SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 16, 2024

Episode Summary

VanDerveer’s leadership lessons; Saudis eye opportunities in tennis, the Bears look for a rain-maker, and Ohio State could be turning the page on a new AD

Episode Transcription

One of the best interviews I've read recently was Stanford Women's Basketball Coach, Tara VanDerveer, being featured in the Corner Office in the New York Times, where she talked about leadership, coaching and her personal and professional journey. A lot of great takeaways and it's certainly worth the read. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, January 16th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast.

As noted on Monday, the NFL and NBC had to be thrilled with the results from Saturday's Playoff game that was exclusively streamed on Peacock, as the Dolphins-Chiefs average 23,000,000 viewers on Peacock, on local NBC affiliates and on the NFL+ mobile app. That made the game the most streamed live event in US history. The game also accounted for 30% of internet traffic while it streamed. And the previous high from a streaming exclusive NFL game was 15,000,000 viewers on November 30th, that was a Seahawks-Cowboys Thursday Night Football game. This one, a Playoff game, averages 23,000,000 viewers. So the message is that viewers will find these exclusive games, they will pay to watch them. In this case, it was $5.99 if you didn't have a Peacock subscription. And finally, the technology clearly worked. It could handle the capacity. It was a big night for NBC because so many different business units had to execute to make this a success. So now of course, the question becomes how many of those new Peacock subscribers who signed up just for the game will stick around and renew and remain in the Peacock universe?

NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, said that the league's In-Season Tournament will return next season with some minor changes. The In-Season Tournament was largely a hit and Silver told the Associated Press that team Presidents met and discussed potential changes, including how to break ties, the appearance of the basketball courts and perhaps even the name of the event. It's been interesting to see how polarizing the courts have become. So many sources I've spoken with don't like the courts in the In-Season Tournament. Obviously enough people brought it up that the team Presidents are examining the future path forward. Silver also said the NBA will consult with their TV partners to figure out the best time of the season to conduct the tournament. That's surprising because I thought they had settled on this November December timeframe, but the In-Season Tournament is here for the foreseeable future and why not?

I had a conversation recently with someone very connected in the world of tennis and their message to me was simple, "The Saudis will get serious and more and more involved in the sport and players on the tennis circuit are in support of the Saudi's investment." I thought of that when reading that Rafael Nadal has become a new ambassador of the Saudi Tennis Federation as part of a long-term commitment to help grow the sport in the Kingdom. And the more the Kingdom can get top players like Nadal as advocates and ambassadors, the better. We know that the country wants to host more and more top tennis events as part of a broader sports push, and Nadal said that he continues to see growth and progress in Saudi Arabia.

Now remember, the Saudis hosted its first ATP tour event, the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah and closed out the year with exhibition matches featuring top players. There are reports that the Saudis are bidding to host an ATP 1000 event, which is one of the highest profile events outside of the Grand Slams. So the bottom line, expect to see more from the Kingdom when it comes to investing in tennis.

Some very big news to keep your eye on in the college sports space as reports have Ohio State close to hiring Texas A&M Athletic Director, Ross Bjork, to succeed the retiring Gene Smith as Ohio State's new Athletic Director. This is interesting because Ross Bjork has been Texas A&M's Athletic Director since 2019. He was previously the AD at Ole Miss and Western Kentucky. Yes, he is seen as a very strong fundraiser, but it's still a bit of a surprise. He doesn't have any ties to Ohio State, the Big 10 or even Gene Smith. Many thought that Ohio State would look at someone that had worked with Gene Smith in the past. There are plenty of Power Five ADs who have been mentored by Gene Smith, such as Patrick Chun, Martin Jarmond at UCLA, Pitts' Heather Lyke, and Diana Sabu at Utah State, among others.

But, should be noted, Ohio State has a new School President and this new University President may, just may want to change the direction of Ohio State Athletics and move in a different direction than bringing on a protege of Gene Smith. It should be noted, The Columbus Dispatch did report that Pat Chun, who's at Washington State, was a finalist for the job. Pat Chun spent 15 years in the Ohio State Athletic Department. But again, it looks now that Ohio State is focused on Ross Bjork as its next AD. Gene Smith will retire at the end of June after serving as Athletic Director since 2005.

I know the Chicago Bears are expected to stay the course and not make many changes on their coaching staff, but I do expect President and CEO, Kevin Warren to begin reshaping the team's business operation now that he has been there for a full year. To that end, the Bears are parting ways with Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Cliff Stein, after nearly 22 years with the franchise. In addition, the Bears have also posted an opening for an Executive Vice President, Revenue and Chief Commercial Officer, which would be an advisor to Kevin Warren.

The Bears are reportedly looking for a strong sales executive as well as someone who can identify new revenue streams for the organization. I am not surprised that Kevin Warren is out in the market looking for a high level revenue producer. It's been known that the Bears have a long runway and some major growth opportunities in its business. Think about the brand of the Bears. Think about the City of Chicago. There are many who feel that the ownership under the McCaskey family has not optimized sales and revenue around the club. Kevin Warren is clearly looking to change that and that's why he has posted a opening for a Chief Commercial Officer.

And let's end with this. I'm starting to see more and more top level executives target college sports and the NIL space as an opportunity. The latest is longtime Access Chief Revenue Officer, Rob Sine, who is now becoming CEO of Blueprint Sports. Now, Blueprint Sports will provide revenue and operation and compliance services to universities that are building out name, image and likeness collectives. So clients right now include Penn State, Arizona, Gonzaga, Villanova, and they're consulting and helping them operate their collectives. So we'll see a lot of uncertainty in the NIL space. Eventually, all NIL could be folded into a school's Athletic Department, but a lot of executives are seeing real opportunities in this space, and that's why you see them entering the name, image and likeness area. Rob Sine spent five years at AXS before now becoming CEO of Blueprint Sports.

And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, January 16th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Wednesday.