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Volume 25 No. 177

Media

NASCAR’s top series had another record low for TV viewership this season. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series averaged 3.3 million viewers across 33 races on NBC, Fox, NBCSN and FS1 this season (excluding rainouts at Martinsville, Bristol and Indianapolis). That figure is down from 4.1 million viewers last year, and down from 4.5 million viewers in ’16. Of the 33 weekend race telecasts this year, more than two-thirds likely had record low viewership, including the Daytona 500 and championship race from Homestead-Miami Speedway. A positive note came with the new Roval event on Sept. 30. The telecast drew just over 3.2 million viewers, which is the best for a playoff race from Charlotte Motor Speedway since ’14. Meanwhile, of the 12 Cup races that NBCSN had this year (excluding Indy), seven of those were the most-viewed sports event on cable TV during their respective weekends. Looking at the average digital audience across all 36 race days this season, NASCAR saw content consumption rise 29% compared to '17, while total page views were up 13% and total video views were up 49%.

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES VIEWERSHIP TREND
SEASON
RACES
VIEWERS (000)
'18
33
3,340
'17
35
4,074
'16
34
4,473
Download the
NASCAR Cup Series Audience Trend

FINAL COUNTDOWN: The Cup Series playoffs, which feature 10 races in the heart of football season, again saw a sharp drop-off this year. The 10 races averaged 2.7 million viewers across NBC and NBCSN this year, down from 3.1 million viewers in ’17 and 3.3 million viewers two years ago. The championship race from HMS was the top playoff race at 4.2 million viewers on NBC. Last year, the finale drew 4.7 million, which featured Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final Cup race. Two years ago, when Tony Stewart ran his last race and Jimmie Johnson won a record-tying seventh title, the finale drew 5.9 million viewers.

Turner drew 750,000 unique video views for the Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods match
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Turner President David Levy said he was happy with last week's Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods match and expects to produce similar ones, despite a glitch that caused Turner to make the PPV free -- potentially wiping away as much as $10M in revenue. "We are in this for the long haul," he said. "We don't have all the facts and figures, but based on early indications, total audience for the match surpassed expectations across all of our platforms." Turner logged 750,000 unique video views and 55 million minutes consumed on B/R Live for "The Match." "And that’s just B/R Live," Levy said. "That does not include our pay-per-view distribution partners." The company paid upwards of $10M in August for the rights to carry the event, much of which was going to be recouped through the $19.99 PPV price tag. When the match started on Friday, many viewers were unable to log in and view the stream, causing Turner to take the extraordinary step of dropping the paywall entirely. "This all boils down to really insufficient memory, server capacity that was required, and the high volume of consumer access requests in a condensed amount of time," Levy said. "Try to do this during Black Friday with Amazon’s cloud with everybody online ordering stuff." Levy said that his company did not expect to make revenue solely from PPV sales. It also sold sponsorships to companies like Capital One, Audi, Rolex and AT&T. "All the sponsors want to come back," he said. "They all were extremely happy with the event and the coverage."

DAMAGE CONTROL: Levy said he first heard about potential problems during the pre-show. By the time Mickelson and Woods were on the third hole, Levy realized how big the problem was. "We have always, as a company, looked at the consumer first," Levy said. "If we really believe in that mantra, when we were having these problems we made a decision for the franchise, for the consumers, for our brands, to open up this window and let down the paywall. Did we know it was going to cost some revenue opportunity? Absolutely. But that’s not why we did it. This is for the long haul. All of our business is about thinking about where we’re going to take this opportunity. We now have a proven formula that works. That’s something we wanted to protect." Levy said that his tech team was working to fix the problems in order to collect the $19.99 payment from as many viewers as possible. "We would fix one problem on one platform and another one would have some challenges," Levy said. "It just made sense to keep it open and take the consequences that goes with it."

LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: Levy said he is committed to this format. "You now have a franchise that you can use in many different ways," he said. "It's a little early to say what we’re going to do next. Certainly, Tiger and Phil would like to have conversations. So would I. I don't think you have to keep this just to golf. This is something that could be used for other sports and other competitions. We now have a new model. If you put a compelling event together, people are willing to pay for it." Based on the number of people that pre-ordered the event, Levy said that the $19.99 price tag worked. "We're going to learn from this," he said. "We're going to do a lot of due diligence to make it better. It demonstrated to me a number of innovative steps in presenting a live sporting event. It was the first time ever that you integrated some gambling elements into this -- predictive data and proprietary data. This was unprecedented in television."

WHAT'S BEING SAID: The Match was a big topic of discussion on ESPN's afternoon talk shows yesterday, though not much being said was kind. Tony Kornheiser on "PTI" called it a "bad broadcast,” noting on the “few occasions that Tiger and Phil were actually talking to each other -- because they don't do that -- the people in the booth were talking over them." He suggested that Charles Barkley should have gotten out of the "dopey set he was on" in order to "walk the course with them and chat them up all the way around." Jackie MacMullan on "Around The Horn" called the event an "unmitigated disaster," noting it was "too little, too late for both guys." She said, "If you're going to play a straight golf match, why are people going to tune in and pay?" Israel Gutierrez noted there is "not enough weight between any two other golfers to make this a real pay-per-view event." He said, "If some sort of rivalry develops in golf, whether it be Rory (McIlroy) and Jordan Spieth or anything like that, then maybe while they're still in their prime, you do this.” Sarah Spain offered some suggestions for future version of the event, saying, "Maybe you get an LPGA and a PGA player together versus other ones. Maybe you’ve got a Ryder Cup, but even more fun situations. More side bets, trick shots, all that stuff."

The season-low 7.0 overnight rating for Texans-Titans matches Rams-Raiders in the late window of Week 1
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

ESPN drew a 7.0 overnight rating for the Texans’ 34-17 win over the Titans last night, matching the season-low overnight for “MNF” in ’18, but still up 17% from Texans-Ravens in Week 12 last year. The 7.0 overnight is the same figure that Rams-Raiders drew in the late window in Week 1 on ESPN. Last year, Texans-Ravens drew a 6.0 overnight en route to being the least-watched “MNF” game of the ’17 season. Two years ago in Week 12, Packers-Eagles drew an 8.9 overnight. Last night’s game peaked at an 8.2 overnight from 9:30-9:45pm ET (game went from 8:15-11:15pm). Houston led all markets with a 29.4 local rating (10.7 on ESPN, 18.7 on KTRK-ABC). In Nashville, the game drew a 21.5 local rating (6.4 on ESPN and 15.1 on WKRN-ABC).

RAGIN' CAJUNS: New Orleans was again the third-best local market rating for “MNF,” falling behind only the two markets playing. It was the sixth time in 12 weeks that the Big Easy achieved that feat. On another two occasions -- both involving the N.Y. market -- the Big Easy out-rated the Big Apple to be the No. 2 market for ESPN. New Orleans was the clear No. 1 for Redskins-Saints on Oct. 8. NOLA has finished at No. 4 three times, and was No. 5 for Titans-Cowboys on Nov. 5 behind strong performances from some Texas markets. ESPN gets the New Orleans market again in Week 15 for Saints-Panthers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

HONORING THE MAN: ESPN’s Joe Tessitore in a pregame-tribute said late Texans Owner Bob McNair was a “dynamic and determined businessman." Tessitore: "We had the chance to speak to many players, many coaches about the well-respected NFL owner and there were so many stories shared about his love of this franchise, the employees of the team, the players, coaches and most of all, the city of Houston.” ESPN's Lisa Salters added, "There was a sadness around the Texans when we met with them on Saturday." Salters noted that Texans DE J.J. Watt during that meeting "told us it didn’t matter what charity he attended with Mr. McNair, at the end of the night, whatever the dollar amount that was raised, Bob McNair would match it” (“Monday Night Kickoff,” ESPN, 11/26).

The Draft saw its best TV audience on record this year, as the three-day event averaged 5.5 million viewers
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

ABC will broadcast all three days of the NFL Draft next April, including two primetime shows on Day 1 and Day 2. Fox, which covered the Draft's first two days earlier this year, will not cover it live in '19. ESPN and NFL Network also will cover all rounds of the Draft, which will be held in Nashville April 25-27. ABC's coverage will not be a simulcast of what is on ESPN, at least not on the Draft's first two days. ABC's coverage will be tailored for the more casual fan, anchored by the "College GameDay" crew of Rece Davis, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard. Davis, Corso and Howard were on ESPN2's coverage last year, while Herbstreit was on ESPN's main set for Day 1. ABC will focus on the personalities and backstories of the draft picks, incorporating live musical acts into its coverage. Meanwhile, ESPN and NFL Network's coverage will be more football-centric. ESPN's coverage earlier this year was hosted by Trey Wingo with Mel Kiper Jr. and Louis Riddick. ABC will simulcast ESPN's coverage on Day 3. ESPN has carried the NFL Draft since '80. Since becoming ESPN President in the spring, Jimmy Pitaro has been open about his desire to improve relations with the NFL. This move could be viewed as a sign that the relationship between ESPN and NFL is back on solid ground. The Draft saw its best TV audience on record this year, as the three-day event averaged 5.5 million viewers across ESPN, NFL Network, Fox, ABC and ESPN2. That passed the previous high of 5.4 million viewers in '14 (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

MORE THAN JUST PICKS: YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote the '19 Draft will "push the idea of the draft being everything but teams picking college players to a new level." At this rate, "announcing draft picks might become optional." This could be the "right year to have musical acts going during the NFL draft." But the '19 Draft "won't be anything like the last two, when star quarterbacks and other easily recognizable names" drove huge ratings. That "won't keep the NFL from blowing it up to a larger-than-life event." There is "probably a limit to the expansion of the draft coverage, but we haven't reached it yet" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/26). NFL Network's Rich Eisen tweeted, "While I, as always, wish my Bristol friends the best, to channel my inner @bakermayfield, I plan on waking up dangerous that broadcast day" (TWITTER.com, 11/26).

ESPN last month posted the largest monthly audience by any sports entity in comScore monthly rankings of multiplatform digital reach this calendar year. ESPN’s total of 97.3 million unique visitors last month represented the highest total since ESPN reached 100.3 million uniques in November ’17, and is not far off its company record of 104.57 million uniques in September ’16. ESPN in October led all sports entrants in total consumption with 8.94 billion minutes, while the Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network rollup led with a per-user average of 97.9 minutes during the month. The figures were fueled in part by a highly active sports calendar in October that featured football in full flight, the MLB Postseason and the start of the current NBA and NHL seasons. Last month’s overall sports category totals of 184.5 million total users and an average consumption of 151.3 minutes per user ebbed slightly from September’s figures of 187.2 million total users and an average consumption of 152.3 minutes per user. 

RANK
SITE
UNIQUES (000)
1
ESPN
97,333
2
CBS Sports*
71,653
3
Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network**
62,583
4
NFL Internet Group
53,043
5
USA Today Sports Media Group***
48,278
6
Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network^
47,508
7
SB Nation
42,580
8
MLB
30,172
9
Sports Illustrated sites
29,796
10
Fox Sports-Perform Media^^
28,830
11
Minute Media#
21,922
12
MSN Sports
17,560
13
Whistle Sports
13,005
14
SendtoNews
11,165
15
Deadspin.com
11,077
RANK
SITE
TOTAL TIME SPENT (MINUTES)
1
ESPN
8.94 billion
2
Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network**
6.13 billion
3
NFL Internet Group
2.11 billion
4
CBS Sports*
1.71 billion
5
MLB
1.54 billion
6
Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network^
1.21 billion
7
USA Today Sports Media Group***
603 million
8
Fox Sports-Perform Media^^
508 million
9
SB Nation
376 million
10
Sports Illustrated sites
192 million

NOTES: * = Includes 247Sports.com, MaxPreps and Scout Media. ** = Includes Rivals, Rotoworld, and FanDuel. *** = Includes 81 local Gannett-owned newspaper sites, 23 Gannett-owned broadcast TV sites, USA Today High School Sports, The Big Lead, and For The Win. ^ = Includes NBA.com, NCAA.com, and WNBA.com. ^^ = Includes The Sporting News. # = Includes 90min, 12Up, DBLTap, and The Spun.

Download the
October ComScore Figures

The Philadelphia Fusion are gearing up for a homecoming event this weekend as the club readies for its second season in the Overwatch League. The celebration will include an appearance by Flyers mascot Gritty, as both clubs fall under the Comcast-Spectator ownership umbrella. Fusion Dir of Marketing, PR & Events Hung Tran (@Fusion) is expecting a bigger turnout this year after “a couple thousand people” showed up for the inaugural event in '17. Tran, who spent seven years with the Flyers prior to joining the Fusion, said the esports outfit loves to use social media platforms to show that gamers are multifaceted. Tran: “For the longest time, the gaming stereotype was you lived in your parents’ basement. But what esports and gaming has done is change that stereotype. Anyone can be a gamer -- it doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe in, how athletic you are."

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follows: Cray Sounds. She’s a DJ and also a big gamer.
Favorite apps: Instagram. I am a photographer on the side. It’s how I express my creativity when I am not working.
Average time per day on social media: Probably a couple of hours.

Esports' view of social media vs. traditional sports:
We have similar goals where we want to tell the story of the game, of the brand, of the teams. We just go about it in different ways. Traditional sports tend to be more conservative in their approach. They have a lot of highlights from previous matches and games. They show a lot of press conferences. Esports has a more personable perspective. We do the same thing -- where we tell the story on match day -- but then you get the behind-the-scenes and what it’s like to be an esports athlete. We have more access to our players.

Fusion’s approach to social media:
It’s that interaction between the fan and the streamer and the pro esports athlete that has really helped esports grow over the last few years. Just imagine if you are able to go to LeBron James and have a conversation with him and have him react to you as you send him messages. For this younger audience, that’s a powerful tool to know that you are appreciated and know the people you support are interacting with you.

Difference in social media from season one:
In the beginning, we had two goals. The first being we wanted to prove we belonged in the endemic esports audience. We also wanted to prove we could rep a city like Philadelphia. To the second point, that was a lot easier, because on our staff [there] are four or five people from Philadelphia who had moved out to L.A., so we understood the fan base and the type of people the city would support.

Increased sponsor integration in Season 2:
We literally started with zero followers and spent the next year building that. We had sponsors come to us and make us offers to be partners, but it was important for us to find the right sponsors. We took Season 1 to grow the brand, figure out who the right sponsors were and we’ve signed a bunch of deals in the last few weeks. We have the right partners that we believe in and have the same core principles as we do.

Building a following from nothing:
A lot of time and dedication. The staff spent the last year on building the Fusion brand. Everyone contributed. There were a lot of late nights and early mornings and not a lot of days off in the past year.

Fusion working with other Comcast teams:
We have had great support from all the Philadelphia teams. The Phillies welcomed us to their ballpark last year. They took our players on the field, gave them a behind-the-scenes tour and hooked them up with a nice suite to watch their first game. The Union have been terrific partners with us. They have an esports player in "FIFA" and eMLS league. And the Flyers have been wonderful, being in the family. We had a dasherboard during the preseason last season and this season as well.

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