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Ratings Expected To Fall For Draft, Rise For Derby

The 2020 NFL Draft brought in record viewership, while last year’s Kentucky Derby lost nearly half of its TV audience.

Russ Heltman

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The country is barreling towards the Summer months and sports television executives are hoping for a big weekend in the ratings. The NFL Draft and Kentucky Derby, happening this weekend, are traditionally two of the highest-rated events on the sports calendar this time of year.

Last year’s NFL Draft brought in a record audience of 8.4 million average viewers as the only game in town during the early days of the pandemic. On the other hand, the Kentucky Derby averaged 9.26 million viewers after being forced to run in the Fall, its lowest total since 2000.

The Athletic talked to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch regarding his thoughts on how viewership will shake out this time around. The longtime sports media evaluator predicted the NFL Draft’s opening round would average between 10-11 million viewers. All while he pegged the Kentucky Derby at 12-13 million average viewers. The opening round of the 2020 draft averaged 15.26 million viewers, a record for the event.

“Last year it was the lack of competition,” Lewis said regarding the record NFL draft viewership in 2020. “This year, they’re not going to have that advantage. There’s no way to replicate last year’s circumstances.”

Lewis doesn’t expect a huge increase to pre-pandemic Kentucky Derby levels because fans are likely fatigued from the race running eight months ago. On top of that, there isn’t much excitement surrounding the favored horses. 2020 was the first year the Kentucky Derby sank below 15 million average viewers since 2012.

“No one wants to watch these things in such a short period,” Lewis said to The Athletic. “There’s not a lot of hype for it.” 

The Kentucky Derby and plenty of other major sports have suffered big hits to their ratings. Yet Lewis believes the NFL has weathered this storm the best.

“Ultimately, everything on TV has been in decline, but the NFL is in the least decline.”

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Omaha Productions Building College Football Simulcast Around Pat McAfee

“Manning joked that the network doesn’t want McAfee. It wants Omaha Productions and Omaha wants McAfee.”

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ESPN is bringing its alternate broadcast strategy to college football. Peyton Manning appeared on The Pat McAfee Show Thursday to announce that McAfee and his crew would anchor six alternate broadcasts of major games for Omaha Productions on Saturday nights this season.

“We have officially agreed, alongside Omaha Productions, to simulcast six big-ass college football games this season,” McAfee said. “We will be on ESPN2. The main cast will be on ESPN. Omaha is obviously helping us along the way and we will be running it.”

McAfee said that when he was first approached by Manning he expressed shock that ESPN wanted him on the air. Manning joked that the network doesn’t want McAfee. It wants Omaha Productions and Omaha wants McAfee.

The shows have not yet been scheduled. Most games in college football’s power 5 conferences are not scheduled until the prior week. With the AP Top 25 and CFP Top 25 both changing regularly, they too will play a role in determining what goes into the primetime slot.

Pat McAfee and his crew will be live in their Indianapolis studio. The former punter at the West Virginia University said that the majority of people appearing on the alternate broadcast each week would be in studio, but there would be occasional guests.

“There’s gonna be give aways. There’s gonna be a lot of action I think during this,” he added.

Omaha Productions adds college football to the NFL and the US Open on its roster of alternate broadcasts. The company is also working on a future MMA alternate broadcast.

“I’m honored to be your teammate again, if you will,” Peyton Manning said in response to McAfee thanking him for the platform and opportunity. “You will kill this. You know this. Everybody is fired up to watch. I guarantee it!”

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ESPN Announces Bill Walton ’30 for 30′ Documentary

The Basketball Hall of Famer is viewed as one of the more eccentric figures in sports history.

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ESPN Films announced Thursday that production has begun on a new 30 for 30 documentary focused on Bill Walton.

The Basketball Hall of Famer is viewed as one of the more eccentric figures in sports history. Combined with his basketball prowess in both college and the NBA, and his love of The Grateful Dead, politics and activism, Walton is often a divisive figure in the sports broadcast world.

ESPN says Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Artis Gilmore, World B. Free,  Robert Parish, Jim Gray, Luke Walton, Jamal Wilkes, Brent Musberger, and Bob Ryan have all been interview subjects for the story.

The documentary will be directed by Steve James, who also directed Hoop Dreams, as well as Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.

No release date was revealed by ESPN. Walton has worked as a college basketball color commentator for the network since 2012. He had previously worked on ESPN’s NBA coverage from 2002-2009.

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Bob Costas Gets Choked Up While Telling a Vin Scully Story

“Just the pure love and connection was so touching,” Costas said.

Jordan Bondurant

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Bob Costas

The sports world was saddened to learn of broadcasting legend Vin Scully’s passing on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, tributes across sports media to the Dodgers icon came pouring in. Some could only hold in their emotions to the news but so well.

Bob Costas appeared on High Heat on MLB Network to remember his friend, and when talking about a particular memory that stood out in his mind, Costas got choked up.

The memory was from November 2016 when Scully received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President Barack Obama. Costas said Scully invited him and his wife Jill to attend the ceremony at the White House.

After the ceremony, and following an interview for CBS Sunday Morning, Costas said something wonderful happened.

“When Vin Scully walked back out of the Rose Garden and back into the White House, the conductor of the Marine Corps Band spots him and immediately he cues the band to play Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” Costas said. “But then he hands Vin the baton and Vin steps up on the podium and he’s at least figuratively conducting the Marine Corps Band.”

Costas said Scully’s wife, Sandy, photographed the moment, and then Costas started tearing up.

“Just the pure love and connection was so touching,” Costas said.

In the moment, Costas caught himself and tried to regain his composure.

“I can’t believe I’m choking up,” he said. “You’re not supposed to do that. Be professional, Bob.”

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