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Busy Sports Day Boosts TV Ratings For Multiple Networks

“One of the NBA’s key TV partners, TNT, emerged victorious among all key adult demos in prime time on all of TV thanks to the NBA Playoffs.”

Douglas Pucci

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Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

May 27 was a busy day in sports. It was also the first day of the summer TV season for 2021. One of the NBA’s key TV partners, TNT, emerged victorious among all key adult demos (especially with males) in prime time on all of TV thanks to the NBA Playoffs. On this night (May 27), TNT earned top honors, punctuated by the third game of the Western Conference first round series between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers (the Lakers went up two games to one). Despite the 10:10 p.m. Eastern start time, the telecast posted 3.724 million viewers, up 12 percent from the comparable late Thursday night playoff game on TNT from two years ago (Warriors-Clippers Game 3 from 4/18/2019: 3.322 million).

Prior to Suns-Lakers, Game 3 of the Milwaukee Bucks-Miami Heat series kicked off the night for TNT with 2.49 million viewers, down 15 percent from 2019 (76ers-Nets Game 3 from 4/18/2019: 2.928 million).

Over on NBA TV, Denver Nuggets-Portland Trail Blazers Game 3 averaged 302,000 viewers, down 9 percent from the NBA TV game that also featured the Nuggets — they played the San Antonio Spurs in their Game 3 on Apr. 18, 2019 (332,000).

Closing the night, TNT’s popular late-night recap show “Inside The NBA” was down a slim 6 percent from Apr. 18, 2019 (1.325 million vs. 1.417 million).

NBCSN’s NHL Stanley Cup first-round playoff doubleheader featured Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs Game 5 (544,000 viewers), followed by Game 6 of Carolina Hurricanes-Nashville Predators (621,000 viewers), down 34 percent (from Capitals-Hurricanes Game 4: 824,000) and down 5 percent (from Golden Knights-Sharks Game 5: 655,000), respectively, from Apr. 18, 2019. Of course, the stark declines of the early evening affair was  due to the all-Canadian matchup.

A couple of Game Ones of the super regionals round of the 2021 College Softball World Series aired on ESPN: Florida State-LSU(566,000 viewers; -14% from Oklahoma State-Florida State 5/23/19) began the night and Virginia Tech-UCLA (490,000 viewers; -26% from Texas Alabama 5/23/19) was the nightcap.

First round of the Charles Schwab Challenge on Golf Channel delivered 422,000 viewers, which represented an impressive 61 percent from the same time two years ago (262,000 on 5/23/19). Contributing to this boost were the Day One leaders — two of the sport’s most prominent golfers: Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia.

Out-of-market MLB coverage on MLB Network in prime time drew 283,000 viewers (+24%, from White Sox-Astros or Rays-Indians on 5/23/19). The second game of the Toronto Blue Jays-New York Yankees doubleheader was shown to most of the nation while the New York market got Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals. Earlier in the afternoon, the first Blue Jays-Yankees game (in New York: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays) posted 167,000 viewers (-12%, from Braves-Giants or Phillies-Cubs on 5/23/19).

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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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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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