SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 5, 2023

Episode Summary

Amazon’s NFL streaming record, EPL’s domestic TV deal, Upcoming soccer tournaments in the US (but not the World Cup), and workshopping an AI-generated sign-off.

Episode Notes

Amazon’s NFL streaming record, EPL’s domestic TV deal, Upcoming soccer tournaments in the US (but not the World Cup), and workshopping an AI-generated sign-off.

Episode Transcription

We have an all-points bulletin to start today's Buzzcast. The breaking news, the Dallas Cowboys are incredibly popular. Bringing you this profound revelation, that would be me, SBJ senior writer Joe Lemire, once again filling in for Abe Madkour as he travels to Las Vegas for our Intercollegiate Athletics forum, which is sure to have one, two, or 600 mentions of the college football playoffs. But back to my newsflash. Last Thursday night's Football Cowboys comeback win over the Seattle Seahawks with the most streamed game in NFL history. The Amazon Prime Video lowering an average audience of 15.26 million viewers. In addition to a record for peak audience at 18 million. The median viewer remains 48 years old, a full seven years younger than what's drawn by the NFL's linear broadcast coverage. It's hard not to be bullish on what Amazon has done in its second year of the six exclusive streaming deal.

Not only are viewers notably younger than traditional TV, but there's been market growth this fall, with an average viewership for the first 11 games up 29% over a comparable stretch of 2022. The optionality is great. I know I prefer the Prime Vision feed with Next Gen stats, and the habit is becoming ingrained. This is also a very positive headline, following up on a somewhat lackluster number from Amazon's first Black Friday game. Nielsen reported 9.61 million viewers tuned in for that one on average. Amazon's own data indicated an average audience closer to 11 million. Either way, Ad Age quoted media buyers and ad tech executives who described that number as disappointing, not good, and jarring, but everyone quickly included caveats about the game matchup, the aftermath of a strong Thanksgiving lineup, and first-year viewer awareness as impediments. Additionally, audience size wasn't the sole consideration for advertisers, with data showing that Black Friday NFL viewers were 78% more likely to search for advertised products than those who saw the ads during Thanksgiving games.

In summary, the report noted that advertisers don't seem to be deterred. The game itself, after all, was a 34-13 drubbing, whose most notable play a 99-yard Hail Mary pick-6. The Dolphins running back for a touchdown was as much about the Jets scaff than anything else. On the other side of the pond, Amazon has very different news. The English Premier League struck new domestic TV deals that did not include the Tech Giant, which will stop streaming live matches after the 2024 to '25 season. The three broadcast agreements, the APL did strike with Sky Sports, TNT Sports, which is the former BT Sport, and the BBC, are worth $8.4 billion over four years, those are the American figures. With Sky nearly doubling its inventory of annual matches, adding more than 100 for a total of 215 guaranteed airings per year. TNT maintains its 52-match minimum, and the BBC retains highlight rights on its match of the day program.

This agreement marks a 4% increase in annual revenue at a time when no other major European soccer league was able to muster any kind of growth in live rights. There is some context needed, however, as APL did sell many more matches in order to net that bump in rights fees. None of this affects broadcast coverage in the US, where all 380 matches remain the property of NBC Sports. Speaking of soccer in North America, there was news on two fronts Monday, both courtesy of our own Alex Silverman. For international competitions, the South American Soccer Federation has designated the 14 venues that will host the Copa America competition in 2024. All 10 South American national teams will participate, as well as six CONCACAF guests, of which the US and Mexico have already qualified. The chosen stadiums include 11 that house NFL franchises and three that are soccer-specific for MLS. Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host the opener.

Miami's Hard Rock Stadium will have the final. The two semi-finals will be at Northern New Jersey's MetLife Stadium and Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium. Other NFL venues include Allegiant in Vegas, Levi's in Santa Clara, Arrowhead in Kansas City, AT&T in Arlington, Texas, NRG in Houston, SoFi in Inglewood, and State Farm in Glendale, Arizona. The three MLS sites are Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Q2 Stadium in Austin, and Exploria Stadium in Orlando. Absent from the list, notably are Metro Boston, Chicago, and Columbus, a bit of a soccer hotbed, of course. The one double-down is the Kansas City area, that has both Arrowhead and Children's Mercy Park included. Although I suppose you can say that they are two different cities on either side of the Kansas and Missouri border.

Additionally, the soccer tournament is growing its men's field from 32 teams to 48 while adding an 18-women's bracket, an offshoot of the basketball tournament. The soccer edition is played seven on seven and will feature equal $1 million winner take all paydays for the champions. Size organized by established pro clubs joined last year's field, including Dortmund from the Bundesliga, West Ham and Wolverhampton Wanderers from the Premier League, Charlotte FC from MLS, and Wrexham AFC, the popular Welsh club owned by the actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. Notably, the only fully amateur entry, Newtown Pride FC, out of Sandy Hook, Connecticut, won the inaugural tournament. The media rights for this year's edition are still out for bidding. Last year, it was carried by NBC properties, with select matches streamed on Peacock and the final CNBC. The Washington Nationals are "not close to a sale," according to the reporting of Washington Post Ace baseball writer Chelsea Janes. This follows the team's announcement more than a year and a half ago, back in April 2022, that the Lerner family was open to a sale.

Janes cited three sources indicating that the most likely eventual buyer, even if it's far from a done deal, remains monumental sports is Ted Leonsis. At our Dealmakers conference last week, for which Monumental was the title sponsor, Leonsis explained his desire to have year-round programming on his direct-to-consumer platform. While speaking to Mellody Hobson, an investor in MSG, Leonsis added, "That's certainly what MSG has done, although they don't have a baseball team, so we want to have that year-round programming." Neither does monumental yet, but Leonsis interest in Major League Baseball has been clear even before that comment to prop up a direct-to-consumer streaming service, that breadth of offering is critical. That's what made in essence, such a strong candidate to be the first RSN to launch a DTC platform. Given that it can offer Red Sox and Bruins games as well as a number of other local college contests.

The announcement came in summer 2022, just as the Bruins embark on the greatest regular-season NHL history and Red Sox fans are... Well, you know how they are with their rabid attention, no matter the on-field product. Leonsis' Monumental Sports DTC is powered by the company he co-founded 15 years ago, ViewLift, whose CEO Rick Allen shared some great insight on stage in a panel I moderated last week at Dealmakers, and Leonsis really has two options geographically to make his plan work. The nationals are the most obvious, but the multiple Orioles are also a possibility. The Orioles reportedly hired Goldman Sachs a year ago to consider a possible sale, although John Angelos has said more recently that the team was not in fact for sale. Baltimore recently signed a new 30-year lease for Camden Yards while shifting gears. An NHL franchise out West might be closing in on another home site.

Arizona Coyote CEO Xavier Gutierrez told PHNX Sports reporter Craig Morgan that the team will announce the location of its future arena within the next month. The report indicated that although the Coyote signed a letter of intent on a plot in Northwest Mesa, the current target is actually landed in northeast Phoenix, abutting Scottsdale. The Coyotes are in their second year playing in Arizona State's Mullett Arena, which holds less than a third the capacity of other NHL arenas. One last note about hockey, following the recent death of pro hockey player Adam Johnson, the International Ice Hockey Federation is now mandating neck guards in all its competitions. The IIHF's medical committee made the recommendation, which is already mandatory in under-20 tournaments. A timeline for the senior level was not yet set due to concerns about supply. I also want to thank those who have already shared feedback about SBJ Tech's cover story package on generative artificial intelligence, which was published on our website yesterday and will be in your mailboxes this week.

There are a lot of remarkable minds spending a lot of time and effort into creative applications of technology such as ChatGPT and how they can be useful in sports. One fun little detail is that the head of the Texas Rangers R&D department used Dall-E, the image generation counterpart of ChatGPT, on opening day and asked it to imagine what a Rangers World Series victory would look like, and sure enough, about seven months later, we could compare how it actually looked. On that note, I do need to pack for my flight to the baseball winter meetings in Nashville. Please do reach out if you'll be there so we can say hello, and in the spirit of AI, I asked ChatGPT to write the final part of my script today. So here it is, courtesy of artificial intelligence. Until next time, this is Joe Lemire signing off. Play hard, work smart, and remember, in the game of sports business, every day is a new opportunity.