Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market
Turner Sports joins crowded, competitive OTT arena
Turner Sports has followed ESPN and CBS in announcing an OTT streaming service. Bleacher Report Live will launch in the summer after a free trial from April. B/R Live will differentiate itself from its rivals by offering pay-per-game access to a variety of live events, including Uefa Champions League and Europa League soccer, NBA League Pass games, and niche sports like lacrosse and arm wrestling. Notably absent is MLB, to which Turner has the rights. "Flexible pricing options" have yet to be determined while the service – which includes personalisation features to match fans' interests – will be ad-supported, too.
NBA to offer fans fourth-quarter live streaming
'B/R Live' will also include the chance to watch portions of NBA games – mainly dramatic finales – for as little as 99 cents. Leaked on social media, the plan for these ‘micro-transactions’ were formally announced by NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the Turner launch. The service – on non-national League Pass games only – will be offered next season, with testing on price and 'moments' still being carried out. Silver outlined to SportBusiness International the thinking behind these micro-transactions and why he believes other US sports will follow suit.
MetLife Stadium proposed for 2026 World Cup final
The MetLife Stadium in New Jersey is the proposed venue for the 2026 World Cup final, if the North American bid wins the vote on June 13. The preferred semi-final venues are Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium) and Dallas (AT&T Stadium), with the "main" opening match penciled in for Mexico City or Los Angeles. The details were revealed in the USA-Canada-Mexico bid book, which was released by Fifa. United 2026 predicts 80 sold-out games, generating $1.8bn in ticket revenue. Rival Morocco, meanwhile, referenced its "very low gun circulation" in its bid book – a clear dig at recent gun violence in the US.
Nike extends NFL partnership for another decade
Two major news items emerged from the NFL owners' meeting in Orlando this week. First, Nike has extended its partnership as NFL's official uniform and apparel supplier for another eight years, taking the deal up until 2028. It’s the second extension of the contract, which began in 2012 and was originally valued at $1.1bn over five years – or $220m a year. Second, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is expected to make a decision on a buyer in the next three or four weeks. The leading bidders are Alan Kestenbaum – who visited the stadium on Wednesday – Ben Navarro and David Tepper.
Tiger effect sends Masters ticket prices soaring
Tiger Woods' resurgence has led to a sharp increase in the cost of secondary-market tickets for next week's Masters. Prices of a Thursday tournament badge are currently listed at $3,653 – a 77-per-cent rise from last year. Badges to watch the entire four days begin at $9,750, according to StubHub. Meanwhile, sales of Bridgestone golf balls – used by Woods – are up 115 per cent on the same time last year. The company – which is also launching a new Woods-branded golf ball – has also had a 120-per-cent rise in e-commerce sales compared to 2017.
Astros reaping rewards of World Series glory
The New York Yankees are the most in-demand MLB team for tickets sales – and have the most coveted home opener – but the Houston Astros are making a push. Following their World Series victory, the Astros have enjoyed a 115-per-cent increase in tickets sold this offseason compared to last year, the biggest rise of any MLB team. Barry Bonds' jersey-retirement ceremony on Aug 11 is the top-selling game outside the home openers.
Also this week
- The Oakland Athletics offered to pay off the city's $135m debt on the Coliseum in order to take ownership of the complex. The A's are considering building a new stadium at Howard Terminal but want to protect themselves if a deal falls through.
- March Madness darlings Loyola-Chicago are capitalising on the popularity of their most famous fan, Sister Jean, by selling merchandise using her name and image. The team's 98-year-old chaplain did not request any compensation for her image rights.
- The Las Vegas Golden Knights are offering season-ticket holders a reduced price for play-off tickets – but only if they forfeit their ability to sell them on the secondary market.
- The cost of the new Los Angeles NFL stadium has risen to nearly $5bn, from an original estimate of $2.6bn. NFL Media, including the NFL Network, will also be housed on the stadium site.
- Peyton Manning has reportedly rejected the chance to become an analyst on Fox's Thursday Night Football, a blow for the network's coverage.
- Hazeltine will host the Ryder Cup in 2028, becoming the first US course to host the golf event twice.
- How ESPN got F1 broadcast rights in the US for free…but then had a disastrous opening weekend.
- ESPN's new morning show Get Up gears up for its Monday premiere.
- Cheers and chants at New York's first esports supporters club.
- The NFL is stirring to life on the future of US sports betting.
- Forbes lists its most powerful women in US sports.