SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 13, 2022

Episode Summary

Insight into SBJ's Most Influential list; Global policies soften on Russian athletes and SRX finds a new media partner

Episode Transcription

At a dinner last night in Charlotte, a bunch of us went around the room at the end of the meal and talked about the story in sports business. They are watching or we are watching most closely. What was mine? Well, how will the high number of team sales shake out over the next few months? We have the Suns, the Angels, the Nationals, the Commanders, the Senators, Liverpool, Man U, those are just the ones we know about. We always talk about the scarcity in team opportunities. Well, there's not scarcity right now as we sit here in December of 2022. And I wonder who are the big, deep pocketed investors ready to step up, or do some teams not get the price they want and owners pull them off the market? This will be a very good test of the sports franchise marketplace amid economic headwinds.

Good morning. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, December 13th. Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Well, SPJ released our annual list of the most influential executives in sports business for 2022. And let's just say, this year's decision was more challenging as the top spot was really up for debate until late in the year, there was no clear choice, unlike last year when Michael Rubin of Fanatics easily emerged as the individual creating the most consequential and talked about change. But this year in a business filled with dynamic change, we kept coming back to Amazon as the biggest change agent that has already altered how leagues and properties and conferences value their all important media rights. And I think it was really the success with the NFL's Thursday night football from a technical, from a production, from a viewership standpoint, that demonstrated just how much Amazon will be a long-term major power player in the sports space.

But it's not just the Amazon Prime launched Thursday night football, it's that their executives, Jay Marine and Marie Donoghue and others were part of every major sports media rights discussion this year. And the success of Amazon opened the eyes of every major sports rights holder to the quality and reach of Amazon's production. And it really, I would say, motivated other big digital companies and tech companies like Apple and Google to take the sports business more seriously. And Amazon sees itself becoming a major broadcaster of sports in every big country around the globe. It's hard to argue with that. And that's going to change the game, for every sport, for every league, for every big event, for every media company. And so at the end of the day, that is influence. Many of the names on the list are familiar to all of you, but we do have 23 newcomers among the 83 names on the list, and that's a solid number, but still not enough new faces for many.

But let's just face it, the list of 50 entries is a tough list to really crack, and making their debut this year. Were the leaders of LIV Golf and Formula One for obvious reasons. Kevin Warren made it for the first time. Todd Boehly made it for the first time. Those are certainly understandable additions. Cindy Parlow Cone has done some groundbreaking work, her predecessors couldn't achieve at US Soccer. NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio, she's in a very interesting spot as the NBA's presence and revenue continue to expand and grow. And it's looking to reach a new media deal and a new collective bargaining agreement. So she will be in a very important spot. And Angel City FC's owners were closely followed across sports as they introduced some unique and successful concepts in team ownership. So that's why they made the list. So those were among the newcomers and certainly a number of tough omissions on the list.

But the full list is at, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on where we hit it right or where we missed. Moving on over the last few weeks, there has been a noticeable shift in the attitude toward athletes from Russia and Belarus. Last week, we heard the All England Club say it would welcome Russian tennis players to Wimbledon this year after they were banned last year. And now the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it supports the move to include Russian and Belarusian athletes at the 2024 Paris Games as long as they don't compete under their nation's flags or in their colors. Now, this is a shift because before, the USOPC was critical of Russian athletes competing, following a doping scandal at the 22 Beijing games. And this move comes as IOC leaders have agreed to move ahead to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes compete as neutrals.

That means there will be strict sanctions against the athletes, including no flag, no anthem, no colors, or any other identifications of the countries for Paris 2024. Now, that of course comes after the invasion into Ukraine, but this move is a noticeable shift as IOC leader Thomas Bach had previously pushed on federations to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from international events. But that approach, that policy is clearly softening and we're seeing it around a number of global events. Moving on to motorsports, look for the racing series SRX to go from CBS to ESPN starting in 2023, as ESPN reached a multi-year deal with the Superstar Racing Experience that will begin in July and it will see the SRX air on six consecutive summer nights. Now it will be known as Thursday Night Thunder. That's an old ESPN brand from the 1980s around motorsports.

Remember, SRX launched in 2021 in partnership with CBS, which televised the races Primetime Saturday Nights, but now they'll shift from CBS to ESPN and shift from Saturday to Thursday night in a deal that I think will please executives at SRX to be part of the ESPN ecosystem. And finally, about a month ago, we talked about the launch of Horizon Sports and Experiences. That's the agency led by industry veterans, David Levy and Chris Weil. Well, they have their first sports account at ages reporting that NBA Entertainment has hired Horizon Sports and Experiences to consult on growing the league's fan base and global footprint. This is the first new client for Horizon Sports and Experiences since launching in November, the agency will develop fan experiences at NBA events, such as the NBA All-Star game. Remember, David Levy has a longtime relationship with the NBA from his days at Turner Sports. So it's not a shock that the NBA would be an early client of the agency, Horizon Sports and Experiences.

So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, December 13th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening. Let me know what the key story in sports business you're watching. And until then, stay healthy, be good to each other, and I'll speak to you tomorrow.