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Volume 24 No. 181

Media

Turner President David Levy said that viewers should "not expect any games from the other sports for which it owns the rights," such as the NBA or MLB, to appear on its new OTT sports service at the outset, according to Kevin Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. Turner unveiled its OTT plans Thursday when formally announcing its deal with UEFA, and Levy said, "This isn’t about taking current rights and putting them on this platform. This is a new platform, which is untethered to our existing businesses." Draper notes when Turner begins carrying the UEFA Champions and Europa League matches in the fall of '18, less than 20% of the "hundreds of games in the two tournaments will be broadcast on Turner’s linear television channels; the rest will form the backbone of the new streaming service." Turner is "entering what is becoming a quickly crowded marketplace." Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger said that ESPN’s new digital streaming service, scheduled to begin in early '18, will "feature more than 10,000 events in its first year." That includes MLB and NHL games and Grand Slam tennis matches -- a "much deeper selection than Turner can offer." Draper notes it "remains to be seen how many sports fans will be interested in these offerings." Could sports fans be willing to "subscribe to both cable and streaming services, or will they be content with the biggest ones and decline to pay extra to be able to see everything?" Levy said, "It might be both." He added, "These aren’t going to be C- and D-league games. This is the Champions League. These are all A’s" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/18). 

CUPBOARD IS BARE: AD AGE's Anthony Crupi wrote Turner's deal with UEFA and the launch of its OTT service has "effectively cleaned out the sports-media rights cupboard in the bargain." For networks "looking to kick-start an OTT sports service, niche offerings are likely to be the default option in the near term" as available rights packages are "few and far between." The only "high-end packages that are set to expire" between now and '19 are the Verizon IndyCar Series, which airs on ABC and NBCSN; Fox' UFC package; and the CBS/Turner deal for the PGA Championship (ADAGE.com, 8/17).

Connecting with the next generation of fans has been a staple of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's tenure, and that effort gets a hefty dose of national TV this weekend as ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" will air from Williamsport, Pa., home to the Little League World Series. The Cardinals-Pirates matchup is being played at BB&T Ballpark, which houses the Single-A New York-Penn League Williamsport Crosscutters. The ballpark is just across the West Branch Susquehanna River from Lamade Stadium, the longtime home to the LLWS. ESPN is planning plenty of special features to highlight the connection between the MLB game and the LLWS, with Senior VP/Production & Remote Events Mark Gross saying, "For starters, from a simple standpoint, you’ll get a sense of context and proximity of, how far we are from Lamade Stadium and the Little League World Series complex. You’ll have a sense of place.” The broadcast will include interviews with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, discussing his stint as a manager in Williamsport in '91, as well as Cardinals P Lance Lynn, who played in the LLWS for Brownsburg, Ind., in '99. Manfred also will swing by the broadcast booth for an interview. ESPN plans to show off pictures of players from each team dating back to when they played Little League. Gross also noted Little League photos of other notable figures, such as President George W. Bush, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale and Tom Selleck, will be featured on the broadcast.

KEEPING THINGS FRESH: Gross said that having this sort of promotional game in the middle of August was a way for MLB to “mix it up a little bit” during the dog days of summer. Gross: “Last year it was Ft. Bragg. A year or two before it was the Cuba game. Now we’re in Williamsport. ... I give them a ton of credit for recognizing that there’s an opportunity there to mix it up on a Sunday night and that there’s an opportunity there to grow the sport." When asked about the production challenges of broadcasting a game at a small minor-league venue, Gross said ESPN is in "good shape" for Sunday. He said that from a production standpoint, the net’s focus is on where the announcers are positioned, camera positioning and lighting. Meanwhile, to promote next weekend's MLB Players Weekend, which will see players wearing nicknames on their jerseys, ESPN's announcing crew this Sunday night will wear jerseys that also sport their own nicknames.

CBS finished with 4.91 million viewers for the final round of the PGA Championship, marking the least-viewed Sunday for the major since ’12, when it went up against the London Games. The only other PGA final round in the past decade to draw fewer viewers was in '08, which also was played opposite the Olympics. Justin Thomas’ two-shot win was down 7% from 5.29 million viewers last year, when Jimmy Walker beat Jason Day by one stroke. Last year’s event was held in July to avoid competing with the Rio Games. Adversely affecting last weekend’s final round also were lower HUT levels on CBS, as well as sharp increases for cable news nets covering the events around the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL ROUND AUDIENCE TREND ON CBS
YEAR
VIEWERS (000)
WINNER (STROKES)
RUNNER(S) UP
'17
4,905
Justin Thomas (2)
Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen
'16
5,285
Jimmy Walker (1)
Jason Day
'15
6,682
Jason Day (3)
Jordan Spieth
'14
8,238
Rory McIlroy (1)
Phil Mickelson
'13
5,536
Jason Dufner (2)
Jim Furyk
'12
4,895
Rory McIlroy (8)
David Lynn

CAUTION FLAG IS OUT: NBCSN averaged 3.16 million viewers for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race last Sunday afternoon. That is the lowest figure for Michigan Int’l Speedway’s second Cup race of the season since ’07, when it had to run on a Tuesday morning on ESPN2 due to rainouts. Excluding rainouts, last Sunday could be the lowest viewership for this particular race on record.

BEASTS OF THE EAST: Red Sox-Yankees on “Sunday Night Baseball” last weekend averaged 2.56 million viewers, marking the best “SNB” audience for the matchup since June 29, 2014 (2.62 million viewers). Sunday night’s game is the second-best “SNB” audience this season to date, behind only Cubs-Cardinals to start the season (3.62 million viewers).

OLD ENGLISH: The EPL season began last weekend, with NBC Sports’ six matches averaging 546,000 viewers, along with an average minute audience of 46,000 viewers on streaming platforms. Last season’s opening weekend aired up against the Rio Games. Last Saturday’s game on the NBC broadcast channel, Brighton-Manchester City, averaged 915,000 viewers. There was no opening weekend game on NBC last year, but Chelsea-Swansea City in ’15 drew around 1 million viewers. Opening matches last week also led to NBC Sports’ most-streamed EPL week on record.

The chart below lists final audience figures from select recent sports telecasts.

TELECAST
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
RAT.
VIEWERS
(000)
PGA Championship: Final Round
8/13
CBS
2:00-7:15pm
3.2
4,905
PGA Championship: Third Round
8/12
CBS
2:00-7:45pm
2.2
3,211
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Series: Pure Michigan 400
8/13
NBCSN
3:25-6:12pm
2.0
3,162
MLB: Red Sox-Yankees
8/13
ESPN
8:00-11:50pm
1.7
2,563
NFL preseason: Steelers-Giants
8/11
NFL Net
7:00-10:04pm
n/a
1,870
NFL preseason: Broncos-Bears
8/10
NFL Net
8:00-11:13pm
n/a
1,827
NFL preseason: Seahawks-Chargers
8/13
NFL Net
8:00-11:09pm
1.1
1,775
NFL preseason: Cowboys-Rams
8/12
NFL Net
9:00pm-12:09am
1.1
1,733
"NASCAR Cup Series postrace"
8/13
NBCSN
6:12-7:00pm
n/a
1,573
NFL preseason: Texans-Panthers
8/9
NFL Net
7:30-10:50pm
n/a
1,522
NFL preseason: 49ers-Chiefs
8/11
NFL Net
10:04pm-12:17am
n/a
1,382
PGA Championship:
Final Round (early)
8/13
TNT
11:00am-2:00pm
0.9
1,363
IAAF World Track
& Field Championships
8/13
NBC
2:30-4:30pm
0.9
1,300
IAAF World Track
& Field Championships
8/12
NBC
3:00-5:15pm
0.8
1,239
PBR: Express Employment
Professionals Classic (Tulsa)
8/13
CBS
1:00-2:00pm
0.7
941
EPL: Brighton-Manchester City
8/12
NBC
12:30-2:30pm
0.6
915
Liga MX: Monterrey-Chivas
8/12
Univision
7:55-10:01pm
0.5
829
Red Bull Global Rallycross (taped)
8/12
NBC
5:00-6:00pm
0.5
754
Red Bull Global Rallycross (taped)
8/13
NBC
4:30-6:00pm
0.5
700
Liga MX: Necaxa-Leon
8/12
Univision
10:01pm-12:02am
0.4
593
ESPN Films: "Baltimore Boys"
8/13
ABC
3:00-4:30pm
0.4
517
ESPN Films: "Morningside 5"
8/12
ABC
3:30-5:00pm
0.3
401
"World of X Games: WSL Surfing"
8/12
ABC
2:30-3:30pm
0.3
393