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ESPN+ Adds National Lacrosse League, Extends Deal For College Hockey

“The NLL and ECAC are joining the fold at ESPN.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN bolstered their ESPN+ service even more over the past few days. The network announced a broadcast rights agreement with the National Lacrosse League and the Eastern College Athletic Conference

The NLL is offering its entire slate of games to ESPN services–including at least ten airing on ESPN. All told, the league will have a record 139 games broadcasted live in the United States this season.

“We are so proud, honored, and excited to work with ESPN and ESPN+ in this unprecedented landmark announcement for the NLL. Never before in the 35-year history of the league have fans, sponsors, teams, and players had this type of access and exposure across the United States,” said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz“While we, our sport, and the industry continue to focus on digital native fans, we will also have the benefit of expanded reach through live distribution on ESPN linear networks.”

NLL Faceoff Weekend begins on December 3-4 with the season-opening game pitting the Vancouver Warriors against the San Diego Seals.

“We’re thrilled to reach this new multi-year rights agreement with the National Lacrosse League, adding to our already extensive commitment to the sport of lacrosse on ESPN platforms. The NLL features elite players competing in an exciting and fast-paced game that we look forward to showcasing across ESPN and ESPN+ in the years ahead,” said Dan Margulis, senior director, programming & acquisitions, ESPN.

The ECAC is a collection of smaller universities–mostly from the Ivy League–that compete against one another in hockey at the Division 1 level. 

“We’re truly excited to announce the extension of our deal with ESPN through the rest of this decade,” said ECAC Hockey Commissioner Steve Hagwell. “ESPN has been a great partner for ECAC Hockey, and we look forward to growing and enhancing our relationship for the benefit of our programs and fans.”

The move is another commitment to the ice action, which ESPN zoomed in on heavily by taking on expanded NHL coverage this year.

Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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Sports TV News

NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records

FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.

Jordan Bondurant

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The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.

The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.

The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.

The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.

Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.

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