ESPN was pleased to see that their strong start to 2022 continued in May. Coming off the heels of it’s largest Q1 viewership numbers since 2017, May was just as strong.
The network announced that due to large audience increases for the NBA, NCAA Softball, the PGA Championship and Formula One, it finished its strongest May in seven years. ESPN was also buoyed by the return of the NHL Playoffs to it’s channels.
ESPN says they averaged 742k viewers (P2+) on a 24-hour basis. That is up 34% from last year’s May. In prime time, the network was way up and saw an increase of 76% from last year, averaging 2.17M viewers. That number marks ESPN’s strongest prime time since 2018.
The network also says they led all cable networks in total day viewership among persons 18-49 in May (April 24 – May 28).
The biggest grabber of viewers was the NBA Playoffs which averaged 5.55M viewers for the network. That’s more than three times (up 204%) the audience of May 2021. ESPN also boasted the most-watched game in this year’s playoffs on any network – Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston defeating Miami, with an average audience of 9.87M fans. It was ESPN’s best NBA audience since 2018.
ESPN’s first NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2005 provided a big boost too. The network’s coverage averaged 1.2M viewers, which represents an 81% increase versus NBCSN’s coverage in May of 2021.
NCAA Softball was a strong participant as well. The sport averaged 636k viewers (up 18% over 2021) and was the strongest for the month on ESPN since 2015.
The Thursday audience of the PGA Championship drew 1.5M fans and was 23% larger than a year ago. It was also the biggest on any network for that round since 2002. Friday’s second round averaged 2.1M viewers, a record for ESPN and the best on any network since 2009.
Formula One continued its upward trajectory in the United States. The inaugural Grand Prix of Miami on ABC attracted the biggest audience in U.S. television history for a live F1 race – 2.6M viewers. The Grand Prix of Spain on ESPN2 averaged 1.1M viewers, up 32% from last year on ESPN. For seven races this year to date (five on ESPN), the series is averaging 1.4M persons. That is an increase of 45% from the same point a year ago.
Also bearing fruit for the network is SportsCenter. Every edition increased its audience over 2021 (except the 1 a.m. show), led by the midnight show growing 83%.
Get Up and First Take also recorded their best month of May ever and were up 9% and 31%, respectively.
This Just In was up 27%, NBA Today was up 59% and NFL Live was up 11%. For the latter, it was the best May since 2016.
The longtime pairing of Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption from 5-6 p.m. had their best May since 2019 with increases of 17% and 11%, respectively.
The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket
The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.
DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?
Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.
Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.
According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.
An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.
F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights
ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.
The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.
Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.
Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.
Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement
“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”
Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.
The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.
Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.
“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”
Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.
“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”
Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.
“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”