Fanatics strikes a deal with LA28, the MLBPA looks to unionize all minor leaguers and are Sinclair’s RSNs being prepared to be sold?
Serena Williams's expected retirement from tennis will have to wait as the 23-time major champion won her first-round match at the US Open Monday night. Tickets for Monday's night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium became a hot commodity after Williams recently hinted at evolving beyond tennis in an interview that ran in Vogue. According to TickPick, a secondary ticket website, the cost to attend Monday's night session was more expensive than any US Open women's final on record. The average secondary market ticket price on Monday morning was listed at just shy of $1,000, according to ticket analytics firm, TicketIQ. They were 29,402 fans on the grounds for the night's session. That's a US Open record. Good morning. It's Tuesday, August 30th. This is your SBJ Morning Buzzcast. I'm David Albright filling in for Abe Madkour.
In the SBJ Media newsletter Monday night, our John Ourand reported that the independent board of Sinclair's Diamond Sports Group has retained the investment banks LionTree and Moelis, according to multiple sources. The move to hire these banks has led several industry execs to believe that Sinclair's 21 RSNs are being prepared to be sold. LionTree is a banker that's been active in the sports media business. Most recently represented Ted Leonsis as he bought NBC Sports Washington from Comcast for an undisclosed amount. Moelis is a financial advisory company that specializes in corporate restructurings. Companies basically hire Moelis to make their balance sheets more attractive to potential buyers or investors.
The bankers have not yet reached out to potential bidders yet. Instead, they are working to improve the sports group's capital structure to make it more attractive to potential suitors or investors, sources said. It's unlikely that the bankers will find buyers or investors, at least not right away, because Diamond Sports Group is operating with upwards of $8 billion in debt. The problem: creditors will not want to restructure until they have an idea who likely buyers might be. But buyers will be scared away until the bankers can make the company's balance sheet look more attractive. The bankers have to try and serve both masters at the same time.
One option that apparently is on the table: The bankers could try to persuade creditors to forgive the debt, convert it to equity, and try to bring in a partner, either one of the leagues or a deep-pocketed tech or media company like Apple, Amazon, Fanatics, or DraftKings. Disney sold Sinclair the RSNs, which then operated under the Fox Sports brand, in the summer of 2019 for $9.6 billion. Last spring, Sinclair renamed the RSNs under the Bally Sports moniker. Earlier this spring, it soft-launched a direct-to-consumer offering. It plans to expand that offering to all of its RSNs this fall.
Fanatics has signed a long-term merchandise licensing and retail agreement with LA28 and Team USA. The sportswear giant has acquired the rights to operate in venue retail locations throughout and around the LA28 footprint, complementing its existing relationship running online retail platforms for the games and Team USA. Fanatics will sell LA28 and Team USA licensed merchandise, including hard goods, apparel, memorabilia, and collectables, and the company will also outfit the LA Games' volunteers. The partnership was brokered by US Olympic and Paralympic Properties, and it builds on Fanatics' relationship with Team USA, which stretches back to 2009. The partnership follows Fanatics' October deal with the International Olympic Committee under which Fanatics launched the IOC's first-ever global online shop and acquired the rights to manufacture and sell city-specific merchandise for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic games in Paris, Milano Cortina, and LA.
The MLBPA confirmed it has launched an effort to unionize all minor league baseball players across the country. The announcement came after the MLBPA executive board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the plan in a meeting last night. Minor leaguers would have to have their own bargaining unit under the MLBPA umbrella. If this is successful, any minor league player CBA would be negotiated separately from the recently completed MLB-MLBPA agreement. The MLBPA's effort is supported by advocates for minor leaguers, which has served as a resource and voice for the players since 2020.
Bud Light today drops Kickoff beers, a new football-focused spot via Anheuser-Busch InBev's in-house agency, draftLine, and features Chief's tight end, Travis Kelce, and 49ers tight end, George Kittle. The 30-second spot, which features ESPN Monday Night Football's theme song, is tied to the start of the NFL season. AB InBev has been an official league sponsor since 2011. Bud Light also is bringing back limited edition team cans and packaging this season within 24 markets.
Bleacher Report today is rolling out new elements within its B/R Gridiron and B/R Betting verticals ahead of the NFL season. The first new B/R Gridiron element is a live show on the app that will focus on fantasy football. The show will air every Thursday during the season at 5:00 PM Eastern. Another new element this season is the live Monday Reaction streamed show at 11:00 AM Eastern each week, which looks at top highlights from the weekend. Returning elements within B/R Gridiron include Underrated, and the animated series, Gridiron Heights, also returns for Season 7. New to the B/R Betting vertical this season is a live Sunday show, 6 Bets We Love. It'll come from the DraftKings' sportsbook at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
We'll close on a quick programming note. Don't miss the new issue of SBJ. College football crashes into the calendar just as the sports' upheaval has leaders looking for answers around governance, media deals, the transfer portal, and much more. Also in this week's issue, new USTA CEO, Lew Sherr, is re-energizing the organization. MLB.TV marks two decades of streaming. New sports documentaries add a quality lineup on the small screen and learn about the inaugural class of students in the Charlotte Difference Makers. That's your SBJ Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday. I hope everyone has a great day. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning.