SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: November 15, 2023

Episode Summary

Saying goodbye to Padres' Owner Peter Seidler; Rory McIlroy resigns from PGA Tour policy board; A look ahead to this weekend's F1 race in Las Vegas and viewership numbers from last weekend's biggest sporting events.

Episode Transcription

Rise and shine. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, November 15th. I'm Austin Karp, filling in for Abe Madkour. It's hump Day, halfway point of November. It also means the last of the Halloween candy is slowly disappearing from the halls of SBJ, leaving just candy corn and Milky Way at the bottom of the barrel. But lots of sports business news to start your morning here, so let's get to it.

We have to begin with the passing of Padre's controlling owner, Peter Seidler, who died yesterday morning at the all-too-young age of 63. Peter was a two-time survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and battled health issues For a number of years. I had the pleasure of being in the front row to hear Seidler speak at our World Congress of Sports in California earlier this year, and you could immediately tell he had a love for the game of baseball, a devotion to his club, and the City of San Diego.

That was clearly reflected in the outpouring of support for Seidler from across the baseball world when news spread of his passing yesterday. It was incredibly touching to see a clip of Padre's pitcher Yu Darvish and his wife placing flowers at a memorial for Seidler set up at the Home Plate Gate at Petco Park. That memorial remained open until midnight in San Diego and will open again at 6:00 AM Pacific today.

Seidler, who was the grandson of the legendary Walter O'Malley, (who moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to LA), was part of the group that purchased the Padres back in the summer of 2012. He made San Diego his home and became ingrained in local issues and the community, including an active role combating homelessness. He became principal owner of the Padres in November, 2020 when Ron Fowler retired from that role.

Seidler began to devote immense resources toward making the Padres a winner with what he called a "thoughtful and long-term approach" to investing in roster payroll. Many questioned when the Friars started handing out huge deals to the likes of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatís Jr., Xander Bogaerts, not to mention acquiring the likes of Juan Soto. But Seidler spoke with conviction about the long-term viability of his team's aggressive spending. The team, playing in a smaller market, still had the third highest payroll in MLB this past season behind only the Yankees and Mets. Asked about the spending, Seidler said with a smile, "I kind of like spending money. You can't take it with you."

Now, a source tells the San Diego Union-Tribune that the plan is for the team to remain in the Seidler family. During World Congress in the spring, he told attendees that he expected his family to own the Padres for 50 or 75 more years, and certainly the team plans to honor him during the 2024 season. But again, Padre's owner Peter Seidler gone at the all-too-young age of 63.

Netflix aired its first live sports event last night, the Netflix Cup, featuring stars from two of its docuseries, Drive to Survive and Full Swing. They were competing in tournament at the Wynn Golf Club in Vegas. You had Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Max Homa, and Colin Morikawa on the golf side, with Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, and Pierre Gasley from the F1 ranks ahead of this weekend's Las Vegas Grand Prix.

I turn to my golf-loving colleagues, Josh Carpenter and Mike Alongi, to fill me in about how the event looked. They did note that the audio could have been better, and while there were PGA Tour pros playing, there was something of a LIV presence there. Joaquin Neimann from LIV was shown, and McLaren F1 Chief, Zak Brown, was actually shown wearing a LIV hat.

Some positives came in the form of Justin Thomas, who really got to show his personality some more, and the incorporation of the MSG Sphere in the background also was good. The themed holes, like a speed hole and a long drive hole, also played positively. But my colleagues' takeaways were that the event seemed hastily put together, "frazzled" as one put it in terms of production, and it wasn't necessarily something for avid golf fans to take in. More for the casual sports fan.

However, this is another important step for Netflix if it's going to be a player in live sports rights. My colleague, John Ourand, reported this week that Netflix has already shown initial interest in a bid for the rights to the new NBA In-Season Tournament, something that would be coupled with a docuseries that Netflix has become so famous for in recent years.

Now, Netflix over and over again has shown that it's going to be a disruptor in the media space. It's moved to create a cheaper tier with ads, has been relatively successful, and that probably led to other streaming platforms shifting their own strategies in terms of customer acquisition. But anyone and everyone is going to pay attention to what Netflix does, particularly in the sports space, and this latest effort is probably just them scratching the surface on what they can do in sports.

Sticking with golf, Rory Mcilroy resigned from the PGA Tour Policy Board late Tuesday, citing personal professional and family commitments. It's certainly an abrupt move, but maybe not too surprising. Rory was a staunch advocate early on for the PGA Tour when LIV Golf sprang up, and that was kind of taken by surprise when the Tour signed its tentative deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Rory's exit comes a day after a key policy board meeting where Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan outlined how players from the Tour, LIV, and the DP World Tour would receive equity in a new for-profit entity.

Mcilroy left those meetings saying talks were still progressing behind the scenes between the PGA Tour and the PIF, and that he hoped for a deal for all involved. But make no mistake, losing a critical voice like Rory from the Tour's policy board is bad optics. The Tour-PIF deal deadline remains December 31st, and it could get extended all while the Tour considers other outside investors.

Now, switching back to Vegas for a little bit, after years of hype it seems, (we've been talking about it for a while here on the Buzzcast), we're now just a few days away from the much-ballyhooed F1 race on the Strip. But secondary ticket prices for the race continue to drop. We'll see you late Saturday night, and I'm talking about a 10:00 PM Pacific start time on ESPN. We're going to see if there are any pockets of empty grandstands along the Strip.

But the details on corporate hospitality and advertising all have a very Vegas flare to them. Look for Heineken, (the race's title sponsor), to be the first beer brand to advertise on the Sphere with a spinning disco ball that's going to appear. Now, I think that's going to play really well on the TV. It's a pricey one for Heineken, to the tune of around $650,000, but Heineken's probably going to be saving elsewhere; As the brand has already said, it won't be bringing back a Super Bowl ad this year. If you're lucky enough to get into the Mercedes F1 team's three-level Vegas Club hospitality area, that sounds like it's going to be a real nice place to be seen.

Now, as someone who is neck-deep in TV ratings, I did think it was curious that this race is going to be on ESPN instead of ABC. As my colleague, Adam Stern, noted, "Since ESPN picked up F1 rights, this is going to be the first US-based F1 race to be on ESPN the cable network instead of ABC." Stern did note that ABC is still going to have a presence in Vegas, looking for segments on GMA on Friday with a number of their correspondents doing work around the track and around the race and around F1.

Speaking of other ratings, there were some interesting numbers coming out of the weekend. Here are some things that stood out to me. Now, Giants-Cowboys is usually a big get for any NFL media partner at the beginning of the season. Those two matchups are usually incredibly well-rated, big viewership numbers. But my team, the Giants, are having a rough season to put it mildly, and are just not the TV draw right now.

That led Fox to having its least watched or the least watched NFL national window overall since week one. It's a 26% drop versus the week 10 national window last year when Cowboys-Packers was featured. But over at CBS, the combo of Packers-Steelers and Lions-Chargers gave the network its best week 10 single header in nine years. Now, on the whole, things are still bright for the NFL, pacing well ahead of 2022 and looking at perhaps its best viewership since the 2015 season.

Now, Saturday night was the second straight year that the NWSL Championship was on CBS in prime time, but the audience fell off 11% this year even with the match being the finale for both Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger, big US Women's Team stars. Now, Rapinoe leaving early on due to injury may have seen some viewers turn off there, but it's a pretty sharp drop for the NWSL's title game. However, last week they secured a big media rights deal, so that money was already in the bag.

Michigan held off Penn State on Fox in the big noon Saturday window. That marks Fox's second best college football game this season and fifth best college football game for any this season to date. It also means Fox is down just 1% for the season now for its college football. The network has a huge number coming for Ohio State-Michigan after Thanksgiving. That game would've already been the best of the season for any game, but add in the Michigan Jim Harbaugh Big 10 drama and it's a recipe for huge viewership numbers for Fox, and should get them clearly into positive territory for the season on their college football number.

A few quick hitters to wrap things up this morning. SBJ's Terry Lefton reports that the Timbers have a new jersey sponsor in Oregon-based DaBella, marking the roofing and home improvement company's first sports marketing deal. Alaska Airlines had been the Timber's shirt sponsor since the team came to MLS in 2011.

The State Farm Champions Classic was last night in Chicago. (The event will head to Atlanta next year.) I personally love this concept from ESPN Events that started in 2011. Every year you've got Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, blue blood names in college basketball, a rotating double header, and the TV numbers speak for themselves. These early season matchups are among the most watched regular season college hoops games every year, and they shine a light on the sport when it's competing with college football and NFL Football.

Washington State and Oregon State will remain the only two voting members on the PAC-12 Conference board, a judge ruled late Tuesday. The ruling begins to clear the way for WSU and OSU to control more than $400 million in revenue for the current fiscal year and whatever long-term assets remain with the conference following the departure of 10 schools next summer. However, the judge also stayed his ruling until the end of the week as the defendant, University of Washington, (which is acting on behalf of all 10 departing members), seeks an appeal from the Washington Supreme Court.

Emma Hayes, the new head coach of the US Women's National Team, will be the highest paid female soccer coach in the world now, striking a deal with US Soccer worth $1.6 million annually. Hayes comes over from Chelsea, and her new deal puts her salary right in line with that of US Men's soccer coach, Greg Berhalter. Finally, check out this week's Marchand and Ourand Sports Media podcast, where the dynamic duo talk about ESPN and Disney's direct-to-consumer plans, interest around the NBA In-Season Tournament, and Al Michaels' future. The big get this week is two-time Super Bowl champ, Eli Manning.

So, that is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, November 15th. My esteemed colleague, Joe LaMere, will be at the Buzzcast on the next two days. Everyone finish out the week strong, and I hope to speak to you all again soon.