Darren Rovell Warns ESPN Should Be Worried About Streaming Companies Entering Sports


(L-R) SiriusXM host Scott Ferrall and sports analyst Darren Rovell speak during an interview on day 2 of SiriusXM at Super Bowl LVI on February 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Darren Rovell stated the value of having sports rights for competitions that need to be watched live. CINDY ORD/BENZINGA

ESPN sideline reporter Tom Luginbill during a game between the California Golden Bears and the USC Trojans on November 5, 2022, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. 

Action Network sports reporter Darren Rovell stated the value of having sports rights for competitions that need to be watched live.

Rovell said it’s hard to say if the high amount of money is worth it, but the sports betting market has helped.

“If you’re betting live, you need to see it coming off of a TV. Betting makes it more essential to have it coming off of TV,” said Rovell.

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The strong demand from sports bettors and fans watching the action, along with high advertising rates for content that has to be consumed live, have attracted new players to the sports media rights business.

Once dominated by ESPN, a unit of The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS), and other media conglomerates with sports networks, streaming companies are now shelling out millions for sports rights.

Among them is Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN), which is now the home of “Thursday Night Football” games for the National Football League.

Rovell said he’s been impressed with Amazon’s handling of NFL games.

“I actually thought the delay would be more of a disaster,” Rovell told Zenger News, citing the delay between the stream and the real-time feed of the game. “I think they’ve understood the need to not be behind.”

Tech-enhanced Life, a public benefit corporation, says seniors sometimes have problems using products they want to be able to continue to use, like a TV.

“With a television, you either have to have a smart TV or have to know how to use a gaming device or something else that might give you access to your internet connection and then allow you to stream that way,” said Jim Pokrywczynski, an associate professor and sports marketing expert at Marquette University.

Rovell said he’s impressed with how fast Amazon has been. Customers had stated when watching Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime, there’s been buffering issues. However, Amazon had stated to check with internet connections and their provider.

“That’s what I’ve paid attention to. I thought the whole thing would be a disaster.”

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Thursday Night Football banners are seen with Amazon Prime signage prior to a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, 2022, in Cleveland, Ohio. Rovell said Amazon can drive a strong return on investment, tying its content to immediate sales and selling products at the moment. NICK CAMMETT/BENZINGA

Another company that has been rumored to be circling sports rights is streaming giant Netflix Inc (NASDAQ: NFLX). The streaming company is holding its first live content event with a Chris Rock special, a move that could foreshadow live sports content.

“Chris Rock is one of the most iconic and important comedic voices of our generation,” Robbie Praw, Netflix vice president of stand-up and comedy formats, said in a statement.

Streaming services live have included other services, such as NFL+.

“There’s definite value. There’s value to that, and sports creates those moments,” Rovell said.

“I’ve always thought that Apple and Netflix and all these guys would be deeper into sports than they are now, even Amazon.”

The company that should be worried by moves from Amazon, Netflix and Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) is ESPN.

“Their cash flow is amazing against other brands they compete with.”

Rovell said ESPN and Disney competing against technology giants that have more cash than media companies could be a whole new ball game.

“Especially Amazon and Apple, Disney cash flow does not compete to them, that’s where I thought ESPN was open. I’m surprised it took so long for them to get into it.”

Asked for a prediction on which of the three — Amazon, Apple or Netflix will be the biggest player in sports rights in the next five years, Rovell has a changing opinion.

“I thought it would be Apple, but Amazon is showing that they will be. I think Amazon is the number one in the driver’s seat of being a non-traditional outlet that will step it up in sports.”

Rovell said Amazon can drive a strong return on investment, tying its content to immediate sales and selling products at the moment.


Produced in association with Benzinga.

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond

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