Mar 3, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's dive in.

Today's word count: 1,768 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: 🌍 ESPN's global streaming rival plots expansion

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

DAZN (pronounced "duh-zone"), an international sports streaming company, said yesterday that it will expand to more than 200 global markets this year.

Why it matters: DAZN is looking to take on ESPN as a global leader in sports streaming. Its current chairman, John Skipper, is ESPN's former president.

By the numbers:

  • DAZN has about 8 million paid subscribers, per WSJ (subscription).
  • ESPN+ had about 7.6 million subscribers as of last month.

The backdrop: At ESPN, Skipper was noted for negotiating large TV contracts that locked competitors out for years, including a nine-year, $12 billion deal with the NBA and a $7.3 billion deal for the College Football Playoff.

  • A decade later, he is now one of those locked out competitors at DAZN, which has forced the company to focus primarily on non-American rights.
"Our competition so far has been to mostly be where they [ESPN] ain't, but it is our intention over time to compete aggressively everywhere."
— Skipper, per CNBC

The big picture: DAZN is currently available in eight countries outside the U.S. (Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland), different content available in each market.

  • The U.S. offering is limited to mostly boxing and MMA, though they also have some MLB studio shows, "The Pat McAfee Show" and other programming.
  • But in Japan, for example, DAZN carries live streaming rights for the NFL, MLB, the Premier League and the domestic baseball, basketball and soccer leagues — all for $20 a month.
  • DAZN is betting that it can attract enough subscribers to offset the exorbitant cost of accumulating all of those rights.

What to watch: Sources have told Axios that DAZN is eyeing rights to major U.S. sports leagues, and that the company plans to bid for NFL rights when they go on the block later this year.

The bottom line: Expect to see DAZN vying for live sports rights over the next few years, alongside traditional players like ESPN and FOX and tech companies like Amazon and Facebook.

2. 🏒 The NHL's top duo strikes again

Connor McDavid (left) and Leon Draisaitl. Photo: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

With four goals and an assist in last night's 8-3 win over the Predators, Oilers star Leon Draisaitl is now on pace for 133 points (54 G, 79 A) this season.

Why it matters: The last time an NHL player had 130 points in a season was in 1995-96, when Penguins linemates Mario Lemieux (161) and Jaromir Jagr (149) both did it.

  • Draisaitl is also seven goals away from his second straight 50-goal, 100-point season. Since 1992, the only players to do that are Lemieux, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Bure and Dany Heatley.

Meanwhile, teammate Connor McDavid had a goal and four assists, and despite missing six games, is now on pace for 117 points (40 G, 77 A), which would be the seventh-most this century.

📊 NHL points leaders:

  1. Draisaitl, EDM: 107 points
  2. McDavid, EDM: 94 points
  3. David Pastrňák, BOS: 91 points
  4. Artemi Panarin, NYR: 90 points
  5. Nathan MacKinnon, COL: 86 points

The bottom line: McDavid is almost universally regarded as the NHL's best offensive player; the lesser-known Draisaitl is an unstoppable force; and together, they have emerged as one of the highest-scoring duos in recent NHL history.

3. 🏀 Men's poll: Dayton climbs to No. 3
Expand chart
Data: AP; Table: Axios Visuals

A string of losses to unranked teams led to upheaval in this week's AP Top 25, but Kansas kept winning, strengthening its grip on No. 1 as the regular season winds down.

  • Dayton keeps climbing: Player-of-the-year frontrunner Obi Toppin and Dayton moved up to No. 3 following Baylor's loss to TCU. That's the Flyers' highest ranking since reaching No. 2 in 1955-56.
  • Blue bloods are back: No. 6 Kentucky has won eight in a row and 12 of 13, making their typical stretch-run transformation. Meanwhile, preseason No. 1 Michigan State is back from the dead, up eight spots to No. 16. Next up for the Spartans: at No. 20 Penn State (tonight, 7pm ET).
  • Here comes Virginia: The defending champs were a bubble team for most of the year. Now, Tony Bennett's squad is 21-7 overall and 13-5 in the ACC, with a realistic chance at a share of the regular-season conference title.
  • Big Ten up, Big 12 down: The Big Ten has a ridiculous eight teams in the rankings this week (Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan), while the Big 12 is left with just Kansas and Baylor after West Virginia and Texas Tech both fell out.

Bracket projections, per ESPN:

  • No. 1 seeds: Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, San Diego State
  • No. 2 seeds: Dayton, Florida State, Maryland, Seton Hall
  • Last four byes: Xavier, Indiana, Rutgers, USC
  • Last four in: Cincinnati, Wichita State, Utah State, Stanford
  • First four out: NC State, Richmond, Rhode Island, Mississippi State
  • Next four out: Texas, Purdue, Memphis, South Carolina
4. 🏀 Women's poll: Northwestern rising
Expand chart
Data: NCAA; Table: Axios Visuals

As teams finish up their regular seasons and turn their attention to the conference tournaments, South Carolina, Baylor and Oregon remain a step above everyone else.

  • Wild stat: UConn beat South Florida by 41 points last night in its final regular-season game as a member of the AAC (moving to Big East), which is very on-brand. In their seven seasons in the ACC, the Huskies went 118-0 in regular-season conference play and outscored opponents by ... 41 points per game.
  • Northwestern rising: No. 11 Northwestern clinched a share of its first Big Ten title in 30 years on Saturday with its 26th win of the season (program record).
  • State of the week: After finishing 16-0 in conference play for the second time in three years South Dakota is ranked No. 17 (highest ever), while South Dakota State is having a solid season (21-9 overall) and recently went viral.
  • 👀 Look: The NCAA women's basketball committee revealed its in-season top 16 for the second and final time yesterday.

Bracket projections, per ESPN:

  • No. 1 seeds: South Carolina, Baylor, Oregon, Maryland
  • No. 2 seeds: Louisville, Northwestern, UConn, Stanford
  • Last four in: Western Kentucky, UCF, Georgia Tech, James Madison
  • First four out: Alabama, Bradley, St. John's, Rice
  • Next four out: West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Boston College, Colorado
5. 🏈 NFL mock draft: McShay has Love at No. 6

Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In his post-combine mock draft, ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has Utah State QB going No. 6 to the Chargers — a spot most analysts have reserved for Oregon QB Justin Herbert.

"Love's 2019 season won't excite too many folks — he managed just 20 touchdowns to 17 interceptions — but you have to remember that the Aggies lost nine players off their offense, plus the full offensive staff."
"In apples-to-apples situations, like the Senior Bowl and the combine, Love stood out. He has a huge arm, strong instincts and mobility in the pocket. NFL teams want quarterbacks who can create in today's game, and that's exactly what Love does."
— McShay

McShay's top 15, per ESPN+:

  1. CIN: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
  2. WAS: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
  3. DET: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
  4. NYG: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson
  5. MIA: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
  6. LAC: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
  7. CAR: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
  8. ARI: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
  9. JAX: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
  10. CLE: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
  11. NYJ: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
  12. VGS: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
  13. IND: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
  14. TB: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
  15. DEN: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

P.S. ... Is the Raiders new abbreviation VGS like the Golden Knights use? Or is it LV? Or maybe its LVR? Or LAS? I miss Oakland (OAK) already.

6. 🎮 Ratings are coming to esports

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the world's biggest esports leagues is working with Nielsen to develop the first-ever comprehensive measurement system for viewership of esports broadcasts, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Driving the news: The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) is developing a ratings system that will leverage average minute audience (AMA), the new industry standard for viewership reporting.
  • Why it matters: Esports audiences are growing so big that they are beginning to outpace traditional sports viewers globally. Without a way to adequately measure those audiences, it's harder for brands and leagues to monetize them.
  • What's next: Other major esports leagues are in touch with Nielsen about adopting the same standard.
7. March 3, 1984: ⚾️ Ueberroth named MLB boss

Photo: Cynthia Johnson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

36 years ago today, Peter Ueberroth was named the sixth commissioner of baseball, a role he held from 1984 to 1989.

  • The backdrop: Ueberroth served as the chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Committee, which brought the Summer Games to L.A. in 1984. Due to the success of the event, he was named Time magazine's Man of the Year.
  • MLB tenure: As commissioner, Ueberroth suspended numerous players for cocaine use, negotiated landmark TV deals with CBS and ESPN, increased the LCS from best-of-five to best-of-seven and oversaw record attendance.
  • By the numbers: When Ueberroth took office, 21 of the 26 MLB clubs were losing money. In his last season (1988), all clubs either broke even or finished in the black.

MLB commissioners: I swear all of these names are real.

  • Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1921–1944), a federal judge who had built a reputation for fighting corporations.
  • Happy Chandler (1945–1951), a senator from Kentucky who would later serve as the state's governor.
  • Ford Frick (1951–1965), a former sportswriter who had previously served as the National League president.
  • Spike Eckert (1965–1968), a former lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force who had not seen a baseball game in person in 10 years when he took the job.
  • Bowie Kuhn (1969–1984), a lawyer whose firm represented the National League.
  • Peter Ueberroth (1984–1989)
  • Bart Giamatti (1989), the former president of Yale University who died suddenly of a heart attack five months into his MLB tenure.
  • Fay Vincent (1989–1992), a former entertainment lawyer who had previously served as the chairman of Columbia Pictures.
  • Bud Selig (1992–2015), the former owner and team president of the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Rob Manfred (2015–present), a lawyer who provided outside counsel for MLB owners during the 1994–1995 strike, led the investigation of the Biogenesis scandal in 2013 and briefly served as the league's chief operating officer.
8. The Ocho: 📸 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 WINCHESTER, England — A rainbow formed in the background as riders competed in the opening event of the 2020 Motocross World Championship.

Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

🇺🇸 ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Dogs compete in the 2020 Open World Championship Sled Dog Race during this year's Fur Rendezvous, a 10-day Alaskan winter festival that dates back to 1935.

Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

🇦🇺 PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia — American Garrett Gerloff (blue) suffered a concussion after German Sandro Cortese (green) crashed into him during warm-ups before the opening race of the 2020 Superbike World Championship. Such a wild sport.

9. ⚾️ MLB trivia
  • Question: Who was the last player to win back-to-back NL MVPs?
  • Hint: Not American.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 📚 Good reads
Screenshot: @ScottCacciola (Twitter)

🏀 Steph Curry's injury rehab takes a G-League tour (Scott Cacciola, NYT)

"Out since October with a broken hand, the two-time MVP looked like the 'Steph of old' while practicing with his club's developmental team in Santa Cruz."

⚾️ Inside MLB's plan to crack down on cheating (Tom Verducci, SI)

"The cleanup in baseball is about to begin. ... MLB is informing clubs about planned in-game protocols to bar non-uniformed personnel from the clubhouse, close video rooms, turn off all live video feeds except for the replay review monitor, and crack down on the use of 'engineered' substance mixtures by pitchers."

🏈 Let's play matchmaker for Tom Brady (Justin Sayles, The Ringer)

"The six-time Super Bowl champion will reportedly test free agency, where he should have many suitors. Does he make sense in a Las Vegas Raiders uniform? How about in Tennessee Titans blue?"
Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Brady is 100% staying" Baker

Trivia answer: Albert Pujols (2008-09 with the Cardinals)