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NFL Goes All Out For Schedule Release Day

“Whether or not you think the fanfare around Schedule Day is excessive, and at least a few of us do, you can’t deny that it drives interest and maybe sells a few more tickets.”

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If nothing else, the NFL deserves all the credit in the world for turning a seasonal product into a year-round fountain of content.  Marketing courses can be designed around the calendar the league has engineered and fine tuned over the last couple of decades.  Outsiders might glance at the cycle the NFL has created and find it excessive, however to hardcore football fans and even casual sports fans, it’s not only well received – it’s not enough.  

Enter Schedule Release Day.  It’s become another bullet point on the NFL calendar in mid April, although the league never actually gives too much notice as to when the schedule is actually going to drop.  That practice, without a doubt, only adds to the suspense.  In fact the same tactic is used for naming headliners at global music festivals.  Interestingly enough, the same anticipation that lives in the anxious thumb of a 20-something as it refreshes the Coachella twitter account resides in the chest of every network executive partnered with the NFL leading up to Schedule Day.  The only difference is the music junkie has the option to skip the festival or sell their tickets if they’re not thrilled with the lineup.  The FOX, ESPN, CBS and NBC brass have to live with their draw.  

With that said, they always seem to be thrilled…or at least never publicly acknowledge when they aren’t.

John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal took to Twitter and needed far less than 280 characters to perfectly summarize just how helpless the Networks are when it comes to the NFL’s final word.   

To take a step back, the NFL’s drop reveals nothing more than just that – the actual schedule.  The teams and their fans have known who they’ll be playing for months.  Outside of green lighting travel arrangements and holiday planning for season ticket holders, Schedule Day is for the NFL’s network partners.  Christmas Day for the suits.  The head scratching part, as Ourand so brilliantly points out, how can everyone be so happy?

It’s commonplace now for networks and fans to roll their eyes over less-than-appealing primetime games once the season is underway.  The “flex” comprise has been implemented over the last decade and has helped move the spotlight off some bad football, but bad games are inevitable.  Injuries happen and teams expected to contend inevitably disappoint.  What we think we know about matchups can and always will prove to be way off come Fall.

That, however, certainly doesn’t keep the Networks and their teams from using Schedule Day as a way to pump up their brands.

In an ESPN release, the Network spun its 2019 Monday Night Football draw as the home for the “Top NFL Rivalries.”  The announcement went on to boast that the network would feature 9 divisional rivalry games, a claim that is appealing but would be less so if one or both teams are jockeying for a 2020 draft position come November.  NBC boasted about its star studded quarterback matchups, FOX used the opportunity to refer to America’s Game of the Week as the #1 show in America for the last decade, while CBS went out of its way to celebrate a Cowboys-Jets matchup in Week 6… a showdown between a team that hasn’t been past the Divisional round since the 90s and one that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2010.

And while Schedule Day might be a bit of repurposed information dropped on us in shiny new packaging, there’s no doubt the we eat it up.  Beat writers, local radio hosts and TV analysts get some layup content by going through their team’s draw and picking way more wins than they know they should. The social media departments of all clubs get a chance to flex their creative muscles in an otherwise “slow” week leading up to the NFL draft and fans get to plan their sick days for Mondays following especially big games.

Whether or not you think the fanfare around Schedule Day is excessive, and at least a few of us do, you can’t deny that it drives interest and maybe sells a few more tickets.

Speaking of sales – Weekend 1 of Coachella 2020 is April 10-12.  Never too early to buy a bear skin vest

Sports TV News

Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”

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The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.

Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.

“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.

FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.

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Sports TV News

NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC

“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”

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ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.

ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.

This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.

Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.

“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”

ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.

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