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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.”

Jack Ferris

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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

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Paying Nearly $45 Billion For Rights Fees Through 2027

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually

Jordan Bondurant

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The last year or two has been evident that the price of rights to airing major college and professional sporting events on television are only going up. But the various networks either with longstanding relationships with leagues and conferences or looking to break into the media rights landscape are willing to pay up. That’s no more evident with Disney, which will be shelling out tens of billions of dollars to have regular season and postseason events air on ESPN.

According to Sportico, which reviewed Disney’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESPN is set to spend $44.9 billion on sports media rights through 2027.

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually. Additionally, ESPN will pay $1.4 billion through the 2024-25 season for NBA rights.

The Sportico report noted ESPN will generate more than $8.1 billion in affiliate revenue to help offset those costs. The network will soon be entering talks to renew its media rights deal to be the exclusive home for nearly all NCAA Division I championships, as well as engaging in new NBA rights negotiations.

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Sports TV News

Return of Bob Iger Puts Pac-12 ‘Not Exactly In A Great Place’

“I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12.”

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Pac 12

The Pac-12 is currently in a media rights negotiation with partners for its next TV deal after the departure of USC and UCLA. The conference has remained committed to the stance that it feels it can match the dollar amount given to the Big 12 from FOX and ESPN. However, Andrew Marchand of The New York Post isn’t so confident.

During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Marchand said the recent return of Bob Iger as Disney CEO, coupled with recent layoffs from Amazon, could spell bad news for the PAC 12’s quest to match what the Big 12 received.

“Do I still think they can get the same number as the Big 12? I do, but you start thinking about where this is going and that’s not exactly a great place to be if you’re the Pac-12. They might get the number, but the idea that they’ll get a lot more than the Big 12 — which I’ve already said is not gonna happen — I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12…I think there’s some rough waters out in the Pacific.”

Marchand said if the University of California Board of Regents won’t allow UCLA to join the Big Ten as expected, the conference would then set its sights on Washington and Oregon, which would continue to decimate the Pac-12.

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