Red Sox brass hear it during fan festival; Steve Kerr pushes for shorter NBA season and a record Super Bowl streak snapped
The NFL Conference Championship games are set for next Sunday. The 49ers at the Eagles 03:00 on Fox. Bengals at the Chiefs 06:30 on CBS. Winners will play in the Super Bowl on February 12th in Glendale. And this is your morning Buzzcast for Monday, January 23rd.
Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Okay, so it won't happen. There will be no neutral site championship game, but there are a number of people close to the NFL and in sports business who believe the league is pretty smitten with the idea of neutral site championship games.
It was interesting how loudly the NFL exclaimed that more than 50,000 tickets were sold in the first 24 hours for the potential of a Bills-Chiefs championship game. Season ticket holders of both teams were given priority access to the tickets. The game was to be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. We know that won't be the case, but why does the league like this concept? Well, first they can experiment around the game experience. For Sunday's game, for example, they had plans where the Bills fans would be on one side of the stadium, Chiefs fans were to be on the other side of the stadium. They think they can make it very much like a college atmosphere. In addition, there would easily be revenue to this as cities could bid for championship games and they would build up fan festivals and other types of events, so it would be akin to a mini Super Bowl. So I'm not saying it's definitely going to happen, but let's just say this will get a close look at the league office.
Let's move on because some big news over the weekend related to the Pac-12 and the Pac-12 network. As the conference dismissed to top executives Pac-12 Networks President, Mark Shuken, and Chief Financial Officer, Brent Willman, for failing to disclose that immediate distribution partner paid too much to the network. Yes, this was over overpayments by immediate distribution partner to the Pac-12 networks, and it came following an investigation by an outside legal firm. The distribution partner was not identified, and the overpayments totaled $50 million over the course of years, which of course would impact budgets and revenue.
I do want to be clear that neither Shuken or Willman personally benefited from the overpayments, as it became known to them following this audit by the independent legal firm. It is unclear whether the Pac-12 will have to reimburse the distribution partner. So a very rare, yet interesting story coming out of the Pac-12 networks.
Let's shift to baseball. Let's just say that these are some tense times for the Boston Red Sox, and that was made very clear during this weekend's Winter Weekend, which is a fan fest for the franchise. Team officials received a very frigid reception by the fans attending the event. Red Sox owner John Henry, made a very rare public appearance. He and Chief Baseball Officer, Chaim Bloom, were booed relentlessly during the fan fest. Fans booed Henry when he walked onto the stage, Chaim Bloom tried to explain how much better the team is now than three years ago, he was booed consistently then. Fans booed to a question about the cost of attending a game. At times both John Henry and Chaim Bloom were unable to complete answers to the questions.
This has been building for some time and there's a lot of, I would say, upset fans in New England about the management of the Red Sox. This will be a very big year for the franchise. As one interesting report from veteran Red Sox reporter Sean McAdam noted, that the poor performance is impacting business. Sources said that both NESN and the team's flagship radio station, WEEI, are finding it difficult to attract sponsors and advertisers for the upcoming season, and ticket sales also are lagging behind past seasons. And this is the Boston Red Sox we're talking about. So this makes the Red Sox a very interesting franchise to watch this coming season.
Shifting to basketball, the NBA and the Players Association are in talks about a new collective bargaining agreement, and one issue that will certainly come up is the season's length, schedule, player rest or load management. You saw no better example of why that needs to be addressed than over this past weekend when the Golden State Warriors, one of the most popular teams in the NBA, rested a number of starters because it was the second night of back-to-back games. They played the Celtics in Boston on Thursday, and then they went to Cleveland to play the Cavs on Friday. And fans in Cleveland who paid to see the Warriors, didn't see Steph Curry, they didn't see Klay Thompson or Draymond Green. In fact, four starters were rested that night.
Warriors coached Steve Kerr, acknowledged that he didn't like sitting the players and he felt bad for fans who purchased tickets for the game, but he called it a brutal part of the business, and he advocated again for a shorter NBA season by as many as 10 fewer games. He wants a 72 game season. So he knows it means less revenue, but he still thinks that the league has to be smarter in how it addresses its scheduling. So Steve Kerr continues to use his voice this time on making the league and the game of basketball more efficient.
Staying with the NBA and the Warriors, the NBA released its most popular team in player jersey sales for the first half of the season. And here they are. For the players' top five, Steph, LeBron, Giannis, Luka, and Kevin Durant. For the teams, the most popular teams, top five, Lakers, Warriors, Celtics, Bucks and Bulls. So some interesting data. We'll have the full list of team and player jersey sales today on sportsbusinessjournal.com.
Finishing up on a few things for the Buzzcast, the Seattle Sounders have signed their third kit sponsor in team history, as healthcare system Providence signed a 10-year deal that will begin this season. SBJ's Alex Silverman reported that the Jersey deal is valued in the high seven figures per year and could reach, or should reach, eight figures by the end of the 10-year deal. Providence is also designated as the team's official medical service provider and healthcare partner. What I liked about the deal was the focus of the partnership. The focus of the partnership between the Sounders and Providence is on mental health. The two sides are focused on promoting youth mental health and wellness, including programs for the local school district aimed at improving students mental health. So that's a tangible action from the deal between the Sounders and Providence Healthcare. I think that's exactly the type of partnerships we love to see.
So let's end the Buzzcast around names. Congratulations to longtime NASCAR Vice Chair, Mike Helton, who was honored during Friday night's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Mike Helton was the 2023 recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to the sport. He certainly has made a number of contributions to NASCAR. It's been quite a run and quite a journey for Mike Helton, who arguably is the most influential person in NASCAR's history, not named France.
And here's a fun story to end on. I know people would be happy just to go to one Super Bowl. I feel fortunate to have been to about 20 or so Super Bowls. But you want to talk to someone who has seen them all? Longtime NFL Reporter Jerry Green as 94 and he was one of the first reporters who attended Super Bowl I in 1967. He has seen every Super Bowl since. But he will end his streak of covering the Super Bowl, he will not be going to Arizona for Super Bowl LVII. Green wrote that he's looking forward to staying home and watching his first Super Bowl on TV. He said he has never even seen a halftime show and this will allow him to do it. But a walking historian, Jerry Green, missing his first Super Bowl ever, as he will not be attending Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, snapping a remarkable streak.
And that is your morning Buzz cast for Monday, January 23rd. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.