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Volume 26 No. 49
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SBJ Media: Fade Route For Overnight Ratings

ACC Network officially launches at 7:00pm ET tomorrow, but I consider its real launch to be a week from tomorrow, when it carries the Georgia Tech-Clemson football game. I will be in Death Valley alongside Michael Smith and Georgia Tech alum Austin Karp for that game.

Tonight’s newsletter is open for all! Like you what you see? We’ve got plenty more. Check out SBJ/SBD for a free trial.

 

CHANGES TO RATINGS RELEASES TO HAVE BIG IMPACT ON SPORTS

  • Overnight ratings -- an early glimpse into how well sports events fare on TV -- are about to undergo drastic changes that have execs with multiple networks questioning whether they will even release the numbers publicly. Nielsen has told U.S. TV networks that starting Oct. 3, it will include out-of-home (OOH) viewing in its overnight numbers. It also told the networks that it will release numbers from 44 markets at around 1:00pm ET each day. Currently, Nielsen provides numbers from 56 markets at around 8:30am ET each morning.

  • Nielsen’s national TV numbers, which are released around 4:00pm ET each day, will not be affected by any of these changes. Network execs expect to rely more heavily on the national viewership numbers once the overnight changes take effect.

  • Rival TV execs have contacted each other to figure out how to deal with the changes. The goal is to get all the networks and leagues to agree to not release overnight ratings this fall. The reason: comparisons to last year will be like comparing apples to oranges given all the changes. Network execs have spent years complaining about the amount of attention given to overnight ratings, which they say have offered an incomplete picture of a sport's ratings performance. Oftentimes overnight ratings will show a drop from the previous year only to have a final number show an increase -- or vice versa.

  • Still, network execs are enthused about the inclusion of OOH numbers in Nielsen’s overnight reports and are hoping that it marks a first step to having national ratings incorporate OOH viewing at some point in 2020. Networks have said that OOH viewing can bolster audiences for big sports events by as much as 40%. Some ad buyers have said that OOH viewers are not as valuable as someone watching at home. Someone watching a TV in a bar or restaurant, for example, may not be as engaged as someone watching from their couch.

     

NBC EXPANDS RUGBY PORTFOLIO WITH WORLD SEVENS SERIES

HSBC World Rugby Sevens will return to NBC Sports after three years with ESPN
  • The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series will return to NBC after three years on ESPN. NBC Sports Group signed a deal with World Rugby to carry the series through 2023 on NBCSN, the Olympic Channel and various digital platforms. The deal will see more than 300 hours of programming across NBC’s platforms. World Rugby Sevens joins an NBC Sports rugby stable that includes next month's Rugby World Cup in Japan, Gallagher Premiership Rugby starting in October and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. NBC carried the HSBC Sevens Series from 2010-2016.

  • The move fits with NBC’s programming plans to focus on Olympic sports as it prepares for the Tokyo Games. Rugby Sevens was introduced as an Olympic sport at the 2016 Rio Games, and NBC execs believe that the network's commitment to the sport will provide a programming bridge to next year’s Olympics. “We’re looking to grow the property,” said NBC Sports and NBCSN President of Programming Jon Miller. “Rugby continues to grow in awareness and acceptance in the United States.” Miller believes the event’s return to linear TV will help grow the sport. ESPN carried most of the matches on its ESPN+ streaming service.

          

     

    SPEED READS

    • Last week's BMW Championship must like its new late August slot. Having served as the penultimate event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs since 2007, its TV audience was overshadowed on Sundays against the start of the NFL. But NBC this year delivered 3.15 million viewers for Justin Thomas' win, which is 48% higher than the average for the event's Sunday rounds since 2007. The Tour Championship this weekend also hopes to benefit from a pre-football slot, with its biggest competition coming from the Little League World Series.

    • Syracuse AD John Wildhack -- who spent decades as a senior exec with ESPN -- emailed Monday night after seeing Sean McManuscomments on the announcers that at one point or another have taken over Jack Whitaker’s mantle as an essayist on sports. McManus listed Dick Enberg, Bob Costas, Jeremy Schaap, Jimmy Roberts and Jim Nantz. Wildhack: “I would add [ESPN's] Tom Rinaldi to the fine list Sean McManus provided you. No better writer in the industry today than Tom.”

    • Citing “dramatic subscriber losses,” Evercore ISI today downgraded MSG Networks to “underperform” from “in line.” Analysts David Joyce and John Belton wrote, “MSG Networks lost 6.5% of their subscribers in 4Q19, far greater than our 3.7% loss estimate and a marked acceleration from the 3.9% decline in 3Q19.” The report concludes: “We believe investor sentiment will remain negative on the RSN space at least until there is some relief or clarity in the Disney/Fox RSN carriage drop issue.”

    • ESPN and DAZN last month continued to be the top-grossing sports apps worldwide, according to data from intelligence firm Sensor Tower. ESPN had around $9.4 million in user spending, which represented 7x growth from July 2018. DAZN had nearly $8.8 million, representing 7.6x growth. The key difference between the two outfits: 99% of ESPN’s revenue was from the U.S., while DAZN’s only gets 27% from the domestic market. In the U.S. alone, ESPN was the most-downloaded sports app last month, followed by Fox Sports and MLB Ballpark.

    • SPOILER ALERTCheck out a podcast featuring SBJ's Austin KarpDavid Rumsey and Lucas Smith discuss the third episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" with the Raiders.

    • As "Men In Blazers" entertained another standing-room only crowd at the British Embassy in D.C. on Monday night, I asked NBC Sports Group's Jon Miller to identify the secret of their success. “We never tell them what to say,” he said. Guests included D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney, the Redskins’ Josh Norman and NWSL Washington Spirit’s Rose Lavelle.

     

    Wayne Rooney (c) was among the guests for a "Men in Blazers" taping on Monday night

     

     

    Enjoying this newsletter? We've got more! Check out SBJ College with Michael Smith on Tuesdays and Thursdays for insights into all the latest news around the world of college sports.

    Something on the Media beat catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to either me (jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com) or Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessdaily.com) and we'll share the best of it. Also contributing to this newsletter is Thomas Leary (tleary@sportsbusinessdaily.com).