SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 7, 2023

Episode Summary

NFL Kickoff on NBC (phew!); Liberty's big hospitality play with Quint Events; TGL continues to land the power owners, ESPN's McAfee era begins and people on the move

Episode Transcription

We'll have more than 400 executives attending SBJ's DRIVE conference, September 19th through 21st, including nearly 100 from teams and leagues. It's quickly turning into a must attend event for team and facility leaders. I hope to meet you in St. Louis. So register today to attend DRIVE on

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, September 7th. I'm Abe Madkour. Yes, the NFL regular season kicks off tonight, 8/20, NBC, Thursday Night Football, with the Chiefs hosting the media darlings this year, the Detroit Lions. I know it's almost blasphemy to say, but thank God for me this game isn't on ESPN. I'll be able to watch it. I appreciate all the listeners' suggestions over the last few days on which streaming services I should sign up for to avoid this Charter Disney Carriage dispute that is still ongoing, shows no real signs of ending, and we all know the big events this weekend. So I also appreciate the invites to people's homes to watch tennis and college football this weekend. This Charter Disney Carriage dispute, incredibly frustrating. But NFL season kicks off tonight. Chiefs-Lions on NBC.

At a breakfast the other morning, a sports executive and I talked about the upcoming TGL golf league. That's the venture started by longtime golf executive, Mike McCarley, backed by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Hard to believe that this venture tees off in January. The executive I was having breakfast with, he was more bullish on the concept than I am, as perhaps I'm still having trouble understanding the competitive format and the real draw for viewers.

But, but, but I will say this, TGL is getting some heavy-hitting financial backers and that should never be overlooked. And that tells me something, that there is something to this concept. The latest executive to pony up as an investor is Mets owner, Steve Cohen, who becomes the fourth owner in the six team league that, again, begins in January. Cohen's family office, Cohen Private Ventures, will manage the team that will represent the New York City area. A team name and branding will be rolled out at a later date. Cohen has not determined the leadership structure for his team. But a source told our Josh Carpenter that Andy Cohen, not related to Steve, the Chief Investment Officer and Co-Founder of Cohen Private Ventures, is expected to play a key role in the leadership of this franchise.

Now, Steve Cohen's move means the TGL now has teams in four major markets: LA, Boston, Atlanta, New York. Cohen joins Tom Werner and John Henry in Boston, Arthur Blank in Atlanta, Alexis Ohanian in Los Angeles. So, again, a pretty strong group of financial backers. CAA's Evolution Media Capital has been handling the sale of these teams. So, again, the bottom line, heavy hitters backing TGL. TGL will begin broadcast testing at its facility at Palm Beach State College in November and launch in January. Six teams in this league. Two owners left to be announced. But progress certainly happening around the TGL.

Let's move on. A big deal in the hospitality space, as Liberty Media has purchased Quint Events in a deal that values Quint Events at $313 million. For Liberty, it's a smart bolt-on for the company that already owns F1, and the Braves, and SiriusXM. Quint, for years, has done significant amount of hospitality business around F1, the Kentucky Derby, MotoGP. It recently received investment from the NBA. And Quint Events will handle the NBA's experiential and hospitality business. So this deal likely means bigger roles for Quint's CEO, Brian Ruede, Executive Chair, Brian Learst, and President of International, Keith Bruce. All names well-known in the sports business.

Quint Events is Charlotte based. It was founded in 2002, has over 20 clients, and revenue of more than $200 million in 2022. And it's anticipating to double that by 2024, so this is a company clearly on the growth trajectory. And this deal with Liberty Media taking over Quint Events, positions Quint as a major competitor in the ever important hospitality and event experience business. This is a business that is growing in importance in sports and for clients. And the big player out there, of course, is Endeavor's On Location. And now, Quint Events, with Liberty Media's ownership, will be an increasingly major player in this very important space.

Let's circle back on a story we touched on earlier this week. The IOC now has pushed back a decision on the sports programs for the 2028 LA games. They are delaying a discussion originally set for tomorrow, Friday, but the IOC said it would be rescheduled for a later date. They offered no specific reason why the delay. Now, we have talked about interest around flag football. A London Times report earlier this week said the IOC would approve T20 cricket because the IOC wants to capitalize on cricket's global appeal and popularity in India. But no decisions have been made. LA '28 and the IOC executive board were also slated to discuss baseball, softball, lacrosse, and other sports. But any decision on future sports to be added to the '28 summer games delayed for the time being.

The Pat McAfee era begins on ESPN Today. Yes, Thursday. His show will air from noon to 2:00 PM Eastern Time on ESPN, replacing SportsCenter. A third hour of the McAfee program will air on digital platforms, like YouTube and ESPN Plus. Now, ESPN is licensing this show from McAfee's company, Pat McAfee Inc, with a five-year deal valued at more than $85 million. That's according to the Wall Street Journal. The question, if you watch today, is will McAfee's style and tone change now that he is with Disney? ESPN will air his show on a delay, muting out some of the language issues that McAfee's well known for. On the YouTube simulcast, the show will be uncensored.

The 36-year-old McAfee is wildly popular, and he wants to bring a new approach to the TV talk show format. And ESPN executives acknowledge the show will be far different than anything else on its air. And ESPN executives also believe McAfee will help them draw a younger viewer. McAfee has been so successful in drawing young viewers. I recall seeing the line of young, mostly men, waiting for McAfee to appear on Radio Row on his set on Radio Row during the Super Bowl. That set, for McAfee's show, always drew the biggest audience. So this marks a new era for both Pat McAfee and ESPN, and it's certainly a big bet by the sports network.

On the flip side, we're seeing the end of an era, as Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, the monthly HBO sports magazine show that is known for taking tough looks at the sports industry over its nearly 30 years on the air, is coming to an end. The program has been hosted by Gumbel for, like I said, nearly 30 years. It will finish its run with its current season. And no reason was cited for ending the show. But as you all know, the show took a broad view of sports, and looked at sports' impact on and in society. And it had the stamp and vision of the 74-year-old Gumbel all over it. It had a very talented crew. And, honestly, there likely won't be many more shows like Real Sports in the future, as the stories are just very challenging to do. And those stories are challenged to find a consistent audience. But Real Sports, a show I watched every month, ending after nearly a 30-year run.

And I want to end the Buzzcast around some names in the news. First, AEG has selected an internal candidate, Senior Vice President Tom Braun, to lead business operations for the LA Galaxy. He will succeed the departed Team President, Chris Klein. Now, Tom Braun is an SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree. He will take on the title of President of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer. And this is part of a broader restructuring of the club's leadership. Chris Klein oversaw both business and soccer for the Galaxy. Under the new structure, business and soccer will be split. Sporting Director, Greg Vanney, and Tom Braun will each report directly to AEG President and CEO, Dan Beckerman. So a change in structure at the Galaxy.

Meanwhile, Fanatics hired a former Fox Sports and PointsBet Executive, Ed Hartman, as Chief Strategy Officer for Media. Now, he will report to Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Tucker Kain. And many believe that Hartman, coming from a media background, will dive deep into Fanatics goal to be more of a media company. But SBJ's John Ourand reports that Hartman's hiring is not a sign that Fanatics is setting up a media division anytime soon. Instead, Hartman's job will be in finding content that fits into the current, I would say, priorities of Fanatics. That is merchandise, trading cards, and sports betting. So, right now, that is the vision and that is the goal of new Executive Ed Hartman, not so much in finding long-term media opportunities.

And, finally, some news from our home office. Happy to announce that Rachel Axon joined Sports Business Journal as our Olympic reporter. She will contribute across all of our platforms. She is a veteran sports reporter, who has spent more than 15 years in newspapers. She's covered the Olympics, college sports. She's been an investigative reporter. Most recently, she reported in a variety of roles over a decade at USA Today. She's covered the past five Olympic Games. We are excited to work with her. And Rachel Axon can be reached at rachel-axon, A-X-O-N, We're glad she's on the team. We look forward to working with her. And feel free to reach out and say hi.

So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, September 7th, the first day of the NFL season. I'm Abe Madkour. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.