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How Tom Brady, the NBA, and an emerging ESPN could change sports fans’ viewing habits around the world

Best wishes for the New Year, sports media enthusiasts!

The unpredictable nature of media and sports is what makes them so intriguing. This is especially true in the digital age’s manufactured chaos.

This impacts networks, major corporations, and athletes. The landscape of sports media continues to evolve. What we are discussing by the end of the year may not even be on our radar at the start.

Therefore, here are five of the most intriguing stories I anticipate in 2023.

Does Tom Brady intend to join Fox Sports?
Even though Tom Brady has a $375 million broadcasting contract awaiting him if he chooses to retire, he will undoubtedly be courted by multiple teams following the season.

This is a $375 million question, and the odds favor…not this year. After his divorce from Gisele Bündchen, Brady’s continued participation in the NFL appears more likely. He might potentially retire and elect to take a year off, informing Fox Sports to hold his No. 1 spot on the top crew for the time being. There are also a number of influential individuals who believe, but do not know, that Brady will never work for Fox Sports. The idea of these individuals is that Brady took the Fox Sports money as a hedge against other things he may do after he retires.

Whatever Brady does, simply because he is Brady, will be a major story, which is precisely why Fox so desperately wanted him in the booth next to Kevin Burkhardt.

How does the NBA continue to progress?
The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver are anticipated to actively examine including a streaming service in their next media rights contract.

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The next NBA rights deal is unlikely to be decided in 2023, but by the end of that year, we may have a better idea of what the league will do when its contracts with ABC/ESPN and TNT expire after the 2024-25 season.

Evidently, the new partnerships will be different, and a streamer like as Amazon, Apple, or Google/YouTube will likely be involved. ABC/ESPN will want to maintain The Finals and the most important games, but they would likely be content with a modest price hike for a smaller quantity. Meanwhile, Turner’s future under Warner Bros. Discovery is an intriguing story in and of itself, since WBD’s president, David Zaslav, has stated that his business will only enter into a contract for the future and not the past. (More on this later.)

There is also a possibility that NBC will enter the game. With the return of broadcast television, may NBC and Peacock reach an agreement with the NBA? By this time next year, this may be more clearly defined.

What is Apple’s sports strategy?
Apple tested the waters of sports broadcasting with its Friday night MLB doubleheaders, but opted not to add the NFL Sunday Ticket package.

We are not fans of Apple’s current offerings, which consist of half-measures. This is merely an observation and not a criticism, as the network is still in its infancy in terms of sports coverage.

Last year’s MLB arrangement for Friday night doubleheaders was not for a large amount of money in Apple’s world, but given that Apple and MLB have chosen not to divulge any data, it is difficult to believe that it was a huge success.

More recently, they turned down the NFL for Sunday Ticket, which would have been their entry into the top sports entertainment programming, but it is difficult to understand how the $2 billion-plus annual cost was calculated. Therefore, Apple may have been wise to pass.

The potential game-changing 10-year, $2.5 billion arrangement with MLS begins this year. There are some in the industry who believe this will be disastrous, yet a worldwide subscription may make sense for a league with global objectives. If successful, Apple might use this as a model to acquire further games.

However, rights deals occur infrequently. Apple may not be able to replicate the MLS’s all-games-for-a-single-subscription structure, despite the possibility of their involvement in the NBA, for instance.

When does ESPN begin offering all of their programs directly to consumers?
ESPN is projected to be offered as a direct-to-consumer service within the next two years.
Icon Sportswire images from Getty Images

This is occurring. It is not a matter of if, but when. If the year is 2023, it is most certainly the end of the year. It would surprise me greatly if this is not completed by the end of 2024.

What does this signifier? ESPN would remain on cable, but it would also be available directly to those without cable. A service that would allow you to enjoy all of ESPN’s extensive programming, not just ESPN+.

Initial pricing for ESPN DTC would likely range between $19.99 to $29.99. And here’s the kicker: it paves the way for a larger drive to establish its own package of news, sports, and entertainment utilizing all of Disney’s assets.

5. What does Turner Sports’ future hold?
With David Zaslav now in control of Warner Bros. Discovery, Turner Sports’ strategy for next rights talks remains unknown.
Getty Pictures

Who the heck knows? is my current assessment. There are new leaders everywhere, from the chairman of Warner Bros. Discovery’s parent company, Zaslav, to the director of Turner Sports, Luis Silberwasser. Therefore, it would be premature to assume that this new Turner leadership team will conduct business as normal at this time. Does it? It very well may, and it will be a major player in the NBA, MLB, NHL, March Madness, and golf for years to come. However, it is unknown how the situation would evolve in the future as agreements must be renewed.

Could it collaborate with CBS on NBA coverage, like it does with college basketball? Could it refrain from signing new contracts, beginning with the NBA? Zaslav made it plain that he can live without basketball if he does not like what Adam Silver has to say.

There are questions. Turner has long been an under-the-radar sports media powerhouse. This may change in the near future.

 

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