Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Raycom, ESPN U, and ESPN: what's the story?

In the comments section on my prior post LA Eagle voiced a gripe that many BC fans have had this year: "what's with all the Raycom and ESPN U games this year?"

It is really not BC's fault. It is more a product of how things work.

Who holds the rights?
As part of the ACC's deal with ESPN, ABC/ESPN get the first two selections of any ACC home games. One is for ESPN. One is for the 3:30 regional game on ABC. Raycom gets the third choice. After they select, the rights revert back to ESPN. They can put it on ESPN U, Classic, 360, whatever. Road games are subject to the home team's TV deal. For example, all Notre Dame home games are on NBC. The SEC has a deal similar to the ACC where CBS, ESPN and Raycom are all involved. The MAC has a deal with ESPN, so the Kent State game was their property.

How are games selected?
Outside of the first two weeks of the season and non-Saturday matchups, most games are selected two weeks prior to kickoff. Even with that window, there is a tentative schedule produced in advance with built in contigencies ("if X beats Y, then the X-Z game will be on ESPN at noon"). These schedules are built around ratings, not records or rankings. However, records and rankings influence ratings. For example, BC and Clemson both bring certain fans to the table regardless of record. That baseline assures some TV coverage. If both teams are playing well you can draw in casual college football fans. If one team is in the dumps it drags ratings.

What happened this year?
BC's relegation to the mid and lower levels of the ACC TV package is more a product of perception, Raycom's love of BC, and the condition of the conference. Look at the case by case example:

  • Kent State -- ESPN U: When BC agreed to play Kent State, the game was probably going to be the Thursday before Labor Day at Kent State on ESPN 2. Then the Browns/Cleveland got involved and wanted the game played in Cleveland on Saturday night. ESPN/ESPN 2 had better options so we were moved to ESPN U. If not for BC's involvement, this game is not even carried on TV.
  • Georgia Tech -- Raycom. Decided before the season. Both teams were likely to be unranked so ESPN passed. Raycom jumped at the chance to have BC back on their schedule after two seasons without Eagles football.
  • Central Florida -- ESPN U. Decided after the Georgia Tech loss. This is where momentum and perception come into play. If BC beats Georgia Tech and enters the polls earlier in the season, this game might have been on ESPN or ESPN 2.
  • Rhode Island -- ESPN 360. This is the one game where the ESPN deal hurts fans. If ESPN doesn't hold on to the rights, NESN or another New England broadcaster could have picked this up. It occasionally happened when we played the "good for New England" game as members of the Big East.
  • NC State -- Raycom. This is where the Raycom love and the underperforming opponent come into play. If NC State had a better record ESPN would have grabbed this for the "TOB vs. BC" angle. Raycom gladly took it and the game performed well for them.
  • Virginia Tech -- ESPN 2. When we are good and facing a good team we get primetime spots on national networks.
  • North Carolina -- Raycom. This is where the two weeks scheduling hurts. I bet that ESPN/ABC selected the Virginia Tech-Florida State game assuming the Hokies would beat us. And even with our win, it could be argued that VT-FSU is a matchup with broader appeal. Raycom is happy...they get BC again.
  • Clemson -- ESPN U. Clemson is in a nose dive now. If they were ranked this game would be on one of the bigger networks.

As for the rest of the schedule. Notre Dame and Florida State will get good coverage. Maryland and Wake depend on how we play. If we remain ranked and at the top of the division those games will be on ESPN/ABC.

When you step back, the whole system seems overly complicated. But diehards should be happy. We are in an age where every game is accessible from anywhere in the country. That is an improvement over just five years ago when I'd often be stuck listening to the radio stream online and periodically getting dropped or buffered during the broadcast.

The key for all BC fans is to get ESPN U. ESPN just signed the SEC to a deal that froze out Raycom. I predict they will do the same with the ACC. Once that happens everything will stay within the ESPN family.


furrer4heisman said...

if you think it's bad this year, wait until '09 when every sec game is on espn.

chicagofire1871 said...

Living in California, the Raycom games don't bother me b/c they are always available on ESPN Gameplan, whereas any ESPNU or 360 games are not. This can be frustrating b/c neither U or 360 are available with Comcast. Ugh. For the sake of simplicity, ESPN Gameplan ought to encompass any ESPN property game.

Eagle1 said...

Comcast blows. No ESPN U, no NFL package. Dump that outdated crap for Direct TV. Got mine a month ago. Love it.

morrina said...

Gameplan should be more encompassing, and you shouldn't have to put a satellite dish on your house just to get ESPNU. Here in Boston, that is the only way to get it since Verizon FiOS is not yet available.

eagle1331 said...

Is Direct TV's Gameplan package the only way to get ESPN U with Direct TV? How much does it cost?

Unknown said...

sorry to change the subject but does anyone else find this comment from Bill Simmons' "NFL Week 7 picks" column really annoying:

FALCONS (-4.5) over Bye Week
Things I never guessed I would say during the 2008 season, Vol. MXXIV: "I wish the Patriots had Atlanta's rookie QB." I have to say, it has been a revelation to see a Boston College product get a job right out of college and do well for himself.

I know he's a Holy Cross alum but as a BC alum from '05, I don't recall discussing hatred for Holy Cross at any point in my college career. On what basis does he feel like it is appropriate or relevant for him to dog BC?

Eagle1 said...


Ignore Simmons. It's tongue-in-cheek banter from a guy who probably got a rejection letter from BC. In any case, he's becoming increasingly irrelevant as each day passes. Met him a couple of years ago. Wasn't impressed. He emanates self-love and obviously has been in LA for too long.

ATL_eagle said...

eagle1331, ESPN U is not part of DirecTV's gameplan. It is part of DirecTV's sportspack which is $9 a month and gets you every sport channel out there. Gameplan is a seperate deal that is college football only.

eagle1331 said...

Thanks Bill

Sujit - I have a great Bill Simmons quote in my facebook profile (and thus can't see because I'm at work) that would answer your question. It's from a mailbag last year when we were near our undefeated apex and someone asked why he never gave a mention of us. Basically, it's him being a pain in the A$s because his mother reads all of his columns and is a BC alumni...

Bosco2BC said...

i never saw this before, but in bill simmons' wikipedia page, it says that he was rejected from BC even though both of his parents worked there (his mom also being an alumn, as someone already mentioned). i guess that would explain his anti-BC edge.


Beantown19 said...

So calling Holy Cross kids "BC rejects" is okay, but calling BC kids "Notre Dame rejects" crosses the line?


BCMike said...

Actually, it has nothing to do with academics with Simmons.

It's 100% completely Mommy didn't love me.


Bill Simmons' Dad went to HC, his mom went to BC. His Mom left him and his Dad for unknown reason (no one knows who was to blame or was at fault, but Bill stayed with his Dad). He since insisted that his Mom was the town whore and hates everything BC.

It's 100% personal for Bill, his Mommy didn't love him enough, and he's taking it out on the world.

BTW--this is complete fact on my end provided by Simmons in his (surprisingly crappy) book on the Red Sox "Now I can die in peace".

SectionKK said...

I don't think we should care too much about digs like that. HC is a nice, small northeastern liberal arts college; its sports are irrelevant.

Big Jack Krack said...

When I was at BC this was a pretty good rivalry for sure - I didn't see all that much "hatred" - but the rivalry was strong and sprited! My older brother was HC and my uncle was a Jesuit who headed up the HC Philosophy Dept. It was fun to see the Jesuits taking sides in those days, especially after indulging in a few :-)

We slapped them in 1965, but - in one of the most exciting games I have ever seen - even though we lost - HC beat us in the last minute in 1966. They had 2 quarterbacks the year before, and one of them - Jack Lentz - was exactly what we are seeing today. A mobile quarterback who could run for daylight - what goes around comes around, as they say. Notice the dates. I miss ending the season with a rivalry game - but by the same token we are playing to get into the ACC CG.

The other quarterback was the passer who left school early to serve in Vietnam and tragically on July 15, 1966 Michael A. Cunnion '67, quarterback on the varsity football team, was Killed in Action along with 12 other Marines when his helicopter was hit by Viet Cong fire and crashed in Quange Tri province.

We were all wondering what it was all about by then and the campuses, including BC, were in upheaval and turmoil with protesting, etc.

11-28-1964 BC 10 Holy Cross 8
Chestnut Hill, MA
11-27-1965 BC 35 Holy Cross 0
Worcester, MA (in the rain)
11-26-1966 BC 26 Holy Cross 32
Chestnut Hill, MA
12-02-1967 BC 13 Holy Cross 6
Worcester, MA

Good luck Holy Cross - too bad they blocked you from joining the Big East (in Basketball) By the way, we didn't start beating them in BBall until this time frame - they were the class of NE - along with Providence.

AlbanyEagle said...

My freshman year was the last year BC played HC in football. We took the short road trip to Woosta to play the then-undefeated Crusaders, in the days when Gordie Lockbaum was dreaming of the Heisman. Expecting a cordial reception from a fellow Catholic school, wasn't I surprised to see a very large contingent wearing "I Hate BC" shirts and throwing around "safety school" references. It didn't get any friendlier as we went on to beat them 56-26, spoiling their hopes for a perfect season. That was the end of what had been a storied rivalry decades before.