SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 22, 2022

Episode Summary

MLB and ESPN score with Classic; revamping the business model of golf and owners to keep your eye on

Episode Transcription

The US Tennis Open starts in a week. I'll be there next Tuesday and Wednesday during the day sessions, so if you're going to be there, let me know, love to try and say hello. Good morning, this is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, August 22nd. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening. Let's start with baseball. You know, few sports do special events better than baseball. The sport is just well-suited for them. We've seen it with the Field of Dreams game and we saw it again last night with the Little League Classic, as the Orioles played in their first ESPN Sunday Night game since 2018 and beat the Red Sox in front of hundreds of cheering Little Leaguers who were playing in the Little League World Series, players from around the world. Great visuals.

The Orioles kept pace for the Playoffs in front of a special crowd of wide-eyed youngsters, but you also had former President George W. Bush on hand. You had a sellout crowd of about 2,500 at Bowman Field. George Bush shook hands with the Orioles and Red Sox players. He went into the stands to meet Little Leaguers and their families. You had him interviewed on ESPN and ESPN's KidCast. Earlier in the day, you had players from both teams meet and mingle with the Little Leaguers. It's just a pure heartwarming event. I believe it's one of the best nights and games of the year for Major League Baseball. So, a big hit with the Little League Classic last night.

Let's move on. If you read one story from the weekend, make it golf writer Alan Shipnuck's solid reporting on last Tuesday's players' meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, where Tiger Woods and 15 top PGA Tour players outlined a plan to reshape the PGA Tour. It's interesting, in that Shipnuck calls Tiger Woods the shadow commissioner, whose mission is to reshape the tour in a way that enough new money will flow to ensure top players will want to stay, while giving Woods a slice of the pie and more of a say in how the PGA Tour operates. It's a pretty fascinating read. Woods and the other players discuss the formation of almost a tour within the tour, 18 no-cut events featuring the top 60 players competing for $20 million purses.

So, the bottom line here is this is a concept that's been talked about. The best players playing more frequently against each other. It would be very appealing for the top players to play for more money. Apparently, the lower rank players would be designated to play lower profile events for less money. The players also discussed having the PGA Tour renounce its nonprofit status, which would apparently allow it more leeway into changing rules and policies. If the PGA Tour were to privatize, heavy-hitting investors and private equity firms could invest in the tour, and the top players could be compensated with equity positions in the tour. So again, a massive change, potential change to the PGA Tour's business model.

This was discussed, they apparently will take these ideas to PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, but again, we are seeing a major time of unrest, change, and possible innovation along the PGA Tour. Now, this comes as LIV Golf will apparently announce seven new players, including Open champion Cameron Smith, immediately after this week's Tour Championships conclude on Sunday. So all the identities of the players were not disclosed, but apparently all these players will appear in LIV's next event, which is in Boston September 2nd through 4th, and of course, all of these players will likely be banned from the PGA Tour as soon as they play one of LIV Golf's events. So, the dynamic nature of professional golf continuing as we speak.

Let's move on to some news around the world of soccer. Last week, we saw a massive payday for the Big Ten, and then at the end of the week, we saw another big media deal in soccer, as Paramount has renewed its US rights to Champions League in a deal valued at more than 1.5 billion over six years, which more than doubles its previous deal. Yes, we keep seeing every media rights deal be two X, two and a half X its previous deal. It's just amazing. This news was first reported by Gerry Smith of Bloomberg, and the deal runs from 2024 to 2030. Paramount will reportedly pay now $250 million per year. That's up from about $100 million a year under the previous deal. So a big, big gain for UEFA's Champions League.

These games will be on CBS and Paramount Plus. UEFA also talked to a number of suitors, NBC, ESPN, Amazon, Apple, Fox, Warner Brothers, Discovery, Univision, and DAZN. Paramount's is just for the US English language rights, so UEFA can still sell Spanish language rights, adding more money and more revenue to their coffers, but it's another big deal for soccer, and of course it comes after MLS' 10-year deal with Apple. So the Champions League, UEFA's Champions League remaining with Paramount in a deal which will more than double its revenue.

Staying with soccer, I've been a big admirer of Chris and Angie Long. They own the NWSL Kansas City Current. They have put a lot of investment and energy behind women's soccer. They're building a new facility, they're building a new training complex. They are serious and vocal advocates for the game. They're just impressive and thoughtful leaders, and their enthusiasm is really paying off in the local market. The Current, on Friday, set a new record of attendance on Friday night during their game against Angel City FC, with nearly 10,400 in attendance, and that win extended the Current's unbeaten streak to 11 matches. So there's real energy, they are building something strong in Kansas City, and it will be even more powerful when the team moves into its new stadium for the 2024 season. They've already begun a season ticket drive for the new venue, but again, keep your eye on Chris and Angie Long of the Kansas City Current.

Another newer owner in sports that you'll want to keep your eye on is Ryan Smith. He of course owns the Utah Jazz. He's young, he's entrepreneurial, he loves sports, he loves Utah, and I know his sports portfolio will continue to grow. One indication of that is his Smith Entertainment Group has signed a partnership with Arctos Sports Partners. That includes Arctos' minority investment across multiple properties of Smith Entertainment Group. Now, Arctos currently has minority stakes in a number of teams. We've talked about them on the Buzzcast, the Sacramento Kings, the Golden State Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers, some MLB teams, two NHL teams.

With this investment, Ryan Smith will now look to expand his sports portfolio in the state. He has an ownership option for an NWSL team coming to Salt Lake with David Blitzer, and it wouldn't surprise me if Ryan Smith wants to someday bring an MLB or an NHL team to Utah. He's a big advocate of the state, and remember, he will be hosting NBA's All-Star Game next year in Salt Lake City. That will allow him to show off the city to the world. But this investment from Arctos Sports Partners in Smith Entertainment Group really positions it for future growth, and it continues Arctos' strategy of making minority investments in teams. But again, keep your eye on Ryan Smith in Utah.

And finally, as we look around the industry, we're always interested in new ticketing inventory, and I always keep my eye on NBA teams who have done some very innovative and premium offerings in their venues. That's why I'm interested to keep an eye on the New York Knicks and what they're going to do, because the New York Post reported the Knicks have plans for a new section of courtside seats expected to sell for as much as $3,000 a ticket. The Knicks will do this by doing what many teams have done, breaking up that scorers' table where game officials usually sit, and they'll provide front row center court seats. Now, you have seen some other teams go to much smaller scorers' tables, and that's what the Knicks will do. So keep your eye on that. Meanwhile, sales are really strong around the Knicks and the Rangers as MSG reported that Knicks and Rangers are now at 91% season ticket renewal rate and rising. So, very strong renewal rates for the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers as we go in to the start of the NBA and NHL seasons this fall.

So, that is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, April 22nd, really the last full week of August. Hard to believe. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Morning Buzzcast. Until I speak to you tomorrow, stay healthy, be good to each other, and again, I'll speak to you on Tuesday.