Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market
Telemundo takes lead against Fox for World Cup viewers
As Fox searches for a World Cup ratings push in USA’s absence, the tournament has proved a huge success so far for Telemundo. Sunday’s Mexico-Germany game drew an average audience of 6.6 million, the most-watched group stage match ever on Spanish-language TV in the US. Across all platforms, including digital, Telemundo’s coverage had an average audience of 7.4 million, peaking at 8m. Fox’s cable network FS1, by contrast, drew just over 4m viewers. Despite being available in far fewer households, Telemundo is averaging 2.2 million viewers a game, compared to 2.1 million for Fox, which has already made some changes to its studio line-up to bolster its coverage.
Manfred ‘concerned’ by declining MLB attendances
Rob Manfred has conceded that Major League Baseball has a serious attendance problem. Average crowds are down 6.5 per cent from this time last year – 27,483 per game compared to 29,402 in 2017. A significant issue has been the unseasonably poor weather in a number of markets in the first half of the season, which led to 36 postponements. However, Manfred said that the league is “concerned that there’s something to [low attendance rates] more than weather”. To try to solve the problem, the MLB commissioner is considering a more “fan-friendly” schedule next season, with two-game series between rivals at weekends.
Puma makes major moves in basketball return
Ahead of the NBA Draft tonight (Thursday), Puma has made a series of moves to kickstart its return to the basketball industry after a 20-year absence. 1) The sportswear company has signed projected lottery picks Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Zhaire Smith and Michael Porter Jr to multi-year deals. 2) Knicks legend Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, the company’s partner for its first signature shoe in 1973, has signed a lifetime contract. 3) Rapper Jay-Z has been named creative director to help drive marketing campaigns. Puma hopes these moves will help the company compete with Nike and Adidas in the athletic footwear market.
NBA journalists asked not to leak Draft picks on Twitter
Meanwhile, ESPN has reportedly instructed its journalists not to reveal Draft picks on Twitter before they are announced on TV. Last year reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, then working for Yahoo but now at ESPN, revealed almost every single NBA Draft pick on social media minutes before the formal proceedings. Turner Sports and Yahoo are expected to follow suit after the NBA expressed its “preference” to media partners that “ESPN’s exclusive broadcast rights be honoured”. ESPN, meanwhile, is significantly expanding its coverage of the Draft with two linear TV broadcasts, a live Twitter show and an ESPN Radio show.
Commercial-free US Open enjoys ratings spike
Fox Sports’ US Open coverage enjoyed a ratings increase thanks in part to the USGA’s innovative new partnership with Rolex. Sunday’s final-round coverage peaked at around 9 million viewers from 6.15-6.30pm ET, in a commercial-free final hour of the event. In that time, during natural breaks in play, occasional Rolex-sponsored pre-produced 90-second clips were aired. Fox and FS1 averaged 2.9 million viewers over four days, its best such figure since 2015. The US Women’s Open, which was entirely commercial-free on Fox, averaged 513,000 viewers early this month, up 12 per cent from last year’s record-low (459,000).
Pittsburgh Pirates redefine meaning of ‘integrity fee’
The term ‘integrity fee’ has come under much scrutiny following the request by MLB and the NBA to state lawmakers for a cut of all legalized sports bets. But the overt desire for gambling revenues has been taken to a whole new level by the MLB Pittsburgh Pirates. In response to a call for comment from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on its proposed regulations, the Pirates went severely off-message by saying they want sports betting revenues to support the upkeep and capital improvements of their venue PNC Park. A congressional hearing on sports betting originally scheduled for Tuesday, meanwhile, has been postponed.
Also this week
- The New York Yankees are considering buying back the YES Network if the Regional Sports Network is put up for sale as part of the imminent Fox assets takeover.
- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is optimistic a team in Seattle will join the league by 2020-21 provided the expansion process continues without any issues. A vote is due in September.
- The New York Knicks and Washington Wizards will take part in the NBA’s regular-season international game in London next January.
- The PGA Tour has partnered with Facebook to broadcast weekend coverage of eight upcoming tournaments this year.
- In the race to become a 2026 World Cup host city, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium will get a retractable roof in time for the tournament at a cost of $200-300m.
- It has also emerged that Las Vegas pulled out of the running to be a 2026 host city due to the costs involved.
- Mark Lerner has replaced 92-year-old father Ted Lerner as principal owner of the MLB Washington Nationals.
- The Minnesota Vikings will only accept electronic tickets for home games for the 2018 season.
- The Alliance of American Football has announced that San Antonio will be the league’s eighth franchise.
- How Deloitte, American Express and Lexus activated at the US Open.
- Potential purchasers for Fox’s Regional Sports Networks.
- US Soccer has released its audited statement for the 2017 financial year.
- International Champions Cup youth tournament teams are revealed.
- Formula One’s proposed Miami GP runs into trouble over proposed track.