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US Digest | NBA strikes deal with MGM to provide data to gamblers

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NBA strikes deal with MGM to provide data to gamblers
The NBA has stolen a march on its rivals by announcing that MGM Resorts International will be the league’s official gaming partner. The deal is believed to be worth $25m over three years. The NBA and WNBA will share real-time data feeds with MGM for use in determining outcomes of various bets. The non-exclusive deal does not prevent people from betting at non-MGM properties but with major leagues suffering frustration in their aims to get a cut of legalized gambling revenue through legislative means, it sets a precedent that they should gain compensation for their official data.

Jones silenced over NFL national anthem saga
Another week, another national anthem saga for the NFL. Four days after defying the NFL and announcing the Dallas Cowboys’ zero-tolerance policy regarding standing for the national anthem, owner Jerry Jones has been silenced on the issue by the league. The PR damage had already been done, however, with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Richard Sherman saying Jones had an “old plantation mentality”. Thursday’s Hall of Fame exhibition game between the Bears and Ravens is likely to indicate how teams will handle the issue in the coming season.

Oakland Athletics shake up season-ticket model
The Oakland Athletics are abandoning the traditional season-ticket model for a novel system that is not attached to a particular seat. The A’s Access programme offers fans the chance to go to as many home games as they want and watch from a general admission area, and for a certain number of games – depending on their price plan – they can upgrade to reserved seats closer to the field. Other benefits include merchandise and concessions discounts and the option to share the plan with partners. The A’s have the flexibility to introduce this model for one simple reason: their attendances are regularly among the worst in Major League Baseball.

Turner unveils Champions League broadcast plans
Turner Sports is significantly changing how US audiences will be offered Champions League and Europa League soccer from next season. A year after Fox aired a total of 351 European games on network television, TNT will broadcast just 47, just one of which is in the Europa League: the final. The remainder are only available on OTT subscription service Bleacher Report Live on an individual ($2.99), monthly ($9.99) or annual ($79.99) basis. Turner took over the European rights from Fox, having paid $60m a year over three seasons, and created B/R Live to monetize its investment. A single game for $2.99 compared to single NBA League Pass games for $6.99 seems to be good value.

Overwatch League finals gets dire audience on ESPN
ESPN’s experiment to broadcast the Overwatch League finals on its main sports channel appears to have been a resounding failure. ESPN’s Friday broadcast hadjust 188,000 viewers, significantly less than the 391,000 audience that watchedSports Center in the build-up to the event. Replay broadcasts on ESPN2 and ABC also fared badly. While it is clear that esports is yet to resonate on linear TV, regular ESPN viewers were unlikely to be invested in the finale of a tournament they had never seen before. ESPN also deserves some credit for taking the plunge to discover just how far along competitive gaming is in its journey to become mainstream. An Overwatch League franchise in Atlanta is expected next year.

Seattle’s NHL arena to cost $100m more than expected
The cost of the extensive renovation to make Seattle’s KeyArena ready for a likely NHL team – and a possible NBA team – has risen to $700m, which is $100m more than previously expected. In a media briefing this week, Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke said the increased project costs were largely attributable to upgrades implemented to make the privately-funded venue a “top third” revenue producer within both leagues. Under the revised plans, the seating capacity will rise to 17,400 for NHL and 18,600 for NBA while the venue will contain separate permanent locker rooms for all potential teams, including the WNBA’s Storm. The stadium is due to reopen in 2020.

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With the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball all approaching their offseasons at the same time due to Covid-19, US regional sports networks are facing an extended programming drought of live pro team sports during the fourth quarter of 2020.

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Basketball Champions League CEO Patrick Comninos describes how the fledgling basketball competition has tried to maintain momentum during a troubled year and its plans to resume this year's season with a Final-Eight competition in Athens. Kevin Roberts reports.

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