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US Digest | Tiger effect lifts PGA Championship TV ratings

Welcome to the US Digest, rounding up the big news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market

Tiger effect boosts PGA Championship TV ratings 
The Tiger effect is as strong as ever. CBS Sports reached 8.5m viewers for Tiger Woods’ second-place finish behind Brooks Koepka on Sunday at the PGA Championship, up 73 per cent from the 4.9m people who watched the same tournament’s conclusion in 2017. Viewership peaked at 12.3m during the last half hour of the competition with Woods in contention until the end. Woods’ return to form is likely to provide an added lift for next month’s Ryder Cup, for which he is poised to be picked as a wildcard in the USA team.

Crew take a step closer to leaving Columbus
The prospect of MLS franchise Columbus Crew moving to Austin, Texas, moved a significant step closer on Wednesday. Austin City Council voted to move forward with a deal for a $200m privately-funded stadium at McKalla Place that will be built in partnership with Precourt Sports Ventures, owners of the Crew. The stadium is due to be completed in 2021. PSV intends to move the team to Austin in 2019 and will need to find a temporary venue if that happens. PSV still faces a lawsuit from the City of Columbus and the Ohio attorney general over its planned move to Austin, however, meaning this saga is not over yet.

Detroit Lions join trend of cheaper concessions
The Detroit Lions are the latest NFL team to significantly cut back the price of concessions. Following in the footsteps of the Falcons and Ravens, the Lions have unveiled the Silver Savings programme at Ford Field for the 2018 season. As part of an extended strategy to get fans to come to the stadium earlier to ease traffic congestion, supporters will get the most significant savings – including $2 hot dogs and sodas along with $3 beers – during the first 60 minutes of the stadium opening on matchday (usually two hours before kick-off). The Lions spent time this spring examining lower concession prices with Levy, the concessionaire at Ford Field and the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

NFL national anthem saga rumbles on 
Meanwhile, there appears no end in sight to the NFL national anthem saga. Demonstrations continued during pre-season exhibition games late last week, leading US president Donald Trump to intervene on Twitter, saying players should be suspended without pay if they do not stand for the anthem. NFL Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith then said he has no interest in meeting a contrived deadline in an attempt to bring closure to the issue, which is highly unlikely to be resolved in time for the start of the new season.

NBA 2K League adds four teams for 2019
Despite a mixed first year, the NBA 2K League will expand next season, adding four teams. Franchises owned by the Hawks, Nets, Lakers and Timberwolves will join the esports venture, making it 21 of the 30 NBA franchises participating. Terms of entry for the second season are the same as the first: $750,000 for three years of participation, low by esports standards. According to a detailed report from ESPN, there has been disappointment within the league and industry by the 2K League’s low viewership and engagement – it averages around 10,500 viewers on Twitch – which has led to poor advertising and partnership sales.

Oakland A’s can thank third baseman for higher crowds
The Oakland Athletics are one of the most exciting teams in baseball yet they continue to play in front of small crowds. The announced attendance for Monday’s 7-6 win over the Seattle Mariners – which kept the team in sight of the play-offs – was just 10,400. A’s third baseman Matt Chapman used his post-match interview to plead with fans to come to more games. “We really want our fans to come out and support us,” he said. Chapman’s plea worked: the attendance jumped to 17,419 on Tuesday and 17,078 on Wednesday. In the long-term, of course, the front office needs creative ticketing ideas such as A’s Access to pay off for crowds to significantly rise ahead of a planned move to new stadium in 2023.

Also this week

  • Elon Musk’s Boring Company is planning to build a privately-funded tunnel from East Hollywood to Dodger Stadium that will take 1,500 fans to games in less than four minutes by electric pods
  • A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a local lawyer who was seeking to have David Beckham’s Miami MLS soccer stadium proposal removed from the November ballot. The team’s potential name, colours and logo have emerged
  • The Oct 14 NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks has been relocated to Wembley after the opening of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was delayed
  • The LeBron effect: the LA Lakers will have 43 games on national TV this season, three more than NBA champions the Golden State Warriors
  • Secondary-ticket marketplace Vivid Seats has secured its first NBA team partnership, striking a deal with the LA Clippers on a multi-year contract
  • Toronto is poised to join Atlanta as the latest North American franchise in the esports Overwatch League. Expansion fees have risen from $20m to a reported $35m
  • Cleveland Browns fans will get free Bud Lights, via specially-locked fridges that will be opened via smart technology, the moment the team wins their first NFL game of the season
  • There could be two third divisions in the US soccer pyramid next season. USL D3 has provided sanctioning paperwork to the USSF, while NISA is poised to submit its application
  • ESPN+ continues to expand its soccer coverage after picking up the rights to the Australian, Chinese and Dutch top divisions as well as the FA Cup.

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