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All NFL Broadcasts See Ratings Drop Except FOX

“There are a number of factors working against the NFL’s ratings right now and protests might be one of them.”

Brandon Contes

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Sports ratings have been down almost across the board since leagues, games and events began returning in late July. Predictably, TV ratings for the NFL’s opening week experienced similar declines. 

Headlining the NFL’s TV ratings were drop-offs for their Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football broadcasts. For Sunday Night Football, NBC drew an average audience of 18.94 million for the matchup between the Cowboys and Rams, a 15% decline from 2019’s opening week according to Nielsen. Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp noted it was SNF’s smallest Week 1 audience since 2008.

For Monday Night Football, ESPN’s early game between the Giants and Steelers averaged 10.8 million viewers, down from 2019’s 13.5 million, but an increase from 2018 which drew 10.45 million. The late game on ESPN, however, was historically low as the Titans-Broncos broadcast averaged just 7.7 million viewers. 

But even as the TNF, SNF and MNF audiences dipped from 2019, there were some bright spots for the NFL in Week 1.  According to Nielsen, the national window for FOX garnered an average of 25.85 million viewers as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers went up against the Saints in New Orleans. For FOX, it was their most watched Week 1 America’s Game of the Week since 2016 and a 7% jump from last year. FOX also touted a 7% gain from 2019 during its regional window, with a 13.5 million average audience.  

In contrast to FOX, CBS was down 12% with 13.6 million viewers for its singleheader. 

NFL Detractors will point to anthem protests and defenders will tout the big audience who watched Brady and Brees on FOX. There are a number of factors working against the NFL’s ratings right now and protests might be one of them. But not to be forgotten are decreased broadcast TV consumption, empty stadiums, the election year, no preseason hype, and fans building a tolerance for life without sports.

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Sports Media Remembers Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Famer and Emmy Award Winning Broadcaster, Gone at the Age of 71

“Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Bill Walton
Courtesy: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Bill Walton, a legendary NBA Hall of Famer and Emmy Award winning broadcaster has died at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a press release. “His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships and a spot on the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.

“Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans. But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life. He was a regular presence at league events — always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy and admired the time he took with every person he encountered.”

Walton was an analyst on college basketball game broadcasts on ESPN and called games through the previous season, along with joining Westwood One for the Final Four in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Before his work at ESPN, he was a broadcaster nationally for CBS and NBC, and locally on LA Clippers games.

“Bill Walton was a legendary player and a singular personality who genuinely cherished every experience throughout the journey of his extraordinary life,” Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN, said in a statement. “Bill often described himself as ‘the luckiest guy in the world,’ but anyone who had the opportunity to interact with Bill was the lucky one. He was a truly special, giving person who always made time for others. Bill’s one-of-a-kind spirit captivated and inspired audiences during his second career as a successful broadcaster. We at ESPN extend our deepest condolences to Bill’s loved ones, including the entire Walton family.”

Several members of the sports media industry shared their memories of Walton on social media:

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Adam Silver: ‘Inside the NBA’ Team is Always Going To Be Covering the NBA

“I can’t imagine those guys won’t be performing and announcing together in the future and we all love them.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Screengrab of Adam Silver from TMZ Sports
Screengrab from TMZ Sports

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t seem as concerned about ‘Inside the NBA’ going away as NBA fans appear to be. Silver spoke to TMZ Sports on his way to the White House State Dinner and was asked about the possibility of losing the show.

“We’re never gonna lose Charles and Kenny. They’re always going to be covering the NBA,” Silver said. The interviewer then brought up how the show would continue if TNT were no longer carrying the NBA to which Silver replied, “Who knows? We’re all still talking. Who knows how it’s gonna work out?” 

He is then asked if he can still see the ‘Inside the NBA’ team working together. “I can’t imagine those guys won’t be performing and announcing together in the future and we all love them,” he said.

Reports continue to indicate the NBA has deals worked out with Disney/ESPN, Comcast/NBC and Amazon’s Prime Video for the three media rights packages available at the end of next season when agreements with Disney/ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery/TNT expire.

Most recently, speculation has been about the matching rights included in the current Warner Bros. Discovery agreement and whether or not they would try and match the Comcast offer for NBC, the Amazon offer for Prime Video, or neither of them. If and when WBD is presented with the offers, they would have five days to match, however, the definition of ‘matching’ one of the offers could end up being decided in a court room.

Based on his comments, Adam Silver appears to be optimistic NBA fans will not lose Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal from their lives, however, everyone still waits for a formal announcement amidst all the speculation.

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Rob Manfred: Diamond Sports Group Has ‘No Plan at This Point’

“They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

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Rob Manfred
Courtesy: Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports

Diamond Sports Group recently reached a deal for carriage renewal with FuboTV, securing distribution of the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks through the platform. In recent months, Diamond Sports Group has completed carriage renewals with Charter, Cox and DirecTV, but it has still been unable to reach an agreement with Comcast, which is said to provide 80% of the company’s revenue. As Diamond Sports Group seeks to enter Ch. 11 bankruptcy, there has been concern addressed by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League pertaining to the viability of the company.

The Sinclair subsidiary was approved for $450 million in debtor-in-possession finance as it seeks to actualize a proposed restructuring. The allocation of such remuneration will be $350 million to pay its first-lien debt holders. Additional funds therein will be transferred the remainder to the company balance sheet. Under the terms of the proposed restructuring agreement, Diamond would continue to broadcast regional games while also accepting investment from Amazon, which agreed to pay $115 million in convertible notes upon the conclusion of the bankruptcy. Junior creditors would then assume operations of the subsidiary.

On Thursday, Diamond Sports Group filed a motion with the Houston bankruptcy court overseeing the case to propose a 41-day extension for the confirmation hearing. Although it was not listed in the document, granting such modifications would presumably allow more time for Diamond and Comcast to try and reach terms on an agreement. If the alteration is granted, Diamond’s confirmation hearing would take place on Monday, July 29. The company is also in the process of trying to negotiate deals with the NBA and NHL.

Following the conclusion of an MLB owners’ meeting in New York, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the ambiguity surrounding the future of Diamond Sports Group. Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks have not been broadcast by Comcast since the end of April, something MLB counsel James Bromley called “devastating” with several teams “facing substantial problems” as a result.

Manfred is not yet sure about the league’s support pertaining to Diamond Sports Group’s reorganization plan, but he still expects the company to carry regional games for the 12 MLB teams for which it has rights through the conclusion of the 2024 season. Major League Baseball continues to produce and disseminate games for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks as it did last summer, along with the Colorado Rockies after AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain ceased operations at the end of last year.

“It’s hard to comment on whether we’re going to object or not because there is no plan at this point,” Manfred said. “Their whole plan is, you know, ‘We’re going to get deals with distributors…. We’re going to continue with the other leagues.’ They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

MLB looks to develop its own streaming platform and has reportedly had discussions about nationalizing television rights for games. In testimony last year, Manfred recalled a meeting between him and Sinclair Broadcast Group executive chairman David Smith. Smith asked Manfred to grant the company direct-to-consumer broadcast rights to bolster its Bally Sports Plus app, to which Manfred replied that it would not happen, and that people cannot always get what they want. In response, Smith said that he would squeeze clubs to diminish rights fees to make sure he stayed profitable in the RSN business. If they did not agree to that, he explained that he would put Diamond Sports Group into bankruptcy and then selectively reject contracts.

“Right now we’re really focused on the strategic part,” Manfred said. “How is it that we respond to the changes in the local media environment in a way that increases our reach and fan access to our games? We’d like to get into a model where whether you’re a dinosaur cable person like I am or a digital person, there is a frictionless opportunity to watch the game that you want to watch.”

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