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Amber Wilson: ‘NBA Trying Not to Shorten Season to Retain Media Revenue’

“They’re just trying to find a way around it any way they can because less games means less money.”

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Amber Wilson
Courtesy: ESPN Images

The National Basketball Association revealed its complete regular season schedule yesterday, an 82-game slate that includes an inaugural in-season tournament. ESPN and TNT will combine to present 41 games featuring the Golden State Warriors, putting the team on top in terms of nationally-televised contests. Nikola Jokić and the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets have 30 games on national television, while LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have 40.

During a YouTube exclusive segment of First Take earlier this week, ESPN Radio personality Amber Wilson was asked by host Molly Qerim whether or not fans will care about the NBA In-Season Tournament. Wilson replied by expressing that she was not sure if $500,000 would be enough prize money to make the players want to compete and win, but recognized that having the games count toward the regular season record could incentivize the proceedings. Additionally, she also advocated for the NBA to shorten the regular season to 60 games, a move that would require significant renegotiation as it pertains to media rights.

“This is the NBA finding a way – or trying to find a way anyways – to make these regular season games actually matter and the eyeballs actually go to the screens so they can get more revenue,” Wilson said. “This is all about television rights.”

Wilson pointed to the WNBA as proof of such with its Commissioner’s Cup, which the league started awarding during the 2021 season. Sabrina Ionescu, Breanna Stewart and the New York Liberty took home the trophy earlier this week after defeating the Las Vegas Aces as the league’s television audience was up 67% year-over-year at the halfway point of the season.

“That’s what they’re trying to do here in the NBA,” Wilson said. “I don’t hate the idea. I know Adam Silver has been watching the soccer model over in Europe for a very long time.”

Qerim followed up with Wilson to confirm whether or not she believed playing less games would facilitate more interest in the Association as a whole, to which she and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo both concurred. The NBA garnered an estimated combined revenue of more than $10 billion during the season before last, and currently receives more than $2.5 billion annually in its media rights deal.

“That’s the way to do it,” Wilson said. “They’re just trying to find a way around it any way they can because less games means less money.”

The league’s national media rights contract with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT) expires at the conclusion of the 2024-25 season, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has spoken publicly about granting the league more of a digital presence while maintaining a linear component.

Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ are expected to be involved in the bidding for a share of the rights, while Disney and WBD Sports both expressed interest in retaining the rights. ESPN President of Content Burke Magnus recently divulged in an interview that keeping the NBA Finals is a “must-have” in any negotiation.

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Report: AEW CEO Tony Khan Disappointed with Current Renewal Offer from Warner Bros. Discovery

“We’re having great talks, and people should feel very confident about what that means for the wrestlers, the staff, and the fans.”

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With all of the focus on the NBA media rights coming up and what, if any, role Warner Bros. Discovery will have moving forward, there is another sports media deal expiring soon that WBD has been working on. Tony Khan and All Elite Wrestling, which is now in its fifth year of existence trying to compete with the WWE, are currently in an exclusive window to negotiate with the TNT and TBS parent company, and that window closes in July.

Puck’s Matthew Belloni reports Khan is underwhelmed by the offer currently on the table from WBD. After AEW’s ‘Double or Nothing’ pay-per-view this weekend, Khan was quoted as saying, “I’m happy working for Mr. David Zaslav and I’m hoping we can do it for a long time.”

AEW currently airs five hours of television each week between three shows on TNT and TBS. The Wrestling Observer reports AEW signed a four-year, $175 million contract with WBD in 2020, prior to adding a two-hour Saturday night show.

“It’s a really exciting time for AEW,” Khan told Sports Illustrated earlier this year. “We’re in active negotiations for the AEW media rights. Warner Bros. Discovery continues to be the best possible partner, and they’ve helped us grow this brand. It’s going to be a very exciting remainder to this year, and we’ll find out where AEW is going to live.

“For everyone who cares about AEW all over the world, we’re in a great position. This is going to work out really well for AEW. We’re having great talks, and people should feel very confident about what that means for the wrestlers, the staff, and the fans. As a result of everyone’s hard work and endless support from the fans, there will be a tremendous deal for AEW. The outlook for the company is so bright moving forward.”

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Indy 500 Averages 5.34 Million Viewers on NBC and Peacock

The Indianapolis 500 broadcast performance occurs as INDYCAR’s three-year media rights deal with NBC is set to expire at the end of the season.

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Indianapolis 500; NBC Sports
(Illustration) | Indianapolis 500 Logo – Courtesy: Penske Corporation | NBC Sports Logo – Courtesy: NBC Sports | Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Courtesy: Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Despite enduring a four-hour weather delay, the 108th Indianapolis 500 accumulated a total audience delivery of 5.34 million viewers on NBC, Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms on Sunday, along with a 2.6 rating, according to data from Nielsen Media Research and Adobe Analytics. The performance marks the largest audience for the Indy 500 in the last three years and is up 8% year-over-year from the 4.93 million the race averaged in 2023.

Josef Newgarden of Team Penske won the Indianapolis 500 for a second consecutive year and became the first driver to win consecutive iterations of the event since Helio Castroneves attained the feat in 2002. The event also set a record with 18 drivers leading at least one lap, and the outcome was ultimately decided in the final lap of the 200-lap, 500-mile race.

NBC Sports’ lead INDYCAR broadcast team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe called the action, with reporters Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Dave Burns, Dillon Welch, Jeff Burton and Kim Coon. Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick broadcast studio coverage for the sixth consecutive year and were joined by Jimmie Johnson for pre-race and race coverage from the Peacock Pit Box on Pit Lane.

The Indianapolis 500 on NBC peaked at 6.46 million viewers in the 15-minute broadcast window from 7:30 to 7:45 p.m. EST. Additionally, the competition is the most-streamed INDYCAR race ever, garnering an average minute audience of 286,000 viewers on Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms. This is the most-watched Sunday sporting event for NBC Sports since the NFL playoffs in January when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ matchup against the Detroit Lions amassed a total audience delivery of 40.4 million viewers.

NBCUniversal also secured the most-streamed event in U.S. history in January with an average of 23 million viewers tuning in for the exclusive broadcast of the NFL Wild Card matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins on Peacock.

Six races have taken place within the 2024 NTT INDYCAR series and are collectively averaging a total audience delivery of 1.95 million viewers. Five of these broadcasts have been on NBC while one was on USA Network. Viewers can watch NBC Sports’ coverage of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on USA Network and Peacock on Sunday at 12 p.m. EST.

Throughout the weather delay, NBC Sports provided viewers with live updates and an encore presentation of the 2023 race. These programming adjustments ultimately resulted in more than nine hours of broadcast network coverage taking place throughout the day. INDYCAR removed the local blackout of the race in Indianapolis, Ind., which ended up securing an 18.15 household rating and 54 share. The race also coincided with the broadcast of the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 on FOX, which will move to Amazon’s Prime Video following the season.

The Indianapolis 500 broadcast performance occurs as INDYCAR’s three-year media rights deal with NBC is set to expire at the end of the season. NBC is reportedly interested in renewing the media rights deal; however, the network could face competition from other broadcast conglomerates. The company has had exclusive rights to INDYCAR since 2019 for a reported $20 million per year after it had previously split those rights with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC).

NASCAR agreed to seven-year media rights deals for the NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2025 that includes NBC Sports, FOX Sports, Amazon’s Prime Video and TNT Sports. The Walt Disney Company currently broadcasts Liberty Media-owned Formula 1 as part of a three-year deal with the property that continues through 2025.

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Tom Brady: Broadcasting is Not About Competition For Me

“I think if I want to put effort into something, then naturally I’ll be more competitive at it because I’ll have invested a little bit of my time, a little bit of my energy into it.”

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Tom Brady
Courtesy: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Tom Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback formerly of the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will be making his NFL on FOX broadcasting debut as the lead color commentator for the property this upcoming season. Brady is slated to join play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi as part of the lead broadcasting booth, which will call Super Bowl LIX from the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La. at the conclusion of the season. The new member of the FOX Sports team was introduced in person at the FOX Upfront earlier in the month in New York City, during which he articulated his excitement about becoming a game analyst.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Brady posted a video of himself jet skiing and participating in a variety of water sports. During an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports Radio Monday afternoon, host Colin Cowherd divulged that Brady was granted with many gifts, including work ethic, sagaciousness and a competitive spirit. Cowherd then thought to himself that Brayd could not possibly be competitive jet skiing, leading him to ponder if broadcasting would satiate that trait. This led him to ask Brady if he is already watching tapes and leaning into a competitive attitude in preparing for this new endeavor surrounding the game of football.

“There are definitely parts of me that are hypercompetitive, and certainly they were as a player and as an athlete,” Brady said. “I love that competition; I relished that competition daily.”

Brady recollected that he was competitive in several activities during his football career outside of the actual game itself, including practice, ping pong or trashketball in the locker room. Yet over the years, he feels that he has matured and is able to exercise restraint by being selective in what ventures in which he competes.

“I think if I want to put effort into something, then naturally I’ll be more competitive at it because I’ll have invested a little bit of my time, a little bit of my energy into it,” Brady said. “Certainly, with the [broadcasting], I don’t think for me it’s about competition. I think for me it’s about, ‘Did I put everything I could into it?’ in that, ‘Did I give the fans everything that they tuned in for?,’ and that’s really how I’ll end up gauging myself.”

After Sunday games, Brady prognosticates that he will end up evaluating himself to see if he did well in the booth and actualized the belief instilled in him by FOX. Moreover, he wants to ensure that he is meeting the expectations of his colleagues as he aims to acclimatize himself into working in sports media and becoming a familiar voice to inform and entertain the viewing audience.

Brady is beginning the first season in a reported 10-year, $375 million contract to serve in the lead analyst role for FOX Sports, which will coincide with the expiration of the network’s media rights deal with the National Football League. If the current conditions are sustained, Brady will be on the call for three of the next 10 Super Bowl broadcasts.

“‘Did I live up to the expectations of my teammates – Kevin Burkhardt and Erin [Andrews] and Tom [Rinaldi] and Richie Zyontz and Rich Russo and our entire truck and entire team?,’” Brady hypothesized thinking after games. “That’s ultimately how I’ll judge myself in that new role.”

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