SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: July 27, 2023

Episode Summary

Is Colorado the start of another realignment run? The Manfred era continued; Can indoor pro volleyball find an audience?

Episode Transcription

Abe Madkour:

Well, this week marks one year out from the 2024 Paris Summer Games, which are seen as perhaps one of the most important editions of the Olympic Games in history. Why? Well, organizers and Olympic advocates are hopeful and confident that Paris can put on a show and restore the Olympics to past glory. We are a year away, but there's still a lot riding on Paris. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, July 27th, coming up on the final few days of July. Who can believe it? I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Let's get right at it.

Well, here we go. Multiple reports have the University of Colorado leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12 as the school will likely formally apply for Big 12 membership today, Thursday, when the Big 12's board of directors will approve a move to begin play in the Big 12 Conference in 2024. Colorado's Board of Regents will meet for a second consecutive day today, Thursday. And like I said, an announcement is expected after that. This would be a big coup for Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark and a big blow to the Pac-12 and Commissioner George Kliavkoff. Colorado has been a member of the Pac-12 since 2011, but decided to return to the Big 12, sources say, because of a number of reasons. One of which is the uncertainty around the Pac-12 and a sense of more stability at the Big 12.

The Big 12's financial outlook also played a role in their decision. Now like I said, Colorado's departure would come after the '23, '24 season. It would coincide with the end of the Pac-12's TV deal. Reportedly, Colorado would not have to pay an exit fee to the conference. But all of this is happening as we record the Buzzcast. And I will say this is a big story. It means the Pac-12 will likely have to remodel all of its media projections on any new media deal to exclude Colorado. It's surely going to rattle other Pac-12 schools and possibly unsettle media suitors of the Pac-12. It's a big win for Yormark and the Big 12 because of what Deion Sanders and Colorado will bring to the conference. And finally and most importantly, it could start a run of other realignment moves. So bottom line, buckle up, it might get bumpy here for a little bit.

Moving on, the Rob Manfred era will continue as Major League Baseball's 30 owners approved a contract extension, which will keep him as commissioner through January 2029. So a couple of things at play here, but this would mean that Manfred would be in office during another CBA negotiation as the current CBA will expire after the 2026 season. So what does this mean? Well, Rob Manfred is 64. He still had one more season remaining on his current contract, and he was extended for another four years. Like I said, his new deal will keep him on the job until January of 2029, at which point he will be 70 years old. Now this four-year contract is for one fewer year than his previous two deals, but overall it's not a huge surprise. Rob Manfred is having arguably his best year or two as commissioner.

The league has a new CBA with its players, revenue around the game continues to grow. Baseball has made changes to the product on the field that have been very well received. I would argue Manfred's relationship with the players is better than it has been for quite some time, maybe ever. Yes, there are still big issues. Rob Manfred is deep in the mix on the challenges facing teams with the regional sports networks. And he's been aggressive about wanting to take back all those local rights. He has to figure out the future of the Oakland A's, the Tampa Bay Rays, and then a roadmap for possible expansion. It hasn't always been the smoothest for Rob Manfred. There are still people upset with how he handled the Astros incident over sign stealing. There are people upset with even the recent 99-day lockout, and at times he can say the wrong thing in the press or appear defensive.

But the bottom line is baseball owners support him and frankly, they like the fact that he's an insider. He knows them. He knows the game and knows where all the baggage is buried. So Rob Manfred on board as MLB Commissioner through January 2029. Let's stay with baseball. And the issue that is taking up most of Manfred's time, and that's the future of local media. Here is news that is surely being talked about at every league and every team front office. Marquee Sports Network in Chicago has launched its direct-to-consumer streaming product. It costs 1999 a month. They will cover of course or carry all the Cubs games, and it's available only in the Chicago market. So if you are a current Marquee cable subscriber, you can access the service without an additional cost.

But this is similar to what the Red Sox did with NESN 360 and what the Yankees have done. So as more and more teams do their own direct-to-consumer service, we will have to see how that impacts any ability for a league like baseball to aggregate all the teams for one, direct-to-consumer service which is surely what I believe the leagues want to do. But if each team goes out and does their own, it makes that aggregation of all the rights just more and more difficult. So you want to keep your eye on how many teams can do this, how many teams actually do do this, and how well it's received and executed. But Marquee Sports Network with the Cubs is the latest one to go with a full direct to consumer service.

And I'll stick with baseball one more time. It seems that Angel's owner, Arte Moreno, has made up his mind and he's going to be a buyer and not a seller at the trade deadline. This is an aggressive move by the owner. Many will question his decision, but he apparently believes the team can become a wild card winner and he can keep Shohei Ohtani and try to sign him again in the off season. Wednesday the Angels acquired two pitchers from the White Sox for two prospects from the Angels. And both SI and ESPN reported that despite widespread speculation that Ohtani would be potentially traded, the Angels have reportedly pulled him off the market. And teams have been informed that the Angels won't trade Ohtani before Tuesday's trade deadline. So what are they doing? They'll likely try to keep him on his final year and the Angels will take their chance that they can resign Ohtani when he becomes a free agent after this season.

It's a big, big gamble by Arte Moreno. And finally, we do this on the Buzzcast a lot, we talk about emerging sports, startup sports, startup leagues that are looking to find an audience. Well, here's one, the Pro Volleyball Federation. They will launch next February, February of 2024. And they have signed on or partnered with the consulting firm Navigate, as the startup volleyball league looks to build a global media distribution strategy before it launches. So they'll use Navigate to assist on strategy as well as securing media agreements and distribution. So the Pro Volleyball Federation is an indoor women's league. They will be in eight markets. They've already named six. They'll be in San Diego, Orlando, Atlanta, Grand Rapids, Columbus and Omaha. So we've talked about this league in the past.

Navigate brings a history. They've worked with pro sports leagues, they've worked with a number of Power Five college conferences. So they will look to assess the landscape for a pro volleyball league. And this is a sport that has promise, but probably a fairly narrow following and has yet to prove it can consistently draw an audience. So that's the challenge. But there's a little bit of buzz around the Pro Volleyball Federation, now Navigate we'll assist them in trying to get media distribution. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, July 27th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.