Regional sports networks are receiving a bad reputation of late, but Bally’s chair Soo Kim is bullish on their long-term outlook. Kim spoke with Front Office Sports’ Owen Poindexter about the present and future of the medium.
Kim’s company entered into a 10-year, $85 million naming deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group in November 2020. The deal secured naming rights to 21 of Sinclair’s RSNs.
Sinclair is planning on bundling those RSNs into a streaming service. The company outlined the plan in an 8K filing with the SEC. Sinclair believes they could attract 4.4 million subscribers to the service while generating around $2 billion in revenue. The breakdown would be split into three different sections.
Around 1.7 million subscribers to the service would come from the cord-cutter category, which has limited access to their favorite team’s games if they play on a Sinclair channel. The next group would be 1.4 million RSN subscribers from its distributor partners. Finally, the group is rounded out by 1.3 million subscribers on its traditional TV services.
Kim thinks this new streaming service would be a great way to spark gaming and TV integration.
“You can create a very different kind of experience of how sports are consumed,” Kim said to Front Office Sports. “It could potentially be a lot more interactive, a lot more engaging, and we think that’s where the future of sports is going to go.”
Even if the RSN market keeps slowing down, Bally’s got plenty of value over the first year of this deal. “Last year, there were something like 4 billion impressions of the words ‘Bally Sports,’” Kim told FOS.
How much an impression is worth is anyone’s guess but the ultimate goal for Bally’s isn’t to drive sports betting.
“Sports gaming itself is not actually the best gambling product for the house,” said Kim. “There’s variable margins, informational advantages, and liquidity is hard to match sometimes. iGaming is a much better business.”
There were plenty of angles on Bally’s radar when they made this massive naming deal, and so far, they seem pleased with the results.
ACC Network Set To Debut On Comcast Xfinity
“No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.”
There is always a mad scramble to work out carriage deals before a company launches a new cable network. Before the ACC Network debuted in 2019, Disney and ESPN secured deals with AT&T, Charter, DirecTV, DISH, Google Fiber and Verizon Fios. It was missing Comcast. That company’s Xfinity cable system is the largest in the country.
Xfinity subscribers will get to see the ACC Network for the first time in the coming weeks thanks to a deal between Disney and Comcast. As part of an agreement to renew the carriage of ESPN networks, the Disney branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks, and the National Geographic channels, Comcast has agreed to pick up the conference network and pair it with the SEC Network, which was already a part of Xfinity packages.
“We are very pleased to have reached this comprehensive agreement with Disney to continue providing Xfinity customers access to their content across our industry-leading platforms,” Rebecca Heap, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products & Propositions for Comcast Cable, said in a press release.
ACC Network will now be available in nearly 20 million more homes as a result of the deal. No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.
“We’re very happy to extend our longstanding relationship with Comcast and continue to provide their Xfinity customers with Disney’s best-in-class programming,” Sean Breen, Executive Vice President of Platform Distribution at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, added. “In addition to our news, sports and general entertainment offerings, the launch of the ACC Network in the coming weeks, paired with the renewal of the SEC Network, will give Xfinity’s college sports fans long-awaited access to their favorite games.”
SEC Network Devotes 72 Hours To Georgia vs Bama
“On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon.”
Just like that, the college football regular season has come to a close, and the focus for FBS fans now shifts to the penultimate point of the overall season: conference championship weekend.
While all of the Power 5 conferences will be crowning champions, the eyes of the college football world will be on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as Georgia meets Alabama in the SEC title game. SEC Network recognizes that and has dedicated the 72 hours prior to kickoff, and immediately after the game also, to programming focused on the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide colliding for a berth in the 2021 College Football Playoff.
On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon. As expected, all the SEC Network staples will be live and on-location in Atlanta.
It all begins on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. with the SEC championship press conference hosted by Dari Nowkhah. Viewers will hear from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Paul Finebaum will go on the air with The Paul Finebaum Show starting at 3 p.m.
Check out the full weekend schedule below:
Thursday, Dec. 2
- SEC Now: SEC Championship Coaches Press Conferences, 1:30 p.m.
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 3
- SEC This Morning, 8 a.m., on location at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Now: The Championship Coaches, 7 p.m., on location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
- SEC Now, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
Saturday, Dec. 4
- Thinking Out of Pocket, noon, on location at the GWCC
- Marty & McGee, 1 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Nation, 2 p.m., on location at the GWCC and MBS
- SEC Football Final, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
In addition to the usual lineup of hosts for these shows, fans tuning in can expect special guest appearances as well from country music star Chris Young, to comedian Jeff Foxworthy and Tony Barnhart.
The 2021 SEC championship game will kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. You can watch the game on CBS.
ESPN In 8 Million Fewer Homes Than In 2020
“Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted.”
Some people in the media watch ESPN’s subscriber numbers like a hawk and report them without real context. In 2021, the people that cheer whenever there is news about ESPN having fewer subscribers than it used to will tell you that the network is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of the last fiscal year than it was in at the end of fiscal 2020. There is some context that is missing though.
Linear cable isn’t an a la cart service. So, if ESPN is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of 2021, then that means FOX News, Bravo, Nickelodeon and every other cable network is in 8 million fewer homes too. Also missing is the fact that while linear ESPN is losing subscribers, plenty of people are signing up for ESPN+ subscriptions.
At the end of fiscal 2021, ESPN Plus had more than 17 million subscribers. That is significant growth over fiscal 2020. ESPN Plus had 10.3 million subscribers at the end of the prior year.
ESPN’s traditional cable network and its sister channels net around $10 per subscriber for Disney each month through packages on cable, satellite and digital TV. At $6.99 per month, ESPN Plus is not a perfect replacement, but that is a direct payment to the company.
Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted. A drop in linear cable distribution will do nothing to end that speculation. We may be in for an extended session of number watching though. If cable subscriptions keep dropping off at such a high rate, it could motivate Disney to make a move.
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