What’s New, Monday News & Notes From NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA

April 27, 2020

2020 NFL Draft: Roger Goodell's wardrobe change was very confusing
Photo: USA Today

Sports fans have been itching for new live sports content, and with the NFL Draft likely being the main event on the calendar in April, they showed out in force.

The first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday averaged 15.6 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels and platforms. That easily surpassed the previous high of 12.4 million viewers set in 2014 and was up 37% compared to the 2019 draft.

The second day of the draft continued that success. An average of 8.2 million viewers watched the Friday night coverage on those same networks, an increase of 40% compared to 2019.

Figured for the third day of coverage have yet to be released. However, with an average of 11.6 million viewers through the first two days – up 37% compared to 2019 – the 2020 NFL Draft was on pace to be the most-viewed draft ever. For comparison, the 2019 NBA Finals averaged 15.1 million viewers in the U.S., while the 2019 World Series saw an average audience of just under 14 million.

The NBA is reopening team practice facilities beginning on Friday for players in states and municipalities that are loosening stay-at-home restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN.

Players can return to team facilities in states such as Georgia for voluntary individual workouts as soon as next week, which allows for NBA organizations to start allowing players to return to training in a professional, safe environment.

Teams will remain prohibited from holding group workouts or organized team activities.

The NCAA is moving closer to allowing Division I athletes to earn money from endorsement and sponsorships, which could be put in place as early as next year. A working group led by Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman and Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith put forth recommendations last week that will be reviewed by the NCAA Board Of Governors today and tomorrow.

NCAA is aiming to pass legislation by next January so it can take effect in 2021. Changes could still be made before January, the AP reported.

DraftKings Inc. is public the Boston-based sports-betting company jumped rose in its first trading day after completing a reverse merger with Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company. The $3.3 billion deal combining DraftKings and the gaming technology firm SBTech was approved Thursday. Its shares, after climbing as much as 18%, closed 10% to $19.35 in New York, giving the company a market value of $6.06 billion.

NBC Sports has turned to digital and social venues to rouse sports fans who can’t get their fix. The NBCUniversal-owned unit has been trying to galvanize fans with the hashtag #onehometeam, under which it distributes everything from a scavenger hunt to an invitation for fitness videos to people who might follow events associated with NBC Sports, such as hockey, football or the Olympics.

It’s important to recognize the difference in the games being streamed on Facebook Gaming and Twitch.

Twitch users often stream high-end games requiring PCs that cost thousands of dollars. This means many viewers are ‘hardcore gamers’, which drives advertising revenue from gaming companies (although it is worth noting that 50% of Twitch’s UK ad revenue comes from non-gaming brands).

Facebook’s games run off smartphones, which have a fraction of the power of gaming PCs. Therefore, the Gaming app is pitched more towards the casual gaming crowd with a real focus on personalities rather than skill. With a more casual gaming focus, there may be more room for non-gaming brands to get involved with Facebook’s offering.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is teaming up with ESL Gaming to host a virtual esports gaming challenge featuring players from all 31 league teams pitted against one another as they play EA Sports NHL 20, according to details shared with Marketing Dive. The program is sponsored by NHL official automotive partner Honda.

The first NHL Player Gaming Challenge presented by Honda launches on April 30 and will include a series of weekly matchups for broadcast on NBCSN​ and Sportsnet ONE and livestreamed on NHL’s Twitch and social channels​. Fans can follow along using the hashtag #HockeyAtHome.

As part of the effort, NHL and ESL will donate a combined $100,000 to support the CDC Foundation’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

The UFC was one of the last sporting organizations to entirely suspend operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, as UFC President Dana White has made multiple attempts to hold a fight card. One such effort, which included moving UFC 249 to Native American land in California, was only postponed after White said senior executives from Disney and ESPN asked him to “stand down.”

Now the MMA organization has seemingly fought its way back, announcing plans for three shows starting on May 9.

Oklahoma was the epicenter of live sports shutting down from the coronavirus pandemic. It was in that state where Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, and the game versus the Oklahoma City Thunder was stopped moments before tip-off, thus setting off a domino effect that has largely shuttered the industry.

It is also in Oklahoma where one of the first pro-level live competitions has returned, in the form of a Professional Bull Riders event this past weekend.

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