SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: November 27, 2023

Episode Summary

Football business feast; NBA In-Season begins to heat up - right? And Steve Kerr questions the direction of in-game entertainment

Episode Transcription

Well, we prepare for the final home stretch of 2023. Hard to believe. But yes, this is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, November 27th. I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving weekend. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. While the NFL certainly had a big, big weekend, and while numbers for the Amazon game on Friday are not available as of yet, the league drew its third-best regular season audience on record on Thanksgiving with the Cowboys big win over the Commanders in the late afternoon window on Thursday, drawing 41.4 million viewers. Yes, that's what I said, 41.4 million viewers, Thursday afternoon. That number is behind only the record setting 42 million viewers for the Giants-Cowboys on Fox in the same window last year, and it's also below the 41.6 million for a Giants-49ers game in 1990. So just look at the strength of the NFL on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, a lot of it driven by the appeal of the Cowboys. Commanders-Cowboys is the best telecast of any kind since Super Bowl this past February. So this is the number-two-viewed program so far in 2023.

SBJ's Austin Karp reported that the introduction of out-of-home viewing numbers in 2020 has certainly assisted the recent Thanksgiving record audience figures. But these numbers are incredibly strong, staying with the Thanksgiving games. While the early Packers-Lions numbers weren't available, the 49ers win over the Seahawks on NBC drew north of 26 million viewers. That's the second-best primetime Thanksgiving game since the window was added back in 2006, the record remains a 2015 Bears-Packers game, which drew over 27.8 million viewers. But the bottom line is, the NFL continues to deliver big on Thanksgiving weekend. But I could argue, all of football delivered big over Thanksgiving weekend because there were some great college games over the past few days.

I know plenty of Michigan alums who are still on cloud nine from Saturday's win over the Buckeyes. There are a ton of top sports business leaders who went to Ann Arbor, and I'm sure they are thrilled today. But before the game, before Michigan and Ohio State, there were some rare shots on ESPN between colleagues, as I was a bit surprised. ESPN's Desmond Howard called out fellow ESPN colleague Pete Thamel during Saturday's college game day broadcast for not reporting about the Michigan story from the site of game day. But instead, Thamel reported from inside Michigan Stadium. Pete Thamel has been all over the Michigan Jim Harbaugh story, and there were reportedly some concern that if he was on site at game day, he would really hear about it from the fans, and I'm sure it could have become a bit ugly. But that didn't sit well with Desmond Howard, who, of course, played for Michigan.

He told Thamel to put on his big boy pants and report from the crowd, as he has all season. Desmond Howard added that he was surprised and asked at one time, "What the hell's pee in the stadium for?" To which host Rece Davis replied that Thamel was doing it out of precaution and his own safety. So a surprising tact to say the least on ESPN by Desmond Howard. I've asked a few of you about the NBA's in-season tournament and your interest in following it. The reason I bring it up again is, it's worth seeing how fans respond over the next two weeks as the final games of the group stage of the inaugural in-season tournament take place over the next few days, which will eventually lead to four teams heading to Las Vegas. The qualifying round concludes Tuesday, the Pacers, the Lakers have already qualified for the quarterfinals. As the tournament has progressed, it does seem that players and teams have become more engaged and interested.

I have talked to a few team executives who are still in the mix, and they would love to be part of the Final Four in Las Vegas, as they believe it would be a great experience and great exposure for their players and the organization, especially teams who are not in the national spotlight much. So we have about two more weeks as the semifinals and championship games will take place December 7th and December 9th at T-Mobile Arena. The NBA said that fans from 45 states and 25 countries are expected to attend the final four games, with 20% of ticket buyers outside of the United States. So some interesting numbers. The NBA clearly trying to make this a destination weekend for basketball junkies and create a championship feel in a neutral-site environment.

So that will be the test for the league. And although the games are being held at a neutral site, fans of teams who make it to Las Vegas for the Final Four and the title game will have dedicated seating sections at T-Mobile Arena. And like the game so far, the final four, we'll have a different feel with a special court expected to be in place similar to those courts teams have been using during the tournament. But the NBA is trying to build a new tournament tradition, a new basketball tradition, and we will see how fans respond and how players respond, and how even partners and networks respond over the next two weeks.

An interesting story in golf as the top spot in the PGA Tours 2023 Player Impact Program went to Rory McIlroy. It earned him a $15 million bonus, and this was from a $100 million fund that goes to the top 20 players on the PGA tour based on a number of factors, including social media engagement and having a positive impact on the tour. Remember, this Player Impact Program was instituted by the tour back in 2021. It is and was designed to reward high-profile players with more money. Let's just say what it was. And the rankings are based on internet searches, earned media, television exposure, general awareness, and golf fan awareness. This is all in an algorithm that determines the final rankings. So McIlroy is number one. Tiger Woods finished second, despite just playing in a few tournaments. He earned $12 million, while Jon Rahm finished third, earning $9 million.

One PGA Tour player, Nate Lashley, went to social media, and let's just say he wasn't overly positive about the program. He wrote in a social post, "How many golf fans actually know what the Player Impact Program on the PGA Tour is? Would love to hear from golf PGA fans if they think this $100 million was spent well." He went on to call the program ridiculous and call for new leadership on the PGA Tour, but this was voted in, like I said, in 2021, and it was designed to reward the top-ranked players, the best-known players who, of course, feel that they're driving much of the revenue on the PGA Tour, but you can tell there are still some major hard feelings about the Player Impact Program on the PGA Tour.

An interesting global nugget over the weekend that could impact the US bid to host the Women's World Cup as South Africa withdrew their bid to host the women's event in 2027. Now, South Africa was among four bids confirmed by FIFA, with the remaining candidates including a joint bid from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, one from Brazil, and another joint bid by Mexico and the United States. So little is known about the status of the US-Mexico bid, but just think of the possibilities if US-Mexico landed the 2027 Women's World Cup, what a three-year run of global events in North America with the World Cup, the Women's World Cup, and then LA28.

And let's finish with this, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, he is certainly no fan of the end game entertainment from the Phoenix Suns under new ownership of Mat Ishbia. Steve Kerr was his usual frank and blunt self after the Warriors lost to the Suns on Wednesday night. He slammed the atmosphere at Footprint Center in Phoenix. He likened it to a South Beach nightclub. He said he couldn't hear anything during the game in the building because all he could hear was loud music. In front of the media, he said he wasn't joking, he was fully serious. And he wondered about the goal of playing the music so loud. He said, "I couldn't hear anything out there. The whole game is just thumping techno club music. Can we just have a basketball game anymore? What the hell?" That was Steve Kerr's rant on Wednesday. I'm sure that will start some discussion about the end game presentation, which I find to be a fascinating and topical discussion because of how much time, energy, and resources teams spend on their end game presentation.

Well, as I end a couple of big weeks for SBJ coming up, I will be at the March of Dimes lunch in New York on Tuesday, tomorrow, and then our deal makers in sports conference on Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, DC, where I'll sit with my longtime friend, Chuck Todd. And I'll also interview Commanders and 76ers and Devil's owner, Josh Harris. The following week, I'll be in Vegas, and I'll sit down with NCAA President Charlie Baker. So if you have any questions for Chuck Todd, Josh Harris, or Charlie Baker, email them to me. Shoot them to me. I'd love to hear them. My colleagues will bring you the Buzzcast pretty frequently over the next two weeks, as I'll be on the road. But I do hope to see you at one of our events in either New York, Washington, or Las Vegas. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, November 27th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll see you down the road.