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DeMaurice Smith Concerned By NFL Ratings Decline

Brandon Contes

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Declining TV Ratings for the NFL have been a well-documented topic during the last two seasons, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith believes the players should be involved to discuss the league’s future.

“I think that the ratings information is significant and important. If we don’t pay attention to it, I think that we do so at our own peril, from a macroeconomic standpoint,” Smith told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. “Certainly, I recognize that we’re lucky that over 30 of the top 50 shows were NFL broadcasts. But I think that you ignore at your own peril not so much just the decline in football, but the overall decline in ratings for most television shows and particularly sports broadcasts.”

While the NFL has experienced consecutive seasons of television declines nearing 8%, the NBA has enjoyed increases of 12% for its national broadcasts. DeMaurice Smith recognizes the success of the NBA and believes the NFL should look to their model.

“I think that you could make the argument that a lot of their programming is fresher, hipper. They do, I think, a great job of marketing their individual players, sometimes at a time when the [NFL] looks for ways to take their star players off the field. I would be interested in better understanding the relationship between the broadcast partners and the NBA, what that relationship is like, how they do their TV deals, their rights deals.”

Smith continued, “But I think that, given the year-over-year ratings issue in football, it begs the question, ‘Should we be doing something different?’ And that might mean the restructuring of the season in a way to make it more fan-friendly.”

In terms of what the NFL needs to improve on, Smith told Graziano improved matchups should be a focus of the league, using fan intrigue of divisional and playoff games as an example.

“You look at the ratings, and you see that marquee matchups buck the trend on declining ratings,” Smith said.  “When you do look at playoff games, when you do look at whether they’re division rivalries or games that have a level of significance, those games are not only exciting and people still want to watch them, but those marquee games are still big-time, high-viewership games.”

Smith’s thought process falls in line with what Fox CEO James Murdoch discussed last fall. Murdoch believed the NFL might be reaching a point of oversaturation. While Smith wouldn’t go as far as to say the league should cut back on its games, he was clear in stating fans lose interest in lesser matchups.

“I do think the proliferation of Thursday availability — and the proliferation of football generally — does mean that you’re asking a lot from customers to watch Thursday,” Murdoch said. “And then they watch a lot more college football game on Saturdays, and then on Sundays, and then on ‘Monday Night Football,’ etc. It’s a lot. So I do think that preserving the scarcity value of those events and that audience is something that is worth thinking about.”

Fox did go on to spend nearly $3 billion for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package, signaling the league remains healthy and networks have confidence with its future on television even as the ratings decline.

Still, Smith and the players look at declining ratings as a concern especially while the NBA is seeing their ratings rise. The current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA is set to expire in 2021 and ratings will surely be a topic of conversation for the two sides before then.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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SportsNet Pittsburgh Adds Four New On-Air Members to Broadcast Team

Former big leaguers Steven Brault, Jordy Mercer and Alex Presley join the network as in-studio analysts, while Hannah Mears joins as a sideline reporter.

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The SportsNet Pittsburgh channel logo

SportsNet Pittsburgh just went on a free agent signing spree, adding three former MLB players as analysts and a former Big Ten Network voice as sideline reporter. Steven Brault, Jordy Mercer and Alex Presley join the network as in-studio analysts for the channels’ pre-and post-game shows, while former Big Ten Network talent Hannah Mears joins the network as a sideline reporter.

According to TribLive, Brault, Mercer, and Pressly will join the network’s existing roster of analysts like Michael McKenry, Matt Capps, Bob Walk and Kevin Young. The new trio have each played multiple seasons for the Pirates — Brault six, Mercer seven, and Pressly three and change.

Mears will join Dan Potash and Hailey Hunter as a sideline reporter. While TribLive reports that the latter will host as well as report on games, it’s not been made clear whether Mears will do both jobs as well. She announced the move via her X account earlier:

Recently, SportsNet Pittsburgh announced a deal where it will remain the TV home of the Pirates. The Pirates begin their regular season Mar. 28 on the road against the Miami Marlins.

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JJ Redick In War of Words with Barstool Podcaster Patrick Beverley

“I had a four year offer with player option for the same money to be a starter for a different team. FOH ‘saved my career’.”

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JJ Redick
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Just days after he was promoted to ESPN’s top NBA broadcast team, JJ Redick is in a war of words with Barstool Sports podcaster (and Milwaukee Bucks guard) Patrick Beverley over comments the former made about Doc Rivers. The same Doc Rivers who Redick just replaced on ESPN’s A team — and Beverley’s current head coach.

Earlier today on First Take, Redick called out Rivers for a lack of accountability throughout his career. “It’s always an excuse, it’s always throwing your team under the bus,” Redick said about Rivers. “There’s never accountability with that guy.” Rivers was Redick’s coach while both were members of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Beverley responded to Redick’s words via X with some harsh criticism, saying “This Man Doc actually saved your career. Started you when no one else wanted 2. And u retire go on TV and say that.”

Redick quickly responded to Beverley, casting doubt upon the guard’s words, and said he had another starting-caliber offer available to him when he chose to play for the Clippers, then dismissed Beverley’s comments.

Redick is no stranger to controversy since joining the sports media space. Redick went after fellow ESPNer Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo for comments the longtime WFAN host made about Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown. He also called Russo out for defending NBA stars like Bob Cousy who the former Duke guard said, “played against plumbers and firemen.”

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Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay To Serve as Lead Analyst for Mexico Open Coverage on NBC

Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay will serve as NBC’s lead golf analyst for the PGA Tour Mexico Open while his partner, Justin Thomas, takes the event off.

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Jim "Bones" Mackay providing golf analysis for NBC
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NBC is adding another name to its tryout list to serve as a lead analyst on its golf coverage, and it’s current PGA Tour caddy Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay. Mackay will serve as NBC’s lead golf analyst for the PGA Tour Mexico Open while his partner, Justin Thomas, takes the event off.

According to USA Today’s Golfweek, Mackay isn’t keen on making this a full-time gig, something he made known to NBC brass before signing on. He’s committed to caddying for Thomas, who will take this week off after playing four of the last five PGA Tour events. Mackay has worked for NBC in the past, serving as an on-course reporter in 2017 and providing spot coverage at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship last season.

A spokesman for NBC Sports told Golfweek that Mackay will serve as an on-course reporter on Thursday, then move to the booth for the remaining three rounds alongside veteran pro Brad Faxon, with Steve Sands and Dan Hicks rotating as host.

NBC has been trying different voices in the booth since laying off Paul Azinger in November. Since then, multiple analysts have stepped into the booth for NBC. Former Tour winner Kevin Kisner stepped in for NBC’s first two events of the season, while Brandel Chamblee stepped in for its coverage of “The American Express.” Reports indicated NBC was interested in adding Geoff Ogilvy to its golf coverage, but the former U.S. Open winner hasn’t been featured on the network yet.

Before caddying for Thomas, Mackay served as Phil Mickelson’s caddy for 25 years. Mackay was by Mickelson’s side during all but one of his major championships, including all three of his Masters wins.

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