• SBJ/SBD Podcast: The media landscape and ESPN

    SBJ Podcast

    Media reporter John Ourand and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour discuss the media rights landscape, ESPN's dominance and upcoming topics for this week's SMT conference. Among the highlights:

    On the SMT conference: "I think it's going to have a different feel than the past several years."

    On the NBA's upcoming rights negotiations: "I think the NBA is sitting particularly pretty."

    On competition among sports networks: "ESPN is at a different level right now. Their ratings are right now about four times higher than the next highest, which is ESPN2."

    Tags: Media, ESPN, ING, NBA, SBJSBD Podcast
  • SBJ/SBD Podcast: Blackmun's contract renewal

    SBJ Podcast:
    Tripp Mickle talks about the challenges Scott Blackmun faced, the job he has done and how his salary stacks up to the rest of the sports industry.

    Olympics writer Tripp Mickle and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the USOC renewing Scott Blackmun's contract through the 2016 Rio Games, as well as the job Blackmun has done, the challenges he faced when he took over and how his salary doesn't seem to match up with comparable positions in the sports industry.

    Tags: Olympics, ING, USOC, NTRA, GE, SBJSBD Podcast
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 11/8/2013

    A look at the past week in the NHL and a glimpse at the week ahead.

    3: Franchises accounting for 16 of the 19 least-attended home games this season through last night’s games: Florida (with six), the New York Islanders (five) and Phoenix (five). The Panthers and Coyotes were purchased by new owners just before this season, while the Islanders are playing their final two seasons at outdated Nassau Coliseum before moving to Brooklyn in 2015.

    77: Number of consecutive sellouts for the Los Angeles Kings after last night’s game. The team has surpassed the Gretzky-era franchise record established between 1990 and 1992.

    Distance in miles from Toronto to Ottawa, which will be the relocation route for former Toronto FC vice president of business operations Paul Beirne, who will join the NHL Senators on Dec. 1 as the club’s executive vice president of ticketing. Beirne, 47, was Toronto FC’s first employee prior to the club’s launch in MLS in 2007. The Senators, who played at 101 percent capacity last season, are averaging almost 2,000 fewer fans per game so far this season.

    Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
    The number of Stanley Cup popcorn makers sold by Pangea Brands since the start of the season. The product (MSRP: $99.99) received a nice pop this week when the Chicago Blackhawks presented one to President Obama during their visit to the White House.

    WEDNESDAY: NBCSN’s successful “Wednesday Night Rivalry” tentpole has Pittsburgh hosting Philadelphia. While the Penguins are a Cup contender and the Flyers are, um, fighting it so far this season, the battle should be good for ratings: Their Feb. 20 game last season drew 901,000 viewers, one of the best NHL numbers in the network’s history.

    Tags: On The Ground, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Media
  • Second round of bids for IMG due today

    The second round of bids to buy IMG were due today, according to sources familiar with the company’s sales plan.

    A total of 10 prospective buyers sat through IMG management presentations in the last month, but it’s unclear how many of the interested buyers submitted bids today. Among the groups bidding for the company are KKR, a group led by CVC Capital Partners, and joint bids from Silver Lake and William Morris Endeavor, and from CAA and TPG Capital.

    A spokesman at Abernathy MacGregor, a financial PR firm working on the IMG sale, declined to comment.

    The bids, which come after management presentations and due diligence, will be reviewed by a top exec at Forstmann Little, the trustees of Ted Forstmann’s estate at the firm Akin Gump and the bankers working on the sale at Morgan Stanley and Evercore. They are expected to cut the list of 10 bidders to anywhere from two to six finalists.

    IMG is expected to attract an all-cash offer of more than $2 billion. The company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased from $146 million in 2011 to $175 million last year, and are projected to exceed $200 million this year, according to sources familiar with its financials.

    Forstmann Little officially put IMG on the market in August. More than 35 potential buyers signed nondisclosure agreements and expressed interest in the company. Bankers collected bids from that group in late September.

    Blackstone Group ran a similar, auction-style sale for AEG last year and hoped to fetch $8 billion for the company, but it pulled the company off the market after six months when it failed to find a bidder willing to pay the asking price. Forstmann Little had to do the same with 24 Hour Fitness when it tried to sell it earlier this year.

    But interest in IMG has been high, and sources said Forstmann Little and the trustees at Akin Gump anticipate closing a deal for the company before the end of the year.

    Tags: Finance
  • TV Timeout: Sochi Safety Concerns; Who's Laughing At Jay Z?

    NBC's Matt Lauer this morning said the '14 Sochi Games will the "first time in history that the Games will be staged right next door to what is considered to be a terrorist epicenter." Sochi Organizing Committee President & CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko responded, "It will be the safest Games ever because we understand from the very beginning of our successful campaign that the security is the key priority of the organizers and it's a global threat. ... From the beginning we established very good cooperation between Russian and American security and they exchange intelligence, and I know that everybody is confident that Russia is able to provide this." 

    RUSSIA WITH LOVE: Chernyshenko reiterated that any athlete expressing support for gay rights will "absolutely not" be arrested or detained. He said, "What else can I add? When my president already several times expressed the guarantees on behalf of the state leader that there will be no discrimination … and we as organizers keep social inclusivity in our Games. And moreover, you know the rainbow color does not belong exclusively to someone. For example, our official uniform for the Games organizers is full of rainbow color" ("Today," NBC, 11/7).

    PAYING A PREMIUM: The AP’s Doug Ferguson, on how the U.S. Open and the British Open will respond to purse increases at the PGA Championship and the Players Championship: "I would think that instead of countering with that, (the USGA) might come back and say that our championship is not about money and not try to keep up with this dollar race." He added, "I just don’t see that really driving or motivating players anymore than it does already” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 11/7).

    WHAT DO TIGERS DREAM OF? Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella, on Tiger Woods competing in the Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, Turkey: “Last night I had a chance to catch up with the president of the Turkish Golf Federation and I asked him if he ever had buyer’s remorse for the amount of money he spent on getting Tiger into the field, which is close to three million dollars. He said, 'Not for a second, no chance.'" Ginella added that Turkish Golf Federation President Ahmet Ali Aoaoolu said, “It’s not about the impact that Tiger might have today, it’s about the impact he’ll have tomorrow” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 11/6). 

    COULD RIGHTS FEES GO DOWN? DirecTV Chair, President & CEO Mike White said of rising programming costs, "We recognize there are some one-time things going on between re-transmission and sports and if those settle back down to where content costs were the year before I became CEO in the 4-5 percent range, then I think we're fine." CNBC's David Faber asked if the distribution carriers could "get together and start fighting the fight" against rising content costs. White: "We're all trying to challenge as best we can right now, but we're prepared and are planning for elevated content costs for the next couple of years" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 11/6).

    STAYING CAFFEINATED: Showtime's Cris Collinsworth said of John Fox and Gary Kubiak, “Anytime you have two of your 32 head coaches going down with health issues in one week, if you're not paying attention to that a little bit, if that doesn't strike some kind of a cord of what this culture of coffee and Red Bull and no sleep and all this kind of stuff, moving your family every two years, that’s something that should definitely be examined. ... I think the media, to some extent, has created the illusion that if you're not Joe Gibbs and have a cot in your office and sleeping down there that you're not coaching as hard as somebody else” (“Inside the NFL,” Showtime, 11/6). 

    THE EDUCATION OF MR. CARTER: N.Y. Daily News' Andy Martino said Jay Z giving free agent 2B Robinson Cano a $34,000 watch as a birthday gift, which violates MLB rules for tampering, "speaks to Jay Z's inexperience as a baseball agent. There are all kinds of little regulations and the moral of the story is if you give your client a watch that you're not allowed to give him, don’t Instagram the watch. ... The other baseball agents have to be loving this, because most of them hate this whole Jay Z thing" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 11/6).

    ALL ABOUT THE VIEW: CSN Bay Area's Ray Ratto said of the vote that denied the Warriors' attempts to raise the allowable maximum height for their waterfront arena project, "The fact that the Warriors are adamant about putting it there means that they are going to have to overcome a freshly emboldened series of neighborhoods and common interest groups who want to keep the Embarcadero from having the view of the Bay obscured" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 11/6).

  • TV Timeout: The Best Of Intentions

    This morning's "What's Trending" segment on NBC's "Today" featured the controversy over Northwestern's football uniforms from Under Armour, in partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project. Matt Lauer: "Online, people are calling this unpatriotic and disrespectful of the American flag." But Natalie Morales pointed out that the uniform's design was not intended to represent blood stains, but a "distressed pattern." Lauer said uniform graphics are "so popular on every item," and it is an "unintended result." Morales: "The intent, though, of the project is great" ("Today," NBC, 11/6).

    THE TOUGH GET GOING? ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg said of the Dolphins' bullying scandal surrounding the harassment of OT Jonathan Martin, "Maybe, when it comes to pro football today, we can’t handle the truth. ... Maybe the truth is if a second-round draft pick, who's making a lot of money and doesn't seem to have that sort of killer instinct, that some of his offensive line teammates are going to be encouraged, instructed, not ordered, but instructed to toughen that guy up" (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 11/6). 

    THEY MIGHT BE (SHARING WITH) GIANTS: CSN Bay Area's Ray Ratto said of why the Giants would ever agree to share AT&T Park with the A's, "The Giants have made their stand based on territorial rights, which Major League Baseball can take away with one quick vote. All they have to do is gather the 28 other owners in a room and just say, 'So, what do you think? Should we screw these guys?' They vote yes. They all go out for drinks, and at that point the Giants have lost their leverage, and once they lose their leverage then they really have nothing to stand on, so they're not in a strong position here either so they would have to basically bite their lips, too" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 11/4).

    WHO DO WE APPRECIATE! ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of Red Sox' full-page ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thanking Cardinals fans, "There have been Red Sox teams where I would have said they are tremendously arrogant. If you ask me which is a more arrogant team right now, the Red Sox or the Cardinals -- the Cardinals and the Braves who police baseball for everybody -- I would say the Red Sox are not arrogant." Kornheiser added people in St. Louis do not view the ad "in the cynical way that everybody from New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston would view it" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/5). 

  • MLS numbers down on NBCSN, ESPN; up on UniMas

    TV audiences for MLS regular-season matches this year declined on both NBC Sports Network and ESPN/ESPN2, but one network did see its MLS numbers go up from its past coverage. Spanish-language network UniMas posted an average of 229,000 viewers for its 26 matches during the year. That’s up 21 percent from 2011, the last time the league was featured on the Univision-owned network formerly known as Telefutura.

    Click here for related story in this week’s SportsBusiness Journal

    Telefutura was re-branded as UniMas in January. Univision in 2012 showcased MLS matches on its lower-tier Galavision network instead of Telefutura/UniMas.

    Representatives of both ESPN and NBCSN last week suggested that a flex-scheduling concept could help MLS, allowing it to feature prime matches as the season progresses. MLS traditionally has set its full national broadcast schedule at the start of the season, and those games slated for national broadcast are generally unchanged as the year progresses.

    MLS President Mark Abbott, who was traveling last week, subsequently said via email that discussions with the league’s network partners could consider a wide range of options aimed at increasing viewership. “In the course of the discussions with our broadcast partners, we will explore a number of ways that we can work together to continue to grow our ratings,” Abbott said.

    More from Abbott:
    On the added promotion MLS has received from NBC and NBCSN from the network’s first year with the English Premier League: “NBC’s agreement with the Premier League has positively impacted MLS. More soccer content is a reflection of the growing popularity of the sport in this country.”

    On why he is confident that MLS attendance will increase in 2014 after a 1 percent decline this year: “The World Cup always introduces the sport to new fans, and we have seen increases in attendance and other metrics following every World Cup since the league’s inception [in 1996]. The U.S. team will feature a core of MLS players such as Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi, providing a tremendous opportunity to deepen our connection with the tens of millions of soccer fans in our country. We’ll also have many players — such as Australian captain and Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill — competing for other countries in Brazil.”

    Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies
  • TV Timeout: Everybody Loves Papi

    Red Sox DH David Ortiz continued his media tour on "Live with Kelly & Michael" this morning, carrying the World Series trophy on-stage. Co-host Kelly Ripa said, "You are one of these fellows that it doesn't matter what team you follow, everybody loves you." Ortiz said the biggest difference this year was "having a new manager." Ortiz: "Last year, we had a lot of issues with players going back-and-forth in various situations with the manager. ... This year was different. This year all we had to focus on was just play. The manager took all the bullets for us" ("Live with Kelly & Michael," 11/5).

    HIT IT LONG AND STRAIGHT: Golf Channel's Tripp Isenhour, on the PGA Tour China Series: "This was a brilliant business decision by the PGA Tour. It's a cost effective way for them to dip their foot into an emerging market." Isenhour noted it is "a way to continue to cultivate that talent coming to the PGA Tour." He added if the Tour had waited a few years to implement this, "it would have cost them a lot more" and they "might have been beaten out by OneAsia or the European Tour" (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 11/4).

    NFL CELLAR DWELLERS: CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel, on the Jaguars: "That's a poorly run team, a poorly coached team, a poorly owned team, poorly supported team and that's a market that deserves 0-16" (“Rome,” CBSSN, 11/4). 

    MAKING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC: Monday's edition of "CBS This Morning" examined the similarities between N.Y. Philharmonic Music Dir & Conductor Alan Gilbert and Patriots QB Tom Brady, with CBS News cultural correspondent Wynton Marsalis saying, "A great football game is like a great orchestral performance: It's a show of tempo, finesse and rhythm and in both there's one person at the helm directing, dictating and controlling the field of play." Marsalis: "A well-balanced football team in motion plays like a symphony orchestra performing a great masterpiece. ... But all of those forces have to be deployed in a delicate balance under the leadership of just one" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 11/4).

  • TV Timeout: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

    Red Sox DH David Ortiz after having his beard shaved this morning said, "I feel free now" ("Today," NBC, 11/4).

    WORLD VIEW: Golf Channel’s Charlie Reimer said that the global growth of the LPGA tour, “I don’t see anything but all positive for the LPGA following this high growth global model” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 11/4).

    BEARDED WARRIORS: SNL cast member Cecily Strong said, “The World Series ended on Wednesday when the St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by Mumford and Sons.” ("SNL," NBC, 11/2).

    GLOBAL EXPANSION: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard, on PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem’s announcement of a PGA Tour China for the '14 season: “This is really part of a systematic approach by the PGA Tour … (and) they have been very structured in how they do this. If you look at Canada, if you look at Latin America, and now Asia, it really speaks to how the Tour’s brand has grown globally just over the last three years”  (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 11/3).

  • SBJ/SBD Podcast: Lombardo on NBA-Disney

    SBJ Podcast:
    John Lombardo & Abraham Madkour discuss
    the NBA's deal with the Disney Institute.

    NBA reporter John Lombardo and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour talk about the NBA's new partnership with the Disney Institute, which is featured on the front page of this week's SportsBusiness Journal. Among the highlights:

    "What's going to be interesting is to see how many teams buy into the program."

    "It's really detailed. You're talking about Disney looking at how ushers stand when they're talking to people, we're talking how they address customers — very specific, very detailed behavior."

    Tags: NBA, GE, ING, Ally, SBJSBD Podcast
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