SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: February 9, 2023

Episode Summary

Disney delivers structure changes, Goodell gives his State of the League address and the Las Vegas Aces are under investigation for salary cap issues.

Episode Transcription

The NBA trade deadline is at 3:00 PM Eastern today, but it's hard to believe anything will top what happened late Wednesday night in the desert, as the Phoenix Suns on the direction of new owner Mat Ishbia, okayed a deal that brought Kevin Durant from the Nets in a blockbuster move that also included four first round picks heading to Brooklyn. And here I thought the most interesting opening note would be the Yukon Women's Basketball Team dropping a game at Marquette, which gave the Huskies back-to-back losses for the first time since 1993. Think about that. That's 30 years ago.

Good morning. It's Thursday, February 9th. This is your SBJ Morning Buzzcast. I'm David Albright, filling in for Abe Madkour.

Disney CEO Bob Iger, unveiled a new operating structure for the company during the company's earnings call Wednesday, one designed to galvanize its film and television studios, while drastically cutting costs. Part of that new structure concerns ESPN and ESPN+, as those entities will become a standalone unit for the first time, a move that was instantly interpreted as making the sports behemoth easier to spin-off or sell. But Iger pushed back on that idea that a spinoff was part of the plan, saying, "We did not do it for that purpose. ESPN continues to create real value for us. We just have to figure out how to monetize it in a disrupting world."

As part of the restructuring, Disney expects to cut costs by 5.5 billion and eliminate roughly 7,000 jobs. In the restructuring, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro's responsibilities will expand to include Disney's international sports TV networks.

On the streaming side, ESPN+ is now at 24.9 million subscribers, up from 24.3 million, three months ago. That figure also is up from 21.3 million, at the same time last year. Shares of Disney have dropped 24% over the past year, while the broader S&P 500 index has fallen 10%. Disney stock price rose in after hours trading, in advance of today's opening bell.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his annual state of the league address Wednesday and touched on many topics during the Q&A portion. Goodell said Monday Night Football will feature flexible scheduling and "would not at all surprise me if at some point we have it on Thursdays at some stage but not today, but it will certainly be something that will be on our horizon."

Goodell also said the incredible support we're getting for our game is the impetus to continue playing games internationally, and it's really rewarding to see how our fan base is expanded. We want to make NFL football a global sport, so we'll continue on this path.

On the Pro Bowl Flag Football and skills contest format, Goodell said, "I don't see us going back in any way to the previous format. I think this is the future for us." And Goodell said in terms of diversity, "Hiring in the front office and coaches, there is more work ahead of us. There is progress and we're pleased to see progress, but it's never enough."

NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith blasted the NFL scouting combine during his annual Super Bowl week press conference, voicing support for individual school pro days that would replace the Indianapolis event. Smith said the players' association would be open to setting up its own regional pro days, for players at schools that don't host their own.

Smith derisively described the combine as intrusive employment actions that don't exist anywhere else. To underscore his point, he asked the room full of reporters to imagine law school students, who had to solve puzzles and give out DNA samples to prospective employers.

The reigning WMBA Champion, Las Vegas Aces and owner Mark Davis, are under investigation for making under the table payment offers to both current players and free agents. The team has pursued. The Aces were already close to the 1.42 million salary cap, with all five starters rosters entering the free agency period, when they signed Candace Parker and Alicia Clark.

Questions quickly arose about how the Aces were able to sign Parker and Clark within their already strapped cap restrictions. The reported violations are a play-for-play like deal. The allegations could be in violation of the CBA, which stipulates a team cannot enter into an agreement with a sponsor, business partner or third party, that agrees to pay compensation for basketball services, to a player under contract to the team.

When Lakers forward, LeBron James became the all-time leading scorer in the NBA history Tuesday night, the achievement drew three million viewers to TNT, the network's largest non-open night regular season audience in five years. The broadcast peaked at 3.7 million viewers, from 11:45 PM to midnight Eastern, during which James surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with 38,388 career points. Opening night and Christmas games notwithstanding, it was the most watched regular season NBA game on cable, since January 31st, 2020, which was LA's first game after the death of legendary guard Kobe Bryant.

We'll close on a programming note in this week's Marchand and Ourand Sports Media podcast, Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks joins Andrew and John on the eve of producing a Super Bowl, to discuss some of the biggest sports media topics. Shanks talks about his plans for the Super Bowl, from where he will sit to what the viewership will look like. Shanks answers questions about the free agent frenzy among broadcasters, to his decision to elevate Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olson to the network's top NFL Booth.

Shanks also discloses his role in hiring Tom Brady and what to expect when Brady joins the booth for the 2024 season. You can download the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

And that's your SBJ Morning Buzzcast for Thursday. I hope everyone has a great day and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning.