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ESPN+ and the Action Network Launch Betting Show

Brandon Contes

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Earlier this week, John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reported regional sports networks would look to launch sports betting related shows before they become common on a national level. Because sports gambling will be legalized individually by each state, it’s logical to expect local networks to emphasize sports betting as it becomes legal within their region.

With New Jersey expected to legalize sports betting soon, SportsNet New York, which serves most of New Jersey, will be eyeing the addition of betting coverage to their lineup.

“Our hope and expectation is that this is an opportunity for us in the second half of 2018,” SNY president Steve Raab told Ourand. “There are some states and some networks where my guess is that it could be a year or two — or never — before there’s an opportunity.”

New Jersey was hoping to be open for sports betters by Memorial Day Weekend, but fell short of that goal. According to USA Today, Delaware will now be the first new state to offer sports betting, opening for business on Tuesday June 5th.

Sports gambling programs reaching the national stage on ESPN or FS1 will depend on how quickly states follow suit to join Delaware in legalizing the practice. ESPN won’t put resources towards a wagering show if Delaware is the only state where sports betting is legal, however, once the number of states with legal sports gambling reaches 25 or 30, national networks will need to adjust their programming accordingly.

While ESPN and FS1 might not be ready to put a gambling show on their national network, Ourand reported the new subscription-streaming platform, ESPN+ has launched a betting show in conjunction with The Action Network.

I’ll Take That Bet is the first sports wagering related content on the ESPN+ platform, hosted by The Action Network Head of Media, Chad Millman along with retired NFL player Geoff Schwartz, NBA reporter Matt Moore and former MLB All-Star Paul Lo Duca. Two of their betting experts will be featured in each 15-minute show, with all of them alternating to select 10 bets off a betting board. Shows will be released multiple times per week in the 5:00 – 6:00 pm ET hour.

ESPN and The Action Network were reportedly working on a gambling show for ESPN+ prior to the Supreme Court decision on May 14th allowing states to legalize sports betting. It’s probable they were planning the show prior to the decision, but ESPN and The Action Network knew the Supreme Court decision was coming soon. Had the Supreme Court surprisingly ruled in the other direction, disallowing states to legalize sports wagering, it’s unlikely they would have rolled betting related content on ESPN+.

“Our ambition was to be in this space with our premium product at the outset,” said ESPN Senior VP/Original Content, Newsgathering & Digital Media Rob King.

“We know this content has its audience,” King told SBJ’s Ourand. “We’re putting together a strong portfolio of content and distribution for ESPN+. This will add value overall.”

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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Sports TV News

FOX Sports Moving UFL Games to Friday Nights in 2025

“The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year.”

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The United Football League logo

FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently confirmed a report from Deadline last month that said United Football League games would move to Friday nights in 2025. The Deadline report had said FOX planned to replace WWE Smackdown with sports coverage from college football and basketball as well as games from the UFL.

Shanks’ comments were made during a Zoom with reporters about the news of their new agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series. SI’s Mike Mitchell reported that the UFL worked with FOX to move the games so they could complete their auto racing deal.

Shanks said many of FOX’s UFL games would be moved to Friday night when asked about the change but did not provide more detail.

The UFL was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this season. The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year and the recent conference championship games were up 57% over the averages from the USFL and XFL last season. According to Mitchell, the league saw a large increase in the 18-49 demographic on FOX compared to USFL programming in 2023.

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Report: WNBA Could Quadruple Media Rights Fees

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion.

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: Women's National Basketball Association

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video expected to be worth a collective $76 billion over the course of the deal. At the same time, the NBA is also negotiating media rights for the WNBA in which it has an ownership stake of approximately 60%. The WNBA could quadruple its annual media rights fee within these negotiations, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion. Throughout the season thus far, the WNBA has seen its ratings increase, drawing more than 1 million viewers across several matchups throughout the regular season. Moreover, discussion surrounding the league is further assimilating into the sports vernacular surrounding stars such as Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson, Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.

Ben Strauss of The Washington Post outlined how the NBA is in the process of considering one total bid from media companies that combines the value of media rights for the NBA and WNBA. With the league itself determining the value of media rights for the WNBA, he argues that it could either be “rocket fuel” for the league or that its augmented popularity “is more of an afterthought.” The possibility exists that it could be a combination of both extremes as well, but by having the league negotiate its media rights deal, quantifying the true value could be a more difficult task.

In a report from earlier in the year, McCarthy stated that the WNBA is likely to negotiate its own separate media rights deal if it is not receiving the remuneration that it wants. The WNBA attained its most-watched opening month in league history, averaging 1.32 million viewers for games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, Ion and NBA TV. Moreover, the league had its most-attended opening month in its 26-year history with 400,000 fans at games through the end of May and a rise in sales of WNBA-branded merchandise by 236% year-over-year.

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NBA Finals Game 3 Up 2% on ABC and ESPN

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Graphic for the NBA Finals

Game 3 of the NBA Finals series which saw Boston take a three games to none lead in the series was up 2% from last year’s Game 3. The game averaged 11,426,000 viewers and peaked at 13,926,000 at 10:45 p.m. ET.

The game was the top draw in all of television for the night and took the top spot in all of the key demographics. So far through three games, the series is even with the television numbers from 2023.

NBA Countdown, the show which airs right before the game begins, was also up two percent compared to the same show a year ago. NBA Countdown averaged 4,330,000 viewers. Through three games, the show is up five percent from last season’s pregame shows.

The Celtics will look to secure their 18th NBA Championship when the two teams meet again for Game 4 tonight at 8:30 ET. If a Game 5 is necessary, it would be played on Monday, June 17.

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