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BoA Analyst: Comcast is Everything Bob Iger Says He Wants in ESPN Partner

“What Bob said as part of this strategic negotiations was its likely before they finalize the NBA negotiations. That’s why it screams Comcast for me.”

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ESPN and Comcast logos

Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger did an interview with CNBC said Disney was looking to find a strategic partner to pair with ESPN that can help them distribute content. There is no favorite for who that company would be, but Senior Media and Entertainment analyst for Bank of America Securities, Jessica Reif Ehrlich, was a guest on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast this week. She said that Iger seems to be sending signals to one particular company.

“The first thing I thought of was when he said content distribution, maybe a little bit financial, it screams one company and that company is Comcast. I could be completely wrong, but they are in negotiation for the Hulu outcome. Now, it’s much more interesting. Comcast has so many sports assets and sports aspirations. They obviously have distribution. They have an amazing balance sheet. They have a company that’s kind of become mid-size. There has been tons and tons of speculation in media that they are very interested in NBA.

“What Bob said as part of this strategic negotiations was its likely before they finalize the NBA negotiations. That’s why it screams Comcast for me. It makes it so interesting because it’s a way for maybe Disney to de-lever. ESPN is the most important sports brand and it’s a way to strengthen it.”

Ehrlich mentioned that finding a strategic partner is something Iger has been thinking about, but it is not something that we usually see from traditional media and she found the interview to be very surprising.

“It will, depending on what they do, change the growth trajectory of Disney because they are now fighting these massive headwinds. Either you can bleed slowly or you can change your asset mix and change the course of the company. I think that’s what he liked to do. There are many potential ways they achieve that.” 

During the interview, Ourand asked Ehrlich about when ESPN could possibly go direct-to-consumer because Iger said on CNBC that he knows the date, but he isn’t ready to say when that is, but Ehrlich thinks that they will start slow with a hybrid model first.

“It seems like they will do a hybrid model for a while. Why push your viewers off a cliff when you are generating $6 billion of cash from your cable networks?” she responded. “I think there will be a transition period. I think the most interesting thing is how they price ESPN+ as they do this. They are not going to get the subsidy of every subscriber as they had in the golden days of cable bundle.”

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UFC 300 Projected to Surpass 1 Million Pay-Per-View Buys

“For 300, we’re building the greatest card ever assembled.”

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Graphic for UFC 300

As Dana White and the rest of the UFC community get set for Saturday night’s UFC 300, they are already announcing some major milestones. White said the event is now projected to eclipse the 1 million pay-per-view number, which according to Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern would be the first time that has happened since before the pandemic.

White also said the expected gate for the event is $16.5 million, which would make it the third highest in UFC history and the highest for any card that does not include Connor McGregor.

UFC 300 will take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. ESPN+ or Disney bundle subscribers are eligible to purchase the event which is $69.99 up until the event starts and then moves to $79.99

“For 300, we’re building the greatest card ever assembled,” UFC CEO Dana White told Jim Rome. “Every one of th fights on this card could be a main event on a Fight Night or a pay-per-view.”

The featured match on the card has UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Alex Pereira fighting former champion Jamahal Hill.

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MLB Network Records 626,000 Viewers for Jackson Holliday Debut

The matchup was the second most-watched regular season game in MLB Network history.

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MLB Network Logo
MLB Network Logo – Courtesy: MLB Network

MLB Network served as the national television home for the debut of Baltimore Orioles infielder Jackson Holliday, the top-ranked prospect in the minor leagues, as he took the field to face the Boston Red Sox. Although Holliday did not end up recording a hit in the game, there was considerable interest surrounding the game that translated into viewership. The matchup was the second most-watched regular season game in MLB Network history with an average of 626,000 viewers. The 20-year-old infielder recorded his first career RBI on a groundout en route to a 7-5 Orioles victory. John Ourand of Puck News was first to report the viewership figure, which was representative of an out-of-market measurement.

The presentation of the Orioles vs. Red Sox game came a day before the MLB Network Showcase broadcast from Fenway Park featuring the regular-season debut of play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian. Holliday did not collect a hit in this contest, but the game extended into extra innings where the Orioles scored six runs in the top of the 10th inning to secure a 9-4 victory. 

MLB Network will present a rematch of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) on Friday night when the Texas Rangers visit the Houston Astros from Minute Maid Park at 8 p.m. EST. Preceding that game broadcast will be the season premiere of Off Base at 4 p.m. EST, followed by Intentional Talk from 5 to 6 p.m. and MLB Tonight until the start of the game broadcast at 8 p.m. MLB Network will also premiere MLB Tonight: Clubhouse Edition, a non-traditional game telecast series entering its fourth season, on Jackie Robinson Day, Monday, April 15, when the Atlanta Braves face the Houston Astros at 8 p.m. EST.

For the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), the regional sports network that serves as the television home of both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, Holliday’s debut drew an average of 114,000 viewers in the Baltimore designated market area. The metric is 27% higher than the average audience for MASN season-to-date. The team is returning home to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday night to begin a six-game homestand with matchups against the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins.

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Connor Onion to Make MLB Broadcasting Debut Saturday

“Just wanted to take some time to say thank you to some of you on here that have watched, listened and supported. Can’t wait to have some fun on Saturday. Hope you can come hang with me, AJ and Ken.”

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Photo of Connor Onion and a logo of MLB on FS1
Courtesy: Connon Onion X Account

Congratulations go out to Big Ten Network and ESPN broadcaster Connor Onion who will be making his MLB broadcasting debut on Saturday when he calls the Rangers-Astros game which will be carried by FS1 at 4 p.m. Onion posted a video announcing the assignment on his X account as he was walking through the airport to head to Houston.

“Good morning, I am off to Houston today,” he said. “Got an exciting opportunity to make my Major League Baseball broadcasting debut calling Rangers-Astros Saturday afternoon for FOX with AJ Pierzynski and Ken Rosenthal. This is obviously something I have been thinking about for a long, long time but wouldn’t have happened without so many people from my first job in Quad Cities to school at Ball State and Southern Illinois after that. So much help and so much support along the way. Just wanted to take some time to say thank you to some of you on here that have watched, listened and supported. Can’t wait to have some fun on Saturday. Hope you can come hang with me, AJ and Ken.”

Onion debuted for the Big 10 Network in 2021 and has called college football, basketball, baseball and volleyball for the network. He has also done college football, basketball and baseball for ESPN.

Many may recall the women’s volleyball match between Nebraska and Omaha which took place in front of over 92,000 at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium last August. Onion was on the call for that match and was profiled by The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch.

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