SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 6, 2023

Episode Summary

A busy time for two media executives, the US Open sets Labor Day Weekend attendance records, RSN changes in Denver and Pittsburgh, and the end of the Mort era at ESPN.

Episode Transcription

We have more than 90 team and league executives attending SBJ's Drive Conference, September 19th to the 21st, in St. Louis, it's turning into a must attend event for team, ticketing, revenue, and facility leaders, register today on or hit me up if you have any questions. Also, we are announcing Leaders Week London, held in London, October 16th to 19th, where you can join over 3,000 executives from over 70 countries. It's at Twickenham Stadium and the first preview of the agenda has been released. 26 sessions, across three stages, over two days. We've got more than 30 speakers already confirmed, more to come. You can view the full agenda at\agenda. This is live today on Wednesday, so get to your first peek of Leaders Week London today.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, September 6th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody is doing well. Let's start with this. Endeavor's Karen Brodkin and Hillary Mandel are easily two of the busiest executives in the media business. We have talked about how they are consulting with the NWSL as it negotiates a new media deal. The two are consulting with the NCAA as they consider their media options. And now IndyCar has hired the two to consult as it prepares to enter the media rights market, its current deal with NBC Sports expires after the 2024 season, so they bring on Brodkin and Mandel to figure out their next step.

IndyCar will enter the marketplace in the fourth quarter of this year according to SBJ's Adam Stern, and the series acknowledge that all options are on the table. Now we know that NBC Sports is the exclusive carrier of IndyCar, they first picked up full season rights in 2019 and have had them exclusively since '21. The original three-year pact between NBC and IndyCar, from 2019 to 2021, was worth about 20 million annually. And at rights fee, it's hard to discern what IndyCar gets now, but by bringing on Karen Bodkin and Hillary Mandell, the series is certainly looking for an increase during a tough media economic landscape. But Endeavor's Karen Bodkin and Hillary Mandell tap to consult with IndyCar on its next media rights negotiations.

Let's move on. The US Open, it's turning into a truly cultural event. I just don't know how much bigger it can become. Yes, the USTA has been blessed with great weather over the last 10 days, and there are new stars emerging balanced by legends like Djokovic, but it's more than the tennis and it's so obvious when you watch it. It's about people being there and being a part of the event. I have never seen this tournament reach such status and the numbers reflect that. The Open set a Labor Day weekend attendance record with more than 200,000 fans attending over the three days. That's the first time Labor Day has ever topped 200,000. And more impressively, the first week of the Open drew over half a million fans.

Yes, that marked the first time week one eclipse 500,000 fans on the grounds at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. I'm just saying, it's more than sports, it's more than tennis, it is the place to be in the Northeast at the end of August and early September. And I just am amazed at these numbers, truly incredible. And again the question is, how much bigger can this event become? Let's stay with tennis because I told you how disappointed I am in not being able to watch any tennis at home for the past five days. Yes, I am a Spectrum cable subscriber, so I've been watching at our office here in Charlotte where we have DirecTV, but I am not alone. Top ranked men's player, Daniil Medvedev, admitted he has resorted to piracy to stream US Open matches and scout his opponents, because he cannot get ESPN in his hotel room in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times is reporting that Disney and ESPN have started providing secure logins to the Disney app to some US Open players who have requested access to watch ESPN and tennis, including Medvedev. So you see, some players are getting some special access, but this blackout of Disney and ESPN on charter Spectrum being felt by a number of people, and we see no signs of any resolution anytime over the next 24 or 48 hours. Last week when I was in New York, I was told a few different times that the high interest rates impacting the economy were seriously impacting any lucrative bids from Manchester United. And now we could be seeing proof of that as a report out of London on Tuesday said the Glazer family is going to take United off the market because they did not receive offers that matched what they were looking for.

Now, sources said the Glazer's may put the club back on the market next year when improved economic conditions may attract more bidders, but this is in Fluxx and there are still many out there who believe the team could be sold this year. But the economic headwinds and the high interest rates are certainly influencing any potential bids. Regardless, the financial markets did not like the Glazer's decision. The market did not respond favorably as shares in Manchester United saw their biggest ever one-day drop. They were down more than 18% on Tuesday, wiping around $700 million off Manchester United's stock market valuation. The franchise is now valued at about 3.2 billion according to the stock market valuation. This story is in Fluxx, is fluid, we're going to want to keep our eye on it as it develops.

We talked about issues in the media business earlier on the Buzzcast, we're seeing more changes at the regional sports network level. The news is related to Warner Brothers Discovery Sports Network's first AT&T SportsNet, Rocky Mountain. It's shutting down. The network will continue to run through at least the end of the year, but then that's it. They broadcast all the Colorado Rockies games, so if you're a fan of the Rockies, this will change the way how you watch the team next year. Now, among the potential options for the Rockies, one, Major League baseball could take over production and distribution. Two, Stan Kroenke's Altitude TV could be an alternative. Those look like the options for the Rockies in Denver as AT&T SportsNet, Rocky Mountain, shutting down. The other Warner Brothers Discovery Regional Sports Network in Pittsburgh is not shutting down, but it is changing ownership, and you're seeing more influence of the Fenway Sports Group as NESN, New England Sports Network, co-owned by Fenway Sports Group, will take over AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. It will rebrand the network and it will be called SportsNet Pittsburgh, starting in early August. Penguins games will not be impacted at all.

And of course the Penguins are owned by Fenway Sports Group, so they had a real interest in keeping this going. Daily operations of SportsNet Pittsburgh will be managed by the New England Sports Network. So what happens to the Pirates? Well, the Pirates could join this network like they currently are, or the Pirates could give their rights back to Major League Baseball, who again could produce and distribute the games going forward. So it's uncertain what will happen with Pirate's rights, Penguin's rights will obviously stay on this regional sports network, but already NESN and Fenway Sports Group making changes to the broadcast team as the duo of Steve Mears and Bob Erry will not return in their roles broadcasting Penguins games in 2024. So some real changes going on with the Regional Sports Network, both with AT&T SportsNet, Rocky Mountain, and AT&T SportsNet, Pittsburgh. And as we've been reporting on the Buzzcast for some time, we will continue to see more changes to the regional sports marketplace.

Let's end with two notes around football. If you get just over seven minutes, you have to watch a very clever video produced by Omaha Productions, released yesterday on Tuesday, where Peyton and Eli Manning hold auditions for a third cast member for their manning cast. And it featured a number of laugh out loud, funny moments amidst celebrity and NFL cameos. I found this incredibly well produced, incredibly well done. Manning Cast will kick off its season on Monday night with an alternate broadcast of the game between the Jets and the Bills. But again, a very funny viral video out by Omaha Productions where Peyton and Eli look for a potential third cast member for their well-received Manning Cast.

And finally, a hat tip to a class act as NFL Insider, Chris Mortensen is retiring after spending more than 30 years at ESPN. We will not see more on the network at all this season, and so this will be a real end of an era. He is a longtime top information source. I remember Mort when he was at the Atlanta Journal Constitution covering the Falcons and the Braves. Then he went to Sporting News and The National. Much like Peter Gammons, mort was a pioneer as both an information source and a news breaker, but also giving analysis and thoughtful takes. He appeared on multiple platforms. Mort said he made the decision in April to leave ESPN and focus on his health, his family, and his faith. You may remember that Mort had previously stepped away from ESPN in about 2016 as he battled throat cancer. A pioneer, out front in the way the game of football was presented and shared with fans, Chris Mortensen retiring again, a total class act.

And so that is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, September 6th. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.