SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 26, 2023

Episode Summary

Big tennis event decision nears, Range Sports leans into talent, Big Ten lands CMO and listener feedback

Episode Transcription

This is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, September 26th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. First, some interesting listener feedback. I mentioned the GQ profile of Apple's Eddy Cue on Monday's Buzzcast and one loyal listener followed up and felt I almost undersold the story. As the listener said, "The story really captures Cue personally and has real insight into how Eddy Cue and Apple are approaching the live game distribution business in a meaningful way." The listener called Cue, "One of the most genuine and nice guys around sports, who will be incredibly influential in the way we consume sports." So think of that as a more effective and convincing argument to read GQ's profile of Eddy Cue. Let's move on.

Range Sports has acquired Lowell Taub's Stoked Management Group, which is a three-year-old talent representation firm, largely centered on Olympic sports athletes, including Chloe Kim in snowboarding and Sky Brown in skateboarding. As part of the deal, Lowell Taub becomes Chief Revenue Officer at Range Sports. He will also assume the role of Head of Athlete Marketing. Now Stoked Management has 5 total employees, so the acquisition will grow Range Sports' total headcount to over 20 employees. With this deal, Range Sports, which was founded in July of 2022 and stems from its parent company, Range Media Partners, now has a portfolio of around 60 athletes. So it's certainly leaning into the talent representation business. And there is a history here as Range Sports Co-president Greg Luckman and Lowell Taub worked together at CAA Sports for around a decade. Now they're reunited at Range Sports.

One league that we talked about a little bit at Drive in St. Louis was the Professional Women's Hockey League. That league is set to launch in early January in 6 markets, have 24 games. Now comes decisions about where those six teams will play. And a report out of St. Paul suggests a deal could be close between the Xcel Energy Center and the franchise, which will be based in Minnesota and that would be surprising and a big deal for the league. Surprising is that it's a big facility, but it also shows how the league is working to professionalize women's hockey. League leaders have said they don't expect the 6 teams to play all of their 12 home games in 1 place. So there could be a rotation and some of those games could be played at Xcel Energy Center.

But this all feeds into the interesting expectations around this league, which is funded by Dodgers co-owner, Mark Walter, and is really touting its efforts to amplify the playing experience, the surroundings, and all the good and welfare for the players. For example, player salaries will range from 35,000 to $80,000 for a season. Organizers are touting a very professional environment. The Professional Women's Hockey League will have three teams in the US, three teams in Canada. The US teams are Boston, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the New York City area. The Canadian franchises are located in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. So obviously hockey hotbeds to start the Professional Women's Hockey League, which will launch in January.

It's not every day that a major tennis tournament is in play to relocate, but you have that as the future of the Western and Southern Open, which has been played just outside Cincinnati, Ohio for years, is up for grabs between remaining in Ohio or relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina. Here is the latest around the future of one of the top tennis tournaments in the world. It really is. It's a significant dual event, men's and women's in August leading up to the US Open, it draws some of the best players in the world. So this is a marquee event. Right now in North Carolina, the state, county and city have come up with about $115 million to secure the event, but that's still about 15 to $20 million shy of what developers said they wanted covered. They wanted about a third of the $400 million projected cost of the plan to be covered.

Now, Beemok Capital, which is led by Ben Navarro based in South Carolina, they are looking at that figure to move the event from Cincinnati to Charlotte. That would mean building an entirely new tennis complex in the city. Now, Beemok Capital bought the Western and Southern Open from the USTA last October. They kind of set up a competition between Cincinnati and Charlotte last May. It's requested public subsidies from both entities to cover about a third of the development expenses around the tournament. That amounts to $400 million for that new facility in Charlotte, but about $150 million for an expansion of the facility just outside Cincinnati in Mason, Ohio.

Ohio largely has its funding in place. It's covering about 32% of the expansion of that tennis facility in Mason. So you see the different economics here. One is an entirely new complex in Charlotte. One is a renovated facility in Ohio. North Carolina right now is a little short in the total public subsidy that Beemok Capital wants. So they have a decision to make, a decision is expected soon, whether to stay in Ohio or relocate to North Carolina. And this is one decision that everyone in the tennis world and the agency world and anybody with any type of business related to tennis is watching very closely.

Let's hit on some college football news because boy, college football's biggest brands continue to draw major viewership. We've seen the effect of Coach Prime, but Saturday night showed how marquee names like Ohio State and Notre Dame still draw as NBC drew its largest regular season college football audience in 30 years with Saturday night's game between Ohio State and Notre Dame. Great game, all the way to the end. It averaged 10.5 million viewers. The game ranks as NBC's second-best regular season college football game all time. It's behind only a game in 1993, which I remember watching with some buddies, Notre Dame, Florida State, 1993. That game drew 22 million viewers. Of course, a far different time in the media landscape.

Yesterday I was asked how much of the viewership of Saturday's game represented linear versus streaming. And I found out that the game drew just over 600,000 viewers on streaming platforms including Peacock, that marks NBC Sports' most streamed college football game ever. So that's an interesting breakdown between streaming versus linear viewership. Still largely a linear audience, but college football on NBC, seeing a very strong number Saturday night for Ohio State and Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, leaders in the college football playoff will meet today, Tuesday and Wednesday. But their task is difficult as they are still trying to make a decision on whether the number of places reserved for conference champions in the soon to be expanded field of the college football playoff. Should it be at five or should it be at six? But they really can't make that decision until they figure out what's going to happen with the Pac-2.

The 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director, which comprised the College Football Playoff Management Committee will meet at the Big Ten offices outside of Chicago. And we know the playoff expands from 4 teams to 12. And again, the leaders have agreed the field should be made up of the six highest ranked conference champions and six at large selections. But I think they're still unclear. Will there be six conference champions to choose from or only five? So a lot still to decide, a lot still to be worked out. I doubt they'll have a decision by the end of Wednesday, but they'll have to make a decision sometime soon. And this is a tough one.

Speaking of the Big Ten, it has its first ever chief marketing officer, as former major league baseball marketing executive, Mary Beck will take that position again. The first time the Big Ten has ever had a chief marketing officer. Mary Beck worked with Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti when Petitti was at Major League Baseball and at Major League Baseball Network and now she joins him at the Big Ten. She told our Terry Lefton that the conference has a different story to tell with the arrival of the four new Western schools, USC, UCLA, Washington and Oregon coming on board next year. So there's an interesting new storyline to create. Mary Beck will be based in Connecticut, but I'm sure she'll go to the Big Ten offices outside Chicago. Also, a great deal of travel to all the Big Ten schools. After her 19 years at Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Network, Mary Beck spent the past few years working for VaynerMedia. Now she joins the Big Ten as its first ever chief marketing officer.

And that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, September 26th. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Wednesday.