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Volume 27 No. 5
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SBJ Unpacks: NFL Kickoff Draws Over 20 Million Viewers

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Chiefs-Texans draws over 20 million viewers amid a crowded sports programming night.

Also:

  • NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith talks player protests
  • Scott Hanson on a unique season for NFL RedZone
  • A look at Bubba Wallace's sponsorship value
  • Working from home with ESPN's Stacey Fitch
  • Teamworks' Mitch Heath on staying active away from the office

 

NBC AVERAGES 20.3 MILLION VIEWERS FOR NFL RETURN GAME

  • NBC averaged 20.3 million viewers for the Chiefs’ 34-20 win over the Texans in the NFL Kickoff game last night (TV + streaming), down from 22.7 million for Packers-Bears last year, but up from 19.6 million for Falcons-Eagles two years ago. NBC on its own last night averaged 19.3 million, per SBJ's Austin Karp. The game delivered an average minute audience of 970,000 viewers on digital platforms.

  • The 20.3 million viewers is the best audience on all of TV since the Academy Awards on Feb. 9 (23.6 million). Texans-Chiefs peaked at 22.0 million viewers from 9:15-9:30pm ET. The Chiefs’ 24-point lead at one point was the largest fourth-quarter deficit for an NFL Kickoff game in seven years.

  • Over the past decade, only two NFL Kickoff games have not reached the 21 million viewer mark (2020 and 2018), but none had the sports competition seen right now. Early in the NFL game, TNT had Lakers-Rockets Western Conference Semifinals Game 4 (7pm start). That game averaged 2.5 million viewers. ESPN had the U.S. Open (1.5 million), while NBCSN had Golden Knights-Stars in the NHL Western Conference Finals (790,000 viewers). 

 

 

NFLPA'S SMITH: PROTESTS "ORGANIC," ON "RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY"

  • NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said he is “leaving it up” to players to decide if and how they what to protest this weekend as the season kicks off, as it is important that the displays "be organic, that it be authentic.”

  • Smith called in to ESPN Radio’s “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” and addressed fans booing during the Texans-Chiefs pregame, saying "our players know that they’re on the right side of history." While the players “should be aware of what the fans are doing in the stands, that shouldn’t dictate what you should do.”

  • Smith noted the NFL had previously not been “supportive of the players’ rights to protest,” then made a "decision they’re going to be more supportive." The league "has to deal with those inconsistent positions, but am I happier that they are in a place right now as opposed to where we were four or five years ago? Sure." Smith said of some NFL owners staying silent on social issues, “The job of all us is to take stock of that. If we want to make a point of that we should, but I don’t spend a lot of time trying to crawl into their hearts and minds.”  

 

SCOTT HANSON GEARS UP FOR UNIQUE NFL REDZONE SEASON

  • Scott Hanson is back as host of NFL RedZone this weekend, and while NFL Media has made protocol changes to how the program will be presented this year, Hanson is still confident they can brings fans "the traditional RedZone broadcast" highlighting every touchdown from every game. 

  • Hanson on a Zoom call with media reporters today said instead of the RedZone team working from the traditional one control room at NFL Network HQ in Culver City, they instead will be spread out in four different rooms. Hanson will be in a room with just two others -- a researcher and a spotter -- who both will wear masks and practice social distancing. Hanson, who did not get to work through a preseason trial run like in past years, admitted they are "going to have to work through some kinks early on."

  • Hanson told SBJ's Thomas Leary he did have some initial doubts about the NFL season after reading about the outbreak at Clemson following conditioning workouts, but that was before the NFL began daily testing of players. As for what he would have done on Sundays without RedZone, Hanson said he was ready to hit the road. "I Google’d some of the Mercedes-Benz cruiser wagons. Not quite an RV but bigger than a van. I was going to rent one of these and go drive around the country. ... As nice as my life is in Los Angeles, we’re all tried of our four walls. I need to get back to the normalcy football brings."

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

  • During this crisis impacting the sports business, we want everyone to be up-to-date on the latest news and information. Once again tonight, the entire NFL preview section from Sports Business Daily is available for free, outside the paywall. Below are today's headlines:

    • NFL Successfully Starts Season On Time; Now Can It Finish?
    • Texans Skip Anthem At Opener, Crowd Boos Moment Of Unity
    • Dolphins' Brian Flores Says Stephen Ross "Supportive" Of Video
    • Bears Chair McCaskey Talks Fans At Soldier Field, Player Protests
    • K.C. Mayor Sees Chiefs As "Model" On Fans' Return To Stadiums
    • Glitzy SoFi Stadium Bound To Impress Despite Lack Of Fans
    • Rams, Nine Banded Whiskey Extend Partnership Through '22
    • Not Less Than Jake: Rodgers, Mahomes Back For More State Farm Ads
    • Steelers' Smith-Schuster Continues To Grow Marketing Profile
    • NFL Has Three New Brands On Sponsor Roster For '20 Season

 

BUBBA WALLACE'S SPONSORSHIP VALUE SENDS WAVES ACROSS RACING INDUSTRY

  • Bubba Wallace could have between $15-20 million in sponsorship for 2021 if his partners join him at a new team and renew, sources tell SBJ's Adam Stern, but it's not yet clear if outgoing team Richard Petty Motorsports agrees with the terms of the split. Wallace announced yesterday that he will leave RPM after this season for a yet-to-be-announced destination in a move that was first reported by The Athletic

  • After his rise in recent months, Wallace and RPM had landed a significant amount of new team sponsorship, including DoorDash, Cash App and Columbia apparel, along with Wallace also getting personal deals from Beats by Dre, Urban Outfitters and Kingsford charcoal. While the deals were relatively limited in size, sources say the partnerships would grow significantly in size and dollar amount next year if options for 2021 are picked up, particularly with DoorDash, which would become one of the biggest team sponsors in the sport if it renews. 

  • The exact total number is unclear, but sources say it would be above $15 million if the partners come back for 2021, a massive haul for one driver by current-day NASCAR standards and one that has stunned industry execs who have heard of the financials. This underscores how much Wallace’s rise in recent months has impressed corporate America and how RPM and Wallace’s management team were able to capitalize.

  • Wallace is represented by ProSport Management, while Leverage Agency worked with RPM to land the new sponsorships. Sources say it’s not yet clear whether RPM or Leverage Agency could try to legally dispute that the sponsorship is fully Wallace’s and ProSport’s to take because the contracts included RPM and had multiyear options. However, Wallace was only signed with the team through this season, creating the possibility for different interpretations as to who controls the sponsorship.

  • Wallace’s destination for next year is not yet clear; he has had talks with Chip Ganassi Racing, but industry rumors regarding fellow driver Denny Hamlin trying to set up a new Toyota-powered, celebrity-backed team also persist. Sources say that Hamlin had been in talks to become a minority investor in RPM, which would have switched to Toyota next year under a prospective agreement that was contingent on Wallace renewing. Both Hamlin and Wallace are represented by ProSport agent Rod Moskowitz.

 

Wallace will leave RPM after this season for a yet-to-be-announced destination
Wallace will leave RPM after this season for a yet-to-be-announced destination
Wallace will leave RPM after this season for a yet-to-be-announced destination

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH ESPN’S STACEY FITCH

  • ESPN Senior VP/Production Operations Stacey Fitch has been keeping a steady regimen working remotely from her home about 30 minutes away from the Bristol campus. She told SBJ's David Rumsey, “Monday through Friday, I set my alarm for 5:30 in the morning and I take a virtual fitness class,” Fitch said. “And that routine helps to jump start my day and keeps me focused because at home there's lots of virtual meetings and there can be lots of distractions.”

  • While the majority of Fitch’s days are spent video conferencing about production strategy, she has become accustomed to programming plans changing on a whim. “If we have MLB on our air and if there is a COVID outbreak with one of the teams, it could throw off the schedule,” she said. “And that means that the game may not air in the window that it was assigned or on the network it’s assigned. So, we have to do some pivoting there.”

  • Fitch is used to working long hours, but when she does get away from the home office she has been doing a lot of walking outdoors, trying out new recipes in the kitchen and enjoying plenty of Netflix shows -- most recently the popular “Schitt’s Creek.” And of course, she’s loved having live sports back. “I'm a huge Buffalo Bills fan, so I cannot wait for the NFL to start,” she said.

  • Fitch’s children no longer live at home, but she and her husband do have an extra companion in Gibbs, their Dotson Terrier mix. “My dog loves me being at home, but he requires a lot of attention,” she said. “So, there's lots of incessant barking and just wanting to get my attention at every turn. That’s both fun and can be a pain.” Fitch: “I definitely think animals will have separation anxiety when we all go back to normal.”

 

Fitch has been keeping a steady regimen working remotely from her home about 30 minutes away from Bristol
Fitch has been keeping a steady regimen working remotely from her home about 30 minutes away from Bristol
Fitch has been keeping a steady regimen working remotely from her home about 30 minutes away from Bristol

 

IN THE MEANTIME WITH TEAMWORKS' MITCH HEATH

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented year. Below, Teamworks co-Founder and COO Mitch Heath dishes on how he's been spending his free time, what future vacation he'd most like to take and what he's reading and binge watching. 

    • Working on: "Normally, (back in the days before COVID-19), I’m on the road about 50% of the time visiting Teamworks partners. About a week into isolation this February, feeling very restless, I decided I’d set a 2020 goal to visit all 41 state parks in North Carolina. 14 down, 27 to go."
    • Future vacations: "I had a family trip to the Dominican Republic that we had to cancel this spring. Looking forward to getting that back on the books."
    • Reading: "I’m trying to refresh the French I learned in high school but never use, so I’m (very slowly) working my way through Harry Potter in French."
    • Binge watching: "Just wrapped up 'Fleabag.' If you’re into extremely irreverent humor, this one’s for you."

 

Heath earlier this year set a personal goal to visit all 41 state parks in North Carolina
Heath earlier this year set a personal goal to visit all 41 state parks in North Carolina
Heath earlier this year set a personal goal to visit all 41 state parks in North Carolina

 

SPEED READS

  • This year's SBJ Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Larry Tanenbaum, has used family values, perseverance and an unwavering long view over his 30-plus years in the sports business. SBJ’s Bill King in next week's print issue follows Tanenbaum though 30 years and seven pro sports franchises as he built Maple League Sports & Entertainment, which includes the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and CFL’s Argonauts.

  • Following phase 1 of competition, the 2020 MLS season will continue as each club will play three more matches from Sept. 18-27, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The Canadian clubs will play all of them in the U.S., two of which will be on the road while one will be as the host and designated home team. The MLS Cup, which will follow an expanded single-match elimination 18-team postseason, is still slated for Dec. 12. More information on additional regular season matches will be announced at a later date “pending further developments regarding travel protocols,” per the league. 

  • The NBA has "approved all teams to place an additional sponsorship asset on practice jerseys for use during team practices and shootarounds," per sources cited by The Athletic's Shams Charania.
  • Google Cloud and YouTube have both signed sponsorship deals with SoFi Stadium, the surrounding Hollywood Park development and both the Rams and Chargers, making Google Cloud the official cloud sponsor and YouTube the official video streaming sponsor, per SBJ's Ben Fischer. As part of its agreement, Google Cloud will power a “personal concierge” app that will help fans navigate SoFi Stadium, locate parking and optimize traffic around the 298-acre Hollywood Park development. The app also will personalize offers on tickets, food and shopping. This marks the first time in sports that Google Cloud and YouTube have approached a deal together.

  • ESPN's Bob Harig writes under the header, "Why The PGA Tour Champions Is Welcoming Fans Back This Week." The Tour's event in South Dakota, the Sanford International, will "have 5,000-6,000 fans per day through the weekend and hopes to be a blueprint for tournaments going forward." Players "will not be allowed to sign autographs and the rope lines that border the holes and lead from greens to tees will be extended." The idea is to "give players more space from spectators, who are not required by South Dakota law to wear masks but are being asked to do so in crowded areas." They will be given masks upon entry and, if requested, gloves.
  • Snapchat on Saturday will debut a new docuseries about the life and career of Conor McGregor, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith. The eight-episode series, “Conor McGregor Vs The World,” is part of the Snap Originals lineup and will be exclusively available to watch through Snapchat’s Discover page. Episodes average five minutes in length, and the doc features historical footage as well as interviews with pro fighters Dave Hill and Jamie Kavanagh, McGregor biographer Ewan Mackenna and reporters John Morgan and Jourdan Kerl, among others. It’s the second docuseries from Snapchat’s “Vs The World” series, which is produced by Complex and highlights the careers of notable names in hip-hop, sports and entertainment; the first season chronicled the rise and fall of rapper Tekashi69

  • The NLL N.Y. Riptide unveiled their limited-edition Healthcare Heroes lacrosse jersey honoring the commitment and heroic care given by healthcare workers nationwide to individuals impacted by COVID-19. 100% of the proceeds of the jersey will benefit the St. Jude Children's Hospital. The jersey will be worn by the team next season. 
  • CBS' newest NFL broadcast team of Ian Eagle and Charles Davis, along with Evan Washburn, connected on Zoom to get to know each other better before they call Sunday's Week 1 Browns-Ravens game. Their video is worth a click.


SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

--- AXS SPORTS FACILITIES & FRANCHISES & TICKETING SYMPOSIUM ---

Sept. 22-23, 2020

Virtual Program

Announcing the 2020 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises & Ticketing Symposium agenda.  To view the agenda or to learn more, visit www.SportsFacilitiesandFranchises.com.

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.