SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: June 24, 2022

Episode Summary

Excel Sports scores at NBA Draft; Breaking down year one of the USFL; DP World Tour finally states its LIV Golf policy and big names in sports invest in Jackpot.

Episode Transcription

Happy Friday. You made it to the end of the week. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, June 24th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody is doing well.

Let's start the Buzzcast around the NBA draft, which was held in Brooklyn last night. Excel Sports Management was the big winner among talent agencies in the first round. Yes, round one saw Excel Sports Management triumph over the agency field with seven picks overall and five picks in the top 20. CAA Sports had four picks. BDA Sports, WME Sports, they're combined, also had four picks, so they were tied for the second most picks. Octagon Basketball had three picks. While Priority Sports and Entertainment and LIFT Sports Management had two picks each. LIFT Sports Management represented number one pick Paolo Banchero, who went to the Orlando Magic. The top 10 picks, interestingly, were each represented by different agencies. Duke University saw the most first round picks out of one school, with four.

That roundup was done by SBJ's Liz Mullen and Olivia Green. You can see the full details on For comparison's sake, during round one of last year's NBA draft, CAA Sports won the night with eight picks while Excel Sports Management and Klutch Sports Group tied for second most with three picks. This year, Excel Sports Management with a very strong first round and seven picks overall.

The USFL, remember we talked a lot about the USFL in April when it was launching. The startup football league was launched by Fox Sports. It holds its semifinals this weekend. SBJ's Austin Karp looked at the viewership numbers for the first-year league, and they weren't bad. Both Fox and NBC Sports seemed pleased with the first year. Here's the bottom line. The USFL averaged about 715,000 viewers in its 36 regular season TV broadcast. Remember they were on Fox, NBC, FS1, and USA Network.

How did the USFL do compare to other startup football leagues? Well, let's take a look. First, the USFL, it outdrew the Alliance of American Football in 2019. Remember the Alliance? Well, the Alliance averaged 556,000 viewers through 20 telecasts in eight weeks before it folded. But this year's USFL, it was far short in viewers compared to the XFL 2.0. That was in 2020. That averaged 1.9 million viewers through 20 telecasts in five weeks before it shut down. So by and large, not bad, better than the Alliance less than the XFL.

Fox Sports's is Mike Mulvihill, who analyzes these trends better than anyone in the business, believes the numbers are proof that spring football will work. He said it shows spring football can draw viewership at the levels of the NHL's regular season, MLS's regular season, Premier League, Formula One. So they feel good about the viewership numbers. The area they want to work on is attendance. Remember, all the games were played in Birmingham, Alabama, and attendance was very, very sparse. Television producers hate the visual of empty seats. So both Fox and NBC Sports said they are working on the attendance issue for next year. But the key here is that they're talking about next year. That alone is a positive and shows signs for growth in the future. The USFL semifinals are Saturday with one game on Fox at three o'clock and one game on NBC at eight o'clock.

Let's move to college sports. The University of Oklahoma has agreed to a new 10-year multimedia rights deal with Learfield that will expand on the long-standing relationship between the Oklahoma Sooners and Learfield. We have the details from SBJ's Michael Smith. He writes the new agreement will begin on July 1st. Some unique aspects of this deal has Learfield helping provide more name, image, and likeness opportunities for athletes at Oklahoma, and Learfield studios will help Oklahoma in content creation. Everybody is trying to create more compelling content, and Learfield will bring its content studio into the Oklahoma mix. Learfield is also on the verge of hiring a sales executive that will reside on Oklahoma's campus who will focus strictly on developing name, image, and likeness opportunities. You're seeing that trend more and more.

Oklahoma athletic director, Joe Castiglione, has been working on this new multimedia deal for some time. He did bring in Octagon to conduct an analysis of the Oklahoma Sooners brand and the value of its media portfolio and its media exposure. But Joe Castiglione took the lead on all the negotiations. Learfield locked up the Oklahoma Sooners' rights before they even hit the open marketplace because they knew the appeal and the attractiveness of the Oklahoma Sooners' rights. So a big 10-year multimedia rights deal or extension between the University of Oklahoma and Learfield.

Staying with college sports, while we hear the Big 12 is getting closer to landing its commissioner to succeed Bob Bowlsby, there has been little buzz about the search for a successor to Mark Emmert at the NCAA. Well, the NCAA Board of Governors has retained a search firm to help them in that process. They have retained TurnkeyZRG to assist in the search for Emmert's successor. Now TurnkeyZRG is also handling the Big 12 commissioner search. So they are very busy right now. But hiring the search firm, that's the first step in the process. My sources have told me that the NCAA hopes to have someone named by the end of this year to succeed Mark Emmert.

Well, I said yesterday on the Buzzcast that many in the golf world were waiting to see what the DP World Tour would do with its policy toward LIV Golf players. They finally came out with it, and it seems they have fallen in line with the PGA Tour. There was some criticism of the DP World Tour for slow playing this policy. But the DP World Tour confirmed that players who have joined LIV Golf will be fined and suspended from future tournaments, including three in July: the Scottish Open, the Barbasol Championship, and the Barracuda Championship. So the DP World Tour also confirmed that participating in future conflicting tournaments without a release would incur further sanctions. This is what the PGA Tour was hoping for. They want to be aligned with the DP World Tour in their policies, and it certainly adds more pressure on players who are considering to join LIV Golf.

Finally, you've heard us on the Buzzcast mention the name, Akshay Khanna. He was long at StubHub. He was a 40-Under-40 honoree. Well, now he leads the digital lottery platform Jackpot as CEO. Jackpot closed this week on a $35 million Series A funding round. But what struck me is it features some of the biggest names in the sports business. Now the round was led or co-led by Accomplice and Courtside Ventures, but there were additional investments from all walks of sports business: Arctos Sports Partners; Elysian Park Ventures; Sapphire Sports; the Kraft Group; Haslam Sports Group; Fanatics CEO, Michael Rubin; DraftKings CEO, Jason Robins; Fenway Sports Group's Mike Gordon and Sam Kennedy; Major League Baseball executive, Theo Epstein; James Harden; Joel Embiid; Martin Brodeur; and even rapper, Lil Baby. They were all part of the investment group of Jackpot or for Jackpot. It marks the first institutional funding round for the company. They're going to use this to really jumpstart the company's presence in North America.

Akshay Khanna joined the company just last month, and the company will add to staff in the United States. Jackpot's based in the UK. It provides online access to lottery ticket sales. I believe that Jackpot will take a deep dive into the sports business with deals with teams and leagues because Akshay Khanna comes from the sports world. He's a big believer in sports. So look for Jackpot, now with some serious funding behind it, to get more engaged in the sports business.

That is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, June 24th. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody has a great weekend. Stay healthy. Be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Monday.