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The Athletic Latest Subscription Service To Raise Prices

ESPN+ also announced a price increase this week.

Russ Heltman

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The Athletic logo
Courtesy: The Athletic

The price hikes keep coming in sports media this week. Variety reports that The Athletic is following ESPN+ in raising subscription prices starting today.

The Athletic is now charging $71.99 per year for new and existing subscribers. A yearly subscription previously cost $59.99. Annual subscribers are still paying less than month-to-month subscribers.

“We have got 450 reporters, writers, editors, producers on three continents producing as much volume as any national newspaper in the world per week,” The Athletic CEO and founder Alex Mather said in an interview with Variety. “We are still at the same price point.”

To his credit, The Athletic has not increased prices at all until this week. “We want to continue to build,” he says, and the subscription increase “really just helps that mission.”

The Athletic has been rumored in acquisition deals throughout 2021 but reported agreements with Axios and The New York Times Company never came to fruition. Mather did not tip his hand on any merger deals to Variety.

“The strategic environment is pretty wild and I’m sure it will continue to be that way,” Mather said. “We’ve got to forge our own path here.”

Price hikes have been a theme in sports media lately after ESPN+ announced a $1 per month increase on their plans and NBCUniversal upped 30-second Super Bowl spot pricing from $5.8 million to $6.2 million, according to media buyers. A move that hasn’t hurt demand after reports surfaced that the company has already sold 85% of its inventory for February’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

Mather is encouraged by the content diet of his subscribers, noting that more than 80% of subscribers use the site to keep up with more than two different sports leagues. Additionally, more than 40% of subscribers consume content from more than four leagues each month.

The Athletic is banking on that diversity as sports return to normal across the world.

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Dan Le Batard: ESPN Game 7 Coverage of Knicks-Pacers ‘Was Disrespectful’

“It was very celebrating all things New York the same way that the big networks celebrate the Cowboys and the things that get ratings.”

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Dan Le Batard
Courtesy: Jason Koerner, Getty Images

While the season ended for the New York Knicks on Sunday night in a series-deciding Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers, the basketball world has taken notice of what has occurred with the team over the last several years. Led by the play of superstar guard Jalen Brunson, the Knicks defied the odds and secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, going on to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in a six-game series. Although the team’s championship aspirations were not realized this year, the team is widely regarded as a success story with a bright future ahead. A problem, however, that viewers had with coverage of the game on ESPN was in its discussion about the New York Knicks, specifically the quantity of that thereof. The matter led to a debate on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, beginning with discourse about purported East Coast bias.

Before the contest, NBA Countdown took the air featuring analyst Stephen A. Smith broadcasting live from Madison Square Garden. The rest of the studio team was in Los Angeles, Calif. in the studio while Smith was courtside at the game with players taking warmups in the background. Smith has an affinity for the Knicks that he has divulged publicly and discusses across programming on the network, and he tried to encourage the team while appearing on the show. Spike Lee also took the air and showcased his enthusiasm ahead of the pivotal contest with Smith. Although Le Batard does not have a vested rooting interest in either team, he can understand how basketball fans feel after watching the coverage.

“It was very celebrating all things New York the same way that the big networks celebrate the Cowboys and the things that get ratings,” Le Batard said. “But to me if I’m a Pacers fan, the part that pisses me off is the last four minutes of that game – a historic game for the Pacers – only [Mike] Breen every once in a while would bring it back to the Pacers. It was the Knicks that they were talking about the whole time, and if I were a Pacers fan, I’d be mad at how slanted that coverage was.”

Jon “Stugotz” Weiner, who is from the New York area, expressed that the Knicks represented the story to discuss on the air yesterday and believes that ESPN did the right thing. At the same time, he thinks that Pacers fans have ultimately received the last laugh in advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. Moreover, he does not think people genuinely care about ESPN covering the Pacers in the game and articulated that the storyline changed once the game began.

“Stugotz, when you say, ‘Who cares?,’ sports fans care about perceived disrespect, and this was disrespectful,” Le Batard replied. “I’m not a fan of either of the teams I’m watching. I see one winning, the other losing, and the one that’s being talked about is the losers as if they’re the winners when they sh** the bed at home, although there were valid reasons.”

One example that was presented on the show was NBA Countdown analyst Bob Myers being asked about the Pacers and bringing his answer to talk about Knicks forward OG Anunoby. Le Batard is cognizant of how Pacers fans may feel when it is the third different roster that has made the Eastern Conference Finals for the team. The Knicks have not made the NBA Conference Finals since the 1999-00 season, a 24-year run that ranks as the third-longest drought in the NBA.

“One thing that definitely rates for the NBA is the New York Knicks, and ESPN now is a propaganda machine for the broadcast they own the rights to,” producer Mike Ryan said. “What is getting people in – they see the metrics. I guarantee you they’re going to talk Dallas Cowboys today on First Take because they have the metrics to support they need to be talking Dallas Cowboys every day.”

Ahead of the Eastern Conference Finals, Weiner asserted that the storyline is going to be about the Boston Celtics regardless of the result. The Celtics finished the NBA regular season with the best record in the league and play in the eighth-largest designated market area in the United States, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“Nobody cares what those people think about the coverage,” Weiner said, referring to fans living in Indiana. “They are moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s it – that’s enough for them. ESPN did the right thing. They covered the right team, the right city because that was the story headed into the game.”

The Pacers ended the game shooting 67.1% from the field, which is the highest field goal percentage in any playoff game in the history of the NBA. Le Batard did not comprehend the Knicks to have played poorly; rather, the team was the subject of a historic performance from a young, dynamic Pacers team. Yet he felt that triumph was being ignored because of the conversation surrounding the injuries of the Knicks, including star guard Jalen Brunson fracturing his left hand during the game.

At the same time though, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz had New York-centric segments and rebranded itself as WFAT several times over the last few weeks. Le Batard wanted to make sure that the audience knew that engaging in that tactic was to make sure that the program could reach the day where the Knicks were officially eliminated.

“I knew I was going to get there somehow; I was going to get this day,” Le Batard said. “There was no chance all the other teams could be as injured as the Knicks, and the Knicks were not going to have a day where I was going to eat it at the end. That’s not what was going to happen. The whole of that was strategic. We turned into WFAT – we got bloated.”

“Fire Tom Thibodeau – trade OG [Anunoby], get rid of him, don’t re-sign him. Isaiah [Hartenstein] as well,” Weiner added. “Just light up the phone lines today boys and enjoy your 20 share.”

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John Skipper: ‘I Do Not Believe TNT’ Had Right to Match in NBA Media Rights Contract

“It’s not for me to accuse anybody of mendacity, but I am puzzled by it.”

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John Skipper

Throughout the New York Knicks playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, Warner Bros. Discovery president and chief executive officer David Zaslav has been seen sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden with a Knicks hat on watching the game. Zaslav and the company are reportedly in negotiations to try and retain media rights to the NBA, with whom the Turner Broadcasting entity has done business since 1984. Yet subsequent reports have stated that the likely outcome is in Comcast’s NBCUniversal receiving the final rights package, thus granting them NBA rights for the first time since 2002 and presumably shutting Warner Bros. Discovery and TNT Sports out. NBCUniversal was reportedly preparing a bid of $2.5 billion for rights to the NBA, according to The Wall Street Journal.

There has been discussion, however, as to whether or not Warner Bros. Discovery has the right to match a competing offer and if it would do so with NBCUniversal or potentially Amazon, which reportedly has the framework for a streaming package for $1.8 billion annually.

John Skipper, who was the president of ESPN at the time the company signed its existing nine-year media rights deal with the NBA, recalled that the two media rights deals the league signed were quite similar. He does not believe that it had the right to match, however, which led to subsequent discussion on the latest edition of The Sporting Class because of the ambiguity and intrigue surrounding the Warner Bros. Discovery contract. The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) has also reportedly reached a framework for a media rights package for approximately $2.6 billion a year, which would include keeping the NBA Finals on its networks.

“I am puzzled and don’t understand how they could have a right to match, and I really have a hard time understanding how they could have a right to match Amazon because that is not even the same package,” Skipper said. “You get a right to renegotiate your own package – an exclusive negotiating window. I never had much luck getting a match right because that dramatically decreases the rightsholders’ chances to get the most money, so I’m puzzled, and I do not believe we had that right.

“I do not believe TNT had that right, which would mean that subsequently somehow when there was this consolidation of these assets into Warner Bros. Discovery, they got the NBA to agree to let them have a matching right.”

Meadowlark Media personality and former Miami Marlins team president David Samson was seen on camera ostensibly mouthing the word ‘Wow’ as Skipper provided this explanation. After Skipper concluded, he said that the people in the booth would know which part of the show to clip because of what was said. Samson referred to Skipper stating that Warner Bros. Discovery had been lying for the last two months, an accusation he refuted. Instead, Skipper articulated that he was stating what he knew to his knowledge.

“It’s not for me to accuse anybody of mendacity, but I am puzzled by it,” Skipper said, referring to Warner Bros. Discovery and TNT Sports.

“Puzzled because you have signed a deal that is supposed to be quite similar to the deal that they are also working with and doesn’t have the thing that they say that they have?,” Samson questioned.

“I can’t be privy or read anybody’s mind as of what may have happened subsequent to those signatures,” Skipper replied.

During the Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront on Wednesday in New York City, TNT Sports division chairman and chief executive officer Luis Silberwasser addressed the situation surrounding the NBA. Within his remarks, he stated that the company was looking forward to another season and reaching a deal that makes sense for all of the parties. Both Warner Bros. Discovery and The Walt Disney Company have one year remaining on their existing NBA contracts, which expire at the end of the 2024-25 season.

“They will do ad business in the next year,” Skipper said of the message at the Upfront, “and they’re just reminding the advertisers in the audience not to change their budgets yet.”

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James Brown: ‘There’s Some Sadness’ in CBS Moving on From Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms

“We bring in a couple of guys who are pined for success, and we just want to make sure that the transition is as seamless and as quick as possible by having meetings [and] getting to know each other.”

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James Brown
Courtesy: Mary Kouw, CBS

Ahead of the 2024 National Football League season, CBS Sports made changes to its longtime studio program, The NFL Today, moving on from longtime analysts and former NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms. The network added former NFL quarterback Matt Ryan to the panel, who served as a color commentator for NFL on CBS games, ahead of the show’s 50th year on the air. Ryan will join analysts Bill Cowher, Nate Burleson and J.J. Watt on the show next season, along with host James Brown. Next week, Brown will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the 45th Sports Emmy Awards.

Before receiving the honor, Brown joined the Sports Business Radio Podcast where he was asked about the new cast of The NFL Today. Brown has been working as the host of the show since 2006 and has helped the show continue to retain a level of prosperity and respect in the sports media space. He is widely regarded as one of the most skilled studio hosts in the industry and demonstrates a selflessness on the air with an aptitude to set up his colleagues for success.

“It’s a family, and I would be disingenuous if I said that there wasn’t some disappointment because they’ve been family for decades; literally just about decades,” Brown said regarding Esiason and Simms. “Boomer and I have worked together for a long period of time. They’re hard-working guys.”

Brown remarked that Simms is the hardest-working person in media and someone who knows the game, classifying him as a “gym rat” in that he continues to hone his craft at a high level. Additionally, he stated that Esiason covers a wide range of sports and that his work in media is “his life” and something that he loves to do.

“There’s some sadness there because they were teammates, but we’re also big boys,” Brown said. “We all played sports – they have longer than me – and we understand that it’s part of the business.”

While Brown is doleful to see Esiason and Simms leave the show, he is already laying the groundwork to make sure that Ryan will be able to successfully assimilate into the program. During his podcast appearance, he revealed that he reached out to Ryan and affirmed that he would be embraced and welcomed onto the show. This aligns with what Brown did for Watt last year, who he explained has a self-assurance because he is someone who was a star player and someone who has a genuine adoration for the sport.

“We bring in a couple of guys who are pined for success, and we just want to make sure that the transition is as seamless and as quick as possible by having meetings [and] getting to know each other,” Brown said. “Nothing beats getting to know each other, breaking bread and learning about your colleague so that you’ll know how best to play off of and to set them up.”

Earlier in the podcast, Brown elucidated that his colleagues know an immense amount about football, contextualizing it by averring that they will forget more football than he will ever know. Throughout the week, he will proffer ideas and storylines by them to gain their opinion on the matter and position them to thrive come Sunday. Brown has observed people in his position try to portray themselves as shrewder than they actually are, specifically pertaining to football nuances and information, but he understands that the job is about his colleagues rather than himself.

“In the world of 24/7 sports, there’s nothing new by the time we get to Sunday,” Brown said. “What’s going to be more important is the opinion, the insight, the information that our analysts, our co-hosts deliver, so therefore I want to make certain that I am well prepared to ask the most relevant and pertinent questions of them, and coming off of conversations with them during the course of the week, I know where they’re going, so my job is to ask.”

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