SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 16, 2022

Episode Summary

Why Charlie Baker makes sense for the NCAA; FIFA projects major revenue growth for '26; Women's volleyball is all the buzz and Matt Hong lands at PlayOn Sports

Episode Transcription

We know many of you are starting to shut it down for the year, and we will give you the Buzzcast through next Wednesday, December 21st before we take a few mornings off. Sports Business Journal appreciates all of your support of the Buzzcast and we appreciate you sharing the good word as our numbers continue to grow. So thank you and this is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, December 16th. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening. I was at a dinner earlier this week when I said I had no idea of the names under consideration for the new NCAA president. I knew a selection was coming soon, this week, but had no insight into who it could be. When I heard yesterday morning it was outgoing Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, I emailed simply, "Wow." Big name. Big, big name, who loves sports and gets things done.

Charlie Baker will succeed Mark Emmert and will start in his new role, March 1st. He's a former basketball player at Harvard. He served two terms as governor of Massachusetts and had a very high approval rating in the state. He could have stayed in that position for a long time, many thought he would run for president. His second term ends in early January and then he will shift to the NCAA. The NCAA was very pleased with its final candidates. It had final interviews, they were held over last weekend in Dallas. I was told the NCAA Board of Governors felt they had four very, very strong candidates, but Baker clearly distanced himself from the others over that final weekend and was clearly their first choice. So what does the selection of Charlie Baker, who is 66 years old, mean? Well, it signifies the NCAA's desire to have a leader who is well known and well versed in the ways that Washington DC works. With the NCAA facing so many legal and legislative challenges, the Board of Governors really focused on people from the political arena early in the process.

And like I said, Baker emerged as the candidate with the experience and the expertise to navigate the governmental and athletic worlds that will collide in intercollegiate athletics. Yesterday, Baker acknowledged that the job was, "Big and complicated, but so have been a lot of things in my life." So he represents the first NCAA president who doesn't have a background in college athletics or in higher education. And that will be interesting, because a number of conference commissioners told me they felt that an insider or someone with college experience was critical for this role. Yet the NCAA Board of Governors went outside of that scope. Now remember, Mark Emmert and his predecessor, the late Myles Brand, were both former university presidents, but the NCAA was clearly looking for a different skillset this time around.

Now, Len Perna, who's chair of TurnkeyZRG, he led the search with the NCAA, and one very interesting connection is that it was the endorsement of Boston Red Sox CEO's Sam Kennedy, that led Len Perna to Charlie Baker. In an early conversation that Len Perna had with Sam Kennedy, Sam talked up Charlie Baker and his experience and put Baker on Perna's radar. So Sam Kennedy, who knows good talent, called Baker's hiring, "An unbelievable coup for the NCAA." So a pretty strong endorsement. During his news conference yesterday, Baker didn't really want to share his opinions about the major issues facing the NCAA, such as NIL or transfer portal. He said he wanted more time to study them. The NCAA did not reveal the terms of Baker's contract. Mark Emmert made 2.9 million for the fiscal year that ended in 2021. No details on Charlie Baker's contract status or financial compensation, but a very big hire for the NCAA and it's a new day for the NCAA when Charlie Baker becomes its next president.

Let's move on. There is a new player in sports media and just when the industry welcomes more competition, the E.W. Scripps Company has emerged as a bidder for local sports rights, giving teams a local broadcast alternative to the traditional RSN. Now, the Cincinnati based company announced the formation of a new Scripps Sports division just on Thursday, and it will be led by broadcast veteran Brian Lawlor. He'll run the new group as its president. Now, what is Scripps? Scripps has 61 local over the air broadcast TV stations, and now the company acknowledges that it is in the market for local and national sports rights. They acknowledge they will not bid on the biggest national sports properties like the NBA, or they're not going to be in the mix for NASCAR or the Pac-12, but they acknowledge they could be in the mix for some other types of sports.

One could be the NWSL, for example, which expects to have a new media deal in 2023. But they're also very interested in local sports team rights because Scripps, again, has over the air networks in 61 television markets and they want to use sports locally to add value to its existing content and its existing broadcast stations. So if you're a sports team, you love to hear about a new player in local sports media like Scripps. So we're going to want to keep our eye on their development. Let's talk a little World Cup because as the World Cup ends in Qatar on Sunday, Saudi Arabia said it is considering an ambitious double bid to host the World Cup in 2030 and the Summer Olympics in 2036. And that would be such a rarity to host both in the same decade. But sources said a bid for the 2030 World Cup is all but certain, but that talks around a bid that would go up potentially against Qatar for the 2036 Olympics are less certain.

So, there seem to be more all in on the World Cup, still deciding about the Olympics. Like Qatar, Saudi Arabia would have to move the World Cup or the Olympics to the winter months because of the heat and conditions in the country. But this again, it shows the ambitions of Saudi Arabia to be a serious player on the global sports stage. Meanwhile, the revenue continues to grow and grow around the World Cup and bringing it to the United States, Mexico, and Canada in the next cycle will certainly help. FIFA said in a special meeting this week that it expects to earn 11 billion dollars from the four year 2023 through 2036 cycle, with a 48 team Men's World Cup in North America, and that would mark a significant increase in revenue. They anticipate to bring in 7.5 billion during the 2019, 2022 commercial cycle, which was already a billion dollars more than budgeted, but now they are projecting an increase to 11 billion dollars for the 2026 cycle.

And that's mainly tied to broadcasting and sponsorship deals, but also hospitality and ticketing. Because remember in 2026, they're going to use a number of NFL stadiums in North America in the United States. So bottom line, a major increase in revenue and you see the revenue growth around global soccer continue to swell. It's a strong business right now. Speaking of a strong business, women's volleyball is a hot sport. It really is. It's getting primetime exposure on ESPN this week. You'll have Texas and Louisville in the women's volleyball final this weekend from Omaha. There is a lot of business buzz around this sport and there are growing developments around a couple of new leagues. Now, Bengal's quarterback, Joe Burrow, and his parents, Jimmy and Robin Burrow have become the most recent partners of the Pro Volleyball Federation. That is a startup women's pro volleyball league, an indoor league that will begin in February of 2024.

It recently announced that Dan DeVos, who owns the Orlando Magic, will be the owner of its first publicly announced team in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but they expect to have eight to 10 initial teams around the country during its inaugural season in 2024. In addition to Grand Rapids, the league has already identified ownership groups in four additional markets and will outline those plans in the upcoming weeks. Now, there's no word if Joe Burrow and his parents will own a franchise or just be investors in the league, but this is another step forward as there are a few women's volleyball leagues looking to launch in the next few years, and it's one of the sports I'm hearing more and more buzz about.

And finally, let's end the Buzzcast like we do a lot of times, around people. One of the leading players in high school sports, PlayOn Sports, has named former Turner Sports, COO, Matt Hong as its president and chief operating officer. He'll oversee day-to-day operations for PlayOn Sports. Now at Turner Sports, Matt Hong, very well respected, very well regarded. He was a key leader in the network's, partnerships with the NBA, March Madness, baseball, NASCAR, the PGA, UEFA. He also oversaw Bleacher Report. Prior to joining Turner Sports, Matt Hong was an executive at AOL, so he has a very strong media background. He will be based in Atlanta. He'll report to PlayOn's founder, David Rudolph. PlayOn Sports is a media and tech platform really focused on high school sports across the country. It's a big player in that space, and now it has Matt Hong as its new president and chief operating officer. So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, December 16th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks again for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Monday.