SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 11, 2024

Episode Summary

What the NCAA's deal with KAGR means for understanding fans; the NFL's ticket sales more proof of league's strength; MLSE names new exec and Netflix latest series releases.

Episode Transcription

Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, Bill Belichick, I am feeling like an end of an era for the coaches that shaped an entire generation all moving on at once. To me, it's pretty stunning.

But the takeaway on Saban is that I've heard for well over a year that Nick Saban was becoming more and more frustrated and turned off by the issues surrounding college sports, especially over the pay to play concepts of name, image, and likeness. That was surely a factor in the 72-year-old Nick Saban moving on, but back to the start, it just feels like a total changing of the guard from some of the legendary coaches in football.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, January 11th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody is doing well. Thanks to Austin Karp for doing such a great job filling in for me. You're going to be hearing more of him in the future.

So when I sat down with NCAA President Charlie Baker in December, he lamented the fact that the NCAA didn't know enough about its fans, who they are, where they live, how to reach them, what sports they're interested in. Well, he's made a move to solve that problem in a new deal with KAGR, Kraft Analytics Group. The multi-year deal is expected to help the NCAA better understand fan behaviors, all with the goal of growing the organization's reach by four to five times by 2030, so just six years away.

Baker announced at the NCAA convention on Wednesday night in San Antonio, the deal with KAGR. He believes with their help, the NCAA will build one of the largest sports fan databases in the country, possibly the largest women's sports fan database in the world. He believes that this will all help the NCAA provide real-time useful information to college sports fans about the school, the conferences, the championships, and the sports they're interested in.

It was well known that Charlie Baker was frustrated that the association didn't have a good source of understanding its fan base. He believes in the power of data, he believes in the power of personalization, and the NCAA will certainly gain more knowledge on consumer habits through this partnership. And KAGR will also advise how to create fan journeys, fan experiences, and growth strategies for the NCAA.

So everybody wants to know more and more about their fans, their habits, their interests, and they want to personalize the experiences for them. This is a step in that direction. Charlie Baker, he's entering year two of his tenure and you're starting to see some real changes and real progress at the NCAA.

Let's move on. Austin Karp talked about the NFL strong season in viewership on the Buzzcast Wednesday. The league saw its best viewership numbers since 2015. As he said, they saw gains across all key demographics, including its best female viewership on record. Yes, female viewership of the NFL was up nearly 10%. Thank you, Taylor Swift. But not just in viewership did the league have a good year. It drew very well at the gate as well. SBJ can report that the NFL drew an average of more than 69,500 fans per game. That was the highest figure since we began tracking these numbers in 2004. So the previous high water mark came in 2016 and in total this year, the NFL's total attendance grew to 18.9 million fans total.

So what helped drive this success at the gate? First, the NFL is just smarter and its teams are much smarter in ticket sales and in ticket strategy. Also, you saw a change in ownership and DC and the move from Dan Snyder to Josh Harris, well, let's just say that certainly helped the Commanders attendance because the Commanders led all NFL teams in attendance growth with a 10% gain, and their average crowd hit nearly 64,000 fans per game.

So the Commanders up 10%. The biggest declines came from the Bucks. They were down 7% in the first season after Tom Brady's retirement. And the Titans were down 5%. You had some teams up, some teams down. All in all, most teams performed very well. Remember, this is a figure of tickets distributed. It shouldn't be confused with actual ticket sales or in ticket revenue, but it's a good indicator for everybody to see attendance trends. And the bottom line is that NFL teams have become much smarter and better in ticket sales.

Boy, are there some major dominoes falling in the golf world or what? I was at a dinner last night in Charlotte, and I would say a half to three quarters of our conversation was all about the changes in the golf world and what could happen with the PIF and the PGA Tour, what will happen with all this investment in the PGA Tour.

One of the most talked about openings in all of sports is who will be the new CEO of PGA Tour Enterprises. That is the new for-profit commercial arm of the PGA Tour. They are said to be looking to hire a number of people to staff PGA Tour Enterprises, of course, all in commercial roles.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the global golf game is getting out of the sport. Yes, European Tour CEO, Keith Pelley will now become President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. That is the parent company of the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, Toronto FC, the Argonauts. This too, that opening has been one of the most talked about openings in sports and the search for that role has gone on for nearly a year. Pelley succeeds Michael Friisdahl, who was MLSE's President and CEO from 2015 to 2022. Remember, Tim Leiweke had that job for a number of years as well.

The 60-year-old Keith Pelley is very well regarded on the global stage. He's been CEO of the European Tour, or I guess it's the DP World Tour since 2015. But this is not a new terrain for Keith Pelley. He has a history in Canadian sports. He was the President of Rogers Media from 2010 to 2015. So running Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, this is a big high profile job. Look at the assets, look at the teams, look at the market, and Keith Pelley instantly becomes one of the most powerful executives in North American sports.

I know my colleague Austin mentioned it yesterday, but it's worth noting again. And as all organizations in sports seek continuity, think of the continuity that has led to the success of the Miami Heat, really one of the top organizations in all of sports. It starts with owner Micky Arison and his son Nick Arison, and of course Pat Riley and obviously Erik Spoelstra, who I believe is one of the best coaches in all of sports and is one of the good people in sports.

The Heat knew what they had. And working with CAA Sports who represents Spoelstra, they signed Spoelstra to an eight-year contract extension worth more than $120 million, the most committed money in North American coaching history. And it shows. Everything, the cost of doing business for all teams is going up. One owner I spoke to recently lamented the fact that they are spending so much on coaches and assistant coaches and trainers, but you pay when you have a talent like Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat wanted him there for the long term. Spoelstra wanted to stay in Miami. He was entering the final year of his deal, a very smart move by the Arisons and Pat Riley to keep him in the fold and maintain that successful culture around the organization because we're seeing how hard it is to instill and maintain that culture.

By the way, if you ever can, watch Erik Spoelstra work his craft during an NBA game while on the sidelines and on the bench, and communicating with his players and his assistant coaches. It is a great lesson in leadership, comportment and in coaching.

And let's end with this. The influence of Netflix in sports continues. Netflix will create a new NBA docuseries. It's modeled after Quarterback that they did last year around NFL quarterbacks. This will feature LeBron James, Jason Tatum, Jimmy Butler, and others. Now LeBron James's SpringHill Company, former President Obama's Higher Ground Productions and Peyton Manning's Omaha Productions will produce the series. It's begun filming, but there is no name to the series and there is no premiere date as of now. But this will be another key piece of Netflix programming.

In addition, the second season of Netflix, Break Point on tennis, that was released yesterday. I'll be sure to watch that. Let me know if you watch that and what you think.

And yesterday, Netflix dropped the teaser trailer for its newest series, NASCAR Full Speed. That tracks the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. That will launch January 30th. That's Connor Schell's word and pictures and NASCAR Studios are the production companies on that project. The teaser trailer looked great. I'll be watching that as well. Bottom line, Netflix doing some very interesting programming around sports.

And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, January 11th. I'm Abe Madkour. Stay healthy. Be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Friday.