• Podcast: NFL sked's impact on media partners

    Executive editor Abraham Madkour and media writer John Ourand discuss the upcoming release of the NFL schedule and what it could mean for ESPN, CBS and the league's other media partners. The topic is featured in a front-page story in this week's SportsBusiness Journal.

    Tags: NFL, Media, ESPN, CBS, SBJSBD Podcast
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 4/4/2014

    A look at the past week in the NHL:

    As Sale Talks Continue, Islanders Valued at $370 million

    The value of the New York Islanders in the club’s reported sale negotiations by team owner Charles Wang has been put at $370 million, according to a source in the financial industry.

    Talks between Wang and a group led by Philadelphia-based hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway are said to be ongoing. According to the source, Barroway’s group is short of the funding necessary for the acquisition but is looking for additional partners. The group is seeking to raise another $30 million to $50 million in order to complete the deal.

    A league source said that, should a deal be finalized, there is a chance Wang could remain majority owner of the team at the outset. One scenario being discussed involves Barroway and his partners buying between 30 percent and 49 percent of the team by this summer, with the opportunity to increase their stake in subsequent seasons, eventually taking majority ownership.
    The Islanders begin play in Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the 2015-16 season.

    Wang has said that he will continue to listen to serious offers, and with word getting out last Friday that the Islanders are available, Wang is likely to hear from other interested parties.


    744,000 viewers: That was the audience for NBCSN’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry” game between Detroit and Boston this week, making it the second-most watched “Wednesday” game and third-most watched game overall on the network this season. Only a season-opening Washington-Chicago game (Oct. 1; 935,000 viewers) and a “Wednesday” Philadelphia-Pittsburgh matchup (Nov. 13; 759,000) drew bigger audience this season on NBCSN.

    20 years: That’s the tenure of Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, who is expected to retire at the end of the season. Rutherford, 65, started with the franchise in 1994, when it was the Hartford Whalers. He may stay with the Hurricanes as team president.

    11,812: Since the Olympic break in February, there has been only one announced crowd of less than 12,000 fans at an NHL game. That game was Tuesday night, when the Islanders hosted Florida in a game between two teams out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The home team has been without star John Tavares, injured during the Olympics.

    -2 percent: That’s the meager drop-off in average attendance from last season (18,970) to this one (18,570) for the Buffalo Sabres, an impressive feat considering the team has been at the bottom of the league’s standings since the beginning of this season. The Sabres, with one of the most passionate fan bases in the NHL, are in the early stages of a rebuilding program.

    0: Number of NHL teams with as many Twitter followers as TSN analyst Bob McKenzie, who has 697,000 — the most of any hockey reporter.

    THE LIST: NHL teams on Twitter (ranked by number of followers)
    1. Toronto Maple Leafs: 552,000
    2. Montreal Canadiens: 540,000
    3t. Boston Bruins: 521,000
    3t. Chicago Blackhawks: 521,000
    5. Vancouver Canucks: 502,000
    6. Pittsburgh Penguins: 492,000
    7. Detroit Red Wings: 406,000
    8. Los Angeles Kings: 325,000
    9. Philadelphia Flyers: 323,000
    10. New York Rangers: 307,000
    11. Edmonton Oilers: 286,000
    12. Washington Capitals: 215,000
    13. St. Louis Blues: 212,000
    14. Calgary Flames: 210,000
    15. San Jose Sharks: 203,000
    16. Minnesota Wild: 202,000
    17. Winnipeg Jets: 200,000
    18. Buffalo Sabres: 196,000
    19. Ottawa Senators: 193,000
    20. New Jersey Devils: 183,000
    21. Colorado Avalanche: 167,000
    22. Dallas Stars: 165,000
    23. Columbus Blue Jackets: 153,000
    24. Tampa Bay Lightning: 151,000
    25. Anaheim Ducks: 148,000
    26. Nashville Predators: 135,000
    27. Carolina Hurricanes: 120,000
    28. New York Islanders: 113,000
    29. Phoenix Coyotes: 110,000
    30. Florida Panthers: 104,000

    THE PLAYLIST: A look at some of the songs played in-arena during an NHL game
    Game: Boston at Detroit
    Date: Wednesday, April 2
    Location: Joe Louis Arena
    In-charge: The Red Wings’ Integrated Media Department, with a little help from Hockeytown: Some songs are submitted by fans using the team’s Twitter page.
    “Don’t Stop Believin’” — Journey
    “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit” — Fedde LeGrand
    “Detroit Rock City” — Kiss
    “Raise A Little Hell” — Trooper
    “Last Man Standing” — Pop Evil
    “Welcome 2 Detroit” — Trick Trick/Eminem
    “Can’t Hold Us” — Macklemore
    “All I Do Is Win” — DJ Khaled
    “Jump Around” — House Of Pain
    “Best Day Of My Life” — American Authors
    “Animals” — Martin Garrix
    “I’m The Man” — Aloe Blacc
    “Lonely Boy” — Black Keys
    “Slow Ride” — Foghat
    “Booyah”— Showtek
    “Sweet Caroline”— Neil Diamond
    “Pompeii”— Bastille
    “Counting Stars”— One Republic

    Tags: On The Ground
  • MLB Concessionaires Go Big, Creative

    Behold "The Closer," being served up by Aramark at PNC Park.
    Photo by: ARAMARK
    “Foodie Friday” is back and so are the half-dozen MLB concessionaires, making headlines for creating new and in some cases crazy menu items for the new baseball season.

    Over the past five years, food vendors have done their best to top one another by introducing oversized portions such as 2-foot-long hot dogs and massive burgers, meant to be shared by several fans. Some dishes sound pretty tasty; others border on belly bombs.

    But food providers must also remember to keep their core items on track, said Carl Mittleman, newly appointed president of Aramark Sports and Entertainment. For Aramark, a firm running food at nine MLB parks, 70 percent of its general concessions sales are tied to hot dogs, beer, salty snacks and nonalcoholic beverages. It’s been that way for more than 100 years in baseball, Mittleman said, so vendors must be conscious of getting the basics right before expanding their menus to meet more exotic tastes.

    Some of the “Man vs. Food”-style feeding frenzy is still trending. This year, Levy Restaurants debuts a new $25 corn dog at Chase Field in Phoenix, an 18-inch-long corn-battered hot dog stuffed with cheddar cheese, jalapenos and bacon. Belly up.

    Levy, also the White Sox’s premium dining partner in Chicago, rolls out a $17 sundae in the suites at U.S. Cellular Field, a stomach-churning 12 scoops of ice cream served in a plastic batting helmet.

    Otherwise, the focus continues to be on bringing well-known local brands into the ballpark and expanding craft beer selections tied to new bar destinations.

    Coors Field, Great American Ballpark and Tropicana Field all debut new bars devoted to serving craft brews, such as the Reds Brewery District in Cincinnati (SportsBusiness Journal March 24-30).

    In the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle teams set the tone years ago for serving microbrews in sports facilities, Centerplate has pushed the trend further by introducing cask-conditioned ales at two Safeco Field stands. Cask ale is an unfiltered beer that completes its secondary fermentation in the container from which it’s served, according to Centerplate officials. At Safeco, there are limited supplies for every game and the vendor is serving 20-ounce pours for $9.75 until the taps run dry. All told, there are 50 craft beer brands available at the home of the Mariners.

    The local trend extends to sourcing food and going organic on site. This season, Aramark opens its second ballpark garden at Citi Field, in the Pepsi Porch in right field, after launching the concept last year at Coors Field.

    The herbs and veggies harvested last season in Denver were served to patrons in the ballpark’s Mountain Ranch Club and Coors Clubhouse spaces. The goal there is to expand from two to five harvests this year, Mittleman said.

    Want to digitally sample some of the latest ballpark fare? Check back in this space to see what concessionaires are offering at MLB parks.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • TV Timeout: To The Videotape

    MLB analysts continue to laud the league's new replay system this week, with ESPN's Aaron Boone saying, "The system has worked. It has been efficient. It hasn’t held up the games a bunch and we are now getting more and more calls correct because of the technology that exists" (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN2, 4/2). MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal: "I have loved it so far. Very few things you can point to and say, 'That is a problem.' ... All of the fears we had, 'Oh my gosh, it is going to slow down the game,' not really happening" (“MLB Now,” MLB Network, 4/2). Meanwhile, MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark said, "I'm surprised at how often it has been used thus far. I think as you guys have said and heard, and even as we sat down with players this offseason or this spring training, we had concerns. We liked the idea. You knew despite trying to cover all the bases, there are going to be some challenges along the way" (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 4/3).

  • TV Timeout: Unlike Any Other

    A survey of sports talk shows in the last 24 hours yielded several different takes on how Tiger Woods' absence from The Masters will impact this year's event. The N.Y. Daily News' Bruce Murray said, "It's a huge blow. ... If Tiger's on the leaderboard Saturday or Sunday, they get huge ratings. If he's not, you've got to hope for one of three guys. (Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson). I can't even think of a third guy" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 4/1). ESPN's Pablo Torre: "The first Masters without Tiger Woods in 20 years is going to have distinctly ... new class kind of feel to it. No one knows who the protagonists really are" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/1). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "In the larger term, it's a very big issue that the Tour is going to have to get ready for" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/1). CBSSN’s Tony Luftman: "I know a bunch of people ... who started playing golf because of Tiger Woods. He made it cool. But unfortunately, his fall from grace has also hurt the sport" (“Rome,” CBSSN, 4/1).

    99 PROBLEMS? The effectiveness and success of Jay Z as a sports agent was examined on Bloomberg TV, with ESPN's Andrew Brandt saying, "I thought at the minute he entered the business that Jay Z would be a formidable presence in the industry. He is a draw and I've heard from the agent community that they're worried." CAA Sports Head of Football Tom Condon said, "From our competitors' standpoint, they've got to be concerned. Jay Z and Roc Nation bring a lot to the party. He's got reach to places that probably are different than what typically CAA is involved in." Agent Leigh Steinberg said as a "recruiter, I'd give him an A-plus," adding Jay Z has "done a pretty superb job of picking players that can trigger multiple revenue streams." Brandt added, "I am confident there are more players recruiting Jay Z than vice versa." Wasserman Media Group Vice Chair Arn Tellem: "My sense is they won't change the business. They'll make an impact" (Bloomberg TV, 4/2).

  • TV Timeout: MLBers Of A Certain Age

    Baseball HOFer Cal Ripken Jr. said of big contracts for MLBers in their 30s, such as Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera, "I don't know if I can give you great insight on this one, because I scratch my head as well. I'm all for the players. Many times the system keeps you down early on and they have the leverage. When you have the leverage, after you've proven something, many times the clubs are paying for past performance. It doesn't make any sense to really extend that long, but I guess the value is so great, during the time frame that they're willing to risk it on the back end, but I don’t quite understand it" (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 4/1).

    WINGS AND A PRAYER: Buffalo Wild Wings President & CEO Sally Smith said of the company's NCAA Tournament sponsorship, "We have a unique campaign going on now. If you've noticed the games going into overtime, you'll see the drum roll and 'Overtime Brought To You By Buffalo Wild Wings.'" Smith noted the company has recently switched from Coca-Cola to Pepsi and "what Pepsi brings really is they understand entertainment, from sports to music. Their connection with the NFL really resonates with our guests" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 4/1).

    BATTING CLEAN-UP: MLB Network analysts looked in on a number of ballparks during yesterday's Opening Day coverage. The net's Matt Vasgersian said of the scene at Camden Yards, "Look at this ticker tape parade. The Birds do it right on Opening Day." Billy Ripken added, "Opening Day is pretty good there in Baltimore." Vasgersian, on the offseason moves by the Mariners: "The Mariners have reloaded. In fact, there are only a few holdovers from last year’s M's team. It is amazing how they have changed the face of that roster." He said of the White Sox roster, loaded with int'l talent, "The White Sox are kind of a Model UN these days" (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 3/31).

    CHECKING IN ACROSS THE POND: CNBC's Ross Westgate noted tennis player Andy Murray was "serving up some hospitality today as his hotel venture" had a ceremony and opens officially on Friday, located near his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland. Westgate said the hotel, Cromlix House, is "reportedly already fully booked for the Ryder Cup." Meanwhile, Westgate noted "England football fans and players have taking to Twitter to criticize the price of the new World Cup jersey made by Nike. You can pay up to 90 pounds for the replica jersey with the enhanced cooling technology" and Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford "has branded the move 'disappointing'" ("Worldwide Exchange," CNBC, 4/1).

  • TV Timeout: Should I Pay Or Should I Go?

    Yesterday's episode of ESPN's "Sports Reporters" featured heavy debate on the Northwestern Univ. football team's efforts to unionize. John Saunders said, "This is coming from both ends, a train from both ends is going to meet somewhere in the middle with them being paid. ... The athletes are going to be paid. It is coming, and before either of these cases end up at the Supreme Court because there are already conferences that are starting to set up right now just so they can do just this." Israel Gutierrez added, "Eventually we are going to find a way to pay these student-athletes without having to go through this union." The N.Y. Daily News' Mike Lupica: "I don't think there is a more complicated subject in our business than this" (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 3/30).

    SHOE SHOPPING: CNBC's Jim Cramer said of Finish Line's financials, "Despite all the worries about hideous cold weather and people no longer going to the shopping mall, Finish Line delivered some strong numbers" and the company's management "gave solid guidance." Cramer: "Now Finish Line isn’t just a shoe store chain with a healthy growth story, it's also a terrific way to get a read on the much larger footwear and athletic apparel markets. The stock is up about 40% over the last 12 months, but if the consumer is really feeling better, than I could see this going higher." Finish Line Chair & CEO Glenn Lyon said, "The big issue in our company is to be omni-channel, to be wherever, whenever, however the customer wants us, whether it's digitally or through the brick and mortar stores. I think we've hit a good stride here" ("Mad Money," CNBC, 3/28).

    DOWN ON THE FARM: Author John Feinstein appeared on PBS' "Charlie Rose" Friday evening to promote his latest book, "Where Nobody Knows Your Name." Charlie Rose said the book "takes us behind-the-scenes of life in the minor leagues of baseball." Feinstein said these players, despite being in the minor leagues, have "beaten the odds" to get there. Feinstein said the "way I got the title for this book" was because former Cubs P Mark Prior was attempting a comeback playing for the Triple-A Int'l League Pawtucket Red Sox and as he was coming into the game to pitch as a reliever, "nobody in the ballpark notices" because fans are engrossed over a promotion called "Whack An Intern." Feinstein: "That's where I got the name. I said, 'Nobody knows your name here no matter who you once were'" ("Charlie Rose," PBS, 3/28).

  • Podcast: Dan Rooney named Lifetime winner

    Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and senior writer Bill King discuss the selection of Dan Rooney as our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, as well as what Rooney has meant to the Steelers, the NFL and the city of Pittsburgh.

    Tags: NFL, SBJSBD Podcast
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 3/28/2014

    A look at the past week in the NHL:

    $300 million: That’s Charles Wang’s asking price, according to NHL Shift sources, for the New York Islanders. TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted late last night that Wang has begun negotiations for a sale of the team to an unknown buyer. An NHL source confirms to Shift that there have been talks but noted that a deal is far from complete.

    $27 million: The average annual payment the New York Islanders receive for local broadcast rights from MSG Network, a deal that runs until 2031.
    30 cookies: That’s how many will be inside a box of limited-edition Stanley Cup Oreos that will be available for purchase in Canada beginning next week. The arrangement was made as part of the sponsorship deal between the NHL and Mondelez, which owns the Oreo brand. The league’s playoff tagline, “Because It’s the Cup,” will be used on all promotional materials for the campaign, which includes 15- and 30-second commercials, digital ads, social media support, and in-store points-of-sale.

    7 sellouts: By the Phoenix Coyotes this season, up from four last season. According to the team, the Coyotes set a new franchise high for single-game ticket revenue when they sold out against Boston last Saturday, March 22, and sold standing-room-only tickets. This is the team’s first season under new ownership after four years of league ownership, and contributing to revenue increases for the club are higher ticket prices. Additionally, parking is being sold at the arena for the first time this year. Averaging 13,500 fans per game though, the Coyotes do still hover near the bottom of the league in attendance.

    The uniform number of Dominik Hasek, who will be inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in a ceremony before the club’s sold-out game on Saturday against Tampa Bay. Hasek, who is the only goaltender to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP twice, is eligible for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year for the first time. The Sabres plan to retire his number next season.

    8.20 rating: The number posted in Boston for the Bruins-Canadiens game at TD Garden on Monday on NBCSN — up 89 percent vs. the Bruins’ average audience in Boston for games on NBCSN this season. NBCSN was the No. 1 cable network and No. 2 network overall in Boston during the game. The game nationally averaged 662,000 viewers, making it the most-watched Monday night regular season game on NBCSN in three years, since a March 28, 2011, game between Chicago and Detroit (716,000 viewers).

    547,000 viewers: The average audience during NBCSN’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry” matchup between the Rangers and Flyers at Madison Square Garden this week. That’s a slight increase from the Wednesday telecasts on average this season.

    To the Los Angeles Kings — who are dedicating some of their time this week to promote the adoption of shelter pets in the Los Angeles area. This afternoon, Kings players are posing for photos with adoptable dogs at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center in West Los Angeles. The team is hosting members of the Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization, at its home game against Winnipeg on Saturday. On Sunday, at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, the Kings will provide a mobile adoption venue, and anyone who adopts a dog at the event will receive complimentary tickets to the Kings-Wild game on Monday.

    THE PLAYLIST: A look at some of the songs played in-arena during an NHL game
    Game: Dallas at Chicago: Tuesday, March 25
    Location: United Center
    In-charge: The Blackhawks’ entire game presentation is created by the team’s marketing department.

    “American Boy” — Kanye West
    “Banquet” — Bloc Party
    “Daughter” — Pearl Jam
    “Creepin’” — Eric Church
    “Bust A Move” — Young MC
    “Proud Mary — Creedence Clearwater Revival
    “Blessed” — Avicci
    “Pretty Green” — White Denim
    “Burden in My Hand” — Soundgarden
    “Long Train Runnin’” — Doobie Brothers
    “She Sells Sanctuary” — The Cult
    “Electric Feel” — MGMT (Justice Remix)
    “Shake” — Hey Champ
    “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — The Beatles
    “Anna Sun” — Walk the Moon
    “I Want A New Drug” — Huey Lewis and The News
    “Lessons In Love” — Kaskade
    “Possum Kingdom” — The Toadies
    “Can’t Hold Us” — Macklemore
    Note: There were, in fact, many Pearl Jam songs played (lead singer Eddie Vedder is a big Blackhawks and Cubs fan) and the team’s goal song, “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis, was played five times (once for each home team goal and once at the end of the game to signal the Blackhawks’ victory).

    Tags: On The Ground
  • TV Timeout: A Perfect Union?

    The NLRB’s ruling in favor of Northwestern Univ. football players forming a union sent ripples through media with debate on the short- and long-term impact of the decision. National College Players Association President Ramogi Huma said, “I think it would help create an environment if players at various schools have collective bargaining agreements, that give them better protections (and) that’s going to be a new standard. That is what recruits and their families are going to be looking at, whether or not they are going to be stuck with medical bills down the line” (“Sportscenter,” ESPN, 3/27). FS1’s Brendon Ayanbadejo said, “All of these embarrassing moments that schools have, it lets you know that there is a broken system and it needs to be fixed and this is the time. This is the moment we are going to look back on we are going to look back on that potentially changes everything for the future” (“Fox Football Daily,” FS1, 3/26). SI legal analyst Michael McCann said, “If only male athletes are paid, I'm sure that there will be female athletes who bring a separate lawsuit under Title IX" ("NewsHour," PBS, 3/26). ESPN's Jay Bilas said, "I think there are a lot of great things that come out of college sports. But the idea that I was a better player or person teammate or student by virtue of my amateurism is not true now and never has been true. That's sort of the great lie about this whole thing, that education and money are somehow mutually exclusive" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 3/26). Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay, on Ohio St. AD Gene Smith receiving a bonus for a wrestler winning a title: “This person is not compensated and not treated as an employee, but the employee is given a bonus for somebody else. That’s the hypocrisy and college fans are getting sick of it” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 3/26).

    WALL-TO-WALL COVERAGE: ESPN's Kenny Mayne, on the media coverage of Heat-Pacers: "It's all we were talking about. The ESPN hype machine was in full throttle for a Wednesday game and this thing really was kind of a big deal" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/27).

    SEWN TOGETHER: NASCAR President Mike Helton said the racing circuit "wants to have that fabric of America and I think if the characters and the personalities and the faces and the genders that participate in the sport are all part of that, then the grandstands will be too" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 3/26).
    GAME OF GROWTH: Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira said, "The revenue in our sport is just exploding so everybody has money to spend, even the small market teams have money to spend and the Yankees have to keep up with everybody when it comes to winning games and keeping our fans happy" ("Fast Money Halftime Report," CNBC, 3/26).

    LETTING OFF THE PEDAL: MLB Network’s Kevin Millar, on potential drug policy changes: “I thought they would be harder. You heard some players voice their opinion. Maybe a one time, full on year and then the next time a ban from baseball. Period” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 3/26). 

    DRESSED FOR SUCCESS:  CSN Bay Area's Jim Kozimor said of the MLS Earthquakes’ new red uniforms, "I like the history angle of it, I like the look of it. Now if you can get yourself a 'W' in those things" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 3/26).

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