SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: March 2, 2023

Episode Summary

NFL players rank working conditions; Charlie Baker meets the media; Burke Magnus' big new role at ESPN and MSG gets new top sales exec

Episode Transcription

If you'll be attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on Friday, let me know. I'll be there just for the day, but it would be great to say hello. And this is your morning Buzzcast for Thursday, March 2nd. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Let's start with some interesting news out of the NFL because the NFL Players Association released a survey on teams and their working conditions, and the Minnesota Vikings received the best score while the Washington Commanders ranked last. Here's how it worked. 1300 NFL players answered a confidential questionnaire asking them their opinions on club working conditions in eight categories, nutrition, weight room, strength coaches, training staff, training room, team travel, locker room, and treatment of families.

So each player who participated, graded the club they played on during the '22 season and the clubs were then ranked by each individual category and then overall. So let's look at the overall ranking. The top five clubs were, in order, the Vikings, the Dolphins, the Raiders, the Texans, and the Cowboys. The bottom five clubs are the Jags, the Chiefs, the Chargers, the Cardinals and Commanders. So why is this important? Well, it's a clear measuring stick for players as they decide where they want to play and when they look at some of the working conditions in an environment. And for the clubs, it's either something to tout to free agents and draft choices or potential draft choices, or they may try to rebut these findings if they scored low. But it's a very interesting benchmark that will surely get a lot of attention.

We mentioned it yesterday on the Buzzcast, but new NCAA president Charlie Baker, today he enters day two of his tenure as NCAA president, and on his first day he did a round a media interviews and outlined a few initiatives. He said getting a full understanding of name, image and likeness compensation is at the top of his to-do list. And he said the NCAA needs help from Congress in the form of a federal law to govern NIL. In terms of some other priorities for his first 100 days, Baker said those include meeting with every conference commissioner at all three divisions of the NCAA. He says he plans to bring in an outside firm to conduct a state of the business review for the NCAA to assess its strengths, its weaknesses, its opportunities and threats. So he's conducting a SWOT analysis and what will be music to many leaders' ears, Charlie Baker also said he wants the NCAA to make decisions and move more quickly than it has in the past, and that will surely make a lot of leaders inside college athletics quite happy.

You know, let's move on to some media news. A big organizational shift was announced that ESPN with Burke Magnus taking on a big new role as president of content, and that sees him clearly positioned as ESPN's number two top executive to chairman Jimmy Pitaro. Now, Burke Magnus has been with ESPN for nearly 30 years. He is one of the most well-liked and well regarded executives that I know of in sports. He was of course overseeing all programming relationships with the leagues and events that had partnerships with ESPN but now he will move from that role to heading up all content for ESPN. We're talking studio shows. We're talking live events, news, ESPN films, talent and audio, digital and social media. It's a big, big job. And now head of event and studio production Stephanie Druley, head of NBA and studio production, David Roberts and executive editor and head of event and studio production, Norby Williamson will all report to Burke Magnus.

Previously, those three reported to Jimmy Pitaro. Another big part of the reorg involves Rosalyn Durant, who returns to ESPN from her role at Disney to take over the role formally held by Burke Magnus, overseeing programming and rights acquisitions plus ESPNW. So Durant's title is executive vice president programming and acquisitions. She'll handle all the league relationships for ESPN. She'll relocate to Bristol, split her time between Bristol and Charlotte, actually. The bottom line on this overall reorg has Jimmy Pitaro reducing the number of direct reports. The move also sees an increased role for head of content operations and creative surround Tina Thornton and marketing leader Laura Gentile. The two big takeaways from these moves to me, a very significant new job for Burke Magnus and the return of Rosalyn Durant to ESPN.

We have said it before on the Buzzcast, but the Atlanta Braves run a pretty, pretty good business. After winning a World Series in 2021, the Braves last year generated a franchise record $588 million in total revenue. That's according to financial results of team owner Liberty Media. Now that figure topped the previous high of $568 million, which was set in 2021 so just a year earlier, baseball revenue increase for the year because of increased ticket sales and ticket demand and retail revenue and additional special events held at the ballpark. The Braves continue to operate on all cylinders. In addition to baseball revenue, the Braves also generated $53 million in revenue from The Battery, Atlanta. That, of course, is the mixed use development outside the ballpark. That's an increase of $9 million over 2021. An operating profit before taxes was $71 million.

Now that is down from 2021, which was due to higher expenses, but not many teams share full financial data. So that's why this is a benchmark against other clubs. But the Braves bringing in $588 million in total revenue and $71 million in profit just shows how that operation has really optimized its business and remember, Liberty Media also owns Formula One, and the data shows that revenue for the Formula One Group hit $2.5 billion for 2022, up from 2.1 billion in '21 and that shows that revenue around Formula One continues to grow.

Moving on to golf, the PGA Tour continues to shake up its sport and early reports are that it has approved significant changes to its 2024 schedule. It will see smaller fields in the new high profile designated events. It'll even get away from the 36 hole cut at some other events. Now the details are still a bit unclear, but this has been the result of players' input for the last year to try and shake up the tour and it's another reaction to the offerings presented by LIV Golf. Now the tour is clearly trying to get its best players to play more high profile events throughout the year and to get the players sticking around all four days. So yes, reduce fields I'm sure will upset the rank and file, but the Tour still believes there are plenty of opportunities for players to play and emerge, but they want the best players to be around all weekend, even if they are in the top half of the leaderboard.

I'm sure we will have more news on these proposed changes to the PGA Tour because this is a big, big shift for that sport and I know it's going to get a lot of attention. A couple of quick hitters as we end the Buzzcast today. Get ready to see a lot of Coach K and Dawn Staley in the newest AFLAC Goats advertising campaign, which will build off of the initial success generated by Deion Sanders and Nick Saban, which ran last year and that we saw everywhere. But Coach K, Dawn Staley will be in these latest spots that will run throughout March Madness. This is a big move and a big endorsement for Dawn Staley to join AFLAC College Sports efforts because it speaks to the rise in her popularity and her stature as a voice for women's sports and college sports to appear in this new AFLAC campaign, AFLAC is in its third year as a partner of the NCAA.

And finally a very big hire at MSG Sports, which named Chris Overholt, senior vice president of global partnerships. He will oversee global sales efforts for MSG sports and MSG Entertainment. This is a big job. He joins MSG Sports from Canadian eSports and Media Company, Overactive Media. For the past couple years, he had been in the eSports and media world. He was president and CEO at Overactive Media but many know Chris Overholt. He has had stints at Maple Leaf Sports, the Florida Panthers, the Miami Dolphins, and the Canadian Olympic Committee and now he joins MSG Sports as Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships.

And finally, thanks for listening to the morning Buzzcast. I'm asking you or inviting you to check out our best subscription offer, SBJ All Access at a special price. Go to our website, go to our subscribe page, and use the code Buzzcast19. Use that at checkout and receive your first month of SBJ All Access for only $19. That is Buzzcast and the number 19 at checkout for your first month of SBJ All Access for only $19. This offer ends March 12th. Please see our website for renewal details. So thanks for listening to your Buzzcast for Thursday, March 2nd. I Abe MadKour. Appreciate you spreading the word on the Buzzcast. David Albright will bring you the Buzzcast on Friday. I'll speak to you on Monday, until then, stay healthy, be good to each other, and have a great weekend.