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Saturday, June 9, 2007

Durations of sports television contracts

Info from Wikipedia and research through various sources. This info is incomplete and may contain inaccuracies. Your input is welcomed if you can point me to sources to fill in absent or unknown info.

College football contracts - basketball and other sports generally through following year:
ACC thru 2010
Big 12, ABC thru 2015, FSN thru 2011
Big East thru 2013
Big 10 thru 2016
Pac-10 thru 2011
SEC, CBS and ESPN thru 2023, CSS thru 2013
MWC thru 2016 or 2020
C-USA thru 2010
MAC thru 2016
WAC thru 2016
Sun Belt thru 2011
Notre Dame thru 2015
Army thru 2014, Navy thru 2009

College basketball only:
MVC thru 2011
WCC thru 2011
Horizon League thru 2010
MAAC thru 2010
Atlantic 10 thru 2010
Patriot League thru 2008

Professional and other leagues:
NHL thru 2011
Horse Racing, Belmont Stakes on ABC at least thru 2008, NBC thru 2010
MLS, FSC thru 2010, ESPN and Univision/Telefutura thru 2014
MISL, FSC thru 2009
NIT thru 2010
US Open Cup thru 2010
AFL, ESPN thru 2011
French Open, Tennis Channel and ESPN thru 2011
Australian Open thru 2011
Wimbledon, NBC thru 2011, ESPN thru 2013
NFL, NBC thru 2012, CBS, FOX and ESPN thru 2014
PGA, NBC and CBS thru 2012, Golf Channel thru 2022
UEFA Champions League thru 2012
Olympics thru 2012
IndyCar, ABC thru 2012, Versus thru 2018
MLB thru 2013
NCAA Tournament (men's and women's, plus other ESPN and CBS champs) thru 2013
BCS thru 2014
NASCAR thru 2014
LLWS thru 2014
US Open (golf), ESPN thru 2014
US Open (Tennis) thru 2014
MLL thru 2016
NBA, WNBA thru 2016
British Open thru 2017
LPGA, Golf Channel thru 2019

Last Updated: July 24, 2009

Soccer... MMA... softball?

College softball is a bigger deal than the WNBA or MLS, and is getting to be almost as big as UFC.

That's what I have to conclude after the Women's College World Series pulled off an average 1.5 rating, including a 1.8 for the rubber match between Arizona and Tennessee, admittedly according to ESPN itself.

I don't know what ratings for the men's College World Series are, but if they're higher they'd have to poke into the twos, which is a bit mind-boggling.

So let's go out there and start a pro softball league! Well, first of all, the Women's Final Four gets pretty good ratings, roughly comparable with this, but the WNBA stinks up the ratings somewhere in the vicinity of .4. That said, we already have one, and I'd barely heard of it before last year. It's six teams with hope for expansion, but despite having MLB as "official development partner", you probably haven't heard of it either. It's not actually part of MLB but it seems to have failed at marketing compared to WNBA and MLS nonetheless. Of course, also part of its problem is that it has teams in Chicago AND Rockford, but none in NY or LA.

Competition for cable boxes! Hooray! Oh wait...

The FCC is finally enforcing an 11-year-old rule requiring cable companies to allow competition for their set-top boxes. (I'd like to see competition for the companies themselves, as opposed to the fake competition that gives them local monopolies, but whatever.)

After more than a decade of cable-company stalling, FCC head honcho Kevin Martin is mad as hell, and he isn't going to take it anymore. The cable companies are, effective July 1, finally going to have to separate their navigational (channel-changing) and security (scrambling channels) functions, with the latter to now be served by "cable cards" that plug into the back of the machines.

Now you'll be able to buy your cable box instead of having to pay the cable company a little extra each month for it. Sounds great, right? The cable industry is just being obstructionist?

Except $5-10 a month sure seems like a better option than hundreds of dollars one time. Then again, over time the box you own yourself becomes a better option, plus you can take it with you when you move (and perhaps, just maybe, at some point, when you change cable companies without moving). But the hard-and-fast deadline is hindering progress on two other fronts:
  • Cable cards have so far proven unreliable, since cable companies have no interest in making them work, and consumers may have difficulty tracking them down. A computer chip inside the box that downloads security settings would be a better deal, but right now cable companies are scrambling to meet the deadline they already have. Even Martin thinks "downloadable security" is a better idea than cable cards and would have let cable companies go to that instead... if only they had made a firm commitment to the technology.
  • The "generic" boxes won't have interactive-technology functions like VOD and PPV. The cable companies haven't been able to agree on a protocol with the to-be-manufacturers of generic cable boxes. The electronics companies want the FCC to nudge along progress on that front, but they're a bit busy with this deadline right now.
I'm almost tempted to say the FCC should grant another one-year extension, this time with interactive-function and downloadable-security provisions attached. All the previous extentions have been the result of cable company stalling; now we'd have one to iron out real problems. Assuming Martin is still head of the FCC in 2008, it would not start a slippery-slope process.

But I have an idea that could prevent this sort of thing in the future. When a regulatory agency extends a deadline, it should act as though the old deadline is still in place, and levy fines (not as big as that for missing the real deadline) against all agencies not already in compliance.

Had that been followed at the start, cable companies would have actually gotten cracking on separation, instead of continuing to stall for over a decade. Extensions would have been made in good faith instead of just to stall.

Of course, the real problem is that the FCC allowed itself to be in the pocket of cable companies for so long...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The most pivotal day in "Versus" history?

Versus will televise Big 12 and Pac-10 football games as part of a new agreement with FSN, a rehash of FSN's prior deal with TBS. I'd be more impressed if FSN hadn't already let Pac-10 games go to ESPN and made another agreement with ESPN for Big 12 games.

This is great news for Versus and terrible news for fans of those conferences who have longed for them to get off FSN. TBS to Versus is a big step down. On the other hand, while Versus isn't likely to get The Game That Will Determine The National Championship (between ABC and FSN), this is exactly what Versus needs to do to establish its bona fides as a major sports power before the Big Three contracts come up for renewal again in the mid-2010's. Versus' limited distribution and the fact that it counted on major sports to establish its reputation, instead of making sure they had one going in, helped kill their shots at NFL and MLB rights (though Versus' best shot at the mighty NFL, especially considering their distribution, was probably always the package the NFL relegated to the NFL Network for reasons not concerning the individual drawbacks of any network).

Getting the sort of sports that characterized the early days of ESPN and ESPN2 is also a must. Versus has already gotten a head start on that with NLL and MISL coverage, and dipped its toe into Arena Football coverage last season. Jumping into more mid-major sports, like MLS and the WNBA, would seem to be a logical next step, but MLS and AFL rights are locked up into the next decade, and WNBA (and NBA) rights are pretty much too far into negotiations at this point, with the pens practically already sitting by the contract.

The Big 12 has already re-upped with ABC and FSN, a deal that starts in 2008. Versus might be able to interject itself in SEC negotiations, which are up for renegotiation soon for a new deal starting 2009. Both football and basketball are shown on CBS and ESPN, but ESPN's coverage of the SEC is rather limited, with lesser games (including the basketball semifinals, a bit of notoriety shared by no other Big Six conference) relegated to regional syndication.

Versus probably overestimated the cache of the NHL today in trying to line up deals for better sports. Now they have to hope that even mid-level Big 12 and Pac-10 games will draw enough eyeballs to stop itself from being a joke for any league over the NHL line. I can't exactly say the battle of Iowa is a good sign of what's to come, but at least now they might edge just a little bit higher.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Short Term Plan for Da Blog

I recently decided to go hunting for ways to increase traffic, considering my anemic numbers on the polls. (I have started to receive a small trickle of hits since the post below, but you haven't been voting!) This was the first hit on MSN Search. Point 5 reads:
Post often when you first start your blog. As time goes on you don’t have to post everyday but try not to ever go longer than a week without posting. Your blog will start looking like a ghost town and your visitors won’t want to come back if you don’t update it on a regular basis.
In case you haven't noticed, I've taken some big breaks in new posts in the past. That, in retrospect, was a no-no.

Looking back on some recent hits, I've noticed that a significant number of recent hits have come on my Upfront series, thanks to Google hits. You'd be surprised how high Da Blog can rank on Google's blog search service. Suppose someone heard that Patricia Heaton was appearing in a new Fox show and wanted to learn what the blogosphere was saying about it. A Technorati search for "fox upfront patricia heaton" turns up 35 results and Da Blog's own upfront coverage isn't among them. But Google produces about 73 - and Da Blog places 40th.

Obviously I need to get Technorati to start paying attention to Da Blog beyond having a meaningless listing for it. Technorati says that they'll automatically update their records every time I post since I'm with Blogger. But they also say that I last updated three months ago. Considering that was before March Madness, that's a problem. But surely I have "blog news" posts older than three months, right?

But this also hints at a way to continue to get Google traffic. So you'll see me make more "comments on the news" at semi-random intervals based on whatever strikes me. There will be some biases (sports, TV business, politcs) that will become evident fast. This will be a short-term solution and it's quite likely that I'll burn out, but I suspect this will become a stalwart feature of Da Blog for a long time to come.

And it starts... tomorrow (today as you're likely to read this).