecting some sort of repeat of 2016’s debacle. But NBC saw improvement over the last three game telecasts. I’d say college football fans were winners this season. There are options galore on TV, and that doesn’t even include improvement on the streaming front. Networks like CBS and ESPN need to see improvement from some big-time programs like Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska and maybe even an Oregon. That would increase the availability of bigger games for those networks.”

The SEC in particular hasn’t been doing CBS any favors of late.  When it’s mid-November and the schedule lines up to present Kentucky at Georgia as your game of the week, you haven’t been trying that hard to make sure your customers are getting prime matchups.  Sure, having more programs with a pulse certainly helps, but anybody looking at that week before the start of the season could have sensed that the conference wasn’t putting its best face forward then.

It’s not just CBS, of course.  Overall, this season has struck me on more than one occasion as one in which the networks loaded up primo games — as in plural — in the same time slot.  Some of that is no doubt due to schools and conferences trying to accommodate their fan bases who actually attend the games (quaint, I know), but you can’t help but question if there are other factors in play.

Aside from the top-heavy nature of this season’s landscape, as well as a certain amount of inept scheduling, I wonder if there are any other issues worth considering.  Those of you who swing right politically would no doubt cite ESPN’s social media missteps this season as a factor, although there’s a certain amount of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face involved with that.

I, though, think about whether we’re witnessing a certain canary in the coal mine doing a little chirping.  Deitsch prefaces his piece with the observation that “College football is a tougher game to analyze for ratings experts given a number of factors including the innate regionalism of the sport…” and it seems fair to ask if ESPN’s relentless promotion of the college football playoffs is already having an unintended, yet inevitable, impact on fans’ interest in the regular season.

Left to consider, then, are what the broadcast numbers for the playoffs look like and whether the conferences and the networks can get their collective acts together next season.  Maybe some better conclusions can be drawn then.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain