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Volume 21 No. 26

Media

Going into this year’s NCAA Tournament, IF Management’s director of broadcasting and marketing, Michael Sones, cut a marketing deal with Coca-Cola that involved two ESPN analysts — one, Seth Greenberg, was an IF Management client and the other, Jay Bilas, was a client of The Montag Group.

Two years ago, that deal — with on-air talent from two different agencies — could not have happened.

This was one of the advantages Sandy Montag, Steve Herz and Maury Gostfrand — three top talent agents — envisioned when they merged their businesses in the past year.

The Montag Group and Herz’s IF Management merged in January 2017. Those two then merged with Gostfrand’s Vision Sports in December. The idea was to create a medium-sized agency that would give the company more bargaining leverage during contract negotiations.

The talent agents now a part of The Montag Group boast a roster that includes Seth Greenberg (left) and Jay Bilas.
Photo: espn images

That leverage comes from a talent roster that has more than 250 clients. Combined, the group represents more than 50 ESPN clients. It represents Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, Liam McHugh and Kathryn Tappen — all big-time studio hosts at NBC.

“Sandy has a deep relationship with [NBC Broadcasting & Sports Chairman] Mark Lazarus,” Herz said. “I have one with [Executive Producer] Sam Flood. It changes the whole calculus of the relationship. You become much more of an important player in the minds of the buying community.”

This week, the three entities will complete their merge, rebranding under The Montag Group brand, and relaunching their website. The combined group has about 16 employees covering talent relations, consulting, crisis management and content. Herz still has 80 clients in his news division, which will continue to operate under the IF Management brand.

“At IMG, Ted Forstmann used to say, ‘I want to make one plus one equal three,’” Montag said. “In this relationship, our businesses complement each other so well. We have a good database of knowledge, contacts and relationships that we feel are unparalleled.”

In the past year, the group has signed Jason Terry, Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson and sold a podcast with Boozer and Robinson to Sports Illustrated, Herz said.

Gostfrand said his clients already have benefited from the merge.

“I was just negotiating a deal for a football client,” he said. “Between Steve and Sandy, there are plenty of comparables I can go to and use that information to my advantage. That’s what we’re doing every day. We’re not reinventing the wheel. But as a mid-sized agency, we’re really in a great position to show clients that we have a lot of muscle and power in the industry.”

The three executives say they are not looking to grow further.

“These are really the only two guys and the only two companies that I thought made sense,” Montag said. “We share a lot of the same values and a lot of the same ideas on the business. No one knows what the future will hold. We’re not looking to continue to acquire or merge with other companies.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

My favorite part of the broadcast upfront selling season is seeing the effect sports programming has on entertainment schedules.

This year, Fox cited the presence of “Thursday Night Football” as one reason why it canceled the cult hit “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

“We just didn’t have room for it,” Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of the Fox Television Group, said on a conference call last week. “With ‘Thursday Night Football’ going into the fall, there were two fewer hours to program.”

Gary Newman, chairman and CEO of the Fox Television Group, also cited “Thursday Night Football” as a reason for canceling “Lucifer” and “The Exorcist.” Said Newman, “We have ‘Thursday Night Football’ taking up two hours, so there was a pretty high bar on our schedule this year.”

Ironically, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” was picked up by NBC, which lost “Thursday Night Football” to Fox and, presumably, had more space on its schedule.

Brandt Packer arrived in Stillwater, Okla., last week, genuinely thrilled at the idea of spending the next 15 days there.

 

Packer, a veteran of 11 years at Golf Channel, has earned a reputation for producing some of the most unique events for the network, whether it’s the Rio Olympics, Drive, Chip & Putt or this week’s assignment in Stillwater, the NCAA men’s and women’s golf championships.

As someone who grew up following his father, legendary basketball analyst Billy Packer, to the Final Four, Brandt always hoped that he would find his way back to producing a college event like this one.

He even found motivation in producing the NCAA golf championships from watching CBS’s iconic postgame celebration of “One Shining Moment.” In Golf Channel’s coverage, Packer calls it the winner’s vignette and it’s a collection of meaningful moments that plays shortly after the national golf champions have been crowned.

Packer is working the NCAA golf championships this week.
Photo: golf channel

“I always remember my dad, after he’d interviewed the winning coach and player, staying on the court for ‘One Shining Moment,’” Packer said. “And you could see the passion and pride in his face. I thought, ‘Boy, if I ever get to do a college event, I want to capture the passion that he had.’ So, when we run that vignette, it’s my way of paying tribute to him.”

In fact, it was years earlier that Packer, through watching his father, was introduced to TV production of golf. Well, it wasn’t exactly golf, it was Putt-Putt miniature golf.

Few people probably remember that when the elder Packer wasn’t covering college basketball, he provided color commentary for Putt-Putt broadcasts. Again, Brandt was tagging along, soaking in all aspects of TV production.

It was at a Putt-Putt event in Fayetteville, N.C., that Brandt, all of 8 or 9 years old, decided that he wanted to be a producer because “he was the guy in charge.”

Now the 44-year-old is going into his fifth year of producing NCAA golf championships.

Golf Channel and the NCAA last year agreed on an extension that will take the relationship out to 2029.

Producing the college events requires a different touch than when Packer produces a PGA Tour or Champions Tour tournament. The NCAA championships bring the team concept into play and emotions run high in the pursuit of a national title, compared to a stock tour event.

There’s also more preparation required because the college players typically aren’t as well known. Hence, the extra-long stay in Stillwater, where Packer will put in several days of preparation before the men’s and women’s champions will be decided by next week.

“We started this five years ago, really, with a blank canvas,” said Packer, who played a year of golf at the University of Houston. “Now you look at the golfers and no one is even fazed by the TV cameras or doing interviews. It’s just become part of the process.”

With fewer than 30 days until it broadcasts its first World Cup, Telemundo Deportes is ramping up promotion of its coverage, including targeting English-language viewers.

 

The network is rolling out a new campaign that is being referred to as “Telemundo es futbol.” The spot, which was born out of the network’s Super Bowl ad on NBC that featured announcer Andrés Cantor and his signature goal call, overlays Spanish words that easily translate or are the same for English-language viewers on World Cup highlight clips, such as “drama,” “increíble,” “honor” and, of course, “goal.”

FIFA requires that advertising remain in the language the network holds television rights for.

“We expect a lot more people will know that Copa Mundial means World Cup by the time it’s over,” said Telemundo Deportes President Ray Warren. “We want to bring the words to life without skirting around the language or using Spanglish.”

Parent company NBCUniversal is also going to make it easier for English-language viewers to find Telemundo’s World Cup coverage. While Telemundo will air its broadcasts on its En Vivo app, it will have its Spanish-language game streams as part of the NBC Sports app as well. NBC Sports’ streaming desktop site will also link to Telemundo’s streams. Previously, only Telemundo’s Spanish-language Rio Olympics coverage and two matches from last year’s Confederations Cup have been featured on the NBC Sports app.

Telemundo will lean heavily on its English-language family of networks throughout the tournament, something that Warren said that previous Spanish-language rights holder Univision was unable to do.

While U.S. English-language rights holder Fox Sports said it will only be sending two of its six World Cup broadcast teams to Russia — with the other four calling games from Los Angeles — Telemundo is sending all of its broadcasters to Russia, and the vast majority of its broadcast teams will be live in the stadiums, with some being pushed to the international broadcast center in Moscow due to stadium space constraints.

Warren believes that could be a differentiator.

“I would never second-guess what anyone else does, but there are a lot of people who kind of feel like — this is the first time [for Fox and Telemundo airing the World Cup], so really? So maybe I should check the other guy out and see how that feels,” he said. “I’m hopeful there will be a lot of people checking it out.”

Telemundo’s World Cup ad inventory is currently 90 percent sold out, with Warren keeping the remainder open going into the tournament. He believes it will finish well ahead of its budget once it sells out of its inventory, unless there are any significant issues with audience level, which he does not expect.

Golf Channel’s coverage of the upcoming NCAA men’s and women’s golf championships has attracted some new brands to the sponsor mix.

 

Buick, which already has a long-running corporate sponsorship with the NCAA, has signed on as a co-presenting sponsor for all of the network’s NCAA broadcasts. The Golf Channel deal is a separate buy from the NCAA.

The General Motors brand will share the presenting sponsorship with Stifel Financial, the St. Louis-based investment services firm that’s another newcomer to Golf Channel’s college coverage. Buick and Stifel both will have graphic and verbal sponsor designations, branded features and on-site branding at the Stillwater, Okla., venue.

Separately, Mercedes-Benz and Grant Thornton, an accounting and management services firm based in Chicago, are sponsoring the Rickie Fowler-produced “Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys” reality series.

Richard Weiss, the founding publisher of SportsBusiness Journal, will step down from his position at the end of May.

 

Weiss launched SportsBusiness Journal 20 years ago and has directed and overseen its growth since 1998. In addition to his role at SportsBusiness Journal, he has been the publisher of SportsBusiness Daily since 2003, five years after American City Business Journals acquired it and moved it from Connecticut to Charlotte.

Richard Weiss has been SBJ publisher since its 1998 launch.

Weiss, who joined ACBJ after five years in publishing in Europe and seven years in publishing in New York prior to that, said he plans to take some time off this summer before deciding on future opportunities.

“I’m extremely proud of having been part of the team that launched SportsBusiness Journal 20 years ago, as well as helping grow SportsBusiness Daily over the years,” he said. “It has also been incredibly gratifying to be part of the growth of our conferences and events group over the past two decades.”

Weiss plans for now to remain in Davidson, N.C.

“It has been a terrific 20-year ride, but I’m ready at this point in my life to do something different,” he said. “I honestly am not sure what that might be, but I’m excited about the prospects of what is out there.”

ACBJ CEO Whitney Shaw cited Weiss’ “exemplary leadership” in announcing the move, while adding, “It’s impossible to overstate Richard’s contributions to ACBJ’s sports business group. He built and led exceptional teams at SBJ, SBD and the conferences, and has been a hands-on contributor to their success.”

Shaw said he would begin the search “for a worthy successor to build upon all of what Richard’s accomplished.”

— Staff Report