What we liked from NFL opening weekend; the cultural impact of the U.S. Open and NWSL eyes expansion assessment and media deal in next few months
I hope you will meet me in St. Louis for our Drive Conference, September 19th to the 21st. It is a must attend event for team and facility leaders. There's still time to register. Go to our website, sportsbusinessjournal.com, or just let me know if you have any questions, but you will want to be at Drive. A new day in Ottawa for the Senators, as new owner Michael Andlauer and his partners are expected to complete the sale of the Senators Monday today before officially becoming the owner on Tuesday.
We'll have more on that tomorrow. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, September 11th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody enjoyed the weekend and what a weekend it was. Let's start with the NFL. Around 1:00 PM yesterday at our office here in Charlotte, I got on YouTube TV, which was set up last week in our office, to check out Sunday Ticket because, of course, the NFL signed a seven year $14 billion deal with Google in December to make YouTube TV the exclusive provider of Sunday Ticket.
No more DirecTV for me in this office. I have said before, I'm technically incompetent, but I found it quite easy to use and quite intuitive. Influential NFL columnist Peter King writes in his column today that he felt YouTube aced the test. He said the streaming quality was great. He was watching the Quad Box feature, as I was. And while he praised it, he did wish viewers could choose their own games and not just watch what YouTube provided. He added the sound and the picture were consistently strong.
Now, other reports are still coming in, and, of course, there are some mixed reviews. But overall, a positive first weekend for YouTube TV. How about you? If you tried YouTube TV for Sunday Ticket, let me know what you felt of the experience. On another front, I thought Alex Smith was great on NFL Sunday Countdown on ESPN, sharp, informative. He took on different points of view. I also found JJ Watt very strong on CBS' the NFL Today, both new voices in the world of NFL commentary.
My favorite feature of the NFL's opening weekend was on ESPN. I thought Jeff Darlington's piece on Miami Coach Mike McDaniel, who opened up about his alcoholism and how it almost ruined his coaching career, was really one of the best pieces I've seen in quite some time. Darlington was filmed going to work with McDaniel at 2:30 in the morning, and McDaniel opened up about how he drank every day at various coaching stops along his young career and how it almost cost him his career.
Mike McDaniel now, of course, is head coach of the Dolphins, who had a very impressive win yesterday in San Diego. If you get a chance to watch that piece, try to find it. It is well worth your time. Our Austin Carp will break down the viewership numbers for week one later today on Monday, and it was a rough night to be NBC on Sunday with the Cowboys' blowout of the Giants. I'm sure that viewership number will not be as high as network executives had hoped it would, but let's just say it seems that fans are ready for the NFL.
The league got off to a very strong start on Thursday night. The Lions-Chiefs game on NBC, the kickoff game, it drew nearly 27 million viewers Thursday night. That was up 24% over the Bills-Rams opener last year. It was the highest rated program on US television since the Super Bowl in February. Kansas City, not surprisingly, led all markets. Detroit was number two, but Thursday night was a very strong start. We'll see how opening weekend goes. Of course, we have Bills-Jets tonight.
I won't be able to watch it because I'll be home. And of course, I am still a Spectrum cable subscriber, so no ESPN for me. Don't get me started on that. Let's move on. A colleague questioned me yesterday about why SBJ's Weekend Rap, which goes out on Sunday afternoon, had so much news about college sports and tennis and not more on the NFL's opening weekend. My response was pretty simple, those sports resonated and have a lot of buzz. First, we have to start with tennis.
Coco Gauff's win on Saturday to win the US Open Women's singles title was so eye-opening, not just for the great tennis that was played, but also how fans responded to her. That crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, amazing energy. You can tell that Gauff could be, could be a very important figure in global sports. She is the youngest American to win the US Open since Serena Williams in 1999, but it's also the draw that she is and the appeal that she has. I mean, look at the athletes and celebrities that were in attendance Saturday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
You had Jimmy Butler, who I think spent to every one of her matches in New York. You had Kevin Durant, Rich Kleiman, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Spike Lee, Mindy Kaling, so many others. The USTA's President Suite was jammed with past champions. You had Maria Sharapova, Monica Salas, Tracy Austin, Andy Roddick. I mean, the stars came out and it just shows how much of a draw Coco Gauff is, but how big this tournament is. I would argue that Saturday's women's final even overshadowed the men's final on Sunday, even though the Joker won a historic 24th major championship.
Djokovic matched Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam singles titles in tennis history. He's amazing, and that second set, phenomenal. But I still think the story of the tournament was Coco Gauff. Overall, what a tournament for the USTA, great storylines, amazing weather, great crowds. The US Open set new records for attendance, breaking its two and three week attendance records and becoming the first Grand Slam to see more than 950,000 fans over a three-week period.
When they count the third week, that's that first week that is kind of the fan festival. But no matter how you slice and dice the numbers, attendance was way up. All 25 sessions in Arthur Ashe Stadium were sold out for the second year in a row. Attendance overall up nearly 8% over last year. It was a very, very successful tournament. On a personal note, it was great to see the USTA dedicate the US Open Interview Room for Chris Widmaier. Widmaier is very well-known. He joined the USTA in 2003 in the communication side.
He is currently managing director of corporate communications. I first met him when he was at the NFL in the early '90s, but he has been a steady face and name at the USTA. Now, it is called the Chris Widmaier US Open Interview Room at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Well done to a true professional. The other big story I mentioned was yes, college football. You had a ton of boldfaced names in the sports business in Tuscaloosa for the Texas-Alabama game. The Coach Prime Story continues to be one of the most talked about stories in sports. Colorado 2-0.
They had more than 53,000 at Folsom Field on Saturday. The largest crowd at that facility in 15 years. Yes, 15 years. After the game, Deion Sanders said Colorado's success is having a social impact, drawing more and more new fans to football. Coach Prime is very good TV and the networks know it. Both ESPN and Fox Sports will host their competing Saturday morning pregame shows from Boulder next Saturday for the Colorado-Colorado State matchup. Again, you see the impact Deion Sanders is having.
Staying with college sports, Yahoo Sports' Ross Dellenger reported the CFP has hired Parker Executive Search to lead its search to replace outgoing executive director Bill Hancock. They have a goal of making a hire before the CFP games begin this year. It'll be interesting to see the type of executive that the Parker Executive Search firm is looking for here. Surely, they're looking for someone with deep relationships in college sports because running the CFP, wow, that can be a very thankless job.
But again, they hope to have a successor to the incredibly classy Bill Hancock before the CFP games begin this year. Let's touch on women's soccer because the NWSL will look to expand by two teams at the conclusion of this season. The league will begin evaluating bids in the fourth quarter of this year. They have retained New York based investment bank Inner Circle Sports to lead this process. Remember, the league is trying to continue the momentum. They, of course, landed a $53 million expansion fee from Sixth Street Partners earlier this year for a franchise in the Bay Area.
That franchise, Bay FC, will join Utah, the Utah Royals. They'll begin play as the league's 13th and 14th teams. That'll start in 2024. They will look to bring on the 15th and 16th teams in 2026, and sources expect that one of those openings will be targeted for Boston and bring a team back to the Boston area. Now, talk of expansion comes as the league continues to grow. Attendance for the league is over a million fans. That's a new record for the league. It marks the second straight regular season that they have drawn over a million fans.
A couple of other interesting nuggets, 11 matches this year in the NWSL drew more than 20,000 fans. That's nearly triple the amount of last year. The number of games that drew more than 10,000 fans, 42 matches drew more than 10,000 fans. That's a very, very healthy number. Five teams, five NWSL teams, are currently averaging over 10,000 fans per match. That, again, is a very strong number and you see the growth in attendance at the NWSL. The league's getting smarter in its ticket sales, but also the league is just more popular.
All of this comes as the NWSL expects to announce a new media rights deal before the end of this year, and that will be a very strong indicator on the appeal of the networks in women's sports. And finally, a name in the news. The San Antonio Spurs Chief Operating Officer Brandon Gayle is resigning at the end of November after a four-year stint that saw the Spurs make some big strides on the business side, including, I would say, growing the team's brand in Texas. I first met Brandon Gayle when he was at the Jets.
He was also at Facebook. He was at Groupon, and he called his decision to leave the Spurs voluntary. He's taking a sabbatical to spend more time with his family and to recharge. Brandon Gayle is a member of SBJ's 40 Under 40 Class of 2018. Spurs Sports & Entertainment Chief Revenue Officer Frank Miceli has been named Chief Commercial Officer and will head all revenue for the organization. Brandon Gayle stepping down, Frank Miceli stepping in at the San Antonio Spurs.
And that is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, September 11th. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody has a great start to the week. Stay healthy. Be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.