TNT and ESPN have seen a drop in their nationally televised games over the first half of the NBA season, and according to a recent article by the Sports Business Journal, regional networks are also struggling this season.
If you look market to market, 15 of the NBA’s 28 regional networks are actually up a bit from last year. However, the drop in the 13 other markets bring down local viewing by an average of 10%. The biggest drop, to the surprise of no one, came in Cleveland. Fox Sports Ohio’s Cavs ratings are down a remarkable 56% from last year. Chicago, the nation’s #3 television market, has seen a 36% dip in ratings for Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago this season.
These declining numbers come following an NFL season that saw a return to form across the board leading up to a disappointing Super Bowl. In recent years, it seemed while football interest was dipping, NBA viewership was on the rise – which doesn’t appear to be the case for the 2018-2019 campaign.
Jack Ferris writes feature stories for BSM and serves as an update anchor for iHeart Radio in San Francisco and as a freelance contributor for the PAC-12 Network. Previously he has worked as a sports anchor for KXLY-TV in Spokane and as the co-host of the Don West Show on KPQ in Central Washington. You can find him on Twitter @JFerris714 or reach him by email at [email protected].
ESPN Leaving Seaport Studios in New York, Possible Move in LA too
“The South Street Seaport studios have been open since 2018. It is currently home to Get Up, First Take, Around the Horn, and NBA Countdown.”
ESPN is making some changes in New York. Puck News reports that the famous Seaport Studio will be empty soon as the network relocates its New York City operations to Hudson Square.
The South Street Seaport studios have been open since 2018. It is currently home to Get Up, First Take, Around the Horn, and NBA Countdown. In the past, it hosted High Noon and Sunday NFL Countdown as well.
The Walt Disney Company owns the property where the new studios will be housed. Puck reports the relocation is likely to happen “no later than fiscal 2025.”
The Puck report also states that ESPN could be on the move in Los Angeles too. On the West Coast, the network currently is housed in LA Live, outside of Crypto.com Arena. No details were offered on those plans.
John Skipper: ‘Hollywood Strikes Will Not Impact NBA Media Rights Negotiations’
“He is going to get a very big increase.”
Media rights for national television packages for the National Basketball Association are set to expire following the 2024-25 season, with negotiations expected to begin in the new year, which could occur amid Hollywood strikes. The NBA’s exclusive negotiating 45-day window with its current rights holders – The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN) and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT/TBS/NBA TV) – opens on March 9, 2024 before the rights can be taken to the open market.
Numerous sports media entities have reported interest in the league, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and NBC Sports as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver could look to triple the aggregate fee for games. The league is in the midst of a nine-year deal worth a collective $23.4 billion with the two broadcast entities and has positioned itself for an increase through a new In-Season Tournament, rules regulating load management and additional media incentives.
Linear platforms, combined with sports talk radio and digital outlets have burgeoned coverage of the league to new heights. Superstars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo regularly dominate sports conversation in various locales, and the Association has embedded itself in the culture both domestically and abroad. The NBA is expanding globally, holding several international contests each year and marketing its teams, players and personnel in new ways, leveraging its position as the predominant basketball product for augmented fees.
While there seems to be an end in sight for the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) after almost 150 days out of work, companies making bids for the Association project the holdout to stymie certain revenue streams. Warner Bros. Discovery could take a hit between $300 million and $500 million, while The Walt Disney Company shares dropped a collective 14% amid losses of more than $4 million per day.
“This will have zero impact – the strike – on what the NBA gets paid for their rights,” Meadowlark Media co-founder and CEO John Skipper opined on Skipper & Samson. Skipper was part of negotiating the current deal and sees the value the league has in that there are more people interested in broadcasting the games than there are game packages themselves. Because of this, the NBA should have leverage in its negotiations with both traditional and digital outlets.
Conversely, former baseball executive David Samson affirmed that the Hollywood strikes will likely have an impact on negotiations because of the power it grants legacy media in negotiations. Zaslav, as surmised by Samson, will use these strikes as an excuse to justify a diminished fee increase, something he feels will be countered by the NBA with the question of why the company inked its Inside the NBA commentators to 10-year extensions.
“He’ll say back, ‘Well actually, we’ll repurpose them the way we’ve already started to repurpose Barkley,’” Samson articulated. “So I think that the strike actually gives leverage to Warner Bros. Discovery in its negotiation with the NBA.”
David Zaslav, the chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Discovery publicly stated that the entity will not overpay for the NBA and said it does not need the property. Negotiating through the media is a bad idea, according to Skipper, who was previously involved in these negotiations while serving as the president of ESPN. He came to that conclusion after ESPN lost the rights to the National Hockey League after the 2004-05 lockout, a property it did not reacquire until the 2021-22 season.
“In this industry, I never found it anything but deleterious to my discussions with the leagues if I said anything publicly other than, ‘We love this league; we want to renew our rights,’ which we said all the time,” expressed Skipper. “I even said it when I didn’t love the league and didn’t want the rights because, as you know, the second-best outcome of any negotiation is that somebody else pays way more money than they think they have to [in order] to get rights.”
Since the demand outweighs the supply, Skipper does not think that anything going on in the world of entertainment and late night television will affect how much networks will end up paying for the NBA. The league will continue to have every intention of proliferating its earnings derived from media rights, and he thinks it will be successful in its quest to do so.
“He is going to get a very big increase,” Skipper said, referring to Commissioner Silver, “and the writers’ strike is not going to have any effect on that increase, in my opinion.”
Jamie Erdahl: Being a Sideline Reporter ‘is Not About You’
“My job is to set Nick Saban up in a way to give the best answer possible, frankly, in saying the least amount of things as possible, in my opinion.”
Jamie Erdahl shines brightly each morning on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. She is a guest this week on the Front Office Sports Today podcast and told Michael McCarthy that her basketball career at St. Olaf College helped prepare her for her role in broadcasting.
McCarthy described her role on GMFB as “a point guard.” Erdahl said the comparison is apt, because any good point guard has to know what will make their team succeed.
“I like when other people look their best and sound their best and feel like they are in the best spot to be their best version on television,” she said.
Erdahl added that she also learned a lot from her years working for CBS. She was a sideline reporter for the network’s NFL broadcasts as well as the weekly SEC on CBS game. She said the role taught her to be selfless on television.
“Being a sideline reporter, it is not about you,” she said. “You are telling somebody else’s story. My job is to set Nick Saban up in a way to give the best answer possible, frankly, in saying the least amount of things as possible, in my opinion. I think the best questions sometimes are the quickest.”
She added that learning what your colleagues need also matters. She noted that how she poses a question to each of her GMFB co-stars is different because she wants each of them at their most comfortable.