SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: May 11, 2023

Episode Summary

Questions come up in Commanders sale, it’s a mixed bag on the Disney/ESPN streaming front and the Suns new local TV deal gets blocked in court.

Episode Transcription

With the draft in the rear view mirror, you wouldn't normally think to turn on the NFL network on a random Thursday night in May, especially with playoff basketball and hockey on the schedule. But schedules of another kind will be the order of business at tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern, as the NFL announces the complete 2023 regular season schedule. We already know about the international slate and Black Friday, but tonight we get all 18 weeks for all 32 teams. In some respects, it's hard to believe this has become a TV event, but then again, it's the NFL. Good morning. It's Thursday, May 11th. This is your SBJ Morning Buzzcast. I'm David Albright filling in for Abe Madkour. 

Members of the NFL's finance committee raised concerns about 76ers and Devil's owner, Josh Harris's tentative $6.05 billion deal to purchase the Commanders. Those concerns do not mean Harris's deal will be rejected, but the committee must spend more time examining the financial aspects. A source said that it seems unlikely the owners can vote to approve the transaction even on a conditional basis during their May 22nd and 23rd meetings in Minneapolis. If no ratification vote is taken this month, the NFL could schedule a special meeting for the owners to take an approval vote over the summer. The owner's next schedule meeting is in October. The major obstacles to completion of the deal remain the NFL's dealings with current Commander's owner Dan Snyder, not with Harris.

Staying with football, the NFLPA has scheduled a meeting of player representatives for late June at which union leaders are expected to select a new executive director to replace DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA player-president JC Tretter sent an email to union staff updating them on the search, telling them there would be a board meeting in late June, but not providing them with any other details. The search for a successor to Smith has been shrouded in secrecy. One source said the player reps are expected to meet up to four candidates for the position at the June meeting, but do not know the identity of any of those candidates within the industry. There has been an expectation for the last several weeks that the players may act to select a new executive director before the start of NFL training camps. Russell Reynolds Associates is leading the search for the NFLPA.

ESPN+ gained another 400,000 subscribers since February, giving the streaming service 25.3 million total subscribers and a gain of $3 million year over year. Disney noted that and its Q2 financials on Wednesday. That development comes as total subscribers to the flagship Disney+ service dropped by 4 million from the previous quarter to 157.8 million. Most of those defections came from the Disney+ Hotstar offering in India after it lost streaming rights to the Indian Premier League cricket matches. Disney reduced streaming losses by 400 million from the prior quarter and even with the sub losses, earnings mostly landed in line with Wall Street expectations. As Disney tries to build streaming its traditional TV business faces hurdles, operating income at linear networks dropped 35% from a year earlier to $1.8 billion, partly from higher sports programming and production costs related to the college football playoff and the NFL on ESPN and lower ad revenue at ABC and its owned TV stations.

A US bankruptcy judge blocked the Suns from moving ahead with a television and streaming rights deal for its basketball games, saying that the team violated the rights of its current broadcast partner, the bankrupt Diamond Sports Group. US bankruptcy law protects debtors from having their contracts modified or terminated without their consent and US bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez ruled that the Sun's new TV deal with Gray Television and Kiswe was void because it interfered with Diamond Sports' contractual right to negotiate a contract extension. Lopez did not award Diamond Sports any monetary damages, but said that he would consider a request for damages at a later hearing. Diamond Sports contends it's still under contract with the Suns until the 2022-23 NBA season is over. The company has first right refusal and can match any deal offered to the Suns and Mercury while under contract. The Mercury's deal with Gray and Kiswe is unaffected by the litigation.

BMAC Sports is asking the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to help cover one third of the price tag around $130 million for a $400 million four-stadium tennis campus at the River District in West Charlotte. This comes as BMAC is looking for a new home for the Western and Southern Open, which has been held in Cincinnati. BMAC hopes to relocate the tournament by 2026 and is exploring other locations, including ones in Ohio. To meet the tight timeline city council and county commissioners would need to make a decision about public funding soon, possibly within the next two months.

In people news, Apple's top executive in charge of its video and sports businesses is departing as Pete Distad plans to leave Apple this month. In his current role, Distad oversees the business and operations side of the Apple TV app and TV Plus streaming service leading the company's push into television shows, Hollywood movies and sporting events. His division negotiated deals with both the MLS and MLB. Apple will be elevating sports content executive Jim DeLorenzo to replace Distad on the sports side.

And that's your SBJ Morning Buzzcast for Thursday. I hope everyone has a great day and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning.