SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 16, 2023

Episode Summary

Messi "is Major League Soccer"; Raleigh the next big development to watch and Laura Ricketts' all-star lineup of Red Star investors

Episode Transcription

Well, it's never too early to plan around the US Open. If you're going to be in New York City for the open during the first week, let me know. I'll be there Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the first week of the US Open, and I'd love to say hello. I touched on it yesterday, but Wednesday, today, marks the release of the 100th episode of the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media podcast. This is a must listen for the top executives in sports and John Ourand and Andrew Marchand will reveal the top five sports media stories from the first 100 episodes of the podcast on today's 100th episode. Should be a great listen. Look for that today on or wherever you listen to your podcast. And this is your morning buzz cast for Wednesday, August 16th. I'm Abe Madkour good to be with you. Recently, a top league executive gave me a bit of a hard time in saying that SBJ overplayed the launch of the NBA Cup mid-season tournament.

Their point was that other leagues have launched in-season tournaments, yet we were treating the NBAs as unique and innovative. I found it to be a fair point and this week we see two in-season tournaments taking place. The W completed its third Commissioner's Cup final on Tuesday night, one by the Liberty in front of 9,000 fans at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. That marks the first championship of any kind for the Liberty since they entered the WNBA in 1997. Each member of the Liberty will receive around $30,000 for winning, players on the second place Las Vegas Aces, get about $10,000, so that Commissioner's Cup seems to be working for the W. Meanwhile, a number of MLS officials were going to Philadelphia last night for the League's Cup semi-finals. And yes, MLS got its wish as Lionel Messi continues to push Inter Miami and that team will be in the first Leagues Cup final on Saturday in Nashville at GEODIS Park as Nashville SC will host the final against Inter Miami and Messi is continuing to drive the MLS business very quickly.

Yes, of course he scored another goal, but attendance in Philadelphia was nearly 20,000, prices on the secondary market were north of $1,000 per ticket. The AP had a line in today's story that stated "Major League Soccer is Messi's league now." Bottom line, both the Commissioner's Cup and the League's Cup show that these in-season tournaments can work. Let's move on. Another big high profile investor group is getting into women's sports as a group led by Cubs Co-owner and WNBA Chicago Sky minority owner, Laura Ricketts, has agreed to purchase the NESL's Chicago Red Stars in a deal that will pay the club's current owners up to $35.5 million. Most of that sum is guaranteed, but whether the current owners receive the full figure is based on the club hitting some short-term business performance incentives. Now, the Ricketts lead group also plans to invest an additional $25 million directly into the club. So if you're doing the math at home, it could be up to a $60 million investment into the franchise to start.

Now, if the current owners receive the full $35.5 million acquisition cost, it'll be the highest price ever for an existing NWSL franchise, exceeding last year's $35 million that Michele Kang paid to purchase the Washington Spirit. Here's what's interesting. This is a sale of an asset under duress. The Red Stars had been on the market since December when ownership announced it would sell the club after an investigation found that ownership had minimized complaints by players about abusive behavior of a former coach. So the majority owner, all the current investors had to sell their stakes in the club as part of this deal. So I think getting this price, $35.5 million, for an asset that was forced to sell, boy, that's a very strong number. While I won't mention all of them on today's buzz cast, you have to see the all-star group of investors that Laura Ricketts put together. It's incredibly impressive, boldface names, high profile, influential leaders of industry, and so that is another strong investment in women's sports.

Let's stay with women's sports. Recently in Charlotte, we were talking about the Ally Tipoff women's basketball event; that'll take place in November at the Spectrum Center. It'll feature the University of Iowa versus Virginia Tech, and organizers are pushing for a sellout of the Spectrum Center in what should be a marquee game driven by the star power of Iowa's Caitlin Clark. I bring this up because yesterday it was announced that Iowa's women's basketball program has sold out season tickets for the first time in the program's history. To put this in some context, Iowa had only sold out three regular season games in its history. Now they're sold out for an entire season. The capacity of Iowa's home arena is just over 15,000 and that facility will be jammed all season, but another great indicator of interest in women's basketball at Iowa. We touched on it Monday, but I want to close the loop on this. And the next big mixed-use development in sports to keep your eye on will be happening in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The hurricanes agreed on a 20 year lease running through 2044, and they have also agreed to develop the land and parking lots around the arena in what will be an $800 million mixed-use development. This is obviously big because it secures the long-term future of the Hurricanes in Raleigh, and that wasn't always a sure thing. Raleigh is one of the league's smallest markets, and the team played in one of the league's oldest arenas. The team also had a lease that it could buy out after 2029, but now, all that is pushed to the side. The aggressive owner, Tom Dundon, has a long-term lease. He has a deal to fully renovate the facility as well as paving the way to create a new destination center of mixed use around the venue. If you've ever been to PNC Arena in Raleigh, you know it pretty much sits in an open area of land. There's not much there. And so now, this opens up some very exciting development possibilities for Tom Dundon and the franchise. And again, this will be one of the bigger mixed-use development projects in sports to keep your eye on.

A very interesting move in the world of hockey and in player representation as longtime NFL Team Executive Brian Burke, will take on a leadership role for the Professional Women's Hockey League's Players Association. He'll have this role over the next couple of seasons. Now, this really surprised me because Brian Burke has always been a league or a team guy, and now he will work with the women's players on this new women's hockey league, and as it begins to take shape. I'm not sure really what to make of the move, but there is some speculation that Burke's hiring could be a step towards getting the NHL more and more involved in the Professional Women's Hockey Players League. Brian Burke is very close to the league and very close to Commissioner Gary Bettman. And if you don't know, Brian Burke is almost a legend in league circles, working more than 35 years in professional and international hockey. And now he'll work with the women's players and the players association of this new league. This new league is scheduled to begin play in January and it's controlled by the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises.

A lot of people talking about this launch of this women's hockey league. Now, Brian Burke's involvement adds even a little bit more intrigue into this story. And finally, let's end with this because it's a very interesting data point. I will say one of the top discussion points by my colleague, Austin Karp, yesterday was when he alerted me to a report from Nielsen on Tuesday that showed linear television made up less than half of all television viewing in July. So let's break this down. For the first time that traditional television channels accounted for less than half of all people watching, taking up only 49% of the pie as broadcast and cable recorded record low shares of viewership. Yes, that was a record low share of viewership between broadcast and cable distribution and networks.

Okay, so what does that all mean? Well, it means that while overall TV use in July was up from June, the growth came in streaming. Yes, that hit an all time high of 39% of all usage. The other 12% included video game playing on television screens. So the bottom line is that linear consumption continues to decrease, streaming continues to go up. It went up from 37% in June, to 39% in July. As for linear television, broadcast network consumption fell to just 20% of viewing in July. Cable came in at 29% of viewing in July. For both, it was a low point since Nielsen began releasing this data in June of '21. I know there are a lot of numbers, but think about this. In June of '21, broadcast and cable accounted for 64% of all TV use in the United States.

Now, in July of 2023, it's down to 49%. Shocking. I'm still a cable bundle guy. Most of my television viewing is through the linear broadcast or cable distribution, but that's obviously changing quite rapidly. Tell me, are you surprised by these numbers? What are your viewing habits? Are you more of a streamer or a linear cable and broadcast viewer? Let me know. I'd be very interested to hear. Bottom line, these data points from Nielsen are very interesting. You want to dig into them because they show the dynamic changes in the consumption of television today. And so that is your morning buzz cast for Wednesday, August 16th. I'm Abe Madkour, threw a lot at you today. Sorry about that. But have a great day, stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Thursday.