SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 8, 2024

Episode Summary

The PWHL is resonating as league's strong start continues; Why sports remains vital to media companies and Cuban's bonus plan

Episode Transcription

Black Monday actually started on Sunday night when the Atlanta Falcons fired head coach Arthur Smith. We will see plenty of other changes all throughout the day. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, January 8th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. I ended Friday's Buzz by calling the Professional Women's Hockey League my winner of the week, and the energy around the start of that league keeps on rolling, as on Saturday after I walked out of mass around six o'clock, my phone was buzzing about the record attendance at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis as Minnesota beat Montreal in front of more than 13,000 fans. A record for the league, of course, a record as the largest ever attendance at a women's pro hockey game. Now this topped the previous record, which was set earlier in the week of more than 8,000 in Ottawa. But Minneapolis really delivered.

Ticket demand was reportedly so high that the team first started selling seats in the club level on Friday, then made the upper deck available on Saturday. Though the doors didn't open until 1:30, hundreds of people were lined up in the lobby waiting to get in on Saturday. And the reports around the game from sources who were there tell me the atmosphere was overwhelmingly exhilarating. A major league arena, loud and filled with families. It was an electric, fun environment from those who were there. What an eyeopener of how this league has started and how great it is for women's hockey. But it's not just on the ground in the building for attendance that's been a hit. Viewership has been a hit too. The first game on New Year's Day, Toronto, New York in Toronto averaged nearly 900,000 viewers. It was the most watched program on Canadian TV on New Year's Day. So again, some real interest in the start of the professional Women's Hockey League, and that is great to see.

Let's shift gears. Why do all the media companies continue to covet sports programming? Well, because we've talked about it, it's the only thing really drawing a television audience: live sports and events. Want more proof? How about this? SBJ's Austin Karp crunched the numbers. It was a record year for live sports among the top 100 most watched telecasts in the United States in 2023. Sports dominated more than ever with 96 of the top 100 watch programs being sports. Now, that record was fueled by the most NFL games to ever crack the list. 93. That's right. You heard that correctly. Of the 100 most viewed programs on TV last year, 93 were NFL Games. Unbelievable. And demonstrating America's love of all things football, the other three that made the list were college football games.

So two streaming programs made the list as well, two Thursday Night Football games on Amazon. But bottom line, these record numbers will continue to be touted by leagues and properties as to the value of live sports programming. And I know you're going to ask, what were the other shows that were not sports? Well, it was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, State of the Union address, the Academy Awards, and then Next Level Chef, which had that coveted post Super Bowl spot. Events that normally are in the top 100 that were on the outside looking in, NCAA Men's Basketball Championship and the Kentucky Derby. But again, the bottom line, it shows the appeal and draw of sports.

I know how many University of Michigan alum work in the sports business, and I think it's among the deepest number of alumni in top positions in sports. You have the likes of David Berson, Jessica Berman, Casey Close, Dan Griffiths, Len Perna, Tom Garfinkel, Adam Schefter, so many more. So there will be a lot of anxious Michigan observers of tonight's national championship game in Houston. Data from SeatGeek shows that the average price for tonight's title game is the highest since 2017, which was Clemson, Alabama. The average for tonight, more than $2,800 and the get in price is averaging around $1,300. So a very strong market for CFP tickets tonight. And in what could be his last game, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, again advocated for revenue sharing for college athletes. Harbaugh said he would take a cut of staff salaries and share a percentage with the players. It's not the first time he's called for revenue sharing, and I'm sure it will not be the last.

Last year, I remember getting a few questions and rolled eyes when SBJ nominated the Florida Panthers among Sports Team of the Year nominees. Well, what they have done in that market is unbelievable. It's worth noting. And their strong business performance continues as the Panthers are capitalizing on their run to the Stanley Cup Final last season. They are seeing double-digit gains in attendance and sponsorship revenue, their attendance is up 11% from last year, it's up 25% from 2 years ago. Sponsorship revenue, up 34% from last season. And overall revenue of the franchise, overall revenue is more than double from what it was when Vinnie Viola bought the organization in 2013. So in 10 years, the Panthers doubling their revenue. This team was one of the worst in all sports, poorly managed and really poor business operations. But under Viola and Team President Matt Caldwell, the Florida Panthers have continued to set franchise records across sponsorship, ticket sales and merchandise. And it's really one of the best operated teams in the NHL.

I admire this move by Mark Cuban, as the former majority owner of the Dallas Mavericks told employees of the Mavs, they will collectively receive around $35 million in bonuses as a result of him selling his majority share in the team to the Adelson and Dumont families. Cuban said the move was a thank you to the staff for their hard work and for making the Mavericks a model organization. I'm sure it was complicated from an HR and finance perspective of who would receive what. But Cuban said each employee would be receiving a bonus. So good for him, good for Mavs employees, a great move by Mark Cuban.

And finally, the Nashville Predators and Delaware North, today, Monday will open the BetMGM Sports Lounge Restaurant and Bar at Bridgestone Arena. This is a nearly 9,000 square foot facility on the venue's second floor. It will be open all year in a continued trend in the sports betting space and in the facility space. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, January 8th. I'm Abe Madkour, have a great start to your week. Stay healthy and be good to each other. I'll talk to you tomorrow.