Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market
Khan wants Wembley Stadium to host Super Bowl
Could the Super Bowl come to London? Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan certainly hopes so after announcing a surprise plan to buy Wembley Stadium from the Football Association for roughly £1bn. The deal is far from done but it appears the US billionaire is putting the Jaguars in prime position to relocate to London – or himself in prime position to become the owner of the NFL’s first overseas team should he sell his current franchise.
NFL Draft draws record TV ratings
Despite fears of over-saturation, the NFL Draft was a huge ratings success. Thursday’s first-round audience of 11.2m was the second most-watched Draft day ever and a 22-per-cent spike on 2017. This was thanks to 1) the Draft’s unprecedented network coverage; 2) two teams from the largest market, New York, making top-three selections; and 3) suspense over who the Cleveland Browns would pick at No 1. And it carried through to the weekend: Saturday’s viewer average of 2.9m made it the most-watched Draft Day 3 in history.
Trump interference threatens USA-led World Cup bid
Donald Trump continues to get involved in the race to host the 2026 World Cup. A week after making a thinly-veiled threat to countries who might oppose the North American bid – resulting in a warning from Fifa over political interference – the US president called on African nations to support United 2026 and not continental compatriot Morocco (a move likely to fall on deaf ears). Commentators have described Trump’s involvement as hugely counterproductive – and even fatal – ahead of the Fifa vote on June 13.
Cosmos owner makes $500m offer to US soccer
Media magnate Rocco Commisso has promised to oversee a $500m investment in US soccer – half from his personal fortune – in return for giving the New York Cosmos another shot to compete at a high level. The Cosmos are temporarily playing in the minor-league NPSL following the suspension of the NASL. Commisso’s huge offer to the US Soccer Federation is contingent on a series of reforms that would give a revived NASL the chance to succeed long-term.
Modest audience for NBA 2K League opener
The NBA 2K League had a disappointing first day with an active audience of just 9,000 viewers for the inaugural game on Twitch, between Bucks Gaming and Pistons GT. Despite the stuttering start – in part due to games scheduled at the same time as the actual NBA playoffs – the 2K League continues to pick up commercial deals. HyperX and ScufGaming were named the league’s official headset and controller providers respectively, while teams have revealed a series of in-game sponsors on jerseys and on court during league play.
Twitter announces ESPN deal as part of live sports content push
Twitter is ramping its live sports content after announcing 30-plus deals this week. Included are a Formula One post-race interview programme; the 2018 MLS Homegrown Game; a show based around the MLB All-Star Game and play-offs; and a series of new ESPN shows as part of a wide-ranging deal with Disney. The aim is to turn Twitter into a platform where people watch live sports content and to increase ad revenues (which will be split with networks and publishers).
Also this week
- Amazon has renewed its deal for NFL Thursday night streaming rights for a further two seasons, at a reported cost of $130m. Games will be available (for free) on Amazon-owned Twitch.
- Looking to overcome disappointing financial results, Under Armour has launched a basketball-themed quiz app that will be triggered when Stephen Curry sinks his first three-point shot during an NBA play-off game.
- Miami politicians will vote next week on whether to give the green light to a multi-year deal with Formula 1 that would begin with a street race in 2019.
- LeBron James was the NBA’s top shoe seller in 2017, though performance basketball shoe sales fell 13.6 per cent overall last year.
- PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan says “it’s just a matter of time” before there is a PGA-LPGA mixed-team event.
- Take me up to the ball game: LA Dodgers fans could travel to the stadium by an aerial transit system – or gondola – by 2022.
- The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners will open the 2019 MLB season with a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Meanwhile, the NHL will play two exhibition games in China this autumn.
- A planned rugby union Test match between Wales and South Africa in Washington DC in June is in doubt due to poor ticket sales.
- Sign of the times: gamblers will be able to bet on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby with cryptocurrencies.
- How LA FC’s Banc of California Stadium has raised the bar for soccer-specific arenas in the US.
- Las Vegas Golden Knights are making concerted efforts to engage with their global fanbase.
- Tom Brady gives his take on declining NFL television ratings.
- Why Hulu will add more adverts into its live sports coverage.
- A deep dive into the PGA Tour’s planned move from Florida to Texas.