SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 14, 2022

Episode Summary

Facilities on NFL owners' meeting agenda; MLS lands with Fox; Can sports withstand an economic pullback? Zucker and Cardinale eye sports investments

Episode Transcription

Today is a big day in college sports as the University of California Board of Regents prepares to vote today, Wednesday, on whether to block UCLA's move to the Big 10. Chances are they won't vote to block it, but we have to wait and see what the Board of Regions decides. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, December 14th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast.

Another big deal today, Wednesday, is NFL owners will meet today in Irving, Texas with a series of votes on stadium improvements on the agenda. So not an overwhelming ambitious agenda at the NFL owners meetings, but owners are expected to approve various measures paving the way for stadium renovations in Dallas, stadium renovations in Denver and in Baltimore, also with items related to the new Bills and Titan Stadiums also on the agenda. Remember Baltimore's plan include renovations to M&T Bank Stadium and all of these are part of a number of very exciting new facility projects, renovations or new builds, mostly around the NFL. We're seeing a real building boom, especially in the League.

Also today, the NFL's front office accelerator will continue in the morning sessions of the League meeting. So what's the accelerator? Well, the accelerator brings 32 diverse potential general manager candidates to the meetings to meet and talk and network with owners, hoping that these become part of the pipeline of future general managers, and it's a program the League has been doing for a few years now. And if you're wondering about the possible future sale of the commander's or Dan Snyder's future at the NFL, well neither of those topics are officially on the League's agenda, but our Ben Fisher reports it's possible those could come up during a privileged owners and immediate family only session at the end of the day. So a fairly light agenda, but there should be some news coming out of Texas.

Let's move to Major League Soccer. We know the groundbreaking deal between MLS and Apple will be the talk of 2023, and we know the League wanted a linear carrier as well as part of their media package, and they got that yesterday as Fox Sports reached a new deal for four years that will see Fox air roughly one MLS match a week, plus some playoff matches, MLS Cup and some matches from the League's cup. That's going to start next year. So this allows Major League Soccer to maintain a pretty strong presence on linear television, even as it moves all of its matches to that new deal with Apple. MLS also agreed to a four year deal with Spanish language partner TelevisaUnivision that is limited to matches from the newly expanded Leagues cup tournament, which I said will begin this summer, and there's a lot of buzz about that tournament. That'll feature teams from MLS and Liga MX.

Rounding out their partnerships, MLS also announced deals in Canada with TSN and RDS. So MLS believes this combination of what they're doing with Apple and these linear deals will give the League the broadest exposure it's ever had. These moves start with 2023. So a lot to do for MLS to get all of their television partnerships aligned and get ready for their Apple deal, and this does mark the end of MLS's long-running relationship with ESPN. ESPN had a relationship with MLS that dates to the League's first game in 1996, but certainly a new era for Major League Soccer and their media partnerships.

Staying with soccer, another US sports team owner will lead a Premier League club as Golden Knights owner, Bill Foley continues to expand his sports portfolio and has been officially approved to take over the club A.F.C. Bournemouth. So this deal sees control of Bournemouth move from a Russian-born business executive Max Demin to Bill Foley who will become chairman of the club. This has been long reported but now it's official and approved. But Bill Foley is someone who is very interesting, and he's someone who continues to grow his sports and his business portfolio. He has certainly been successful at the Golden Knights, looking to be successful in the Premier League as well.

Let's move on to some interesting news in the sports finance space as ratings agency Fitch has issued a neutral outlook for the global sports industry in 2023. What does that mean? Well, Fitch believes that the US will face a mild recession beginning in the second quarter of 2023, but it believes that sports and sports teams will maintain growth in revenue and attendance. And while an economic downturn could negatively impact fans and fans' spending on sports, Fitch believes that most pro teams will be insulated by long-term sponsorship deals and long-term media rights deals. But, interestingly, the report does warn of a potential softening of the sponsorship market and weaker demand for premium seating for teams without recent on-field success. So if a team has struggled for some time, they will likely see some struggles in selling premium seating. So some interesting data points around the broad sports economic landscape that you may want to consider as you plan and budget for 2023.

I want to shift to the NBA because the NBA reached back to its rich history in rebranding its awards, which they announced on Tuesday. They will now call the NBA's MP award the Michael Jordan Trophy. Jordan's name replaces Maurice Podoloff, who was the League's first commissioner. Podoloff's name shifts to the award to the team with the best overall record. But now the MVP award has a new design, and of course the Jordan brand worked with Michael Jordan on the overall look. The trophy will be 23.6 inches tall and 23.6 pounds.

What does that represent? Well, if you know MJ well that's Jordan's jersey number, 23, and his number of NBA championship, six. So the NBA also renamed other awards. There is now the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy for Defensive Player of the Year, the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy for Rookie of the Year, the John Havlicek Trophy for Six Man and the George Mikan Trophy for Most Improved Player. The League will also present a new award for Clutch Player of the Year named after Jerry West. So the NBA keeping its strong and rich player history alive with its seasonal awards.

And finally we'll end the Buzzcast around people because this is a big one. Longtime media executive, Jeff Zucker was formally named Chief Executive of a new joint venture between private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners in International Media Investments, and Zucker's role will work on building, buying and investing in sports, media and entertainment entities around the world, this is according to the Wall Street Journal. And Zucker will have capital behind him. He'll have the backing of about a billion dollars in capital that RedBird and International Media Investments are putting up and they will fund the joint venture.

Now, Gerry Cardinale's RedBird Capital Partners is something we've talked about, is an entity we've talked about a lot on the Buzzcast. They own a minority stake in Fenway Sports Group. RedBird recently purchased A.C. Milan. So Zucker is also joining RedBird Capital as an operating partner. So that gives RedBird Capital a strong executive team to review, to vet to invest in future sports and media entities. Jerry Cardinale and Jeff Zucker represent a very powerful combination that will be big players around the biggest deals in sports, entertainment and media. So you're certainly going to want to keep an eye on what they are doing.

And finally, check out our new SBJ I Factor, presented by Allied Sports, as I interview Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, who is a longtime sports executive who first started with the Magic in 1989. He's been CEO since 2011 and he shares stories about coming up through the business from the communication side. He was not a lawyer, he was not from Harvard Business School. He came up from the PR and communication side. He also talks about what he's learned during stints with multiple sports teams and why he looks for emotional intelligence when interviewing job candidates. It's a good listen. I suggest you give it a try. That's SBJ I Factor presented by Allied Sports. You can get it at And that is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, December 14th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other, I'll speak to you tomorrow.