SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: October 19, 2023

Episode Transcription

Abe Madkour:

Well, we are hosting our New Voices Under 30 Celebration tonight at the Aria in Las Vegas where we have 27 of the 30 honorees. They have come to Vegas to celebrate with friends and family. We have a performance by The Drumbots and the voice of the professional bull riders. Matt West is our emcee, should be a fun night, and we have 40 under 40 on Friday.

And this is your morning Buzzcast for Thursday, October 19th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast and this Buzzcast is coming to you from Las Vegas.

Let's start around the Olympics because we have talked about the high hopes and expectations for the Paris Summer Olympics. All stakeholders are hoping these games get the Olympics back on track and in a more positive groove after the recent disappointing games from Tokyo and Beijing.

Well, early news out of NBC Universal regarding ad sales is very positive. As the network said, ad sales for Paris are outpacing any previous games with several sponsorship positions sold out nine months before the games begin. NBC said that the games in Paris seemed to be having greater interest for advertisers than Tokyo in what was the second of three straight games based in Asia.

I've said before, advertisers were very excited about the run of Paris, Italy, LA '28. And so it starts with Paris. Corporate brands seem to be spending and they want to use the Summer Games in July to get out their message. NBC said the opening ceremony, which promises to be a spectacular production on the Seine River, is already sold out of ad time. Now, NBC declined to share the cost of ad spots and the network admitted it's looking for stronger ratings than Tokyo, which averaged just over 15 million viewers in prime time, which was its lowest number since NBC began airing the games in 1988. So seeking to raise awareness and interest in Paris, NBC has already started its marketing campaign, which is much further out from the opening than in previous cycles. But the bottom line is early interest from the advertising community is very, very healthy when it comes to the Paris Summer Games.

One of the longer negotiations in sports finally has concluded as the NFL agreed to a contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell that will run through the 2027 season. This deal will take Roger Goodell into his third decade leading the NFL. Goodell is 64. He was first elected to replace Paul Tagliabue in 2006. His contract had previously been extended in 2009, 2012 and 2017, and this deal takes him through 2027. Now, SBJ first reported that owners were interested in a new deal with Goodell in February of 2022. And here we are, October of '23 and the deal is finally completed. That shows how complex it was.

The bottom line here, owners support Goodell. They know he has been very successful in growing the league. They point to the very, very successful and lucrative media rights deal. They point to the very favorable contract they have with the NFLPA that runs through the future. Goodell said his next three-year term will focus on continued growth, particularly overseas. He would not say whether this would be his last term. Most NFL insiders now believe Goodell intends to remain in his role for the foreseeable future, despite speculation that he may be considering retirement.

I see no true end in sight for Roger Goodell. He loves the job, he's good at it, and owners are fully supportive of him and there's no clear successor in sight. In fact, more and more people I speak with suggest that his goal is to surpass the tenure of his mentor, Pete Rozelle, who ran the league for almost 30 years. Like I said, Goodell is 64. He's healthy, takes very good care of himself, and he could lead the league for another 13 years to around 2036 and he would be 77 and he would be the longest-sitting NFL Commissioner in history overtaking Rozelle.

That is not out of the question. Don't forget, Roger Goodell loves football. He was captain of his high school football team in Bronxville, New York. He loved his one-year internship with the Jets coaching staff, which happened early in his career. I've been told time and again how Roger Goodell will travel to watch a high school football game or comment about an amazing coffin corner punt during a college game. He loves being around the game and those close to him sense that Roger Goodell believes he is the best person to run the NFL and that an aging NFL ownership base needs him. They see him as the glue that holds the league and its success together. So again, Roger Goodell in the fold for the foreseeable future, and I don't see him going anywhere any time soon.

Let's move on. The sports facility architectural design company, Populous, one of the best in the business, received a minority investment from Providence Equity Partners. Now, the investment size was undisclosed, but Populous will continue to be led by Earl Santee, one of the company's founders and its global chair. Providence Equity will not be involved with the day-to-day running of the operation, but Populous will use this investment to fund organic growth, especially additional hiring and global expansion and potentially inorganic growth through acquisition.

Now, Populous is Kansas City-based. It was founded in 1983. It was then called HOK Sports Facilities Group. They changed their name to Populous in 2009. The firm has more than a thousand employees across four continents and they're doing significant work. They're working on the Bill's new Highmark Stadium. They're working on the recently announced renovation at Penn State's Beaver Stadium. They're also working on A.S. Roma's new stadium so they have been busy. They're always seen as one of the best in the business.

And it's rare to see private equity invest in a sports architectural firm, but it shows how bullish the marketplace is about sports. And we've talked on the Buzzcast about the number of new and renovated projects that will be on the books in the next few years, so obviously Providence Equity seeing some growth in this sector by investing in Populous.

One longtime listener gave me some grief the other day, saying I talked too much about Formula 1's inaugural race in Las Vegas and don't talk enough about Formula 1's race at COTA in Austin and they are probably right. I don't think anyone really ever imagined that the race in Austin would become the success it has and it seems to get stronger each and every year. Hard to believe. This weekend they will run the race for the 11th time in Austin.

I went years ago. It's a great market for Formula One. They really embrace it. COTA has made a number of changes at the track, new wifi systems, a new bus depot and new loading zones that will handle an extra 7,000 fans an hour in terms of transportation. There are also new lanes of roads. Last year, Formula 1 had 450,000 fans for the three-day weekend, including more than 150,000 fans on Sunday for the Grand Prix race. And while sales have been a bit slower this year, I'm hearing a rush of last-minute buyers could mean that there could be, could be, even more fans on the grounds this year. That would be quite the feat. We'll have to see how the weekend unfolds for the Formula 1 race Circuit of The Americas this weekend in Austin.

And finally, I took part in the Racers Forum put on by the Race Team Alliance in Charlotte on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It was a really productive and interesting day. There were four panels that looked at the state of racing on the business side, mostly NASCAR racing. I moderated a session with Jeff Gordon from Hendrick Motorsports, Brad Keselowski of RFK Racing, and Heather Gibbs, who is co-owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. Each feels really good about the sport of NASCAR and feel good about the season with three races to go.

But there were a few consistent themes, not just from the opening panel that I'd moderated, but throughout the day: how to continue to grow star power of drivers, yet how to keep the brand equity and fan interest in the teams, how to keep the race team charters permanent to build long-term equity and long-term value, and also the unbelievable importance of this new NASCAR TV deal.

When I asked each member of that panel the biggest story they were watching over the next year, Brad Keselowski immediately jumped right in and said it was and had to be the TV deal because it impacts everyone in the sport of NASCAR, from team owners to drivers, down to the staff at the racetrack. That's how important this next media deal is. So it's a pretty fascinating time in the history of NASCAR and that was captured in each of these panel discussions at the Racers Forum put on by the Race Team Alliance in Charlotte on Tuesday.

And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, October 19th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other, I'll speak to you tomorrow.