SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Other News

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  • Arrix leaves CBS SportsLine; joins Univision

    Tom Arrix, who took the top sales job at CBS SportsLine.com less than two months ago, is leaving the company to join Univision.com as senior vice president of sales and client services.

    Sources said Arrix was unhappy with his role and had asked CBS officials for a larger position in the CBS corporate structure, a request they were unwilling to grant, given that Arrix was promoted to senior vice president of sales in January, soon after CBS parent Viacom Inc. completed its $50 million acquisition of SportsLine.

    Arrix wouldn’t comment on those accounts, saying only that he “felt it was the right time to move on and search out new challenges.” His last day at SportsLine was to have been Friday, and he was to join Univision.com today.

    CBS has not decided on Arrix’s replacement.

    His departure highlights what sources said is a difficult transition for a company that for more than a decade had operated independently of a traditional media company.

    CBS officials insisted after the acquisition that they would maintain the status quo at SportsLine, which is projected to generate nearly $67 million from advertising and fantasy sports subscriptions in 2004 and turn its first profit in 2007, according to unaudited financial projections laid out in the proxy statement SportsLine filed in December with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    For their part, CBS officials worked with SportsLine officials to secure one of three fantasy baseball licenses recently issued by MLB Advanced Media.

    But sources close to the company said SportsLine staffers were disappointed when CBS, which owns the video streaming rights to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March, sold those rights to CSTV.

    SportsLine had streamed the games a year earlier, and while CBS Sports President Sean McManus said the company did the deal to maximize promotion and distribution, people at SportsLine viewed it as CBS opting for quick cash (reportedly $3 million) rather than committing to the emerging video-to-Web market.

    Arrix was formerly the vice president and general sales manager at SportsLine. Mark Mariani, SportsLine’s former president of sales and marketing, hand-picked Arrix as his successor before he accepted a $1.2 million buyout and left the company upon completion of the merger.

    Print | Tags: CBS Broadcasting Inc., CBSSN, MLB, NCAA, Other News, SportsLine.com, Univision
  • Orender: No time for WNBA’s doubters

    Donna Orender doesn’t officially begin her new job as president of the WNBA until April, but she was already at work trying to drive interest in the league at the NBA All-Star Game earlier this month. A longtime executive with the PGA Tour, most recently as senior vice president of strategic development, Orender takes over for Val Ackerman, the WNBA’s founding president.

    Orender
    Orender sat down with staff writer John Lombardo in Denver during all-star weekend to discuss the WNBA and her new job.

    SBJ: You come to the WNBA after spending 17 years in various functions with the PGA Tour, two very different properties. What convinced you to take this job?
    Orender: It was a chance to take a leadership position with the organization and be the person who helps shape the direction of the league. That was very attractive to me as well as the fact that basketball is a sport I love. The process involved several discussions not only about the league and its future, but also about the impact the job would have on my life. I had to be convinced. I love working at the PGA Tour and I wasn’t looking to leave.

    SBJ: What was your sense of the WNBA before you were approached?
    Orender: I had tracked it since it was launched. I applauded the NBA in taking the initiative in putting their muscle and equity behind women’s sports. I think it’s an important statement that women can be role models, compete at the highest levels, and also make a living doing it.

    SBJ: The WNBA this summer enters its ninth season and has yet to make a profit. What do you think the league has to do to break through and make money?
    Orender: I can’t tell you right now exactly what that is, but I think there is momentum in the WNBA right now, and the opportunity is to figure out what is driving it and then build on it.

    SBJ: What do you think the perception of the WNBA is?
    Orender: I’m not exactly sure, but I’m not that interested in what a NASCAR dad thinks of how viable the WNBA is. The fans who come to the games are passionate, and I am very interested in them and I’m excited about a generation coming up that is interested.

    SBJ: How has the WNBA been received by the corporate world?
    Orender: I’ve been involved in sports for a long time, and you never feel like you’ve sold enough. The truth is that you always try to develop deeper relationships. That is one of my top priorities.

    SBJ: The league recently expanded into Chicago with a team owned by a private investment group. How will you keep attracting private equity?
    Orender: Any time you are in business and you have people who are willing to back it up with passion with their own hard-earned dollars, then you have the responsibility in creating success for them.

    SBJ: What is the plan to get up to speed on specific business aspects of the WNBA?
    Orender: I will spend some time with the team in place in New York and I will meet with every single management group and all of our sponsors. I’ll also continue to talk to the players. There is a whole lot of knowledge out there, and I plan to tap into it.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, NASCAR, NBA, Other News, PGA Tour, WNBA
  • The Days Ahead: Feb. 28-March 6

    TODAY

    WTA Tour Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open begins
    Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    TUESDAY

    National Sportsmanship Day

    MLB mandatory spring-training reporting date for players

    WEDNESDAY

    NFL free-agency period begins

    Sports Philanthropy Conference begins
    Location: Atlanta

    American Association of Advertising Agencies media conference and trade show begins
    Location: New Orleans

    THURSDAY

    IACVB Foundation dinner
    Location: Washington, D.C.

    PGA Tour Ford Championship at Doral begins
    Location: Miami
    TV: USA, NBC

    European Tour Dubai Desert Classic begins
    Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    TV: The Golf Channel

    FRIDAY

    ESPNU launches

    First round Davis Cup matches begin (USA vs. Crotia at Carson, Calif.)

    LPGA Tour MasterCard Classic begins
    Location: Mexico City

    SATURDAY

    Formula One Foster’s Australian Grand Prix
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    TV: Speed Channel

    SUNDAY

    IEG annual sponsorship conference begins
    Location: Chicago

    NASCAR Busch Series Mexico 200
    Location: Mexico City
    TV: Fox

    IRL Toyota Indy 300 (season opener)
    Location: Miami
    TV: ESPN


    Events listed are subject to change. Information about coming events can be sent to jlewis@sportsbusinessjournal.com or via fax to (704) 973-1401, attn: Jessie Lewis.

    Print | Tags: Other News
  • Can’t swing price of new clubs? Firms offer lease option

    Two new companies are marketing a new way to get your hands on a set of golf clubs: leasing.

    Styx Capital Inc. leases high-quality clubs to courses, who rent them to golfers.
    Top Swing Leasing is offering leased clubs to the consumer market, and Styx Capital is doing the same for the golf course market, which buys clubs to offer as rentals.

    The companies come to market at a time when golf clubs are actually getting easier to buy. Retail prices for woods were down 8.7 percent last year nationwide thanks to significant price competition led by Callaway Golf, according to Tim Stine, founder of Golf Datatech, an industry consultancy. Prices for other clubs were down between 0.6 percent and 1.6 percent, part of a three-year trend of lowered prices.

    Still, both Styx Capital and Top Swing Leasing believe there’s a demand for programs that guarantee top-quality clubs for regular, small payments.

    Minneapolis-based Top Swing Leasing offers lease deals as low as 4.7 percent of the equipment’s retail price per month, over 18 months. Thus a $549 TaylorMade R7 Quad driver costs $25 a month, and you can purchase it at lease-end for half of the retail price.

    Like most leases, the deal is best for buyers who tend to turn over equipment often and don’t want the hassle of having to sell it eventually — or for those who just can’t afford one big outlay.

    “I’ve had a lot of customers say, ‘I can’t buy it — my wife will kill me — but a [monthly] payment on my credit card, she’ll never know,’” said CEO Damian Novak.

    The company, founded on less than $1 million in private funding, launched last fall and has roughly 170 leases in effect now. It is in discussions with a major golf retailer to become its leasing outlet — one of several strategy shifts the company has had since launching in the fall, including lowering prices.

    Austin, Texas-based Styx Capital was founded on private investment by a group of former Dell Financial Services executives, and launched this winter with this premise: Golf courses economize on rental clubs because they are expensive and frequently are mistreated or stolen; leasing is a way for them to improve the clubs and the revenue.

    Mission Viejo (Calif.) Country Club is one client, paying $68 a month per set for five top-of-the-line sets, which cost $40 to rent. “Even in a slow month, each set goes out two or three times, so it’s a profit center, and the members, by the way, are thrilled,” said Brad Shupe, director of golf at the club.

    The advantage, he said, is that it’s easier to sell a smallish monthly fee to his board than the large outlay necessary for many sets of new clubs. And Styx Capital replaces broken or worn-out clubs during the lease.

    But both companies acknowledge that leasing goes against consumer habits. “We don’t get, ‘This isn’t a good idea,’ we get, ‘Wait, this is different,’” said Jim Williams, CEO of Styx Capital. “It’s not a one-call sale.”

    Print | Tags: Golf, Other News
  • Daytona’s FanZone has tracks’ hearts racing

    The Nextel FanZone entertained Daytona 500 fans for an extra $85 a pop.

    Several racetrack executives are hoping to emulate the success of Daytona International Speedway’s new Nextel FanZone following rave reviews from facility operators and fans during NASCAR’s season-opening Speedweeks.

    Daytona’s new theme park-like infield, part of the track’s $50 million in renovations and highlighted by the 4.6-acre FanZone, which includes a bistro-style restaurant and roof-top spectator deck overlooking the garages, is the most recent extension of the track’s attempts to bring fans closer to the sport.

    It also was a nice new revenue source, selling out for the Daytona 500 at $85 per person — on top of the price of the race ticket. Admission was $20 a day, in addition to the price of a race ticket, during the rest of Speedweeks.

    John Saunders, chief operating officer of International Speedway Corp., which owns the Daytona track, would not provide specifics about FanZone attendance, but industry insiders said attendance on Feb. 20, the day of the Daytona 500, was between 8,000 and 9,000.

    “I think what Daytona did was provide a model, a blueprint,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray.

    Saunders, whose company owns Homestead-Miami and 10 other Nextel Cup tracks in addition to Daytona, said similar renovations will be done on a facility-by-facility basis. He mentioned Phoenix International Raceway and Richmond International Raceway as older tracks that could use just such a facelift.

    A family stops for a photo op in front of the FanZone’s Bistro restaurant.
    “The experience from this past weekend, in my view, will set a new standard for motorsports entertainment,” Saunders said.

    In addition to existing tracks, Saunders said any new ISC tracks, including possible facilities in New York and the Pacific Northwest, will come equipped with similar fan-friendly infields.

    “Those will be constructed in such a way that those type of amenities will be embedded in the original facilities,” he said.

    The FanZone, presented as a mini theme park, had a stage that featured musical acts throughout the day, a bistro restaurant with a menu that included jumbo lump blue crab cakes and grilled shrimp, and various sideshow-style acts all within an enclosed area that included a picnic-table patio. The highlight of the FanZone was the 490-foot-long, 30-foot-wide Fan Deck that allowed fans a bird’s-eye view of the garage area.

    ISC’s in-house design team, North American Testing Corp., did the conceptual design for the FanZone with the help of Kansas City-based design firm HNTB. The FanZone was built by Jacksonville-based Haskell Corp.

    Marcus Smith, executive vice president of national sales and marketing for ISC rival Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns six Nextel Cup tracks, said NASCAR and the tracks have had to be creative in terms of figuring out new ways to continue to allow fans to have access to the sport.

    NASCAR’s accessibility in the last few years has significantly decreased as the sport has grown, with hospitality requests and driver demands much more common. The tracks, in turn, have been forced to look for ways to include the fans without congesting the garage area and overcommitting the drivers and their crews.

    “We’ve seen talk about the idea of ways for fans to get in the garage without actually getting in the garage,” Smith said, adding that the FanZone also raises expectations for fans’ experiences at the track. “Dover started with the Bridge [overlooking the racetrack], and now Daytona has done a better job and improved on that idea. I am sure the next project, whether ISC does it or whoever does it, will try to improve on the existing model.”

    Fans watch the action from a FanZone deck in front of a jumbo video board.
    Smith did not say whether SMI had specific plans to upgrade any of its facilities soon.

    Jeff Boerger, president of ISC-owned Kansas Speedway, which opened a similar, scaled-down area called the FanWalk in 2001, said his track already is considering a food court similar to the one in Daytona, but it would not include a separate admission.

    “We may look at doing something similar to the bistro,” Boerger said. “This is an area we may look at to improve the fan experience.”

    Brett Shelton, president of ISC-owned Michigan International Speedway, which is undergoing renovations to its frontstretch fan plaza area, said his track is looking to make improvements to its infield in the next couple of years and will likely borrow the theme park-like format.

    “It had a Disney aspect to it,” Shelton said. “When we look someday to make changes, we would have to look at all those great attributes that you saw at Daytona and apply them to what we do at [Michigan].”

    Matt Alexander, president at Chicagoland Speedway, said he has wanted to build a Turn 4 Club similar to Daytona’s Daytona 500 Club, which provides a hospitality and entertainment area in the infield overlooking victory lane.

    “What I had in my mind for Chicagoland, they have in reality,” Alexander said. “It really helps to see your vision work.”

    Print | Tags: International Speedway Corp., Motorsports, NASCAR, Nextel, Other News
  • News in brief from The Sports Business Daily

    NASCAR dials in Sirius
    NASCAR has signed a five-year, $107.5 million deal with Sirius Satellite Radio, which becomes the official satellite radio partner of the racing body beginning in 2007. Sirius will have exclusive North American satellite radio rights to broadcast Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series events on its 24/7 NASCAR channel. XM has held exclusive satellite radio rights to NASCAR since 2000.

    Naming rights for sale
    The Dallas Cowboys are seeking a naming-rights deal that could command an asking price of $10 million to $15 million annually for the team’s new $650 million stadium in Arlington, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. HKS, which was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ stadium-design adviser three years ago when he first considered a new stadium, has been hired as the lead architect for the stadium.

    No new trial for Raiders
    The 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that ordered a new trial in the Oakland Raiders’ $1.2 billion lawsuit against the NFL over the rights to the Los Angeles market, the Los Angeles Times reported. The order was issued in 2002 by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge who found juror misconduct, but in a 3-0 ruling, the appeals court said that there had been no misconduct serious enough to warrant a new trial.

    Teams to train in Europe
    NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league plans to have three teams hold preseason training camps in Europe in 2006. The teams, which Stern did not identify, also would play exhibition games against European teams. The NBPA would have to approve the plan.

    For these and other stories, visit sister publication The Sports Business Daily at sportsbusinessdaily.com.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Dallas Cowboys, Football, HKS Inc., Motorsports, NASCAR, NBA, Oakland Raiders, Other News
  • Nuggets owner Kroenke: Don’t mistake low profile for lack of passion

    Among NBA owners, Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke may rival only Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen in his penchant for privacy, but Kroenke was friendly company in discussing his ownership role during a break in the NBA’s Technology Summit, the league’s annual power broker convention during all-star weekend.

    Over a turkey sandwich, Kroenke explained his low-profile approach.

    “I’m not like Mark [Cuban],” he said. “I’ve got a real estate development company to run and I am busy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not passionate. I live and die with the wins and losses.”

    Kroenke bought the Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the Pepsi Center in July 2000 for $450 million and is now leading the Nuggets franchise through its own redevelopment, thanks to Carmelo Anthony and a team that last year made the playoffs for the first time since the 1994-95 season. In tandem with general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, Kroenke has gotten aggressive, trading this year for Kenyon Martin and his six-year, $92 million contract while running through two head coaches so far this season until finally hiring veteran NBA coach George Karl.

    “For the first year or so, I just sat back and watched how the team developed and gave people a chance,” he said.

    Stan Kroenke
    Kroenke also had no concerns about the inconsistent play and some off-court issues that have plagued Anthony, the cornerstone of the franchise.

    “Carmelo is still young,” he said. “He is going to develop into an even better player, and he has the top-selling jersey in the league.”

    Kroenke was one of the few NBA owners who was part of the league’s collective-bargaining meeting held in Denver during the weekend, and he didn’t hesitate to comment on the cancellation of the NHL’s season.

    “The players need to better understand the economics,” he said. “They say that they do, but I wonder if they really know.”

    DESTINATION FINALS REDUX: It may have been all-star week in Denver, but league officials and marketing partners were busy planning for the playoffs and Finals promotional campaign. Sources said the league will again turn to the Destination Finals campaign that proved so effective last season. Sponsors and NBA brass can only hope that a repeat of the same promotional theme will bring similar results.

    While the league puts the finishing touches on the campaign’s creative, Turner Sports President David Levy said at a Sunday morning media breakfast that the promotional effort will be used across a broader platform of his company assets.

    “It’s too early to disclose the exact campaign,” he said, “but you will see a lot more music used this year than last year.”

    Can expect Turner to use its Cartoon Network to push the postseason?

    “I can’t say any more,” Levy said.

    JAMMIN’: At the Jam Session All-Star Fan Fest, we noted the huge amount of signage that Nokia got with its presenting sponsorship. Also on display were two Nokia product booths, prototypes for 25 others that will be placed in shopping malls across the United States allowing customers to touch and feel, but not buy, Nokia’s new high-end phones. They can buy elsewhere in the mall.

    At the NBA Store within Jam Session, we were: impressed by the selection of Reebok/NBA apparel on display for men, women and kids; delighted by Spalding’s ability to take a picture and instantly put it on a souvenir mini-basketball; mildly amused by licensee Winning Streak’s claim of a “genuine wool blend” for its attractive retro pennants.

    Elsewhere, we’ve seen plenty of licensed home products over the years, but the custom-made NBA venetian blinds on display from Three Day Blinds were unique. The 170-store retailer is offering them with NBA teams and players at somewhere over $100 per window treatment; the slats can be replaced with a different team and/or player for about half that cost. It also sells shades in MLB flavors and with more than 40 college logos.

    Attendance for Jam Session was 111,292, essentially flat from 2003 Atlanta’s 111,318 and down from last year’s 126,218. Not unexpected, given the relative sizes of Los Angeles and Denver.

    COLA WARS: The Pepsi Center posed some interesting sponsorship clashes during all-star weekend, given that Coca-Cola is a league partner. That meant the complimentary bottles of Coke products made available to VIPs and the legions of credentialed journalists were banned from courtside. Anyone entering press row or courtside with a bottle of Coke-owned Dasani water had to either pour the product into a cup or remove the plastic label, lest anyone give Coke national television exposure from the Pepsi-sponsored building.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, NBA, Other News, PepsiCo, Portland Trail Blazers, Reebok
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