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Volume 26 No. 51
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SBJ Media: Different Showdown For "Thursday Night Football"

Is there enough room on the Nats' bandwagon for this lifelong Washingtonian over the next couple of weeks? Even if all my baseball gear is black and orange? I say, yes. #Natitude.

We put tonight’s newsletter outside of our paywall. Like you what you see? We’ve got plenty more from SBJ.

 

RAMS-SEAHAWKS HEADED FOR BLACKOUT ON DISH, SLING

  • Tomorrow night’s “Thursday Night Football” game will be blacked out to Dish Network and Sling TV subscribers on both Fox and NFL Network if Fox and Dish don’t have a deal in place by kickoff, according to multiple sources. Last week, NFL Net simulcast the game to Dish Net subscribers even as the satellite distributor dropped Fox’s owned-and-operated channels, FS1 and FS2. Amazon will not place any restrictions on its streams for Rams-Seahawks tomorrow night, sources said.

  • The two sides are talking, which is a good sign; but sources say an agreement by tomorrow night looks unlikely. Despite the talks, there has not been enough movement on any side that makes any of my sources optimistic that a deal is in the offing. Networks feel the NFL, in particular, provides a lot of leverage in these types of disputes since it is such popular programming. Fox’s channels went dark on Dish Net last week and remained dark over the weekend during the NFL and college football games.

 

NFL STAYS POSITIVE AFTER FOUR WEEKS OF GAMES

  • NFL and TV execs are breathing a huge sigh of relief this week. We’re one-fourth of the way through the 2019 season, and ratings continue to look good, building off last season's 5% uptick. SBJ's Austin Karp crunched the numbers and found that NFL games are averaging 16.3 million viewers on TV across all networks. That figure is up 4% from 15.7 million at the same point last season, and up 5% from 15.5 million two years ago. Flat is the new up in TV ratings, so while these gains may look relatively modest, they represent a huge win for the league.

  • Fox and CBS are seeing their best Sunday afternoon averages since the start of the 2016 season. Fox on Sundays is averaging 18.7 million viewers, up 4%, while CBS is averaging 17 million, also up 4%. NBC is also off to its best start since 2016 with "Sunday Night Football," averaging 20.9 million viewers on TV and easily on pace to deliver NBC its ninth straight season with primetime TV's most-watched program. "Monday Night Football" is enjoying a 2% gain for ESPN, while Fox and NFL Network after three "Thursday Night Football" games are up 6%.

  • Positive side notes? Streaming is really picking up for games. When digital is factored, games are averaging 16.6 million viewers, which is up 5% year-over-year. League partners are seeing a 48% year-over-year gain for digital viewership, taking in an average minute audience of 481,000 per game. This past Sunday night, NBC Sports Digital saw an AMA of 599,000 viewers for Cowboys-Saints, marking its most-streamed regular-season NFL game yet. Season to date, "SNF" streaming is up 36%. Meanwhile, pregame shows are seeing gains. CBS' "The NFL Today" is up 8%, "Fox NFL Sunday" is up 6%, "Fox NFL Kickoff" is up 5% and ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" is up 17%.

  • An area for improvement? Ratings among males 18-34 is a cause for concern. The league is down 6% in the demo through Week 4, with Fox, CBS and NBC each down 4% on Sundays. ESPN, however, is seeing a 2% gain among males 18-34.

 

FOX SPORTS DOUBLES DOWN ON BETTING WITH FANDUEL

  • It was not even five months ago that Fox Sports signed a deal with The Stars Group to launch Fox Bet with free-to-play games and, in states where gambling is legal, an actual wagering service. News broke overnight that Flutter Entertainment will buy Stars Group in a $6 billion all-share deal. That move essentially aligns Fox Bet with FanDuel, which is owned by Flutter.

  • I called Fox Sports Chair Eric Shanks to find out how the deal affects his business. “Just a few months after we got into this business, we have an opportunity to essentially double down with FanDuel to create a true market leader across multiple segments,” he said, referring to daily fantasy, sports wagering, free-to-play and brick-and-mortar operations.

  • Now that we’re four weeks into the NFL season, I asked how these gambling services are affecting viewership. Shanks said it still was too early to tell. “It’s early, but promising,” he said. “We’re in a nascent position [with legalized wagering] as it relates to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. ... The fact that there’s growth week over week with Super Six is promising.”

 

EVERYONE HAS A FAVORITE "30 FOR 30"

My favorite "30 for 30" remains Barry Levinson's look at the history of what is now the Ravens Marching Band.

 

SPEED READS

  • DAZN will stream special editions of "ChangeUp" on its YouTube channel and Twitter account. A one-hour preview will air prior to the first MLB playoff game in each round; the first episode went live last night before the Nationals' win over the Brewers. Adnan Virk and Scott Rogowsky, who headlined the show during the regular season, return as hosts.
  • I was not surprised to see such strong social media support for outgoing Sports Illustrated Editor-in-Chief Chris Stone on Twitter today. ESPN’s Seth Wickersham: “Spent 27 years working his ass off to make SI the best it could be. He was an EIC during a hard time to be an EIC, but did so with class and dignity and oversaw some major hits stories.” NBC Sports’ Peter King: “Happy trails @SI_ChrisStone. All you ever wanted was @SInow to be great.” SI’s Grant Wahl: “Hard to imagine Sports Illustrated without @SI_ChrisStone. ... He has always cared about doing great work, and his SI did that.”

  • Coyotes President & CEO Ahron Cohen shed light on the organization’s three new Spanish-language specific social media accounts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter heading into this season. Cohen, appearing on the Coyotes’ Front Office Report podcast, said, “The Hispanic population in Phoenix is about 40%. That’s a group that really hasn’t engaged in hockey much. We’re going to do some fun things, and it’s really opening a lot of eyes around the league.” My colleague Mark J. Burns reported on the team’s Hispanic outreach last month

  • Bob Costas will call Friday’s ALDS Game 1 between the Twins and Yankees and Monday’s ALDS Game 3 in Houston. I asked him how he’s kept his love of baseball over the years. Costas: “From childhood on, there has never been a time when I wasn't following baseball. So regardless of the extent of my involvement in the coverage, my interest in the game has always been strong. My love for baseball pre-dated my first broadcast, and will postdate my last.”

  • I loved watching Orioles PR director Kristen Hudak talk with MASN’s Gary Thorne about her favorite book, “The Alchemist.”

  • Unanimo Deportes has picked up the Spanish-language rights to broadcast the MLB postseason on terrestrial radio. Former ESPN Deportes head Lino García launched the multimedia company three weeks ago.

 

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. Also check out SBJ Football with Ben Fischer on Friday afternoons.

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).