Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market
United bid wins 2026 World Cup vote by landslide
North America decisively won the right to host the 2026 World Cup after beating rivals Morocco 134-65 in the vote at Fifa’s annual congress on Tuesday. Fox Sports and Telemundo have already secured US broadcast rights for the 48-team tournament and will now pay Fifa a $300m bonus as part of the controversial deal. The 23 candidate host cities will be now be narrowed down to 16, in 2020 or 2021. The United bid projects a record $14bn in revenue and $11bn in profits for Fifa, which must decide if USA, Mexico and Canada are guaranteed places.
NBCSN to simulcast Telemundo Russia 2018 matches
NBC is looking to snare World Cup viewers from Fox Sports this summer by airing some Spanish-language games on NBCSN. At the same time FS1 will air Brazil v Switzerland on Sunday, NBCSN – the home of many English Premier League games – will simulcast Telemundo’s Spanish-language broadcast. NBCSN and Telemundo, which has Spanish-language World Cup rights in the US, are both part of NBCUniversal. Despite the USA not qualifying for Russia, both Fox and Telemundo are nearing their advertising sales goals.
New Jersey sports betting bill given green light
New Jersey has followed Delaware to become the second state to offer legalized sports betting in the US following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a federal ban. Betting will begin at 10.30am ET today (Thursday) at Monmouth Park racetrack – where Governor Phil Murphy will place the first bet – and half-an-hour later at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City. Online betting is not permitted for 30 days. New York is looking to bring in a sports betting bill next but only has until June 20, when the legislature adjourns, to do so.
Disney and Comcast ready to unload Fox regional sports networks
The future of 21st Century Fox’s 22 regional sports networks is uncertain following Comcast’s hostile $65bn bid for the Fox assets in agreement to be bought by Disney. According to multiple reports, both Comcast and Disney would be willing to divest Fox’s RSNs – which hold exclusive local rights to 44 MLB, NBA and NHL team broadcasts – if anti-trust regulators insist, in order to get the deal done. Both companies are more interested in Fox’s international and Hollywood assets.
Snapchat and SeatGeek join forces to sell tickets
Mobile-focused ticketing platform SeatGeek has begun selling tickets directly to fans via Snapchat. The company has spent several months developing e-commerce capabilities and MLS team LA FC tested the initiative out for its May 26 game against DC United via its Snapchat Story. The integration will allow individual athletes and performers to sell tickets directly to their fans as well. Champion boxer Errol Spence Jr. is scheduled to post tickets to his Snapchat Story for an upcoming bout in Frisco, Texas.
Warriors win again but NBA Finals ratings take hit
An anti-climactic NBA Finals ended on a relatively quiet note, with the Warriors’ Game 4 series victory gaining 16.2m viewers on ABC – down 15 per cent from last year (19.1m) and two per cent from 2016 (16.6m). What’s more, last Friday’s blowout win was the least-watched of any of the 22 games played throughout the Warriors-Cavaliers Finals series. It was also the lowest-viewed NBA Finals clincher in nine years, since Lakers-Magic Game 5 in 2009 (14.0m).
Also this week
- The Houston Open has been saved. The tournament will stay on the PGA Tour for at least five more years after Astros Owner Jim Crane and local sponsors secured a deal to host the event.
- The Washington Redskins have ended their waiting list for season tickets – seen by many as little more than a marketing gimmick – believing it is an outdated model due to access to tickets on the secondary market.
- Despite massive publicity by NBC, TV ratings for Justify’s glory at the Belmont Stakes were down from previous Triple Crown attempts in 2015 and 2014. Nonetheless 15.3m viewers tuned in.
- The Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory was watched by 6.7m, the most-watched Game 5 since 2002 and up 51 per cent from last year.
- Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan faces competition to buy Wembley Stadium. The FA is understood to have at least three other interested buyers and will put the bidding process out to tender.
- The San Francisco 49ers are opening a branded health and fitness centre in San Jose in September. Membership of 49ers Fit is $49 a month.
- The Milwaukee Bucks lead season-ticket sales for the next NBA season. Ahead of the opening of their $524m new arena, the franchise are on pace to sell 10,000 season tickets for the first time in their history.
- Oliver Luck is reportedly set to make at least $20m – and potentially as much as $30m – in his new role as XFL commissioner.
- More than 20 executives from European clubs visited Atlanta United to learn more about the MLS club’s success.
- What should Fox do with its little-utilized channel FS2?
- Why the US Open’s biggest problem this week could be Long Island traffic.
- Potential sports implications from the imminent AT&T-Time Warner merger.