With the World Cup kicking off in June and sports networks with any connection to fútbol joining in on the hype, you might not call soccer an up-and-coming sport. But its presence is certainly growing. NBCSN has defined itself with marketing and broadcasting the English Premier League (by making, for the first time, all EPL games available to subscribers); ESPN, in addition to its Champions League Coverage, has taken every opportunity to air specials, series and relevant games leading up to the World Cup; and, according to SportsBusiness Daily, Major League Soccer chief Don Garber said the league negotiated a recent rights increase of more than 50%. For the new network One World Sports, airing the North America Soccer League’s NY Cosmos and soccer programming surrounding the globe’s most popular teams, like AC Milan and Arsenal, is part of their branding and relaunch. Operators are getting in the game as well. Time Warner Cable airs the games of the MLS team LA Galaxy, and it just became the home of the Columbus Crew.
Given that Showtime’s PPV boxing match with Floyd Mayweather against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez earned record revenues last September, Showtime Sports evp, gm Stephen Espinoza is naturally quite optimistic about the sport’s future. But there’s also HBO, and now DirecTV wants in. In March, the DBS op said the Nevada State Athletic Commission has sanctioned the new sports venture Big-Knockout Boxing (BKB). The new form of boxing matches two fighters in a smaller area, with shorter, two-minute rounds. The company is discussing holding events in Nevada in 2014 and 2015. Moreover, the proliferation of new networks targeting multicultural Millennials (and a good chunk of that includes Hispanic), we may see more of the sport soon enough. Fusion, El Rey Network and digital network Flama are a few.
“Believe it or not, the top ten exclusive events on ESPN3 are all cricket,” said John Kosner, EVP of ESPN Digital & Print Media, in his opening remarks prior to a panel from ESPNcrininfo on March 21. The event celebrated the rivalry between India and Pakistan at the ICC World Twenty20 Tournament on ESPN2. In 2014, ESPN will carry the United States of America Cricket Association championships on ESPN3 exclusively.
You may not have played it when you were young, but your kids probably do. So they’re likely to want to watch it on TV as well. NCAA Division I Lacrosse scored its first deal with Fox Sports last year. Under the multi-year agreement with ECAC Lacrosse, starting with the ’14 season, the ECAC tournament airs on FOX Sports 1. FSMG will also televise a new “Game of the Week” series. CBS Sports airs Major League Lacrosse games as well. In 2013, it showed 20 live games, and the league also aired on YouTube.
Professional Bull Riding
Along with Lacrosse, CBS Sports has been bullish on bull riding. PBR has found a home there, teaming up with CBS Sports to launch the digital video platform, PBR Live. The network also airs events on the linear side.
Of course, the above list is by no means exhaustive. There are the extreme sports, rugby, cycling, equestrian sports, wrestling, Olympic and endurance sports, ping pong and others coming up, on networks like Universal Sports Network and One World Sports. At some point the top-tier sports will be oversaturated. And where there’s room for growth, particularly when it comes to live sports, you can bet those TV rights will be coveted.