The NFL ran into more COVID-19 issues over the weekend, an overloaded sports schedule causes historic lows in viewership, sports team owners have donated more than $14 million to political causes this election cycle, and Strava strives for a $1 billion valuation.
NFL’s Rough Weekend
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The NFL’s coronavirus challenges only increased this weekend.The virus had already postponed one NFL game — Pittsburgh Steelers vs Tennessee Titans — to later this season, but also pushed the New England Patriots-Kansas City Chiefs game from Sunday afternoon to Monday night.
New England quarterback Cam Newton and a Chiefs practice squad player tested positive, pushing the NFL’s problems beyond one set of teams. The NFL, which has doled out more than 400,000 tests this season, has altered its protocols in hopes of better managing outbreaks.
The virus appears to be confined enough within the New England and Kansas City organizations the game will be played — but tonight. CBS will host the makeshift Monday Night Football game, with Tony Romo and Jim Nantz on the call.
COVID-19’s Sports Interference:
20 Tennessee Titans players and staff tested positive this past week, causing its game with the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed to later in the season and rearranging bye weeks.
43 MLB games were postponed, affecting 16 teams. The league is using a bubble system for most of its playoffs.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
As COVID-19 pushed spring and summer events to late summer and fall, there was excitement around the idea of the jam-packed sports schedule. That slate seems to have posed a dilemma to many viewers in picking what to watch.
Events that were moved from May and June garnered historic viewership lows in their adjusted August and September dates. Even the NFL struggled its first two weeks — down 8% and 5% in viewership year-over-year, respectively — before bouncing back to even with 2019 in Week 3.
While viewership has struggled, sports betting has hit a hot streak, with New Jersey and Pennsylvania hitting all-time highs in August. Advertisers, too, are likely happy sports are back — the NFL has the top 15 TV programs since the season started.
New Viewership Lows
NBA Finals Game 1: -45%, all time low
Stanley Cup Final: -61%, 13-year low
U.S. Open final round: -56%, all-time low
Kentucky Derby: -43%, all-time low
Indy 500: -32%, all-time low
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Athletes, teams and leagues have been more outspoken this year about racial and social justice issues than ever before, especially heading into a contentious election cycle. But while team owners have supported the athletes’ beliefs, many are also donating to politicians who are at odds with those messages.
The investigation looked at political contributions of 183 owners from 161 teams and found $14.6 million donated to federal candidates in this election cycle — 86% to Republican candidates. Fifty-five of the 183 owners haven’t donated this election cycle.
Pro sports owners have donated $3.7 million to political action committees aligned with President Donald Trump, while $344,000 have gone to presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Top 5 Team Owner Donors (Since Jan. 1, 2019)
$3.3 million — San Francisco Giants Owner Charles Johnson (Republican, Democratic, Independent.)
$2 million — New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (Republican)
$1.2 million — Orlando Magic owner Dan DeVos (Republican and Independent)
$715,600 — New York Knicks owner James Dolan (Republican)
$527,100 — Atlanta Dream owner Kelly Loeffler (Republican and Independent)
Striving For $1B
Strava is looking to be the next financial darling of the connected fitness boom. The fitness-centric social network is reportedly courting new investors for a new equity round seeking a valuation of more than $1 billion.
Its most recent valuation was $365 million, but Strava is now profitable and seeking to raise between $150 million and $400 million. Strava allows users to track their physical activities, while allowing friends to engage and compete — and while free, there’s a $5 paid premium subscription as well.
As gym goers took to at-home and outdoor workouts during the coronavirus pandemic, the platform boomed. Connected fitness platforms like Zwift and Tonal have attracted massive investments during the pandemic — $450 million and $110 million.
Strava’s Pandemic Growth
68M members (up 35% from February)
3.4M downloads in May (up 179% from January)
$6.4M in revenue in May (up 166% from January)
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