Rayburn: Diamond Sports restructures with Amazon investment, Pay TV still reigns for NFL viewership

Dan Rayburn Industry Voices

Welcome to the latest installment of a new weekly insights column on StreamTV Insider from streaming industry analyst Dan Rayburn, where he puts facts and figures to the news you need to know about. Join the discussion on LinkedIn and check back each week as he unpacks key industry happenings.

Here’s what Rayburn is tracking for the week of January 15, 2024: 90+% of NFL viewership still comes from pay TV; 2024 Super Bowl won’t be free to stream; Diamond Sports Group restructures debt and partners with Amazon.

NFL Wild Card game viewership numbers across NBC, FOX, ESPN, and Peacock are out, and pay TV is seeing record viewership.

🏈 FOX, 43.4 million (peak viewers)
🏈 NBC, 38.3 million (peak viewers)
🏈 ESPN, 28.6 million (viewers)
🏈 Peacock, 24.6 million (peak viewers)

  • ESPN’s NFL Wild Card game on Monday, January 15, between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers generated more than 28.6 million viewers across ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+ and NFL+, ESPN’s second most-watched NFL playoff game. ESPN does not break out pay TV versus digital viewership for any of their NFL games.
  • FOX Sports NFL Wild Card game on Sunday, January 14, between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys peaked at 43.4 million viewers, making it the best Wild Card game for FOX since 2015. FOX does not break out pay TV versus digital viewership for any of their NFL games.
  • NBC Sports NFL Wild Card game on Sunday, January 14, between the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams peaked at 38.3 million viewers across NBC, Peacock, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms. Across Peacock, NBC Sports Digital platforms, and NFL Digital platforms, the AMA for the game was 3.9 million viewers.
  • Peacock’s NFL Wild Card game on Saturday, January 13, between the Chiefs and Dolphins peaked at 24.6 million viewers across Peacock, NBC stations in Miami and Kansas City and on mobile with NFL+. Peacock had 16.3 million concurrent devices.

Key takeaway: For all the recent talk of NFL streaming, digital viewership makes up less than 10% of all viewers when the game isn’t exclusive to a streaming-only platform. Pay TV still generates the largest viewership for NFL games and sports.

2024 Super Bowl will require subscription to Paramount+, NFL+ or TV Everywhere account to stream

CBS Sports announced it will deliver Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, February 11, in 1080p HDR and 4K HDR, making the 1080p HDR feed available across most platforms and will supply various MVPDs and vMVPDs with the 4K HDR feed. The national stream will be available at 1080P60 HDR, but not 4K. The upconverted 4K stream will only be picked up by distribution partners like YouTube TV. Paramount+ will not have a 4K stream.

I can confirm that streaming the Super Bowl via the CBS Sports app will be the TV Everywhere authenticated stream, which will point to a local affiliate. Paramount+ will still have the free trial available to sign up for the day of the game and will have both the local affiliate feeds, which is the case for standard NFL games, and a national stream. Paramount+ will not stream the Super Bowl in upconverted 4K; it will be 1080P60 HDR.

Key takeaway: OTT services are looking to sports to drive subscriptions, with the Super Bowl being the latest sports event to do so. Unlike the NFL Wild Card game that was exclusive to Peacock and required users to pay for a subscription, Paramount+ will have a free trial offer.

Diamond Sports Group restructures debt and gets minority investment from new partner Amazon.

Big news from Diamond Sports Group. The company has entered into a Restructuring Support Agreement (RSA) with its largest creditor groups, enabling Diamond to emerge from bankruptcy. As part of the terms, Amazon has also committed to making a minority investment (no details were given, and the media is reporting different numbers ranging from $100M to $125M) in Diamond and entering into a commercial arrangement to provide access to Diamond’s services via Prime Video.

Under this arrangement, Prime Video will become Diamond’s primary partner through which customers can purchase DTC access to stream local Diamond channels. Customers will be able to access all local DTC content, including live MLB, NBA, and NHL games, and pre-and post-game programming for the teams for which Diamond retains DTC rights through Prime Video Channels.

Diamond also announced that it has an agreement in principle with its parent, Sinclair, to settle the pending lawsuit between the companies and the other named defendants. Under the settlement, among other things, Sinclair will pay Diamond $495 million in cash and provide ongoing management and transition services to support Diamond’s reorganization and separation from Sinclair’s operations. The court must approve any proposed deal since Diamond is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Key takeaway: Diamond owns the streaming rights to 5 of the 9 MLB teams it is still broadcasting, including the Detroit Tigers, the Kansas City Royals, the Miami Marlins, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Tampa Bay Rays. It is unclear if viewers in those markets would need to pay more than the Prime membership to access those games. Diamond said additional details regarding pricing and availability will be announced later. There is no guarantee that MLB, NBA and the NHL will continue to work with Bally Sports past this year.

Other news highlights:

  • Ten months after MultiChoice, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Sky announced a joint streaming vision for Africa, the new Showmax service will launch on January 23.
  • Based on the numbers that have been released, Peacock's exclusive NFL Wild Card game would be 11th on the list of the largest streamed events on the Internet, using the 16.3 million concurrent devices number for Peacock.
  • Major League Soccer announced the launch of MLS Innovation Lab, a program designed to shape the future of sports by identifying cutting-edge startups and advanced technologies.
  • During Sony’s Global Press Conference at CES, the company announced they now have 13 million paid subscribers to Crunchyroll.
  • Fubo has announced a $5/month price increase for their Pro, Elite, and Premier plans for new and returning subscribers beginning on January 10 and a $1/month price increase for content tied to RSNs and STARZ.

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Dan Rayburn is an analyst in the streaming media industry, with regular TV appearances on CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Schwab Network amongst others. He is conference Chairman for the NAB Show Streaming Summit in Las Vegas each year, and his streamingmediablog.com website is one of the most widely read sites for broadcasters, content owners, OTT providers, Wall Street money managers, and industry executives. He also has a podcast at danrayburnpodcast.com. He can be reached at [email protected]

Dan Rayburn’s Streaming Analysis & Insights is an opinion column. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of StreamTV Insider.