Saturday night’s Chicago Cubs loss to the Mets averaged 7.9 million total viewers on TBS, the largest audience the network has ever had for an NLCS Game 1. In fact, the game was the most-viewed program on all of TV — broadcast or cable — for the night, according to Nielsen.
Cubs executives say the club’s ratings success shows their competitive young playoff team is ready not only for prime time but also the planned launch of its own regional sports network five seasons from now.
“It really sets the stage for a launch of the Cubs-only network (for the 2020 season), when all of these core players will be in their prime, and our expectations for on the field performance will be just as good as it is today,” Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said Friday.
The Cubs opted out of a longer-term agreement with Tribune Media’s WGN-Ch. 9 two years ago, restructuring TV deals to sync up expiring broadcast and cable rights after the 2019 season, when the team will look to launch its own regional sports network.
Kenney said the team’s strong performance gives it a “tail wind” as its discussions with four potential partners are ongoing, with an announcement expected no later than 2018.
The current contracts reduced WGN’s portion of the schedule to 40 games, while ABC-owned WLS-Ch. 7 picked up 25 games. Comcast SportsNet Chicago — a regional sports network launched in 2004 by Comcast partnering with the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls — carries the bulk of the Cubs schedule.
National cable channel WGN America dropped local sports this season, ending nearly four decades of beaming Cubs baseball to far-flung places across the country.
There are indications that the prices that cable subscribers are willing to pay for local sports may have peaked with the Los Angeles Dodgers deal. For two full seasons, a majority of Los Angeles-area viewers couldn’t watch Dodgers broadcasts because other cable and satellite operators refused to pay a premium for the regional sports network.
The broader trend of cord cutting continues to gain traction, with pay television services losing 625,000 subscribers in the second quarter, and more declines projected ahead, according to SNL Kagan. Sports are the most expensive component of the cable bundle.
ESPN charges $8.80 per subscriber, the most of any national cable network, according to SNL Kagan. But ESPN lost 3.2 million subscribers in just over a year, according to Nielsen, as viewers dropped cable or downgraded to less expensive packages.
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Jon Miller To Call MLB Sunday Leadoff Game On Peacock
“According to a press release, Jason Benetti has a scheduling conflict.”
Legendary play-by-play man Jon Miller will be returning to the national broadcast booth on Sunday. He will call the San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds game for Peacock. He’ll be joined in the booth by Barry Larkin and Shawn Estes.
According to a press release, Jason Benetti has a scheduling conflict. Benetti, the regular play-by-play voice of Peacock’s MLB Sunday Leadoff, is also the television voice of the Chicago White Sox. NBC Sports Chicago has prioritized this weekend’s series between the White Sox and Cubs, making Benetti unavailable to the national broadcast.
Miller has been calling Giants games since 1997 and previously shared the Sunday Night Baseball booth on ESPN with hall of famer Joe Morgan.
The broadcast, called MLB Sunday Leadoff, will begin at 11 a.m. with pregame coverage hosted by Ahmed Fareed. The game broadcast begins at 11:30 a.m.
The game will take place in an exclusive two-hour broadcast window prior to the start of the rest of the league’s day of games.
Amazon Eyeing Pat McAfee For Thursday Night Football Megacast
“No deal is done yet. A source tells McCarthy that it hinges on McAfee’s very busy schedule, but a Megacast is appealing to the former punter.’
First it was the Mannings. Now it’s McAfee. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports that Pat McAfee could be at the center of an alternate broadcast of Thursday Night Football on Amazon in the 2022 season.
No deal is done yet. A source tells McCarthy that it hinges on McAfee’s very busy schedule, but a Megacast is appealing to the former punter.
Rumors of Amazon’s interest in McAfee began to bubble up last month. While he never directly addressed them, he did make mention on his show that he was “up to something” and insinuated that Amazon wasn’t the only company he was talking to.
McAfee has said on his show in the past that he wants to be part of an NFL broadcast. However, he is firm in that it would not be in the broadcast booth.
“I can’t call games. Not yet,” McAfee said on a show in February. “Have to be done with this show to call games. Because that’s like a 3-day, 4-day thing.”
In addition to his daily show, McAfee is also committed to the WWE. He is on the road for Smackdown every Friday.
There is no word on exactly what a Pat McAfee-centered broadcast would look like. When reports first came out regarding discussions with McAfee, Ryan Glasspiegel of The New York Post reported that moving The Pat McAfee Show to Amazon was on the table. If that happens, it would make sense to use his entire crew on the Thursday Night Football presentation.
ESPN Announces Opening Weekend Slate On Conference Networks
The season is approaching and ESPN took the occasion to announce the opening weeks schedules for their the ACC Network, ACC Network and Longhorn Network.
College football begins in less than 100 days so to celebrate, ESPN announced programming for the beginning of the season for their conference-affiliated networks and the Longhorn Network.
The SEC Network is set to begin it’s ninth season on the air. Just as the network did one year ago, the network will start in Knoxville, Tennessee. Ball State is Tennessee’s opponent on September 1st and the game features a 7 p.m. ET kickoff in Neyland Stadium. The SEC Network also announced a trio of tripleheaders to kickoff 2022. Alabama (v. Utah State), LSU (v. Southern) and Florida (v. South Florida) are the respective host teams in those week’s primetime games.
The ACC Network’s season begins even sooner. Starting on Saturday August 27th, the network will feature Week 0 games for the first time. Florida State will welcome Duquesne at 5 p.m. ET in the first game of an ACC Network doubleheader, followed by Florida A&M travelling to North Carolina which is scheduled to kickoff at 8:15 p.m. ET. The ACC Network will air 14 live football games over the first four weeks of the season. In Week 1, the ACC Network will begin it’s schedule of tripleheaders of 2022 culminating with Louisville and Syracuse battling in the season’s first installment of ACC Network Primetime Football at 8 p.m. on September 3rd.
ESPN’s Longhorn Network announced that Texas will open it’s season on Saturday, September 3rd against Louisiana-Monroe exclusively on LHN at 7 p.m. CT. In addition to the season-opener, the Longhorn Network will be the home of the September 17th game at home against Texas-San Antonio. LHN also mentioned Texas GameDay presented by St. David’s HealthCare will have pre and postgame coverage throughout the season beginning with the season-opener.
This could be the final season for the Longhorn Network as it is currently constructed. Texas’ move to the SEC could mean a large change to their media rights allocation. Texas has reportedly been open to the idea of scrapping the network if necessary.