SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 25, 2024

Episode Summary

Takeaways from 24 hours in Dallas; Ryan Smith's power play; another high point for women's sports and a new leader in the NBA.

Episode Notes

Takeaways from 24 hours in Dallas; Ryan Smith's power play; another high point for women's sports and a new leader in the NBA.

Episode Transcription

Abe Madkour:

Well, thank you to Austin Karp for filling in on the Buzzcast yesterday. He always does such a good job. He makes me afraid I will be the next Wally Pipp. Also, this fact of the day was shared to me by Austin. Antenna Insights noted that Peacock's NFL Wild Card Game drew 2.8 million signups to Peacock over that Wild Card weekend, 2.8 million signups. That is the single biggest subscriber acquisition moment ever measured by Antenna. Now we'll have to see how many of those stick around on Peacock, but a very good number there for the Wild Card Game. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, January 25th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. I was in Dallas for the day on Tuesday as SBJ and the Dallas Sports Commission partnered on an event that celebrated Dallas being recognized by SBJ as the best sports business city in America in 2023.

After being on the ground for 24 hours, it's easy to see why that Dallas market has performed so well. There is leadership among ownership. There are strong collaboration between the sports organizations. And Sports Commission Executive Director Monica Paul clearly has great respect as she works to bring more and more big time events to the region, and that's the recipe for success in any market. But there's a lot to watch in this region. You have a change in ownership at the Mavericks. There is a decision to be made about the future home of the Mavericks and the Stars, whether to do an extensive rebuild at American Airline Center or a new arena built around a marquee casino, or the teams could possibly even go their own respective ways and have their own venues. Also, you have a big mixed use development under construction around Globe Life Field in Arlington.

You have all the teams lobbying for legalized sports betting in Texas to get through a very reluctant and pesky legislature. And you have the market hoping to land the World Cup final when FIFA announces it on February 4th, as it hopes to win over the clubhouse favorite MetLife Stadium in the New York City market. So it's really between Dallas and New York City to see who hosts the final for the 26th World Cup final. So you add all that up and there's a lot going on in that dynamic Dallas market. And I've said this before, if you haven't visited the Star and the Cowboys Complex in Frisco, Texas, you really have to. I first visited the Star in 2018 and at that time I called it the ultimate brand extension. Five years later, it's an even more impressive state-of-the-art dynamic celebration of the Cowboys brand. It is quite a complex, a lot going on in that Dallas Fort Worth Arlington market to keep your eye on.

While we're talking about how vibrant the Dallas market is, another market looking to ramp up big time through sports is Salt Lake City. We have noted how aggressive jazz owner Ryan Smith is to build the image of Salt Lake and the state of Utah. He calls Utah one of the best stories in all of the United States for its growing population. Its tech-focused industry, a lot of young people, great quality of life, and he is using sports to get more and more attention on the state. The latest is the Smith Entertainment Group requesting the NHL to initiate an expansion process that would bring pro hockey to the state with a proposal that includes plans to build a new arena in Utah. It's not clear if the NHL would decide to go to Utah or when they even want to expand, but Smith Entertainment Group is open to either an expansion franchise or recruiting a team to relocate.

They would start by playing at the Delta Center before building a new arena. Ryan Smith noted that Delta Center could be ready to host a hockey team as early as this upcoming season. And while it's not as many seats as they'd like, they could hold just over 14,000 fans to start. Canadian hockey reporter Elliotte Friedman, who is very well sourced, believes that Smith will eventually get an NHL team as the league really wants him in the NHL. Friedman also subtly feels by going so public. Ryan Smith is sending a message to the Coyotes that if they don't find a home in Arizona, there is a market in Utah. But Coyotes owner, Alex Meruelo, would have to be comfortable getting into a deal with Ryan Smith. The bottom line is Ryan Smith is becoming a very influential player in sports. While in Dallas on Tuesday, one of the main topics of conversation was the Netflix WWE deal that hit on Tuesday morning.

Most sports executives hoped that it would be the start of Netflix taking on more and more live sports rights. But Netflix CEO, Ted Sarandos dismissed that notion saying that the 10 year $5 billion deal for the rights to the WWE's RAW doesn't mark any shift in Netflix's sports strategy. He called WWE sports entertainment and more in line with what Netflix is focused on with sports storytelling. And he threw cold water on the idea that Netflix would now be an active player for sports rights. Now, we do know that Netflix has held some preliminary discussions with the NBA as the league negotiates its next deal. But Ted Sarandos seems to indicate that they won't be an active player again in live sports rights, but more around sports storytelling. We talked about this on Tuesday, the Pro Volleyball Federation launched and it launched Wednesday night, the latest women's professional volleyball league to start as the Omaha Supernovas took on the Atlanta vibe in a historic match at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Now you have to check out the visuals because the scenes were impressive. And you know what else was impressive? How about going five sets and playing in front of nearly 12,000 fans at CHI Health Center in Omaha? That's another great milestone for women's sports. Remember, there are seven teams playing in the inaugural year. And yes, I know it's competitive. I know not all of these leagues are going to make it. We know that another women's pro volleyball league called LOVB is launching later this year. Athletes United has its women's volleyball league. But for last night, the launch of the Pro Volleyball Federation has to be deemed a fun success and showcases again the growing interest in women's sports. The NBA All-Star game will be in Indianapolis in a few weeks and it'll help mark the end of an era for the Pacers. As Pacers Sports and Entertainment CEO, Rick Fuson will retire in June after 40 years working in the Pacers organization.

Current president and COO, Mel Raines will be promoted to CEO. Now, Fuson has had a key role in virtually every major decision at the Pacers. He's played a very influential role throughout the city and all of their sports efforts. So he's had a great run. Now, who is Mel Raines? Well, she was named an SBJ Game changer in 2021. And before joining the Pacers, her career largely included roles in politics and government affairs on Capitol Hill. And she actually worked at the White House. She is now among a number of women who have key executive roles at NBA teams. Look at Jeannie Buss, of course, with the Lakers, you have Lara Price at the 76ers, Gillian Zucker at the Clippers, Cynt Marshall, who I saw the other day at the Mavericks and Melissa Proctor, who's at the Atlanta Hawks.

So now Mel Raines joins that group of leaders in the NBA. But bottom line, a great run by Rick Fuson in a new role for Mel Raines as CEO of Pacers Sports and Entertainment. And finally, I will be heading to [inaudible 00:09:03] mid-winter meetings in Florida this weekend, meeting with a number of college executives and administrators, and we all know how full their plates are of things to do. I believe the people in college athletic departments have the toughest jobs in sports right now. I'm sure there'll be plenty of issues to discuss, but let me know if you plan on attending. It would be great to say hello. And so, that is your morning Buzzcast for Thursday, January 25th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.