SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 7, 2023

Episode Summary

What's next for the Pac-12? New Hornets' owners reveal plans for franchise, Braves' business growth continues, and the Dallas Mavericks' partnership with the Dallas Wings.

Episode Transcription

I truly enjoy watching the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speeches. And on Saturday, I was really moved by the ones I saw, including Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Joe Klecko, and Joe Thomas. Those are the ones I caught, and if you get a chance to watch them, do so. They are certainly worth your time, and they are great stories of leadership and perseverance and challenges. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, August 7th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Saturday, I played pickleball and really enjoyed it. And afterwards, all of our talk was around realignment in college sports and what it means. And boy, it really accelerated Friday afternoon as Oregon and Washington moved to the Big Ten and later Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah moved to the Big 12. That leaves the PAC-12 with just 4 remaining schools committed beyond 2024. All of this came as PAC-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff was unable to complete a new media deal and was unable to persuade the schools to accept a deal from Apple. Here is what reportedly went down.

PAC-12 presidents and chancellors were set to have a call Friday morning where it was believed the schools would sign a grant of rights and a media deal with Apple. But not all the schools were on that early morning call. And when some schools didn't show up, the other leaders of institutions knew that the PAC-12 was probably no longer viable. The University of Washington President said later, the proposed media deal from Apple for the PAC-12 was not a viable deal in her mind. And she added it wasn't the deal that the conference had been discussing just days before. So that's an interesting wrinkle. But a source told me Saturday, the conference was very, very close to locking all of this down, but it seems in the end, the schools didn't have faith in the conference and the viability of the conference going forward.

Now the PAC-12 is left with Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State. And sources said that a merger between the Mountain West Conference and the PAC-12 is gaining some traction as the PAC-12 name and the power conference status would remain. And while presidents and athletic directors from both conferences discussed the idea over the weekend, more serious talks are expected today on Monday, so we could see Mountain West PAC-12. Meanwhile, the addition of Oregon and Washington gives Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti a big win after the conference hired him in late April. The Big Ten said those schools would compete in all sports in the '24, '25 academic year. So they have a lot to do to integrate those schools quickly. Now it said that both schools are expected to agree to a lower rate, perhaps as low as 50% of the Big Ten's media revenue. That could hit about $65 million per year per institution, which is still far bigger than what was rumored to be Apple's deal with the PAC-12.

Now, Big Ten presidents apparently did have some concerns about increased travel and the logistics of an 18 team conference, but approved the deal on Friday. And yes, for the Big 12, more big wins for Brett Yormark. It's hard to believe Yormark's only been in his job for one year. He brought such a sense of urgency to his role and to his credit, he quickly understood what he needed to do and what needed to be done to reimagine the Big 12. And he has done it. He just never quit. And I'm sure he's not done yet. But the differences in approach between Yormark and Kliavkoff is notable and telling. George Kliavkoff has a more thoughtful yet deliberate style. And obviously that style didn't fit during this dynamic time in college sports where it seems that Brett Yormark knew this was a game of musical chairs, he really wants to win and he knew he had to move quickly and he never quit. And I don't think we're done yet in all of this movement. There's plenty still likely to come.

Let's move on. The new owners of the Charlotte Hornets have made a very favorable first impression as Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin officially took over from Michael Jordan and they have said all the right things. The two have pleaded for patients, as they said, they envision a consistent sustainable, winning franchise. Something the Hornets certainly have never been. They also look at improving the overall game experience for fans at the Spectrum Center, which will undergo a pretty significant renovation. The duo are interesting. You have the 44 year old Gabe Plotkin and the 54-year-old Rick Schnall, and they admit it. They are just huge basketball fans. Schnall said he will buy an apartment in Charlotte as he is based in New York City. Plotkin says that he plans to be in Charlotte a fair amount for a lot of the games.

The two also wrote an open letter to the team's fans as part of a full page ad in Sunday's Charlotte Observer stating that they will be patient owners who are committed to building the team the right way, but they noted there'll be no easy fixes. So these two new owners in the NBA, I think will be an interesting duo to keep your eye on.

The Atlanta Braves were split off from Liberty Media in July, and as a result, we will see a far more detailed financial report on the franchise. And this will give all of us a very close look at the inner financial workings of a team. So the Braves reported quarterly results late last week for the first time since they were split off. Here's what we saw. We saw total revenue grew 8% to $270 million in the second quarter. That was up from $250 million over the same period a year ago. Baseball revenue was up, mixed use development revenue was up as well, although operating income decreased because of higher player salaries and increases under MLB's revenue sharing plan.

But like I noted, there's more details on the team's business as revenue from retail and licensing was up 11% to $20 million for the quarter, and broadcasting revenue was up 8% to $69 million. Now retail and licensing was up because of more games, more home games during the quarter, and also the demand for the new Nike City Connect apparel. So that drove increased retail sales. Finally, the Braves have sold 96% of its ticket capacity this season so far, and they reached 40 sellouts faster than any previous season in the 7 year history of Truist Park. So overall, the Braves continue to be a juggernaut and these reports will be very helpful going forward.

Another topic of conversation after pickleball was how great it is to see baseball fever return to Baltimore. Baltimore is a great baseball town that has fallen on some hard times, yet Camden Yards has aged very gracefully and it's still one of the best ballparks to watch a game. Now, the team hasn't drawn well over the last few years for a number of reasons, but this year now that this young team is playing with great energy and is in first place in the American League East, the crowds are coming back. On Saturday, the Orioles commemorated the 1983 team that won the franchise's last World Series, and then this year's team went out to beat the Mets in front of a sellout crowd. There were more than 44,000 fans at Camden Yards, that marked the third sellout this season. And the last time that more than 44,300 fans attended a non-home opener at Camden Yards was 6 years ago. So you are seeing one of the best stories in baseball as baseball fever returns to Baltimore.

An interesting story in the WNBA and NBA as the Dallas Mavericks have become the jersey patch sponsor of the WBA's Dallas Wings. Yes, this marks the first time an NBA and WNBA team under separate ownership have formalized a partnership. So the Mavericks will place a patch promoting its GEM program, GEM, which is Girls Empowered by Mavericks, that will be placed on the uniforms of all Wings players. It began yesterday on Sunday with the Wings home game against the Chicago Sky. Now the Wings are owned by a group led by Bill Cameron, and they'll wear the Maverick's GEM patch for home and road games going forward as part of a multi-year deal. Now, specific terms were not disclosed. Girls Empowered by Maverick's helps more than 300,000 girls every year in North Texas. It's designed to encourage young women to play sports or engage in physical activity. And so now that program, Girls Empowered by Mavericks, gets rare high profile visibility on the jerseys and the Wings become the 10th of the 12 WNBA franchises to have a jersey patch partnership.

And finally, while the US women are out of the Women's World Cup, the 2026 World Cup is getting closer and closer. And to prepare, FIFA has opened a new office in Coral Gables, Florida to prepare for the event. A lot of sources have been interested about FIFA's hiring plans in the US and already on the FIFA website, it's posting openings for positions in the Florida office, including benefits and payroll manager, chief safety and security officer, and also senior accountant. More jobs will be posted as the buildup to the '26 World Cup continues. And I know a number of people eager to learn more about the opportunities around the FIFA World Cup in 2026. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, August 7th. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.