SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: June 9, 2022

Episode Summary

LIV Golf goes live and what it means; Colleges staff up on NIL; Oak View Group launches division in Canada.

Episode Transcription

The launch of LIV Golf takes the lead for our Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, June 9th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour, and yes, the first event of the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series tees off today outside of London. Tee time's 9:15 Eastern Time. The action can be seen on YouTube, Facebook and LIV Golf's website. Of course, there's no US media distribution deal as of yet for the series. Today will include, of course, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson and others playing for a massive purse of $25 million. And for context, just how big a purse is $25 million? Well, think about The Masters. The Masters purse is $15 million for that storied event. Here's the first event of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, and the players are playing for $25 million.

But that's been the story around LIV Golf, which of course is backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is how it's been able to fund such [inaudible 00:01:07] in purses and guarantees to the golfers. The amount of money they are putting into this effort I find staggering. So I'll continue to watch how players message their participation in the LIV Golf Series, and how they answer questions about the policies and politics of the Saudi Arabian government. The players and executives will aim to focus their message on the efforts to grow the game of golf, but we will have to see if that message resonates and breaks through, because players have already been asked by the media their opinions on the various issues surrounding the Saudi government, and the players have no interest in going there.

But this clearly is the biggest and most disruptive force facing professional golf, perhaps in history, and we will have to see how many more players LIV Golf can recruit. There are reports that Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed will join the series. I woke up to a text from someone close to the game who is in London, who called today, "A historical day for golf, and one that could change the face of the game forever." Well, it could. It's too early to write the LIV Golf story, but they are not going away anytime soon, and its success won't be determined by this one opening weekend in London. They will have the resources to play the long game, and they firmly believe their concept will work.

Meanwhile, look for the PGA Tour to announce disciplinary action as early as today, Thursday, for the players participating in London. The PGA Tour could suspend some of these players, although The New York Post is reporting the severity of any punishment could vary on a case-by-case basis. Others I talked to are very anxious to see the type of reaction the public golf fan offers to the players who do play on the LIV Golf Series. So again, so many storylines around this. It is the story that all of the sources I have spoken to all week have wanted to talk about, and again, you do not see such a strong, disruptive force entering sports very frequently. So that's why everybody is talking about LIV Golf, which tees off today outside of London.

Let's move on. We have talked about colleges and universities taking a more active role in handling name, image and likeness issues and opportunities for its athletes on campus. Well, our Michael Smith reports that Learfield will now work with their schools to hire and add a specific staff member that will focus on NIL deals for athletes. Ohio State, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have opted into this program so far. Learfield and the schools will share the cost of adding a specific NIL sales executive on campus, and that role will focus on three things. Finding opportunities for the athletes, then connecting them with the brands, and also protecting the school's brand and intellectual property. So you can look for some new positions to be hired on colleges and universities focused on NIL.

One of the reasons the UFC was a surprise winner of League of the Year at the Sports Business Awards in May was because of the success that the UFC has had in signing significant sponsorship deals really over the last 12 to 16 months. Well, they have another big deal today, as SBJ's Terry Lefton reports that blockchain logistics company VeChain has signed on as a UFC global sponsor. It is the first sports sponsorship for VeChain. VeChain helps companies use the blockchain to handle supply chain problems. A source close to the deal said the deal was for nearly a hundred million dollars over five years. That would make it one of UFC's largest sponsorship deals ever.

The UFC also said that with this deal, its sponsorship revenue is up 30% off a record year in 2021. So again, the UFC as a sponsorship property, very, very hot right now. VeChain will start its deal this week at UFC 275, which is in Singapore. So again, blockchain remains one of the hottest categories across sports sponsorships. We saw the deal at Staple Center. also has a deal with the UFC, so again, major sponsorship deals in this category, the UFC just the latest to announce such a partnership.

On Wednesday, we talked about the record $4.65 billion deal led by Rob Walton's group to buy the Denver Broncos. Well, SBJ's Ben Fischer reported that the Rob Walton group paid more than $400 million more than the next highest bidders to land the team. So that bid, that aggressive bid, led to the rapid conclusion of the sale earlier this week. At least two other bids came in at $4.2 billion or more. That would've been a very healthy deal as is, but the Rob Walton group, they went $400 million more in their bid to land the team at $4.65 billion, which of course is a record. We've said on the Buzzcast Rob Walton's wealth would ultimately make the difference, and it did. He has a net worth of more than $60 billion and is easily the richest owner in the NFL, and that revenue, that resource, and that wealth made the difference in Rob Walton landing the Broncos.

Let's shift to a company everybody talks about. Oak View Group keeps growing and growing. They have now launched OVG Canada, which is a new division focused on providing venue development, venue management, sponsorship brand consulting, and property sales. OVG Canada announced Canada Basketball as its first sales client, so they will sell on behalf of Canada Basketball. Remember, Oak View Group chair and founder, Tim Leiweke, knows a bit about the Canadian market. He ran Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment from 2013 to 2015. He has named Tom Pistore to lead OVG Canada as President. Pistore moves over from UBS Arena, where he was President there. The company is close to naming a replacement for him at UBS Arena over the next few days. OVG Canada, they'll primarily focus on four revenue areas. Brand consulting, property sales, venue development, and venue redevelopment. So, Oak View Group continues to be one of the fastest growing and most talked about companies in sports, and they launch a new division, OVG Canada, today.

Let's end the Buzzcast with a couple of interesting media nuggets from our ratings expert, Austin Karp. We've said time and again on the Buzzcast that NASCAR is quietly having a very nice start to its season. Well, here's proof. Ratings for NASCAR's Cup Series on Fox and FS1 are up 7% from last year. Every property will take that number, and that is a good sign for NASCAR. Secondly, ESPN's Jimmy Pitaro recently talked about the great run of ratings on ESPN. Well, here's proof from Austin Karp. ESPN drew its best primetime audience for the month of May, and its best total day audience for the month of May since 2015.

So the bottom line, more people watched ESPN in the month of May, and events like the NBA and NHL Playoffs, PGA Championship, F1, more people watched ESPN and those events in the month of May than they have in seven years. So that is a good indicator for the health and interest in sports properties and sports viewing on ESPN. So we end with some positive nuggets around sports viewership on the Buzzcast. And that is your Buzzcast. It's Thursday, it's June 9th. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody has a great day. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.