SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: June 28, 2023

Episode Summary

PGA Tour Policy Board meets in MI; CVC Capital investment being used for WTA prize money push and why the College World Series is such a hit

Episode Transcription

Well, if you're heading to the 2024 Paris Summer Games, you will not be able to drink alcoholic competition menus unless of course you're sitting in a nice VIP hospitality suite area. So there will be different rules for the general stadium and the hospitality suites. Remember, a similar arrangement was in place for the World Cup in Qatar last year with alcohol sales only available in the VIP area. So that will continue at the Paris Summer Games. So the thoughts of having a nice Chardonnay or a nice Sauvignon Blanc or a nice beer while you're watching the Olympics in the regular competition venues, don't bet on it. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, June 28th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast.

The PGA Tour Policy Board met for more than five hours in Dearborn, Michigan on Tuesday, and reportedly spent more than half of that time on the partnership between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. The meeting reportedly covered a range of issues from the economics of the deal to the operations and procedures around the deal. No action was taken, no votes were had, but SI's Michael Rosenberg reported that it was an important day because it seemed to indicate that the players will be open to working on a partnership with the Public Investment Fund.

Everybody on the 10-member board attended the meeting in person, and that includes players like Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson, and others. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was not in attendance as he is still on medical leave. He also did not call into the meeting. Chief of Operations Tyler Dennis and Chief Operating Officer Ron Price led the meeting in Monahan's absence. Now, the PGA Tour Policy Board is not just players. There are also independent directors, like two of the key architects behind the deal, attorney Ed Hurley and Jimmy Dunne. Now, those two, of course, we've talked about them on the Buzzcast. They were critical to this partnership. Now, the Policy Board also includes former AT&T Chair Randall Stephenson and Bond Capital's Mary Meeker. So it's a mix of both independent directors and players. Again, reportedly met for more than five hours. More details we know are still to come, but this was clearly a first step and by some accounts, a fairly positive one towards working together.

We talked yesterday on the Buzzcast, how the WTA Tour received $150 million of investment capital from CVC Capital Partners. And now we are starting to get indications on how they plan to deploy that capital. The WTA is using it to create a pathway to equal prize money, a historic move, as they will also change its season calendar, they'll change the rules about which players must enter certain tournaments. So this is a pretty significant move by the WTA and the plan is to have matching financial payouts for women and men across all rounds of singles at the big joint WTA ATP events. Those are called 1000 and 500 events. Those are the two levels right below the four Grand Slams. So big events, the plan is to have this enacted by 2027 at those combined events. Other events will take up to 10 years for pay equity going out to 2033. So this is a long process, but these were not easy negotiations. A lot of different people at the table and "a phased-in approach really is necessary," the WTA said, "for raising the additional revenue to fund the pay increases."

But let's take a look at where the other or most of the money is coming from. The additional money to fund the pay increases will come from incremental boosts by the tournaments themselves and from the revenue projected from broadcast data and sponsorship rights via this new entity, WTA Ventures. And that's the commercial enterprise that was launched with CVC Capital Partners' contribution of $150 million. They got a 20% stake in WTA Ventures. So the thinking is they'll be able to sell these assets, sell this inventory at far greater value, and that will be able to fund equal prize money. The proposals also include increasing the number of 1000 tournaments, that's the highest level under the Grand Slams, to 10. They'll add events in Beijing and Canada. Also, Cincinnati will be raised to a 1000-level event. The events will be expanded to two weeks with larger fields and new rules to boost participation by leading players in the biggest events. So the bottom line, the best players playing at the biggest events for more money. So again, a very significant move for women's sports and women's tennis.

We've talked on the Buzzcast about how the NCAA is going to market with its various media rights for its championship programming. And most of the focus has been on women's sports. We've talked a lot about the Women's Final Four and how valuable that could be to media partners. But as our Austin Karp notes, the College World Series, the Men's College World Series picked a very good time to post its best viewership ever on ESPN. And they had big numbers for LSU Florida in the finale. ESPN averaged 2.9 million viewers over three games for LSU Florida. That is a record for the College World Series Final for ESPN. It's the first time the event has even crossed two million viewers for the College World Series finals since Vanderbilt, Virginia went to three games in 2014. This year's final is up 75% from last year's two-game series between Ole Miss and Oklahoma.

Now, Monday Night's clenching game delivered 3.6 million viewers. That is the best number for the College World Series ever on record. And that's a strong number for a Monday night. That's better than a recent Stanley Cup Final Game 5 on Turner and TNT. That's better than the US Open's third round, which was on primetime on NBC. And so that number would have ranked easily as one of the most watched sports programs in recent weeks. So again, very strong numbers. Over the 16 games, they averaged 1.6 million viewers. That marks the best tournament figure since ESPN started carrying the College World Series. It's also up nearly 50% from last year. So all metrics pointing up for the College World Series.

And so let's go back to where we started. The College Baseball package is part of that NCAA Championship media rights package on ESPN. That 12-year deal runs through August of next year, and it's worth about $40 million a year. Remember, Endeavor was brought on to advise the NCAA and the group will decide which championships to pull out of that package and sell on their own. They could sell the Women's Basketball Tournament, they could sell the Women's College World Series, they could sell the Men's College World Series, and they will decide which ones will remain in a bundle of rights. So the NCAA will first negotiate with ESPN before possibly going to the open marketplace. Talks are expected to begin later this year. A lot of talk about this package of rights that the NCAA will take to market, and they're certainly going with a very strong hand with the recent numbers around the Women's Final Four and now the College World Series.

The College World Series was also a hit on the ground in Nebraska. For the third straight year the men's college final drew nearly 25,000 fans. The series averaged 24,500 fans across 16 games, and that marks the best number in the 73-year history of the event in Nebraska. Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, its capacity is 24,000. So you see, they're selling standing room. They're over capacity for all these games. So again, a huge hit on air, a huge hit on the ground. It looked fantastic on television. College World Series certainly ended with a great run.

And finally, you don't think the NFL is hot in Europe? Remember, we saw it last year in Germany with the Bucs Seahawks game. It was so popular the NFL is doing two games in Germany this year, and we're seeing the interest again, as it seems the German fans cannot get enough of the NFL. Tickets for the November 5th game between the Dolphins and the Chiefs, yes, a very good matchup that will be held in Frankfurt, Germany, some fans reported that there were a million people in the Ticketmaster system at that time to purchase tickets. Tickets sold in less than 15 minutes for Dolphins Chiefs in Frankfurt, Germany. And again, the NFL is proving to be a very popular product in that market.

And that is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, June 28th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.