12/16/20: FO and Univision saw viewership upticks for the MLS Cup


Medias First Morning Read


Wednesday December 16, 2020

Major League Soccer saw gains for the MLS Cup over the weekend. The Crew’s victory saw a 30% rise on FOX, delivering 1,071,000 viewers to the broadcast channel to rank as the third most-viewed MLS Cup on English language since 2010. Meanwhile, the 2020 MLS Cup on UniMas delivered 459,000 viewers, for a 2% uptick on Univision and up 137% over the 2018 MLS Cup on UniMas. That ranks as the most viewed MLS Cup on Univision Networks since 2016.


In other ratings news, ESPN’s Monday Night Football delivered an audience of 12,422,000 for the Ravens and Browns matchup. Viewership was up 9% from last year’s MNF Week 14 game and marks the fourth consecutive week MNF has delivered year-over-year growth.

ESPN cemented its lineup of SportsCenter anchors for 2021, with changes that will include Sage Steele shifting to the noon edition of the show as co-anchor (where she also picks up duties for a new ESPN+ interview program) and joining Matt Barrie while Elle Duncan will hit the 6p edition in February.

CBS Sports and Nickelodeon are teaming up to offer a slime-filled presentation of the National Football League’s Wild Card game on Jan. 10, at 4:30p. The NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon offers kid-focused content and Nick-themed elements throughout, including a special halftime presentation, guest reporters and original on-field graphics, virtual filters and more. The NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon will run alongside CBS Sports’ broadcast of the game on the broadcast channel. Noah Eagle will be joined by analyst Nate Burleson and Nick star Gabrielle Nevaeh Green in the booth to call action. Nick star Lex Lumpkin will serve as a reporter during the game. Nickelodeon’s coverage begins with “The SpongeBob SportsPants Countdown Special,” a sports-themed compilation special at 4p hosted by the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller.

ESPN is reportedly looking to shake up its broadcast partnership with Major League Baseball in its upcoming new deal, per the New York Post. The current deal expires in 2021, and the report states that the new contract includes exclusive coverage for the first round of an expanded playoffs featuring 14 teams. ESPN would reduce the overall number of games in its package to somewhere between 30 and 40 with a focus on marquee Sunday night fixtures in addition to maintain rights to the Home Run Derby.

GOLF Channel rolls out a new, live daily program on Jan. 4 titled Golf Today. Shane Bacon will join GOLF Channel and NBC Sports beginning in 2021 and will serve as a co-host for Golf Today along with fellow hosts Damon Hack, Anna Whiteley and Jimmy Roberts. Bacon will also be a part of Golf Central Live From coverage and will provide play-by-play commentary and reports during GOLF Channel live tournament coverage.

Meanwhile, NBC Sports and U.S. Figure Skating revealed the broadcast schedule for the 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships, showcasing more than 20 hours of coverage during the month of January. Coverage will kick off with the live broadcast of the 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which begins on NBCSN on Jan. 14 at 6p. In total for the 2020-21 season, NBC Sports will present nearly 100 hours of figure skating coverage on TV, with 30+ hours on NBC and 40+ hours on NBCSN.

ESPN X Games announced that X Games Aspen 2021 will return to Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen Snowmass for the 20th-consecutive year from Jan. 29-31 with athletes competing in 14 disciplines live on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, X Games Aspen 2021 will be closed to the public and produced with comprehensive COVID-19 risk mitigation protocols in place for participants and staff.

ESPN+ and the PGA TOUR entered into an accord for ESPN+ to stream live, featured-hole coverage from 23 PGA TOUR events in 2021, starting with the Farmers Insurance Open in January and continuing through the FedExCup Playoffs and the TOUR Championship in September. In 2021, ESPN+ will stream coverage of two featured holes on Saturday and Sunday of each event (selected each day of competition by the PGA TOUR), concurrent with the full telecast on CBS or NBC.

CBS Sports HQ delivers nine hours of live streaming coverage today dedicated to the start of the Early Signing Period. Programming begins at 9a with Barton Simmons, Steve Wiltfong, Bud Elliott, and Josh Pate, along with CBS Sports Digital analysts Brady Quinn and Bryant McFadden.

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Lone Star Sports & Entertainment and ESPN Events signed Mercari, Inc. to serve as the new title sponsor of the Texas Bowl, an annual collegiate postseason showdown between teams from the Big 12 Conference and the Southeastern Conference. Entering its 15th year, the Mercari Texas Bowl is owned and operated by ESPN Events. The game will be played on Dec. 31, at 8p at NRG Stadium in Houston and will air on ESPN.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference and USAA are teaming up for a new sponsorship agreement that makes USAA the Official Military Appreciation Partner of the SWAC. As part of the agreement, USAA will have exclusive rights in the property and casualty insurance, banking, and life insurance categories. USAA’s sponsorship extends to the SWAC eSports league, and Football and Basketball conferences as the Official Insurance Partner of the SWAC serving military families. As part of the sponsorship agreement, USAA will lead military appreciation efforts, as well as offer career advancement opportunities, extending to both students and alumni.


DAZN sold The Sporting News to Pax Holdings, an investment firm based in the UK and Hong Kong. Front Office Sports reports that Pax will acquire 100% of Sporting News’ operation through the deal.


The LCS seasonal format is getting an update in 2021, with Riot announcing that its regular season will now expand for five games a day for three days a week, running Friday through Sunday, beginning with a condensed Spring Split while the Spring Playoffs and Finals will become the LCS Mid-Season Showdown with the MSS winner earnig the year’s first LCS championship title and be the only team to represent NA at the Mid-Season Invitational. The new Summer Split regular season will now consist of a triple Round Robin over nine weeks, capped with the LCS Championship, which pulls the top-seeded teams from Spring and Summer combined. In addition, the company is launching LCS Lock In, a three-week season kick-off tournament.

Misfits Gaming Group is heading toward ESPAT TV’s Creative Collective, lending its media representation rights across all properties for streaming services and distribution. “While their focus remains on the gaming and esports industry, ESPAT TV‘s influence and prominence spans much further; and that’s why we are extremely proud to call them a partner,” said Ben Spoont, CEO and co-founder of Misfits Gaming Group. “Their distribution is second-to-none and collectively, we look forward to continuing to push the industry forward by reaching new audiences, and creating content that esports fans are excited to watch.”

Blizzard announced that with the launch of the fourteenth year of the Arena World Championship, the company is expanding to two seasons culminating in the AWC: Shadowlands 2021 Grand Finals next Fall, with a $900,000 total prize pool up for grabs for the year. In addition, the Mythic Dungeon International is removing regional distinctions to create a global competition with two standalone seasons and one-off tournaments, providing players from around the world multiple chances to take home their share of over $750,000.

The 2021 BLAST Premier Championship will offer competitors a total prize pool of $2,475,000, according to tournament organizers, running from Feb.-Dec. next year. Play begins with BLAST Premier Spring Groups starting Feb. 4.


The Atlantic Coast Conference named James J. Phillips, Ph.D., the Combe Family Vice President for Athletics & Recreation at Northwestern University, as the conference’s next commissioner. Phillips succeeds John Swofford, head of the ACC since 1997, who earlier this year announced he would retire in June 2021 after spending nearly 25 years as ACC commissioner. “Jim is one of the most talented athletic administrators in the country and uniquely qualified to successfully and seamlessly take over the helm of the ACC,” says ACC Board Chair Kent Syverud (Syracuse University). “Over the course of nearly 13 years, Jim has elevated and cemented Northwestern’s position as an outstanding Power 5 athletics program. Northwestern’s ascension in the world of intercollegiate athletics is a testament to Jim’s vision, leadership and foundational dedication to the success of student-athletes. The ACC is fortunate to have someone of Jim’s caliber and integrity lead the conference at this pivotal moment in intercollegiate athletics.”

Endeavor announced a strategic investment in sports agency BDA Sports Management that will see agent Bill Duffy serve as a strategic advisor to WME Sports. In his new role, Duffy will continue overseeing BDA and provide strategic leadership and counsel across the WME Sports basketball practice.

FanDuel Group announced the appointment of marketing and communications veteran Chris Jones as Vice President of Corporate Communications. Jones now leads communications, corporate affairs and the company’s developing corporate social responsibility strategy across FanDuel’s portfolio of online and retail brands within its Daily Fantasy Sports, Sportsbook and Casino businesses.

Charlotte Football Club announced that Nick Kelly has been named club president. Kelly will be responsible for the team’s day-to-day business operations.

Excel Sports Management is expanding its reach with a strategic minority growth investment from Shamrock Capital. “Shamrock’s experience in the sports, media and entertainment sectors aligns perfectly with our vision for growth,” said Jeff Schwartz, President and Founder, Excel Sports Management. “We have built an incredible team of people at Excel and this investment will allow us to leverage Shamrock’s strategic advice, add resources to amplify our offerings and execute on the tremendous opportunity we see in the sports and media landscape.”


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