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How Does Wimbledon Actually Hurt ESPN?

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Tennis is the kind of sport where you’re either a hardcore fan or you can name the four Grand Slam events and that’s about it. There’s very little in between. If the people that fall into the “I can name four tournaments and only four tournaments” category watch any tennis at all, it is usually Wimbledon.

You would think then that it is a no-brainer that ESPN would be thrilled to have the broadcast rights to that tournament. It’s a chance to get not only hardcore tennis fans, but a few casual, wandering eyeballs to flip to the network and stay a while. But Billy Burack of The Big Lead says the timing of Wimbledon could not be worse for the folks in Bristol.

Burack says that ESPN could be drawing bigger ratings by letting its most recognizable talent talk about NBA free agency. While that is still happening, it isn’t happening on the main network, and that’s a problem.

Imagine if the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones … had its last episode was moved to an alternative HBO channel. That is what will take place next week on ESPN when Wimbledon is airing.

Several of ESPN’s shows that would undoubtedly be centered around free agency talk next week – Get Up, First Take, The Jump, SportsNation – will be airing on ESPN2, while Highly Questionable, Around the Horn, PTI, and High Noon will be off completely.

Much has been made of the struggles of ESPN’s daytime talk shows, but with a story like free agency, which is dominating sports coverage and Twitter, this should be a period where those shows see a significant ratings bump. With Wimbledon occupying The Mothership, that bump probably won’t exist in 2018, and between the launch of Get Up! and High Noon (9AM Pacific) and the expansion of First Take, this is a year where that bump isn’t just nice to have. It’s a necessity.

This will negatively impact Get Up the most significantly. Michael McCarthy of Sporting News is reporting that the disappointing, expensive morning show has until football season to get ratings up, or changes will be made. With Brian Windhorst saying the belief is most of the free agency drama will be finished by July 4, Get Up is missing out on what may have ended up as their highest-rated week until the aforementioned football season.

In recent years, several of the NBA’s biggest stories have broken late at night. Get Up is going to miss out on hundreds of thousands of viewers turning on the late editions of SportsCenter and leaving the channel on for the morning.

While Wimbledon annually does preempt ESPN’s morning lineup, they have not had a morning show with the stakes of the New York-based project. ESPN has also built the show, at least to this point, to be NBA-centric with Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle.

Burack says that management in Bristol already has numbers they can look at as evidence of what will happen to those shows’ ratings.

Being preempted to ESPN2 is not just an easy “push the arrow up on the remote.” ESPN2 has essentially become a ghost channel since First Take was moved off of it. When First Take was last preempted to ESPN2 on April 5 and 6 for The Masters, it averaged 201,000 viewers, significantly lower than the numbers it regularly draws on the main ESPN channel.

 

 

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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