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Dan Orlovsky: More Athletes Want to be in Media Now Because You Can Make ‘Real Money’

Players are used to making x amount of dollars and then you get into television and are like ‘I’m going to work more, but make less?’.”

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Over the past few years, there has been a rise in former athletes joining one of the major television networks or starting their own podcast as they enter the sports media landscape. The world of sports media has changed and athletes are finding more platforms to get their voices heard. 

ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky was on The Pat McAfee Show on Thursday and he gave a reason as to why more athletes are in the sports media world compared to when he got to ESPN. 

“When I first got in 5 years ago, to my knowledge, there wasn’t a ton of money in it for ex-players. Players are used to making x amount of dollars and then you get into television and are like ‘I’m going to work more, but make less?’.”

However, as Orlovsky put it, there is a spot for athletes to join the media if they are willing to put the necessary work in due to all the money going into every sport. 

“I think because of all the different platforms, because the television revenue or ads have gone up so much, if you are an ex-athlete and you are really good, you do the work, and you show up everyday and provide literal content, there’s real money to be made nowadays.”

Orlovsky added that an athlete talking about their sport can help change someone’s opinion on a topic or at least help them get a greater understanding of what they are seeing and hearing. 

“For me, with the quarterback stuff, one of the things is always I wanted people to believe there were other great quarterbacks then Tom Brady. It was always Tom Brady and every other QB I feel like people would say would suck. Once you get more people talking about the realities of it, there’s a better appreciation.”

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Adam Symson: Scripps’ Free Distribution Platform ‘Has Opened Up the Opportunity For Us to Acquire Live Sports Rights’

“We’re leaning into the content genres that consumers crave most from linear television.”

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Courtesy: The E.W. Scripps Company

Diamond Sports Group, the subsidiary that operates the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks, has been marred in Ch. 11 bankruptcy proceedings for over a year. Scripps Sports president Brian Lawlor claimed in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable last October that the company had contingency plans in place with teams should Diamond decide to terminate their existing contract within Ch. 11. At the moment, Scripps Sports broadcasts games for the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes on several regional affiliates in addition to Montana and Montana State athletics.

With the changing landscape of sports media and uncertainty in the environment, E.W. Scripps president and chief executive officer Adam Symson wrote a memorandum to staff about the challenges the company is facing and how to position itself for future growth. From the beginning of the bulletin, he explained that company leaders are reaffirming their dedication to more frequent and detailed communication about its strategy and direction.

Symson then conveyed the disquietude taking place about how to subsidize streaming platforms, explaining that traditional media companies are accelerating shifts to streaming in order to compete with technology giants. Part of their business proposition, he stated, was that they are using linear platforms to underwrite necessary content creation to drive subscriber growth and subsequent retention.

“We are in the midst of a shift in the media industry in which many companies are pursuing business models that have yet to be proven and may never pan out,” Symson said. “As consumers shift to an on-demand approach to television viewing driven mostly by digital delivery of video, many of the biggest media companies, far bigger than Scripps and our peer-group broadcasters, have taken steps to break their content out of the exclusivity of existing bundles that have served the industry so well for the last 50 years.”

Consumers deciding to obtain their television content á la carte has disrupted the media industry, leading to widespread cord-cutting. Symson expressed that the traditional pay television ecosystem, which consists of cable and satellite distribution, has a penetration rate below 50% leading to alterations in the business models. Various factors are being affected as a byproduct of such changes, including revenue gained from retransmission fees and advertising, along with continuing audience fragmentation. Despite these hardships and potential impediments, Symson has confidence in the future of the business.

“I believe that linear television isn’t going away but instead is being transformed,” Symson said. “While traditional TV used to be our daily destination for everything, today it is most appealing for live sports, news and channel-surfing ‘comfort food’ viewing that on-demand doesn’t seem to serve up as well. Consumers are increasingly using over-the-air (OTA) broadcast as a free platform for live news and sports. Broadcast’s digital cousin, Free Ad-Supported Television (FAST) platforms, are growing quickly too.”

Scripps has been working to remain committed to its stakeholders, employees and communities by continuing to serve the media consumer. The E.W. Scripps Company paid $2.65 million to acquire ION in late-2020 and has also created the Scripps Networks. Symson affirms that these business decisions have led the company to be economically durable and thus does not make them reliant on the revenue stream emanating from traditional pay television. As a result, he believes Scripps to be a leader in OTA broadcast and connected TV FAST platforms, areas of linear television that he says are demonstrating growth.

“Our unparalleled free distribution platform also has opened up the opportunity for us to acquire live sports rights, both for ION and in our local markets,” Symson said. “We’re leaning into the content genres that consumers crave most from linear television.”

The E.W. Scripps Company signed a multi-year deal with the WNBA last year to televise games during Friday night windows during the regular season. These broadcasts will continue in the 2024 campaign and are coming off a successful first year. The 23 games that were presented over 15 weeks reached 12.3 million viewers and augmented the total season audience of WNBA basketball by 24% to 39 million unique viewers. Additionally, Scripps inked a media rights agreement with the National Women’s Soccer League in which it will broadcast 50 games nationally on Saturday nights on ION as part of a weekly doubleheader.

Symson revealed that Scripps is generating approximately 180% more revenue and 400% more profit than 10 years ago, in addition to serving larger portions of U.S. audiences and advertisers. In its most recent earnings report for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2023, Scripps generated $616 million in revenue, down 9.6% from Q4 2022, and an attributable shareholder loss of $268 million ($3.17 per share). The company has used 98% of its discretionary cash flow to pay down debt since its acquisition of ION, and Symson stated that debt paydown is among its top priorities. At the same time, it will look to remain objective and remain true to journalism, which Symson referred to as the company’s “North Star.”

“These moves have been critical to the ability of our company to thrive going forward,” Symson said of its recent acquisitions and media rights deals. “Just like each of us has to pay off accumulated school loans, car payments, mortgages and credit cards, so does Scripps have to focus on paying down our debt. Our company is on firm financial footing, but our current debt is putting pressure on our stock price, especially following two years of lower U.S. advertising spending and interest rate hikes.”

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WNBA Draft Averages 2.45 Million Viewers, Most-Watched in League History

Last year’s WNBA Draft averaged 572,000 viewers on ESPN, marking a 328% year-over-year increase.

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WNBA Draft '24
Courtesy: ESPN

The 2024 WNBA Draft on ESPN garnered an average of 2.45 million viewers on ESPN, breaking a record for the most-watched iteration of the event. Iowa superstar guard and NCAA Division I Basketball all-time scoring leader Caitlin Clark was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Indiana Fever, officially beginning her career in the WNBA. Additional selections included Stanford forward Cameron Brink, LSU forward Angel Reese and South Carolina center Kamilla Cardosa.

In the games that Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes played during the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, ESPN reported several viewership milestones and new records. Although the team did not win the National Championship, the game drew an average of 18.7 million viewers and peaked at 24 million, up 89% from the year prior when Iowa faced LSU. The women’s tournament as a whole averaged 2.2 million viewers on ESPN, ABC and ESPN2, which is more than two times the total from the year prior.

The most-viewed WNBA Draft of all time ahead of Monday’s event from the Brooklyn Academy of Music was set in 2004 when Diana Taurasi was selected first overall by the Phoenix Mercury. An average of 601,000 viewers watched the Draft during that year, making this year’s broadcast up approximately 308% from that time. Last year’s Draft averaged 512,000 viewers when Aliyah Boston was selected by the Indiana Fever with the first-overall pick. This year’s WNBA Draft, which is up 328% year-over-year, is the first time the event has surpassed 1 million viewers and is the largest audience for any WNBA event in 23 years.

ESPN’s coverage of the WNBA Draft included the lead WNBA on ESPN broadcast team of play-by-play announcer Ryan Ruocco, color commentator Rebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe. ESPN basketball analyst Andraya Carter also took part in the coverage, which was preceded by a live edition of WNBA Countdown featuring LaChina Robinson, Chiney Ogwumike and Carolyn Peck. Elle Duncan hosted SportsCenter live from the Brooklyn Academy of Music where Carter and Ogwumike previewed the WNBA Draft leading up to coverage on ESPN.

Last year’s WNBA Finals were the most-watched in 20 years, averaging 728,000 viewers on ESPN. A WNBA contest has not surpassed an average of 1 million viewers in 16 years, something that could change once Clark begins her career. Thirty-six of the 40 Indiana Fever games will be carried by national media platforms, eight of which are on linear channels owned by The Walt Disney Company.

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Masters: 9.59 Million Viewers; Down 20% From Last Year

This year’s final round only tops the two COVID-affected years of 2020 and 2021 as the lowest-rated since 1957 and the least-watched since 1993.

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Logo for The Masters

The final round of the Masters on Sunday, when Scottie Scheffler took home his second green jacket, saw a 20% dip in viewership and a 5% drop in ratings compared to last year. This year’s final round only tops the two COVID-affected years of 2020 and 2021 as the lowest-rated since 1957 and the least-watched since 1993.

Part of the dip is due to the fact that last year’s final round fell on Easter Sunday, which meant a bump of 21% in out-of-home viewership. This year’s final round received only a 9% out-of-home increase.

ESPN said its numbers were up on both Thursday and Friday with Thursday being its best ratings in nine years. Friday was reportedly up 69% compared to 2023.

Sunday’s final round averaged 9.59 million viewers on CBS, according to Sports Media Watch, a decline from last year’s 12.06 million. Scheffler’s win two years ago averaged 10.17 million viewers.

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