Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market
Disney dishes details of new streaming service
Disney has finally revealed details of its latest weapon intended to win back cord cutters: ESPN Plus. To be launched “sometime in the spring", the OTT streaming service – which will be part of a redesigned ESPN app and utilise BAMTech, the streaming tech company Disney paid $1.58bn into last year – will carry thousands of hours of live sports alongside the 30 for 30 documentary series. But its content looks uninspiring: no Monday Night Football or NCAA basketball; just events ESPN won’t show live on its pay-TV channels. Those channels have lost nearly 13 million subscribers in the past six years – can they catch cord-cutters with a $4.99-a-month subscription for this 'lesser' content? Disney is banking on it. “If anything points to what the future of ESPN looks like,” said Disney boss Bob Iger, “it will be this app."
Super Bowl ratings prove bittersweet for NBC
High entertainment but low(ish) TV ratings. The Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl win on NBC had an average audience of 106 million (including streaming) and a peak of 112.3 million. Notes: 1) That’s seven per cent down on 2017. 2) It was the least-watched Super Bowl since 2009. But 3) it was still the tenth most-watched programme ever on US television. And, despite the dip – which was notably smaller than the 10-per-cent ratings decline across the NFL regular-season – NBC made $500m in ad revenue and used the event as a platform to heavily promote the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Rose contract proves a major thorn for Adidas
Are long-term athlete endorsements worth it for sponsors? Details of Adidas's $185m, 14-year contract with former NBA MVP Derrick Rose – leaked to Sports Illustrated – raise the question. The big reveals: 1) Rose is still being paid like a superstar ($11m this year) by Adidas despite being a shadow of his former self. 2) The Cleveland Cavaliers player's older brother and a friend are paid significant salaries as "consultants". While Rose's swift on-court decline would have been hard to predict, will sponsors now think twice before committing to rising stars for so long – or at least give themselves firmer exit clauses (SI also got a copy of Adidas’ heavily-incentivized deal with Washington Wizards’ John Wall)?
NASL escalates legal battle with US Soccer
The NASL this week filed a lawsuit in New York state court against members of the US Soccer board of directors, alleging that, "motivated by conflicts of interest and economic considerations", they had breached their fiduciary duties to the league by refusing to sanction it as Division II for 2018. Named defendants include outgoing US Soccer president Sunil Gulati and MLS Commissioner Don Garber. The NASL, which remains unsanctioned, also filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the USSF last September. Claims of a conflict of interest arising from the relationship between USSF directors, Major League Soccer, and its marketing arm Soccer United Marketing have been regularly issued by the outsider candidates in the USSF presidential election.
US Soccer election enters home stretch
The US Soccer presidential election reaches its denouement on Saturday. Half of the eight candidates still have an appreciable chance of winning: Kathy Carter and Carlos Cordeiro on the establishment side; Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino as insurgent candidates. (Read our runners and riders guide for more background.) The election looks certain to go multiple rounds, and an alliance to gain the 50-per-cent-plus-one vote necessary to win is also on the cards. You can follow it live on ussoccer.com and YouTube.
Bucks and Jazz to bid for NBA All-Star Game
The Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz are preparing to bid to host the NBA All-Star Game in in 2022 and 2023. NBA officials last month visited Milwaukee and the Buck’s $524m new arena, which opens this autumn. A lack of top-quality hotel rooms in the Wisconsin city seems to be an early concern. The Jazz are especially keen to host in 2023 – 30 years since Salt Lake City last hosted the event. The 2017 All-Star Game reportedly generated a $83m economic impact for New Orleans. Meanwhile, Ruffles is looking to capitalize on its sponsorship of this year's celebrity All-Star Game with a four-point line called The Ridge.
Also this week…
A record $158.6m was gambled in Nevada on Super Bowl LII, with Las Vegas bookmakers winning just $1.1m total. Meanwhile, a California lawmaker is the latest party trying to legalize sports betting in the US
The Utah Royals signed the most lucrative jersey-front sponsorship deal in US women's soccer history: $2m over three years
How very Vegas. Players from USL team the Las Vegas Lights will receive $100 in gambling chips from team partner The Plaza Hotel and Casino as a win bonus
Seattle gains momentum for a NHL expansion slot with the support of three league executives
Derek Jeter was reportedly rebuffed by Morgan Stanley over his offer to invest in the Miami Marlins
Some further reading…
Every NBA team is now worth at least $1bn
Super Bowl LII reminds us why the NFL is still king
Gary Bettman's 25-year stint as NHL Commissioner reviewed