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ESPN Grabs Big Audience With WNBA Draft

“Beyond the 387,000 viewers on linear television, the WNBA Draft also drew 6.5 million video views on social media, up 165% from last year and 1.3 million minutes watched, a 237% increase from 2019.”

Brandon Contes

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While all the hype surrounds the looming NFL Draft, the WNBA posted very successful viewership numbers on ESPN last Friday night. According to the network, the WNBA’s virtual draft event drew its largest audience since 2004.

The 387,000 viewers represented a 123% jump year-over-year, also making it the highest-rated WNBA Draft on ESPN, which aired the event for the first time since 2011. 

Having the unanimous National Player of the Year Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon selected by the New York Liberty with the first overall pick likely played a role in the viewership spike. The added interest for the WNBA Draft also depicts a starvation for new sports content from fans who have not seen a college or pro game since March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Aligning with what the NFL Draft is expected to look like, the WNBA Draft was held virtually and remotely to practice social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of the global pandemic. 

Beyond the 387,000 viewers on linear television, the WNBA Draft also drew 6.5 million video views on social media, up 165% from last year and 1.3 million minutes watched, a 237% increase from 2019. With the WNBA’s virtual draft success, followed by The Last Dance premiering as the highest rated documentary ever on ESPN, it’s setting the stage for the NFL Draft to attract a giant audience beginning Thursday night.

Sports TV News

FOX Sued for Patent Infringement Over NFL Scheduling

“Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.”

Jordan Bondurant

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An analytics company is suing FOX over claims that the network developed a mapping tool using their patented technology to create a season slate of NFL games.

Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.

The lawsuit claims FOX used access to Recentive’s predictive analytics tools to develop a resource of their own that would create optimal schedules for its 1 and 4 p.m. NFLwindows.

The company is seeking a declaration that FOX infringed on two of its patents. Recentive is also suing for damages and wants an injunction keeping FOX from using Recentive tech and preventing the network from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by the patents.”

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Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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