SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: June 27, 2023

Episode Summary

Could investment spur a run in F1 teams? How might the ATP look for global support? And the story behind MLS Season Pass numbers

Episode Transcription

I know in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, there will be a lot of interest in Apple TV's upcoming documentary, Stephen Curry: Underrated, as he is a hometown star here in this market. Apple TV released the trailer, the story on Curry, and his rise from a undersized college player to a four-time NBA champion. It premieres on Apple TV on July 21st. I'll just say this one looks good.

On a side note, are the visuals from the College World Series just amazing? Is it me or does it always look sunny and fun in Omaha? This is your morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, June 27th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for joining the Buzzcast.

Another day, another major investment in sports assets. This time around Formula One, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who also of course own English soccer club, Wrexham, are joining Otro Capital and RedBird Capital Partners as part of an investor group taking a 24% equity in the F1 team, Alpine Racing. Now the $218.1 million deal values Alpine Racing at about $900 million, so nearly a 1 billion valuation for a Formula One team, which is eye-popping. This could spark a run of other investments across Formula One.

Now, we have talked a lot on the Buzzcast about RedBird Capital Partners and Gerry Cardinale, but Otro Capital is a new player and it's run by Alec Scheiner, who is the co-founder and partner of Otro Capital. He will join Alpine Racing's Board of Directors. Scheiner was part of RedBird Capital. Prior to that he was at the Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys. He has brought on Brent Stehlik, who was most recently part of OneTeam Partners, so those two will be part of Otro Capital. They could be making some more investments in sports. Like we've said on other forms of investment, Alpine Racing will use this funding to build out its sales, its marketing, and its tech offerings.

They'll draw on the sports business expertise of longtime operators like Alec Scheiner and Brett Stehlik, and they'll draw on the connections and knowledge of Gerry Cardinale. Again, this could be a blueprint for others to look at investing in Formula One teams because I never thought, or I certainly didn't think recently, an F1 team would be valued at close to $1 billion. Again, star power investing in Formula One, showing the interest in sports.

There's also interest in tennis, and the ATP acknowledged that the tour has held talks with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund as well as other potential investors about investing in men's tennis. Remember that CVC capital invested $150 million into the WTA Tour's media and commercial entity, and I'm sure the ATP would love investment to help grow its operations and again, build out its staff, build out its events, its infrastructure, its technology.

If they did a deal with the PIF, it could also mean the ATP holding more events in Saudi Arabia, and this strategy of possibly embracing the public investment fund in Saudi Arabia obviously is different from the initial approach that the PGA Tour took. So some interesting workings and potential dealings in tennis. This does not surprise me. We've talked on the Buzzcast, tennis would be a natural target for global investment.

Meanwhile, in other tennis news, ATP chair Andrea Gaudenzi has been reelected for a second term as head of the ATP. He will serve through 2026. Let's just say, that is not an easy job. A lot of stakeholders, a lot of different opinions about how to grow tennis. But he's on board through 2026 as chair of the ATP.

Let's move on. Deals and near deals in motor sports. In the news today, SBJ's John Ourand reports that Formula E has renewed its rights deal with CBS Sports, but it signed a streaming deal with Roku that takes effect in January. Interestingly for Roku, it's the streaming outlet's first live sports rights deal. Now for CBS, they will carry five races on its broadcast network. CBS Sports Network has also committed to carry a highlights package. Remember Formula E, largely global, only one stop in the United States. It happened last weekend in Portland, Oregon. For Roku, Roku's picked up rights to 11 races in the Formula E World Championship Series. Again, this marks Roku's first live sports rights acquisition. I'm sure that's going to be of interest to properties around the world.

Meanwhile, Ourand also reports that a new media deal for NASCAR will likely not be done this month. He had speculated potentially as early as July 4th there could be a handshake deal. Ourand is now reporting it looks more like late summer, early fall for a potential deal. All sides are still optimistic that a deal will get done. But the holdup has been that negotiations with streaming companies have taken longer to finalize. Now, Fox and NBC are expected to renew the first half and second half of the NASCAR season respectively. Amazon still appears to be the front-runner for a mid-season package of races, but Ourand reports that talks with Amazon have gone much slower than expected, as the company has become more cost conscious. Remember, it's laid off a number of employees, and they still want to bid on the NBA package when that deal comes up after the '24, '25 NBA season. But again, it still seems that all systems are go for an eventual new media rights deal for NASCAR. Just taking a little longer than potentially expected.

I was recently speaking to a leader of an MLS team who told me he was hopeful that he would begin to get some clarity of viewership and engagement of MLS's new media deal with Apple, as the league is in year one of its 10-year, $2.5 billion broadcast deal with Apple TV. Numbers and data have been very sparse, and many team executives admit they haven't been offered any details of what viewership and even subscription numbers for MLS Season Pass look like so far this season. But that may change soon. As I'm told, the league is set to share those numbers on a very confidential basis with the teams. Remember, all MLS season ticket holders receive an MLS Season Pass subscription with Apple TV as part of their ticket package. Meanwhile, T-Mobile subscribers also receive the MLS Season Pass as part of their phone plan, so that bakes in a number of subscribers right there.

A report in The Seattle Times over the weekend noted that Apple hasn't disclosed any metrics, but a source said that the Seattle Sounders fan base is one of the leaders in subscribers and viewers among MLS teams, so we'll continue to watch to see if any data is forthcoming on the number of subscribers for MLS Season Pass as part of its first year deal with Apple.

It seems the Jacksonville Jaguars have been in the news a lot in the last couple weeks, and that continues, as the name of the Jags' stadium could be changing from TIAA Bank Field to EverBank Stadium, and that shift could happen by the time the season kicks off in September. Now, if this seems like a blast from the pass, you would be right, as the switch would return EverBank to the name of the stadium. That debuted as the stadium's name in 2010. There were a couple acquisitions where TIAA's name was put on the stadium, but now TIAA is being sold to new investors, and it looks like the name, EverBank Stadium, will return to the Jacksonville Jaguars home stadium. We know all the other development plans around the Jags and in Jacksonville, so a lot going on and a lot to watch in Jacksonville.

Another investment in sports. Sponsorship measurement and valuation platform, MVPindex, has raised a 20 million Series B series led by Verance Capital. Now, MVPindex is based in Austin. It measures sponsorship asset valuations across video and audio and other channels. This new capital will allow MVPindex to focus on new product development as well as building out its sales and marketing efforts. Now, the company previously raised a $7 million Series A in 2016. Now they add a 20 million Series B, again led by Verance Capital. That was founded by Lyle Ayes, who was an SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree in 2015 and founded Verance Capital and now investing in MVPindex.

We noted that the NFLPA could have a new executive director later this week. Well, it's lost one of its top executives to OneTeam Partners. Remember, OneTeam Partners is the commercial Rights Company controlled by the NFLPA and the MLBPA, and they have named Sean Sansiveri as its new CEO. Sansiveri is from NFL Players Inc. He is currently General Counsel and Head of Business Affairs for Players Inc. That is the commercial arm of the NFLPA. Remember, OneTeam Partners was led by Ahmad Nassar from 2019 until 2022 when Senior Vice President, Malaika Underwood took over the title as interim CEO. Her Future with OneTeam Partners is not clear. Sansiveri has a lot of experience working in these commercial areas that are familiar to OneTeam Partners. OneTeam Partners has new ownership. I'm sure they'll be looking to add more players, more unions to its offerings, and that will fall under the new CEO, Sean Sansiveri at OneTeam Partners.

Finally, please check out this week's Sports Business Journal as we unveil the stories around this year's Forty Under 40 class of 2023. We share their professional journeys, we share their points of view on the sports industry. Check out all the recaps and the write-ups on That is your morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, June 27th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Wednesday.