SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 1, 2023

Episode Summary

The details on the declining Pay TV universe; major deals for Notre Dame and ManU; what's next for Major League Cricket and Dodgers are thinking 365

Episode Transcription

Look for an active day today, Tuesday, as Major League Baseball's trade deadline is set for 6:00 PM Eastern Time. Who will be the buyers and the sellers? That's what I'll have my eye on. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, August 1st. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope you're all doing well. We talk a lot on the Buzzcast about the shrinking pay TV universe and its significant impact on the media business. Well, SBJ's John Ourand noted last night that cord cutting appears to be accelerating as every cable network that carries live sports has seen significant subscriber drops since the beginning of this year, and that's according to Nielsen's most recent estimates. Overall, the total multi-channel audience, that includes people who subscribe to cable like me, satellite, and video offerings like YouTube TV. Overall, that universe has dropped by more than 3.1 million subscribers in the past seven months.

In January, that figure was at 78.8 million homes, that is the total distribution of that universe. As of August, distribution is at 75.7 million homes. A couple of interesting statistics to highlight from John Ourand's report. July marked the first time that Fox Sports 1 posted just a slightly higher subscriber figure than ESPN. They're both in about 71 million homes. League-owned networks saw their numbers stabilize, but you still see a big delta between the Fox Sports 1s and the ESPNs of the world, then the NFL network and MLB networks of the world. For example, where I noted that Fox Sports 1 and ESPN are in more than 71 million homes, NFL Network is in 51 million, MLB Network is in 41 million, and NBA TV is in 38 million homes. So what's the significance? Remember, each of these networks is paid a fee per subscriber.

So the lower number of subscribers, the less revenue those networks bring in. If we did this report a few years ago, full distribution was north of 110 million homes. That was a very bullish time. Now, down more than 30 million homes, you can see the economics around these networks have changed drastically. So these drops continue to put major stress on the network business and distribution business and are certainly driving the streaming strategies that we are seeing today. Let's move on. Like I noted, today is August 1st, and Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark marks his one-year anniversary in that job. Hard to believe. Seems like we've had something on Brett Yormark, and the Big 12 on the Buzzcast every week feels like he's been in the role longer. One conference everyone is watching outside of the Big 12 is the PAC-12, and the conference is set to meet today, Tuesday, presidents and chancellors along with athletic directors, and I know we've said this before, but the PAC-12 is expected to present its media rights deal to the schools today.

And this comes, of course, as Colorado announced its intention to go to the Big 12 last week. And the PAC-12 must really work hard to maintain its nine remaining schools. They need to keep them together, and the plan seems to be announce a solid media rights deal and then go quickly on expansion. Now, it has been reported that the Big 12 has its eye on the University of Arizona, but University of Arizona President Robert Robbins has told his PAC-12 colleagues that Arizona will wait to see the conference's media rights numbers from the PAC-12 before making any decision on its future. So again, it's believed that the PAC-12 will formally outline its media rights agreement with chancellors, presidents, and ADs today, announce it publicly, and then go on the move for expansion.

Let's stay with college sports because Notre Dame is sticking with Under Armour. Yahoo Sports reported that the two are extending their relationship, agreeing to a new 10-year apparel deal that will see Under Armour offer more than $10 million a year in cash and apparel to Notre Dame. Notre Dame was in the final year of its previous 10-year deal with Under Armour. It went to the marketplace and spoke to other apparel providers, but Under Armour reportedly won a bidding war against Adidas and Nike. That's according to Yahoo Sports. This is a big win for Under Armour to remain with one of the biggest brands in college sports. The two have been partners since 2014, and this new 10-year deal is a big one, and it puts the Irish and Under Armour. It puts them in the range of other big deals like Texas is with Nike, Ohio State is with Nike, Nebraska is with Adidas, Michigan is with Nike.

All those schools have deals believed to be in the range of eight to $10 million a year. This one, Notre Dame and Under Armor, fits right into that mix, and it's also one of the first big deals for new Notre Dame athletic director, Pete Bevacqua. Staying with big apparel deals, reports out of London have Manchester United agreeing to a new record deal with Adidas that guarantees the club a reported $1.16 billion over 10 years. Yes, you heard that, right? That means that the team will receive over $100 million dollars a year from Adidas. This new deal runs until 2035. There are some interesting stipulations. Adidas pays less if United fails to qualify for the Champions League for successive seasons. But if you break it down, it's about a hundred million dollars annually for Manchester United from Adidas.

Major League Cricket wrapped up its inaugural season this past weekend at Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas. Organizers overall very pleased with the first season. They said that over two-thirds of the matches were sold out and that the demand for playoff tickets exceeded stadium capacity. Now, we have talked about how the backers of Major League Cricket have an initial investment of about $120 million. They want to build the league. They are bullish on building the league, and they believe that teams can be breakeven and even profitable within a three to five-year horizon. Now, they focused on starting their initial season in Texas because Texas has such a large South Asian population. But organizers will look to grow the league into other markets. They also think they can recruit some of the best players in the world who want to play in the United States, and they receive competitive salaries. Meanwhile, look for some markets to begin building out infrastructure. As owners in Seattle are working to build a 20-acre cricket venue that would seat up to 6,000 fans and be ready for the 25 season.

So Major League Cricket completes year one. Looking forward to future growth. If you've ever been to Dodger Stadium and Chavez Ravine, you understand just how special and historic that venue is. I made my first trip to Dodger Stadium in April. I loved it. I saw it as a total tourist attraction, and in addition to being a great ballpark and a great place to watch a game, the Dodgers feel the same way. And they have launched a new events business aimed at better activating Dodger Stadium all through the year outside of baseball games. The business unit is called Dodgers 365, and this will unify all non-baseball events and revenue under one umbrella. So you're looking at public tours, you're looking at private events, you're talking about concerts, and other big events. All those efforts will be ramped up and improved, and folded under Dodgers 365, and from walking around Dodger Stadium the day I was there, there are a number of ways that the team can optimize its history and the historic venue.

So all in all, a new effort to make Dodger Stadium a thriving events business all year round under a new unit called Dodgers 365. I know some teams have this. I anticipate other teams doing this as well. And finally, a shout out to the class of 2023 being honored by the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. This is an annual induction ceremony that targets some of the most influential people in sports business and sports media. This year's inductees include BIG EAST Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman, former CBS Sports Producer Lance Barrow, NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, the inventor of the super slow-mo camera Tom Fletcher, former NBA Executive Vice President of Media Operations and Technology Steve Hellmuth, longtime NBA on TNT studio show host Ernie Johnson, sports reporter Andrea Joyce, Big Ten Conference Commissioner and former TV network executive Tony Petitti. And finally, legendary camera operator Jeff Zachary. Well deserved, and congratulations to each of the inductees.

These legends will be inducted in a ceremony on December 12th in New York City, the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. I'll be in New York for the rest of this week, with meetings in the city. David Albright will bring you the Buzzcast Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, August 1st. I'm Abe Madkour. Have a great rest of your week. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you next week.