Securing Rights To Broadcast Sports Still Dominates TV

Televised golf. To some, it means gripping action. To others, it's the reverse of baseball: Hitting a ball that isn’t moving. No matter. Viewers love the strategy, the intensity and the pent-up emotion of a long putt made against all odds.

A new contract for the PGA Tour had TV networks stumbling over each other to get a new deal — $680 million in a nine-year rights deal with CBS Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN. The deal included digital rights to ESPN+, ESPN's subscription-sports streaming service.

All this is slightly higher than the previous $400 million TV distribution deal with TV networks.

Why the boost? Steady TV advertising revenue, Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, told Variety: “We know each year that 70% is pre-sold ... and that’s a real advantage. It helps unwind any risk we would have and enables them to have a significant but fair rights increase.”



Risk? Yes. Just think about recent cancellations-postponements of events, including The Masters, the PGA has made in regard to coronavirus concerns.

Apart from this, the trend with sports on TV continues to be major rights deals: baseball, college and pro basketball, and football.

The latter is perhaps the premier sports with monster ratings for regular season action. So much so, a new pro football league, the XFL, has bet the house that new teams, with lesser-known players, would be enough for viewers craving more girdiron action in the spring.

Ratings for XFL?  Ho-hum. But we can be sure desperate TV marketers — still worried about traditional TV viewers moving to alternative video, non-video platforms, as well as video gaming — will be around.

Premium sports means live TV viewing — with a better chance for viewers to consume one’s precious and expensively placed TV commercials.

We already expect NFL new multiyear deals to come — with higher prices. That due to increase bidding from all legacy TV networks groups, as well as digital media powerhouses — Amazon, Facebook, perhaps Google and others.

What about other less-profile TV sports, especially those of more modest value — NHL, Nascar, track and field? Maybe esports events for those heavy videogamers will see rights fees rise, too.

Expect bigger wins — and dominating results — for sports leagues and sports producers.

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