Peacock Adds NBC Sports Channel

Peacock has added a new exclusive free channel: NBC Sports on Peacock.

Debuting Aug. 24, the channel will stream daytime live sports talk programming, including “PFT Live with Mike Florio,” “The Dan Patrick Show” and “The Rich Eisen Show.” In September, “Brother From Another” and “PFT PM” will join the lineup.

From the creators of “Pro Football Talk Live,” “PFT PM” delivers the latest news from around the league. The show is hosted by Mike Florio and regularly features Charean Williams, Peter King, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy and Chris Simms.

“Peacock provides live topical sports conversations all day, every weekday, from the best and most experienced personalities in sports,” Rick Cordella, EVP and chief revenue officer for Peacock, said in a statement. “We’re excited to launch the NBC Sports Channel on Peacock with this unique and exclusive content, who provide the fans the latest commentary and opinion on everything that is happening in the world of sport.”

The NBC Sports on Peacock schedule includes “PFT Live with Mike Florio” 7 a.m.-9 a.m. ET, “The Dan Patrick Show” 9 a.m.-noon ET, “The Rich Eisen Show” noon-3 p.m. ET (exclusivity begins Oct. 5), “Brother From Another” 3 p.m.-6 p.m. ET, and “PFT PM” 6 p.m.-7 p.m. ET.

Shows will be available on demand in addition to streaming live. Highlights from NBC Sports Channel on Peacock will also be featured in the service’s Trending section, a hub for short-form content that is updated on a daily basis and includes sports highlights, pop culture updates, and shorter interview and news segments.

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Upcoming live sports on Peacock includes coverage of golf’s U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, Premier League, an NFL Wild Card Playoff Game, and select events from the upcoming Tokyo and Beijing Olympics. Fans can also watch on demand replays of events such as Triple Crown horse races, daily highlights from NBC Sports, and hundreds of hours of sports series, documentaries and films such as Tiger Woods: Chasing History; 1968; I Am AliDream TeamBeing EvelFeherty; Willie; and Peacock Originals Lost Speedways and In Deep with Ryan Lochte.

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Consumers can sign up for Peacock for free at peacocktv.com. Peacock is currently available on Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices including Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; and Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs. Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, as well as eligible Cox Contour customers, enjoy Peacock Premium included with their service at no additional cost.

ESPN+ Raising Subscription Price in August

Despite a dearth of live sports programming, Disney reportedly is set to raise the price of subscription streaming service ESPN+ by $1 to $5.99 monthly beginning in August. The new price would equal the monthly fee for Hulu basic with advertising. The annual $49.99 fee stays the same. Existing ESPN+ subs would be grandfathered into the new price point after one year, according to The Verge, which first reported the price hike, citing sources.

Launched in 2018, ESPN+ features streaming access to 20 sports, including the PGA Tour, UFC, NBA and NFL, and ended March with 7.9 million subs.

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Disney has been aggressively marketing the service bundled with Hulu and Disney+ for $12.99 — a move research firm eMarketer contends will drive ESPN+ subs to 15 million by the end of the year. Disney is also offering standalone ESPN+ subs access to Hulu and Disney+ for $9.99 monthly.

eMarketer contends 36.5 million people in the country will watch live sports digitally this year (when they resume) — including 23.7% watching via digital channels.

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Cinedigm to Promote Sports-Themed Whistle TV

Cinedigm is continuing to help third-party over-the-top video platforms gain distribution. The streaming video/home entertainment distributor announced a partnership with Team Whistle, a media and entertainment company that includes Whistle, Tiny Horse, New Form and Vertical Networks, to accelerate the distribution of its Whistle TV streaming service.

Whistle TV is an OTT linear and VOD sports and entertainment network featuring original shows and library content from studios, networks and leagues across the industry.

Whistle TV claims to fill a void in the market by combining brand safe sports, entertainment and lifestyle content.

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Cinedigm will work with Team Whistle to significantly expand Whistle TV’s nationwide distribution on linear, AVOD and SVOD platforms on connected TVs, digital set-top boxes, media-streaming devices, and Web-based and online OTT services. Further extending the partnership, Cinedigm will also distribute select Whistle TV films and series in North America across the broader OTT landscape.

Whistle TV is currently live on Samsung TV Plus, Vizio SmartCast and Sinclair Broadcast Group’s STIRR.

With the recent acquisitions of New Form and Vertical Networks in 2019, and most recently Tiny Horse in 2020, Team Whistle bolstered its portfolio of IP and studio, interactive, advertising and marketing services capabilities.

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“As we continue to drive innovation and growth of the streaming sector amidst a once-in-a-generation period of change, we are constantly looking for partners that represent where the business is headed,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Team Whistle’s premium content, massive scale and unmatched marketing make them a fantastic partner as we reinvent television together.”

Whistle’s premium original programming includes “No Days Off,” “My Hustle,” “Dunk League” and “Bad Jokes”. The platform also streams niche NCAA sports as well as arm wrestling and kickboxing.

Feature-length movies and documentaries include inspirational sports movies and TV series from studios, festivals and distribution companies such as The Modern Game, Wrestling with Life and Destination Team USA.

“Whistle TV is a first of its kind OTT network,” said Michael Cohen, president of Team Whistle. “Our goal is to deliver the content our audience craves where, when and how they want it. Cinedigm understands this, has extraordinary distribution relationships, and is the perfect partner to help us achieve our goals.”

Germany’s Bundesliga Soccer to Resume on May 16

Germany’s Bundesliga professional soccer league is set to become one of the first sports organizations in the world to resume play on May 16. All remaining nine weekend games of the season will be played in empty stadiums for televised and streaming video audiences. The league has been suspended since March 13.

The German Football Association says the matches would run under strict health protocols, including requiring players have regular COVID-19 tests.

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Comcast’s Sky Deutschland will broadcast all games live in Germany and Austria. Pay-TV operator BT Sports has Bundesliga rights in the U.K. is reportedly considering broadcasting the games for free (with ads).

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Report: Sports TV Viewers Turn to News, Religion Programming During Pandemic

When the NCAA on March 17 canceled the men’s and women’s college basketball tournament, known as “March Madness,” sports viewers turned their attention to news, according to new data from 605, a television measurement and analytics company.

The report found that among viewers of college basketball, there was a 43% decrease in viewership of sports talk and documentary programs in 2020 from the same period in 2019. The same demo upped its consumption of news programming 32.3% compared to 2019.

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Notably, the news viewing increase was larger than the news viewership increase (30.6%) by the general public. Among 2019 “March Madness” viewers: 64.8% more households are watching CNN; 36.7% more are watching Fox News and 11.7% more are watching MSNBC.

Domestic household minutes spent viewing news increased 31.5% in March from the previous-year month. 605 said the data resulted in a 79% increase in households watching CNN; a 44% uptick for Fox News; and a 20.1% increase for MSNBC since February.

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“With more Americans staying home, there is an obvious expectation of increased TV viewership,”Noah Levine, chief revenue officer at 605, said in a statement.

As the number of households staying home grew, a similar increase in increase in religious programming viewership emerged — up 44.5% in the last week of March compared to the first week.

The reports that 4.56 million homes surveyed watched less than five minutes of religious programming in March 2019, with the genre now up 6.7% in 2020.

Roku: Idle TV Sports Viewers Streaming More Movies, TV Shows

With professional (or any) sports on television an early victim of the coronavirus pandemic, new data from Roku suggests linear TV viewers suddenly denied access to sports of any kind have embraced streaming TV shows and movies more aggressively than other Roku subscribers.

March 2020 Week 1 vs. March 2020 Week 3

NBA and NHL linear TV viewers increased their non-sports streaming on Roku among the following genres, respectively:
News: 92.15%, 119.83%
Film & TV: 74.92%, 67.56%
Lifestyle: 66.74%, 51.92%
Live TV: 52.88%, 60.12%
Music: 42.99%, 63.53%
Reality: 41.11%, 30.29%
Kids: 33.48%, 31.29%
International: 23.42%, 34.25%
Comedy: 15.04%, 19.66%
Sports: -49.99%, -71.42%

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“Roku users who watched the NHL or NBA on linear TV in February increased streaming hours on the Roku platform faster than the average Roku user,” Dan Robbins VP, ad marketing & partner solutions, wrote in an April 2 blog.

Robbins said that while overall linear TV usage among sports viewers is flat, they are watching more film, lifestyle, music and news on the Roku platform.

Roku had more than 30 million active accounts in the most-recent fiscal period. It added 1.4 million net accounts in the quarter. Viewers streamed 500 million more hours in Q2 than in the previous-year period, or 9.4 billion hours total.

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Robbins said Roku users who watched the 2019 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament (“March Madness”) on linear TV also streamed more video this March.

“Over the last three weeks, these fans shifted their prime time viewing to entertainment channels in the film & TV genre,” he wrote.

NBC Sports Gold SVOD Service Offering Free Access to Catalog Programming

Jonesing for sports during a pandemic? With no live sports available to stream anywhere on the planet, NBC Sports is going to the vault for PGA Golf, motocross, soccer, cycling, Indy Light racing, Nascar, skiing, track & field, and lacrosse video action.

NBC Sports Gold, the direct-to-consumer streaming service, March 26 announced free access to nine sports passes featuring commercial-free and on-demand content, including full-event replays, classic games, tournaments, races and original programming. All of it catalog fare.

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The NBC Sports Gold app available in the U.S. on Apple iOS & tvOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast and NBCSportsGold.com, and also on Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex.

The nine passes include:
PGA TOUR LIVE (through May 17)
Includes 250+ hours of archived content, including condensed replays of tournaments from the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons. “Return of the Roar,” a documentary chronicling Tiger Woods’ return to the top of the sport at the 2018 TOUR Championship
New, weekly content from the PGA TOUR archives

Premier League (soccer) through April 30. More than 150 pieces of long-form content, including dozens of classic matches and full-event replays from select 2019-20 matches. More than 50 episodes of “Premier League World,” 12 episodes of Gary Neville’s “Soccerbox,” and 11 episodes of “PL Legends.”

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Pro Motocross (through May 1) featuring all races from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

IndyCar (through May 31) featuring main races, qualifying races, practices, and Indy Lights from the entire 2019 season and select classic races. Condensed replays of all races from the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and episodes of “Off the Grid” and “Inside IndyCar.”

TrackPass (through May 1) featuring full-event replays of all races since TrackPass launched in December 2019. Nearly 50 long-form documentaries on Nascar stars, venues, and stories. Condensed replays of every AFT, IMSA WeatherTech, K&N and Modified race from the 2019 season will also be made available shortly.

Snow (through May 1) includes full-event replays of nearly every FIS and IBU World Cup stop in 2019-20. Full-event replays of 2019 Alpine, Biathlon, Cross-Country, Freestyle, Nordic Combined, Ski Jumping, and Snowboarding World Championships.

Premier Lacrosse League (through April 9) featuring full-event replays of every game in the league’s inaugural season, the All-Star Game, Skills Competition and 2019 Draft.

Cycling (through May 1) features full-event replays of some of the biggest races in cycling, including the Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Paris-Nice. Replays of the UCI Road, Track Cycling, Cyclo-Cross and Mountain Bike World Championships, and the Track Cycling and Cyclo-Cross World Cup.

Track and Field (through April 25) full-event replays of every Final from the 2019 IAAF World Championships. Select components of every 2019 Diamond League stop. Full-event replays of the 2019 Chicago, Berlin, Prague, London, Hamburg, Boston, and Rotterdam Marathons, and the 2020 Tokyo Marathon and 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon.

The Night Sports Turned Off the Lights

The evening of March 11 seemed like any normal night for Disney-owned ESPN, with evening NBA telecasts between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder, and Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively, rounding out a broadcast schedule that was preceded by the University of North Carolina playing Syracuse University in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

College game commentators Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale went through their paces discussing the NCAA’s decision to run the pending March Madness national basketball tournament without spectators due the spreading coronavirus pandemic. The news overshadowed an upset in the making on the court as the storied N.C. Tar Heels were being dominated by the visiting Orange.

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Then came the bombshell: the NBA was suspending its season indefinitely after a player on the Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. With games in Oklahoma City and Sacramento canceled before they began, and Jazz players and team officials quarantined in their locker room by health officials (a second Jazz player would test positive a day later), ESPN toggled between its headquarters in Bristol, Conn., Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Greensboro giving updates on the rapidly changing situation.

“I’ve loved [college basketball] for 40-something years,” Vitale said. “I never in my wildest dreams would think that I would say the NCAA tournament should be canceled, but it should be. There’s no doubt it should be. Health and safety is a priority. That’s the No. 1 priority. The NCAA has got to act and act quick.”

Indeed, within the next 24 hours the NCAA and most professional leagues (MLB, NHL, MLB, XFL, Nascar, PGA Tour and Association of Tennis Professionals, etc.), the Boston Marathon and high school sports competition in the United States had been either shut down or postponed for the next 30 days or longer.

With President Trump March 13 declaring a national emergency regarding COVID-19, ESPN and ESPN+, the brand’s subscription streaming video platform, and other sports TV networks were left with a gaping content hole that not even endless coronavirus chatter could fill.

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“This is an unprecedented situation,” ESPN said in a statement. “We have great relationships with our league partners and are confident we can address all issues constructively going forward. Our immediate focus is on everyone’s safety and well-being.”

The network March 12 aired its venerable “SportsCenter” program non-stop interviewing (now) idle coaches and game analysts around the country — many backtracking earlier comments that they felt the games should continue.

Fox Sports shuttered until March 20 all studio show productions due to the virus. NBCUniversal, Netflix and Amazon, among other media companies, advised their employees to work from home going forward.

With most of Hollywood shutting down content production to safeguard employees, and AT&T mandating that all employees (including WarnerMedia Entertainment) work from home if possible, the COVID-19 fiscal impact on the entertainment industry and the U.S. economy in general remains to be seen.

“In terms of impact on media, it really depends on how the virus plays out,” Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, told The Wall Street Journal. “The NBA and major media companies will have to focus on the health and safety of their employees and stakeholders. That will drive all decision-making.”

XFL Cancels Reboot Season, Vows 2021 Return

WWE founder Vince McMahon’s alternative professional football league, the XFL, is canceling the remainder of its inaugural season due to the coronavirus. The move follows other professional sports leagues and organizations shutting down venues and events to help thwart the spread of the pandemic that has infected more than 125,000 people and killed about 5,000.

Games have been streamed on Disney-owned ESPN’s ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.

With many state and local governments issuing moratoriums on large gatherings of people (limited to 250 or less), the decision was largely out of McMahon’s hands.

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“Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games,” the league said in a statement. “However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit towards future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”

The XFL, which had completed five weeks of its season, was scheduled to hold its championship game on April 26. The NFL doesn’t begin play until September.

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Netflix to Bow Documentary Series on Tennis Star Naomi Osaka

Netflix will bow an untitled documentary series on tennis star Naomi Osaka, in association with Uninterrupted and produced by Film 45.

The series follows multiple-Grand Slam-champion Naomi Osaka, who became the first Asian player to reach the No. 1 singles ranking after winning her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open in 2018 and second at the Australian Open in 2019.

The documentary series also gives audiences a window into the life of a global tennis superstar. It will cover Naomi’s pivotal year, from the U.S. Open in August 2019 and on tour with the tennis star as she plays in each of the Grand Slams and prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, Osaka emigrated from Japan to the United States as a child, where she rose to become the first Asian player to reach the heights of international tennis. The series follows Naomi to Japan to understand her connection with the country she represents and the reflections of her multi-cultural identity.

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“To be able to tell my story and let people in during this big year, working with a team that really understands me, has been a rewarding experience,” said Osaka in a statement. “It won’t look like a traditional sports documentary, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone.”

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The series is directed by Garrett Bradley whose short film Alone was shortlisted for an Academy Award. At Sundance 2020, Bradley won Best Director for her U.S. documentary feature in competition TIME.