SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: March 15, 2023

Episode Summary

What's next after Diamond's Chapter 11 filing? Advertisers step up for women's tourney and we break down two competitive categories for Sports Business Awards

Episode Transcription

We talk all the time on the Buzzcast, how sports leagues are trying to reach new, hard to reach audiences. Well, kudos to the NHL as the league produce the NHL Big City Greens Classic, which saw the Rangers and Capitals game played in a virtual environment with animated players whose movements synced with what was happening on the ice at Madison Square Garden. And of course, the animation of the players was modeled after the characters on the Disney series, Big City Greens. I caught part of the game on the Disney Channel and it was an impressive feat targeted to the young audience, and you could tell the NHL had fun with the production. The traditional game telecast, which saw the Rangers win was on ESPN. But bottom line, a new and novel way for the NHL to produce a broadcast targeted toward today's youth.

And this is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, March 15th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Hope you're all doing well. Let's get righteous and breaking news overnight. Not surprising, Diamond Sports Group, which controls the regional sports networks under the Bally Sports brand for 42 teams across MLB, the NHL and the NBA filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday night, saddled by more than $8 billion in debt. But now, if you're in a Bally's market, which I am here in Charlotte, the company plans to continue to operate the regional sports networks. And we all know how complicated bankruptcy can be and what a long process it may be, but immediately being impacted will be Major League Baseball, as its season is about to begin and Diamond holds the rights to 14 baseball teams, and they must continue to pay the teams or be in breach of contract, which would allow or could allow the teams to take back their regional media rights.

And we know why this is important. For Major League Baseball, well, for all teams, actually, the media rights revenue is easily the first or second main driver of revenue for an organization. Now, for some teams it may be the third largest source of revenue, but for most, it's number one or number two. If a team is getting, say, a $30 million rights fee for their regional sports rights, and that's a low number by industry standards, that could be cut in half by three quarters or more. And that is a huge reduction in revenue. And that's the pain that sports leaders have talked about teams will face during this time. The pain is less revenue. As we know it now, Diamond Sports has paid all the teams what it owes them except the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they have a period to negotiate with the Dbacks about the next step.

So now, watch to see what Major League Baseball does, as the league has been very clear from the start that fans will not miss any games in their local market. Baseball is confident that Diamond Sports will continue to show the games, but if they don't, baseball has said time and again that the league is ready to step in, produce and distribute the games themselves, both on linear television where Major League Baseball would negotiate carriage with a local cable operator or go direct to consumer or use its MLB network. So there are some options. There are a lot of moving parts here. I can't stress enough to follow SBJ's, John Ourand on Twitter for the latest on this as he has followed this story so closely for so many years. Also, read his SBJ Media newsletter and listen to the Sports Media podcast with Andrew Marchand and John Ourand. A new one drops today where they will break down the RSN issue very, very clearly and comprehensively. It's easily the biggest story in sports media right now.

Let's shift to college news. The NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament begins with the first four games tonight and Thursday. Main bracket starts on Friday. In another good indicator of the strength of women's sports SBJ's, Michael Smith reported that Disney has seen strong ad sales for the women's tournament that will be on ESPN and it has called fan interests as strong as ever for the women's game and the advertising slots are sold out. The 68 team tournament has attracted 15 broadcast sponsors and nearly a hundred advertisers across various categories. So you're going to see brands like Aflac, Great Clips Under Armour, and the US Army, all broadcasts pretty heavily joining in the action around the women's tournament.

Meanwhile, look for a lot of Nike during the Woman's tournament as well, as it is again the leading shoe and jersey provider for the teams in the tournament. Nike and its Jordan brand will outfit 44 of the 68 teams six more than last year, and it's Nike's highest number since they had 40 teams in 2018. Adidas will outfit 15 teams. Under Armor will outfit nine teams. Both are down three schools compared to last year. So again, you'll see a lot of Nike, and again, a great sign that the Women's tournament advertising slots are sold out on ESPN.

Staying with college sports. We have mentioned before how many college leaders are looking to Congress to try and get some national standardization when it comes to name, image, and likeness policy. Some think it's a long shot, but there could be baby steps in the right direction as a House, Energy and Commerce Committee has slated a hearing on March 29th with the early goal to quote, "Create a clear set of rules for all athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness at both large and small schools in every state to preserve the future of college athletics," end quote. That is the language that college leaders want to hear. And so we will keep an eye on that committee's plans over the next few weeks, but some steps towards standardizing NIL coming from Washington DC.

You know, yesterday we started breaking down the nominees for the 2023 Sports Business Awards, which will take place May 24th in New York City. We looked at the nominees in our two new categories, Best in Sports Betting and Deal of the Year. Today we look at the nominees in Event of the Year and Sports Facility of the Year, and of course, always welcome your feedback.

So the six nominees in Sports Event of the year are, number one, Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix. Number two, the Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano fight at MSG. Number three, the NFL draft in Las Vegas. Number four, the President's Cup at Quail Hollow Club. Number five, San Antonio Spurs, Back Home in the Dome. That was the game where they had more than 65,000 fans at the Alamodome. And the final nominee in Event of the Year is the US Open Tennis Championship. So those are the six nominees in Event of the Year.

The six nominees in Sports Facility of the Year. Number one, Allegiant Stadium, which was a nominee last year as well. Number two, Fenway Park for the number of various sports events they held at that facility. Number three, Geodis Park, the really stashing new MLS facility in Nashville. Number four, the Moody Center, which of course sits on the grounds of the University of Texas. Number five, snap Dragon Stadium, which brought a state-of-the-art facility to San Diego. And number six, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, which of course continues to draw a number of top events and was also nominated last year. So those are the nominees in two very exciting and competitive categories. So this event on May 24th will be the biggest night of the year in sports business. It will sell out. So I encourage you to buy your ticket soon. We will break down other categories in future episodes of the Buzzcast.

I want to give kudos to four top executives who will be honored today as Wise Women of the Year during a luncheon in New York City. The Wise Women of the Year Award is a prestigious honor that recognizes extraordinary women who have made a significant impact on the business of sports. The honorees are certainly deserving and they'll be honored today. Andrea Brimmer, who was Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer at Ally Financial. Jill Gregory, General Manager and Executive Vice President at Sonoma Raceway. Hillary Mandel, Executive Vice President and head of Americas at IMG Media. And Carla Williams, the athletic director at the University of Virginia. So congratulations to each of these well-respected leaders as they receive the prestigious Wise Women of the Year award. A very well-deserved honor they will receive today in New York City.

And how's this for a class act? You'll see a lot of Devin McCourty on television next year, as I predict he'll be doing NFL analysis and do it very well on a major network. But the newly retired Patriot safety thank fans across Massachusetts by taking out ads on nearly 40 billboards throughout the state. Now he played with only the Patriots during his 13 year career. Devin McCourty was always a fan favorite in New England, and you'll see why when he is in the booth as he has a very, very bright future in sports broadcasting. So you'll see that name a lot in the days ahead. So that is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, March 15th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzz Cast. Thanks for spreading the word on the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other, I'll speak to you tomorrow.