NBA Re-ups with ABC, ESPN, TNT

This is a little late; blame NBA.com’s tardiness putting up the story, but the NBA will stay on ABC, ESPN, and TNT through 2016, well after just about all other leagues will have to renew their agreements. So far as people watching TV will be able to tell, it will be status quo, unless they happen to watch NBA TV try to become as close to the NFL Network as the NBA is to the NFL.

TNT will show 52 regular season games a year and up to that number of playoff games. ABC will show a minimum of 15 regular-season and the same number of playoff games, including the Finals; the ESPN family will show up to 75 regular season games and 29 playoff games.

More info at the linked article.

15 playoff games mean even with a 7-game Finals, ABC will have to show 8 playoff games, more games than Finals games. This represents a larger playoff commitment on the part of both ABC and ESPN. This and more analysis on Sports Media Watch.

NBC probably had the most successful run of any NBA TV partner, but this deal will give ABC rights for longer than NBC. Many NBA fans on the Internet have been critical of the NBA on ABC – and with gimmicks like bringing in the Pussycat Dolls to do songs for the opener, ABC makes an easy target – but the NBA and others have stated repeatedly that NBC, CBS, and Fox did not make a sufficient offer to compete, and it’s absurd to blame the NBA’s broadcast ratings woes to the presentation of games on ABC. If the games are good, people will turn in in spite of the presentation.

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.

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.

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 4/28-29

All times PDT.

Saturday
9-5 PM: NFL Football, NFL Draft Rounds 1-2 (ESPN). Which will it be this year? Will the second round be actually treated with a little respect, or at the same level as the second-day rounds?

5-7:30 PM: NBA Basketball, San Antonio @ Denver (ESPN). Carmelo Anthony’s best chance of making it out of the first round is probably to have Joey Crawford officiating.

7:30-10 PM: NBA Basketball, Utah @ Houston (ESPN). What do you want, personalities, or good basketball? If the latter, this game is for you.

Sunday
10:30-3 PM: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Racing, Aaron’s 499 (FOX). Better than nothing.

5-7:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Anaheim @ Vancouver (VS.). Actually, if I had chosen the NHL game yesterday I would still have the other NBA game that day and the NBA doubleheaders today. But today’s NBA games, well, suck.

The NFL schedule story no one’s reporting on

I noticed something interesting about Year 2 of NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

Not the introduction of Keith Olbermann to the studio show, but rather, something about the schedule.

It still consists of the first ten weeks being pre-assigned, while Weeks 11-17 are “flex schedule” weeks, with games being chosen two weeks in advance (one week in the case of Week 17). But last season, the primetime spot on the schedule was simply left blank for the flex weeks.

This year, the primetime spot actually has a game listed, even though it could still be moved to an afternoon spot to make room for a better game.

As I intend on prognosticating on what games will be shown in prime time in this space, that brings up a bevy of questions that I’m not finding the answers to. Will CBS and Fox be able to “protect” the game listed in late night and keep it in the afternoon, or indeed, will they still be able to protect games at all? How closely will NBC hew to the game chosen for late night? Will a game have to be a complete dud for NBC to move away from it, or is the game just a placeholder for something close to the status quo last season, when NBC chose the games it thought best given the restrictions they had to work with (though they seemed to have certain perplexing biases, and choosing Packers-Bears Week 17 seemed to defeat the purpose of moving games only one week prior)?

All of a sudden, I’m dazed and confused and don’t know where to go.

Sports Watcher for the weekend of 4/14-15

All times PDT.

Saturday
1-3 PM: MISL Soccer, Detroit at Milwaukee (VS.). Did you know the Detroit Ignition are an expansion team? You wouldn’t be so impressed if you knew four teams make the playoffs… out of a six-team league.

4-6:30 PM: NHL Hockey, Tampa Bay at New Jersey (CBC). Folks in Canada are incenced the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins (w/Sid the Kid) and Ottawa Senators (only Canadian team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs) is not in prime time, and they have to watch an all-American game on CBC, solely to appease NBC. But the worst part is, the game CBC is airing isn’t available nationally in the States! Personally, I blame NBC for not showing any hockey in primetime other than the Finals. If you really want to grow the game so much in the States by force-feeding us Sidney Crosby, would it really hurt to put it in primetime on by far the weakest night of the week, which the Big Four hardly bother to program anyway?

(Before you think “Is that a sign they’re adding insult to injury by throwing CBC a game no one on either side of the border cares about?” consider that the game on Versus pits the 8-seed Islanders “versus” the 1-seed Sabres. Talk about a squash.)

(Incidentially, while CBC recently locked up a long-term deal with the NHL, NBC only re-upped for one more year with an option for a second… which at first glance appears to be a retread of the previous deal, which was similar, until you note that this coming year is also the last year of the NBA on ABC.)

Sunday
10:30-3 PM: NASCAR Racing, Samsung 500 (FOX). Three drivers have over 900 points out of five with 800. It’s lonely at the top of NASCAR.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, San Diego @ Los Angeles (ESPN). It’s Jackie Robinson Day in MLB and Bud Selig is allowing any player to wear his number; the Dodgers, the team that first put him in the big leagues, is one of a few teams doing it for everybody (Mike Cameron is the only one for the Padres). Expect more 42’s than even Douglas Adams could have ever dreamed. Clearly that day will be the day our planet is obliterated for a freeway bypass.

Baseball and hockey pre-empt boxing, TNA wrestling, and BodogFight MMA from the Watcher, but I did find out that my local cable system now shows exactly THREE PPV channels (outside the porn-only channels), which show porno in lighter hours than you’d think. Is “on demand” creating a new world, one which could force boxing, wrestling, and MMA to re-think their strategies as they increasingly become the only reason for PPV’s existence (alongside porn, but that might be headed for “on demand” as well once parental controls are advanced enough to allow it)? Spike TV will carry UFC 70 for free in the States next week in what could be the most watched (by network executives) and most pivotal sports event on television in recent memory. It could be a test that could establish, once and for all, the viability and popularity of MMA, could be a “test of the waters” for boxing and MMA, to determine if cable is financially viable, to determine if it’s time to come out of the PPV shelter and possibly on the road to respectability, and if that part’s successful, it could be one final nail in the coffin for PPV. (What it would do to professional wrestling, for which PPV is an integral part of the business model to the point where a “big event” happens once a month, not once a year, is anyone’s guess.)

Sports Watcher for the weekend of 4/7-8

All times PDT.

Saturday
12:30-3 PM: MLS Soccer, Colorado at DC United (ABC). Finally, the MLS season opener doesn’t compete with the Final Four pre-show. Of course, now it’s up against the first round of the Masters…

4-7 PM: College Hockey, Michigan State v. Boston College (ESPN). The third-biggest championship the NCAA administers. Of course, it’s light years behind even women’s college basketball and isn’t really that far from last place.

7-10 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 69 (PPV). I could write reams on why UFC is whipping boxing’s ass right now, but I’ll save them for a later date. (But a word of advice: If you want to become really mainstream and not elicit comparisons to illegal cagefighting or pro wrestling, dump the steel cage. I don’t know of any fighting organization of any kind that doesn’t use anything more than the classic ropes.)

Sunday
11:30-4 PM: PGA Golf, The Masters Final Round (CBS). You know, if that Tiger Woods gets a few more major wins, maybe, one day, if he’s really lucky, he’ll be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, Boston @ Texas (ESPN). Even though Curt Schilling will be Boston’s starter, we’ll still be caught up in Dice-K mania.

Next weekend: Hot NHL playoff action! (cue crickets)

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 3/31-4/1

All times PDT.

Saturday
12-2:30 PM: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Kroger 250 (FOX). The Truck Series graduates from Speed Channel… for a couple of races per year.

3-5 PM: College Basketball, Georgetown v. Ohio State (CBS). At this point, the best thing for my bracket is for Ohio State to go on to win the national championship. My bracket is a mess right now, and I need to come away salvaging something.

5:45-7:45 PM: College Basketball, UCLA v. Florida (CBS). If you think it’s 2006 all over again, you’re wrong. This is only the Final Four, not the national championship.

Sunday
12-1 AM: WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (USA). Nothing like a bunch of players of a fake sport being inducted into a nonexistent hall of fame, especially when you’ve heard of maybe one or two of the people going in, most of the inductions are left out of the hour show, and even that show is on after everyone has gone to bed.

10-11:30 AM: PBA Bowling, Tournament of Champions (ESPN). I’ll be watching the NBA, as ABC has some pretty good games, but I have a policy of putting every championship possible on the Watcher.

12-3 PM: LPGA Golf, Kraft Nabisco Championship (CBS). I support women’s sports in every form, so of course I’ll be watching Dallas and Phoenix. And NASCAR. Haven’t seen the Car of Tomorrow yet. But this is on the Watcher because it happens to be a major and I have the aforementioned rule on championships.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, NY Mets @ St. Louis (ESPN2). I pull for women’s basketball huge, so why am I picking Opening Night over the Women’s Final Four? Because without fail, every single year I find myself watching it, and often being fascinated with it. Maybe it’s just the lack of baseball we’ve had all winter.

(Yes, wrestling fans, I know I left out WrestleMania but included the HoF ceremony. I only list wrestling as a joke when there’s nothing else on.)

The 2007 Mid-Major Conference

Refer to this post if you don’t know what this is about or to catch up on the rules.

This year, six conferences produced multiple bids to the NCAA tournament: the MVC, MWC, WAC, A-10, CAA, and Horizon. These conferences are guaranteed one spot each in the Mid-Major Conference.

Four teams reached the Sweet 16, all from different conferences; only one of these teams did not come from a multi-bid conference. (In my view, Memphis’ trip to the Sweet 16 is tainted by the fact there were no major teams in its pod.) Of the three multi-bid conferences that did not produce a Sweet 16 team, all had one team win its first-round game and one team lose its first-round game. (This also applies to the three conferences to produce Sweet 16 teams as well.)

This leaves only one spot in the MMC to be determined by my discretion, with no conference restrictions.

Without further ado, the eight members of the 2007 Mid-Major Conference:

Butler (Horizon League)
Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley Conference)
UNLV (Mountain West Conference)
Memphis (Conference USA)
Nevada (Western Athletic Conference)
Xavier (Atlantic 10)
Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association)
Winthrop (Big South Conference)
Honorable mentions: Appalachian State, Akron, Marist

Davidson, Appalacian State, and Winthrop were the main contenders for the last spot. Davidson’s case was hurt by a big loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and the fact that it would lose a tiebreaker to App State. I wanted to reward the strong year for the SoCon with an MMC spot, especially since I considered App State’s resume to be awfully strong to dismiss completely for an NCAA bid, but getting demolished by Ole Miss in the first round of the NIT didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Winthrop finally broke through the glass ceiling and won its first NCAA Tournament game; that must deserve special recognition. Rest assured, App State would be the first team in if the MMC were nine teams deep.

Marist makes the honorable mentions because it’s the only team from a conference not producing multiple NCAA bids to win its first round NIT game.