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Today's word count: 1,767 words (6 mins).
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
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).
The NBA's response:
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.
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.
Alabama's 48-45 loss to Auburn on Saturday knocked the Crimson Tide out of the playoff race — and made life a whole lot easier for the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Why it matters: Heading into conference championship weekend, four one-loss teams from three Power Five conferences — Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor — have at least a shot of earning the final playoff berth behind undefeated LSU, Ohio State and Clemson.
Looking ahead: Ohio State and LSU are in no matter what happens this weekend, and Clemson is in as long as they beat Virginia. Assuming that happens...
Lewis Hamilton celebrated his championship-winning campaign in style with a commanding victory in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the last race of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
Go deeper: For Lewis Hamilton, it's to infinity and beyond (NYT)
My colleague Sheryl Miller writes in:
"A 'sports, man' personal moment ... My husband was a lifelong Redskins fan and would always see them when they played the Panthers down here in N.C. He passed away last year. My daughter, Sarah, went to the game with friends today wearing his Redskins jersey. A legacy in the making."
The USA, which beat Canada and Cuba earlier this month in the CONCACAF Nations League, rose one spot in the latest FIFA World Rankings and is now tied with Wales for 22nd.
Meanwhile, for the women: The USA sits comfortably atop the rankings, with Germany, Netherlands, France, Sweden, England, Canada, Australia, Korea and Japan rounding out the top 10.
Fox Sports has sold all of its advertising inventory for Super Bowl LIV, the company confirmed to Axios. That's 77 total ads, with the most expensive 30-second spot costing $5.6 million.
Why it matters: In an on-demand world, the Super Bowl is one of the few remaining opportunities for advertisers to reach a massive live audience. As a result, the average rate for a 30-second in-game ad has increased by nearly 100% over the past decade even as viewership has waned.
Go deeper: Axios media reporter Sara Fischer dives deeper into these types of stories in her weekly newsletter. Sign up here to get tomorrow's edition.
Photo: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images
11 years ago today, 23-year-old Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo beat out 21-year-old Barcelona forward Lionel Messi to win his first Ballon d'Or, given annually to the world's best footballer.
The big picture: From 2008 to 2017, Ronaldo and Messi won all 10 Ballon d'Or awards and finished first and second in voting every year except for 2010, when Messi won and his teammate Andrés Iniesta came in second.
Coming up: The 2019 winners will be announced tonight. Messi is the favorite for the men, while Megan Rapinoe is the favorite for the women.
The National Lacrosse League began its 34th season on Friday, with the three most recent champs — the Georgia Swarm, Calgary Roughnecks and Saskatchewan Rush — all picking up wins.
The teams: The NLL added two expansion franchises this season to give the league 13 teams.
UNC coach Roy Williams won his 877th game on Friday, moving him past Adolph Rupp for sole possession of sixth place on the all-time Division I wins list.
Answer at the bottom.
Three MVP candidates were in action in L.A. last night, with 20-year-old (how?!) Luka Dončić (27-9-10) and the Mavericks taking down LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers, 114-100.
Click to vote: Who is the NBA MVP so far?
Kendall "Back in the saddle" Baker
Trivia answer: Dean Smith (879 wins), Jim Calhoun (892), Bob Knight (902), Jim Boeheim (950), Mike Krzyzewski (1139)
Editor's note: The top story has been updated with the NBA's position on "load management" and the league's stance that it has been considering scheduling changes and cracking down on YouTube accounts prior to last month.