Sports leagues and networks are struggling to fill the void in revenues they have since lost from TV ratings and advertising, while also providing entertainment for fans.
The situation has led to some moves by leagues and networks which have never been seen before — online drafts and virtual combines are part of those efforts.
Perhaps the move making the most waves in the sports world was the decision by the NBA to hold a 2K tournament and HORSE challenge between current players and league legends.
A peak of 387,000 fans tuned into the 2K tournament not for the championship game, but the first game of the tournament.
“I found it to be a very cool way for players that I idolize to connect with each other,” said freshman Julian Tessitore.
“I feel as if, because of the times we are in, I got the same enjoyment that I would get out of a regular game. Seeing these guys on camera after being out of action for over a month, in a time where no sports are being played, gave it a very real feeling.”
The league saw an uptick in ratings for its HORSE competition, but still only drew a mere 686,000 viewers and a snowball of complaints on video quality and performance, even from current players.
JJ Reddick, a shooting guard for the New Orleans Pelicans tweeted, “H-O-R-S-E could not be worse. I gave it 5 min. Hard pass.”
One Twitter account, WearTesters, even tweeted, “How is the ESPN Horse stream worse than an IG Live stream?”
ESPN gave sports fans something to look forward to during the pandemic as they announced they would move the release date of “The Last Dance” documentary on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls to debut on April 19 instead of late June.
The documentary contains never before seen archived footage of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and other members of the franchise including Head Coach Phil Jackson. The documentary follows the experience of the players and coaches in the events leading up to the turbulent season, which ended with a sixth championship in eight years, capping off one of the most dominant dynasties the sport has ever seen.
The first two episodes of the documentary brought in 6.1 million viewers.
These ratings are still down from NBA playoff games that would be taking place right now, but it does give fans something positive to talk about.
“Without a doubt, I would’ve watched it over anything else,” said freshman EJ Nelson.
“I thought they were very good at showing how competitive [Michael Jordan] was, not even when the Bulls were good, but throughout college and early in his career,” Nelson said.
“I think it would’ve pulled in average sports fans no matter what because he’s such an icon not only for the game, but for sports.”