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Viewers Choose Kobe Coverage Over Pro Bowl

“One of the biggest ratings changes for Sunday came in the way of cable news channels, as everyone searched for information and answers regarding Kobe Bryant.”

Brandon Contes

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Sunday afternoon’s coverage of the NFL Pro Bowl saw a small ratings decline for their ABC network broadcast from 2019, and a year-over-year increase for its ESPN simulcast.  

ESPN’s coverage of the Pro Bowl garnered 2.67 million viewers, compared to last year when 2.36 million people tuned in. It’s feasible that ESPN’s increased audience was in part caused by viewers searching for coverage on Kobe Bryant, who was reported to be in a helicopter crash shortly before kickoff. 

ABC’s Pro Bowl telecast garnered 5.29 million viewers, compared to last year when 5.71 people tuned in. Combined, the Pro Bowl had an audience of 7.96 million total on ESPN and ABC, down slightly from 2019’s 8.07 million. One of the biggest ratings changes for Sunday came in the way of cable news channels, as everyone searched for information and answers regarding Kobe Bryant.

CNN Newsroom and FOX News were two of eight cable telecasts to break 2 million viewers on Sunday, whereas neither ranked in the top 20 for viewership on the day of the NFL Pro Bowl last year. CNN Newsroom’s 5pm ET broadcast garnered 2.38 million viewers and the FOX Report with Jon Scott received a total audience of 2.30 million. SportsCenter airing on ESPN at 5:38pm had 2.52 million total viewers, compared to the day of the Pro Bowl last year when SportsCenter’s highest rated broadcast was 721,000 at 11am. 

ESPN2’s breaking coverage of Kobe Bryant shortly after the Pro Bowl began on ESPN received 1.31 million viewers. According to Austin Karp of The Sports Business Journal, “CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBA TV and ESPN2 were all covering the [Kobe Bryant] breaking news, and the combined viewership for those networks from 3:00-6:00pm ET was +183% over the same window last year.”

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here

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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FOX Sports VP: ‘USFL Proves Spring Football As Valuable As Rising Properties’

“We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”

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Michael Mulvihill says the USFL accomplished exactly what FOX needed it to. It proved there is a large enough audience for spring football that it has a value on par with some of the hottest properties in sports media right now.

 “All we wanted to do is demonstrate that spring football can do viewership at the levels of Premier League, NHL regular season, Formula One or MLS,” the FOX Sports Executive VP said according to Sports Business Journal. “We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”

While none of those properties are pulling in the kind of media rights money the NFL or major college football is, Mulvihill pointed out that all of them have been in the news for the right reasons.

“You’re talking about properties that have all recently negotiated deals at substantial increases, or with F1, people know it’s about to.”

The USFL had a solid broadcasting footprint with games airing on FOX, NBC, FS1 and USA. Regular season games for the first year of the revived league averaged just under 700,000 viewers.

Mulvihill said fans behaved exactly how he expected them to in the first season of the USFL. Without any team loyalties, he isn’t surprised that people watched less of an average USFL game than they did the NFL or college football.

The USFL Playoffs begin this weekend. Canton, OH will host the league’s first championship game on July 3.

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Pelicans Extend Deal With Bally Sports New Orleans

“The deal will also put the team on the new Bally Sports+ streaming service, which had a soft launch earlier this week.”

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Sinclair has reached an agreement on a new rights deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Bally Sports New Orleans will remain the team’s local TV partner. 

The deal will also put the team on the new Bally Sports+ streaming service, which had a soft launch earlier this week. The service rolls out in full this fall. 

“When we constructed this new agreement with Bally Sports New Orleans the main priority was distribution and the ability to deliver our games directly to our fans,” Dennis Lauscha, President of the New Orleans Pelicans, said in a press release.  With the upcoming launch of Bally Sports+, Bally Sports’ direct-to-consumer platform, any Pelicans fan will be able to have access to Bally Sports New Orleans in the team’s local territory. This partnership allows us to continue to deliver unique, compelling Pelicans content across multiple platforms with the highest production quality. We are still working every option with Bally Sports New Orleans to improve the accessibility, ancillary content and distribution of Pelicans programming to all of our fans across Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region.”

Bally Sports New Orleans will carry around 75 regular season games per year. The network will also produce first round playoff and preseason games.

“The New Orleans Pelicans have been a great partner over the years and we look forward to building this relationship into the future,” added Steve Simpson, SVP and GM of Bally Sports New Orleans. “Our ability to deliver Pelicans content to as many local fans as possible, on both linear distribution channels and the all-new Bally Sports+ streaming product this fall, is incredibly exciting as we continue to grow the next generation of Pelicans fans.”

The Pelicans did look at new media partners before re-signing with Bally Sports New Orleans. Karen Brodkin, Executive Vice President of Endeavor, who the team hired to consult the process, noted that the existing relationship and the addition of a proprietary streaming platform for Sinclair made the difference.

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