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Ratings Expected To Fall For Draft, Rise For Derby

The 2020 NFL Draft brought in record viewership, while last year’s Kentucky Derby lost nearly half of its TV audience.

Russ Heltman

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The country is barreling towards the Summer months and sports television executives are hoping for a big weekend in the ratings. The NFL Draft and Kentucky Derby, happening this weekend, are traditionally two of the highest-rated events on the sports calendar this time of year.

Last year’s NFL Draft brought in a record audience of 8.4 million average viewers as the only game in town during the early days of the pandemic. On the other hand, the Kentucky Derby averaged 9.26 million viewers after being forced to run in the Fall, its lowest total since 2000.

The Athletic talked to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch regarding his thoughts on how viewership will shake out this time around. The longtime sports media evaluator predicted the NFL Draft’s opening round would average between 10-11 million viewers. All while he pegged the Kentucky Derby at 12-13 million average viewers. The opening round of the 2020 draft averaged 15.26 million viewers, a record for the event.

“Last year it was the lack of competition,” Lewis said regarding the record NFL draft viewership in 2020. “This year, they’re not going to have that advantage. There’s no way to replicate last year’s circumstances.”

Lewis doesn’t expect a huge increase to pre-pandemic Kentucky Derby levels because fans are likely fatigued from the race running eight months ago. On top of that, there isn’t much excitement surrounding the favored horses. 2020 was the first year the Kentucky Derby sank below 15 million average viewers since 2012.

“No one wants to watch these things in such a short period,” Lewis said to The Athletic. “There’s not a lot of hype for it.” 

The Kentucky Derby and plenty of other major sports have suffered big hits to their ratings. Yet Lewis believes the NFL has weathered this storm the best.

“Ultimately, everything on TV has been in decline, but the NFL is in the least decline.”

Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Paying Nearly $45 Billion For Rights Fees Through 2027

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually

Jordan Bondurant

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The last year or two has been evident that the price of rights to airing major college and professional sporting events on television are only going up. But the various networks either with longstanding relationships with leagues and conferences or looking to break into the media rights landscape are willing to pay up. That’s no more evident with Disney, which will be shelling out tens of billions of dollars to have regular season and postseason events air on ESPN.

According to Sportico, which reviewed Disney’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESPN is set to spend $44.9 billion on sports media rights through 2027.

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually. Additionally, ESPN will pay $1.4 billion through the 2024-25 season for NBA rights.

The Sportico report noted ESPN will generate more than $8.1 billion in affiliate revenue to help offset those costs. The network will soon be entering talks to renew its media rights deal to be the exclusive home for nearly all NCAA Division I championships, as well as engaging in new NBA rights negotiations.

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Sports TV News

Return of Bob Iger Puts Pac-12 ‘Not Exactly In A Great Place’

“I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12.”

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The Pac-12 is currently in a media rights negotiation with partners for its next TV deal after the departure of USC and UCLA. The conference has remained committed to the stance that it feels it can match the dollar amount given to the Big 12 from FOX and ESPN. However, Andrew Marchand of The New York Post isn’t so confident.

During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Marchand said the recent return of Bob Iger as Disney CEO, coupled with recent layoffs from Amazon, could spell bad news for the PAC 12’s quest to match what the Big 12 received.

“Do I still think they can get the same number as the Big 12? I do, but you start thinking about where this is going and that’s not exactly a great place to be if you’re the Pac-12. They might get the number, but the idea that they’ll get a lot more than the Big 12 — which I’ve already said is not gonna happen — I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12…I think there’s some rough waters out in the Pacific.”

Marchand said if the University of California Board of Regents won’t allow UCLA to join the Big Ten as expected, the conference would then set its sights on Washington and Oregon, which would continue to decimate the Pac-12.

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