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Media Coverage May Pressure NBA to Change Free Agency

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The late night start to NBA free agency has never been ideal for TV viewership, but with the 2018 edition kicking off at 12:01 on a Sunday morning, it may have been even more lost in the shuffle for the league’s casual fans. Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing ponders what the league may do to avoid the same problem in the future.

There are a couple of different elements to consider here. One is the free agency period being linked to the first of the month rather than the days of the week, which is what made this year’s free agency stand out as particularly poorly-timed for media coverage compared to other years. The 12:01 a.m. Eastern start is pretty usual, in basketball and in other sports, but having that fall on a weekend this year was rough from a media perspective. And yes, it’s easier from the contracts side to just say all contracts expire as of June 30 each year, but changing that so free agency would always open, say, at 12:01 a.m. on the first weekday in July might have some advantages from a media perspective. (The first weekday seems like a better bet than “the first Monday,” as then there’s no chance of it falling on the July 4 Independence Day holiday.)

But beyond that, having free agency open at 12:01 a.m. Eastern isn’t the most practical solution. Again, that’s probably done because it’s easier for contracts and because it’s always been done, and other leagues do it as well. But it should be possible to set that time to whatever the NBA and the players’ association agree on, hopefully in consultation with media partners. Other elements such as trade deadlines are in the middle of the day, and those have turned into media extravaganzas (especially when it comes to the NHL trade deadline in Canada).

As Bucholtz points out, trade deadlines never have late night end times, so from a business standpoint, it shouldn’t be impossible to make a change. Also, the timing of free agency’s launch each year means that the NBA has a real chance to dominate public conversation and the pundit-filled airwaves if the league takes steps to time it properly every year.

The truth is that players and teams are going to get deals done when they get done. The NBA cannot force anyone to keep from posting something regarding their future on social media, but Bucholtz argues that moving the season’s kickoff event can be used to build the fanbase.

And this isn’t just about keeping media outlets happy; in fact, that’s the lower concern. The bigger issue is that the NBA has an event that’s generating tremendous interest, something that could theoretically be held at any time they and the players’ association agree on, and it’s happening at midnight on a weekend when many media can’t give it a full-court press. And the timing also means that the opening in particular is being followed more by the hardcore fans (especially on the East Coast) than by casual fans. Making the deadline at a more media-friendly time could pay significant exposure benefits for the league.

You can read the full column at Awful Announcing.

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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