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Verizon Reportedly Expresses Interest in ESPN Strategic Partnership

Verizon would reportedly be interested in working with ESPN on a streaming service.

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Verizon
Courtesy: Verizon

Bob Iger, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, divulged to investors that its sports arm, ESPN, is looking for a strategic partner to purchase an equity stake in the network. The decision to move in this direction comes as the “Worldwide Leader” has seen its cable distribution drop to 71 million households and more people continue to cut the cord. In fact, cord cutting has caused significant subscriber drops across the board for cable networks as they work to produce viable digital platforms. Now, a report by Sahlil Patel at The Information has linked wireless network operator Verizon to the “Worldwide Leader.”

Iger, nor ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, has divulged the companies the network has conversations with regarding a partnership. Some reporting has connected ESPN with sports leagues, which could redefine the process of attaining broadcast rights, along with various technology companies. Verizon could prove to be the right match, as its network of over 100 million subscribers could potentially be included in a deal.

At the moment, it remains unknown how much equity would be purchased by a strategic partner should the network be able to close a deal. Eighty percent of the network is owned by The Walt Disney Company, while the remaining 20% is owned by Hearst Communications.

Verizon would reportedly be interested in working with ESPN on a streaming service, which could indicate the forthcoming direct-to-consumer product. The company’s chief executive officer Hans Vestberg has told executives with sports leagues and teams that the company is exploring a partnership to help launch a new streaming version of the sports channel.

ESPN is working on launching its own direct-to-consumer platform under “Project Flagship” while also receiving a cash infusion through its 10-year, $2 billion deal with Penn Entertainment to create the ESPN BET sportsbook.

Even with changes in distribution, the company’s sports revenue is up 10% year-over-year, with Iger affirming that the business is still “a good value proposition.” ESPN is expected to report its earnings for the first time in November, as it was categorized as its own distinct entity under a strategic reorganization by The Walt Disney Company.

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‘NHL DataCast’ Alternate Broadcast to be Featured During Oilers-Stars Series on truTV, Max

The broadcast will use cutting edge data and real-time in-depth insights from NHL EDGE positional data.

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Graphic for the NHL Western Conference Finals coverage on truTV, TNT and Max
Courtesy: NHL

TNT Sports’ 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage will continue with the Western Conference Finals starting this Thursday.  2023 Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers will be taking on Jason Robertson and the Dallas Stars. This series also marks the debut of the ‘NHL DataCast’ powered by AWS alternate broadcast which will air on truTV and Max.

On the call for the series on TNT will be Kenny Albert, along with commentary from Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher, and reporting from Jackie Redmond. 

Steve Mears will provide play-by-play for ‘NHL DataCast’ along with commentary from World Championship gold medalist Colby Armstrong and Mike Kelly, NHL Network analyst and Director of Analytics and Insights for Sports Logiq.

In a release the league describes ‘NHL DataCast’ as “a new analytics-driven alternative viewing experience on truTV and MaxThe broadcast will use cutting edge data and real-time in-depth insights from NHL EDGE positional data (NHL Puck and Player Tracking) to provide deeper context and understanding of how statistics are utilized by players, coaches and front offices across the National Hockey League. NHL EDGE IQ powered by AWS advanced analytics, including Face-Off Probability, Opportunity Analysis and Ice Tilt, will also be featured. “

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Aaron Taylor Joining ‘College Football Today’ on CBS

“BJ, Rick, Adam and I have so much respect for the sport and for the platform we’re given to break down all the exciting twists and turns that college football offers.”

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Aaron Taylor
Courtesy: Mary Kouw, CBS Sports

As CBS Sports continues its media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference and airs college football games throughout the 2024 season, it is making an addition to its signature studio program. Aaron Taylor, former NFL offensive lineman and two-time All-American at the University of Notre Dame, is joining College Football Today for pregame, halftime and postgame coverage on CBS and streaming on Paramount+. Taylor, who has been a member of CBS Sports’ college football coverage since 2008 as the lead analyst on CBS Sports Network and broadcasting select games on CBS, will join host Adam Zucker and analysts Brian Jones and Rick Neuheisel in the fall. The network will also expand its postgame studio show this fall and remain on the air until 7:30 p.m. EST.

“BJ, Rick, Adam and I have so much respect for the sport and for the platform we’re given to break down all the exciting twists and turns that college football offers,” Taylor said in a statement. “It gives us the freedom to not take ourselves too seriously and have some fun at each other’s expense. I can’t wait to sit with those guys on Saturdays and be the one person at the desk who isn’t battling a receding hairline.”

CBS Sports will broadcast a marquee Big Ten Conference matchup every Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST, ending the season with coverage of the 2024 Big Ten Championship Game from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. on Saturday, Dec. 7. The company will air the matchup between Notre Dame and Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 14 followed by USC at Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 21. Taylor will join the coverage on College Football Today as a studio analyst to provide his insights and expertise regarding the action.

“Aaron’s extensive football IQ has been integral to our coverage for many years, and we look forward to him joining Adam, BJ and Rick on Saturdays given their deep chemistry cemented over the years on Inside College Football,” Harold Bryant, executive producer and executive vice president, production, at CBS Sports, said in a statement. “And as we extend our post-game coverage, Aaron’s personality and analysis will be a welcome addition with more runway to recap the most pivotal games and moments from earlier in the day.”

As Jones joins College Football Today, it will mark the 10th consecutive season working in studio together for Zucker, Jones and Neuheisel. CBS will broadcast college football on Saturdays and its slate of NFL on CBS matchups in the fall, which also includes the addition of Matt Ryan on The NFL Today. Ryan will be joined by host James Brown, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Tuesday night at the 45th Annual Sports Emmy Awards, along with analysts J.J. Watt, Nate Burleson and Bill Cowher.

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Report: NBA Formalizing Deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, Amazon

Final changes are believed to be taking place in the coming days or the week with deals then having to be ratified by respective boards.

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NBA Logo
Courtesy: Nic Antaya, Getty Images

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has been involved in media rights negotiations for national television broadcasts for the 2025-26 season and beyond with a resolution reportedly on the precipice. The league is reportedly finalizing contracts with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon that would approximately triple its existing rights fee, along with terminating the partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery. This could reportedly result in legal action from Warner Bros. Discovery about the breadth of its matching rights clause, which the league will reportedly take to the company to see if it can match NBCUniversal’s deal in “total value.” Tom Friend of Sports Business Journal was first to report the news of these contracts being finalized.

Within the report, sources indicated that The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) would end up paying $2.8 billion per year for the “A” package of games, up by $200 million from previous reports. This package would reportedly include the NBA Finals, a conference final and weekly primetime games, along with rights to the WNBA and international rights likely to be shared. Disney has been a broadcast home for the NBA since the 2002-03 season after the network briefly televised games from 1982 to 1984.

The network has a new lead broadcast booth this season consisting of play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, analysts Doris Burke and JJ Redick, and sideline reporter Lisa Salters. The company averaged 1.7 million viewers throughout the 2023-24 regular season, which also included simulcasts and alternate broadcasts.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal was first reported to be bidding $2.5 billion to attain rights for the league for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The “B” package is now believed to be worth $2.6 billion per year and would reportedly include a conference final, conference semifinals and two prime time windows per week. Moreover, there would reportedly likely be a Basketball Night in America on Sunday nights after the conclusion of the NFL season.

Amazon will reportedly pay between $1.8 billion and $2 billion for rights to the NBA, marking the first time the league is inking a partnership with a streaming platform. The package would reportedly include the Emirates In-Season Tournament and the So-Fi Play-In Tournament, along with first-round playoff games, the WNBA and international rights.

Final changes are believed to be taking place in the coming days or the week with deals then having to be ratified by respective boards. Sources believe that Warner Bros. Discovery would need to pay more than $2.6 billion to match NBCUniversal’s bid; however, the specifics of the package are structured in a way that would make it “virtually impossible” to match.

The league is reportedly preparing its lawyers in the event of an inquisition or lawsuit, believing that a match does not come in monetary value, but rather with advertising revenue and broadcast windows among other things. Warner Bros. Discovery reportedly did not reach a framework for a deal during the 90-day exclusive negotiating window, whereas The Walt Disney Company reportedly did, although nothing was said to be finalized during that time.

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