Sports TV News
Disney Shifting Focus To Digital Products, What Does It Mean For ESPN?
“ESPN+ costs $5.99 per month and watching Watch ESPN content requires a cable or satellite subscription.”
Disney CEO Bob Chapek was on CNBC on Monday to talk about the company’s future business plans. Earlier in the day, the company had issued a press release saying that it was restrutcturing to make its direct-to-consumer digital products its focus.
“We believe we’ve got the opportunity to build upon the success of Disney+, which by almost any measure has been far and above anybody’s expectations,” he told CNBC.
Chapek would not give any subscriber numbers or future projections for the company’s digital products. He did say that Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu all have exceeded the company’s expectations and continue to do so each month.
Covid-19 has taken a serious bite out of other divisions in the Walt Disney Company this year. Its global theme park business has been in the toilet. Multiple feature films have been scrapped, delayed, or in some cases, forced to a pay-per-view model on Disney+, which lead to significantly lower revenues than initially projected. The streaming businesses are thriving though.
So what does this mean for ESPN and the sports world? Outkick’s Ryan Glasspiegal writes that the effect may not be obvious right away, but the model for live sports will eventually evolve.
“An emphasis on direct-to-consumer streaming will inherently mean further movement away from their previous modes of distributing movies through theaters. It will probably happen a little slower, but sports will also continue to migrate away from traditional TV networks.”
All cable networks have been hit hard by cord-cutting, which isn’t a new phenomenon, but the ESPN family of networks’ subscriber fees are the highest in the industry, meaning that fewer cable subscribers hits that network harder than any other. With 20 million fewer subscribers than the network had just ten years ago, it is missing out on about $20 million in revenue each month that it used to count on.
News broke last week that ESPN is bracing for a major round of layoffs. It seems inevitable given that revenue is down and recent stories about negotiations with the NFL and Major League Baseball prove that rights fees for live sports are not following suit.
So what does that mean for the future of the cable network? It is hard to say exactly. ESPN+ has slowly increased its offerings both in terms of live sports and original content. The service also has a pay-per-view deal in place with the UFC. Between it and the Watch ESPN offerings through ESPN.com, it isn’t impossible to think that the network could become a completely digital product.
In order for that to be successful, ESPN will have to figure out how to package and sell a subscription. ESPN+ costs $5.99 per month and watching Watch ESPN content requires a cable or satellite subscription.
Figuring out a fully digital pricing model is something ESPN should probably figure out how to do sooner rather than later anyway. We may be a few years away from leagues selling exclusive video rights to digital companies, but Amazon already has deals with Thursday Night Football and the New York Yankees amongst others. Apple is reportedly kicking the tires on PAC-12 football. We are far enough down the road that exclusive rights deals going to tech companies instead of television networks does not seem absurd.
Sports TV News
Inside the NFL Headed To The CW For 2023
“We are excited to partner with NFL Films and welcome “Inside the NFL” to The CW Sports family.
After being cut loose by Paramount+ earlier in the year, Inside the NFL has found a new home on The CW, premiering on September 5 at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST. The transition will mean the show is set to air on a broadcast network for the first time. It previously was carried by HBO and then Showtime. It will also be available to stream on The CW app and on cwtv.com.
The Emmy Award-winning series, which has been on the air since 1977, is centered around highlights and interviews from the previous week, with distinctive footage and audio supplied by NFL Films. It gives football fans an outlet to catch up on the action they might have missed, even though the scope of highlight shows is diminishing because of the advent of social media in an immersive content landscape.
“We are excited to partner with NFL Films and welcome Inside the NFL to The CW Sports family,” Dennis Miller, president of The CW, said in a statement. “For almost five decades, Inside the NFL has been an industry leader in showcasing can’t-miss weekly highlights, unprecedented behind-the-scenes content, exclusive access to players and lively discussion. By combining this premiere NFL content with our robust broadcast audience, we look forward to bringing this legendary sports series to more fans than ever before and to advertisers for the first time.”
Producers and hosts for the latest iteration of the show will be announced at a later date, and it will also have an impact on the fall programming schedule for the network itself. Recent editions of the show were hosted by James Brown and featured various former players, such as Brandon Marshall, Phil Simms and Julian Edelman.
“Generations of football fans have grown up watching Inside the NFL,” Ross Ketover, senior executive of NFL Films, added in a statement. “It is a show we cherish at NFL Films and we are thrilled to bring it to a great new partner in The CW. This is a special opportunity to reimagine and reboot Inside the NFL for a wider audience and a new generation of fans. We can’t wait to get started.”
Sports TV News
Frank Thomas Joins Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+
“He will make his debut on June 9.”
It didn’t take long for Frank Thomas to find a new gig. He is joining Apple TV+. He will make his Friday Night Baseball debut this week according to Front Office Sports.
Thomas’s role will involve multiple duties. He will conduct interviews with some of the game’s biggest stars. Those will take place on the field and in clubhouses before the games. He will also be in the booth for select games.
After FOX hired Derek Jeter to join its studio coverage of Major League Baseball, the network let Thomas go. He had been part of MLB on FOX since 2014. Royce Dickerson, who worked with “The Big Hurt” at FOX is now Apple’s executive producer for live sports.
Frank Thomas will not be available for Apple every week. He will be used on marquee matchups.
He will make his debut on June 9. Thomas will interview Mike Trout ahead of the Angels’ visit to Seattle to take on their division rivals, the Mariners.
Sports TV News
Darren Pang to Replace Colby Cohen On Blackhawks TV Crew
“At this time, we have decided it’s important for my family to be back close to our family and our home in Philadelphia.”
Changes in media coverage for hockey are continuing amid the Stanley Cup Final with the announcement of Colby Cohen walking away from Chicago Blackhawks broadcasts. The team is reportedly hiring Darren Pang, who has been featured as a reporter on NHL on TNT national broadcasts throughout the postseason, as their lead television color commentator. He will work alongside the sophomore play-by-play voice of the team, Chris Vasters, on NBC Sports Chicago. News of the decision was first reported by Jeff Agrest of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Blackhawks television crew utilized a hybrid approach last season, rotating between Cohen, Patrick Sharp and Troy Murray. The change comes one offseason after the team revamped its television booth following the retirement of Pat Foley, which resulted in Eddie Olczyk joining the Seattle Kraken television booth. Cohen confirmed news of his exit Wednesday morning on Twitter in a statement where he expressed his gratitude for his two seasons on Blackhawks broadcasts.
“My family and I want to thank the Wirtz family and the entire Chicago Blackhawks organization for… two great years working for one of the greatest organizations in sports,” Cohen said in a tweet. “We will miss the thunderous noise of the United Center and the great city of Chicago where our daughter was born. At this time, we have decided it’s important for my family to be back close to our family and our home in Philadelphia.”
Cohen spent just over three years with NBC Sports Philadelphia as a broadcaster for the Philadelphia Flyers, and has also worked on ESPN’s NHL coverage since 2016. It is unknown if Cohen will pursue another regional broadcasting role before the start of next season. He was originally hired by the team in 2021 to serve as a content analyst, creating digital features for the Blackhawks and working on studio coverage.
Pang has worked on Bally Sports Midwest with the St. Louis Blues for the last 14 years, but is now presumably set to move on and work with the team he played for as a goaltender over parts of three seasons. Additionally, he is expected to remain with Warner Bros. Discovery, recently telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he is on the verge of inking a three-year contract extension with the company. Pang is expected to be the primary color analyst, with the team either finding new roles for Sharp and Murray or using them in a backup capacity. Most hockey insiders expect the Blackhawks to open next season with rookie sensation and consensus first-overall draft selection Connor Bedard on the roster.