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Newsday Puts Spotlight on Fox’s World Cup Coverage

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Neil Best, who writes about the sports media for Newsday, published a story on Tuesday that focused on how Fox’s plans to cover the World Cup in Russia changed once the US Men’s National Team was eliminated int he qualifying rounds. Plenty of Fox personalities are interviewed in the piece and all of them admit that they would rather have the USA in the event, but former ESPN soccer analyst Alexi Lalas, who is now with Fox said that the diversity of the United States’ population means that there is still passion for the event in this country.

“We’ll talk about it and it will inform some of the discussions that we have,” Lalas said, “but we’re not going to bang people over the head with it. We don’t have to rehash everything. The World Cup is a big party. Just because the U.S. team is not there doesn’t mean we’re not invited.”

Lalas also said that he views a World Cup without the US as a real measure of where the country is in its soccer fandom. NBC estimates that nearly 10 million fans watch their coverage of the English Premier League every season. Will that audience also watch an event that their own country wasn’t good enough to be a part of this year? Rob Stone, who will anchor Fox’s studio coverage, has no doubt the eyeballs will be there.

“If this happened in 1990, the U.S. not qualifying for the World Cup, nobody would care. Nobody would know, nobody would notice. Life would go on. That’s not the case this year. We’re just getting over our hangover. Our hearts were broken — for the players, for the team, for the federation, selfishly for us as well.

“But guess what? Our country is now a place where we can handle the United States not being in the World Cup. This country is going to embrace this World Cup more than anybody figures they will.”

Among the challenges Best highlights in his piece are the absence of on the ground play-by-play teams for Fox. Many of the matches will be called for US audiences by play-by-play teams watching in a studio in LA. Best also noted that the time difference between the US and Russia means no games in primetime. Most audiences will have to watch matches in the morning and early afternoon.

The full story is very interesting and very much worth your time. You can read it by clicking here.

Sports TV News

NFL Considers Ending Pro Bowl Amidst Low Ratings

“Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.”

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The NFL is obsessed with TV ratings. It isn’t a surprise that the league may not be willing to tolerate the Pro Bowl underperforming for much longer. 

In 2022, the NFL’s all-star game produced it’s lowest ratings in 16 years. Fewer that 7 million people tuned in to watch the game across ABC, ESPN and DisneyXD. 

“The (Pro Bowl) game doesn’t work,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday after the owners’ meeting in Atlanta. “We need to find another way to celebrate the players.”

There are two proposed alternatives that have been reported. The Washington Post says the league is considering launching a seven-on-seven competition. It would not include tackling or full clocks. The other report comes from Ian Rapport of the NFL Network. He says the league is considering hosting a series of skills competitions over the course of what would be branded an all-star week. The NFL has partnered with DirecTV in the past to present similar events during Super Bowl Week. 

No details have emerged or final decisions made. Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.

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Former Hulu Exec Michael Schneider Hired To Run Bally Sports+

“Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.”

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Sinclair Broadcast Group and Diamond Sports Group have tapped Michael Schneider as the chief operating officer and general manager of Bally Sports+ when it launches this year.

Schneider will oversee the direct-to-consumer platform that will also be the hub for Bally Sports live programming.

Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.

“Throughout his career, Michael has successfully launched and developed DTC streaming and service platforms and created immersive engagement experiences,” said Sinclair COO and president of broadcast Rob Weisbord. “He is a terrific addition to the team as we build out the Bally Sports+ offering, its exclusive content and passionate fan community.”

Even before Hulu, Schneider had a hand in streaming. He was a founding member of the PlayStation Vue launch team.

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Sports TV News

Marquee Sports Network Weighs Streaming Options Outside of Bally Sports+

“Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.”

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As Sinclair Broadcast Group prepares to launch Bally Sports+, its direct-to-consumer platform that will be home to Bally Sports live events, the Chicago Cubs are weighing their options for Marquee Sports Network, which the team co-owns with Sinclair.

Despite being under the Sinclair umbrella, Marquee is its own free-standing RSN from the rest of the Bally Sports networks across the country.

Marquee is readily available on a number of cable providers, but the only thing that’s really missing is its own standalone streaming platform for games. Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.

“We’re always interested in being on the cutting edge with the ultimate deliverable to our consumer,” McCarthy said. “But there isn’t any contractual clock ticking to make us feel that way. It’s how we’ve approached things from the beginning. Between our two ownership groups, there’s a lot of aggression to get it right. And I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”

The TV ratings will always be of top interest for MLB, especially regional ratings. But as the league has worked to embrace more streaming options for games, striking deals with Apple and Peacock for rights this season, it’s all about providing what the fans and viewers want.

“We now have the ability to do so much more, to properly tell the story of a 162-game season,” said Crane Kenney, Chicago Cubs president of business operations. Kenney was instrumental in the launch of Marquee. “We love baseball, we love the game, and we love the opportunity we have to share it with our fans in really deep ways.”

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