Is Major League Baseball making a mistake in dividing its product among regional sports networks; national outlets in ESPN, TBS, and Fox; and now, streaming platforms with Apple TV+ and Peacock?
TheWrap’s Brian Welk talked to a few industry analysts who believe MLB could be taking a risk by moving broadcasts to platforms where fans aren’t accustomed to looking for baseball.
“Think about the consumer experience of what that could be like, trying to find your team and your game,” Parks Associates senior contributing analyst Eric Sorenson told Welk. “It is very fragmented. And the question really is whether baseball fans are accustomed to it.”
Fans of particular baseball teams might encounter some frustration this season (and in future years), having to look for games beyond the regional sports networks where those broadcasts have been, other than the occasional ESPN or Fox national telecasts. And with Apple TV+ and Peacock, those fans will have to sign up for those services to watch games.
Ultimately, MLB saw new revenue streams in streaming outlets eager to add live sports to their catalogs and perhaps prepare them for adding other sports rights deals in the future. The league is able to add revenue without changing its core product, while raising the bar for future rights deals.
Welk points out that MLB’s audience is old and getting older. The average baseball fan is now 57 years old. So the need to reach younger fans through outlets where they’re getting content, rather than network TV or cable, seems urgent.
The risk is losing the incumbent audience by scattering games across various platforms to pursue fans that might not like sports as much. But according to research analyst Bruce Leichtmann, possibly gaining those younger fans is worth the gamble. Especially when MLB is getting so much money ($115 million annually) from Apple TV+ and Peacock.
“Even if they convert hypothetically zero of those fans, they’re still getting a new revenue stream that was not there before,” said Parks Associates director of research Paul Erickson. “There’s a finite limit to how many different deals they can cut for the same base of content before they start to chip into some of the highest value content of the nature of the portfolio that constitutes MLB.TV.”
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.