Since Disney purchased ABC in the 90s, the company has mostly let the network focus on entertainment and news. Major sporting events were on network television, but for the most part, ESPN was used as the sports brand.
That model has changed in recent years and according to Variety, there is no end in site. Not only will ESPN continue utilizing ABC in MegaCast events like Monday Night Football and the NFL Draft, but Disney will also be using other networks and digital platforms to carry sports in the future.
Next month, Sunday Night Baseball, an ESPN staple, will air on ABC for the first time. It was also previously announced that ABC will carry some Wimbledon matches as part of the recent rights extension Disney and ESPN signed for the event.
Disney’s new NHL deal will also spread beyond ESPN. In addition to the games carried on cable, plenty of hockey games will be carried digitally. That doesn’t just mean ESPN+. Hulu will carry several games each season as part of the deal.
ESPN enters the Super Bowl rotation in 2026. Jimmy Pitaro told Variety that he hopes to be able to use the MegaCast model for the game. That would mean utilizing a number of non-ESPN platforms in the company’s presentation of the game.
“We had 14 different broadcasts for this past season’s college football championship game, and so I don’t know if we’d offer that number, but several of those broadcasts would be contemplated for the Super Bowl,” he said.
Disney already utilizes ABC for college football coverage. Could a network like DisneyXD or Freeform enter the mix as a way to create sports broadcasts for younger audiences? Would Disney+ ever stream some ESPN branded content?
The company has become Hollywood’s premier studio. There are no shortage of ways for Pitaro and other Disney executives to get more bang for their sports buck.
XFL Signs Exclusive Deal With ESPN
“Games will return in 2023. The season opening slate will be played February 18.”
All 43 games in the 2023 XFL season will air on Disney’s sports networks. The entire schedule will be seen on ABC, ESPN, and FX. Dwayne Johnson and Dani Garcia made the announcement at the 2022 Disney Upfront presentation.
This will be the third iteration of the XFL. The first attempt in 2001 ended after a single season. The 2020 revival was shut down due to Covid. Johnson and Garcia and their partners purchased the brand two years ago for $15 million.
“The XFL will tap into sports fans’ deep love of football by emphasizing competitive action while dedicating itself to innovation and entertainment,” Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content said in a press release. “You can see a great path to success when you combine the reach and influence of ESPN and Disney with the collective vision of XFL leadership led by Dany, Dwayne and Gerry.”
Games will return in 2023. The season opening slate will be played February 18.
“The XFL is going to be a league of passion, a league of pride, and a league of culture,” Johnson said at the event, promising that those three principles will drive every decision for the league.
NBA Playoff Ratings Hit 8-Year Highs
“At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.”
More people are watching the NBA Playoffs than have done so in a long time. Through the first two rounds in 2022, the league is enjoying its best postseason ratings in eight years.
The average audience across TNT, ESPN, ABC and NBA TV is 3.71 million people per game. If you take the less widely available NBA TV out of the mix, the NBA is averaging 4.08 million viewers per game.
At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.
The Boston Celtics have been one of the most reliable performers this postseason. They have been involved in two of the three most-watched games. Sunday’s Game 7 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks is one of two games this postseason that now rank as the most-watched early round games in a decade. The other was Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Golden State has also been a hot draw. The Warriors have been involved in four of the seven most-watched playoff games.
With both teams still alive and plenty of star power left in the playoffs, the NBA is poised to deliver one of its most-watched postseasons in years.
Domonique Foxworth: Tom Brady Contract Is About Impressing NFL
“I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”
The shake-up of NFL TV broadcast booths has been one of the top storylines in the league this offseason.
Part of the reasoning is because of the massive sums of money involved. Whether it’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman or Tom Brady, NFL broadcasters have been getting paid. And it doesn’t seem like the spending is going to slow down anytime soon.
Speaking to Bomani Jones on The Right Time, Domonique Foxworth said the NFL just wants to continue to get bigger and bigger even with its broadcast crews.
“These TV partners want to be in good with the league. And I think that’s what this Tom Brady contract comes down to,” Foxworth said. “I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”
Even with some feeling like Brady is uninteresting and likely won’t move the needle as an analyst, it’s the name recognition factor that will set the table for Brady in the booth.
“I do believe that if you turn on an NFL game, and Tom Brady’s talking about it, it feels bigger no matter what he’s saying,” Foxworth said.