SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: July 13, 2023

Episode Summary

MLB's metrics at mid-season and final numbers from Seattle; Legends and Yankees ink big deal; Eric Winston lands at tennis' Winners Alliance

Episode Transcription

Hey, sincere thank you to all who have expressed concern about the conditions in my home state of Vermont. Some terrible times impacting too many people, but thankfully, friends and family are safe. Also, if you read one story today, print out and read Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham's story about how the leaks of Jon Gruden's emails criticizing Dee Smith and Roger Goodell were critical in Dan Snyder leaving the NFL. Fascinating detail, fascinating color, and a lot of intrigue. I consider it a must read.

And this is your morning Buzzcast for Thursday, July 13th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Let's start with baseball. As it looks to the second half of its season, after completing its All-Star Week. Now Seattle has to be considered a success for Major League Baseball as there were positive storylines and great energy around the game, but I'm sure the league was looking for a little better story from its viewership numbers. The All-Star game hit a second straight year of record low viewership with Fox drawing just over 7 million viewers on Tuesday night. That's according to our Austin Carp. That's 7% lower from the previous low, which was set from Los Angeles last year. So the decline means that each of the marquee events from Seattle, the All-Star Game, the Home Run Derby, and the Major League Baseball draft saw year-over-year declines. Not totally unexpected, not earth-shattering news, but still probably not the trend lines baseball wanted to see.

The All-Star game will still deliver Fox a primetime win among all networks on Tuesday night. The All-Star game continued to draw more viewers than the Home Run Derby, but not by much. It outdrew the Home Run Derby by fewer than a million viewers. That surprised me. What will please baseball is that the All-Star game on Tuesday night did see gains in two key demographics, males, 18 to 49, males, 25 to 54, first time that they've seen a boost in those demos since 2017, and showing the appeal of sports overall, Tuesday night's broadcast was the highest rated TV broadcast since the NBA finals clinching game five on ABC a month ago. So sports is still, of course, the top draw.

What else does baseball take comfort in? Well, baseball still easily has the most watched of the major North American All-Star events. The All-Star Game, this year's game ranked 11% higher than the most recent Pro Bowl, the Pro Bowl's number two, the NBA All-Star game is number three in terms of viewership, NASCAR's all-star race is number four, the NHL All-Star game is number five in terms of viewership around All-Star events. And again, that's according to our Austin Carp. Overall for the season, baseball is slightly up in viewership for the first half. ESPN is up a slight bit for its Sunday night baseball package while Fox overall, that's Fox Sports, Fox broadcast and FS1 are up combined 17% for its baseball telecast and TBS continues to see positive momentum for its Tuesday night window. I have to be honest, I didn't even know TBS had a Tuesday night window, but their numbers are up a surprising 41% from the same point last year. So overall, a good rating story.

A good attendance story, as our David Broughton reported that baseball is seeing a boost at the gate. Average attendance is up over 8% compared to where it was last year. 13 clubs are seeing a double-digit increase compared to the same point last season. The Phillies are up a massive 37% in attendance. The Guardians are up 34%. Meanwhile, on the flip side, the White Sox are down 13% and the Rockies are down 6%. Those two teams have shown the biggest declines. It is the league's highest attendance at the All-Star Break since 2018, which isn't a long time, but it does show the league's efforts to drive ticket sales are working because I know it's a huge priority for the league to drive more local ticket sales and a younger fan base.

Let's stay with baseball because we talk a lot about all the Jersey advertising available, and one team yesterday made a big, big deal. And yes, it's the New York Yankees who have signed Star Insurance as their jersey patch sponsor through 2031, and it's part of a broader deal that includes placement of signage around Yankee Stadium. So maybe not a sexy brand, Star Insurance, but this was a deal and a relationship that the team had had for some time. The two parties first had a deal since 2018. This deal with the jersey patch and the broader deal was done by Legends and the Yankees, and it's a big deal. It's reportedly worth between 20 to 25 million a year. Yes, I said that correctly, between 20 and 25 million a year. So that is a massive deal for the Yankees. I'll attribute that to the New York Post, Andrew Marchand who came out with that number.

And these are the types of deals we've been expecting or waiting for. We have been waiting for the big market teams to sell this inventory. We saw the Red Sox come out early and they had a deal worth about $17 million a year. The Mets have a deal, but some other big market teams still have to reach deals. The Yankees will debut their new patch on July 21st, and you'll see Star Insurance, you'll see Nike and New Era logos on that classic Yankee uniform at that time. Now the Yankees become the 13th team in baseball with a sponsored jersey patch. The Padres remember were the first to unveil one last April, April of '22. They signed their deal with Motorola. So now you have 13 teams, the Yankees coming in with a big, big deal with Star Insurance.

Let's move on to some other news. Superstar Racing Experience, that is the series launched by George Pyne, Sandy Montag, and others. That starts its third season tonight, Thursday night, airing on ESPN for the first time on Thursday nights. You'll see the revival of the Thursday Night Thunder brand. Races for Superstar Racing Experience were on Saturdays, but now they're moving to Thursdays. Officials believe this is a better broadcast window in the summer. Superstar Racing or SRX feels it has its strongest driver lineup ever. They will tout drivers from Nascar, IndyCar and the NHRA. The drivers are available to raise on Thursday nights rather than the weekends, and you'll see plenty of these drivers on these short track races.

This year's race schedule, again is at small rural tracks across America, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. The first one Thursday night is at Stafford Motor Speedway. It's sold out. That's in Connecticut. So SRX is feeling pretty good about year three. Its CEO, Don Hawk said the racing series is evaluating a potential race overseas, but right now they have their summer series ready to start season three, Thursday nights on ESPN, and that begins tonight.

Hard to believe NFL teams are reporting to camp in just a couple of weeks. And it's also hard to believe that NFL films hasn't formally selected a team for Hard Knocks, but ESPN reported that it will be, yes, the Jets, as the Jets have been selected to be featured on Hard Knocks this season. The Jets were one of four teams that were eligible to be selected. There was the Bears, the Saints, the Commanders, and the Jets. The Jets, like many teams didn't want to be considered for the show. And they were last on the show in 2010. Remember, that's when Rex Ryan was the team's coach. But the Jets do have some good storylines, especially with Aaron Rogers first season. So it does fit that they will be the team featured on Hard Knocks, which by the way is still one of my favorites of this whole docuseries drama genre. Hard Knocks, I think continues to still deliver.

Let's end the Buzzcast with a couple of names in the news. First, Eric Winston. Eric Winston, of course played in the NFL. He was President of the NFLPA. He was also at One Team Partners. Well now he will join his former colleague, Ahmad Nassar at the Winners Alliance. So yes, Winston will become President of the Winners Alliance. That is the for-profit arm of the Professional Tennis Players Association. Now remember, this is the group looking to monetize licensing and commercial opportunities for professional tennis players. Now, Eric Winston is a member of the SBJ 40 under 40 class of 2023. And like I noted, he was formerly the Chief Licensing Officer at One Team Partner. So he has experience in these group licensing programs, establishing partnerships for athletes, and he'll bring that to the Winners Alliance. And again, Winston also worked with Ahmad Nassar at the NFLPA and at One Team Partners. Nassar is the Executive Director of the Professional Tennis Players Association. He is CEO of the Winners Alliance. So he brings on his longtime colleague Eric Winston as President of Winners Alliance.

And finally stay tuned for more of Bob Iger. Yes, Disney CEO, Bob Iger, who returned to the role as CEO replacing Bob Chapek in November has agreed to lead Disney to 2026. Now why is that interesting? Well, that's two years longer than was initially planned. It was initially thought that Iger would only serve till 2024, but Iger obviously feels there's still more work to do. He has already begun to restructure the company. We know they're in the midst of numbers of layoffs. The company's contending with the transitioning to streaming.

There's also some other headwinds the company is facing, but this extension by the Board of Directors shows that they and Bob Iger feel that there's still work left to do and it will give Disney extra time to target the best successor to take over the reins once Bob Iger steps down. But I think it's safe to say that there are plenty of us in the sports media and entertainment space who are interested to seeing Bob Iger continue to lead Disney and continue to watch his leadership. And so that is your morning Buzzcast for Thursday, July 13th. I'm Abe Madkour. Have a great day, stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.