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Axios Sports – December 2, 2019

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Entering December, one of the most alarming NBA storylines is the league’s declining TV ratings.

By the numbers: Through Nov. 22, games were averaging 1.45 million viewers across ESPN and TNT, down 18% from the same point last year (1.75 million).

Potential reasons:

  • On-court stuff: Load management has soured fans on the relative unimportance of the regular season; Kevin Durant and Zion Williamson are injured; the Warriors’ dynasty is dead; LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard play on the West Coast.
  • Fandom shift: As much fun as the free agency madness has been in recent years, it may have hurt the NBA ratings-wise by turning fans’ attention away from basketball and winning and towards rumors and off-court drama.
  • Cord-cutting: “Ratings are down because all of our national broadcasts are exclusively available on cable, which is losing subs daily,” tweeted Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “Football benefits from being on broadcast TV which is in every digital and traditional package.”

The NBA’s response:

  • Schedule changes: To spark fan interest, the NBA and the players’ union are in “serious talks” about adding (1) a midseason tournament similar to those used in European soccer and (2) a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots in each conference.
  • YouTube crackdown: The league is beginning to crack down on YouTube creators for using unlicensed videos, a move that threatens the quasi-legal world of NBA highlight channels.

The big picture: Let’s focus on the YouTube crackdown because it illustrates the world that the NBA — and all sports leagues — now live in.

  • For years, the NBA has viewed social media and the larger digital landscape as a giant marketing funnel, providing fans with free “snacks” (highlights, GIFs, etc) to drive overall interest and make them want to come for the “meals” (games).
  • But now that a large contingent of fans — many of whom don’t have cable — are snacking throughout the day without ever actually showing up for dinner, the “free snacks” era could be nearing its end.
  • What this YouTube crackdown represents: Moving forward, the NBA could attempt to more directly monetize its digital assets, rather than turning a (mostly) blind eye to unlicensed content and using that to drive broadcast viewership.

The bottom line: TV ratings still matter, but they no longer tell the whole story when it comes to fan engagement. As leagues cope with this new reality, the ways in which they monetize their product — and measure their popularity — are bound to change.

Final numbers: Over the next five years, the value of in-play “near live” clips (+76% to $1.7 billion) and short-form highlights (+101% to $3.2 billion) is expected to rise at a much faster rate than the value of live rights (+18.7% to $49.1 billion), per sports agency Two Circles.

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Knicks Fire Coach David Fizdale

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The Knicks on Friday fired Coach David Fizdale and one of his assistants, Keith Smart, with the team on pace to record the worst season in franchise history.

Mike Miller, also an assistant coach, was named the interim head coach.

Fizdale was doomed by a 4-18 start, which included eight consecutive defeats — the past two at home by a combined 81 points to Milwaukee and Denver. Such margins are often regarded in the N.B.A. as clear signs that the players are no longer responding to the coach.

The reality, though, is that Fizdale had been on the brink of dismissal since Nov. 10, when the Knicks lost by 21 to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. That defeat prompted the team president, Steve Mills, and General Manager Scott Perry to meet during the second half with the team owner, James L. Dolan, and then hold an unexpected postgame news conference in which they said that the team was falling short of expectations.

The Knicks are 2-10 since the Cleveland loss and have looked less and less competitive. Yet Fizdale’s departure, with a 21-83 record that sticks him with the lowest winning percentage of any coach in team history at .202, would appear to shift the pressure onto Mills and Perry.

Hours after seeing Durant and Irving land with the Nets, Mills issued a statement to the news media acknowledging that “while we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents.”

In an October radio interview, Durant shed some light on how much the Knicks’ stature has diminished under Dolan since the franchise’s last trip to the N.B.A. finals in 1999, saying that younger players, unlike fans, don’t remember the Knicks ever being good.

“I remember the Knicks being in the finals, but the kids after me didn’t see that. So the brand of the Knicks isn’t as cool to them as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors or even the Lakers or the Nets now,” Durant said. “The cool thing right now is not the Knicks.”

A coaching change is bound to lead to better efforts from the Knicks, but their problems run far deeper.

Neither Dennis Smith Jr., the standout player acquired from Dallas in the Porzingis trade, nor Kevin Knox, the Knicks’ top draft pick in 2018, has shown signs of progress this season. The players Mills and Perry did manage to sign in July when they whiffed on Durant and Irving have created a logjam at power forward.

The website fivethirtyeight.com, run by Nate Silver, projected the Knicks to finish 20-62 after the summer signings of Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.

Fizdale is not even halfway through a four-year, $22 million deal he signed with the Knicks heading into last season. He said after losing 129-92 to the Nuggets on Thursday night that he was not concerned about being fired.

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Eli Manning Is Ready for Another Chance

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the past 11 weeks, as rookie Daniel Jones has taken over the spotlight as the starting quarterback of the Giants, Eli Manning has been running the scout team at practice. As the backup quarterback, Manning played in the style of opposing quarterbacks to prepare the Giants defense for what they will face on game day.

This week, Manning got to be himself again.

Manning, 38, was benched in Week 3 after the Giants (2-10) lost the first two games of the season. At the time, it seemed likely that Manning’s storied Giants career was coming to an end. But now Jones is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain and Manning will likely get at least one more shot, on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7).

“He’s a legend,” running back Saquon Barkley said. He added: “The way he operated in practice, the way he operated in the building was the same Eli that we know. Good to see him come out this week and get a chance. It’s going to be awesome for him.”

Jones was injured in the second quarter of the Giants’ loss to the Packers on Sunday. He played the entire game, but after a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday he was in a walking boot and was on the sidelines at practice during the week, biking and stretching.

“It’s pretty disappointing, especially after thinking I was going to be able to play,” Jones told reporters on Wednesday. “I understand it, I guess, and hopefully it’ll heal up pretty quickly.”

Last spring, the Giants drafted Jones, 22, sixth over all, and the expectation was that he would succeed Manning quickly. Jones made his first start against Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, when he led the Giants to a 32-31 comeback win. Jones has thrown for 18 touchdowns and has averaged 235.7 yards in his 10 starts.

Manning’s legacy with the Giants is already secure, despite his not being on the field for most of the season. He had been the face of the franchise since he was drafted in 2004, and he led the Giants to Super Bowl victories in the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

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Villarreal 0-0 Atletico Madrid – HIGHLIGHTS – 12/6/19

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Villarreal y Atlético Madrid no pudieron romper el cero y se tienen que conformar con el empate.

Atletico Madrid’s spiral continues with 0-0 draw with Villarreal in LaLiga.

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