Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 28

Media

Disney+ will launch in the U.S. on Nov. 12 and cost $6.99 per month, "nearly half" of Netflix's standard $12.99 plan, with the subscription VOD service representing Disney's "biggest and most aggressive move into the video-streaming wars," according to Todd Spangler of VARIETY. By pricing it well below Netflix, Disney is "betting it can rapidly drive up Disney+ customer base with a mélange of content that appeals to multiple demographics." Disney+ in the U.S. also "will be available for an optional annual plan" for $69.99 per year. Disney+ at launch will "include 7,500 episodes of current and off-air TV shows; 25 original series and 10 original movies and specials; 400 library movie titles; and 100 recent theatrical films releases." Disney Senior Exec VP & CFO Christine McCarthy said that the company "expects 60 million to 90 million subscribers for Disney+ around the world" by the end of FY '24. Additionally, Disney Direct-to-Consumer & Int'l Groups Chair Kevin Mayer said that Disney at some point "will 'likely' deliver a discounted bundle combining Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu," but he "didn't provide any specifics." Meanwhile, McCarthy said that ESPN+ is "expected to have 8 million-12 million subs" by FY '24 (VARIETY.com, 4/11). Disney execs said that they "see opportunities" to take ESPN+ to Latin America and are "looking into international expansion" of Hulu (REUTERS, 4/11).

BEST FOR LAST: RECODE's Peter Kafka noted Disney "saved the crucial pricing and launch date details for the very end of a 2-hour, 45-minute long event aimed at investors" (RECODE.net, 4/11). CNN's Frank Pallotta noted some of the investors and media members at the event "gasped when the price was announced." The $6.99 per month plan "undercuts the price of Netflix, and that's partly the point." Disney "needs to gain as many subscribers as quickly as it can" (RELIABLE SOURCES, 4/11).

COMPLIMENT, NOT REPLACEMENT: Bob Iger on Friday reinforced that ESPN+ is an “extra service" for viewers and that it is "not designed to replace the traditional business model." Iger: "It’s an add-on, it’s a place you can go to get more and engage more.” He said, “We believe there are sports fans out there that do want more ESPN and want it in this fashion, which basically means easily watched across devices, over-the-top, not connected.” ESPN+ “gives us the ability to have a platform and a relationship with the consumer that should the traditional model start failing on us, which is not yet” (“Squawk on the Street,” CNBC, 4/12).

ESPN drew a 2.0 overnight rating on Thursday afternoon for opening round coverage of The Masters, down 9% from a 2.2 for last year’s first day. Thursday’s coverage from 3:00-7:30pm ET was up from a 1.6 overnight in ’17, when Tiger Woods was not competing due to injury. Thursday’s coverage featured the late stages of Woods’ round, similar to last year, which also marked his return to major championship golf. Greenville-Spartanburg led all markets on Thursday with a 4.6 rating, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul (4.4), Buffalo (3.8), Ft. Myers-Naples (3.6) and Columbus (3.4) (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).

The feature provides video of each shot for every player, including shot tracers and distance traveled
Photo: masters.com

NEW TECHNOLOGY HAILED: GOLFWEEK's Todd Kelly noted the ability for golf fans to watch every shot from every player at Augusta National this week via the new "Track" feature is "only the latest digital breakthrough for content on the Masters website." The new feature that provides video of each shot for every player in the field includes "shot tracers," "distance traveled" and "distance remaining to the hole." The new technology is "game-changing" (GOLFWEEK.com, 4/11). GOLF.com's Alan Bastable wrote The Masters' new technology is a "phenomenal development" and "truly mind-bending stuff." Now the rest of the golf’s governing bodies "will race to catch up with their own coverage." The Masters "used to leave fans wanting more," but now it "has them wondering, What will do they next?" (GOLF.com, 4/12). Augusta National Chair Fred Ridley said the tracking technology has been "two or three years in developing." Ridley: "We had it in a beta test mode previously, but now I feel like that we can actually execute on this" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/11).

THREE-MINUTE WARNING: FORBES' Simon Ogus notes the new technology is powered by IBM’s Watson, which will "produce three-minute highlight videos for each round of the tournament." Golf fans will be able to "experience nearly all of the shots in greatly abbreviated packaging as compared to watching the tournament in its entirety." These highlights packages were "previously created manually by Masters’ staff," but by teaming up with IBM they will now "allow Watson to scan through thousands of shots ... and choose the most memorable moments of each round for the highlights." The Masters specifically asked for this feature so fans can "better understand the larger storylines of the tournament while watching small pieces." IBM also will be "unveiling its OpenScale capability, which adds nuance and aims to remove bias in determining which shots to include" (FORBES.com, 4/12).

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? GOLF DIGEST's Brian Wacker wrote the new technology "begs the question: Did the Masters lose a little bit of its magic with all this too-good-to-be-true at-your-fingertips technology?" Compared to other majors, The Masters "lagged when it came to the amount of live shots available to golf-thirsty fans." But that "scarcity, along with the tournament being played at the most exclusive golf club on the planet, lent a certain aura to the Masters" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/11).

AUGUSTA ON THEIR MINDS...: SI.com's Stephanie Apstein noted CBS' Verne Lundquist still calls the Masters from tower at No. 16 "despite having mostly stepped back from broadcasting." He "gave up" calling college football in '16 and college basketball in ’17. But "even at 78, he can’t quite quit this place" (SI.com, 4/11). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said of covering The Masters: "Very little that we do feels overwhelming to me because it’s just sports, but it’s just one of those iconic places where you go in, sit down and what you are meant to do, well it feels a little big. You have to defuse that so you can do your job. It’s definitely one of the coolest things I get to do, and it’s the week I look forward to the most of the year" (NYPOST.com, 4/12). ESPN's Sage Steele takes THE DAILY inside her hosting duties for The Masters this week. 

Game 1 of Blues-Jets was on NHL Network, with the next three scheduled for CNBC
Photo: getty images

The Blues-Jets Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup is "taking a low spot in the national pecking order," as it is the "only one" of eight first-round series not to have games 1-4 shown on NBC or NBCSN, according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH.  Game 1 on Wednesday night was on the "low-profile" NHL Network, and the next three are on CNBC. Each of the first four contests in the Islanders-Penguins, Bruins-Maple Leafs and Sharks-Golden Knights series are to be on one of the "main networks." A look at a map "reveals the answer." Winnipeg is in Manitoba, and NBC "gets no ratings in Canada." Also, St. Louis and Winnipeg are in the central parts of their countries, "somewhat of a no-man’s land" for starting times. In the Central Time Zone, it leads to "some awkward" starting times. Two of the first four games in Blues-Jets are scheduled to begin at 8:30pm CT. NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood said, “The Central Time Zone is a unique spot. To get a doubleheader on, to get ... the most possible hockey (on TV) for the most possible people, this is how this works" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/12).

San Diego-based XEPRS-AM "abruptly went off the air" Wednesday because the company responsible for transmitting the daily broadcasts "claimed the station operator, Broadcast Company of the Americas, was behind in its lease payments," according to Lori Weisberg of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. While the sports station "remained off the air Thursday, its three local shows streamed online and on the station’s mobile app." Interamericana de Radio Owner Andres Bichara -- whose company is the signal operator for the station -- said that it is "unlikely that the radio station will return to the air if it cannot come up with the money due for its lease payments." Months of non-payment "led Bichara to take the station off the air." He said, “They have had multiple warnings that they should pay. If they do not pay I cannot continue giving them the station for free" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/12). In San Diego, Tom Krasovic noted XEPRS-AM is the "highest-rated sports talk station" in the city and a "fixture in the market for the last 16 years." Ratings for XEPRS-AM -- the Padres’ flagship station from '04-'16 -- have declined since the Chargers left for L.A. in '17. There is "competition from two other stations" -- KLSD-AM (flagship for SDSU) and WKBC-FM (Padres). But XEPRS-AM "remains the highest-rated among the trio, with the gap between them widening recently" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/11).

In Albany, Pete Dougherty notes the 150th running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 24 will be televised on Fox, which is "part of its agreement" with NYRA. FS1 will "show five stakes races on the undercard." NBC, which "had the Travers previously, will continue to have a Saratoga presence, carrying the Whitney and Test Stakes on Aug. 3 (NBCSN) and the Fourstardave on Aug. 10 (NBC)" (Albany TIMES UNION, 4/12).

DEFENSIVE STRATEGY: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Andrew Bucholtz noted significant change "appears underway for soccer coverage at The Athletic." A few MLS beat writers for the site have "tweeted about being told they’re no longer needed, and added some comments that the site may be moving to regional MLS beat writers rather than team-specific ones" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 4/11).

JUMPING IN THE RING: THE WRAP's Tony Maglio cited a source as saying that Turner is in "advanced talks with upstart professional wrestling league AEW (All Elite Wrestling) for a weekly television show likely on TNT." However, the source said the deal is “definitely not signed” (THEWRAP.com, 4/11).