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Volume 26 No. 5

Media

Chiefs-Rams marks ESPN's highest-rated telecast of any kind since the CFP title game in January
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

ESPN drew an 11.3 rating for the Rams’ 54-51 win over the Rams last night, marking the highest-rated “MNF” telecast since Week 8 of ’14, when Redskins-Cowboys drew a 12.1. Last night’s number is up 57% from a comparable 7.2 overnight for Falcons-Seahawks in Week 11 last year, and marks ESPN’s best overnight rating for any telecast since the Alabama-Georgia CFP title game on Jan. 8. Two years ago, ESPN drew an 8.1 overnight in Week 11 for Texans-Raiders from Mexico City. Last night’s game peaked at a 12.5 rating on the final drive from 11:45pm-midnight ET. Locally, the game drew a combined 52.8 rating in K.C. (36.2 on KMBC-ABC, 16.6 on ESPN). Hosting its first “MNF” game in 33 years, L.A. drew a combined 19.6 rating (9.2 on KABC-ABC, 10.4 on ESPN). Rounding out the top five were New Orleans (21.4), San Diego (16.2) and Denver (15.7) (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED! Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said that with the "ratings drop” seen by the NFL in recent seasons, rule changes were instituted that were "deliberately concocted to make the game higher-scoring and more exciting.” Florio: “The NFL sees a more exciting game, it’s more conducive to the younger demographic, and it keeps people from changing the channel. I doubt anyone changed the channel last night who was watching that game. They want to hold and grow that audience, and the way you do it is with offense” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 11/20).

UNDER REVIEW: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes ESPN "MNF" play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore is an "ill-cast former college football carnival barker" and continues to "stand out on the broadcast, but not as a standout." Last night, his "growling words may have even matched what viewers were seeing," but by this point, it "doesn't resonate the way it should." As much as ESPN may "want it to be, an NFL broadcast isn't a college football broadcast." Chiefs-Rams "confirmed that, even if it looked as if a Big 12 Conference shootout." It is "just too bad that when the right time finally came for Tessitore's tautology, he'd already lost his credibility" (L.A. TIMES, 11/20).

STAR TREK: In Ft. Worth, Peter Dawson writes Witten "seems to be making things worse" on "MNF." Fans "lamented that Witten was the man in the booth for this instant classic" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/20). In Philadelphia, Rob Tornoe writes it was "more of the same for Witten, who once again stumbled at times through the broadcast with cliches." He also "struggled to pronounce Samson Ebukam's name, which was problematic because the young Rams linebacker had a big game that included a sack, an interception and multiple touchdowns." Witten also "made odd choices ... like praising" Rams RB Todd Gurley after "being tackled for a loss and ignoring a nice defensive play" by Chiefs CB Kendall Fuller. But Witten also "had his moments." At times, he "offered some insightful analysis on the routes both team's receivers were running throughout the night" (PHILLY.com, 11/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Jack Baer wrote Witten "pulled a Tony Romo and called a touchdown before the ball even landed" in Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill’s hands. The play was a 25-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes that "got the Chiefs on the board at 13-7." Baer: "That’s a fun moment for a broadcaster that has received plenty of criticism in his first season away from the field" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/19).

SOMEONE TO LOOK UP TO: In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal writes the "MNF" team of Tessitore, Witten and Booger McFarland would "benefit from studying Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who do prime-time games as well as anyone." ESPN "too often seems like it's trying too hard," whereas NBC "lets the game come to it" on "SNF" broadcasts. Michaels and Collinsworth are "authoritative, amiable and experienced enough to keep things in perspective." Michaels also "knows it's not necessary to shout to convey excitement and urgency." He and Collinsworth "let things unfold naturally, not forcing or harping on a subject just because they prepared for it" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/20).

AIN'T NO THANG BUT A CHICKEN WANG: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Clapp noted during Chiefs-Rams, Tessitore made reference to the "'Alboa Bar in Mexico City' multiple times" as the site of a Chiefs-Rams watch party. However, the bar being shown was "definitely a Buffalo Wild Wings." ESPN said that the broadcast "misidentified the bar," confirming that it is a BWW in Mexico City (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 11/19).

Amazon is “bidding for all” of the 22 RSNs that Disney is acquiring from 21st Century Fox earlier this year, according to David Faber of CNBC.com. Sources said that the tech company’s bid “includes” YES Network, which is also being bid on by the Yankees and an “unknown sovereign wealth fund.” The sources also said that in addition to Amazon, Apollo Global Management, KKR & Co, The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and TEGNA also “made first round bids for the full slate of networks.” Sources said that Fox “did not submit a bid in the first round," although there is "potential that it will join in the second round.” The second round of bids are “expected before year end and due diligence on the bids begins next week” (CNBC.com, 11/20). CNBC's Faber asked, “What's the plan? Keeping them on cable and collect a fee? If you’re out there as a high-paying cable customer who doesn’t necessarily want these things, the cable company says, ‘Now you can get it on Prime so we don't need to offer it any longer. We can eliminate it from the bundle.’" It is an "interesting choice on Amazon’s price, but perhaps they see opportunities for them in the sales of tickets and memorabilia, or programming, or advertising, where we know they’ve become an important player, certainly when it comes to search on the actual Amazon platform” (“Squawk on the Street,” CNBC, 11/20). SBD reported in October that Amazon was said to be interested in the RSNs (THE DAILY).

GETTING TO YES: The N.Y. Post's Andrew Marchand tweeted of Amazon potentially acquiring YES, "I don't think that is happening, as Yankees have exclusive rights to pick who they want to partner with on YES and, I was told, Amazon is not involved in that portion of deal. ... YES is the clear crown jewel, but I'm told there won't be YES Prime. Remember: the Yankees basically get to pick their partner" (TWITTER.com, 11/20).

TWITTER REAX: The Big Lead's Ryan Glasspiegel tweeted, "If Amazon gets the RSNs, they'd have this vertical integration: -half of local MLB, NBA, and NHL rights; local MLB outrates the top 10 primetime shows combined in their markets -ability to sell ads on that distribution -selling the products the ads are for." The N.Y. Times' Edmund Lee: "Does amazon think owning these RSNs will drive Prime subs? If so, that suggests it will only carry them on Prime. I can’t imagine leagues would allow that. ... If not, that means Amazon plans to keep RSNs on cable systems. If so, how does that help them?" FC Dallas VP/Media & Communications Gina Miller: "This is such an interesting deal to follow. On one hand, broadcast groups could use the RSNs to complement local programming while Amazon could be in the market to expand its sports streaming options. These RSNs hold rights to 40+ teams, making them an incredibly valuable asset." Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment producer Owen Seaton: "A potential game changer for online services."

Three Braves games will be aired on ESPN in the first week of the '19 season following their NL East title
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Braves' "allure is returning following a dramatic" season, and ESPN has selected Braves-Phillies on March 31 for its first "Sunday Night Baseball" matchup of '19, according to Gabriel Burns of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. ESPN will also air the Braves' home opener on April 1 against the Cubs, "as well as their meeting on April 3." The national exposure is "already a jump from a season ago, when the Braves weren’t featured" on "SNB" (AJC.com, 11/19). In Philadelphia, Scott Lauber noted after a "five-year absence from the national stage, the Phillies were twice featured" on "SNB" in '18. Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton has "vowed to spend big money on the roster this winter after the team finished in third place" in the NL East (PHILLY.com, 11/19). Also in Philadelphia, Corey Seidman noted the March 31 matchup will mark the Phillies’ "first time leading off Sunday Night Baseball" since '09 (NBCSPORTSPHILADELPHIA.com, 11/19).

WHERE IS THE LOVE? In Tampa, Marc Topkin noted the Rays won 90 games last season, but "no Rays games" made it to ESPN's national schedule, "even as they open with two playoff teams, hosting the Astros and Rockies." In total, 18 of MLB's 30 teams "are featured" on ESPN national telecasts (TAMPABAY.com, 11/19).

Fagan in her next endeavor will be speaking about mental health and sports on college campuses
Photo: ESPN IMAGES

Despite Kate Fagan still wanting to focus on "sports-connected stories," her decision to exit ESPN at the end of this year is a "further sign of changing times" at the company, according to Andrew Bucholtz of AWFUL ANNOUNCING. It feels like ESPN is "pulling back toward more of an on-field focus, and away from content that could be seen as political, or even just cultural," and that "doesn’t feel like a good fit for some of the stories Fagan says she wants to tell" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 11/19). THE BIG LEAD's Kyle Koster noted Fagan's role saw her "dive into issues of culture and identity," and her exit "opens up the door to questions about the network’s commitment to journalism in those arenas, even if Fagan is on record saying they still care" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 11/19). In Philadelphia, Rob Tornoe noted Fagan's exit is reflective of ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro's effort to "foster a better relationship with the NFL by focusing more on sports and steering clear of politics." Fagan said of her future, "I'm working with (production company) Embassy Row to develop something for the next eight months. I'm speaking about mental health and sports on college campuses" (PHILLY.com, 11/19).

Digital sports network Overtime has released a new "sneaker culture"-based show called "OT Kicks with Sierato," in which celebrity guests have custom sneakers designed for them by artist Sierato. The online show is posted on Overtime's website, YouTube page and social media platforms, with each outlet having the program specifically tailored to its format. Overtime Chief Content Officer Marc Kohn said that Overtime plans to take advantage of the show’s online format by "playing with the format until it's an A+." Kohn also said that the show targets a younger sports audience that has interest in the "surrounding scene" of sports, including a passionate fanbase of "sneakerheads." He said, "Sneaker culture is so deeply ingrained and intertwined with 13-24 year old sports fans whether they're basketball fans, football fans or soccer fans, whether it's boots, it's cleats or it's basketball sneakers. It's the content that all of these young sports fans are looking for." Kohn added that the net has another competition-based, sneaker-focused show in the works that has "never been done before." Kohn: "It's going to make a splash when we launch it."

Next month’s MLS Cup, regardless of matchup, will be a win for Heineken. In addition to being a league sponsor, the brand has deals with the Red Bulls and Atlanta United -- who happen to be in the Eastern Conference Finals -- and due to their records, the winner of that matchup will host the league championship. Heineken (@Heineken) Brand Manager Rob Ryder said, “Depending upon the stadium, it will determine the plans that we are able to execute. In Mercedes-Benz Stadium, we have a bar that was designed in conjunction with some of the fans there. At Red Bull Arena, we have a bar that is outside the arena where we are able to activate prior to the game. Inside the stadium, we have a lot of branding opportunities as well.” He added, “In the past few years it has been the Canadian clubs and Seattle (in the MLS Cup). Even though we are affiliated with the league, we don’t have as big of a presence from the club standpoint.” But while activating at jewel events like a championship or All-Star Game is one thing, Heineken does not like to stop there. During expansion club FC Cincinnati's logo reveal last week, team execs celebrated on stage, and each had a Heineken beer in hand. Ryder said with a laugh, “It’s something we may or may not have had a hand in.”

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follows: Copa90. They always have their finger on the pulse of what is happening in soccer.
Favorite apps: Instagram. I like the imagery, the flow and the format. For soccer, FotMob.
Average time per day on social media: Too much.

Importance of social media to brand’s strategy:
Every year we are increasing our investment and focus in the digital space. It’s one that keeps evolving and one that we need to stay on top of. As an alcohol brand, we have to toe a fine line. We have to be careful and diligent with who we partner with and who we reference in our social posts and have to make sure our messaging is responsible.

Heineken's position as a brand within sport:
For us, it’s very much about the lifestyle and the fandom of the sport. Our product is a beer that’s not going to be used on the pitch or on the field. It is something created for the fans so they can enjoy the sport. Being a premium brand, we want to give the fans that elevated experience.

Plans for MLS Cup:
We always look to capture content. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, because if ever the players are able to enjoy a beer or two, it’s when they win the Cup. We look to provide the players with something to celebrate in the locker room and share some of that imagery through our social handles.

Brand’s role in the Copa90 digital series on LAFC's launch:
That particular piece is one of the pieces I’m most proud of. The partnership with Copa90 stems from our desire to be closer to the fans. Copa90 is fan-centric. Their content is captured from the point-of-view of the fan and gives a deeper look at that life from the pitch. With LAFC -- who we sponsor -- we wanted to bring in a partner that understood what it meant to fans to have a new club and brand new stadium there. They were able to do a fantastic job capturing the essence of the fan and the emotion that goes into it. I was really happy Heineken could be a part of it. At the end of the day, we want to show Heineken is the beer of choice for soccer fans.

Any Copa90 plans for FC Cincinnati’s MLS debut?
We are definitely having considerations. We have to see how that will mete out and get an idea of what their plans with the stadium will be to assess if there will be an opportunity to help out there.

Social media approach to F1 in U.S.:
In this country, you have quite the variety of motorsports. The good thing is each of these caters to a different kind of fan. What we liked about the F1 experience is it’s a global sport, just like we’re a global beer brand, and the experience the fans and spectators get at F1 is one of the most premium and upmarket experiences you can get at motorsport. This was a natural fit. It allowed us to leverage it for our responsible messaging.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said that it is "quite likely" that big digital platforms like Amazon will bid for F1. Maffei: "I suspect they will be bidders on other forms of sport content too. Particularly global makes a ton of sense. They’re global players" (NBCNEWS.com, 11/19).

GO WITH THE FLO: In Hartford, Kelli Stacy notes the UConn women hoops team is "headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands to play three games in three days," but those games "won’t be available through traditional cable providers." Paradise Jam Tournament officials partnered with FloHoops, "meaning games will only be broadcast on FloHoops.com," where a monthly subscription costs $29.99. Some traditional TV outlets are "deterred from broadcasting games from the islands because of the significant cost of shipping a TV truck." Moving forward, a tournament spokesperson said that the event "hopes to make viewing more accessible for fans" (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/20).

IRON AGE: GOLF DIGEST's Joel Beall noted the Golf Channel docu-series "Driven," helmed by Rickie Fowler, is returning for a second year to "highlight the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn." The program, with Alabama alum Justin Thomas serving as a co-Exec Producer, will "consist of four episodes" and will "air on three consecutive Mondays beginning on May 6." The final chapter will "air May 27 on NBC" following the NCAA Men's Golf Championships (GOLFDIGEST.com, 11/19).