Evidence suggests they are right.
Through five games of the regular NFL season, ratings are higher. Not crazy high. But it is up 6% to 16.8 million Nielsen viewers. That’s a big result.
Even Major League Baseball -- which in recent years hasn’t posted anywhere near the best TV metrics among top U.S. sports -- has seen growth. For example, for the post-game season so far, Fox Sports is up 17% to 3.6 million viewers.
Specifically, Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” -- into its second year of its contract -- has shown the best gains of any of the NFL TV packages, up 16%.
Then think about the new NBA season, which is soon to start. The massive amount of big talent, high-profile moves in a number of teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, will mean keen interest, not only in the post-season, but early regular-season contests.
Even at slightly lower sports-viewing levels -- considering cord-cutting or other media erosion -- monetizing sports programming though advertising and/or subscription fees will continue to be a big deal.
Take NBCSN’s the Tour de France in July. It grew 11% to an averaged 359,000 viewers on NBC and NBCSN, up 8% from 2017’s 331,000, and the highest average since 2015: 395,000. This comes even with any notable U.S. cyclist competing for any big results -- overall or any of the 21 daily stages.
Now consider esports programming, which attracts not just at-site live fans, but slowly improving TV ratings -- as well as obvious higher digital media consumption.
That's why the XFL, an NFL wannabe competitor, is trying again to take on the big sport franchise -- even after dramatically falling the first time around.
Growing legalized sports gambling is also a factor.
If you are a national TV brand advertiser, or a newby sports TV marketer, you’ll be happy to have a place to go for live, premium TV content, thus avoiding the faster declines that nonsports, scripted/unscripted programming has seen in recent years.