Jul 1, 2020 - Sports

Movies are out, sports are in

Illustration of sports equipment jammed inside of a TV
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

July is typically a quiet month for American sports. The kind of quiet that leads to routine double-plays making SportsCenter's "Top 10," and saw July get just 0.5% of votes in our pre-coronavirus "best sports month" poll (poor August got 0%).

The state of play: For Hollywood, it's quite the opposite. Studies suggest we're more likely to go to movies when the weather is warm and kids are out of school, so July is one of the biggest box-office months and a prime blockbuster release window.

Enter the pandemic: Suddenly, July is the most important month of the year for American sports. The NWSL is already back, and six more leagues — including three of the big four — will soon be joining them.

  • July 8: MLS resumes (Disney World)
  • July 23/24: MLB starts (home ballparks)
  • July 24: WNBA starts (IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.)
  • July 25: PLL starts (Salt Lake City)
  • July 30: NBA resumes (Disney World)
  • July 30: NHL resumes (two host cities, TBD)

Meanwhile, Hollywood has delayed the releases of its summer blockbusters, most movie theaters are closed, and studios have largely halted production.

  • All hope of salvaging the summer season effectively ended this week when the releases of Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" and Disney's live-action reboot of "Mulan" were both delayed again, this time to mid-August.

The big picture: While Netflix and other streamers have rushed to fill the void, the broadcast TV industry has been anxiously awaiting the return of live sports, which should add some much-needed juice to their lineups.

  • For decades, broadcast networks have followed the same programming calendar. Pilots are ordered in January and filmed in March, ads are sold in May (called "upfronts"), and it culminates in a fall programming lineup — just in time for car companies to promote their new fall lineups.
  • But this year, the pandemic has halted production and delayed the fall premiere season, making live sports one of the few things that networks can use to fill primetime broadcast schedules through the end of the year.

The bottom line: Don't be surprised when NBC, Fox and others become de facto sports networks this summer and fall. And don't be surprised when "Tenet" and "Mulan" get delayed again.

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