SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 31, 2024

Episode Summary

Start your morning with Buzzcast with Austin Karp: The Orioles strike a deal for new ownership; “NASCAR: Full Speed” brings out driver personalities in its premiere; big things coming for the PGA Tour on Wednesday; and the Bay Area WNBA expansion team lands its leader in Jess Smith.

Episode Transcription

Rise and shine. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, January 31st. Tough to believe we're already one month into 2024, a CFP National title game, three rounds of the NFL postseason, with Taylor Swift of course, WWE going Netflix, the NCAA sticking with ESPN, an Australian Open, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick retiring, PGA Tour drama, sports business does not rest, and the big January news didn't stop last night.

My good friend and former colleague, John Ourand, rolled out his first piece at Puck, and it's the sale of a club very special to both John and me, the Orioles, in a deal valuing the Birds at $1.7 billion. Private equity billionaires, David Rubenstein, a Baltimore native, and Mike Arougheti are teaming up on the deal, which will initially be for around 40% of the club for now. And following the death of O's owner, Peter Angelos, the duo would get majority control of the team. The Baltimore Banner also noted that local legend, Cal Ripken Jr., my childhood hero, is going to be a part of the ownership group. The 1.7 billion is around 600 million more than what the Royals went for in 2020, or about half a billion more than what the Marlins went for in 2018. Plus, these new owners are going to step into a club that is loaded with young talent and solid prospects for the future. They have already had talks with Baltimore about really renovating that area around Camden Yards, so hopefully can knock that out and really create a mixed-use entertainment area around the ballpark. Something that Camden Yards has really not had.

Once I digested the Orioles news last night and then watched Georgia Tech knockoff, number three, North Carolina in men's hoops, shout-out to the yellow jackets, I took in the first episode of NASCAR's highly anticipated new series on Netflix, Full Speed, and it did not disappoint. Allowing brash drivers, like Denny Hamlin, to cut loose was great entertainment. The Netflix platform was meant for a personality like Hamlin. You may know the name, Hamlin, but now you really got to see who this guy is, a behind the scenes look. Even as a longtime Charlotte native, I also didn't know much about the background of a lot of these guys, that included Hendrick Motorsports' driver, William Byron. I loved learning that he got his start in iRacing before even getting to a track as a kid. The premier also had star power in Michael Jordan, in a couple of scenes, as well as the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and ESPN's Marty Smith. I think it's a big win for NASCAR brass, including Tim Clark, who got a producer credit on the show.

This platform opens up the sport to viewers that NASCAR would've never reached on Sundays, on race days, and including me. What I am though is a documentary nut and a longtime Netflix fan. I love the access and background that these series give, especially on Netflix. I've watched all the seasons of F1's Drive to Survive. I've checked out PGA Tour's Full Swing, the NFL's Quarterback show, and Breakpoint around the ATP and WTA. And also kudos to Connor Schell and Libby Geist and the entire crew at Words + Pictures on the production. Really top-notch stuff. I can't wait to check out the rest of this NASCAR series.

Speaking of the PGA Tour, my colleague Josh Carpenter reports multiple calls are scheduled with player groups for early Wednesday morning as hints of investment deals with The Strategic Sports Group and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund heat up. An email sent to players, obtained by SBJ said, "Commissioner Jay Monaghan would provide a 'important timely update.'" The news of the call comes as reports that SSG, which is a consortium of team owners, could put at least $3 billion into PGA Tour Enterprises. The PGA Tour could then turn its attention to finalizing a deal with the PIF on further investment. PGA Tour Enterprises could eventually get a valuation that some say is going to go as high as $12 billion. Big number for golf. So keep an eye out Wednesday as reports from that call start to trickle in. Also, keep an eye out for the details to emerge today around Netflix's Full Swing documentary, which could feature the Ryder Cup prominently in season two.

My boss, Abe Madkour, talked about the huge numbers for 49ers, Lions on Tuesday's podcast. Today, let's dive into the best AFC Championship numbers ever, delivered by Chiefs, Ravens in that early window on Sunday. 55.5 million viewers, big, big numbers. That tops the prior record of 54.9 million for Steelers, Jets in 2011. So for the three rounds leading into the Super Bowl, we're talking Wildcard, Divisional, Championship Round, the NFL averaged 38.5 million viewers. That is the best postseason on record for the league, with figures dating back to 1988. It's up 9% from last season, and that comes on the heels of the best regular season since around 2015. Just crazy numbers and superlatives for the NFL. Now the question becomes, can Chiefs, 49ers delivered a record Super Bowl audience on CBS and Nickelodeon? We'll see in a couple of weeks.

Some quick hitters to wrap things up this morning, big hire for the Bay Area WNBA franchise, set to launch in 2025. Jess Smith, who helped launch Angel City FC of the NWSL as head of revenue, was tapped by the Warriors, who owned the Bay Area WNBA club, to be team president. Smith was a 2023 SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree and will report to Warriors' president and COO, Brandon Schneider.

Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren are among the players that are going to participate in the NBA Rising Stars competition. I expect that's really going to increase the audience for TNT, for that Friday night telecast. And it's going to be good because it's probably going to bounce back from what was a record low last year. I think it might actually compete with that, I think it was 2012, 2014, in that area, when a Blake Griffin led Rising Stars game drew closer to 2 million viewers. I expect a big number tuning in to see Victor Wembanyama. Tom Brady is merging his health and nutrition company, TB12, and his apparel company, Brady, with training brand, Nobull. Brady will become the number two shareholder in Nobull, behind Body Armor founder, Mike Repole, who bought the company last year. Connor McDavid, who has been an endorser of Canadian sports drink, BioSteel, is moving over to Coca-Cola owned Body Armor in time for All-Star Weekend in Toronto. BioSteel became the NHL's official drink in 2022, but the company filed for bankruptcy back in September.

Finally, check out the latest episode of the Sports Media Podcast dropping today. I speak with SBJ's Ben Fisher about all things NFL, bring in Alex Silverman to talk about the NHL ahead of this weekend's All-Star festivities, and we also dish on the strong women's hoops numbers for NCAA games this regular season. So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, January 31st. Abe Madkour is back on the podcast on Thursday. Everyone finish out the month strong and I will speak to you soon.