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Phil Mickelson Win Fuels Ratings Win For PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson’s magical run brought a lot of viewers to the TV on Sunday.

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: Associated Press

Not many humans, let alone golfers, can be a television ratings draw in four different decades, but Phil Mickelson isn’t your normal guy. “Lefty” captured his sixth major title at this year’s PGA Championship and the historic feat drew plenty of eyeballs to the TV.

Sunday’s final round averaged a 3.9 rating and 6.58 million viewers on CBS as Mickelson methodically moved his way towards another Wanamaker trophy. That was the highest rating for a PGA Championship final round since the 2018 event where Tiger Woods finished second. 

Overall, the ratings increased 19% and viewership was up 28% from last year, when the event took place in August. Mickelson became the fourth golfer in history to win in four different decades. That type of longevity brought Mickelson fans of all ages out of the woodwork to watch their guy take the trophy. 

The performance delivered golf its second-largest final round audience since the pandemic began, trailing only this year’s Masters Tournament Sunday showing. 

The final Saturday numbers were strong as well, averaging 2.3 million viewers. That represents a 10% increase from last year’s rating and was a tournament-high since 2018. 

Mickelson’s triumph as golf’s oldest major champion was the highest-rated sporting event of the weekend. The final round blew the Lakers-Suns opening playoff game out of the water by over 2 million viewers. A factor in that dominance was the 50-plus demographic where Mickelson outrated the NBA battle 4.93 million viewers to 2.16 million.

It wasn’t all lollipops and rainbows for the networks involved, namely ESPN, which lost considerable viewership on their coverage. Lead-in coverage on Sunday was down 38% from 2020, and Saturday coverage followed the same path, dropping 41% year-over-year. Their Friday coverage wasn’t much of an improvement, dropping 24% from 2020 numbers. Part of the drop is due to earlier broadcast windows in 2021 compared to last year’s west coast venue. ESPN wasn’t quite able to capitalize after “Mickelson Mania” returned to the sports world.

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John Skipper ‘Expects’ NBA To Have More Than 2 Partners in New TV Deal

“They’re gonna end up with more partners than they have now…with somewhere between two or three times the money they have now.”

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Former ESPN President and current Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper thinks the NBA will go the NFL route and have more than two broadcast partners for their upcoming media rights deal.

During an episode of the Sporting Class podcast, John Skipper and cohorts David Samson and Pablo Torre discussed the upcoming NBA media rights deal, under the guise of Dallas Mavericks governor Mark Cuban selling the team, and how it could play out for teams moving forward. When it came to the total valuation of the NBA’s upcoming rights deal, Skipper was bullish on the NBA’s future.

“They’re gonna end up with more partners than they have now,” Skipper said, “they’re gonna end up with, in my opinion, with somewhere between two or three times the money they have now,” before host Pablo Torre added some additional color, stating “Because of broadcast partners in television and also the tech companies.”

The NBA has famously featured one or two broadcast partners for most of its lifespan. CBS held NBA broadcasting rights from the mid-70s until the 1989-90 season, then lost the rights to NBC from 1990 until 2002, with interspersing of cable broadcast holders like USA Network, ESPN, and Turner between there.

In 2002, the NBA shifted to a more rigid version of its two-partner system, where ABC and ESPN would split games with Turner Broadcasting. The league extended its agreement with both networks multiple times, which will finally come to a head in 2024.

For the first time, the NBA could look to expand across multiple channels, similar to how the NFL handles business, where multiple broadcast partners will air games on either certain days of the week or certain holidays. While Turner could be planning for life without the NBA, both Amazon and NBC are planning an aggressive pursuit of NBA rights during the next media rights negotiation.

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Kirk Herbstreit: Pat McAfee Has ‘Changed My Experience’ on College GameDay

“You’ve changed the approach, the energy, not just on this set, but like the week. I’m having a blast.”

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Kirk Herbstreit and Pat McAfee

While many detractors say otherwise, Kirk Herbstreit is crediting Pat McAfee for positive changes in the way he and the team approach College GameDay.

During an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, McAfee jokingly discussed leaving College GameDay due to “mean” college football fans ruining his fun and positive life. “I don’t want the negativity in my life, I don’t want the death threats,” McAfee said. Herbstreit, however, had no time for McAfee and threw the gauntlet down. “If you dare even think about leaving College GameDay,” Herbstreit said, “I’m leaving with you.” McAfee then responded with the famous line from Talladega Nights — “don’t you put that on me!”

Within the jest, however, Herbstreit lets us peek back behind the curtain to how he and the rest of the College GameDay team feel about McAfee. “You’ve changed my experience,” Herbstreit said. “You’ve changed the approach, the energy, not just on this set, but like the week. I’m having a blast…It’s like being on a team where you have a great energy. If you dare leave…” Fortunately, by the end of the segment, McAfee was back on board and admitted this would be his life for the foreseeable future.

Some pundits have felt that McAfee’s appearance on GameDay hasn’t helped grow the program, despite them confirming Herbstreit’s remarks on McAfee’s personality. Former ESPNer Dan Le Batard said on his show, “He is effusive, he is such a positive person. He is effusive in his praise for the people on that set. But now the numbers are coming back, and this is something that McAfee couldn’t have expected.”

While the ratings numbers for GameDay are higher than they’ve ever been (something Herbstreit and McAfee made sure to mention in their discussion,) they’re still under attack from FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff, who have scored some major ratings wins over this past season. According to FOX, before the Nov. 25 game between Ohio State and Michigan, Big Noon Kickoff averaged 2.34 million viewers and hit a record 4.36 million viewers from 11 a.m. ET until kickoff. This made Big Noon Kickoff the most-watched college football pregame show on television for the weekend. The recent losses have some feeling like College GameDay has lost its way.

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Al Michaels Questions If Bill Belichick Has TV Future

“Does he go into television? How about this? They put him in the booth with Kevin Burkhardt and Tom Brady next year on FOX.”

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Amidst a dismal season for the New England Patriots, one legendary sports broadcaster thinks Bill Belichick could leave coaching to join him in the world of announcing.

During last night’s Thursday Night Football broadcast between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, Al Michaels made a passing comment about Belichick’s status as Pats head coach moving forward — but it could have massive reverberations throughout two industries.

“Does he go into television?” Michaels said while speculating Belichick’s future with co-host Kirk Herbstreit. “How crazy that sounds, but he won an Emmy [for NFL Network’s NFL 100 All-Time Team series] with Cris Collinsworth and Rich Eisen. How about this? If he goes into television, they put him in the booth with Kevin Burkhardt and Tom Brady next year on FOX.”

Belichick and Brady teaming up once more doesn’t seem too far-fetched, especially considering their past successes together. Former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski also prowl FOX’s airwaves, which could allow the former Patriots to dominate sports media in a way not seen since ’80s and ’90s-era Dallas Cowboys did in years past.

Unlike Brady, who is a relative newcomer to sports broadcasting, Belichick has precedent with sports TV in the past. Outside of the NFL’s Top 100 All-Time Team. Belichick served as a guest analyst for ABC’s Super Bowl XL pre-game show breaking down the action between the Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks. Belichick was praised for his work on that broadcast, despite his prior reputation as a bit of a grump. Belichick also featured heavily and was likewise praised for his appearance in ESPN’s The Two Bills, a 30 for 30 starring Belichick and Bill Parcells.

What could the future hold for Belichick? As Herbstreit says during the broadcast, “The only guy who knows is Bill Belichick.”

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