So, How am I Holding Up in the Age of Trump?

I haven’t made any posts since before the inauguration, and you’d probably forgive me if the first week or two of the new administration left me so broken down as unable to say anything. There’s probably some truth to that, but it’s not the whole truth; for example, circumstances outside my control left me unable to update the Pro Football Hall of Fame Watch, which I may have to reassess the criteria for and post with possibly substantial changes in July or August.

I’ve been trying to make progress on the series of political posts I started on the eve of the election, but one post in particular has proved much more involved than I expected, in part because it’s an idea for a post I’ve had going back at least to my first round of political posts in 2008, but the outcome of the recent election has resulted in an example to work with that’s far less straightforward than the 2000 election I was going to work with. Recently I’ve been letting that fall by the wayside in favor of another more frivolous project that may or may not result in new content for the site but which doesn’t make me feel much better for working on it. I was intending for this series of political posts to build up to my proposed changes to the Constitution, but the context now feels very different than it did then.

I did start a new Da Countdown on inauguration day ticking down the remaining days in the Trump administration, assuming he doesn’t suspend elections, but there hasn’t been much else. I actually have an idea for a more philosophical approach to my next political post, but it’s something that would have been better served coming out last week. And the election has inspired a bunch of other ideas for projects, but as was the case all last summer, it’s been hard for me to re-orient myself towards the project I had considered to be a prerequisite for them.

Still, I do hope to keep my “continue my streak of months with a post” posts like this one to a minimum going forward, but I suspect when my next Blog-Day post comes out I’ll once again have a pretty low mark of posts for the year.

A bigly disappointing blog-day.

In certain corners of the Internet, it has long been a meme to talk about how terrible a year 2016 has been. In my case, it has been no exception. In fact, the horribleness of 2016 in the wider world weighs all the more heavily on me, even if for rather irrational, self-centered reasons.

The year started out so well. I published my book and announced it in my last blog-day post, and during the first half of the year I supplemented the book with numerous posts containing content that, for one reason or another, didn’t make it into the book, as well as posts containing my comments on the latest developments from the world of cord-cutting. I also started making plans for how to parlay the book into something that might result in me making some actual money on a regular basis, as well as weighing ideas for my next book.

And then Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, and my productivity ground to a complete halt.

Once Trump had the nomination secure, I decided I had to write a series of posts about what it meant for American democracy and how to pull it back from the abyss. The problem is, history has proven time and time again that it’s a lot harder for me to write political posts than posts on more frivolous topics. That was the case in the lead-up to the 2008 election, it was the case when I attempted to turn my short-lived Sandsday comic into a discussion of global warming, and it was the case with my Occupy Tea Party series, which didn’t go beyond two or three posts on specific topics. In the case of Trump, writing those posts meant diving into the muck of the state of American politics, and doing research on the thinking behind certain elements of the Constitution. It was far easier for me to play games and do other frivolous things all day.

In the end, I didn’t put out the first post in the series until literally the day before the election, and I still haven’t put out the intended second post. In the meantime, from June until the Flex Schedule Watch posts started in October I was once again making only one post a month. This is only the 48th post since my last blog-day post, breaking a record I already hadn’t thought would even be set as low as it was. And after Trump’s election, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that if I had put it out earlier, started the conversation before the election, perhaps a Trump victory might have been avoided as the American people focused on a more productive avenue to reform the system – or even that if I had written all the political posts I had wanted to over the last decade and worked to popularize them, we wouldn’t have come so close to the abyss to start with.

It’s a solemn occasion for another reason: this post marks the 10-year anniversary of Da Blog. It’s been a long time since I made any posts while cowering in a bus stop shelter, but it has not, so far, been the ticket to greatness I’ve hoped it would be. Perhaps this is just my disappointment with the last year talking, but Da Blog has more often than not confronted me with my own lack of work ethic in achieving any of my dreams, something that seems to have actually gotten worse as time has gone on; my posting frequency seemed to fall through the floor after I graduated from college and moved to LA with my dad, when you might expect the opposite to happen. Certainly Da Blog has contained any number of things as it has gone on, from being a home to my sports projects to housing webcomic reviews to my ongoing thoughts on the future of the Internet to covering the sports TV wars to tracking the evolution of the video market. But it has remained little more than a placeholder while I think about working on the projects I really want to, the only one of which that has come to fruition was the book, and that only because of my dad’s pushing and even then taking much longer than it had any right to.

I would like to think the next decade of Da Blog will be more productive than the last decade – that I’ll actually start gaining an audience for my writings and can actually start making an impact in the wider world. But the way this year has gone I’m not even sure civilization as we know it will exist in a decade, and I’m certainly not optimistic that we haven’t just thrown away our last chance to stop global warming from destroying civilization for us. I’ll start Year Eleven sometime after the holidays (and before the inauguration) by finishing up the series on the Constitution, including at least one post I’ve been meaning to write since 2008, and presenting my ideas for how to refresh the Constitution. After that is anyone’s guess, because it feels like it’s impossible to tell what might possibly happen next anymore. I’ve swung back around to weighing ideas for books, and as a result it may well be that going post-light every year may just be the norm from now on, but I also keep having personal projects nagging at the back of my mind to keep me wanting to come back to sports TV ratings. I may also parlay the Constitution series into a broader overview on just how society went wrong and the conflict between it and human nature. Or the pressure to actually make money may move me to start writing for other outlets, no matter how frivolous the topics I’d write about may seem. There are any number of directions I could end up going from here, and I don’t know if I’m going to end up taking any of them.

Do I HAVE to update the lineal titles every September?

I said last year that I was thinking of no longer tracking the lineal titles and I meant it, even though I could desperately use the extra content. This time I’m actually most of the way through the opening Saturday of college football season before I even bother to update everything. I’ve updated the NFL lineal title history but not the actual category pages, and you’ll notice that the non-DeflateGate title I said I was going to track isn’t reflected in the history at all, because the Patriots started the season undefeated for a long time while the DeflateGate title changed hands a bunch, and the main title went into the playoffs and starts the season with the Broncos while the non-DeflateGate title starts it with the Saints of all teams. (At some point I may make the format of the site more consistent across the subsites, and I may get rid of the special category pages for the lineal titles entirely at that point, so here’s a link to the NFL lineal title history should that happen.)

On the college side, the anticipated unification of 2009 Boise State with the Princeton-Yale title did in fact happen as TCU and Oklahoma State went into their game against one another undefeated, but even though the Cowboys won that game it’s TCU that enters the new season with the title, and it’s the 2006 Boise State title that returned to the College Football Playoff and starts the year in the hands of Alabama.

ANOTHER month without a post?!

This is not the way I should be following up on my book…

I have been active on Twitter, but I haven’t been able to put together enough uninterrupted time to actually write an actual post. It doesn’t help that what I’ve been working myself up to write is an ambitious series of political posts, and those have always worked out well. (You can probably guess what’s prompted it.)

I have started working my way towards some less ambitious posts that will start churning out over the next week or so, so July won’t be as much of a dead zone on here as June was. I could have a post on cord-cutting, and my continued frustration with OTT cable bundles, as soon as tomorrow.

Did I just spend all of March without a post?

Considering I’m trying to sell a book, that’s not necessarily the best thing to happen, is it? I think I needed a period of time to come down from the process of writing the book so I spent much of the month goofing off, and while you might think the oncoming start of the incentive auction process would serve as a trigger for writing more posts, what it actually served as the trigger of was a personal project of mine.

Not to worry. I have several ideas for relevant posts that I hope to bang out over the next few days, both on the incentive auction and plight of broadcast, and on the larger shifts sweeping over the video landscape. Stay tuned.

THE GAME TO SHOW THE GAMES now available in paperback!

After two months being available only for Kindle, my book, The Game to Show the Games, is now available in paperback from Amazon, for those who still prefer having their books on paper. A link to the Amazon page has been added to the book page on this site, and once Barnes and Noble begins offering it on their site I’ll add a link there too; it should also start to become available on various other online book retailers over the next few days. (Don’t bother looking for it in physical bookstores unless it really takes off, though.)

I’ve also added a cover image to the sidebar that will link to the book page, and as soon as I have suitable images I’m going to add links to buy the book to the ad spaces so the bottom one isn’t plugging a webcomic that’s been defunct and inaccessible for years. I also took the opportunity to finally get rid of that outdated Twitter widget hat hasn’t been supported for years, but the replacement had to go onto the right sidebar underneath the blog archive elements because Twitter currently supports only one style of widget and it can’t be narrower than 180 pixels.

TGTSTG Bonus Content: The Saga of the Longhorn Network

ESPN and Fox had saved the Big 12. Their commitment to pay the Big 12 the same with 10 schools as with 12 schools, coupled with virtually the entire college football world outside the Pac-10 converging to try to prevent conference realignment Armageddon, enabled Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to offer Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma enough of a financial inducement to stay in their conference and not defect to the Pac-10. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds effectively said as much, though not in so many words. Though a Longhorns network was “really important” to the school, and a move to the Pac-10 would have precluded that by forcing the school to surrender their rights to the conference for their own network, it wasn’t the “deal-breaker” to back out of the deal. Chris Plonsky, who headed the school’s women’s sports, similarly said that the ability to start a network wasn’t the “linchpin” that kept them in the Big 12, but it was a “very important variable”. Certainly it was a key element allowing the math to work out, and was widely perceived as the bedrock on which the foundation of the entire conference would be built going forward. Unlike other conferences that could plausibly claim to have an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality, the Big 12, it was just made clear, existed only because Texas allowed it to exist, and Texas allowed it to exist because it could collect much more money than the conference’s other schools, with many millions staked on a Longhorn network, an entire network dedicated to one school and potentially beamed directly into the campuses of many of its conference rivals, that would prevent the Big 12 from even considering going down the conference network path their peers were headed down. But Texas, despite having one of the biggest brand names and fan bases in college sports, was about to learn starting their own network would not be easy.

If anyone was as disappointed in the outcome as Larry Scott and the Pac-12, it was probably cable operators and satellite providers across the country. The formation of a handful of superconferences at least would have kept to a minimum the number of networks each of them would have tried to launch. Now, however, Texas, Oklahoma, and even Missouri were each talking about launching their own networks, and it wasn’t clear whether or not SEC or ACC schools would try to follow suit. There seemed to be a sense that launching a network was an automatic ATM guaranteed to let the money flow in. Cable operators wanted to make clear that things were not that easy and that they would take steps to protect their bottom line, and potentially, their customers’ bills. And they intended to make an example out of a Longhorn network.

Perhaps sensing the uphill battle ahead, Texas planned to invest no money in the enterprise and carry no risk if it failed. It would find a partner that could help with distribution and was willing to shoulder all the risk. Fox seemed to be the early leader in the clubhouse; it held most of the rights a new network would need and could conceivably use FSN’s existing deals with cable operators and satellite providers to get the network widely distributed right from the start. Fox also had experience partnering with the Big Ten on the Big Ten Network, something the other major contender, ESPN, had no experience in. But ESPN was able to make a renewed push to score the rights to, and full ownership of, the Longhorn Network. It would have to launch the network from scratch and go through all the bruising battles with cable operators, but as it turned out, if Texas did have to launch the network from scratch, it couldn’t ask for a better partner than ESPN.

The road was very bumpy to start. Even before engaging in high-level negotiations with cable operators, the network had an early misstep when ESPN decided it would be a good idea to air high-school football game, only for other schools to wonder whether that might violate NCAA recruiting rules or otherwise give Texas a recruiting advantage above and beyond that represented by the network itself. That, coupled with ESPN securing the rights to a conference football game, caused some to wonder whether the conference was on the brink of collapse again, and helped push Texas A&M and Missouri to jump ship to the SEC.

Meanwhile, ESPN went to distributors asking for 40 cents a subscriber, expensive for a cable channel but chump change compared to major-conference and regional sports networks (BTN started out charging 70 cents). Nonetheless, as the launch approached the network was far apart in talks with Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, and Comcast, in part because of the uncertainty surrounding high school and conference games, and in DirecTV’s case, because they wanted to wait for conference realignment to settle down (A&M was actively engaged in negotiations with the SEC as the network launched). It did have a deal with Verizon, but lacking a deal with TWC meant most people in Austin and a substantial proportion of people across the state wouldn’t be able to watch Texas’ 2011 home football opener against Rice. With even Verizon’s deal not kicking in until about a week after the network launched, the Longhorn Network opened in just 20,000 households. For all the controversy the network had engendered, almost no one, even within Austin let alone the state of Texas, could see it, and in a prelude to the CSN Houston and SportsNet LA showdowns to come, cable and satellite operators were remaining steadfast; by June, TWC and DirecTV weren’t even talking about carrying the network.

The network added AT&T U-Verse in time for the 2012 season, but the network was starting to look like folly; Oklahoma had gone deep into negotiations with Fox on a branded network, but what eventually emerged was merely a block of programming on Fox’s existing regional sports networks, while football coach Mack Brown, always uncomfortable with the level of access LHN wanted, seemed to imply that the distractions and added intelligence LHN provided may have contributed to Texas’ slow start that season. By 2013, it looked like LHN would enter a third season still without coverage on the largest distributors, casting a shadow over ESPN’s efforts to launch the SEC Network.

But just as the season prepared to begin, ESPN finally reached an agreement for Time Warner Cable to carry the Longhorn network. In March 2014, Disney reached a wide-ranging deal with Dish Network that included carriage for the Longhorn and SEC Networks, with DirecTV doing the same in December. What, exactly, changed to cause such a breakthrough, and whether it was a concession more on ESPN’s part or with distributors, may never be known, but one thing that is clear is that ESPN’s leverage with its panopoly of other networks was key to securing deals, certainly with satellite providers. Would the Longhorn Network have been able to overcome its early struggles to secure deals with distributors with any other partner, or certainly if Texas had opted to go it alone? It’s a question worth asking, and it helps explain why the ACC is still thinking about pursuing a network as a conference rather than individual schools looking into their own networks. Ultimately, the Longhorn Network’s success, as qualified as it is, may have more to do with the power of ESPN’s brand than Texas’.

Note: I’m probably not going to finish this initial series of Bonus Content posts this week; among other things, I still need to help put the finishing touches on the paperback. Hopefully the entire series will be done by the end of next week with whatever other posts I want to put together coming out over the rest of the month.

Blog-day… and now Book-day!

This is just the 51st post in Year Nine of Da Blog, shattering the previous record low that I thought at the time would be unbreakable. A good chunk of that total consisted of the Flex Schedule Watch and the Broadcast Rat Race (which I still intend to take up again next year, though I probably won’t pick it back up again this year), with over a third of the year from April through August consisting of one post a month, and many of the posts in the early part of the year being ratings posts, so there wasn’t a lot of high-quality content on here this year. Looking at this, you may think this was a horribly unproductive year, and certainly not what was intended when I moved down to LA to be with my Dad a little over a year ago.

You’d be wrong. Well, you’d be half-right. Let me explain.

The main focus of my mental and creative energies this year was writing my book about the sports TV wars, which you may recall I mentioned in last year’s blog-day post as potentially “tak[ing] up a lot of my time in the first four months or so of the new year.” That… didn’t exactly happen. Had I stuck to that original four-month schedule, I might have been able to produce the finished product as early as September; instead we sent an incomplete draft to reviewers a few months ago with a stated release date of December 1, which at least would have made it a great gift for Christmas. Instead I’ve been working overtime to get the book ready before I fly up to Seattle on Christmas Eve again, all while new developments have been unfolding in the area the book is supposed to cover, and the later it falls the less relevant it becomes.

51j-YErfIiL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_With all that out of the way, I’m pleased to announce that the book, The Game to Show the Games, is now available for your reading pleasure on Kindle, with a paperback version slated to come out sometime in the new year. Here you’ll learn about the business model that has allowed ESPN to grow from a ramshackle operation in Bristol, Connecticut to an unstoppable juggernaut that seemingly dominates all areas of sports, about the efforts of media companies to copy that business model and how it’s both benefited and transformed sports great and small in ways good, bad, and neutral, how the importance of sports and ESPN’s business model to the television industry is affecting it on every level, and about the force that’s in the process of sending it all crashing down. Whether you’re a sports fan or sports hater, a cord-cutter or cable addict, you’ll learn something important from this book.

In correspondence with the book, I’m going to be making a number of changes to Da Blog, and the rest of the Morgan Wick Online Universe, over the next couple weeks:

  • Part of the reason the book took so long is that I actually wrote more detail than was strictly necessary about some things. There are also some topics I didn’t quite have time to cover by the time I could have gotten around to them, or that didn’t fit in the structure of the book. So over the next two weeks, in addition to catching up on some developments in the cord-cutting and broadcasting worlds I was too busy working on the book to talk about, I’m going to post a number of outtakes from the book touching on topics insufficiently covered, or not at all, in the book itself. Those posts will go in the new Game to Show the Games subcategory of the Sports TV Business category, along with my past posts about the sports TV wars. I’ll also create a new landing page at morganwick.com/tgtstg with links to key past posts for further understanding each chapter, as well as the outtake posts.
  • I’m going to try to freshen up some elements of the site layout as well, things that haven’t aged well or don’t work at all (like the Twitter widget that was always a red-headed stepchild to begin with). In particular, the plugin I’m using for the Sports and Webcomics subsites should allow me to finally have a different left sidebar for them. I also hope to have the forum back up and running again before the new year. And while I’m not going to start dismissing or ignoring it entirely, I am going to tone down mentions of my… “condition” in places like the About Me page to not be quite so scary.
  • Oh, speaking of which, I have a new profile image I’m going to start rolling out on my various social media platforms and other Internet hangouts, especially those that are particularly important to my “professional” image, as opportunities arise to update them, starting with a new, less-outdated Twitter bio.

With the book out in the world, hopefully I can get back to a more regular posting frequency in the new year. More to the point, with the release of the book I’ve taken my first steps in truly expanding my brand out into the wider world. Time will tell what the reception to the book is, if there is any, and whether Year Ten is the year that sets the tone for the rest of the decade if not the rest of my life, the year that fulfills the purpose of moving down here to LA to begin with, or is just another year like the last nine that keeps me toiling away on another approach to getting ahead. But we’re going to be going as all-out as we can to make it the former, and that means no matter what, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Broadcast Rat Race Week 1: “Blindspot” a Bright Spot, “The Muppets” Makes a Splash, “Minority Report” Looks Grim

I’m introducing a new feature on Da Blog, adapting the Renew/Cancel Index used by TVbytheNumbers the past few years to predict the fates of scripted shows on broadcast television. The basic formula involves taking the average live+same day 18-49 ratings of each show and dividing by the average of all scripted shows on that network. Shows above about .85-.9 generally get renewed, those below .7-.75 generally cancelled, with shows on Friday getting about .2 leeway given the lower ratings on the night.

The adaptation I’ve made is an attempt to address two related issues: first, shows could premiere to great ratings and then crash through the floor in subsequent episodes, resulting in the Index’s prediction adjusting to the show’s post-crash level faster than the Index number can catch up to the show’s new level. Second, the Index has generally reset at midseason, with the index numbers only factoring in shows’ performances in the new year, indicating that decisions on the renewal or cancellation of shows tend to weight ratings later in the season more heavily, if they don’t ignore fall ratings entirely. To address these, my Index is calculated by averaging each show’s most recent rating with the previous week’s average, so after the first two episodes the show’s average 18-49 rating is what gets divided by the network average, but after three episodes the third episode’s rating is averaged with the average of the first two episodes, so each episode counts twice as much as the one before. The network average is calculated normally. This isn’t a perfect approach, as it doesn’t really solve the first problem until at least the third episode and may overcorrect for the second problem, but most shows eventually find a level and put forth fairly consistent ratings for the latter part of the season.

Although 18-49 ratings are the main factor that goes into whether a show is renewed or cancelled, they aren’t the only one, especially for shows in the in-between range, although the other factors are pretty much all based around various business relationships and concerns and most of the other things that get bandied about in the media are ultimately irrelevant. Most obviously, a show that is produced in-house will generally get the edge over a show that isn’t, but one of the biggest factors in the fate of shows, especially veteran shows, that doesn’t often get talked about is the economics of the syndication market, which results in most shows being able to be broken down into a few categories based on their age, very few of which make it to the latter stages, which are affected by the index differently.

  • Rookie shows could conceivably get an index number anywhere on the scale, since the network has picked them up without having any past performance to work off of. Most rookie shows are only ordered for around 13 episodes, not the usual 22, and must earn their “back 9” orders based on their early ratings. Most shows with index numbers below .5 are rookie shows, and a show that does that poorly could well be cancelled after a handful of episodes, with the remainder of their initial orders being burned off in summer and/or on Saturdays (although networks may be moving towards letting them finish their initial orders no matter what). On the other end, rookie shows are particularly likely to have inflated premiere episodes, so rookie shows whose premiere ratings put them above the in-between range may be noted as being “Too Early” to call their fates. This year’s rookies, at least among shows premiering by the end of this week, are “The Muppets”, “Blood and Oil”, “Quantico”, “Dr. Ken” (ABC); “Life in Pieces”, “Limitless”, “Code Black” (CBS); “Blindspot”, “The Player” (NBC); “Minority Report”, “Scream Queens”, “Rosewood”, “Grandfathered”, and “The Grinder” (FOX).
  • Sophomore shows, that is, shows in their second season or otherwise finishing the season with less than 60 episodes, have established their security over the course of an entire season and thus enter Season 2 with a full 22 episodes to play with. Their performance generally only determines what their fate will be in May when the network makes their decisions for next year. “Fresh Off the Boat”, “black-ish”, “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC); “Scorpion”, “NCIS: New Orleans”, “Madam Secretary”, “CSI: Cyber” (CBS); “The Mysteries of Laura” (NBC); “Gotham”, “Empire”, “The Last Man on Earth”, and “Sleepy Hollow” (Fox) are in this category.
  • Things start getting interesting for shows on the syndication fast track. When a show is within a season of the magic number for syndication (generally assumed to be 88, or about four full seasons, although that number may be dropping to the low 70s), the production company will do everything in their power to get the show the additional season they need to get over that magic number. Thus, shows that will finish their season (usually the third) with a season’s worth of episodes left to hit 88 are all but guaranteed to get the fourth season they need to get over the hump. It isn’t quite a guarantee, especially for shows that aren’t produced in-house given “The Mindy Project” was cancelled after three seasons last year and had to finish its run online, but it is a force unstoppable enough that TVBTN predicts certain renewal for every in-house show in this category. I don’t go that far, but shows in this category do start out with the color of “probable renewal” in their prediction column before they premiere, and thereafter are placed one color rank higher than their index number would otherwise suggest; in-house productions may never fall below “probable renewal”. “The Goldbergs”, “Agents of SHIELD” (ABC); “Chicago PD”, “The Blacklist” (NBC); and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX) are all shows premiering by the end of this week that are on the fast-track; “Sleepy Hollow” is not, despite being in its third season, because it’s a half-season-long “limited series” whose shorter episode orders don’t put it in range. (CBS isn’t devoid of fast-track shows, but “Mom” doesn’t premiere until after Thursday Night Football ends.) On the other hand, I may be a teensy bit more likely to predict cancellation for non-in-house shows on the lower end of the in-between range that would enter this category next season.
  • All other shows are veteran shows, which for my purposes are all shows that have gotten over the 88-episode hump for syndication, or are in the process of doing so. These shows could still be cancelled, but especially for in-house shows, the terms of the syndication deal can matter as much if not more than the show’s ratings in going into the decision. A network could very well keep a marginally-rated show on the air in order to pump out more episodes to feed the syndication pipeline. As such, the “probably cancelled”, in-between, and “probably renewed” ranges extend a bit further down than in the first two categories, and predictions for these shows are much more of a crapshoot in general unless they have ratings good enough for renewal in their own right. The renewal and cancellation of rookie and sophomore shows can be reasonably reliably predicted based on their ratings and who produces them; if a bunch of veteran shows are all on the bubble, nothing you do is likely to be much more accurate than guessing, which also makes it harder to predict the fortunes of young shows.

How to read the chart: First box shows current time slot, second box current season number. Eps: Total number of episodes aired / total number of episodes ordered (if known). Last: 18-49 rating of the most recent episode. Raw: Average of first-run 18-49 ratings. Adj.: Average of the most recent episode and the previous Adj. rating. RawIdx: Raw divided by the network scripted show average. Index: Adj. divided by the network scripted show average. In general, >1.1=certain renewal, .85-1.1=probable renewal, .7-.85=on the bubble, .6-.7=probably cancelled. Anything substantially less than .6 for rookie shows indicates a dead show walking. Prod: Production company that produces the show (ABC=ABC Studios, CBS=CBS Television, Fox=20th Television, NBCU=Universal Television, Sony=Sony Pictures Television, WB=Warner Bros. Television). Asterisks indicate co-productions distributed by company shown. Incorporates ratings through Sunday, September 27; write-ups do not take into account Monday’s ratings or news. Network averages used: ABC 2.15, CBS 2.12, FOX 2.06, NBC 1.86.

Read moreBroadcast Rat Race Week 1: “Blindspot” a Bright Spot, “The Muppets” Makes a Splash, “Minority Report” Looks Grim

Football season approacheth!

I suppose I should probably get this site ready for football season. To be honest, I’m tempted to stop following the lineal titles; I haven’t done anything with them outside of these introductory posts in a few years and here I am putting up this post with the start of the college football season literally hours away. Besides, the advent of a true college football playoff makes those titles more likely to see unifications and less likely to see split titles in the first place and thus less fun. But we charge forth into the breach regardless.

(I’ve had a few people ask me on Twitter when the Flex Schedule Watch starts. It has always started four or five weeks into the NFL season, whenever CBS and Fox’s protections are due.)

The NFL title is pretty straightforward, bouncing around a few different Western teams over the course of last season before winding up back with the Seahawks heading into the playoffs; I’ll be tracking a “DeflateGate” title that remains with the Seahawks. On the college side, Florida State went undefeated until the Rose Bowl so Ohio State starts the season with the 2006 Boise State title; Michigan State lost 2009 Boise State to Oregon in their second game of the season, but after Oregon lost to Arizona the title bounced around the Pac-12 for a while and never made its way back to Oregon, ending the regular season with Washington, so it starts with Oklahoma State and could be unified with Princeton-Yale, now in the hands of TCU (although TCU has to avoid losing to Minnesota first).