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Volume 26 No. 63
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SBJ All-Access: Direct-To-Consumer Issues Flow Through SMT

It was fitting that the Endeavor Streaming Sports Media & Technology conference kicked off in Marina Del Rey on the same day of the launch of Disney+. The theme of the day was all about new approaches, new audiences, new formats and going direct to consumer when necessary. While talk of the choppy launch of Disney’s new service filled the conference rooms, hallway and lobby bar, it was emblematic of the era we’re living in. Everyone’s testing, nobody knows the answer and the roadmap isn’t entirely clean and clear. The bottom line is that the next five years will represent the most dynamic, yet uncertain, era in the history of sports media.

 

A VIEW FROM THE TOP

Bevacqua noted NBC did not bid on the UEFA Champions League rights recently
  • NBC Sports Group President Pete Bevacqua made some news when he told SBJ's John Ourand that the network, which has U.S. rights to the EPL, didn't bid for UEFA Champions League rights in the most-recent round of talks. Bevacqua added that he was surprised to see CBS and Univision lock down the three-year deal. “Good for them, I think it’s a smart play,” he said. “That’s not who I thought would get it. I think the world of (CBS') David Berson and Sean McManus. I called David to congratulate him, and he was excited about it." 

  • NBC’s decision not to bid reflected Bevacqua’s broader emphasis on restraint. “It goes back to that strategic plan,” Bevacqua said. “It goes back to showing some discipline to say we’re not going to bid on everything. ... What I’ve said internally is, ‘We can’t have a machine-gun approach. We can’t go out there hog wild for everything that comes across our desk.’” But football is still king in NBC's eyes. "We are absolutely working backwards from an NFL deal. It’s no secret -- of course we want to stay partners with the NFL. We’re going to do everything we can to stay partners with the NFL. In working backwards from that point, what we think we’ll need to do, it influences every decision we make along the way. It has to.”

  • Bevacqua was also incredibly bullish on this summer, as the network will have the Tokyo Olympics sandwiched between both national political conventions. He thinks that slot on the calendar for the Olympics will help raise ratings for the two-week event. “You could see that as, ‘That’s going to be interesting. What’s going to be the impact of that?’ We see it as an unbelievably favorable position. Sports, as we know, in most instances, can just transcend politics and can serve as a great form of escapism. … It’s going to be a great moment for people in this country to say, ‘Wow, for 17 days, let’s focus on this.’”

 

QUESTIONS ON SINCLAIR INVESTMENT IN YES NETWORK

  • Amazon taking a stake in YES Network was perplexing for some panelists during Day 1. “I wish I had a really smart answer as to why they invested,” SNY President Steve Raab said. “There are probably reasons. I just don’t know. Maybe they are thinking about way into the future, when the landscape and the rules and what the leagues are doing changes. ... It’s also not a huge investment for them, so to sort of hang around and stick your toe in the water, maybe it makes sense. But at least on the surface -- and there are people who are much smarter than I am -- I don’t quite get it.”

  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment's Zach Leonsis was also curious about the deal: “It’s unclear to me what Amazon’s strategy is, but I would expect that they’re interested in national, leaguewide rights deals, as opposed to local ones -- so I agree that makes the YES investment a little interesting. I think we would all love to learn more about how that fits into their big picture.”

 

A LOOK INSIDE CUPERTINO

  • Tripp Mickle wrote for SBJ for years before leaving in 2014 for the Wall Street Journal, where he now covers Apple. Mickle, who has an upcoming book that will detail the decade since the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, sat with his former colleague and longtime friend John Ourand for a discussion during Tuesday’s lunch on the state of Apple and what he’s learned from closely covering the company. When asked if they would invest in sports content, Mickle predicted, “If they did take a leap into sports, I could see it with a broader global reach.”

  • Noting that Apple wants to grow its business in China, he speculated that sports could be just the type of content to help them grow market share. “Could you acquire the NBA, and partner with a Tencent, and bring the NBA to a larger market? That might make sense,” he said.

 

 

CHATTER BOXES

  • "I have heard 'big' before, but not ‘Big Tech’” -- Facebook’s Rob Shaw, when asked if he had ever been introduced as being “Big Tech.”

  • "The Cubs are the last franchise to have a puncher’s shot at starting their own RSN” -- SNY's Steve Raab, on the club partnering with Sinclair to launch Marquee Sports Network in 2020.

  • “I’m watching more taboo topics. How can we weave CBD in organically for (Professional Bull Riders)? There’s a lot of pain. It’s a difficult sport. We’re trying to walk a fine line" -- Endeavor Analytics’ Zack Rose.

  • “'The Great British Bake Off.' I really get into it. It’s so British. First off, they don’t yell at each other, and, in the end, they don’t win any money. It’s so foreign to me!” -- FloSports’ Mark Floreani, on what he’s streaming these days.

  • “I don’t know why anyone would start a company in Silicon Valley right now. It’s so ridiculously expensive to hire an engineer. You can hire really good engineering talent in a place like Indianapolis and they can buy a house there for $300,000 and not be in crazy debt" -- Techstars Sports Accelerator’s Jordan Fliegel.

 

 

SEEN & HEARD ON DAY 1

  • We always have to check the injury report before our conferences, and this time, Stadium’s Jason Coyle popped up. Coyle was set to be on a panel with Facebook’s Rob Shaw about their partnership, but as Shaw told it: “Jason is over 40 and was teaching some kids how to turn a double play, and then he had surgery.” We wish Jason a speedy recovery so he can get back out on the diamond.

  • We all have that fork in the road moment in our careers. For FloSports founder Mark Floreani, who was on a panel on Day 1, that happened while a student-athlete at Texas. The former Longhorns runner had made himself into an amateur bookmaker, but noticed it was quickly eating up his study time. That ultimately led to a choice to forgo a pro career in sports gambling and take the path of an entrepreneur.

  • Kraft Analytics Group’s Jessica Gelman was out in the L.A. area for a family vacation and kindly pushed back her flight to speak at the conference. While Gelman’s wife and their younger son had already traveled back east, Jessica had her six-year-old son, Rees, come along with her to the conference, and he was a hit in the green room. In between bites of Froot Loops, he regaled execs on the opening panels with tales of his dog.

  • Deltatre’s Jeff Volk almost didn’t make it from New York to L.A. for the conference. Volk left for the airport and upon arriving, received a call from his wife asking him to check his pockets. There was no wallet to be found. The only contents were a loose credit card, Chapstick and some used tickets to “Paw Patrol Live.” We would love to hear the sales pitch that Jeff gave TSA to get him through this one.

  • We had a “to-mah-to” vs. “to-may-to” moment early in the conference. During a morning panel, we had a 50/50 split among four panelists on the pronunciation of data. Two panelists claimed the pronunciation was “day-ta,” while the others went with “dah-ta.”

  • Monumental Sports’ Zach Leonsis has a very regimented Sunday schedule for watching NFL games, and it involves a heavy dose of RedZone Channel on his set-top box which has been programmed with his fantasy football team to give him scoring alerts. “I feel like I’m in my own central command center on a Sunday afternoon, which is a lot of fun. It’s maybe not so much fun for my friends who come over and watch with me and don’t care about my fantasy team,” he said.

  • It was hard not to notice NASCAR exec Ben Baker, the 6’5” son of Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker.

  • DAZN streamed the KSI-Logan Paul boxing match on Saturday, and the streaming outfit’s Joe Markowski got to sit next to Justin Bieber during the match. But before Bieber was in the house at Staples Center for the fight, Markowski had to play the role of bouncer. A gentleman pretending to be singer Ed Sheeran had made it past security to the front row. Markowski immediately spotted a fraud, called him out and promptly told the man to exit the building before security became involved.

  • Inner Circle Sports’ Steve Horowitz was working the hallways early on Tuesday morning – but did so just after a workout. While most people filing into the conference were decked out in suits, Horowitz went with the Cal sweatshirt. He later returned to his room to join the ranks of the well-dressed.

  • It was good to see Chuck Baker, partner with O’Melveny, looking healthy, happy and slim while walking easily just six weeks after back surgery. Baker hopes to be back skiing by February and we hope to see some pics of him on the slopes.

  • We had to give the award for best socks of the day to Latham & Watkins partner Adam Sullins, who was moderating a panel on the future of RSNs. Bravo sir.

 

Latham & Watkins partner Adam Sullins was rocking some unique socks during his panel

 

FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR

  • NBC’s Pete Bevacqua spent the night in Dallas after Vikings-Cowboys on Sunday night and then flew to L.A. with Al Michaels on Monday. “We went and played Bel Air. I’ve been lucky enough, I’ve known Al for years and played quite a bit of golf with him. To play Bel Air is especially fun, but to play Bel Air with Al Michaels is surreal. You’re walking down the fairway and he’ll stop and say, ‘Hey, Pete, here are the trees where they filmed the Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller.’ And then you’re walking down the eighth fairway and he’s like, ‘Here’s where Howard Hughes landed his plane when he was late to pick up Katharine Hepburn for dinner.’ And Al is such a national treasure that we had an absolute blast. It was just a great day on the golf course. It was a great way to spend an afternoon with somebody I absolutely love. The Mayor of Bel Air.”

  • Bevacqua noted he shot a 76. “When you do something since you’re 10 years old, you should be halfway decent at it.”

 

WHAT PEOPLE ARE WATCHING

  • SBJ posted clips from Day 1 discussions on our Twitter feed yesterday. Here are the three most-viewed segments:

  • View clips from Day 2 and follow the discussion today on Twitter using the hashtag #sbjsmt. We’ll start today’s session with a video recap of everything that happened on Day 1. Here’s what we’ll be showing in the ballroom.

 

 

WRAPPING UP DAY 1

  • Endeavor Streaming hosted a private reception last night at Cafe Del Rey, where guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (the crab cake sliders were moving fast). Among the guests at the event were former WWE personality Nicki Bella, who chatted up a number of attendees, including Techstars Sports Accelerator’s Jordan Fliegel and SBJ's Abe Madkour. Other attendees included DAZN's Joe Markowski, Facebook's Rob Shaw, O'Melveny's Chuck Baker and Irwin Raij, Endeavor's Will Staeger and Phil Green, the NFL's David Marlo, NASCAR's Brian Herbst and Augusta National's Will Armstrong.

  • The first day closed out with O'Melveny hosting a bourbon tasting for attendees. Vermont-based WhistlePig was being served, with three options -- 10-, 12- and 15-year-old ryes. The consensus seemed to be that the 12-year-old version was the best. Among those at the event were O'Melveny's Raij, Baker and Bruce Tobey, as well as Notre Dame Senior Associate AD Rob Kelly and Vinson & Elkins attorneys Sean Belding and Parker Hancock.
Vermont-based WhistlePig was the bourbon selected for last night's tasting

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE

  • Scopa Italian Roots was the place to be on Monday night, the evening before the conference. Spotted were SNY’s Steve Raab dining with Fox Sports’ Andrew Fegyveresi; Deltatre’s Jeff Volk dined with an old friend; NBC Sports’ Pete Bevacqua and Greg Hughes ate with SBJ’s John Ourand and Abe Madkour. But it was a tough night for sports fans at the restaurant, as they couldn’t watch one of the best NFL games of the season in Seahawks-49ers (there were no TVs at Scopa).

  • ESPN drew its best “Monday Night Football” viewership of the season with the game going the distance in OT, and that was evident by the number of execs gathering at the hotel bar on the night before the conference. Among those spotted were Sports Media Advisors’ Doug Perlman, AXS’ Bryan Perez, Endeavor’s Hillary Mandel (along with a host of other Endeavor execs), Inner Circle Sport’s Steve Horowitz and CBS Interactive's Adam London.