Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market
Fox announces impressive World Cup schedule
The USA won't be at this summer's World Cup in Russia but Fox Sports is offering an unprecedented number of live matches on network television nonetheless. Thirty-eight matches will be shown on Fox, more than triple the amount offered in 2014 by ABC, while FS1 will offer 26 on cable. Many group matches will air at 5am Pacific Time (the earliest is 3am PT), which will hurt ratings. With the USA absent, Fox is touting the virtues of "global soccer icons" Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to capture audiences.
Front-runner emerges in race to take over Carolina Panthers
David Tepper, a billionaire hedge fund manager, has become the "leader in the clubhouse" in the quest to own the Carolina Panthers. Tepper, worth an estimated $11bn, would have to sell his five-per-cent stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has competition from South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro and the Wittenberg Family Trust. NBA star Steph Curry still wants to become a part-owner. The NFL and three-quarters of league owners would need to approve the sale, which could be worth up to $2.5bn.
Ratings down in NBA All-Star Game
A new format, a far more competitive game – but a smaller audience. The NBA's attempts to shake up the All-Star Game worked on the court. But the Winter Olympics dragged away a few eyeballs – last weekend’s game in LA drew an average of 7.7m viewers on TNT, down from 7.8m last year. Meanwhile, Sacramento and Boston are poised to enter the bidding to host the 2022 and 2023 All-Star Games.
Silver changes NBA stance on sports betting
An "integrity fee" or a "royalty fee"? NBA commissioner Adam Silver inadvertently indicated that the league's lobbying for a one-per-cent cut of all legal bets on its games is, in fact, about gaining extra revenue. For the past two months, the NBA stressed it wanted a cut to cover the cost of monitoring betting markets for suspicious activity. But at the All-Star Game, Silver said it was "very fair" that the NBA as the "intellectual property creators" should get its cut. A Supreme Court case could legalize sports betting nationally by the summer.
Alexa, what's the latest Orlando City news?
Orlando City are the latest sports team to use smart speakers to reach their fans. Following the NBA's use of Alexa, the Amazon ‘intelligent personal assistant’ that comes with their Echo smart speakers, the MLS team have turned to the device as a way to deliver content to their supporters. The Alexa app will begin as a news outlet, but Orlando City and its business partners have plans to monetize it in the future. An estimated 22 million Amazon Echo speakers were sold in the US in 2017.
CBS Sports ready to launch OTT streaming service
CBS Sports HQ – the network's OTT streaming sports channel – will launch this month, ahead of March Madness and The Masters. Unlike rivals ESPN Plus and YouTube TV, it will not show live sports content – for now at least – but "24/7 news, highlights and analysis”. It will be ad-funded. CBS will use the tool initially to cross-promote across its brand and drive subscribers to its All Access service, which includes live NFL matches.
Also this week
Amazon, YouTube, Verizon and Twitter are competing for NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights. DirecTV is raising its price for its Sunday Ticket package 4.2 per cent despite losing subscribers over anthem protests
Seattle will open up its ticket drive for an NHL expansion team on March 1, with a minimum refundable deposit of $500
Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai is close to buying a 49-per-cent stake of the Brooklyn Nets. The sale price values the NBA team at $2.3bn
Sacramento Republic have held talks with "several billionaires" as they seek further investment for an MLS expansion slot
Toronto FC's BMO Stadium could expand to 40,000 seats to secure its place as a 2026 World Cup host venue
How MLS is using esports to reach new a new generation of fans
Is NBC to blame for low Winter Olympic ratings?
Golden State Warriors connect with foreign fans via Bulgarian chatbots
NBA jersey patch sponsors are gaining real returns already