• Garber: Problems around Qatar World Cup could be ‘monumental disaster’ for soccer

    Garber hopes that "FIFA can resolve this in a way that's good for the sport."

    MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup and the potential that the event may have to move from summer to winter because of weather was a “monumental disaster” for soccer worldwide. He added that he hopes the event is moved.
    “We certainly would be happy to host it here and have a lot of big stadiums that could turn it around and host on very short notice,” said Garber, who spoke on the opening panel of 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. “But we’re going to be on the sidelines on this and hope that FIFA can resolve this in a way that’s good for the sport.”
    Garber’s comments followed a question about reports claiming that former FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner took $1.2 million in bribes from a Qatari group prior to FIFA’s vote to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup. FIFA is investigating the allegations.
    “That now is going to get a lot more legs,” Garber said. “If more comes out, who knows what happens. It’s very disappointing. It’s an unpleasant aspect of the global football business.”
    Garber said the uncertainty around when the 2022 Qatar World Cup would be held “is a very difficult situation for our sport.”  There’s talk that it could be in November of 2021 or January of 2022.
    “Their broadcast partners here might have a problem with it going up against (NFL) football,” Garber said. “It affects all of us for many, many years.” 

    Tags: Soccer, MLS, IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports, FIFA
  • An end to rising rights fees? Panel says, ‘No way’

    In the never-ending debate over whether sports rights have peaked, rightsholders remain bullish that their TV revenue will continue to rise.
    During the opening panel of the 2014 World Congress of Sports, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President Tim Leiweke said cable and satellite distributors said 15 years ago that sports rights had hit a ceiling, but “it’s just not true.”
    “Today we live in a world where the most valuable programming of all is that unpredictable, live event,” Leiweke said. “Because we’re unpredictable, because no one knows what’s going to happen, our rights are going to continue to explode. The whole world now is our market, not just North America.”
    MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that his league has just negotiated a rights increase of more than 50 percent from TV broadcasters. He declined to name the broadcasters because the deals haven’t been signed, but MLS reportedly is finalizing an 8-year deal with Fox and ESPN that will pay it more than $70 million a year.
    “The consumer is changing,” Garber said. “They’re younger. They’re coming into being influencers, and not necessarily going into households that are paying for cable the way the vast majority of households are today. I don’t know where it looks 20 or 25 years from now, but it’s going to continue to grow.”

    NASCAR CEO Brian France said not much can reverse the recent increases in rights fees because most of the rights in North America have been locked up for the next decade. Only the NBA and Big Ten have rights deals up for negotiation in the next few years.
    “Things are settled, and the more digital we become, the more platforms we extend out in clever ways, the very valuable appointment viewing program just gets better,” France said. “As long as the world gets bigger and … sports is still the one thing you can’t miss live, we’re in good shape.”
    Google/YouTube Global Sports Head Claude Ruibal said that as long as the number of distribution platforms expands, the rightsholders will continue to have the upper hand in negotiations. He noted that properties like to say that they have met with Google about their rights, even though Google has no plans to compete with traditional broadcasters for rights.
    “I keep trying to pitch that we’re just a distribution platform and not a buyer of content,” Ruibal said. He added that “for now” the company won’t be at the table for NBA or Big Ten rights.
    Leiweke said that he hasn’t seen the rights situation change for more than a decade and doesn’t think it will change in the next decade either. “One thing’s consistent,” he said. “For 15 years, sports teams have said the rights fee are going to go way up. For 15 years, the networks and distributors have said they won’t. And for 15 years, the sports teams have been right.” 

    Tags: World Congress of Sports, MLS, Fox, ESPN, NFL
  • Dolan: Power To The People

    The biggest story in the sports world lately has been the Knicks’ hiring of Phil Jackson as team President. Knicks Owner James Dolan drew mixed reactions when he said during Jackson’s introductory press conference that he was going to leave basketball-related decisions to Jackson. Dolan attempted to reiterate this while making the rounds on N.Y. radio stations yesterday. He said, "The way that I manage is that I try to empower the people underneath me. They bring me a plan for the year or a longer term plan and we agree on it, we agree on the goal. They're the ones with the strategy. I'm the one with the checkbook.” Dolan said of how expensive it is to attend Knicks games despite his announcement they would not raise ticket prices, "I'm not the creator of the economics of NBA basketball. But I think that the NBA and the Knicks have to figure out a way for us to be able to get basketball to that family (who wants to attend).” Dolan, on being liked by the fan base: “I know what my job is. I know what I have to do. I go about doing it. You're not going to be liked by everybody. If your goal is to be liked by everybody I don't think you're going to do such a good job because you will worry more about that than making the right decision" ("The Michael Kay Show," YES, 3/18).

    SAY WHAT? FS1’s Trevor Pryce, on Dolan’s admission that he is not an expert in basketball: “Even if you don’t know what is going on and you are the owner of the New York Knicks … fake it till you make it." The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay: “Didn’t it look like Phil wrote the speech in the cab from the airport there? It wasn’t exactly inspirational” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 3/18). ESPN's Pablo Torre said, "All of this also has the whiff of it being a trap because we have ten years of evidence that indicates James Dolan may not know anything about basketball, but he has never cared, he has never let that stop him" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/18). ESPN's Steve Levy said of the Knicks hiring Jackson, "His signing as team president is yet another classic example of how New York sports teams have always operated: Overpaying for free agents who are past their prime" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/18). ESPN's Keith Olbermann said of Jackson's engagement to Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss, "The president of the Lakers engaged to the president of the Knicks. No appearance of a conflict of interest there!" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 3/18).

    SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: FS1’s Katie Nolan said, “At least fans see that they have moved someone in. They hear Phil Jackson’s name and that brings hope to an organization that had no hope and that’s probably why they are selling a Phil Jackson jersey at the NBA store" (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 3/18). ESPN's Chris Broussard said of Jackson, "If he can win in New York this could arguably be his greatest achievement" ("OTL," ESPN, 3/18).

  • TV Timeout: Go West

    NBC’s Mark Rolfing said of the ’21 U.S. Open being played at Torrey Pines, “It has to do with one thing: Television rights. And if you take a look at how much money is being spent on television rights for the USGA package, you are going to see more and more west coast U.S. Opens. There is no doubt about it, regardless of whether that may be the best quality venue you could find for the U.S. Open” (“Morning Drive, Golf Channel, 3/19).

    ON FURTHER REVIEW…: FS1’s Mike Pereira, on reports that NFL VP/Officiating Dean Blandino may assist with in-game replay this season: “I don’t think I would want my head guy of the department making the final decision and have that decision to be wrong” (“Fox Football Daily,” FS1, 3/18).

    BIG BUCKS: Basketball HOFer Kareem Abdul Jabbar said of possibly buying the Bucks, "The team is probably going to change hands soon. Don't know what's going to happen specifically. But I'm keeping an eye on it. I might possibly try to be involved. It would be great to be able to help a franchise that I worked for get back to the top" ("Fast Money," CNBC, 3/18)

  • No regrets for Leiweke, who has 'set the tone' in Toronto

    Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President Tim Leiweke generated controversy when he took over the job and called its teams “losers,” but he said he has no regrets.
     “Our teams, our players, our coaches, our fans are now talking about winning,” said Leiweke during the opening panel at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. “(The comment) provoked a conversation and a mindset they were afraid to have in the past.”
    Leiweke noted that Toronto FC now has its first winning record in history. “It’s good we set the tone,” he said.
    While the former AEG executive's move from Los Angeles to Toronto hasn’t been without its hiccups, he joked that the biggest learning curve had been the weather.
    “You’ve been outside today right?” said Leiweke alluding to the sunny, 70-degree weather in Dana Point, Calif., where the conference is taking place. “It’s snowing in Toronto.”
    Outside of that, he said that he failed to fully appreciate how large the Toronto market was before he took the job. He underestimated it. “It’s the third largest market in North America,” he said. “It’s a uniquely poised capital market to do some remarkable things going forward. I had no idea it was that big, that dynamic, a marketplace.”

    Tags: IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports, Toronto FC, AEG
  • Reaching Millennials may be biggest challenge facing sports

    NASCAR CEO Brian France says figuring out the Millennial fan is a big issue in sports.

    The biggest challenge facing sports in the next few years is determining how to engage Millennials in a way that’s relevant to their demographic, said a panel of league commissioners and team presidents at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports.
    “Everybody’s ability to manage and figure out the Millenial fan and how that continues to unfold this year and over the long term (is the most important issue in sports business),” said NASCAR CEO Brian France.
    MLS Commissioner Don Garber added, “It’s a whole new world and I encourage everyone to spend a lot of time thinking about it.”
    Garber said that the Millenial generation is about 80 million people, and that they view their teams and favorite sports radically different than generations before them. They multi-task. They consume sports on multiple platforms. They may or may not have cable. They want their in-stadium experience to include interactivity.
    Garber pointed to a situation MLS ran into in San Jose as an example of how Millennials’ perspectives can affect sports teams. The Earthquakes opted to charge more for tickets for a game against the Seattle Sounders, and Sounders and Earthquakes fans united through social media to create a supporters group that raised their concerns with the league. They protested together.
    “That’s not something anyone in our generation thought of,” Garber said. “A Giants fan wasn’t hanging out with an Eagles fan to figure out how they were going to deal with away ticket pricing. We better understand that. It’s going to affect the way we do business.”

    YouTube Global Sports Head Claude Ruibal said that while that type of response among Millennials is creating issues for leagues and teams, it’s also creating new opportunities for the sports industry.
    “The social amplification, something like Kick TV (a soccer channel on YouTube that MLS launched) that people are sharing with 10, 20 and 30 of their friends [is] spreading out,” Ruibal said. “You have to see the power of that.”
    Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is trying to engage the Millenial generation with its relaunch of the Toronto Raptors’ brand. It brought on Canadian rapper Drake to assist in developing a new logo and look for the team.
    “We’re using him as an opportunity to understand social media because we absolutely believe that is the platform to reach our future fan base,” said MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke.
    Both Leiweke and Seattle Seahawks and Sounders President Peter McLoughlin said that their soccer teams, Toronto FC and the Sounders, tend to have more young fans. Leiweke noted that avidity among young fans for MLS is now equal to avidity for MLB, according to the ESPN Sports Poll. McLoughlin said that the way they interact with their team is different.
    “They believe they are owners of their own club,” McLoughlin said. “It’s just a whole new world in our business.”
    France said that NASCAR, which has an aging fan base, is working hard to find new ways to engage Millennial fans. It created a Fan and Media Engagement Center to monitor social media, where most Millennial fans communicate, and its top facility, Daytona International Speedway, is adding new social media interaction areas as part of a $400 million renovation project.
    “They’re getting interested in sports differently,” France said. “It’s not the male in the house idea that your father or brother or uncle take you to a game or a race. And then the device — they want the device to have relevance into the actual game. That’s not going to be upon us tomorrow morning, but over the next decade and longer, it’s going to be a very big factor.” 

    Tags: IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports, NASCAR, MLS, Seattle Sounders, Media
  • Breakfast networking at World Congress

    Photos from breakfast networking at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports.

    Tags: ING, IMG, IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports
  • Silver: NBA digital model needs a ‘simpler consumer experience’

    NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the way that the NBA sells games on smartphones and tablets, and the way that fans consume them, is “pretty clunky,” and that he’d like to find ways to simplify the process.

    “The existing combination of blackouts and multiple broadcasters makes it very difficult to present what would otherwise be a simpler consumer experience,” said Silver during a one-on-one interview at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports. “Nirvana would be that if someone was tweeting about a great game, and they say ‘tune in, LeBron has 25 points through the first quarter against Cleveland,’ that you just go ‘click’ and if you’re an authenticated subscriber, you can then get that game. Right now – less because of market considerations and more because of limitations in technology – the only way you can buy our out-of-market package is through an All-You-Can-Eat package of games. And that’s not optimal for a lot of consumers. Our hope is that working with our TV partners, including RSN partners, you can have one combined ecosystem.”

    During the session, Silver hit on a variety of topics, including the league’s TV rights deals, tanking, jersey ads, expansion and ways fans consume the league digitally.

    Here are a few quick hits:

    On jersey ads: “I think it’s inevitable. There are so many programs because of TiVo where people are skipping all the commercials, it just creates that much more of an opportunity for our marketing partners to get closer to our fans and closer to our players. And it gives us an opportunity to have deeper integration when it comes to those forms of sponsorship. … I think it’s going to become more accepted and commonplace by U.S. fans. Most likely within five years.”

    On managing NBA digital rights: “This is an area we should be partnering. We’re very happy with our current partnership with Turner.”

    On the coming TV deal: “We have two years left on our national TV deal with Turner and ESPN/ABC. What we’ve said to our current partners is that if we can strike the right deals, we’re interested in renewing early. But it’s a great time to be out in the marketplace.”

    Tags: NBA, IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports
  • Leiweke: Toronto FC revenue will double in wake of major player signings

    Leiweke says Toronto FC's revenue will double in the next year.

    Toronto FC faced criticism after it spent more than $100 million on players during the offseason, but Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke said the signings will help the club’s revenue double in the next year.
    The increases will come from ticket, sponsorship and media revenue that will follow better play on the field and an increase in interest in the club as a result of new players like Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe, he said.
    Leiweke, who was speaking on the opening panel of the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports, said that total revenue at Toronto FC will increase to more than $75 million and the value of Toronto FC will grow from the $10 million MLSE paid for it in 2005 to $250 million in the coming years.
    “These guys will end up paying for themselves,” Leiweke said of the new players. “We currently lose money. We’ll lose money again this year, but it’s a price our owners are willing to pay to be where we want to be. We have a shot of making that team one of the two or three most relevant brands in all of Canada.”

    The signings were controversial in MLS, which is a single-entity league. Philadelphia Union President Nick Sakiewicz said Leiweke was “breaking the bank” and that he was “frustrated” by the signings.
    MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who was on the panel with Leiweke, acknowledged that the signings had been controversial, but said that they were important for the league as it looks to become one of the top leagues in the world.
    “It’s a big part of our strategy to ramp our investments so the quality of play can compete with all the imported soccer coming into North America,” Garber said. “But at the end of the day, you want to pay players effectively so you can manage your overall spending in respect to your revenue. When you have one team spending $25 million and another spending $4 million, it creates all sorts of issues that could be positive and challenging. … Overall it’s a very positive thing.”
    Seattle Sounders and Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin said that the value of signing those players was on display when Toronto FC beat the Sounders 2-1 last weekend. But he said that the way that the Sounders looked at their biggest signing in recent history, Clint Dempsey, was different.
    “I really struggle with operating a money-losing operation,” McLoughlin said. “People can make that decision that they want to make the investment on a negative cash flow basis to grow the asset value. But what keeps me up at night is losing money. We made a big investment with Clint Dempsey, and the impact it has on your bottom line is something that has to be considered smartly and objectively. I’m sure Tim did. I know we did in Seattle.”
    McLoughlin added that both the Sounders and Seahawks are profitable. 

    Tags: Toronto FC, Media, IMG World Congress Of Sports, World Congress of Sports, MLS
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 3/14/2014

    A look at the past week in the NHL:

    50 feet: Maximum distance that medical personnel can be stationed from team benches during games, as mandated by the NHL. The close proximity of the Dallas Stars’ doctors from UT Southwestern Medical Center enabled them to reach Stars forward Rich Peverley in 14 seconds and administer treatment after he suffered a cardiac episode during the first period of the Dallas-Columbus game on Monday.

    8/20/2012: The date on which UT Southwestern announced a deal with the Stars to become the team’s official medical provider. It marked the first time a single organization would be managing the entire spectrum of medical care for the club. Among the agreement’s particulars, UT Southwestern staffs every home game with an emergency-medicine specialist, primary care sports medicine physician, orthopaedic sports surgeon, plastic surgeon and dentist. Additionally, the medical center’s logo is on the Stars’ practice jersey.
    80.8 million homes: Good news for the NHL: NBCSN is now available in that many homes, its highest mark yet. The former OLN/Versus was in 78.2 million homes this time last year, and 63.4 million in spring 2006.

    511,000 viewers: The average viewership for NBCSN’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry” matchup this week between Boston and Montreal. It was a rare appearance for one of Canada’s teams in NBCSN’s spotlight game, but people watched: The viewership was higher than the 416,000 viewers for the Wednesday game the week prior, between Washington and Philadelphia.

    70: That’s how many pucks were used — 50 real, and 20 foam rubber — when Blues forward T.J. Oshie filmed a commercial for Enterprise Rent-A-Car this week that will run during the playoffs on NBC and NBCSN. Oshie, a breakout star of this year’s Olympics after his heroics in a shootout win over Russia, took shots on an actor who was set up in goal in a jacket and tie with no padding. (Hence the soft pucks).
    6th: The ranking of Chicago Blackhawks owner/chairman Rocky Wirtz in Chicago Magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful Chicagoans of 2014. The top 5 were Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois House speaker Mike Madigan, Pritzker Group co-founder J.B. Pritzker, Cook County board of commissioners president Toni Preckwinkle and Grosvenor Capital Management chairman and CEO Michael Sacks. (Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was 11th).
    THE LIST: Hockey agents on Twitter

    Several top agents of NHL players have taken to Twitter to get their messages across and engage directly with fans. Here are some of the agents and agencies with the most followers.
    Allan Walsh (Octagon), @walsha: 31,500 followers
    Jay Grossman, @Jay_Grossman: 17,000
    Ben Hankinson (Octagon), @benhankinson: 7,400
    Scott Norton, @NortonSports: 6,700
    Ian Pulver, @ianpulver: 4,000
    Newport Sports, @TheHockeyAgency: 2,400
    CAA Hockey, @CAAHockey: 2,100
    Neil Sheehy, @IceHockeyAgent: 2,000
    Rick Valette (Octagon), @RickJValette: 2,000
    Tobin Wright, @agentwright: 1,900
    Orr Hockey Group, @OrrHockeyGroup, 1,700
    Scott Bartlett (Sports Consulting Group), @SCGscott: 700

    THE PLAYLIST: A look at some of the songs played in-arena during an NHL game

    Game: Capitals at Penguins: Tuesday, March 11
    Location: Consol Energy Center
    In-Charge: Bill Wareham, director of game presentation, Pittsburgh Penguins
    “Someday” – The Strokes
    “Locked Out of Heaven” – Bruno Mars
    “Iron Man” – Black Sabbath
    “Safe and Sound” – Capital Cities
    “Lucid Dreams” – Franz Ferdinand
    “Happy” – Pharrell Williams
    “Start Me Up” – Rolling Stones
    “Swoon” – Chemical Brothers
    “Are You Ready?” – AC/DC
    “All My Life” – Foo Fighters
    “Everybody Wants Some” – Van Halen
    “Voyager” – Daft Punk
    “Don’t You Worry Child” – Swedish House Mafia
     “Kashmir” – Led Zeppelin
    “Mind Your Manners” – Pearl Jam

    Tags: On The Ground
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