SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: November 21, 2023

Episode Summary

BLURB: Disappointed TGL forced to delay a year; PFL acquires Bellator and what it means; Another agency looks to draft off the World Cup.

Episode Notes

BLURB: Disappointed TGL forced to delay a year; PFL acquires Bellator and what it means; Another agency looks to draft off the World Cup.

Episode Transcription

Well, next Wednesday evening, CNN will premier King Charles. That is the primetime weekly series hosted by Gayle King and Charles Barkley that we've talked about on the Buzzcast. The show will air at 10:00 PM on Wednesdays. And looking forward to that. I think that could be a very good combination. And if you're getting on the road for Thanksgiving, travel safe, and have a great time with friends and family. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, November 21st. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. A big disappointment for TMRW Sports' TGL golf league that was forced to delay its inaugural season a full year until early 2025, after assessing the damage at its SoFi Center at Palm Beach State College. And that was damage sustained last week in Florida. A power failure at the venue caused part of the bubble to deflate, and after officials looked over the damage and consulted with the PGA Tour, media and commercial partners, the decision was made to postpone a full year.

Now, you may ask, "Why a full year?" Well, because the TGL season is really based around the PGA Tour schedule, so the inaugural season was expected to be done by April, so by all the majors. So a push later in the year would've conflicted with player schedules, that in many cases, are based around the major championships. Also, their broadcast rights deal with ESPN was really focused on that first quarter of the year, so there was no competition with football or the start of the post seasons of the NBA and NHL, so everything was kind of strategically timed. Once that was disrupted, the decision was made to push it back a full year. Now, no exact date has been determined, but the league will attempt to launch around early January 2025.

Before it's founder Mike McCarley and others, it has to a big disappointment. There was some real buzz about this league, and its unique way of presenting golf. So, not to go forward in two months is discouraging for all the work they put in, but now they can try to use the year ahead to install even more elements into the competition and the presentation. But TGL postponing its launch by one year.

Let's move on. Some consolidation in the mix martial arts space, as Paramount Global sold its Bellator mix martial arts series to the PFL, the Professional Fighters League, in a deal that will certainly strengthen the PFL, and make it a more legitimate competitor to the UFC. Now, both the brands, Bellator and PFL will continue to exist. The Bellator brand will remain separate from the PFL brand, but there will be some special events that have the best fighters from both series face each other.

Now remember, the PFL got some major investments this summer from SRJ Sports Investments. That is Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. And they invested nine figures into the PFL this summer. Obviously, the PFL had some capital to go out and make a deal like this. The PFL feels this deal gives it a larger share of the top-ranked fighters in the world, they believe it transforms the mix martial arts space overnight. The PFL acquired Bellator and owned the company outright. PFL founder, Donn Davis, who will be speaking at our Dealmakers in Sports Conference, said that, "Paramount will retain a small minority stake." Now, the PFL was valued at $500 million in 2022 when it had another capital raise. So major consolidation in the mix martial arts space.

SBJ's John Ourand moderated a conversation between NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Monumental Sports' Ted Leonsis last Friday. And the meeting or the conversation came shortly after the NBA's media committee met Friday morning. And in a unique anecdote, they shared that the media committee's discussion that morning, was not focused really on the league's domestic media rights negotiations, which has been a big topic on this Buzzcast for much of the past year. Rather, the committee members and Commissioner Silver, spent a lot of time talking about how to make the NBA game more accessible to a global audience.

Now, Ted Leonsis chairs the committee, and he says they talked about the tomography of the planet. And he stressed that the NBA's growth potential is in international markets. And remember, the NBA has made sure that all of its international media rights deals end before 2025. So that underscores the idea that an international play will be a big part of the next media rights deal. So everything is sunsetting at the same time, the league will have a very robust international package.

Another main topic at last week's committee meeting, focused on discovery, and how fans will find the games. Especially considering that the NBA is likely to create several packages with several media companies. Adam Silver said his hope is that if you're a Wizards' fan... he brought up the Wizards because of Ted Leonsis's presence. "If you're a Wizards' fan, and you've indicated that you want to watch those games on your phone, rather than having to click through an app and log in, at 7:00 PM that night, if the Wizards' next game is on, it would just start playing or showing on your phone."

Over the years, I've heard Adam Silver really stress discovery. He and others have spent a a lot of time focused on making games easier to find. So it's not surprising to me that discovery of NBA Action is a high priority for Adam Silver. But there's some very interesting takeaways from that conversation at the 8th Annual Povich Symposium put on by the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The entire conversation is viewable online.

Let's move on, but stay with the NBA. I like this deal between the Atlanta Hawks and the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. So they are the new uniform patch sponsor of the Hawks. That Y logo will appear on the Hawks jersey starting with tonight's home game, Tuesday night's home game versus the Pacers. Excel Sports represented the Hawks on the jersey deal. And the Y logo will also be on the Hawks G League affiliate, College Park Skyhawks logo as well.

For the Y, not surprisingly, they will use this deal to lean heavily on community efforts, including coaching clinics and youth basketball leagues. So that's where they see this type of synergy with the Hawks. What's really interesting is that this deal came together in less than two months. Yes, less than two months. This deals can take 12-18 months. From the Hawks, Andrew Saltzman, also loves the fact that basketball was invented by an instructor from the Y, James Naismith. So the Hawks feel good that they have the right brand that will connect in the community and increase access to youth sports. For the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, they see this deal, and they believe it can build relevance, drive membership, and increase fundraising for the organization.

There are around 30 YMCA facilities in Metro Atlanta. So after this deal, there are now four NBA teams still in the market for an ad patch sponsor, the Clippers, the Grizzlies, the Pacers, and the Trail Blazers. And we all know what a crowded market it is for camera-visible assets, so it can make this deals quite challenging. And we'll end with this, a number of companies and organizations are certainly looking to capitalize on the 2026 World Cup in the US, Mexico and Canada. Here's another agency looking to get into the game. Chicago-based rEvolution Sports Marketing Group is the latest agency to launch a soccer-specific division. They're calling it rEv United. And it's going to be led by Senior Vice President Bruce Bundrant. And he has a long history in soccer. I've known him for years. He's worked at Relevent Sports Group, AS Monaco, Liverpool, D.C. United. He will be among the leaders of rEv United.

And he told SBJ that, "The agency plans to make several hires focused on soccer as part of the formation of this new division." Now the agency is looking to win business from both properties and brands who are investing in soccer, as it can be a very cluttered and confusing soccer landscape. Now, rEv United is not alone. A number of agencies will look to position themselves for the World Cup to gain new business.

Other notable moves in this space in the past year have included GMR Marketing launching its own dedicated soccer division called GMR FC. And also Fox Sports Ventures acquiring Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing. So you're seeing a number of agencies and entities try to amass a soccer expertise to take to the market. Now, rEvolution out of Chicago is the latest. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, November 21st. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Wednesday.