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Could ESPN Spin-Off From Disney For Merger With EA Sports?

“EA Sports, the maker of popular sports video game franchises like the Madden and FIFA series, was near a deal with NBCUniversal for a merger. That fell apart due to a disagreement over the price and power structure of the new company.”

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Right now, Disney is very happy to have ESPN amongst its many entertainment properties, but that could change. That was evident last week during the company’s upfront presentation to advertisers.

Still, rumors persist about Bob Chapek being willing to spin off the network as its own company. Dylan Byers of Puck News reports that one rumor making the round has Disney setting ESPN up for a merger with EA Sports.

EA Sports, the maker of popular sports video game franchises like the Madden and FIFA series, was near a deal with NBCUniversal for a merger. That fell apart due to a disagreement over the price and power structure of the new company. That leaves EA as a free agent and Disney, Amazon and Apple have all expressed interest.

A merger with the video game giant would make a lot of sense for ESPN. It would give that network a significant presence with the exclusive video game of the NFL. It would also position the network to be a major part of the revived college football video game, which is set to return to the market in 2023.

Byers writes that there is “some notable history” between Disney and EA Sports.

“In 2018, following the sudden resignation of ESPN chief John Skipper, then-Disney CEO Bob Iger tried to recruit [Electronic Arts CEO Andrew] Wilson to be the head of the sports network. Wilson passed and the job went to Jimmy Pitaro.”

Electronic Arts, EA Sports’ parent company, would be a smart acquisition for Disney. Electronic Arts already has a partnership to make the Star Wars video games. Acquiring the company would not only give ESPN a presence across all of EA Sports’ titles. It would also give Disney an in-house studio to develop new video games for its mega-franchises like Marvel and Pixar.

Wilson has been aggressive in the past about partnering with Disney. As recently as March, according to Byers, he was pitching the company on “a more meaningful relationship” than just marketing deals. Bob Chapek rejected that proposal. The difference between what was proposed then and what a future deal between ESPN and EA Sports might look like in unclear.

Sports TV News

ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years

“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”

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The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.

The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.

Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.

NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.

That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.

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Sports TV News

NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.

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Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.

ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.

The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.

At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.

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Sports TV News

AFC Championship Game Delivers New Viewership High For CBS

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI.

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The AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals drew a massive audience for CBS.

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs’ controversial victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI. Additionally, the event is the most-watched NFL Conference Championship Game since 2017.

CBS claims the game peaked with 59.3 million viewers and was also the most-streamed live sporting event in the history of Paramount+.

With an audience of 53.1 million, CBS concludes its NFL playoff coverage averaging 40.798 million viewers for each game. That leads all networks thus far. The 2022 NFL season was the most-watched regular season on CBS in the past seven seasons.

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