College Rugby Sevens Make ESPN Debut, Pac-12 Goes for 6th Straight Title

Rugby

Niche college sports, particularly non-varsity club sports, have historically fallen out of the purview of athletics sports rights holders and into a gray area of content replete with official logos and representation, but lacking mainstream coverage. That trend will end this weekend as the fastest growing sport in the country makes its way to ESPN linear and ESPN digital platforms for the first time; College Rugby Sevens. Army, Navy, Air Force and Notre Dame will headline The Penn Mutual CRC field, as 24 teams compete for a National Championship. 30,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event at Talen Energy Stadium (Philadelphia).

Howie Long-Short: Disney (DIS) reported fiscal Q2 ’18 profits increased 23% YoY (to $2.94 billion), with Black Panther ($1.3 billion in box office sales) and theme parks (+13% to $4.88 billion) spearheading revenue growth (+9% to $14.5 billion). Operating income for the company’s cable networks businesses (including ESPN) declined 4% YoY to $1.73 billion. Brook Barnes at the NYT attributed the decline to “higher costs – notably spending on unprofitable streaming services like ESPN+ and hulu – and subscriber declines at ESPN.” ESPN would not disclose the number of subscribers who have signed up for the ESPN+ service, but CEO Bob Iger said “a number of people have signed up for the trial and our conversion rates have been good so far”; adding “basically, I give it a so far, so good.”

21st Century Fox Shareholders (FOXA) have scheduled a date (July 10) to vote on the proposed $52.4 billion asset sale (including regional sports networks) to The Walt Disney Corporation (DIS). Comcast, which said it was preparing a cash offer (as opposed to DIS’ all-stock offer) for the FOXA film studios/cable networks/entertainment businesses, has +/- 6 weeks remaining to submit the bid. Should DIS lose out on the RSNs that are expected to boost the ESPN+ offering, Bob Iger won’t panic; he says the platform is “not reliant at all on the assets”. That’s true right now, as all the local MLB, NBA and NHL broadcast rights are tied up under contract; but, as those deals begin to expire, DIS will want to add the 5,500 games they currently carry to ESPN+. As I’ve previously explained, when a fan in St. Louis can get all the Cardinals and Blues games for $4.99/mo., they’ll subscribe to ESPN+.

Fan Marino: The Pac-12 has dominated the collegiate rugby landscape over the last eight years. The conference has won six of the last eight CRC Championships, with California winning the last five years (Utah won in ’10). This year, Arizona and UCLA are among the tournament’s favorites. Bill Walton would like to remind you that it is, in fact, the “Conference of Champions”.

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Author: John Wall Street

At the intersection of sports & finance.

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