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Netflix Enters Live Sports Business With Celebrity Golf Tournament

“Netflix had considered acquiring sports broadcasting rights previously but decided against it.”

Jordan Bondurant

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After much speculation and debate, Netflix is breaking into live sports broadcasting later this year.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that a celebrity golf tournament is in the works and would become the streaming giant’s first live sports event. The tournament would be in Las Vegas and feature athletes who are also in two of Netflix’s most popular sports documentary series: Formula One Drive to Survive and Full Swing.

With F1 set to hold a grand prix on the streets of Sin City in November, it makes sense that Netflix would want to incorporate some of the drivers into the event. With a fall target date, October/November seems likely for the event given that the series will be racing in Austin, Texas; Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Brazil during that time.

Drive to Survive has proven to be a big hit for Netflix since it debuted in 2019 and is credited with driving newfound popularity in the sport in the United States. Without the show, F1 likely doesn’t add races in Vegas and Miami.

Netflix had considered acquiring sports broadcasting rights previously but decided against it. The company did bid for rights to F1 in this last negotiating window but ultimately lost out to ESPN.

The streaming platform put on its first live event ever earlier this year, broadcasting a Chris Rock stand-up special. It attempted to follow that up in recent weeks with a live reunion show for its series Love is Blind but ran into technical issues that prevented subscribers from watching as it happened.

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Celtics-Pacers Game 1 of NBA Eastern Conference Finals Averages 6.43 Million Across ESPN, ESPN2

This marks the most-watched NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 on any network since 2018.

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The first game of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night averaged 6.43 million viewers across the traditional broadcast on ESPN and alternate presentation on ESPN2, according to Nielsen Media Research. This marks the most-watched NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 on any network since 2018 when the Celtics faced LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The traditional broadcast on ESPN featuring the lead announcing team of Mike Breen, Doris Burke, JJ Redick and Lisa Salters averaged 6.28 million viewers, while NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart averaged 151,000 viewers on ESPN2. Guests included in the alternate presentation, which is a collaboration between ESPN, Hartbeat and Omaha Productions, included Joel McHale, DeMarcus Cousins, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Lou Williams.

The Game 1 broadcast was the most-watched program of the day on all of television and also finished first in key adult and male demographics. The broadcast was up 8% from the comparable game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics last year on TNT, which averaged 5.95 million according to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch. Moreover, the contest is up 6% from the 6.07 million average audience for the Game 1 matchup between the Pacers and Celtics in the 2022 season on ESPN.

The 6.43 million viewership average is the third-largest audience within the NBA Playoffs, both being surpassed by Game 7 broadcasts on Sunday. ESPN broadcast the New York Knicks matchup against the Indiana Pacers that averaged 6.45 million viewers, while TNT presented the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets game that averaged 8.41 million viewers.

With young, dynamic stars including Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner, the Pacers have been a draw on national television this year. The team played in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament Final against the Los Angeles Lakers and averaged 4.58 million viewers on ABC and ESPN2, the second-most watched game of the regular season.

For the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs, games averaged 4.03 million viewers on ESPN, ABC, TNT and truTV, a metric that is down 12% from last year. The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) has reportedly reached a framework for a new deal with the NBA that is in the process of being formalized, along with NBCUniversal and Amazon. Warner Bros. Discovery, the incumbent holding the “B” package and broadcasting NBA games within its associated divisions since the 1984-85 season, reportedly has the ability to match rights; however, there is ambiguity surrounding what would constitute meeting such criteria.

The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery, along with the FOX Corporation, are preparing to launch a joint streaming venture in the fall, Venu Sports, pending regulatory approval. Moreover, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery will introduce a bundle for Disney+, Hulu and Max over the summer and recently reached a deal to allow TNT Sports to sublicense select College Football Playoff games from ESPN.

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ESPN Reaches 5-Year Deal to Sublicense College Football Playoff Games to TNT Sports

“We’re confident in the reach and promotion that this new agreement will provide as we enter the new, expanded playoff era.”

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ESPN; TNT; College Football Playoff
Courtesy: The Walt Disney Company; College Football Playoff; Warner Bros. Discovery

ESPN and TNT Sports have reached a five-year agreement that will result in TNT Sports sublicensing select College Football Playoff games from ESPN. TNT Sports will broadcast two first-round College Football Playoff games during the 2024 and 2025 seasons, along with an additional two quarterfinal games beginning with the 2026 season and ending in the 2028 campaign. These games will be primarily presented on TNT along with several other distribution platforms under the company’s portfolio. ESPN will present all other College Football Playoff games on its networks, which includes the CFP National Championship Game, in addition to managing the sponsorship program for presenting the College Football Playoff.

“We’re delighted to reach this agreement with ESPN, providing TNT Sports the opportunity to showcase these College Football Playoff games on our platforms for years to come,” Luis Silberwasser, chairman and chief executive officer of TNT Sports, said in a statement. “TNT Sports aims to delight fans and drive maximum reach and engagement for these marquee games.”

Earlier in the year, ESPN and the College Football Playoff agreed to a six-year contract to retain the network as the rightsholder of the event through the 2031-32 season. ESPN has been the broadcast home of the College Football Playoff since 2015 and is set to present the expanded format for the postseason tournament containing 12 teams beginning in the 2024-25 season. The network has expanded its package of games in the final two years of the deal that will include all four of the new first-round games in addition to the quarterfinals, semifinals and CFP National Championship Game.

“ESPN is pleased to sublicense to TNT Sports a select number of early round games of the College Football Playoff, an event we’ve helped to grow – alongside the CFP – into one of the preeminent championships,” Rosalyn Durant, executive vice president of programming and acquisitions at ESPN, said in a statement. “We’re confident in the reach and promotion that this new agreement will provide as we enter the new, expanded playoff era.”

“It is exciting to add TNT Sports, another highly respected broadcaster, to the College Football Playoff family,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said in a statement. “Sports fans across the country are intimately familiar with their work across a wide variety of sports properties over the past two decades, and we look forward to seeing what new and innovative ideas they bring to the promotion and delivery of these games.”

The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery, along with FOX Corporation, are part of the Venu Sports joint streaming venture that is expected to be released this fall. This offering will provide sports fans with a direct-to-consumer outlet wherein they will be able to subscribe and watch marquee sporting events and other programming on networks across the three companies. Pricing and a launch date have yet to be announced for the platform, the latter of which is “conditional on receiving regulatory approval,” according to the home page of the website. Both The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery will also introduce a streaming bundle this summer that implements Disney+, Hulu and Max.

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Kirk Herbstreit: I Had 8 Emmy Awards Taken Out of My Home

“I thought the people on the set would get an Emmy, so all these years, I didn’t know what was going on.”

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Kirk Herbstreit

ESPN apologized to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences following a report by The Athletic that divulged that the network had fabricated names in order to garner more Emmy Award trophies. With the Sports Emmy Awards taking place on Tuesday night in New York City, the network secured eight victories recognizing excellence in innovation, its NFL coverage and Mike Breen for his work as a play-by-play announcer. Moreover, College GameDay attained its 14th Sports Emmy award win by being named the winner in the “Outstanding Studio Show – Weekly” category. Pat McAfee joined the cast of the program last season and worked alongside host Rece Davis, analysts Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit.

Herbstreit, who has been a member of the show since 1996, has been a part of several of its award victories and displayed the physical trophies on the mantle in his home. In reality, the physical trophies were granted to faux associate producers with names similar to on-air talent. These plaques were then subsequently re-engraved to have the name of the on-air personalities before the statuettes were delivered to them. During a recent appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Herbstreit outlined his perspective surrounding the incident, which ultimately led to eight Emmy trophies being taken out of his home.

“For people that don’t know, when College GameDay or any of these shows win an Emmy – when the show does – I was naïve to the whole thing,” Herbstreit said. “I thought the people on the set would get an Emmy, so all these years, I didn’t know what was going on. I was not privy to that information, [and] I just thought, ‘Hey, it finally came. Where’s this been?,’ and I stuck it on the mantle and we kind of moved on.”

Herbstreit stated that he received a call that the trophies were granted to them in error and that they would need to be taken back by the organization. When he revealed that he was not at home, the organization said that it would come to get the trophies out of the residence. After investigations by both the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and ESPN, additional sanctions were placed upon members of the network. Craig Lazarus and Lee Fitting, the latter of whom left ESPN last August, were ruled ineligible for future participation in the Emmys.

“They went down and got them and took eight of my 13 of them out of the house, and then I guess – again, I don’t follow this as closely as a lot of the people – I think after that, they changed the rule, I think, and now if GameDay wins one, now I think guys like you – all the schleps – guys like me and you and Des and Rece, Coach, I think we… legally get one,” Herbstreit said. “I think technically it’s our ninth, but it would be our first one that we actually are supposed to actually have in our house.”

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