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Tech Giants Likely to Contend for Sports Broadcast Rights

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Tech companies have been dipping into the sports content industry, but at what point could they become serious competition for major broadcast networks? An industry analyst predicts the next year and a half could be a crucial time for tech giants in their attempt to acquire sports broadcast rights.

“We believe the next 12 to 18 months is a pivotal window for platforms like Facebook and Amazon, among others, to aggressively secure the rights to various professional sports programming, especially as the Disney/ESPN launch of ESPN Plus over the coming year will be at the epicenter to {Disney CEO Bob Iger’s} master streaming initiatives and ‘raise the stakes’ for securing future sports content in our opinion,” said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights.

According to a previous Wall Street Journal report, Facebook plans to invest as much as $1 billion in live sports content this year alone. Recent deals to stream MLS and MLB games, along with a $600 million failed bid to acquire streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches, shows Facebook’s desire spend on sports coverage.

Ives estimates Amazon could invest closer to $5 billion on sports content. They’ve already streamed NFL games, spending $50 million on last year’s Thursday Night Football package, which Jim DeLorenzo, head of Amazon Sports, believes was just a stepping stone to acquiring larger broadcast rights. “This was really our first step into distributing live sporting events at scale on a global basis,” DeLorenzo said.

As streaming becomes a more viable option for major sports broadcast rights agreements, Ives views Facebook and Amazon as serious contenders, Google and Apple as “wild cards,” with Snap and Twitter “tangentially in the mix.” Aggressively pursuing sports contracts in the next year and a half are important for tech giants to build a foundation allowing them to compete for larger deals as they expire in the future.

“We note in 2021, the year when the NFL, MLB and NHL media rights deals mostly end, will be the first major opportunity for Amazon, Facebook and other major tech streaming platforms to potentially bid on some of these rights versus the likes of traditional entrenched media/cable players,” Ives said.

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

Sports TV News

XFL Signs Exclusive Deal With ESPN

“Games will return in 2023. The season opening slate will be played February 18.”

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All 43 games in the 2023 XFL season will air on Disney’s sports networks. The entire schedule will be seen on ABC, ESPN, and FX. Dwayne Johnson and Dani Garcia made the announcement at the 2022 Disney Upfront presentation.

This will be the third iteration of the XFL. The first attempt in 2001 ended after a single season. The 2020 revival was shut down due to Covid. Johnson and Garcia and their partners purchased the brand two years ago for $15 million.

“The XFL will tap into sports fans’ deep love of football by emphasizing competitive action while dedicating itself to innovation and entertainment,” Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content said in a press release. “You can see a great path to success when you combine the reach and influence of ESPN and Disney with the collective vision of XFL leadership led by Dany, Dwayne and Gerry.”

Games will return in 2023. The season opening slate will be played February 18.

“The XFL is going to be a league of passion, a league of pride, and a league of culture,” Johnson said at the event, promising that those three principles will drive every decision for the league.

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NBA Playoff Ratings Hit 8-Year Highs

“At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.”

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More people are watching the NBA Playoffs than have done so in a long time. Through the first two rounds in 2022, the league is enjoying its best postseason ratings in eight years.

The average audience across TNT, ESPN, ABC and NBA TV is 3.71 million people per game. If you take the less widely available NBA TV out of the mix, the NBA is averaging 4.08 million viewers per game.

At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.

The Boston Celtics have been one of the most reliable performers this postseason. They have been involved in two of the three most-watched games. Sunday’s Game 7 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks is one of two games this postseason that now rank as the most-watched early round games in a decade. The other was Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Golden State has also been a hot draw. The Warriors have been involved in four of the seven most-watched playoff games.

With both teams still alive and plenty of star power left in the playoffs, the NBA is poised to deliver one of its most-watched postseasons in years.

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Domonique Foxworth: Tom Brady Contract Is About Impressing NFL

“I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”

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The shake-up of NFL TV broadcast booths has been one of the top storylines in the league this offseason.

Part of the reasoning is because of the massive sums of money involved. Whether it’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman or Tom Brady, NFL broadcasters have been getting paid. And it doesn’t seem like the spending is going to slow down anytime soon.

Speaking to Bomani Jones on The Right Time, Domonique Foxworth said the NFL just wants to continue to get bigger and bigger even with its broadcast crews.

“These TV partners want to be in good with the league. And I think that’s what this Tom Brady contract comes down to,” Foxworth said. “I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”

Even with some feeling like Brady is uninteresting and likely won’t move the needle as an analyst, it’s the name recognition factor that will set the table for Brady in the booth.

“I do believe that if you turn on an NFL game, and Tom Brady’s talking about it, it feels bigger no matter what he’s saying,” Foxworth said.

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