• Gulati cheers Univision's commitment to U.S. national team coverage

    As part of the trio of major media rights deals announced today by MLS and U.S. Soccer, Univision has committed to pay $120 million for broadcast rights to the properties over the next eight years. But in addition to that financial commitment, Univision Deportes President Juan Carlos Rodriquez’s pledge that his network will cover the U.S. national team with the same fervor that it covers the Mexican squad is a point from the deals that makes Sunil Gulati smile.

    “The increased attention to the U.S. national team is a huge plus,” said Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. “It’s a positive reflection of our growing Hispanic and Latino fan base. While there’s always been a Hispanic presence on the team, it’s growing. As our fans see more coaches, scouts and, frankly, players that look like them on the field, they are relating to the team and following us in larger numbers. And when the team is performing well on the field, that helps to attract viewers from all communities.”

    Univision won exclusive Spanish-language rights to all U.S. men’s national team matches and pledged to telecast at least four women’s national team matches each year of the new deal as well. While negotiating the deal, Rodriguez told Soccer United Marketing (MLS’s commercial arm, which represents U.S. Soccer) that Univision would provide the U.S. with an equal level of coverage it gives the Mexican national team.

    Gulati detailed the reasons why, in his view, Univision has an increased interest in the American team.

    “We’re seeing more Latino players involved in our development academy,” Gulati said. “That’s probably the market Univision is aiming for as they try to retain younger U.S.-born Hispanics. In 2013, we had nine players on the U-20 FIFA World Cup team that were of Hispanic descent. Our current U-20 team has 14 Hispanic players. There are even a few fan groups, like Latinos for Team USA, that support the U.S. team. Univision is seeing that it’s very much in their best interest to increase coverage of the U.S. team, and it’s certainly beneficial to us as we continue to grow the game.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • SBJ Podcast: Dissecting MLS's big media deal

    Media writer John Ourand talks about MLS getting five times what it previously made from TV rights and the unique relationship between ESPN and Fox as they worked to shut out NBC in the soccer league's new media deal.

    Tags: MLS, Media, ESPN, Fox, NBC, Soccer, SBJSBD Podcast
  • SBJ/SBD's weekly NHL Wrap-Around Podcast

    As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, staff writers Christopher Botta and Alex Silverman discuss the latest hockey news in SBJ/SBD's "NHL Wrap-Around Podcast." Among the topics:

    Wayne Gretzky's name coming up as a possible front-office hire of the Washington Capitals.

    Former Islanders owner Howard Milstein being linked to the sale of the Buffalo Bills.

    The latest on the sale of the New York Islanders.

    Whether the NHL would ever consider expansion to Las Vegas.

    And playoff predictions as well as thoughts on not reseeding the playoffs after the first round.

    Tags: NHL, Hockey, New York Islanders, SBJSBD Podcast
  • Sales of MiLB licensed merchandise up for fourth consecutive year

    Sales of licensed merchandise for Minor League Baseball teams came in at $55.4 million last year, according to newly available data from MiLB. That marks a fourth-consecutive annual increase for the MLB affiliated clubs and surpasses the $54.7 million sum posted in pre-recession 2008, an amount that had been a high in recent years.

    There was, however, a year two decades ago when the total was even higher — $60 million — setting a mark that still stands as the best year ever for MiLB merchandise sales. That year: 1994 — the year future NBA hall of famer Michael Jordan spent the season playing for the Class AA Birmingham (Ala.) Barons.

    The Barons’ attendance that year was 467,868, a Southern League record that has never come close to being broken, and fans throughout the country were calling the team to order Jordan’s #45 jersey. (Remember: Those were the pre-online store days.)

    MiLB does not have specific sales data for the Barons’ 1994 season, but Jordan’s stint in Alabama clearly spiked interest in the team and in the minors overall. Also helping was MLB having introduced, several years prior, a set of minimum standards for new and existing ballparks designed to improve the fan (and player) experience. Any new or renovated ballpark whose construction began after Jan. 1, 1991, had to adhere to the new standards, and all other venues had to meet the standards by the start of the 1995 season. The decree ignited a surge in minor league ballpark construction, including a then-record 10 new facilities that opened in 1994. Attendance gains followed, with MiLB topping 33 million for the first time in 1994.

    New or significantly upgraded ballparks
    1991: 5
    1992: 3
    1993: 9
    1994: 10
    1995: 10

    1991: 26.6 million
    1992: 27.2 million
    1993: 30.0 million
    1994: 33.4 million
    1995: 33.1 million

    Tags: On the Ground, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Marketing and Sponsorship
  • The NHL Shift: News and notes, 5/02/2014

    Bracket Challenge Results

    More than 500,000 brackets were submitted in the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge powered by Can-Am Spyder, and after the first round of the playoffs, 10 entrants are tied for first place. Those 10 entries each correctly picked the winner of all eight first-round series, along with the exact number of games that seven of the eight series would last. (No one went 8-for-8 in predicting the victor and duration of each series.)

    Less than 1 percent of the more than 500,000 entries (submitted via NHL.com) picked the winning team for all eight first-round series. The biggest upset, in the eyes of the participating fans: Only 14 percent predicted Minnesota would defeat Colorado.

    As for the entrants who correctly predicted the first-round results, here are their second-round picks:

    84 percent picked Boston to defeat Montreal
    78 percent picked Chicago to defeat Minnesota
    72 percent picked Pittsburgh to defeat the New York Rangers
    57 percent picked Anaheim to defeat Los Angeles


    48 games: Number of games played in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, a number that matches the average of the last four years (2011: 49 games, 2012: 48 games; 2013: 47 games). All 48 games this April were sold out.

    0: Number of postseason series played between the rival Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks before their series that starts tomorrow night. The series is a rarity across all pro sports in Southern California: The Lakers and Clippers and the Dodgers and Angels — and, formerly, the Raiders and Rams — have never met in the postseason. (The LA Galaxy and Chivas USA did face each other in the 2009 MLS playoffs).

    30 miles: The distance between the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Honda Center in Anaheim, the shortest distance between two playoff foes in the second round.

    399 miles: The distance between the United Center (Chicago) and Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul), the longest distance between second-round foes. That path for Chicago-Minnesota edges out the Pittsburgh-New York separation by about 30 miles.

    33 minutes: The amount of time it took to play the full first overtime of last night’s Game 1 of the second-round series between the Bruins and Canadiens. The NHL remains commercial-free during overtime in the playoffs, so OT periods run far more quickly than regulation periods.

    283,390 households: The audience for Fox Sports North’s telecast of Game 7 of the Minnesota-Colorado game on Wednesday night. It was the most-watched local telecast of a Wild game in franchise history and the highest-rated telecast in the history of the regional sports network, averaging a 16.4 rating and a 32 share. The numbers peaked in overtime, rising to an 18.3 rating and a 49 share.

    $16 million: The total value, combined, of the contracts of fired Vancouver Canucks general manger Mike Gillis and head coach John Tortorella. Each was relieved of his duties with a reported four years and $8 million dollars left on their contracts. Tortorella was hired last summer and fired on Thursday; Gillis was hired in 2008 and fired April 8. New Canucks President Trevor Linden is now charged with hiring a general manager and then, subsequently, a coach.


    For the third straight year, the NHL/Thurgood Marshall College Fund is providing four-year academic scholarships to a pair of students involved with the league’s youth hockey development program, Hockey is for Everyone.

    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman serves on the board of directors of the college fund. Money is raised through the annual Congressional Hockey Challenge, a charity hockey game in Washington, D.C., between congressional staff and lobbyists.

    This year’s winners are Devan Abercrombie, 17, of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club in Washington, D.C., who will attend Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; and Nicholas McCurdy, 17, of the Hockey Education Reaching Out Society program in Calgary, who will attend the University of Calgary.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Nationwide signs on to Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 car in 3-year deal worth more than $30M

    Nationwide Insurance has signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement to become a primary sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car for 12 races beginning next year.

    The three-year deal, which increases to 13 races in 2016 and 2017, closes out all of the open inventory on Earnhardt’s car. It is valued at more than $10 million a year.

    Nationwide Insurance has endorsed Earnhardt since 2009 and has featured him in national advertising campaigns during the last five years. The deal with Hendrick Motorsports allows the Columbus-based insurance company to continue to use Earnhardt in advertising while also being featured on his car in Sprint Cup races for the next three years.

    It is unclear whether Nationwide Insurance will continue to sponsor Roush-Fenway Racing’s No. 17 car driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 

    Nationwide Insurance could not be reached for comment. Hendrick Motorsports declined to comment.

    In a rarity, Nationwide will join a current insurance sponsor already aligned with the team. Sources said Hendrick Motorsports is close to finalizing an extension with Farmers Insurance on the No. 5 driven by Kasey Kahne. The company is expected to reduce the number of primary races it currently sponsors from 20 races a season.

    The deals underscore the strength of Hendrick Motorsports, the most decorated team in the sport, and could set a precedent in the sport. NASCAR teams typically offer sponsors category exclusivity across an entire team. As a result, most teams only have one sponsor in most categories, but Hendrick Motorsports is expected to have two insurers, Nationwide and Farmers, in the same garage. If Hendrick Motorsports is successfully able to service both sponsors, other teams could look to follow suit.

    “The quality of the [Hendrick] team, the iconic nature of their drivers and the fact that they deliver means that they can do this,” said Mike Boykin, a former executive with GMR Marketing. “For other teams to do this, it would depend on what the assets are and who the drivers are. But when you get two big brands staying in the sport, that’s a real good thing for NASCAR.”

    Wasserman Media Group works with Nationwide. JMI works with Farmers. 

    Tags: Nationwide Insurance, CES, ING, AIG, Motorsports, Sprint
  • TV Timeout: Silver Star

    NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s punishment issued to Clippers Owner Donald Sterling for racially insensitive comments have drawn mostly praise. ESPN's Mike Tirico said, "Knowing that leadership is lonely, he did one a heck of a job in being able to speak with some owners and gauge their interest level in this enough to say, 'You're banned for life'"  ("OTL," ESPN, 4/29). Actor Matt Damon: “A lot of us are really excited to get (Sterling) out of the NBA" ("Worldwide Exchange," CNBC, 4/29). Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler: "The cloud was lifted from the players' heads, the fans' heads. You see a ray of sunshine. You see some blue sky. You think, ‘Hey, there’s hope’” (“Clippers Live Pregame,” FS Prime Ticket, 4/29) TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal: “There’s no room for the mistakes that Mr. Sterling made and I’m just glad that Adam Silver is around protecting our league” (“Inside The NBA,” TNT, 4/30).. TNT’s Steve Kerr said, “It was a great reminder of the fact that sports and basketball actually break down barriers. That’s the beauty of sports beyond the entertainment and the competition. You think about what it does bringing people together from all races and backgrounds and that’s what the NBA is all about” (“Wizards-Bulls,” TNT, 4/29).

    NOT ALL POSITIVE: ESPN's J.A. Adande said the NBA in the past by "allowing Donald Sterling to fester and allowing him to get away with what he did encouraged him, empowered him and led to this moment now where because that problem wasn't removed earlier the NBA found itself in this position today, but I think they dealt with it in the perfect manner” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/29). ESPN's LZ Granderson: "For Adam Silver to try and characterize this as, 'Well, this is what we know of right now.' No, the NBA and many of those owners knew this man. They knew him, they're just embarrassed because now it's a lot more public … but this is not news" ("OTL," ESPN2, 4/29).

    SILVER LINING: San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami said of Silver’s announcement, “I’m not surprised by the force of it; maybe the emotion of it I think is what hit everybody" (“Yahoo Sports Talk Live,” CSN Bay Area, 4/29). NBA TV’s Brent Barry, on the Clippers possibly being sold: "It might set precedent in terms of how quickly a new ownership group actually takes over a franchise in the league” (NBA TV, 4/29).

    LAYNG DOWN THE LAW: FS1’s Andy Roddick: “(Silver) won today in the court of public opinion, but beating Sterling in an actual court of law, that’s a different question” (“Fox Sports Live,” FS1, 4/29). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of possible litigation, "If the franchise is devalued while this is going on, that's not good for the league. Does the league put someone in there (to operate the team)?" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/29). ESPN’s Mike Golic, on the eventual owners’ vote to strip Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers: “I don’t care how private they make it. You know it will get public somehow and you want to be that three, four, five owners that voted to keep him? How is that going to work with your sponsorships when that comes out? There’s no way this isn’t going to be twenty-nine to zip” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 4/30).

  • SBJ/SBD's NHL Wrap-Around Podcast

    As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, staff writers Christopher Botta and Alex Silverman discuss the latest hockey news in SBJ/SBD's "NHL Wrap-Around Podcast." Among the topics:

    Ted Leonsis prepares to hire his first general manager in 15 years of owning the Washington Capitals.

    Ron Francis being promoted to GM of the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Calgary Flames finally hire their GM.

    The latest on the New York Islanders' ownership situation.

    And what are the NHL's options should the league ever be faced with a Donald Sterling-type of scandal?

    Tags: NHL, SBJSBD Podcast
  • NBA owners take to Twitter to support Silver's actions

    According to the NBA, it will take a vote of three-quarters of the league's owners to force a sale of the Los Angeles Clippers by owner Donald Sterling.

    But will 23 owners be willing to take that kind of stand against a fellow owner?

    If you look at Twitter for hints on what owners owners are thinking, then 25 of them (so far) have already indicated support of the punishment handed out today by Commissioner Adam Silver, either on their personal feed or on the team's official account. That doesn't mean they'll follow through with a vote against Sterling, but it's interesting to watch.

    Here are the tweets:

    Tags: Twitter, NBA, ING, ACC, GE, Los Angeles Clippers, SEC, British Petroleum
  • SBJ Podcast: A more flexible NBA schedule

    Media writer John Ourand, NBA reporter John Lombardo and executive editor Abraham Madkour discuss what the NBA's TV partners want in their next deal and the difficulty of incorporating a more flexible NBA schedule to accommodate that.

    Tags: NBA, Media, SBJSBD Podcast
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