The fall season is a busy one for the TV sports business, as all four major sports leagues are in play, while college football dominates Saturday afternoons and college basketball prepares to tip off a new campaign. October and early November in particular have been very active months for a special group of executives recognized by B&C: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred; Turner president David Levy and Turner Sports president Lenny Daniels; and Showtime Sports and Events executive VP and general manager Stephen Espinoza and UFC president Dana White.
They stand out in a fast-paced and memorable year in sports that — as recent events have shown — continues to deliver big events and moments.
• The recently completed seven-game World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros surpassed 2016’s historic Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians matchup in terms of providing suspense and produced a ratings grand slam for Fox that followed a great playoff run for baseball in which media partners FS1 and TBS generated year-to-year ratings gains.
• The NBA had an active offseason, with marquee players changing team addresses as franchises looked to better position themselves to take a run at the league champion Golden State Warriors. Turner’s TNT — under the watchful eyes of Levy and Daniels — launched its 27th year of coverage by delivering 5.6 million viewers for the opening-night game between LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, the new team of James’ former teammate Kyrie Irving. It continued the network’s ratings momentum from last year’s playoffs.
• This past Saturday, the UFC came to New York to stage one of its biggest pay-per-view events of the year at Madison Square Garden. A borough away in Brooklyn, Showtime presented a heavyweight championship boxing rematch between champ Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne. Both events arguably drew on momentum continuing to flow from the historic Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor pay-per-view event, promoted and distributed by UFC’s White and Showtime’s Espinoza. The fight — the first time marquee fighters from the sports of boxing and mixed martial arts faced off in the ring — broke all PPV revenue records and energized the combat sports genre.