CBS identified its NFL renewal as the network’s top priority last season, and it’s easy to see why. Last season, NFL games on CBS posted their biggest audiences in six years. The year was about more than just the linear broadcast network for CBS. It solidified several streaming deals for Paramount+, including soccer rights with Serie A, UEFA Champions League and Concacaf national team properties. CBS also made moves internally, hiring its first workplace culture and diversity initiatives officer to foster a more inclusive working environment.
ESPN not only renewed its NFL deal at a smaller percentage increase than its broadcast rivals, it added a wild-card playoff game and became part of the Super Bowl rotation for the first time since 2005. ESPN also renewed its MLB deal and brought the NHL back to its schedule for the first time since 2004. Its streaming service, ESPN+, posted impressive growth with 21.3 million subscribers. Plus the ESPN brand has been strong on social, including TikTok, where it is one of the most popular brands.
Fox Sports took a risk when it put its best college football games in the Saturday noon window. But it paid off, as its Big Noon Saturday drew college football’s biggest audience last year for the first time. Fox Sports found success with its MLB Field of Dreams game in Iowa — MLB’s highest rated regular-season game in 16 years. Fox renewed its NFL deal, poached the Belmont Stakes from NBC, launched the USFL and hired prominent sports voices like Tim Rinaldi, Greg Olsen and Mark Sanchez.
NBC Sports Group
No sports media company had a busier year than NBC Sports Group. The network produced two Olympics — the COVID-delayed Tokyo Games and the COVID-affected Beijing Games. In between, it produced the first Super Bowl in Los Angeles since 1993. Still, network executives found time to renew rights deals for the NFL and Premier League. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” extended its record as TV’s top prime-time show for 11 straight years. And NBC set USA Network and Peacock as places for fans to watch live sports.
The year for Turner Sports was marked by its entry into the NHL market, as it carried hockey games — including the Winter Classic — for the first time. Led by Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels, Turner renewed its MLB deal and produced another edition of Capital One’s “The Match.” As Discovery completed its acquisition of WarnerMedia, Turner Sports continued to be a leader in social media, posting gaudy engagement rates with its brands like Bleacher Report, House of Highlights and the NBA on TNT.