Breaking down the NFL's regular-season viewership; What Stephanie McMahon brought to the WWE; Dunkin' links with Beanpot and more changes at the Broncos
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I caught up with some friends after work last night, and the three themes were, one, what a bummer of a game for the CFP, and Georgia's blowout is now the least watch college football championship game since the BCS era began in 1999.
Theme number two, my buddy sharing his excitement as he leaves for the UK to catch two Premier League games coming this weekend. How fun will that be?
And theme number three, how it's only two weeks into 2023, and we all feel slammed and behind at work already this year.
And this is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, January 11th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast.
Well, SBJ's Austin Karp has the final numbers for the NFL's regular season viewership. And the league overall did quite well. Viewership declined just 3% from last season, even with the move of Thursday Night Football from linear television to streaming in Amazon.
Overall, the league averaged 16.7 million viewers. That is down from 17.1 million last year. However, it's up well above 2020 and above 2019. And if you took out Thursday Night Football from this season, the NFL would likely have been up low single digits. Fox, CBS, and NBC each saw gains, while ESPN, Amazon, and NFL Network saw slight decreases. Amazon, of course, saw the most significant decrease. Let's go one by one quickly.
NBC led all networks with roughly 20 million viewers for Sunday Night Football. That's up 3% from last year. NBC will again lead all primetime TV shows in viewership for a record 12th consecutive TV season, all driven by Sunday Night Football.
Number two, Fox averaged 19.4 million viewers. That is the network's best figure since 2016, and up 4% from last year.
CBS drew its best season in seven years, averaging 18.5 million viewers, and that is also up 3% from last year.
So who was down? Well, we mentioned Monday Night Football was down 5% on ESPN this season, but that's still the third best average since 2010. There are a few reasons for the drop, including that ESPN is not registering the viewership from the Bills Bengals game in week 17. That game is being excluded from all numbers this season.
Of course, the real challenge to the NFL was Amazon's numbers on Thursday Night Football, as it averaged 9.6 million viewers, which is predictably down, but it's down 42% from 16.4 million viewers last year on Fox and NFL Network. So while Thursday Night Football on Amazon is still a very positive story for Amazon, and a very positive story for the NFL, and a very positive story for sports, it did end up dragging down the NFL's national average, which was expected, but the 3% drop overall in NFL viewership just shows the continued strength of the NFL as a programming vehicle. Just unbelievable.
If you want more, and I suggest you clip and save this, Austin Karp breaks down all the NFL's numbers in Closing Bell. Check it out on sportsbusinessjournal.com.
Let's move on, because more big changes at the WWE as the well-liked Stephanie McMahon resigned as co-CEO of WWE on Tuesday evening, less than one week after her father, Vince McMahon came out of retirement and returned as chairman of the board. So with Stephanie McMahon stepping down, Nick Khan is now the sole CEO of the WWE. Stephanie's husband, Paul Levesque, remains as the WWE's lead creative force. In a statement, Stephanie said that, "Nick Khan and Paul Levesque's leadership will provide creative content and drive maximum value for shareholders."
Stephanie McMahon's role at the WWE should never be overlooked or under-appreciated. She was a relentless, and is a relentless, and confident advocate for the WWE, but she's also a very comfortable and welcoming face and personality for fans and the sports industry. She has a lot of support among the leaders in sports for her acumen, her style, her substance, and her amazing charitable and philanthropic efforts.
The WWE has done so much to give back to the less fortunate in society, and I credit Stephanie McMahon for driving the WWE to be a leader in this important philanthropic space. She has real empathy, and she showed that time and again with her efforts. Stephanie McMahon is a really good person, and she has had a tremendously positive impact on the WWE and the WWE brand.
There is still a lot of moving pieces to this story, so stay tuned. Let's move on.
Another good sign for women's sports, and another big name investor feeling bullish about its potential, as Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes is joining his wife Brittany as a member of the ownership group for the NWSL's Kansas City Current. The terms of his investment were not disclosed. His wife Brittany is an original member of the club's ownership group, alongside Chris and Angie Long. Patrick Mahomes is already active in Kansas City sports. He is a minority owner of the Royals and Sporting KC, and now he joins the Current.
I've said a few times on the Buzzcast how impressed I am with the Current's ownership group, as they are investing in the country's first ever soccer specific stadium built specifically for a women's team. The approximately 120 million dollar stadium is expected to open for the 2024 season. And Patrick Mahomes joins the Current as a limited partner. Another good sign for women's sports.
Let's close the loop on a story we talked about on Monday's Buzzcast. MLS and Apple announced the first 18 members of the broadcast team for their new Apple streaming service, set to launch next month. And as we headlined on Monday, the group is led by former ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, as well as Turner Sports Studio host Liam McHugh. Other names will be announced over the next coming weeks. They did announce 18 members of the broadcast team, but it's hard to believe that this partnership between MLS and Apple launches February 25th. That'll be here before you know it.
When you think about good sponsorships and good partnerships, how perfect is this? Dunkin', the super popular QSR in New England - well, actually across the United States - is now the title sponsor of the venerable Beanpot tournament. Played at TD Garden in February, televised on NESN.
If you don't know what this is, the Beanpot takes place the first two Monday nights of February. It's really a social event, it's fun, it's wildly popular, and it's an annual hockey tournament featuring Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern. So once again, this hockey annual event, very popular in the Boston market. This marks the first time in Beanpot history that the tournament has had a title sponsor, and how appropriate that it's Dunkin'.
And let's end the Buzzcast like we do around names. We've talked about the changes to the Denver Broncos, which had such stability under the Bowlen family ownership. Well, with new owners comes change. And you're seeing that in Denver. Longtime Broncos executive Brady Kellogg is stepping down as Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships. That means new Broncos president Damani Leech will now start a search for a new chief commercial officer to replace Brady Kellogg and former chief commercial officer Mack Freeman, who left late last year. The search will be handled internally by the Broncos.
And finally, we know there's a lot of attention on pickleball. Much of it is focused on Major League Pickleball, which is looking for a new CEO. Well, now USA Pickleball is looking for a new CEO as well, as Stu Upson will step down as CEO. He'll depart the organization following a transition period. He assumed the role as the first ever CEO of USA Pickleball in December of 2020. We all know the growth of pickleball. Now USA Pickleball on the market looking for a new CEO.
So that is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, January 11th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.