SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: April 27, 2023

Episode Summary

Hot starts to NHL and NBA post-seasons; NFL sets up in KC's Union Station for Draft; A celebration of an ESPN original

Episode Transcription

It was fun and great to speak to Professor Andy Clark's class at DePaul University on Wednesday night. The group is studying leadership and coaching, and we had a dynamic discussion on leadership trends in sports. A smart group of young people who all have a very bright future. Great to be with them on Wednesday night. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, April 27th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Well, the NHL and NBA are having a great start to their respective postseasons. On the NHL side, you're having incredibly competitive series, and NHL postseason viewership is up 18% thus far. For the NBA, all I'll say is wow, that Heat-Bucks game last night had all, you have key series games this weekend, you now have the Knicks advancing to the second round for the first time in so many years, and now they will take on the Heat in what should be a very compelling series.

All this interest is showing up in the viewership numbers as well as the first round of the NBA playoffs is on pace for its best audience in 12 years. That's according to SBJ's Austin Karp. Now, I know every round is different in terms of viewership, but some key markets are still in the mix for both the NHL and NBA, and things are shaping up very nicely. Meanwhile, I know this may not make my friends on the West Coast very happy, but I am pleased to see that the start time of the NBA finals will be moved up 30 minutes to 8:30 PM Eastern time. That's a move by the NBA and ESPN. This marks the first change to the start time of finals games since 2003. Of course, over the past few years, the games have started after 9:00 Eastern time.

I think the 30 minutes will help East Coast viewership and it should mean games and before midnight on the East coast, something I am certainly a fan of. Staying with the NBA, the League and the Players Association formally ratified their new collective bargaining agreement, ensuring labor piece for the foreseeable future. The deal starts soon. It starts July 1st and remains in place at least until the summer of 2029 when both sides could opt out. So what will be different? Here's what will be keeping an eye on under the new CBA. They'll be discussions about this new spending tax and what it will mean and who it will impact. We will see if the new efforts to curb load management will work. We will see the debut of the much discussed in-season tournament that will begin next season. And from all indications, this in-season tournament will look and feel far different from the regular season.

For example, teams will wear different uniforms I'm told, and the atmosphere in the building will look and feel different. Finally, another provision worth keeping your eye on is the ability of the players' association to invest in funds that will allow them to have small stakes in both NBA and WNBA teams. That will give the players a chance to benefit from the increasing value of franchises. Now, we've talked a lot about the players getting a bigger share of the pie, and this is just one mechanism that will do that. All the details aren't fully clear and how it will work, but this could certainly benefit the players financially. Let's shift to the NFL because the draft starts tonight. It's at Kansas City's Union Station. Kansas City becomes the seventh city to host the NFL draft. You'll see NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announce the picks on a stage outside of Union Station unless it rains, of course, then the operation will move inside Union Station.

There is an amphitheater, there is a lawn area. There will be concerts all three nights of the draft. So attendance figures in Kansas City expect to be strong. Anywhere from 250,000 to more fans are expected to be on site. Last year's draft in Las Vegas drew an estimated 300,000 fans over three days. Remember in 2019 in Nashville, 600,000 fans were estimated to have attended the draft over those three days. It's really just amazing what the draft has become. I remember the angst and uncertainty of what it would mean of the draft moving outside of New York into other markets. It first went to Chicago, and it was in Philadelphia, that really was the opener. Then Dallas was big, and of course Nashville was huge. Then you had Las Vegas. It has turned into such a great tentpole event for the NFL, and it just took some thought and some ideation and a little bit of risk of moving the draft out of New York City, and you see the long-term benefit.

Tonight's live presentation will be seen on ESPN, ABC and NFL network. Covered starting Thursday night, 8:00 PM. For this year's draft, 17 top prospects will be in that green room for the first round. ESPN has gone on record, and it said that viewers should not expect the traditional focus on players who may be dropping down the draft board or being bypassed. So there may not be so much emphasis on the anxious agony of some of those players waiting in the green room. We'll see how that holds up tonight on television. Also, look for YouTube, which of course has landed the NFL Sunday Ticket Games package to play a role over the next three days around the draft. Word has it that such personalities like Dude Perfect will appear on stage to announce some of the picks in this year's draft, but the next three days should be a lot of fun with players heading in to the NFL.

We've talked about this on the Buzzcast a lot, and it's a question I get a lot, and it's the interest of global private equity firms in sports. Earlier this year, we saw that CVC invested $150 million into the commercial rights of the WTA, and now comes word that CVC, KKR and Blackstone are among the private equity groups that submitted bids for a stake in the media rights for the German Soccer League, Bundesliga. Now these private equity firms are bidding for a stake that would see them manage the media rights of the league. So why is this and why does it interest them? Simply put, these private equity firms believe that these rights are vastly undervalued. They think they can manage the rights process much more effectively. They believe they can make a far better return by leading this process.

Basically, the private equity firms see a tremendously undervalued asset in sports rights, and they believe they can generate far more revenue than if the league did it themselves. That's why you are seeing such interest by the private equity firms in the sports business. Let's end the Buzzcast around people. More changes at Mastercard sponsorship department as Michael Goldstein, who is head of sponsorship at Mastercard North America since 2018, has left the brand. He will start his own company called SES Insights, standing for Sports and Entertainment Sponsorship Insights. Michael Goldstein spent over a decade with Mastercard and worked with a number of properties during his time there, including key MLB teams like the Red Sox and Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees, who all have deals with Mastercard. He also worked very closely with the PGA Tour. He was an SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree in 2019, no word yet on his replacement at Mastercard.

Remember earlier this year, Mastercard Senior Vice President of Global Sponsorships, Michael Robichaud, also left the brand after serving as sponsorship lead for the past 15 years. So we're seeing some changes in the sponsorship department at Mastercard. The Boston Celtics organization has a very heavy heart with the death of their Vice President of Public Relations, Heather Walker. She died at the young age of 52, following a nearly two year battle with cancer. Heather Walker had worked with the team since 2006, was incredibly well liked throughout the Boston Sports and Celtics community. A very sad story about a very talented leader gone too soon. Heather Walker dies at the age of 52. And I don't want to end this week without acknowledging the last few days at ESPN, where a lot of very good people have lost their jobs and a lot of other good people have been devastated by losing friends they work with every single day.

A lesson I learned a long time ago in this business, when an over eager youngster wanted to push the envelopes reporting on layoffs at a company is when an astute colleague stopped us all in our tracks and just said, "Hey, remember, a lot of good people lost their jobs and don't have work. Be sensitive to that." I've always remembered that and followed that philosophy. This is always very difficult news. I especially want to take a moment to offer my personal thanks and appreciation, and yes, even love for Mike Soltys, who was ESPN's second longest tenured executive who will leave the company at the end of June. It took me a few days to feel comfortable mentioning this on the Buzzcast because frankly, the news of his departure was such a gut punch. Mike Soltys is Vice President of Corporate Communications and working at ESPN is the only job this kind man with an easy smile has ever had.

ESPN's founder, Bill Rasmussen, brought Mike on board in 1980 as an unpaid intern. In the issuing 43 years, yes, 43 years, Mike Soltys has touched every aspect of ESPN's communication strategy. I personally have learned so much from watching him over the years how to have good, honest and tough conversations in a very respectful way. He has a great wit, an incredible knowledge, a deep history and understanding of the ebbs and flows of sports media, and of course, he knew everything about the workings of ESPN. I still smile about the time we were together at Fenway Park one night before a Red Sox playoff game. He was just great at relationships. I never ever, ever heard one negative word about this good man. He's a family man who also gave so much time to mentor others. He loved sports, he loved ESPN, and what a ride it has been for such a talented leader. Mike Soltys was a consistent, constant professional, and it's right that he is being celebrated because more importantly, he's just a very good person.

And so that is your morning Buzzcast for Thursday, April 27th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.