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SBD/April 3, 2013/Events and AttractionsPrint All
The ’13 IMG World Congress of Sports began today with a discussion of several top issues facing the sports industry, including enhancing the in-game experience for fans and whether there is too much content from the various sports properties. NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman talked about the in-game experience versus the at-home experience, and said execs do not need to “spend too much time thinking about how to make one better than the other.” He noted if “connectivity is important to that fan, you have to provide it.” Grubman referenced the conclusion to last year’s Ryder Cup, which happened late on a Sunday afternoon, and said, “If 10% of NFL fans really care about that, why is that not up [on scoreboards]?” He also noted the in-game and at-home experiences need to be different. Estimating that there are 100 million NFL fans, Grubman said, “I don’t need a very high percentage of them to go to the game to fill the stadium.” The two situations “just have to be different enough, adrenaline-pumping enough to get those who want to be in that environment to go there.” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he was “worried about a paradigm shift” where the social experience becomes more important than the live experience. Scott noted he watched on TV the injury to Louisville G Kevin Ware last Sunday, and said his children immediately jumped on Facebook to share the news and see what others were saying. Scott: “Two days before I was there (in Indianapolis) watching Louisville-Oregon and I’m not sure in the stadium I would have known what was going on.”
LESS IS MORE? The NBA was praised for its 66-game schedule following the ’11 lockout, which brought up the idea that fewer games in a season would be a benefit for fans and sponsors. A-B VP/Media, Advertising, Production & Sports and Entertainment Blaise D’Sylva said, “I don’t know if there are too many sports as much as just too much of sports.” He added, “We have the permission to play in any sport. The challenge for us is we don’t have a bottomless bottom line. … I’d love to be on Kevin Harvick’s car for 36 races, but I can’t afford to do that.” Scott said, “In certain cases, less is more. I think it’s been proven in a lot of different places.” Noting the talk several years ago of expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams, Scott said, “You run the risk of dilution and taking away some of the specialness.” WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster, noting the tour has 54 tournaments scheduled for this year, said, “I still think it’s too much. … I do think less is more in our sport in order to be relevant.” Allaster: “Do we need 15 sessions? Do we need Monday through Sunday? Do we need an afternoon session and an evening session?” However, D’Sylva acknowledged the “genie is out of the bottle” and there likely will not be less sports.
NEW OUTLOOK: The WTA is looking for a sponsor to replace Sony, which ended its title sponsorship of the tour last year, and Allaster said one of the “major reasons” the organization has yet to find one is the schedule is too daunting, both from the number of events and the different countries that host events. Allaster: “It hasn’t been the financial as it’s been the scale and the size of the offering that it’s too much.” She noted the tour is going to “re-tool the presentation” to prospective sponsors. “We’re not going to sell all 54 tournaments as we have in the past, and that’s going to cause some tension. But we’re going to have to adapt to the reality of what the marketplace wants.” It would not be an overarching title sponsorship, but instead deemed the tour’s “No. 1 sponsor of the WTA.”
-- Scott, on the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit: “In the world of conferences and schools, there has not been much worry. … People think it’s going to die.”
-- Allaster, on prize money at Grand Slam events: “The U.S. Open and Australian Open have done the right thing giving athletes greater share of the gross. Now we just need Wimbledon and Roland Garros to join them.”
-- Warriors President & COO Rick Welts, on which ownership group will end up with control of the Kings: “Do we have a coin we can flip?”
-- Scott: “If you have trouble sleeping at night, you don’t want to be in one of these [panel] roles.”
The addition of golfer Rory McIlroy and Geoff Ogilvy to the Valero Texas Open roster "means that 11 of the top 50 players in the world golf rankings" as of last week will "compete at TPC San Antonio, making the field arguably one of the deepest since the Nabisco Championship was held at Oak Hills Country Club in 1987," according to Richard Oliver of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. Tournament Exec Dir Larson Segerdahl said, "We went from being excited with what we had to being over the moon. ... [McIlroy] made the decision on the golf course today, after a back-and-forth discussion with his manager. It's a big win for all of us." Segerdahl added, "We've been quietly working with him and his manager for the last several weeks" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 3/30). Golf Channel’s Holly Sonders called the pairing of McIlroy, Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth “star-studded.” Golf Channel’s John Cook said it was “nice grouping,” but with Spieth being only 19-years-old, “you've got to earn that spot.” Cook: “I know now that the Tour can fix some pairings for television for Thursdays and Fridays, but you got cut your teeth and earn that spot.” Golf Channel’s Steve Flesch said it “won’t backfire” because the PGA Tour does it to “increase the allure of a couple groupings on Thursday and Friday” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 4/3).
TIGHT SQUEEZE: In Philadelphia, Brian McCrone noted packing 25,000 spectators onto the "tight confines" of the 126-acre Merion Golf Club in Ardmore for the U.S. Open on June 13-16 will "prove to be a test for USGA officials and Merion organizers." Merion U.S. Open Committee Chair Richard Ill said, "There’ll be grandstands for 16,000. The idea is for the limited space the course has, we’ll want fans to be situated in grandstands. The grandstands will be situated so fans can see more than one hole" (PHILLY.com, 4/1).
THAT'S THE TICKET: GOLF.com's Coleman McDowell reported a four-day pass for The Masters "currently stands at $4,486." An individual day pass "runs from as low as $1,215 for Friday's round to as expensive as $1,786 for Thursday's opening round." By comparison, last year's BCS National Championship game "checked in at $1,450 for one ticket, followed by the Super Bowl ($1,210), World Series ($850) and NBA Finals ($315)" (GOLF.com, 3/29).
WTA Tour Family Circle Cup GM Bob Moran and Tournament Manager Eleanor Adams are working the “phones and relationships with equal fervor to maintain a top-notch field” at the Daniel Island, S.C.-based tournament, according to Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston POST & COURIER. No. 1-ranked Serena Williams and eight other top 25 players on the WTA Tour “are at the Family Circle Cup this week." That is “no mean feat, given the awkward spot the Family Circle Cup has on the WTA calendar -- just after” the BNP Paribas Open and Sony Open, which are “both two-week events that leave road-weary players ready to head for home.” Moran said, “We’re in a tough spot as the last event in the U.S. before they head to Europe. A lot of the players have been on the road for seven or eight weeks, and they are ready to head for home.” The recruiting battle for players “got tougher this year with the move of a tournament in Mexico, the Monterrey Open, to a spot opposite the Family Circle Cup on the WTA Tour schedule.” However, the “year-round effort at building relationships paid off in a couple of ways this year.” Tenth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki “suddenly had a free week” and will play, following her boyfriend Rory McIlroy’s decision to play the PGA Tour Valero Texas Open this week. Moran was in “constant touch with her agent, and the Family Circle Cup was able to capitalize” (Charleston POST & COURIER, 4/2).
GOING GLOBAL: Hartsell noted the tournament "will go global this week, as an unprecedented total of 52 matches and more than 100 hours of coverage are slated to be available" on int'l TV and online streaming. It is a 300% “increase over the nine matches and 14 hours of tennis carried on TV last year.” Moran: “It’s a big deal for us. It means bringing Charleston and this event to an international audience, and that impacts our sponsors, Daniel Island, our city and our entire state.” He added, “And since we’re doing two courts instead of one, we have to build a lot more facilities and do a lot more wiring. It really starts our process a lot earlier.” The process is part of a deal for int’l rights that the WTA Tour “announced late last year, with more [than] 400 matches broadcast in 2013 across the MCS TV Group network of channels.” ESPN retains U.S. rights and will “carry its normal allotment of Thursday-Sunday Family Circle Cup coverage,” including Sunday’s 1:00pm ET championship match, with Cliff Drysdale and Pam Shriver in the booth (Charleston POST & COURIER, 4/1).
MO' MONEY, LESS PROBLEMS: In New Jersey, Ann LoPrinzi noted the USTA has been talking with the ATP and WTA for the past year and feels that the new agreement to increase U.S. Open prize money “will allow them to focus on other important things, like transforming the tennis center and getting more kids playing tennis.” Officials made it “clear that the pressure to increase prize money is not just about the top players.” It is “apparently difficult for lower-ranked players to make a living on the tour; therefore, players at both ends of the spectrum will benefit” (TRENTON TIMES, 3/31).
GRASS IS GREENER: The ATP Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart will become a grass court tournament from '15. Formerly played on a clay court, the tournament’s request to move to a grass court event taking place the week following the French Open in the lead up to Wimbledon was approved by the ATP BOD at its recent meetings in Miami. With Wimbledon a week later in the calendar from '15, a three-week gap will be incorporated in the ATP calendar following the French Open. That means an additional week of tournaments in the lead up to Wimbledon (ATP).