SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: July 26, 2022

Episode Summary

What does NFL+ mean for the league? Bears seem nonplussed by Mayor Lightfoot's plan; XFL brings on three new markets; and Legends targets cycling as growth sport.

Episode Transcription

The Big Ten Media Days start today, Tuesday and continue into Wednesday in Indianapolis. And I'm guessing, guessing there will be no lack of issues to discuss, from expansion to the conference media rights negotiations. There should be plenty of reading between the lines between all the comments from Indianapolis. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, July 26th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody is doing well. Let's start with the NFL, because if you're ready for some more NFL content, the NFL has it because it rolled out its streaming service NFL Plus. The service has two tiers, one for 4.99 a month that will have live local and primetime games. And a premium tier for 9.99 per month that will feature game replays and you can get out of market preseason games, and live game audio featuring home away and national calls for every game and even library programming.

The premier tier will also have condensed game replays, and of course, that coaches' film including all 22. So the premium tier, of course, having a little bit more extra content. Here's my two cents. This is a start. The NFL is putting its foot into the water. I do think it's going to be a struggle to get some consumers to pay $5 a month. The selling point for many of the league's talking points yesterday was access to the live preseason games out of market for that premium tier. Fans can usually access those preseason games through a team's website or some other carriers. The premium tier with access to games dating back to 2009 is nice, I agree, but again, something, some fans can get on YouTube. The reason for rolling out NFL Plus now in late July is the league wants to work through any kinks or any issues or bugs before the start of the regular season. But let's not overlook what this is.

This is a long term bet, a long term hedge for the NFL, and it protects itself in future media deals. It gives them more leverage when they negotiate upcoming deals if they can show that they have built a viable platform that draws subscribers and works effectively. In addition, as SBJ's John Ourand pointed out, the league will further develop this and put more and more content on this service. He even hinted, in the future, possibly even exclusive games on NFL Plus. As one league official said, "This is the first step. This gives us the vehicle to invest in a lot of things and explore a lot of new things." So that's what it is. The NFL starting its test of NFL Plus. Let's stay with the NFL. The city of Chicago isn't giving up on the Chicago Bears quite yet. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot yesterday unveiled plans for a Soldier Field renovation that could cost north of $2 billion.

And this is part of her effort to keep the Bears from leaving Downtown Chicago and going to Arlington Heights. Mayor Lightfoot delivered her presentation at Soldier Field to a group of city business leaders. She outlined a plan that really had three parts, one part, put a dome over Soldier Field, part two, make it dome ready, and a third part would make Soldier Field more modified for soccer while improving its flexibility for other events. So she threw out some various options. So how did the Bears respond to all this? Well, let's just say their response was, eh, not so impressed. The team actually re-released a statement they put out earlier in July that said they're already focused on Arlington Heights. Bottom line, I anticipate the Bears making a full run and doing all they can to develop Arlington Heights, which would be a massive mixed use development.

Let's move on from the NFL, but stay with football. The new look XFL took another step closer to launching in 2023 by announcing its eight franchises for next season. So the XFL markets for 2023 Arlington, Texas, Orlando, Washington, DC, San Antonio, Houston, Seattle, Las Vegas, and St. Louis. So what are the new markets? The new markets in the relaunched XFL are Orlando, San Antonio, and Las Vegas. The XFL chose not to return to the bigger markets, New York, Los Angeles, and Tampa. Those three markets had pretty soft attendance in the first round of the XFL. The biggest surprise may have been Las Vegas, but that city is hot these days. There's a lot of sports energy in that city and its connection to gaming and gambling, and the new facilities in that market make it very, very attractive. Meanwhile, Arlington, Texas will serve as the XFL's really football operations hub.

The league signed a three year deal with Arlington, Texas. There'll be a performance facility there. There'll be many practice venues for preseason and in season training. Additionally, Arlington, Texas will be the hub for the league's content creation. The league will handle all traditional media, podcasts, social media, and all forms of content creation out of that Arlington, Texas hub. So the XFL taking a big step in announcing its franchises and making Arlington, Texas its hub for football operations and content. Yesterday, we touched on the world track and field championships held in Oregon, and leaders have to feel pretty good about the 10 day event. The performance by the US team was outstanding, but again, we have to see just how much track and field and the event resonated outside of Hayward Field in Eugene. The goal here by World Athletics and USA Track and Field is to grow the fan base and really cut through the clutter.

And it may take some time to see if they really did. By all accounts, the atmosphere inside Hayward Field was good, was strong and passionate crowds that were close to filling capacity of about 30,000. Now, some wonder if other cities in the United States may be interested in hosting the event in the future because they really need to expand the fan base and the reach of track and field. But Eugene, Oregon is a natural and certainly put its best foot forward this month. And while there are still questions about the long term viability and interest around the sport, leaders leave Eugene, Oregon feeling good about the 10 day event they were able to produce. Again, now we just have to see about long term growth and long term reach of track and field.

Here's an interesting story to watch. We talk about growth sports. We talked about how Legends was establishing a division looking to make financial investments in potential growth sports, and as a group they have now made another bet in that space. Legend Sports Enterprises is making a minority investment in the startup Team Track Cycling League. Legends will also manage sponsorship and merchandise, data and analytics, and broadcast production and distribution for this series. So what is Team Track Cycling League? Well, it is an indoor track cycling competition. It will debut next year. It'll consist of four multi-day events. You can learn more on their website. It looks highly energetic. It looks like it could be a pretty interesting indoor competition to watch. Now, Legends will be part of this through a minority investment, and remember Legends completed a similar partnership with the American Ultimate Disc League last month. So Legends continues to talk with other growth focused sports properties, and they'll continue to make investments, because they're really trying to make a bet on these growth properties that they think have real potential and they can see them grow and they can help them grow.

And of course, financially benefit from that sports growth. So continue to keep your eye on what Legends Sports Enterprises is doing. And finally, I texted a good source last night and asked a simple question. Will Charles Barkley go to LIV golf? One word, quick response, all in caps, YES. We will see because Charles Barkley has said he will know by Thursday night, if he will end up joining LIV golf in a broadcast role. Barkley is playing in the LIV program on Thursday ahead of the series event that begins Friday at the Trump course in New Jersey. Barkley has said he doesn't want to keep TNT in limbo. So he would have an answer soon. Now, Barkley reportedly still has $30 million remaining on his TNT contract, but he said of LIV Golf, "If they offer me something crazy, I'm going to take it."

Meanwhile, well known golf broadcaster Gary McCord has also had talks with LIV Golf about joining its broadcast team. He could join David Feherty and potentially Barkley in the broadcast booth. Now, McCord said that no deal is imminent. Remember Gary McCord was with CBS for over 40 years. CBS didn't renew his contract in 2019. So LIV Golf, looking to bolster its broadcast team with a mix of well known and possible new names to golf. But the bottom line on Feherty, McCord, and Barkley all very provocative and big voices. So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, July 26th. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody has a great day. Stay healthy. Be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.