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Volume 27 No. 30

SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead

SBJ Unpacks: Big Ten Ready To Take The Stage

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The Big Ten becomes the fourth Power Five conference to begin its season this weekend.

  • NBA thinking about options for season start by Christmas
  • SBJ Betting looks at record handles in September
  • Football Bowl Association rebrands under Bowl Season name
  • USTA waiting on Cincinnati tournament director
  • A-B InBev cutting Super Bowl hospitality

  • This free newsletter keeps you up to date on the biggest challenges facing sports. Click here to sign up to receive nightly updates on the industry's winding road to recovery.

 

KEVIN WARREN CONFIDENT BIG TEN READY FOR FOOTBALL SEASON

  • As the Big Ten readies itself for the much-anticipated kick-off of its football season this weekend, Commissioner Kevin Warren said the conference is "cautiously optimistic" about the season amid the health and safety protocols the league has implemented.
  • Warren, appearing on ESPN this morning, noted the football schedule does not have any bye weeks, and “one good thing about not having any bye weeks is that you don't have any breaks. You don't have to worry about student-athletes traveling during the bye week.”
  • Meanwhile, Warren said the Big Ten is “in regular contact with all the other (Power Five) commissioners." Warren: "We’re all pulling for each other. We’re in this together. We’re playing football in a global pandemic. We have great communication, and we’re working in a collaborative manner to make sure that we can share different things with each other."

 

NBA WORKING ON SCENARIOS TO START SEASON BY CHRISTMAS

  • Sources told The Athletic that the NBA’s league office informed the BOG on Friday that it is "targeting to start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22, three days before Christmas Day, and would like to play a 72-game campaign." Sources added that this would mean a "return close to the NBA’s normal schedule, significant financial ramifications to start early, a potential finish before the 2021 Summer Olympics, and allow a window for stars to play in the Olympics."
  • This came as ESPN sources said that the NBA's BOG met Friday to discuss "possible changes to plans for the 2020-21 season, including starting as quickly as possible, playing fewer than 82 games and not waiting for fans to be permitted to all league arenas."

 

BUSY SEPTEMBER SCHEDULE BRINGS RECORD BETTING HANDLES

  • Boffo is an apt description of the latest results from sportsbooks in New Jersey, which in September had a second consecutive record-setting month, this time attracting $748.5 million in wagers, writes SBJ's Bill King. That topped August’s $667.9 million, which then was the busiest month ever for any state.

  • It’s not just New Jersey. September brought record handles in Pennsylvania ($462,787,392), Indiana ($207,042,428), Iowa ($72,397,241), West Virginia ($63,468,831), Oregon ($26,174,303), Delaware ($12,439,302) and D.C. ($12,186,041). More records will fall as Illinois and Colorado report in the coming days, putting September on pace to surpass the $2.1 billion wagered at U.S. books in August. I’m making the over/under $2.6 billion.

  • New Jersey differs from other states materially. Most are earlier in their opening of betting, so growth can be attributed to more sportsbooks entering the fray. New Jersey isn’t a mature sports betting market, but it’s farther along than the rest. And it is not just breaking, but obliterating, the numbers it put up pre-COVID. How much of that is a product of the unprecedented wedging of the NBA and NHL bubble-seasons into the August and September calendars? And is it sustainable once schedules return to their traditional cadence?

  • For more on the record handle numbers and all things sports betting, check out the debut issue of our latest newsletter, SBJ Betting.

 

BOWL SEASON: COLLEGE FOOTBALL POSTSEASON GETS REBRAND

  • The Football Bowl Association is undergoing a major brand overhaul and will be known as Bowl Season to give college football’s postseason a new logo and visual identity, reports SBJ's Michael Smith.
  • The new name, logo and website, BowlSeason.com, was unveiled today under the direction of FBA Executive Director Nick Carparelli, who was hired in December 2019 and almost immediately began working on the rebranding campaign. The Bowl Season’s mission will be different than the FBA. Carparelli has evolved the association into a consumer-facing promotional body.
  • The tagline “A celebration of college football” accompanies the new name. Bowl Season will work with all of the existing bowls to promote the entire bowl system. The new branding was developed by Connecticut-based 1919 Productions and Joe Bosack & Co. Dallas-based Tony Fay Public Relations has handled communications for the initiative.
  • Make sure to check out next week's issue of SBJ for more on the development of the new Bowl Season brand identity.

 

USTA IN NO RUSH TO FIND NEW CINCINNATI TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR

  • The ATP/WTA Western & Southern Open is likely to operate again in 2021 without a new full-time tournament director, reports SBJ's Bret McCormick. After Andre Silva resigned from his position running the USTA-owned event in June, USTA Managing Director for Major Events J. Wayne Richmond served as the interim tournament director for this year’s tournament in August and is likely to serve in that role again next year.
  • USTA Chief Executive of Professional Tennis Stacey Allaster told SBJ, “We are in a good position with in-house resources to be able to serve that role for 2021 and, again, based on the pandemic we’re just going to see how this all unfolds. We’re looking at continuing to use J. Wayne in 2021. I feel really strong and good with my team there, Katie Haas, our chief operating officer who is based in Cincinnati, is doing a great job of operating the business."
  • The Cincinnati-based tournament is planning to return home in 2021 after being held this year at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as part of a multi-week bubble with the U.S. Open. Silva left the Western & Southern event when he accepted a job as tournament director of the PGA Tour’s Players Championship.

 

A-B INBEV CUTTING SUPER BOWL LV HOSPITALITY PLANS

  • A-B InBev will cut its major hospitality programs at Super Bowl LV in Tampa in light of the pandemic uncertainty, a senior exec has confirmed. SBJ's Ben Fischer writes other sponsors are likely to follow.
  • The brewer will cut all private parties and the Bud Light Hotel, where hundreds of sweepstakes winners, wholesalers and other guests typically enjoy hospitality during the week leading up to the game, said A-B InBev VP/Partnerships, Beer Culture & Community Nick Kelly. Instead of having nearly 600 guests, the plan will call for between 35-50 essential employees to go to Tampa, Kelly said.
  • A-B InBev will maintain its robust retail and out-of-home advertising presence around the city and still serve at Raymond James Stadium and other NFL activities, Kelly said. “We’ll have a limited number of executives in market to help support the Tampa efforts with our local wholesaler, but it’s essential employees only,” Kelly said.

 

 

SPEED READS

  • Big Ten football is back, and the Lincoln Journal Star felt the moment was impactful enough to warrant an editorial today on the start of the season: "Through last week, coronavirus outbreaks have caused 10.6% of scheduled FBS games to be postponed or cancelled. … If there’s an outbreak that affects games -- the percentages say that about six of the Big Ten’s 56 contests will be hit -- they’ll be cancelled. The league’s tight schedule, designed to get in nine games for each team before the College Football Playoff, won't allow makeup dates."
  • Chip Ganassi Racing and Jimmie Johnson have found a new primary sponsor for their IndyCar venture next year, sources tell SBJ's Adam Stern, completing the final step they needed to seal his move. Johnson announced in early September that he was planning to compete for Ganassi next season to race in the NTT IndyCar Series after completing his full-time NASCAR career for Hendrick Motorsports this year. However, at the time, Ganassi said that sponsorship still needed to be sorted to make the move official for the seven-time Cup Series champion.
  • The Army-Navy football game “will not be played in Philadelphia on Dec. 12 as planned” but will move to Michie Stadium for just the second time in history, according to the Annapolis Capital Gazette. The only other time the game was played on the West Point campus was in 1943. The relocation was caused by “attendance limits placed on outdoor events in the state of Pennsylvania.” Less than 10,000 fans would have been allowed in Lincoln Financial Field, which “would not accommodate both the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets.”
  • Racing Point F1 Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer confirmed that driver Lance Stroll "will travel to Portugal for this weekend’s Grand Prix in Portimao" after contracting COVID-19 following the Eifel GP. Szafnauer issued a statement "clarifying the timeline of events, in which he also revealed that all members of the Racing Point team had tested negative" in their pre-Portugal tests. See more in SBD Global.

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 
SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD
  • Check out the most recent editions of our SBJ Unpacks podcasts:

 

 

Nov. 1 Deadline For Forty Under 40 Nominations Approaching

Sports Business Journal will recognize the next generation of sports leaders with the 2021 Class of Forty Under 40

Do you know a young sports business executive whose work is leading and reshaping the industry? Do not miss your chance to nominate them for this honor.

Visit www.FortyUnder40Awards.com to nominate yourself or someone else. 

Nominations close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 1.

 

 

Something related to sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Thomas Leary (tleary@sportsbusinessdaily.com) or Richard Bush (rbush@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: NFL Hoping For Clean Weekend

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL braces for more potential schedule shifts as it hopes to keep Week 7 in tact.

  • The NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Game
  • MLB Network working around unique World Series
  • Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Ball Corp. sign huge deal
  • Fox Sports Florida GM on busy schedule
  • A look at the political leanings of NFL fan bases

  • This free newsletter keeps you up to date on the biggest challenges facing sports. Click here to sign up to receive nightly updates on the industry's winding road to recovery.

 

BUCS-RAIDERS MOVED OFF "SNF" IN LATEST NFL SCHEDULING SHIFT

  • The NFL has taken Buccaneers-Raiders off NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” broadcast this weekend, swapping it with Seahawks-Cardinals. The switch was taken to protect NBC‘s window in case the Raiders’ COVID-19 cases force a postponement, notes SBJ's Ben Fischer.
  • However, the league said the switch was made out of “an abundance of caution” and officials currently expect all games to be played. The Raiders are awaiting contact tracing results to determine the extent of COVID spread.
  • With postponements already impacting the league this year, ESPN's Adam Schefter notes the Bucs-Raiders matchup "always can be pushed back" to another day or week on the schedule, "though that is not in the NFL’s plans at this time."

 

NHL POSTPONES 2021 WINTER CLASSIC, ALL-STAR WEEKEND

  • The NHL today announced the postponements of the 2021 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and 2021 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. The Winter Classic, featuring the Wild facing the Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis, was originally scheduled for Jan. 1.
  • The Panthers were to host the All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center, originally scheduled for Jan. 29-30. Both events have been postponed due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus. The NHL intends to return to both Minnesota and Florida for these signature events in the near future.
  • The NHL added that the announcement does not impact the league and NHLPA's intentions to begin the next season "on or around Jan. 1."

 

MLB NETWORK PIVOTING AROUND ABNORMAL WORLD SERIES 

  • MLB Network's on-location World Series set, normally on the field, is located on the left-field concourse this year. The "Intentional Talk" and "MLB Tonight" pre- and post-game are originating from Globe Life Field, while "High Heat" and "MLB Now" have remained in Secaucus, N.J. "We're taking advantage of it," MLBN VP/Remote Operations Tom Guidice told SBJ's Eric Prisbell. "We have some really good looks from this location and can show off this new ballpark. We need six feet of separation, so we can only have a host and analyst on our main set."
  • Typically, players would just walk over to the set for interviews before and after games. This year they speak to Jon Morosi, the net's on-field reporter, who is designated as a Tier 2 individual, after he quarantined for eight days.
  • MLBN Senior Coordinating Producer Marc Caiafa said, "We have cameras on both sides, in both dugouts. They are our lifeline to players communicating with our talent on the desk in left field. Jon interviews a player and feeds it back to the truck and then it's inserted into the show."
  • MLBN has roughly 100 staffers on site -- at least 40 fewer than normal. Guidice said knowing the World Series location ahead of time and having a retractable roof made it a little easier to set up. "The equalizer was dealing with COVID-19 and all of the procedures we needed to deal with our crew to keep everyone safe," he said. "... We'll get it done seamlessly. It's business as usual, just on a smaller scale."

 

MLB Network's World Series set is on the left-field concourse at Globe Life Field

 

KROENKE SPORTS, BALL CORP. PARTNER FOR PORTFOLIO-WIDE DEAL

  • Kroenke Sports & Entertainment announced a massive sponsorship deal this morning with The Ball Corp., reports SBJ's Terry Lefton, giving the Colorado-based packing company entitlement to the Denver arena which houses the Nuggets, Avalanche and NLL Mammoth; marketing rights both at SoFi Stadium and with the Rams; and rights to EPL club Arsenal.
  • The arena, which has been known as Pepsi Center since it opened in 1999, will now be known as Ball Arena. Temporary arena signage began going up today. Ball is seeking to position aluminum as consumers’ best choice in beverage packaging at a time sustainability is increasingly vital.
  • While Ball does not come from a traditional sponsorship category, especially for naming rights, these are not short-term commitments. The venue and team deals in Denver are for 10 years, while the others are five-year pacts. The multi-layered deal took around a year to complete.
  • Click here to read all the details SBJ has on the deal.

 

FS FLORIDA GM DISHES ON HOT TAMPA MARKET, SHIFTING RSN LANDSCAPE

  • Fox Sports Florida Senior VP & GM Steve Tello has been busy covering one of America’s hottest sports markets -- Tampa. The Lightning held a Stanley Cup celebration two days after winning the title last month. "They did a boat parade in downtown Tampa, and then they wound up in Raymond James Stadium for the larger presentation for fans to attend. ... We covered it all live," Tello told SBJ's Andrew Levin.
  • Not wanting to jinx the Rays, who are tied 1-1 with the Dodgers, Tello declined to comment on any potential World Series celebration plans. However, FS Florida is doing plenty around the Rays. “We’re doing pre- and post-games with our announcers, familiar faces making their commentary ... and promoting the game, the stars and the progress,” Tello noted.
  • With many sports seeing viewership declines this year, Tello is confident ratings will "settle back in to a normal pentameter" by 2021 or 2022. “There were just so many games, so intense, in different times of the year," he said. "When you have playoffs that typically would be in June or July in September, it just didn’t have the same momentum.”
  • Tello said Sinclair is "still learning the ins-and-outs of the sports business" since purchasing the Fox-branded RSNs in 2019. "They have 191 television stations. They have big operations, a lot of news operations," he said. "Slightly different line of work here and they are learning. ... As far as the day-to-day operation, production, production needs, there has been no change."

 

 

A LOOK AT HOW NFL FAN BASES VARY BY POLITICS

  • SBJ's Ben Fischer takes a look at the political leanings within NFL fan bases, according to data from StatSocial. The social metrics firm found that Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 among Seahawks and 49ers fans, while the reverse is true for the Cowboys and Titans. Check out the chart below, which shows where every team stands.

 

 

SPEED READS

  • Fox drew another record-low World Series audience with Game 2 last night, SBJ’s Austin Karp notes. The Rays’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers averaged 8.95 million viewers, below the previous low set for Game 1 on Tuesday night (9.195 million). Despite the decline, Fox did win primetime again among all networks.
  • The NBA has settled on its plans for the 2020 Draft as ESPN’s Bristol studios will host the virtual event on Nov. 18, at 7:00pm ET. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will appear in studio to announce the selections for the first and second rounds, respectively. Select draftees, including many of the potential top picks, will appear virtually.
  • A filing with the FEC today shows that Twitter has terminated its PAC, “donating its remaining cash to a pair of nonprofit charitable organizations that preach inclusion and diversity,” Business Insider reports. The PAC’s remaining $117,178 was split between two entities, one of which is the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, the effort spearheaded by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross that “aims to ‘eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations’ throughout athletics.”

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 
SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

Nov. 1 Deadline For Forty Under 40 Nominations Approaching

Sports Business Journal will recognize the next generation of sports leaders with the 2021 Class of Forty Under 40

Do you know a young sports business executive whose work is leading and reshaping the industry? Do not miss your chance to nominate them for this honor.

Visit www.FortyUnder40Awards.com to nominate yourself or someone else. 

Nominations close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 1.

 

 

Something related to sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Thomas Leary (tleary@sportsbusinessdaily.com) or Richard Bush (rbush@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: Sights & Sounds From The Fall Classic

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Eric Prisbell provides an on-the-scene report from World Series Game 1 at Globe Life Field.

  • California residents make their presence known at World Series
  • WTA may add tournaments to calendar year
  • Tokyo Games organizers advertise COVID-19 measures
  • Riot set to shop next esports effort with Valorant
  • Hornets hire CAA Icon for upgrades at Spectrum Center
  • USGA to hold Women's Open without fans

  • This free newsletter keeps you up to date on the biggest challenges facing sports. Click here to sign up to receive nightly updates on the industry's winding road to recovery.

 

SIGHTS & SOUNDS FROM WORLD SERIES GAME 1 

  • SBJ's Eric Prisbell was on-hand for Game 1 of the World Series last night. Below are his takeaways from the most unique Fall Classic in MLB history. 

    • The first thing that strikes you when you drive toward Globe Life Field is that there is no traffic, not even on the streets surrounding the new ballpark. There were a sprinkling of fans, many wearing jerseys, enjoying a beverage at Texas Live! And with so few fans permitted inside the ballpark, there was no visible bottlenecking at any of the stadium gates. 

    • When you approach the gate, a recording on repeat instructs fans that masks are mandatory and that hand sanitizing stations are located throughout the stadium. There was a strong police presence in some areas outside the stadium. After walking through the metal detector at the media gate, your temperature is taken and your press pass is scanned. 

    • Before the first pitch, there were short lines of five to 10 fans at various concession stands. The area that saw the most congestion was the team store, where dozens of fans lined up (in masks) but practiced little social distancing to purchase World Series merchandise.

    • There was also a buildup of fans at a merchandise stand near the MLB Network studio set on the left-field concourse. Just from casually observing thousands of fans in the stands and on the spacious concourse areas, 95% appeared to wear masks while they were not eating or drinking. Dodgers fans seemed to outnumber Rays fans. 

    • And just when you settled in for the first pitch of the World Series, longtime Rangers communications official John Blake announced to all media members that masks were mandatory and must be worn at all times, snapping you back into the reality that this is a World Series unlike any other in the sport's history.

 

CALIFORNIA ACCOUNTS FOR 35% OF WORLD SERIES TICKETS SOLD

  • Dodgers fans are traveling to Arlington's Globe Life Field to see their team take on the Rays in the World Series, writes SBJ's Karn DhingraCalifornia accounts for 35% of tickets sold across the entire series, with 25% from Texas and 10% from Florida, according to data from StubHub

  • Texas ticket buyers are also taking advantage of last-minute sales to World Series games, said StubHub Head of Partnerships & Development Adam Budelli. He noted Texas buyers ramped up their ticketing buying in the “last couple hours and 90 minutes into game time last night.” 

  • By the time Game 1 finished last night, Texas buyers represented a larger percentage of the sales for that particular game -- jumping to 33% from a little under 30% ahead of the first pitch. 

  

 

WTA MAY ADD TOURNAMENTS TO CALENDAR YEAR

  • The WTA confirmed to SBJ's Bret McCormick that the Upper Austria Ladies Linz tournament, which starts Nov. 9, is currently the final event on the heavily disrupted 2020 calendar. But a tour spokesperson added that “at this point in time, we continue to look at adding events to our calendar where opportunities may present themselves.”
  • It is not clear if that includes the Hana Bank Korea Open, which was originally to be held in early October but is still listed on the WTA’s 2020 schedule. Whether it will be held or not at this moment is “still TBD,” according to the spokesperson.

  • Thirty-three of the tour’s 59 events (including Grand Slams and combined events with the ATP) have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

TOKYO OLYMPIC ORGANIZERS ADVERTISE COVID-19 MEASURES

  • Tokyo Olympic officials want the world to know they are "working on measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic at next year’s Games, even if they do not know exactly what they will be," reports the AP. Tokyo organizers today showcased a "few possible remedies, displaying various screening measures."

  • Tsuyoshi Iwashita, the executive director of the Tokyo Olympics security bureau, said that most of the measures “looked familiar, including hand sanitizers and people passing through scanning devices with guards wearing face shields at the other end.”

  • Japan has "attributed about 1,700 deaths to COVID-19, having escaped soaring fatalities that have affected many other countries." It has also employed "strict controls over immigration" since the pandemic.

 

RIOT SET TO SHOP NEXT ESPORTS EFFORT WITH VALORANT

  • Riot Games is in discussions with brands about becoming the first sponsors of Valorant esports, sources tell SBJ’s Adam Stern, as it works to set up its new First Strike tournament.

  • Valorant is one of the games from Riot that debuted this year. This comes after Riot spent its first decade focused on building out League of Legends. Riot has yet to turn Valorant into any formal franchised league, opting to initially work on building up the scene around the game organically. But now Riot is producing First Strike, the game's first major esports tournament.

  • First Strike will be an eight-region tournament, with regional finals set for December. Riot announced this week that it is working with Nerd Street Gamers and Engine Media to stage qualifiers in North America; NSG already staged multiple Ignition Series Valorant tournaments earlier.

  • For more, check out SBJ Esports.

 

HORNETS HIRE CAA ICON TO HELP MAP OUT ARENA RENOVATIONS 

  • The Hornets have "hired sports venue consultant CAA Icon to help the NBA franchise map out future upgrades at Spectrum Center." Lease terms between the city and the team "call for periodic improvements at the arena to keep the building competitive with the rest of the NBA," per the Charlotte Business Journal.

  • The city and the Hornets are "midway through a two-year negotiating period for renovations slated to begin construction next fall."

  • Hornets President Fred Whitfield said, "We’ve just started our discussions with the city about how we keep our arena state of the art, how we keep the competitive edge. And we want entertainers to want to choose our venue as the only venue to visit in the Carolinas."

NO FANS FOR U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN IN HOUSTON

  • Two months out from the start of the U.S. Women’s Open, the USGA has decided that fans "will not be allowed onsite at the Champions Golf Club in Houston for the championship," according to Golfworld

  • The decision "falls in line with the USGA holding the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September with no spectators." Additionally, the LPGA has "yet to play any event where fans have been permitted since restarting its schedule on July 31." 

  • The USGA announcement comes just days after the PGA Tour revealed that a "limited number of fans will be allowed at the Vivint Houston Open in two weeks." Two thousand daily tickets are being sold for that tournament, "marking the first PGA Tour event in the United States that will allow general admission fans onsite since the tour restarted play in June."

 

SPEED READS

  • Fanatics reached an exclusive long-term partnership with Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, who will join its roster of athletes housed under the company’s memorabilia and collectibles division, Fanatics Authentic. Fanatics will become the sole distributor of Brady’s full assortment of autographs, collectibles and memorabilia, which will feature a significantly expanded collection of Buccaneers products such as footballs, helmets and jerseys. Brady was a key part of the All In Challenge, the charitable effort sparked by Fanatics Exec Chair Michael Rubin, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer.
  • The NFL's viewership picture is "taking clearer shape," as the Week 6 numbers were, "on balance, some of the best the league has seen all year," per Yahoo Sports. While some fans are tuning out of the NFL because of "objections to social justice messaging," there is "no consistency to the ratings declines that would lead one to believe those fans have truly boycotted the league once and for all." 

  • Rays LF Randy Arozarena tonight during World Series Game 2 will look to continue the hot hitting he has displayed thus far during the postseason -- last night's 0-3 notwithstanding -- and his debut on the national landscape has led to an explosion of fans on social media. The ALCS MVP has gained more than 25,000 followers on Instagram since he helped eliminate the Yankees from the playoffs on Oct. 9, per SportsAtlas. That represents a 170% jump in followers. The largest single-day increase came on Oct. 18, the day after the Rays clinched their second World Series berth. The rookie saw a 24% increase from the previous day. 

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 
 
SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

Nov. 1 Deadline For Forty Under 40 Nominations Approaching

Sports Business Journal will recognize the next generation of sports leaders with the 2021 Class of Forty Under 40

Do you know a young sports business executive whose work is leading and reshaping the industry? Do not miss your chance to nominate them for this honor.

Visit www.FortyUnder40Awards.com to nominate yourself or someone else. 

Nominations close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 1.

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: Dodgers Co-Owner Expects MLB To Be "Back To Normal" In 2022

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Dodgers co-wner Todd Boehly expects the baseball industry will not return to normalcy until 2022. 

  • A World Series like no other gets under way tonight.
  • ESPN's Seth Markman on producing "College GameDay"
  • WTA nears end of turbulent 2020 season
  • Sue Bird leads WNBA social value with playoff run
  • No end to make good season for sponsors and their agencies
  • Opendorse launches new products ahead of NCAA's NIL vote

 

DODGERS CO-OWNER PREACHES PATIENCE FOR RETURN TO NORMALCY

  • Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly ahead of tonight's World Series Game 1 said the baseball industry likely will not return to normal until at least 2022, per the L.A. Times.

  • Boehly, speaking on a panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference, said, "We’re looking for 2022 to start to feel normal again, while we work through this in 2021."  He added that the Dodgers are considering how to be proactive in working with public health officials and helping to lead a community response, rather than just waiting for guidance. 

  • Boehly: "We’re starting to think a lot about, come March, what are the proper testing protocols, and how are we going to get fans back into stadiums, and how can we test at scale? How can we have testing protocols that get people safely back into the seats, even if we have a vaccine? We think this is now going to be in our backpack of risks, and we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with it. Hopefully, quick, cheap testing is going to be one of the many tools that we have, and we’re seeing that develop faster and faster.”

 

RAYS-DODGERS WORLD SERIES GETS UNDER WAY

  • The Rays and Dodgers begin the World Series tonight in Arlington, and it marks the "most unique" in history, played on a "neutral site, with sparse attendance, mixed in with canned crowd noise, between two teams who didn't play a regular-season game in the Central Time zone all season," per USA Today. This season was the first with no fans in the stands until the NLCS, making the World Series the "first time the Rays will see fans all year, and with the capacity limited to less than 11,500, it may feel like a home game at Tropicana Field." The environment will be "like no other, but it will be a real World Series."

  • The L.A. Times writes the MLB season "came out right, after all." A season that "required an extraordinary effort to pull off is about to crown a credible champion."

  • Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman had a "major hand in transforming the Rays from among baseball’s worst to one of the best, and now they’re playing in the World Series against a Dodgers team he took over in late 2014 and has run incredibly successfully," per the Tampa Bay Times. Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg said, "I understand why he left, but I don’t understand why anybody ever doesn’t want to be part of what we’re doing."

  • SBJ's Eric Prisbell will be on hand for Game 1 tonight from Globe Life Field. Check back tomorrow night for his recap of what it's like to attend a World Series game amid a pandemic.

 

ESPN’S SETH MARKMAN TAKES DEEP DIVE INTO "GAMEDAY" PRODUCTION

  • ESPN VP/Production Seth Markman said out of all the shows that ESPN has, none have been "more affected" by the pandemic than "College GameDay." Today, Markman -- who oversees the show’s production -- sat down with SBJ’s Andrew Levin to discuss producing “GameDay” broadcasts at present, with “half of the usual number” of personnel working on-site. Among key takeaways from the conversation:

    • On COVID testing: “I had concerns about testing … which we have to do on site every week. Your nervous when things like that are out of your control. We had some stumbling blocks along the way on testing, whether it was a couple false positives we had, inconclusives that we were getting.” 

    • The importance of taking “GameDay” on the road: “Traveling to college campuses is really part of ‘GameDay’s’ DNA. We’ve been doing it since 1993. We wanted that to continue. We wanted to stay true to what the show was. This show is not made to be made in a studio.”

    • On eventually hosting fans for a broadcast this season: “We’ve explored some ideas down the road, if there’s any way to have limited fans safely with distancing. We’re open to that. We’re not there yet.”

    • On production advancements that will last post-pandemic: “Some of the access we’ve been able to get this year has really been special and I think that’ll last way past the pandemic. We’ve been able to dial into interviews with coaches in their hotels, on the field before games, things that we couldn’t do that technology has actually allowed this year.”

    • An area the “GameDay” crew would love to go but hasn’t yet: “Las Vegas, for instance, is something that we’ve brought up from time to time would be a cool place to take ‘GameDay.’ I could see that happening someday with their great new stadium. But I think this year, unfortunately, it’s just probably not realistic to take a whole lot of risks.”

  • For more insights from Markman on “College GameDay,” check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.

 

 

WTA NEARS END OF TURBULENT 2020 SEASON

  • The J&T Banka Ostrava Open is underway this week in the Czech Republic, a big achievement for the WTA given the rise of COVID cases in the Eastern European nation in recent weeks, writes SBJ's Bret McCormick.

  • No fans will be in attendance for what is, at the moment at least, the penultimate event on the tour’s 2020 calendar. The pandemic has decimated the WTA’s year, wiping out its lucrative Asian stretch of tournaments in the fall, including the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China. The WTA’s 2020 calendar began with 59 tournaments (counting the Grand Slams), but 45 WTA events (including Slams and combined tournaments with the ATP) have been impacted this season. Thirty-three were canceled outright.
  • As it stands, the Upper Austria Ladies Linz event, set for Nov. 9, is the final entry on the calendar, though a few top players have indicated that their individual seasons are already finished. A third tournament, the Hana Bank Korea Open, still has a “TBD” next to its date. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 6 but its status is unknown. The WTA did not respond to an email seeking more information about the remaining 2020 schedule. 

  • It’s unclear why the ATP was able to put together a 10-event run post-Roland-Garros, while the WTA potentially only has two. Perhaps the women’s tour is done with what has often felt like a game of whack-a-mole to try to dodge the pandemic and safely host tournaments on a global stage. Some within the WTA are already looking to 2021, including the Volvo Car Open, which last week announced that, in addition to commencing major stadium renovations, it will hold its tournament next year – with or without fans -- after canceling its 2020 edition in April. 

 

SUE BIRD LEADS WNBA SOCIAL VALUE WITH PLAYOFF RUN

  • Lebron James was not the only basketball icon to secure a fourth championship ring earlier this month -- Seattle’s Sue Bird led the Storm to a WNBA championship over the Las Vegas Aces, further cementing her legacy as one of the best players in league history. According to data from Zoomph analyzed by SportsAtlas’ Will Cavanaugh, Bird’s success carried over to social media during the 2019-20 WNBA season.

  • An analysis of post mentions of player handles/names and WNBA on Twitter revealed Bird was mentioned in conjunction with the league more than 3,700 times, which resulted in a league-leading $683,834 in social value. Bird’s teammate, Breanna Stewart, finished a close second in social value with $637,115 earned across 4,300 mentions.

  • Rounding out the top five in the league were Aces forward A’ja Wilson ($614,057), Los Angeles Sparks forward and TNT analyst Candace Parker ($464,917), and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi ($340,669). Zoomph’s social values are calculated using industry-standard cost-per-engagement (CPE) and cost-per-impression (CPM) metrics.

 

NO END TO MAKE-GOOD SEASON

  • As MLB reaches its ninth inning, and the NFL nears its halfway point, one season shows no sign of ending. For sponsors and their agencies, it’s been make-good season since the pandemic began -- and it will be for some time to come, writes SBJ's Terry Lefton. “Since March, we’ve been either negotiating or renegotiating,’’ said Momentum Worldwide Chair & CEO Chris Weil, whose client roster includes heavy sports spenders like American ExpressVerizon and Subway. “Figuring out the current value of any sports venue deal when there are no or few people in them is something none of us have ever done." 

  • Then there’s the not-inconsiderable matter of how many fans will be permitted at venues next year. Adding to that opaqueness is the lack of specificity regarding a schedule, especially after a year in which the NHL and NBA postseasons finished in the fall. Brands that sponsor sports typically make their plans 12-18 months out. "Confusion in the sports calendar is making brands more conservative," said Molly Arbogast, Founder & CEO of POV Sports Marketing.

  • As MKTG Canada Chair Brian Cooper explained: “Companies align with properties because their season matches their peak sale seasons. How will that change?" One agency Senior VP said: “We’ve moved from short-term blocking and tackling to, ‘How can we protect our clients, when we don’t even know when seasons will start?' Some are writing into contracts that a third-party expert will establish valuations later, but that’s like saying we’ll get a weatherman now to tell us the February temperatures."

  • For more, check out today's issue of SBJ Marketing.

 

OPENDORSE LAUNCHING NEW PRODUCTS AHEAD OF NCAA'S NIL VOTE

  • Opendorse, the tech company that connects brands with athletes, will launch two new products in late 2020 focused on the developing name, image and likeness marketplace in college athletics, reports SBJ's Michael Smith.

  • With the NCAA preparing to vote on NIL rights in January, Opendorse said that it is forming Opendorse Deals and Opendorse Monitor to better organize its offerings for the college space, while also enhancing oversight and security in a new marketplace of 460,000 college athletes who are expected to have NIL rights next year.

    • Opendorse Deals will essentially create a digital marketplace that provides brands and athletes the ability to find one another and then negotiate each step of an endorsement deal, whether it is an appearance for a fee or a branded social media post on an athlete's account.

    • Opendorse touts Monitor as a tool for college compliance departments to stay on top of NIL activity at their school, making sure endorsement deals are with credible parties and helping the athletes stay within whatever guidelines the NCAA ultimately sets. “The athlete market must be tech-driven, not just for the pros, but soon for student athletes,” Opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence said.

  • For more on Opendorse, see tonight's issue of SBJ College.

 

SPEED READS

  • The ongoing pandemic could impact MLS "far beyond this fall’s playoffs by pushing the start of the 2021 season back," according to the L.A. Times' Kevin Baxter. A source said that MLS "may be hesitant to start a new season in empty stadiums since income is its largest source of revenue." The delay would "presumably last until a majority of teams were given permission by local health officials to allow spectators back into their stadiums." 

  • Former LAFC President Tom Penn, who stepped down in mid-August to become the CEO of new venture Co.Protect, is also no longer a part-owner in the club, a team spokesperson confirmed to SBJ's Mark J. Burns. LAFC bought back Penn’s undisclosed stake around the time of his departure earlier this summer. Penn remains an executive consultant with the club. According to the spokesperson, LAFC isn’t actively looking for investors at this time.
  • Expect to see a lot more of augmented reality in the college sports world via a startup called College Emojis. SBJ's Bret McCormick this week in our print issue writes about how CLC has already begun putting the tech to work, starting with College Colors Day in early September. With the help of Sportsmanias, a company that has partnered with College Emojis, CLC created AR social media filters for 22 schools. For more, check out SBJ College tonight.

  • Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is "one significant step closer to becoming the owner of the Mets." MLB’s Ownership Committee "approved Cohen to be the team’s next owner, with sources saying Cohen received seven of the eight votes on the board." Next up will be the eight-owner Executive Committee, "followed by the full ownership group, when Cohen will need 23 of 30 votes" for his $2.475 billion purchase of the Mets to go through. 

  • Following Doc Emrick's retirement, Mike Tirico, the "face of NBC Sports, figures to be in the discussion when its network executives decide what to do next," according to the N.Y. Post. Kenny Albert "could very well be the next man up," as he is NBC's No. 2 NHL play-by-play man and has done conference finals and the Olympics for years. But Tirico also is a "hockey guy and has called a few games for the network over the past few years."

  • The Tulsa Drillers, the Dodgers’ Class AA affiliate, are allowing fans to watch tonight’s World Series game on ONEOK Field’s 31.5x67.75-foot video board, reports SBJ’s David Broughton. Admission is free, and beer and hot dogs will be for sale. In what was a $1 million makeover, Fair-Play, a division of Trans-Lux Corp, installed the new board and replaced the stadium’s other video displays after the 2019 season. The club brought its food and beverage operations in-house in 2019. Nearly half of the Dodgers’ roster consists of players who played for the Drillers. “Each year we do an annual season ticket member appreciation event,” said Drillers VP/Marketing Justin Gorski. “This year it coincided with the Dodgers making it to the World Series and with COVID eliminating the season we decided to open it up for anyone who wanted to stop by.”
     

 

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Nov. 1 Deadline For Forty Under 40 Nominations Approaching

Sports Business Journal will recognize the next generation of sports leaders with the 2021 Class of Forty Under 40

Do you know a young sports business executive whose work is leading and reshaping the industry? Do not miss your chance to nominate them for this honor.

Visit www.FortyUnder40Awards.com to nominate yourself or someone else. 

Nominations close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 1.

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: Titans Face Fine, But No Further Discipline From NFL

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The Titans face a potential fine following the NFL and NFLPA's protocol investigation, but the team avoids individual discipline and the loss of draft picks.

  • Update on J.J. Watt's interest in Utah Soccer Holdings
  • Tiger Woods' 2020 Hero World Challenge canceled 
  • Inter Miami CF sees high engagement rate on social in first season
  • Slate co-founders break down new investments
  • NBA begins meeting with TV partners on plans for next season
  • U.S. Figure Skating gets creative with return to ice

 

TITANS FACE POTENTIAL FINE FOLLOWING NFL INVESTIGATION

  • The NFL and NFLPA this afternoon informed the Titans that their review into the team's COVID-19 outbreak has concluded, and while the organization "will face a potential fine," individuals will not be disciplined and there is "no discussion of forfeiture of draft picks," reports ESPN's Adam Schefter

  • Schefter reports the league found the Titans' facility to be "in compliance" with league mandated protocols. But there were "incidents of people not wearing masks" and also "insufficient communication" regarding the controversial workout at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy on Sept. 30.

  • NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the Titans were "fully cooperative with the review, providing documents and video and helping to facilitate interviews." However, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reports "many other teams believed stern penalties" were in order with "so many around the league already fined."

 

FANS FACE STEEP PRICES FOR LIMITED CAPACITY WORLD SERIES

  • Fans wanting to attend tomorrow’s World Series Game 1 between the Dodgers and Rays will need at least $1,178 to get into Arlington’s Globe Life Field, according to last minute event ticket company Gametime. The most expensive ticket for Game 1 comes in at $17,874, reports SBJ's Karn Dhingra. Last year, the Houston Chronicle reported the average ticket price for the first two World Series games at Minute Maid Park was about $950. 

  • Prices for subsequent games increase with a get-in price of $1,464 for Game 2. The get-in price for Games 3-5 averages $2,288. The most expensive ticket for Game 4 is $6,803 while the most expensive ticket for Games 3 and 5 is $3,627 and $2,857, respectively. 
     
  • Game 6 has a get-in price of $1,473, with the most expensive ticketing coming in at $2,188. Game 7, should it be necessary, has the widest range in prices with a get-in of $484, while the most expensive ticket is $21,776.

 

SOURCE: WATT REMAINS INTERESTED IN UTAH SOCCER HOLDINGS

  • Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and his representatives remain interested in finding a way for him to be involved in the sale of Utah Soccer Holdings, regardless of who the future buyer might be, a source familiar with the situation tells SBJ’s Mark J. Burns.

  • Watt, whose wife Kealia Ohai Watt is a Utah native and plays for the Chicago Red Stars (NWSL), initially expressed his interest on Twitter in late August. Utah Soccer, which includes Real Salt Lake (MLS) and other pro soccer teams and related properties, is currently for sale after reports surfaced two months ago alleging racism and inappropriate behavior by Owner Dell Loy Hansen and Chief Business Officer Andy Carroll.

  • Last month, SBJ reported early-stage talks around the sale of Utah Soccer Holdings were beginning around $500 million.

 

TIGER WOODS' 2020 HERO WORLD CHALLENGE CANCELED

  • Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge has been canceled for 2020, reports Golf Digest's Joel Beall.

  • The event, played the last five years in New Providence, Bahamas, was scheduled to begin Dec. 3. However, current COVID-19 restrictions and quarantine protocols in the Bahamas "made hosting the tournament an impossibility." 

  • Woods has "hosted his charity event since 2000, with the proceeds going to his TGR Foundation." The 44-year-old has won the competition five times. Though it is "not considered an official event by the PGA Tour, the Hero has awarded Official World Golf Ranking points since 2009." The tour will tee it up that same week with the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Quintana Roo, Mexico on Dec. 3.

 

 

INTER MIAMI CF FINDS SOCIAL SUCESS IN INAUGURAL MLS SEASON

  • Inter Miami CF might be in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference in their inaugural MLS season, but the club is tops among MLS clubs on social media, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. From March 15 through Oct. 14, the first-year expansion club has the highest engagement rate on Twitter and Facebook at 1.22% and 1.93%, respectively. Trailing Miami on Twitter specifically are FC Cincinnati (0.98%), Minnesota United FC (0.97%), Columbus Crew (0.91%) and Chicago Fire (0.91%).

  • On Facebook, Inter Miami is third in engagement rate at 8.86%, only behind the Philadelphia Union (8.99%) and Minnesota (9.5%), according to Zoomph, a Reston, Va.-based company that specializes in social audience intelligence and sponsorship measurement.

  • Over the last seven months, Atlanta United has generated the most impressions (2.69 billion) on Twitter, followed by Orlando City SC (1.51 billion) and the Seattle Sounders (1.22 billion). The L.A. Galaxy led on Facebook with (53.49 million impressions) as well as Instagram (79.96 million) during the same time frame.

 

SLATE CO-FOUNDERS BREAK DOWN NEW INVESTMENTS 

  • Earlier this month, mobile-first content-creation platform Slate announced seed investments from TitletownTech, a joint venture by the Packers and Microsoft, and WISE Ventures, owned by the Vikings’ Wilf family.

  • Slate co-Founder & CEO Michael Horton told SBJ’s Andrew Levin on how the investments came together, “We definitely had a leg up with both of them in that the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers were both already customers of ours when we started these conversations, so it was really easy for them to do due diligence.”

  • Co-Founder & COO Eric Stark said Slate plans to utilize the investments to “kick start the development that we see as kind of the next step of where we can really expand.” He cited bolstering the company’s tech side to be able to continue to innovate and make updates. Stark -- the former NFL Director of Int’l Marketing & Content Strategy -- also listed pursuing expansion with league deals and expanding globally. He said, “We think there’s opportunity for league deals that come with some of the technology that we’re building that will help make it easier for leagues to manage assets across all their teams.”

  • Stark added that Slate already has some customers in the Premier League and Bundesliga. “We’re really looking to ramp that up, especially across Europe,” Stark said.

  • For more insights from Horton and Stark on Slate, check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.

 

SOURCES: NBA MEETING WITH NETWORKS THIS WEEK ABOUT 2020-2021 SEASON

  • The Ringer's Bill Simmons cites sources as saying the NBA will have meetings with its TV partners this week to decide on the start date for the next season, with the consensus leaning towards "sooner rather than later" in order to keep the 2021-2022 season on track.

  • Simmons, on his eponymous podcast, said: "The thinking is, this next season is screwed now. Fans aren’t going to be back till god only knows. They have to preserve the season after. ...The move, which I think they’re starting to talk themselves into and I know they have talks about it this week with the networks, you bite the bullet. You start it sooner than later. You go like 70 games, get rid of the All-Star Break. … You try to get it done by mid-July. … They need to preserve the next season." 
  • Simmons also said the long-rumored Christmas Day season start date likely lost traction amid the 37% viewership drop for the postseason. "The thing that they learned is that nobody watches television in August, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not. The ratings just aren't going to be as good. Then September was just a catastrophe going against football and then the election. You know what really worked? Having the Finals in June, the offseason in July. You own those two months. They want to get back to that, or some version of that."

 

U.S. FIGURE SKATING PLANS TAPED EXHIBITION FOLLOWING RETURN TO ICE

  • The return of top-tier figure skating to American soil this weekend will be followed by a taped exhibition performance, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith. This weekend’s Skate America will be broadcast live on NBC and NBCSN Friday-Sunday, and on Monday the event’s competitors will perform in a recorded, two-hour “skating spectacular” to be aired on November 1, filling the broadcast window initially planned for the canceled Skate Canada event.  
  • U.S. Figure Skating CMO Ramsey Baker said the NGB had strategized the backup plan well in advance of the calendar changes. “That was something we already were working on, with the idea being that we wanted to have safety nets,” said Baker. “That’s been part of that contingency planning of not waiting for something, but being ready for something when it doesn’t work.”

  • For more on this weekend's Skate America event, check out Smith's latest in today's print issue of SBJ.

 

SPEED READS

  • NBC Sports NHL announcer Mike Emrick today announced he is retiring from his role, but he "will remain a member of NBC Sports by occasionally writing and narrating video essays for its NHL coverage," according to the Detroit News. Emrick "combined an unabashed excitement for the game with a long and unique vocabulary of words while describing the action -- a characteristic that appealed to hockey and non-hockey fans alike." For more Emrick tributes from around the industry, click here.

  • Wyndham has dropped its sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Rewards Top 10 program, reports SBJ's John Lombardo. The program pays $10 million in bonuses to the 10 players who ranked in the top 10 of the FedExCup standings during the Tour’s season. The Tour will continue the Top 10 program and expects to announce a new sponsor in the coming months. Wyndham began its sponsorship in the rewards program in 2019. The company will continue to keep its title sponsorship of the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro.

  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune collected public statements under the header, "What They're Saying About Sid Hartman." Among those to salute the longtime sports columnist, who passed away over the weekend, were MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig, Vikings co-Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf and T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor. Be sure to read SBD's full story on Hartman here, and look for a tribute from John Ourand in SBJ Media tonight.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: Can Football Keep The Momentum Going?

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL heads into another weekend with plenty of questions around potential virus ramifications. 

  • Cardinals become 16th NFL team to gain clearance to allow fans
  • SEC planning to punish teams breaking protocols
  • Uncertain football schedule has TV advertisers worried
  • Inside theScore's strategy around sports betting
  • Presidential campaigns look to target more sports broadcasts

 

NFL CONTINUES TO NAVIGATE AROUND POSITIVE TESTS ON TEAMS

  • News around positive COVID-19 tests in the NFL and their impact on upcoming games dominated the headlines late this week. Most recently, the Patriots canceled today’s practice amid reports that "another person has tested positive for coronavirus" and that "it is a player." The team also is "awaiting the results of a second test to confirm if an additional person has also tested positive." The Patriots are scheduled to host the Broncos on Sunday.
  • There was good news for the Colts, who were set to "re-open the practice facility" this afternoon after four members who previously tested positive returned negative tests Friday morning. Upon learning of the positive tests early Friday, the Colts "initially shut down the facility and moved all meetings and work online, conducting everything virtually as the samples were re-tested."
  • The Falcons, another team dealing with virus uncertainty, had zero new positives from Thursday's round of testing and "resumed in-person work under the NFL's supplemental intensive protocols," meaning Sunday's game against the Vikings "remains on as scheduled." On Thursday, the Falcons "held virtual work after a positive test, but the result was to an assistant coach, not a player."

 

NFL HITTING HALFWAY MARK ON TEAMS ALLOWING FANS

  • The Cardinals announced today they will be allowed to host 1,200 fans inside State Farm Stadium at their next home game on Oct. 25, becoming the 16th team -- half the NFL -- to gain government clearance for fans, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer.
  • The 1,200-person limit is less than 2% of the venue’s 63,400-seat capacity, making the Arizona Dept. of Public Health among the most conservative of local authorities that have allowed fans. The Phoenix area ranks 24th out of 30 NFL markets for total community spread of COVID-19 currently, with a 14-day rolling average of 8 cases per 100,000, according to NFLPA tracking data.
  • According to the Cardinals, the permission is for Oct. 25 only, with decisions about future games still to come. The teams that still do not have approval: Chargers/Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Raiders, Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions, Bills, Jets/Giants, Patriots, Saints, Washington, Ravens.

 

The Cardinals are set to become the 16th NFL team to allow fans after having played home games fan-less so far this season
Photo: getty images

 

SEC PLANS TO CRACK DOWN ON SCHOOLS VIOLATING PROTOCOLS

  • Multiple SEC schools "will have revenue from the conference deducted" as a result of "not following proper COVID-19 protocols," according to ESPN sources. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a memo sent last week wrote that schools "will have their conference revenue distribution cut by $100,000 for each week that they do not follow protocols."
  • Sankey wrote, "Do not relax -- and do not let those around you relax -- because of a few weeks of success." That line was "underlined and bolded for emphasis." This week has been "anything but successful" for the conference, as Vanderbilt-Missouri and LSU-Florida were "postponed as a result of coronavirus outbreaks."
  • With more outbreaks and even Nick Saban testing positive, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd writes the SEC may "soon have to consider pausing the season." The SEC has been "out front with its protocols," and until this week, its plan to wait until Sept. 26 to start the season "looked brilliant." Dodd: "If the ability of Alabama and -- by extension -- the SEC to contend for a championship is impacted, what kind of season is it anyway?"

 

SHIFTING FOOTBALL SCHEDULE HAS TV AD BUYERS WORRIED

  • The rescheduling of games in the NFL and across college football is "putting TV advertisers on edge" and has "dampened demand for college football in particular," according to Digiday. Sports marketing agency rEvolution Exec VP/Media & Business Development Larry Mann said, "It’s a slow marketplace, primarily because of the uncertainty and ambiguity."
  • That uncertainty was "amplified this week with multiple college football games set for this Saturday being postponed." TV ad buying agency Marketing Architects VP/Media Ron Blevins said, "I wouldn’t characterize what we’ve seen as a significant uptick in demand. We’re still seeing a depressed marketplace. The uncertainty is causing it to be more depressed."
  • TV networks had "prepared for this dynamic to an extent," as "most of their football inventory is secured in long-term deals, between corporate sponsorships and upfront commitments." Meanwhile, networks have "refrained from offering guarantees to some advertisers buying their football inventory in the so-called 'scatter' market, where networks sell the inventory left unclaimed by upfront advertisers."

 

THESCORE TAKES OWN STRATEGY TO CAPITALIZE ON SPORTS BETTING MARKET

  • TheScore has had a busy 2020, expanding its U.S. sports betting operations, which had only been in New Jersey, to Colorado and Indiana. The Toronto-based company is planning to enter Iowa once the state legalizes betting in January. That has led to a focus on creating a harmonious experience for app users, wherever they are. “Being able to use a single app across states with a multi-state wallet. … It's the same app experience (state-to-state). Your balance follows with you,” theScore President & COO Benjie Levy told SBJ’s David Rumsey.
  • With plenty of other companies vying for customers in the sports betting space, theScore is focused on sticking to it own strategy. Levy pointed to the integrated approach theScore app takes by being both a media and betting platform. “It's not just about advertising and promotions and user acquisition,” Levy said. “It's winning in the long-run by presenting your consumers with a truly differentiated offering.”
  • Although this year has seen huge developments in the sports betting space, with a new deal or partnership being announced almost every day, the headlines Levy has been following the most revolve around the pandemic. He said, “What matters to me is that they play the games. … That we're able to be in an environment where we're able to play the games and we're able to engage our fans and our patrons.”
  • As theScore looks toward the future, Levy is excited about the growth of mobile and live betting that attracts a younger, tech-savvy demographic. “The whole type of in-game experience that we can deliver to fans lends itself, very, very well to our approach of integrating betting in into a fan’s media experience,” he said.

 

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ADS HITTING SPORTS TELECASTS IN SWING STATES

  • WWE "Friday Night Smackdown" viewers watching Pittsburgh’s WPGH-Fox affiliate tonight will see a 30-second spot paid for by the Donald J. Trump for President campaign, kicking off a weekend where the election's two candidates have ordered more than $700,000 in ad time to run during sportscasts on local network affiliates across the country, writes SBJ's David Broughton.
  • An ad spending analysis in this week’s SBJ shows that President Trump has bought 93 ads totaling $532,000 to run across 22 battleground markets this weekend. More than half of that spend is scheduled to air in Tampa during college football on WFTS-ABC and NFL coverage on WTVT-Fox Sunday. Trump’s total would have been even higher, but the orders he placed back in the summer for weekly spots to run in Ohio and Michigan during Big Ten football games, which can run up to $60,000 per minute, were all cancelled.
  • Joe Biden has 20 local spots scheduled to run, at a cost of $173,000, and 70% of that will come during "Football Night in America" and "Sunday Night Football" telecasts on NBC stations in Phoenix, Atlanta, Denver and Green Bay.

 

 

SPEED READS

  • The Sabres and BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York have partnered to provide 10,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits to several schools across the community. Each kit includes face coverings and hand sanitizer to help keep teachers, students and staff safe as they resume in-person education. On Monday, Sabres GM Kevyn Adams and representatives from Pegula Sports & Entertainment will join BlueCross Blue Shield Senior VP/Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Julie Snyder to deliver PPE kits to Buffalo Public School educators.
  • Ted Griggs is leaving NBC Sports Regional Networks, where he has been President of Group and Strategic Production & Programming since 2016, reports SBJ's John Ourand. In an email sent to staff on Thursday, NBC Sports Group Chair Pete Bevacqua said Griggs is moving back to the Bay Area, where he previously had spent 18 years with NBC Sports Bay Area. NBC Sports Regional Networks President & Group Leader Bill Brigden will take over Griggs’ duties.
  • ESPN+ has acquired the U.S. media rights in both English and Spanish to the Scottish Premiership, Scotland's top pro soccer league. As part of the agreement, the streaming service will carry at least one Scottish Premiership match per week, beginning Oct. 17, and will also have coverage of select matches from the Scottish Championship, Scottish League Cup and Scottish Challenge Cup
  • Suspended driver Kyle Larson has applied for reinstatement to NASCAR, and while the sanctioning body did not confirm it Friday, the request is expected to be approved in the coming weeks, sources told SBJ's Adam Stern. NASCAR on Friday afternoon confirmed that Larson applied for reinstatement earlier in the week and said that it is still reviewing the request. But sources told SBJ that there are not expected to be any issues at this point and that it will be approved in short order after he served around a 30-race suspension.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: Orlando City Close To Being Sold

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Orlando City SC appears set to be the latest pro franchise to change hands. 

  • Gayle Benson's new investment firm closes initial funding round
  • Top NFL fan concern shifts from pandemic to election
  • Cowboys' Elliott tops NFL jersey sales in Mexico/Latin America
  • EA Sports reaps benefits of stay-at-home
  • Yahoo Sports GM on navigating unique fantasy season

 

SOURCES: ORLANDO CITY OWNER CLOSE TO SELLING TEAM

  • Orlando City SC Majority Owner Flávio Augusto da Silva is nearing the final stages of a sale to an unknown buyer, multiple sources tell SBJ’s Mark J. Burns and Chris Smith. It’s unclear if other assets within the Orlando Sports Holdings LLC portfolio -- which include the NWSL Orlando Pride, USL League One Orlando City B and Exploria Stadium -- would be included in the sale. Sources cautioned that talks could still break down and a deal might not be reached. The potential buyer is believed to be based in North America.
  • Orlando joined MLS in 2015 after da Silva paid a $70 million expansion fee. The team has quietly been on and off the market since at least 2018, according to several soccer and finance sources. Finance sources have referred to the long-running sale efforts as one of the worst-kept secrets in sports, and one finance source said that, in 2018, there was a stretch when Orlando was the only major U.S. pro team available.
  • Sources have characterized the soccer investment by da Silva as just that -- an investment and business transaction where he could eventually turn a profit. In other words, da Silva wasn’t getting involved in the league for the long-haul.
  • In March 2018, da Silva sold down his ownership of the operation, selling an 8.63% stake in Orlando Sports Holdings LLC to investor Albert Friedberg. The transaction valued the entire operation at $490.5 million and left da Silva with a nearly 79% stake. Last year, da Silva publicly floated the idea of a further sell-down to Brazilian publication Estadão.
  • Orlando recently had a separate minority transaction where Jed Kaplan, part-owner of the Grizzlies and English second-tier soccer club Swansea City, purchased a LP stake from a former minority owner.

 

GAYLE BENSON CLOSES FIRST INVESTMENT ROUND FOR NEW ORLEANS FIRM

  • Saints Owner Gayle Benson's new venture capital firm has closed its first fund with external backing from key New Orleans-area companies such as Entergy Corp. and the Raising Cane’s restaurant chain, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer.
  • Benson Capital Partners in a statement said that the $50 million Benson Capital Fund I is the largest locally created venture fund in New Orleans history. It will target “fast-growing, scalable companies” in hopes of developing entrepreneurship, innovation and job growth. The fund will be led day-to-day by Managing Director Mike Katz, a veteran of Battery Ventures and Naspers, and Director Caroline Crumley, a Citigroup veteran.
  • Benson said she hopes the fund can create more success stories like her husband, the late Saints Owner Tom Benson. “While there remains limited investment capital in the Gulf South, we felt it was important that we try to fill that troublesome gap and support the next generation of great entrepreneurs,” Benson said. “It is important that we continue to be a catalyst promoting economic development for our region. This is just the first step.”

 

NFL RESEARCH: TOP FAN CONCERN SWITCHED FROM PANDEMIC TO ELECTION

  • After the pandemic shutdowns started in March, COVID-19 topped the list of fans' concerns and anxieties for months, according to the NFL’s regular surveys. But recently, the election has leapfrogged over the pandemic as the top non-football preoccupation, NFL CMO Tim Ellis said.

  • In the NFL Sports Poll Tracker dated Oct. 7, 83% of NFL fans said they were very/somewhat concerned about the election, compared to 81% who said the same about the pandemic. It was the fourth time in five weeks the election topped the pandemic, whereas prior to that the pandemic held the top spot, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer.

  • Both topics have rated very high all year, with at least 7 in 10 fans citing both the pandemic and election as big points of concern in every poll the NFL shared with me. Throw in high responses for a recession and civil unrest, and it’s totally unprecedented for sports to have so many challenges breaking through.

  • Ellis thinks there’s some upside. Since he joined two years ago, Ellis has wanted to personalize the NFL’s brand with a “helmets off strategy” -- leading with players’ personal interests and passions instead of the NFL’s traditional policy and procedures reputation. Social causes like racial equity and get-out-the-vote do just that, and Ellis says it’s paying off. “It shows an image of a progressive, evolving brand that I think is really … It's going to help us future-proof the NFL.”

 

EZEKIEL ELLIOTT TOPS NFL JERSEY SALES IN MEXICO/LATIN AMERICA

  • The NFLPA, via its licensing and marketing arm NFL Players Inc., this week entered into a multiyear agency agreement with Exim to expand its licensing portfolio throughout Mexico and the Latin America region. SBJ's David Broughton takes a look at the Top 25 officially licensed NFLPA jersey sales, according to Fanatics, in Mexico, Central and South America from March 1-Sept. 30.

  

TOP NFL PLAYER JERSEY SALES IN MEXICO/LATIN AMERICA (MARCH 1-SEPT. 30)
RANK
PLAYER
RANK
PLAYER
1
Ezekiel Elliott
14
Nick Bosa
2
Juju Smith-Schuster
15
Drew Brees
3
Jimmy Garoppolo
16
Ben Roethlisberger
4
Julian Edelman
17
Josh Allen
5
Dak Prescott
18
Zach Ertz
6
James Conner
19
Khalil Mack
7
Russell Wilson
20
Christian McCaffrey
8
Lamar Jackson
21
Carson Wentz
9
Tom Brady
22
Dalvin Cook
10
Aaron Rodgers
23
Derek Carr
11
Patrick Mahomes II
24
George Kittle
12
Phillip Lindsay
25
J.J. Watt
13
Amari Cooper
 
 
Download the
Chart

 

 

EA SPORTS REAPS BENEFITS OF STAY-AT-HOME

  • EA is “one of the many industries continuing to benefit from stay-at-home tailwinds” during the pandemic and is “seeing record demand for new releases, like ‘FIFA 21’ and record engagement on its network,” according to CNBC’s Julia Boorstin.

  • EA CEO Andrew Wilson, appearing on CNBC, said through the past six months the company has launched titles such as “UFC,” “Madden” and “FIFA 21” and “nearly doubled our e-sports programming.” Wilson said the “demand coming out of the gate” for “FIFA 21” was “really, really strong and continues to be really high. We’re reaching daily active user records.”

  • Wilson: “We’ve had tens of millions of people come into our network during COVID, to add to the hundreds of millions of people that we already had. We’re seeing them engage deeply in the new games that they’re playing even as parts of the world are kind of moving past COVID right now. Our expectation is that this growth we’ve seen wasn’t unnatural. It really was just an acceleration of a trend that we had already started to see pre-COVID.” 

 

YAHOO SPORTS GM ON NAVIGATING UNIQUE FANTASY SEASON

  • Yahoo Sports GM Geoff Reiss today stressed two key reasons why parent-company Verizon’s “deep and multifaceted” business relationship with the NFL has been so vital.

  • The first involves effectively navigating the fantasy football season amid COVID-related scheduling changes in the NFL. Reiss told SBJ’s Andrew Levin, “We’re not waiting to pick this stuff off of Twitter or the AP wire. We’re in regular contact with the league.” He added the NFL has “done a terrific job of keeping us informed as to the way they’re thinking is evolving and the way the different scenarios have played out.”

  • In addition, Reiss pointed to Verizon’s role as the official 5G provider of the NFL, saying 5G will “afford a depth of experience” in-stadium that “just isn’t practical today.” He explained, “The shorthand for the way I think about it … is that, when we’re attending sporting events live, we have a tendency to have to sacrifice a lot of the creature comforts we associate with watching games at home. (But) a lot of those comforts are going to get reintroduced with what we do in-stadium now because of 5G.”

  • For more insights from Reiss, check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast, focusing on the business of fantasy sports -- its past, present and future.

 

 

SPEED READS

  • NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills on a call with the media this afternoon acknowledged fans will start to see more and more players sent home from team facilities during the week due to "so much overlap" in symptoms between the flu/common cold and COVID-19. Sills: "We'll see that happening more and more frequently." SI's Albert Breer tweeted, "This one will be an issue, no doubt."
  • The Saints today continued their feud with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, tweeting out a list of NFL games that have been played in domes or enclosed stadiums with fans this season. The team noted there have be "no instances" of reported COVID clusters or outbreaks in these situations. Cantrell this afternoon said she had "no problems with (the) Saints having games in Baton Rouge," adding playing at LSU would be a "good solution for right now."
  • An email in February documenting possible concerns about the coronavirus' impact on the stock market "quickly spread through parts of the investment world," including to Panthers Owner David Tepper, the founder of Appaloosa Management, according to the N.Y. Times. The memo was written by William Callahan, a hedge-fund veteran and member of the Hoover Institution board, who attended a "three-day gathering of Hoover’s board."

  • SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference will "keep our attention on doing the best possible work and adjusting when issues arise" after a number of COVID-19 issues surround the conference this week, according to Yahoo Sports. This week's Vanderbilt-Missouri and LSU-Florida games were both postponed due to the virus, and Alabama coach Nick Saban and AD Greg Byrne both tested positive yesterday. Sankey noted this has been the SEC's "first messy week,” as there had been no SEC games canceled in the first three weeks of the season. Sankey: "Our testing plan has been effective. In this environment, there’s always going to be the potential for disruption. We’ve seen it in other leagues, now we’re experiencing it for the first time.”

  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey today stepped down after 13 years, and the team “quickly promoted” Exec VP Rafael Stone to fill the void, per the Houston Chronicle. Assistant GM Eli Witus also “will move up.” Sources said that Morey’s decision was “100 percent” his own. Morey became “one of the most well-known" GMs in sports but was "embroiled in controversy when he tweeted support for Hong Kong protestors … and causing an enormous rift with the NBA.”

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

  • During this crisis impacting the sports business, we want everyone to be up-to-date on the latest news and information. Tonight, the final Sports Business Daily section from the Intersport Brand Innovation Summit is free, outside the paywall. Below are the headlines.

    • Social Media Strategy Helps MLB Keep Fans Engaged This Season
    • How UnitedHealth Group Helped Create A Major Charity Golf Match
    • 49ers Put More Focus On Fans, Community During Pandemic Season
    • ViacomCBS Exec Jacqueline Parkes On Reaching Young Demographics

 
 
SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: NFL Punts On Pro Bowl

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL cancels the 2021 Pro Bowl, increasing the likelihood of "Week 18" to accommodate COVID-related postponements. 

  • Raiders look to host Super Bowl LVIII in 2024
  • LA28 CMO talks strategy behind multiple logos
  • JPMorgan Chase exec on activating at tennis' fanless U.S. Open
  • Hollywood ambitions underscore Ninja's move to CAA
  • Amazon to stream NFL Wild Card Game produced by CBS

 

NFL CANCELS PRO BOWL; RAIDERS INTERESTED IN HOSTING SB LVIII

  • The NFL today canceled the 2021 Pro Bowl, giving it flexibility to add a week to the regular season without moving Super Bowl LV from Feb. 7, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer.

  • In a statement after an owners’ meeting today, the NFL said, “The league will work closely with the NFLPA and other partners, to create a variety of engaging activities to replace the Pro Bowl game this season.” They promised a virtual recognition of players who are selected to Pro Bowl rosters through the usual means, including a fan vote that starts Nov. 17. The game had been slated for Jan. 31 at Allegiant Stadium, one week before Super Bowl LV during the postseason bye week.

  • With the cancellation, a “Week 18” could be added to the regular season to accommodate COVID-19 related postponements without affecting the Super Bowl. Owners also agreed today that the 2022 Pro Bowl should be at Allegiant, assuming that game can be played. Even aside from the possible need for an extended regular season, team and league sources had long considered the Pro Bowl to be in jeopardy of being canceled because it would require travel and lodging for hundreds of players and staff for an exhibition game. 

  • Meanwhile, the Raiders have expressed their interest in hosting Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in 2024, a source told Fischer. NFL owners created an opening in the Super Bowl schedule today by approving a plan to shift New Orleans’ hosting duties from 2024 to 2025 to avoid a Mardi Gras conflict. New Orleans was selected in 2018 to host in 2024, which would be its 11th time hosting. But in March, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to add a 17th game to the regular season -- which would push the 2024 Super Bowl from Feb. 4 to Feb. 11, just two days before Mardi Gras.


The Raiders have expressed their interest in hosting Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in 2024

 

LA28 CMO TALKS LAUNCH, STRATEGY BEHIND MULTIPLE LOGOS

  • LA28 CMO Amy Gleeson yesterday at the virtual Intersport Brand Innovation Summit broke down what she called the “fairly top secret” process through which the committee created and rolled out its official logos. The series of 26 distinct logos -- unveiled Sept. 1 -- involves the L, the 2, and the 8 being static, and each version of a logo with a different dynamic A, and each one designed alongside athletes and celebrities.

  • Gleeson stressed multiple logos made sense for the group because there is “not any one way to talk about Los Angeles.” She explained, “We wanted to ensure that we had a real collection of voices … Olympians, Paralympians, artists, entertainers and local community activists, all of whom could bring their unique perspective and vision to life.”

  • Gleeson said of working with non-athletes, including Reese Witherspoon, Billie Eilish and graffiti artist Chaz Bojorquez: “L.A. is, obviously, the center of entertainment and Hollywood. We knew we wanted to have a nod to that.”

  • Toward the end of the discussion, Gleeson looked toward the eight-year runway LA28 has to unveil new and expanded logos. “We have limitless possibilities, but at the same time, we need to make sure that we are very thoughtful in how we execute and how we roll out updates,” Gleeson said. She indicated brand-specific versions of the LA28 logo, as well as a plan for fans to design their own versions, are “on the roadmap, for sure.” 

 

JPMORGAN CHASE'S FRANK NAKANO ON ACTIVATING AT FANLESS U.S. OPEN

  • JPMorgan Chase Managing Director of Sports & Entertainment Marketing Frank Nakano said the prospects of fanless U.S. Open tennis“sounded terrible” when the notion was first discussed. But conversations between the USTA and Chase, specifically the host’s Ask Us Anything calls, helped pave a path forward.

  • Nakano, appearing at the Intersport Brand Innovation Summit, said, “They were candid and open, and early on, there were some things they didn't know either. ... A tournament with no fans is less valuable to all of us than a tournament (with) fans. But that said, we were all very excited that it was going to go on as planned and we could sort of adjust accordingly.” 

  • Nakano said Chase, like everyone, pivoted to a virtual experience at the U.S. Open. He said, "We bucketed in really three different categories. Our high-end, high touchpoint clients. And then we did something more for any customer, sort of replacing the 'Chase Lounge' experience that we try to offer onsite." The third tier was "people that may not be necessarily tennis fans, or really ever get a chance to participate or come to New York to be a part of that." Nakano: "It was a really interesting, as a marketer, set of dilemmas to try to solve for."

  • As businesses and events attempt to move back toward pre-COVID operations, which elements of these past few months continue? Nakano said, “How do we change the experience for fans, for attendees, for viewers? We've always talked about that. ... It's always been about security, but now there's a whole other layer of security, right? … How do we come onto this better and not just sort of repeating the same programs that we have in the past?"

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

HOLLYWOOD AMBITIONS UNDERSCORE NINJA'S MOVE TO CAA

  • Tyler “Ninja” Blevins’ ambitions to elevate himself from well-known gamer to entertainment icon were already well known, but the announcement this week that he is switching his representation to CAA is the clearest declaration yet, writes SBJ’s Adam Stern.

  • The L.A.-based Loaded had announced a multiyear extension with Blevins in March 2019, and the firm did everything from negotiate his move to Mixer and eventual return to Twitch, to signing countless other business opportunities as they worked to elevate his brand. Popdog COO Josh Swartz, whose company owns Loaded, told SBJ last December that the agency was working to place Blevins in movies and TV shows to cement his status as the Tony Hawk of gaming. 

  • Gaming industry execs said they viewed this move as indicative of Blevins’ desire to grow his presence even more, under the thinking that a mega agency like CAA can elevate him in a way that a gaming-focused agency couldn’t. CAA and Blevins announced the move through a story with The Hollywood Reporter, underscoring the audience that they were trying to reach with the news. 

  • CAA did not name an agent who will solely represent Blevins, as it takes a more team-like approach. THR said that Blevins would also still be managed by his wife, Jessica Blevins, and attorney Arash Khalili of Loeb & Loeb.

  • While Blevins’ competitive achievements in gaming are sometimes questioned by critics, his status as the most-known streamer in the U.S. has been virtually unassailable. Moving forward, the gaming industry will be keeping an eye on how CAA can further elevate his brand.

 

AMAZON TO STREAM NFL WILD CARD GAME PRODUCED BY CBS

  • Amazon will stream one of the two new NFL Wild Card playoff games planned for this season -- specifically the one that will be produced by CBS, sources confirmed to SBJ's John Ourand.

  • The deal, which was disclosed during today’s owner’s meeting but is not ready to be announced formally, comes on the heels of the tech company’s 11-game deal for “TNF” that it shares with Fox Sports. Amazon also will carry one game exclusively in Week 15 or 16 this season; the league has not decided which game that will be. The CBS Wild Card game also will be carried on CBS All-Access and Nickelodeon.

  • The Wall Street Journal was first with this news. Tonight’s issue of SBJ Media will have more on the deal.

 

SPEED READS

  • Alabama football coach Nick Saban and AD Greg Byrne have tested positive for the coronavirus, per a statement late this afternoon from the university. Both Saban and Byrne "left the facility immediately and went home to self-isolate." Saban said he is "asymptomatic at this time and was tested twice to confirm the first positive result," per WRBL.com.
  • The NBA Playoffs' viewership was predictably down sharply from its normal spring spot on the calendar, including a record-low figure for the NBA Finals, reports SBJ's Austin Karp. The declines for the NBA postseason are in line with the drops for other big sports properties, including the MLB Divisional Series (-40%), NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs (-61%), U.S. Open tennis (-45%), Kentucky Derby (-43%), college football (-30%) and U.S. Open golf (-42%). For the full breakdown, click here.


  • The potential merger between SPAC RedBall Acquisition Corp. and Fenway Sports Group is a "complicated deal, potentially worth billions," and if it is "ultimately consummated, it would have a wide-ranging impact, some of which can't yet be fully known," according to the Boston Sports Journal's Sean McAdam. In theory, the RedBall-FSG deal "could provide more working capital with which to operate" the Red Sox. But, due to its "international appeal, investing in soccer teams may prove more lucrative."

  • Saturday's scheduled LSU-Florida football game in Gainesville "has been postponed after the Gators have seen a surge in positive COVID-19 tests this week." The game has "tentatively been rescheduled for the SEC's built-in bye week on Dec. 12." UF AD Scott Stricklin said that the program has had 18 positives among players; Florida "shut down its football program on Tuesday after a number of tests came back positive." This is the "second game this week that has been postponed in the SEC, joining Missouri-Vanderbilt."


  • The NCAA today announced more than 450 selections of host sites for championship events, most coming between 2022-2023 and 2025-2026, and one of the more significant announcements was that Las Vegas will host an NCAA men’s basketball regional in 2023. It marks the city’s first NCAA event since the organization “changed a policy that prevented states with sports wagering from hosting championships.” Las Vegas also will host the 2026 Frozen Four. The NCAA also awarded WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. the D-I semifinal and final rounds for men’s soccer (2022, 2025); women’s lacrosse (2023, 2024);  and women’s soccer (2022, 2023, 2024). It is the most of any venue named in the NCAA’s announcement, per SBJ's David Broughton. For the complete breakdown, see today's issue of Closing Bell.

 



SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: NFL Vows To Stay Flexible

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL gives more credence to the possibility of Week 18, but plans for a bubble seem far off ... for now.

  • Univ. of Florida suspends football activities after outbreak
  • Bojangles CMO talks engaging consumers in 2020
  • T-Mobile's Amy Azzi on spurring creative change
  • Direct-to-consumer gets thumbs up from brewers
  • Synergy Sports CEO breaks down recent merger

 

NFL OPEN TO WEEK 18, BUT COOL ON BUBBLE

  • Top NFL officials acknowledged today they may need to extend the regular season by a week to account for COVID-19 postponements, but they have not discussed contingency plans beyond that -- such as canceling games outright. They also showed little interest in creating a bubble environment to protect players, either now or in the playoffs, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer.

  • The focus is on playing the 256 games in the 17-week window, knowing that potentially -- if more outbreaks force more schedule changes -- the 18th week "could be an option,” said Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent during an afternoon conference call with reporters.

  • With COVID-19 infections forcing multiple game postponements in the first five weeks, the league appears prepared to continue fine-tuning its protocols and stick with the schedule to the extent possible. Despite reports that the NFL has been evaluating the concept of a playoff bubble, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said, "We don’t feel that is the safest course of action for us,” while emphasizing that nothing has been ruled out.

  • In response to a question about punishment for the Titans, whose widespread outbreak has caused scheduling chaos, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “This is not about discipline, this is about making sure we’re keeping our personnel safe.”

  • Goodell also said he is “absolutely not” concerned with the NFL’s roughly 10% viewership decline, citing the changes to the schedule, unconventional broadcast windows and general uncertainty facing the world during the pandemic. He said comparisons to prior years are “difficult” and instead focused on comparing the league to other TV properties. "I think what we’re doing, and where our numbers demonstrate, is that we’re putting distance between us and every other programming, sports and entertainment included. We’re really pleased where we are."

  • Meanwhile, NFL owners are scheduled to vote on a plan tomorrow to move Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 out of New Orleans because of a conflict with Mardi Gras, instead giving the city hosting duties for Super Bowl LIX in 2025. Read more here.

 

UNIV. OF FLORIDA SUSPENDS FOOTBALL ACTIVITIES

  • The Univ. of Florida has "suspended all football activities because of a spike in positive COVID-19 tests," AD Scott Stricklin announced this afternoon. UF "reported five new cases in the past week," per the Tampa Bay Times. The situation "will be reevaluated Wednesday."

  • The outbreak news comes one day after Gators coach Dan Mullen "raised eyebrows" with his call to pack fans into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday for the team's scheduled game against LSU. The Gators had 2,000 of a "nearly 17,000 allotment unsold for their home opener against South Carolina two weeks ago," per ESPN.

 

 

BOJANGLES CMO ON ENGAGING CONSUMERS IN 2020

  • Bojangles CMO Jackie Woodward has been tasked with keeping the fast food chain relevant amid a tumultuous 2020. The veteran marketer today at the virtual Intersport Brand Innovation Summit stressed the importance of “starting with the consumer and what matters to them.”

  • For Bojangles, that meant maintaining its identity as a tailgate brand, even as fans were forced to watch live sports from home. Under Woodward’s guidance this fall, the chain partnered with 12 colleges, including Alabama and Clemson, as well as the NFL Panthers, on customized Big Bo Boxes for at-home watch parties. Woodward: “We figured this year, this might be the only way or one of the few ways for consumers to really engage with their passion points. … We had a hunch that has absolutely paid out.”

  • Other quick hits from Woodward: 

    • Elements she considers as a brand steward now compared to other times in her career? “There's a lot that hasn't changed. I like to think that the what of our roles will never change, but the how, has to change. … Creating demand, understanding consumers, creating those ideas, and then executing them with excellence -- that never changes.”

    • Still optimistic about sports as a platform? “If anything, I think sports is filling an even greater void for consumers than it has in the past.”

    • On what to watch in the next three-to-five months: “The ratings really matter and I think the social engagement matters. … Are (consumers) engaging with fun things and interesting things, or are they engaging with more serious topics? Sports has got to be that place where consumers can get away a little bit and enjoy themselves, and I think they're looking for that and we keep an eye on sentiment very carefully.”

    • On landing Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the first celebrity to voice the “It’s Bo Time” slogan: “Dale is a Bojangles fan and we met at the Darlington race last year. … It's been fun and great to work with him.” 

 

T-MOBILE'S AMY AZZI TALKS SPURRING CREATIVE CHANGE

  • The ability of brands to strengthen their relationships during challenging times and the pandemic’s ability to spur creative change in activation were key topics in a discussion with T-Mobile Senior Director of Sports Marketing & Sponsorships Amy Azzi at today’s Intersport Brand Innovation Summit.

  • Azzi said T-Mobile was able to leverage its capabilities as a telecom company to support longtime partner MLB during the league’s virtual draft in June. “They came to us and said, ‘Hey, what can you do to help us from a connectivity standpoint?’ And our T-Mobile for Business group really stepped up to the plate and provided devices, hotspots,” Azzi said. “We helped ensure optimal coverage across all of the locations and the venues, so that all of the clubs and the prospects were able to connect during that time virtually.”

  • Azzi also pointed to T-Mobile’s Beyond the Bases promotion as “a pivot that we made specifically due to the pandemic.” The video series, which features Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks conducting personal but lighthearted interviews with MLB stars, was a significant shift in T-Mobile’s promotional strategy.

  • “We've historically armed our regional marketing teams with our trucks, and our retail stores, with assets and opportunities to interact with local fans on the ground.” Azzi said. “We've had a transition to a virtual model just knowing the landscape.” She noted Beyond the Bases has allowed T-Mobile to stay “close to our objectives" increasing brand social engagement through player content amid a challenging MLB season.

 

DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER GETS THUMBS UP FROM BREWERS

  • Remembering that some leagues were founded by and for those making and selling suds, it’s no exaggeration to call beer the lifeblood of sports business, writes SBJ's Terry Lefton. Therefore, any distribution shift is worthy of note. To date, the pandemic is the best thing that ever happened for direct-to-consumer beer sales. 

  • Heineken USA CMO Jonnie Cahill called it an “explosion of e-com" that has grown 8x domestically this year for his brand. He termed it an “extremely undeveloped market," noting that in the U.S., e-commerce accounts for just 0.5% of overall alcohol sales, compared to 6% in the U.K. 

  • Heineken has recovered to the point where Cahill is now projecting his U.S. unit will achieve 90% of its pre-pandemic sales goal this year. “The closing of bars hurt us ... but if you’d offered me back in March what we have now, I would have signed on, for sure," he said.

  • For more on direct-to-consumer beer sales, see today's first issue of our latest newsletter offering -- SBJ Marketing.

 

SYNERGY SPORTS CEO BREAKS DOWN RECENT MERGER

  • Getting more video, in better ways, to more sports properties, in a cost-efficient manner: That is the purpose of the new Synergy Sports, a company created via the late-September merger of Atrium Sports, Synergy Sports Technology and Keemotion, the latter two acquired by Atrium Sports in 2019.

  • Mark Silver -- who has taken the helm as CEO of the newly merged company -- told SBJ’s Andrew Levin why it made sense to merge: “What we recognized is that, although the video and data that we were producing on the different business vines were for different applications and use-cases, in the end, it came down that we would be able to better serve sport at large … by unifying both the operation aspect of what we do and the service offering.”

  • Silver called computer vision and AI a “very active area of investment for sports owners” because they recognize the “value that it has both within their organizations and at the market at large.” He explained, “The obvious consumption culture we have through social media and other platforms has made video more and more important by day. Everyone just expects video to be available in sport.”

  • He also addressed what he hopes Synergy Sports’ long-term impact in the industry will be. “It’s really the democratization and availability of elite sports technologies to all aspects of competition levels,” Silver said.

  • For more insights from Silver, including the public-health benefits of Synergy Sports’ technology amid the pandemic, check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.

 


SPEED READS

  • The ticketing and seating business within Learfield IMG College has used the last eight months of the pandemic to reinvent itself as more of a data collection and analysis business that’s playing a role in donations and development -- not just selling tickets. In the SBJ College newsletter tonight, Michael Smith catches up with Jake Bye, the Exec VP who oversees ticket and seat solutions. He describes the evolution as a long-term goal that became more pressing during the pandemic when there weren’t any tickets to sell.


  • Nissan Stadium is hosting fans at a "planned 12.5% capacity" for tonight's Bills-Titans game under a newly-implemented Safe Stadium Plan, despite the "cloud now hanging over the organization after the Titans were struck by the NFL’s first teamwide COVID-19 outbreak."  Meanwhile, Philadelphia will "increase its coronavirus restrictions on crowd sizes of up to 7,500 people at the city’s largest outdoor venues, a step that will put thousands of Eagles fans back in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field for Sunday’s game."

  • MLS President & Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said the league is "not really" considering adding a bubble for the MLS Cup Playoffs, according to ESPN's Jeff Carlisle. Abbott said, "There are advantages and disadvantages to the bubble. I think that it becomes effective once you get established, but it's also disruptive in people's lives."

  • Overwatch League's Grand Finals earned a peak viewership on YouTube of 180,000 viewers and saw a global average viewership of 1.55 million -- up 38% from last year and good for the most watched OWL match ever, reports SBJ's Adam Stern. The Grand Finals took place on Saturday morning U.S. time in South Korea and saw the S.F. Shock repeat as champions after defeating the Seoul Dynasty. Average minute audience in China was 1.39 million via streaming platforms including Huya and Bilibili. Activision Blizzard did not release average minute audience for the U.S., but the event peaked around 115,000 on the main OWL channel on YouTube and also had a further 65,000 on related channels. 

 

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SBJ Unpacks: Baseball Welcomes Back Fans

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: MLB is ready to welcome back fans as the NLCS gets started at Globe Life Field.

Also:

  • YouTube TV tops NBA Finals ad spending
  • Lakers championship merchandise already setting sales records
  • The PGA Tour is rolling out live, on-screen betting odds this week
  • The SEC postpones its first game of the season
  • Survey finds fans still split on attending games

 

GLOBE LIFE FIELD READY TO HOST FANS DURING NLCS

  • The Braves and Dodgers square off tonight in Game 1 of the NLCS at Globe Life Field, marking the first time this season fans will attend an MLB game. The league has made about 11,500 tickets available at the new ballpark in Arlington.
  • Rangers Exec VP/Business Operations Rob Matwick told SBJ’s Andrew Levin that the club consulted with MLB, local health officials, its in-house analytics team and attended Cowboys games with fans at AT&T Stadium as it prepared its plan for hosting the NLCS and World Series.
  • Starting with an MLB-mandated 20-foot buffer from the edge of the field, seating is layered in pods of four. Matwick: “Our health department did not want people crossing in aisles. So, we set up the pattern … as sort of a zigzag through the seating bowl.” Globe Life Field's operations team zip tied 30,000 seats in the building so that they cannot psychically be lowered, meaning fans won’t be able to move over from their assigned seats. Matwick said MLB is “bearing the majority of the expense” for these enhanced protocols.
  • Matwick stressed voluntary compliance as he outlined his emphases to fans. “If you don’t feel well today … stay at home. That’s the best thing that any of us can do,” he said. He also cited the “three W’s” as key focuses: wear your mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. Rangers Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service Paige Farragut called the NLCS and World Series a “complete audition for how next year is going to go” league-wide when it comes to having fans in attendance.

 

YOUTUBE TV TOPS NBA FINALS AD SPENDING

  • YouTube TV was the biggest ad spender during the NBA Finals, according to iSpot.Tv data analyzed by SBJ's David Broughton. Google’s OTT platform also served as the Finals’ presenting sponsor for the third straight year. The top brands by estimated spend during the six games across ABC and ESPN Deportes are as following:

    1. YouTube TV* ($13.4 million)
    2. Toyota ($12.0 million)
    3. Michelob Light* ($8.1 million)
    4. State Farm* ($7.1 million)
    5. Nissan ($6.4 million)
    6. Google* ($5.7 million)
    7. Gatorade* ($4.8 million)
    8. Taco Bell* ($4.4 million)
    9. AT&T Wireless* ($4.4 million)
    10. Biktarvy HIV medication ($4.1 million)
      *Official NBA sponsor

  • Gatorade bested all other brands with the most-seen spot, its "Fueled by the Best" ad, by TracyLocke, that garnered 163.6 million impressions. Here are the top five spots overall:
  1. Gatorade: "Fueled by the Best" (163.6 million impressions) (TracyLocke)
  2. KFC: "Homestyle Cookin' Without the Cookin' - Contactless Delivery" (118.5 million) (Wieden+Kennedy)
  3. YouTube TV: "TV Made Yours" (102.7 million) (Essence)
  4. Google: "Search Near Me" (80.3 million) (Essence)
  5. Nissan: "Refuse to Compromise - Day Off" (75.5 million) (TBWA\Chiat\Day)

 

LAKERS CHAMPIONSHIP MERCH SETTING RECORDS; NO PLANS FOR PARADE YET

  • NBA e-commerce partner Fanatics said that the Lakers have become the top-selling NBA Champion in company history. In the first 12 hours since winning the title last night, the Lakers had already sold more merchandise than Fanatics’ previous record, the 2016 Cavaliers, sold in 30 days after winning the championship.
  • LeBron James is the top-selling NBA player since the Lakers clinched, followed by Kobe Bryant. In addition, 85% of all Lakers Championship merchandise sales came from mobile devices immediately after the game last night.
  • Plans for the Lakers to celebrate the title back home "have not materialized," per the L.A. Times, amid state and county bans on "large gatherings of people." No victory parade is "planned through the streets of L.A., and no public team celebration in downtown will be held anytime soon."
  • There had been "rumors of a possible virtual parade and party, but the Lakers have not released any information on the likelihood of that taking place."

 

PGA TOUR SET TO INTEGRATE LIVE BETTING ODDS DURING TV COVERAGE

  • The PGA Tour for the first time will include live betting odds and other in-play wagering information during TV coverage of The CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas this week, reports SBJ's John Lombardo.
  • BetMGM odds will be integrated twice per hour during all four rounds of Golf Channel’s coverage Thursday through Sunday. The betting information will include leaderboards that will feature player odds to win, along with odds for head-to-head matchups, top finishes, winning margin, wire-to-wire winner, hole-in-ones and playoffs.
  • The move comes after BetMGM signed a multi-year deal in August to become an official betting operator of the Tour, which then integrated live betting odds on its PGA Tour Live streaming service during the first two rounds of the Wyndham Championship on Aug. 13-14. For now, the betting integrations initially will be limited to The CJ Cup as Tour execs experiment and evaluate folding the live betting information into its broadcasts.
  • “We are trying hard to introduce betting content in a way that works for our fans, sponsors, and our product,” said PGA Tour Senior VP/Media & Gaming Norb Gambuzza. “We don’t have any plans beyond it right now into our linear products. We want to learn a bunch and we will evaluate it."

 

 

VANDERBILT-MISSOURI POSTPONEMENT MARKS FIRST SEC SCHEDULE DISRUPTION

  • Vanderbilt-Missouri on Saturday has been "postponed because of positive COVID-19 tests and quarantines on the Vanderbilt roster," according to the Tennessean, marking the first SEC game to "not be played on time in the 2020 season" during the pandemic. The game has been rescheduled for Dec. 12 in Columbia, Mo.
  • Vanderbilt had "only 56 scholarship players for its 41-7 loss to South Carolina on Saturday." The SEC "requires a team to have at least 53 scholarship players available this season to avoid a cancellation, rescheduling or no-contest declaration of a game. Vanderbilt and Missouri  "each had six players to opt out of the season over COVID-19 concerns, the most of any SEC teams."
  • Vanderbilt AD Candice Lee in a statement noted the conference and universities "have been prepared for the likelihood of disruptions within the season."  Vanderbilt will have "time to replenish its roster." The Commodores already were already scheduled for an off week Oct. 24 before playing Ole Miss at home on Oct. 31.

 

SURVEY FINDS AMERICANS STILL SPLIT ON ATTENDING LIVE EVENTS

  • Arizona State's Global Sport Institute surveyed 1,800 adults age 18+ (300 per U.S. region, as listed below) Sept. 16-20 of on a diverse set of topics, reports SBJ's David Broughton, and among the discoveries were that only one third of the respondents age 65+ would attend the World Series if given a ticket. Fans living in the Southern region were the most likely to say they would accept that offer, as were Republicans and males. The survey was conducted for GSI by OH Predictive Insights.
  • Below are the responses from participants that were asked: Would you attend the World Series (or other high-level sporting event) if you were given a ticket?

 

>
RESPONSES ABOUT ATTENDING MAJOR EVENTS
 
WOULD ATTEND
WOULD NOT ATTEND
Total
49%
51%
REGION
Great Lakes
43%
57%
Pacific
51%
49%
Western
47%
53%
Plains
51%
49%
Atlantic
48%
52%
Southern
54%
46%
AGE
18-34
61%
39%
35-44
54%
46%
45-54
47%
53%
55-64
38%
62%
65+
33%
67%
GENDER
Male
56%
44%
Female
42%
58%
POLITICAL AFFILIATION
Republican
58%
42%
Democrat
50%
50%
Download the
Chart

 


SPEED READS

  • The get-in price for tonight’s NLCS opener between the Dodgers and Braves at Globe Life Field is $48, a 25% drop from last year's get-in price of $66, according to mobile ticketing app Gametime. SBJ's Karn Dhingra notes that pricing for tickets to the World Series, which will also be at Globe Life Field in Texas, where sports venues can host up to 50% of their capacity, is relatively stable with tickets starting at $331, compared to $354 last week. The get-in price for a potential Game 4 clincher is at $539 compared to $558 last week.
  • Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta today announced that its newest hospital will be called The Arthur M. Blank Hospital, following a $200 million donation from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The healthcare company said it is “the single largest naming gift to a freestanding pediatric hospital.” The hospital is under construction and is expected to open its doors in 2025. In it’s Form 990 filed last November with the IRS, the foundation listed more than $28 million in charitable donations, according to SBJ’s David Broughton.
  • NBCUniversal today promoted Linda Yaccarino to Chair of Global Advertising & Partnerships, giving her “oversight of a new data strategy unit, local ad sales, regional sports network sales and the strategic initiatives team.” Yaccarino, who his year was named to SBJ's Power Players list of key media execs, also will “oversee the strategic initiatives group, which brings together NBCU’s symphony marketing campaigns around tent-pole events like the Olympics.”
  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver informed league employees in a “Thank You” letter that they are "all receiving a $1,000 bonus and four Fridays off beginning Oct. 30 as well as Thanksgiving week," in recognition of "efforts during a historic season," according to Stadium's Shams Charania.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: NFL Says League Ready For First Openly Out Active Player

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: NFL Exec VP Troy Vincent offers support for active gay players.

Also:

  • China's CCTV will broadcast NBA Finals Game 5
  • Silver, Jordan among NBA Foundation Board of Directors
  • Presidential ad spends round into focus
  • NFL ready to penalize teams who approach refs without masks
  • Oral history of how Fox broadcast Mark McGwire's record-setting home run
  • Pac-12 Networks faces uncertain future 

 

NFL LEAGUE OFFICE OFFERS SUPPORT TO ACTIVE GAY PLAYERS

  • NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent in an op-ed today wrote both he and the league are "committed to celebrate, support, and welcome" active players who identify as gay. 

  • Vincent, who cited this Sunday as National Coming Out Day in the memo, wrote, "We've long heard from players that an out teammate would be accepted in their locker room. As someone who speaks with players and football personnel daily, I wholeheartedly confirm that notion. At the NFL, we have a shared commitment with clubs and players to continue to foster a safe space and not put any pressure on out athletes to lead."

  • More Vincent: "We must continue to focus on creating an accepting environment and work together, unrelentingly, to stamp out bullying and to eradicate discriminatory language. Most importantly, we need to walk the walk."

 

CHINA'S CCTV WILL BROADCAST NBA FOR FIRST TIME IN OVER A YEAR

  • China's CCTV will "televise Game 5 of the NBA Finals live" tonight, the "first NBA game on broadcast television there in more than a year," per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.

  • The state-run network pulled NBA games from its programming in the wake of Rockets GM Daryl Morey's tweet "supporting protests in Hong Kong on Oct. 4, 2019." CCTV in a statement cited the NBA's "assistance with fighting COVID-19 in the country as a reason for restoring broadcasts."

  • The league donated more than $1 million and "medical equipment to China earlier this year." Games have been "available for streaming over the internet in China, but fewer than in years past."


SILVER, ROBERTS, JORDAN HEADLINE NBA FOUNDATION BOD

  • The NBA and NBPA announced the NBA Foundation Board of Directors, comprised of eight representatives from the league Board of Governors, players and executives from the NBPA and the league office.  The Foundation’s Board of Directors will provide strategic direction with respect to programming and grantmaking as well as oversee the organization’s activities to support and facilitate sustainable initiatives in team markets. 

  • The inaugural board members are:

    • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
    • Kings F Harrison Barnes
    • Pelicans Gov. Gayle Benson
    • 76ers F Tobias Harris
    • Hornets Owner Michael Jordan
    • Hawks Owner Tony Ressler
    • NBPA Exec Director Michele Roberts
    • NBA BOG Chair Larry Tanenbaum

 

 

PRESIDENTIAL AD SPEND ROUNDING INTO FOCUS

  • As Election Day draws near, the media buying agencies for President Trump and Joe Biden are shifting ad dollars at a feverish pitch, according to an analysis of Federal Communications Commission documents by SBJ’s David Broughton

  • Both candidates have dramatically reduced their ad spending on local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates in Ohio and Michigan, for example, where more than $200K in ads that had been ordered to run during Ohio State and Michigan games that have been canceled. 

  • Tampa football fans will be the least likely to escape the ad deluge this weekend, as the two candidates have combined to order 28 commercials locally for a total of $309K. 

  • Overall, Trump spent $1.5 million advertising on national televised sportscasts over the past week, according to iSpot.tv, or 30% of his total outlay. Biden spent $6.6 million on sports this week which made up 48% of his overall ad spend. Each candidate aired two 30-second spots during last night’s "Thursday Night Football" game on Fox, at a rate of $273k per unit.

  • For more on Trump and Biden's respective ad spends, see Monday's print issue of SBJ.

 

NFL WILL PENALIZE TEAMS WHO APPROACH REFS WITHOUT MASKS

  • NFL Senior VP/Officiating Perry Fewell sent a memo to teams indicating that officials have been told that "if an individual not wearing a face covering approaches them inappropriately, they have the authority to take administrative or officiating action."

  • Such action "includes a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, as well as possible fines, suspensions and forfeiture of draft picks." Fewell wrote, "We have seen multiple occasions where head coaches have removed their masks to communicate with game officials during games. Doing so creates unnecessary, increased risk for the game official, the head coach, and others, and is inconsistent with the requirement that face coverings be worn at all times." 

 

ORAL HISTORY: RISKS & REWARDS OF FOX AIRING MLB HISTORY IN 1998

  • As Fox begins its coverage of the MLB postseason for the 25th consecutive year, SBJ decided to look back at how a renegade network and a sport in need of change formed a relationship in the first place. In the cover story of Monday's print issue of SBJ, Eric Prisbell spoke to the people who took the partnership from idea to execution, up through the first year of Fox's deal in 1996.

  • Just two years later, Fox found itself with the opportunity to cover one of the most significant moments in American sports history: Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire's quest to break Roger Maris's hallowed single-season record of 61 home runs. There was only one problem, and it was a big one for a television network.

 

PAC-12 NETWORKS FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE

  • The Portland Oregonian's John Canzano writes under the header, "Pac-12 Networks Facing Questions And A Cloudy Path." Canzano writes if the Pac-12 is "still a media company, it’s a hollow shell of an operation." One that "isn’t currently scheduled to carry any of the conference football games this season."

  • The first six weeks of the season will be televised by a combination of ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox and FS1. Fox will televise the Dec. 18 title game

  • Canzano: "That would leave the Pac-12 Network with a game or two, maybe, if it still wants to be in the football-broadcast business." 

  • Months ago, the conference "tried to sell equity in its media rights." Canzano: "It wanted $500 million for a 10 percent stake. There were no takers. Now, the Pac-12 has laid off or furloughed the staff amid a pandemic. Worse yet, it doesn’t appear to have a plan."



SPEED READS

  • Jets players and coaches were "sent home from the team's training center on Friday after a presumptive positive test," according to a source cited by the N.Y. Post's Brian Costello. The player was "re-tested to see if he is indeed positive and the Jets should know the results" later tonight. The Jets are scheduled to play the Cardinals on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. That game "may be in jeopardy now."

  • The failed sprinting competition Forty Yards of Gold and its co-founder have been ordered to show their assets to a Florida court in preparation of paying damages to two former NFL players, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer. On Thursday, Miami-Dade County Judge Veronica Diaz rejected Forty Yards of Gold and co-founder Alijah Bradley’s last-ditch effort to reverse a judgment won in August by lawyers for Washington Football Team WR Jeff Badet and former Raiders WR Jacoby Ford for $25,000 and $100,000 plus interest, respectively. See more here.
  • The ECHL announced its 2020-21 season will begin for 13 teams on Dec. 11 with a split-season structure, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. Those clubs will play a 72-game schedule while the remaining teams, which will start on Jan. 15, will play 62 games. At this time, the Atlanta Gladiators have decided to voluntarily opt out of the upcoming campaign “due to COVID-19 restrictions,” the league said, and will resume play in 2021-22. The ECHL will finish the regular season on June 6.

  • IBM is making its first foray into esports via a new deal with Overwatch League, where it will showcase its Watson AI system and cloud computing products, reports SBJ's Adam Stern. The deal, announced this morning, starts with the ongoing OWL Grand Finals, plus the 2021 and '202 seasons. Financial terms were not disclosed. As part of the deal, IBM becomes the official AI, cloud and analytics partner of OWL. OWL will use IBM’s suite of analytics tools to process in-match data, find new ways to showcase stats, improve the league’s ranking systems and create predictive analysis.

  • The Orlando Sentinel's Alicia Delgallo writes under the header, "ESPN Built A Small City To Broadcast Games Inside NBA Bubble." Behind the scenes, "more than 200 people helped ESPN broadcast an unprecedented NBA season during a global pandemic." Together they "constructed a massive 205,480 square foot broadcast compound from the ground up and produced 78 games" entering tonight’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals. But if the Lakers beat the Heat, the bubble "will finally burst."

  • With no fans allowed at Ford Field for at least another month due to the pandemic, the Lions "laid off a portion of their business-side staff this week," according to the Detroit Free Press. The cuts came during the team's bye week, and "less than seven days after the organization confirmed that fans will not be allowed to attend games at Ford Field until at least Nov. 15." 

 

 

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SBJ Unpacks: Shaq, Former Disney Execs Team Up For New Venture

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Shaquille O'Neal and three former Disney execs headline a new special purpose acquisition company. 

Also:

  • EPL CEO wants supporters allowed at matches
  • SEC outlines fines for failure to adhere to safety protocols
  • Good news on NFL fan front
  • Nike institutes another round of layoffs
  • HBSE's business incubator keeps at it amid pandemic

 

SHAQ, FORMER DISNEY EXECS CREATE SPAC

  • Three former high-ranking Disney execs are teaming up with Shaquille O’Neal and one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s sons to "make acquisitions in the media and technology industries," per the Wall Street Journal's Joe Flint.

  • The special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Forest Road Acquisition Corp., said in a SEC filing that it "would raise $250 million for deals for the blank-check company." Potential acquisitions "could include intellectual property and 'audience aggregation platforms' such as streaming platforms."

  • Former Disney COO Tom Staggs will chair a strategic-advisory committee, while former TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, who previously oversaw Disney+, is a strategic adviser. Former Disney strategy executive Salil Mehta has been tapped as CFO.

  • O'Neal will also serve as a strategic adviser, while civil rights activist Martin Luther King III has been tapped as a director. In recent years, King has "become active in the media industry as a co-founder of Bounce TV, a broadcast network that caters to Black viewers."

 

EPL CEO ASKS GOVERNMENT TO RECONSIDER BAN ON FANS

  • EPL CEO Richard Masters has made an “impassioned plea to the government to reconsider its ban on supporters at sports matches," per the London Times.

  • Masters said that there was “growing frustration among clubs at the inconsistency in the government approach,” as concert halls and arenas can host fans. Masters: “We do understand why caution is needed but what we are asking for is consistency from government so that sport is treated as fairly as other activities.”

  • He also indicated that the EPL “held talks with the Bundesliga about the model used in Germany for the return of fans” and that the league could “embrace an approach where the opening of stadiums was dependent on levels of coronavirus conditions locally.”

 

 

SEC OUTLINES FINES FOR FAILURE TO ADHERE TO PROTOCOLS 

  • For the second straight week, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey sent out an internal memo to ADs and coaches on the "need to follow coronavirus protocols, this time outlining fines and possible suspensions in the event that they do not do so." The memo cited the recent "spread of the coronavirus in the White House and the effect of positive tests on the NFL schedule."

  • The memo states that programs whose coaches, staff or other personnel "fail to adhere to the approved task force requirements will be assessed a $100,000 reduction in conference revenue." The amount will "increase by $100,000 for each subsequent week of noncompliance."

 

SOURCE: NFL NOT CONSIDERING SEASON PAUSE OR HOME BUBBLES

  • The NFL is "not giving serious consideration to pausing the season or going to home market bubbles with mandatory hotel stays for players, coaches and team staffers when they leave team facilities each day," according to a source cited by the Washington Post. The NFL "remains firmly convinced that its protocols work when they’re followed." 

  • Meanwhile, more positive tests this week have "put the playing of this weekend’s games involving the Titans and Patriots in doubt after both teams had their games this past Sunday postponed." They also "kept the Titans from reopening their facility Wednesday, as they had hoped, and the probe by the league and the NFL Players Association into the team’s outbreak widened." 

  • For more on how the league is viewing the Titans' situation, see today's issue of SBJ Football from Ben Fischer.

 

GOOD NEWS ON THE NFL FAN FRONT, EVEN AMID BAD NEWS IN LOCKER ROOMS

  • The NFL is confronting its worst pandemic crisis yet, but another team scored a big victory this week on the political front, as the Steelers got final clearance to sell up to 5,500 tickets for this Sunday’s game with the Eagles. They’re the 14th team to get legal permission, with more likely coming this month, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer.

  • It may seem counterintuitive that politicians are relaxing the rules right now. But the safety of the locker room and the safety of the stands are two different things, and so far, there’s been no evidence that any fan has contracted COVID-19 in the 12 stadiums with fans. Ten people were quarantined after the Chiefs' Sept. 13 opener with the Texans when one fan tested positive after attending the game at Arrowhead Stadium, but no further spread was reported.

  • Politicians and fans alike are treading carefully. The authorities are starting with very low limits in most cities with the potential of increasing them later, and many of these games haven’t actually sold out their limited ticket supply.

  • Theories behind fans’ reticence range from an economic disconnect -- young fans most likely to take the risk are least able to afford tickets -- and a general hesitation to be a guinea pig. Like politicians, “people are watching and seeing what’s happening” one source said.

 

NIKE INSTITUTES SECOND ROUND OF LAYOFFS

  • The "downsizing Nike promised last summer has finally begun in earnest," according to the Portland Oregonian's Jeff Manning.

  • The first layoffs implemented over the summer "hit more than 100 vice presidents." This week's downsizing "involves so called 'S-band' employees, generally the most senior and highest paid workers after the top executives and vice presidents."

  • Rather than making all the cuts at the same time, Nike "seems to be implementing them in phases and by job classification." It appears that under new CEO John Donahoe, the "higher you are on the org chart the quicker you could be shown the door." Nike has "not divulged how many employees will lose their jobs." The company in a notification to the state in August said that the number just in Oregon "will exceed 500."

 

HBSE'S BUSINESS INCUBATOR KEEPS AT IT AMID PANDEMIC

  • Sixers Innovation Lab Managing Director Seth Berger cited the business incubator’s hands-on approach as one key factor that makes it unique in the venture space, stressing that he and Director of Operations Rhyan Truett view themselves as operators who are investing, as opposed to investors who are advising. Berger told SBJ's Andrew Levin: “It’s very different. I love to get into the details of a business.”

  • Berger -- the founder of AND1 -- said the Lab’s “standard investment is about a half-million bucks.” He credited Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment’s resources, saying, “(It) enables us to not only invest capital in businesses and provide mentorship, but actually with their resources, help these businesses grow much more quickly than just a standard investor could.”

  • As such, Berger said he “absolutely” expects other sports organizations to dive into the venture capital space. He explained, “The ability that these teams have to do those three things -- to invest real capital, to provide operational support and then, really importantly, to connect the dots -- you think about the dots that you can connect across the sports and entertainment industry to add fuel to any business, I think you’ll see so many sports teams go (into it). … It only makes total sense.”

  • Berger listed League of Legends online analytics platform U.GG, hydration-mix company Hydrant and sports betting tech platform BettorView as three SIL companies that have experienced notable growth amid the pandemic.

  • For more insights from Berger on the Lab and other dynamics related to entrepreneurship, check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.



SPEED READS

  • Hollywood agency ICM Partners has acquired London-based Stellar Group, the biggest soccer agency in the world with more than 800 athlete clients, including Tottenham F Gareth Bale and Aston Villa MF Jack Grealish. Financial details were not disclosed, but the deal establishes a new major sports division within an entertainment agency that will be called ICM Stellar Sports, writes SBJ's Liz Mullen. Stellar employs 130 in 10 countries around the world, managing clients in multiple sports with about $3 billion under contract. All employees will be joining ICM Stellar Sports.

  • The WNBA Finals saw a viewership increase for the Seattle Storm's three-game sweep over the Las Vegas Aces. Storm-Aces averaged 440,000 viewers on ESPN networks this year, up 15% from 386,000 viewers for Washington Mystics-Connecticut Sun last year, which went five games. The Storm's clinching win on Tuesday averaged 570,000 viewers, up 27% from 449,000 viewers for the Mystics' Game 5 clinching win last season.

  • Tonight in the SBJ College newsletter, Michael Smith takes a look at how the limited capacity crowd last Saturday for Auburn-Georgia at Sanford Stadium appeared deceiving on the ESPN broadcast. 

  • Sports betting operator Intralot will expand its in-play wagering offerings in DC, New Hampshire and Montana through a deal announced today with machine-learning based odds-provider Simplebet, reports SBJ's Bill King. Simplebet’s automated service quickly adjusts odds on what it calls “micro-markets," the individual events that occur in a game -- like the outcome on a single possession in basketball or football or pitch in baseball -- the likelihood of which can change rapidly rapidly.

  • Rio Tinto and A-B InBev have formed a global partnership to deliver new sustainable aluminum cans, according to both companies. The first 1 million cans produced through the partnership will be piloted in the U.S. on Michelob Ultra and will feature Rio Tinto’s “low-carbon aluminum made with renewable hydropower along with recycled content to produce a more sustainable beer can.” The companies say this will offer a potential reduction in carbon emissions of more than 30% compared to similar cans produced today in North America. Around 70% of the aluminum currently used in A-B InBev cans produced in North America is recycled content, according to the brewer.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: Has NFL Reached Its Tipping Point?

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Has the NFL reached a crossroads in its effort to stage a season amid the pandemic?

Also:

  • Jeanie Buss on her first NBA Finals as Lakers controlling owner
  • IOC's Thomas Bach gives update on Tokyo Games
  • Earthquakes keep fans engaged with drive-on watch parties
  • Pandemic slows progress for emerging tennis outfit
  • Why post-COVID attendance will note recover as quickly as post-9/11

 

HOW WILL NFL HANDLE TITANS' UNSANCTIONED WORKOUT?

  • Titans players "conducted a workout at a local school while their team was sidelined by the NFL because of a COVID-19 outbreak, a breach of league pandemic mandates that raises the possibility of severe penalties for the team," per the Wall Street Journal.

  • The workout, which took place Sept. 30 and was confirmed by the headmaster of the school in Nashville, "came as two additional Titans players tested positive for coronavirus -- bringing the organization’s total positive cases to 20 in the past nine days." A day before the workout, the Titans’ facility was "shuttered as positive tests continued to roll in, and the team was given explicit instructions to conduct no in-person activities." News of the Titans workout comes as two NFL games this weekend "are in jeopardy of postponement," including the Titans' game against the Bills.

  • The Boston Globe's Ben Volin writes, "As COVID-19 cases mount, the time is rapidly approaching for Roger Goodell to pause the 2020 NFL season." Volin: "If no other Patriots or Titans test positive this week, and no other team is in danger of an outbreak, then the NFL can proceed with Week 5 as planned. But just one more positive from either team could send the NFL into a tailspin. ... The success of the 2020 season depends on the league’s ability to control outbreaks. And it is becoming clear that the NFL needs to get a better handle on COVID-19."

 

JEANIE BUSS ON FIRST NBA FINALS AS CONTROLLING OWNER

  • The Lakers are one win away from their first title under Controlling Owner & CEO Jeanie Buss, who took over for her late father as the team entered a transition phase in the 2013-2014 season. Buss, appearing on Howard Beck’s “The Full 48” podcast, shed light on her first Finals in the new role. 

  • Buss said that while there are “many great chapters of Laker history,” an NBA title this year would be “something that nobody can compare anything to,” citing both the Orlando bubble and social injustice issues across the country. Buss: “The human resiliency of our players and staff really is something I’m more proud of than the wins and losses.”

  • Buss also said she had to make mental adjustments for the team’s playoff run. “I hate to remind everybody, but we hadn’t been in the playoffs in seven years. So I had to remind myself what it was like -- the ups and downs."

  • Buss: "For me the biggest difference is this is the first Finals I can remember that Phil (Jackson) wasn’t the coach. Having him to talk to about his feeling about where we were headed, and how things were going or who he was disappointed in … I really don’t have that person. I did text him (Tuesday) morning and asked him if he saw (Game 3). I haven’t heard back yet.”

 

 

IOC STILL EXPECTS TO HOST INT'L SPECTATORS IN TOKYO

  • IOC President Thomas Bach told media today that the organization presently expects the Tokyo Games to host international spectators, though he also acknowledged that it is too soon to say anything for sure, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith.

  • “What we do not know is whether we can fill the stadia to full capacity or whether there are other measures that will have to be applied,” said Bach. He also noted that there has been “good progress” on the development of COVID-19 countermeasures for the Games. IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi said that there is presently no hard deadline for determining what those official policies will be, but that there should be a firmer outlook by the end of the year. “It is really premature at this stage,” said Dubi. “No deadline, but (there will be) a clearer picture in December, and then we’ll move in spring and summer to establish the policies for the Games.”

  • Meanwhile, candidates for next year’s IOC presidential election must be announced by the end of November. (Bach intends to seek reelection). The election will take place at the 138th IOC Session in Tokyo next summer, with the president-elect taking control the day after the closing ceremony. 

 

EARTHQUAKES KEEP FANS ENGAGED WITH DRIVE-IN WATCH PARTIES

  • When the San Jose Earthquakes host the Vancouver Whitecaps FC tonight, there won’t be fans sitting in seats at Earthquakes Stadium, but there will still be dozens of parked cars in and around the venue with families cheering on the club, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The Earthquakes’ drive-in watch parties began during this summer’s MLS is Back Tournament, the team’s COO Jared Shawlee tells SBJ. 
  • Shawlee said of the viewing experience: “It was a way for us to keep in touch with our fans and give them a sense of community around the Earthquakes. We weren’t sure initially how much demand there would be but once we saw how popular it was, we knew we had something special.”

  • Up to 50 cars parked in a two-acre grass space dubbed the ‘7UP Epicenter’ to watch a two-sided video board while another 50 cars sat in an adjacent lot to watch a portable screen. The watch parties have continued with MLS clubs returning to local markets. During the club’s first match back at Earthquakes Stadium on Sept. 5, Shawlee said that for the first 20 minutes “it sounded like vuvuzelas in South Africa for the World Cup” with all of the fans honking their horns. The club has since asked fans to keep the honking to major moments in the match and during stoppages.

  • The now free passes typically sell out in minutes to season-ticket holders, who are provided early-access to the digital tickets. They also receive a giveaway upon arrival. Cars are socially-distanced, limited merchandise is available for sale outside, and fans must either keep their windows rolled up while watching the match or if they roll them down, continue to wear a mask. If positioned correctly, some cars within the venue can see both the video board and some of the action. Shawlee: “Those are the high-demand spots.” He added, “It just feels like people really do crave a sense of being back in a stadium and back watching the team again.”

 

Up to 50 cars can park in a two-acre grass space dubbed the ‘7UP Epicenter’ to watch the Earthquakes' video board

 

USGA TAKES SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR TO ALASKA

  • Alaska isn’t exactly a hotbed for golf, but the USGA will hold its first championship in the state with the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at Anchorage Golf Course, reports SBJ's John Lombardo. When the contenders tee off on July 30, all 50 states will have hosted a USGA championship. 

  • “It’s a monumental occasion for us to bring a championship to Alaska, something that has been a long time coming,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA who is leaving his job next June.  “It is important we bring our events to all corners of the United States to expose golfers and golf fans to the inspiration and competitiveness of our championships.”

  • The public Anchorage Golf Course offers views of Denali and overlooks the city of Anchorage, where the average high temperature in July and August is around 62 degrees. This year’s U.S Senior Women’s Amateur has been canceled due to the pandemic. Next year, the event is set to be played Sept. 10-15 at The Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala.

 

PANDEMIC SLOWS PROGRESS FOR EMERGING TENNIS COMPANY

  • The pandemic upended a potentially big year for Foxtenn, a Spanish company that offers electronic line-calling to more than 30 ATP, WTA and ITF tennis tournaments. The company is already approved for use on grass and hard court surfaces and was hoping in 2020 to add clay courts to that list. “It was a very important year for us. .... We had very important historical milestones, including clay,” Foxtenn CEO Javier Simon told SBJ’s Bret McCormick

  • For Foxtenn to be used officially in pro tennis, it needs to be approved by a technical group made up of representatives from the ITF, ATP, WTA and the four Grand Slams. Foxtenn was employed successfully at a ATP 500-level event in mid-February, as well as an ITF Fed Cup match in The Netherlands. “The players were pushing for it,” Simon said of the ATP feedback. “It served to avoid any kind of discussion during the tournament,” a good sign that controversy was avoided. But a third trial opportunity, at the WTA’s Volvo Car Open in Charleston, S.C., in April, was canceled, as was the Mutua Madrid Open

  • Spokespeople from the ATP and WTA tours said that Foxtenn’s clay court trial will resume in 2021. The WTA’s Amy Binder said that player feedback is key to helping the women’s tour assess next steps. 

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: UNCERTAINTY AROUND FUTURE SPORTS ATTENDANCE

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from 4Topps Premium Seating Principal & President Deron Nardo, who writes under the header, "Post-COVID Sports Attendance Will Not Recover As Quickly As Post-9/11."

  • Nardo: "Instead of sharing the communal joy of a sporting event as a means of healing as we did back then, this time we’ll be looking around at nearby fans wondering who might have COVID, who took a vaccine, who has been exercising caution in life … and why isn’t that guy wearing his mask? That paranoia isn’t going to suddenly vanish with a vaccine. In fact, that mistrust has become debilitating for many.  The closer we sit, stand, eat, drink and cheer next to complete strangers, the less convincing the argument is that going to a game is safe."

  • To read the full contribution, click here. Also, be sure to revisit SBJ's Company Watch profile of 4Topps from 2018.

 

SPEED READS

  • The first three games of the Lakers-Heat NBA Finals on ABC have consecutively marked the least-watched Finals games since ESPN acquired rights to the league prior to the 2002-03 season, and likely the lowest since viewership records started being kept regularly in the early '90s, per SBJ's Austin Karp. The Finals, usually played in June, have had to go up against the most atypical TV landscape in modern times, including a COVID-shifted schedule creating more competition, shifting media viewership habits and a surge in viewership around political news during a presidential election year.
  • The Dolphins intend to "continue hosting fans in a limited capacity at Hard Rock Stadium for home games despite having clearance under Florida’s Phase 3 reopening to host patrons at full capacity," which is 65,000. Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel: “With positivity rates where they are, we feel that we can keep people safe in a socially distanced environment, which is our 13,000 capacity.”
  • This weekend will see two of the biggest publishers in esports display radically different approaches to broadcasting a COVID-safe world championship, per The Esports Observer's Trent Murray. Where Riot Games has opted for a socially-distanced stage and is leaning heavily on LCD screens in Shanghai and its Berlin broadcast studio, Activision Blizzard has chosen an entirely virtual presentation, keeping participants fully isolated. Both approaches share common goals of elevating the broadcast experience, and being able to achieve brand partner deliverables amid the pandemic.

  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is "focused on a January 1 start for next season." Appearing from the NHL Network studios in New Jersey ahead of the NHL Draft, Bettman said the decision came after discussions with the NHLPA. Bettman said the decision was made based on "what we have learned and what we know, and what we even still don't know" regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Beginning this month, NBC will move its figure skating coverage from the NBC Sports Gold subscription service to Peacock Premium, per SBJ's Chris Smith. Coverage will include both live broadcasts and on-demand replays, complementing figure skating coverage across NBC’s television networks. Live figure skating programming on Peacock will begin later this month with the Skate America event in Las Vegas.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: Packers Put Indefinite Hold On Hosting Fans

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The Packers put an indefinite hold on hosting fans at Lambeau Field amid rising COVID cases across Wisconsin.

Also:

  • FS1 pays tribute to late Eddie Van Halen during MLB coverage
  • NAIA passes legislation on name, image and likeness
  • NHL Network ready for two-day virtual Draft production
  • Upper Deck expects big impact from likely top NHL Draft pick
  • Health experts unsure of NBA's plan for next season
  • USA Swimming ready to stage first top-tier event since pandemic cancellations

 

PACKERS PLACE INDEFINITE HOLD ON FANS AT LAMBEAU

  • The Packers today announced that the organization has put an indefinite hold on hosting fans for games at Lambeau Field this season. Team President & CEO Mark Murphy in a statement cited an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Green Bay area and across Wisconsin in making the decision. 

  • Murphy: "We are trending in the wrong direction in terms of hospitalization and positive cases, and based on recommendations from community healthcare and public health officials, hosting fans at the stadium for games is not advisable at this time. ... We know enjoying gameday is an integral part of our community and recognize how important it is to our area. However, the health and safety of our players, staff and community is our priority." The Packers did not host any fans for their first two home games this season, and had not made a commitment to host fans for their next game at Lambeau on Nov. 1.

  • Meanwhile, Pennsylvania today approved up to 7,500 people to gather “at an outdoor facility that has maximum occupancy of more than 10,000,” and the “first major event with that upper-end capacity in place” will be Sunday’s Eagles-Steelers game. That figure includes players, coaches and staff, so Steelers President Art Rooney II indicated that the team is making 5,500 seats available “in the lower seating bowl at Heinz Field.” 

 

FS1 PAYS TRIBUTE TO EDDIE VAN HALEN DURING MLB PLAYOFF COVERAGE

  • Legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen passed away earlier today at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer. Shortly after the news of Van Halen's death made the rounds this afternoon, FS1 paid tribute to the late rocker during Game 1 of the Braves-Marlins NLDS. 

  • As the network went to a commercial break following Braves C Travis d'Arnaud's go-ahead home run in the bottom of the seventh, viewers were treated to Van Halen's "Right Now." The tribute did not go unnoticed on Twitter late this afternoon.

    • ESPN's John Buccigross: "FS1 goes to break during @Braves @Marlins game and plays @VanHalen song. Well done. Smart TV."

    • Sporting News' Joe Rivera: "FS1 bringing a tear to my eye playing Van Halen's 'Right Now' heading into break. RIP Eddie Van Halen."

    • Kansas City-based KCSP-AM host Bob Fescoe: "What a great touch by @fs1."

    • "The Rich Eisen Show" personality Chris Brockman: "big ups to @FS1. ... mad respect."

 

 

NAIA PASSES LEGISLATION ON NAME, IMAGE & LIKENESS

  • Name, image and likeness legislation has passed for athletes who play at one of the 252 colleges or universities in the NAIA, making it the first national athletic association to approve NIL rights, writes Michael Smith in tonight's SBJ College. The new rules, which make it permissible for athletes to make money from their own rights, go into effect immediately.
  • Longtime CEO and President Jim Carr, who has been with the NAIA since 1998, said more than 90% of the association’s full membership voted to approve the new NIL rules. Only a very small percentage of NAIA athletes receive a full scholarship, Carr said, so it was important to provide all athletes with the same opportunity to make extra money as any other student.
  • One of the primary distinctions between the NAIA and what’s being discussed at the NCAA is that the NAIA will make it OK for its athletes to promote their school and even wear team gear to a commercial appearance. NCAA proposals thus far have focused on preventing the athletes from identifying themselves with their school.

 

NHL NETWORK READY FOR TWO-DAY VIRTUAL DRAFT PRODUCTION

  • NHL Network’s two-day virtual production of the NHL Draft’s seven rounds will feature more than 100 people working both remotely and on-site in Secaucus, N.J., to pull off the technological feat, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The net will produce a world feed for the next two days, including tonight as it provides the feed for rights holders NBCSN and TVA. NHL Network, which is working with Boston-based live video transmission and remote production company BitFire, will carry rounds 2-7 tomorrow. 
  • NHL Net Senior VP/Operations & Engineering Susan Stone said that latency was one of the key issues to tackle in searching for a technology partner like BitFire. Added NHL Net VP/Programming & Operations Eric Eisenberg: "We have the prospects and the teams all being able to cross-communicate. Teams are speaking with Commissioner [Gary Bettman] in the studio. We’re also able to do interviews with the teams. The prospects are watching themselves get drafted. All of the prospects that we have access to will be able to watch in real-time. We’ll also be able to get their reaction in real time.”

  • Cameras will be set up with all 32 clubs as well as more than 40 draft prospects. In total, the network will be managing over 100 remote feeds during the Draft. The players have what Stone referred to as a “souped-up version of Zoom” where they’ll easily be able to click a link on their laptop in order to go live and communicate with key stakeholders. 

  • Eisenberg stressed the collaboration on the production between the network, teams, rights holders and the league itself, led by NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer and his staff. Eisenberg: “I’m proud of our group but also the hockey community because everyone has had a piece in this, and everybody’s taken the necessary steps for all of us to be successful. It speaks volumes about the hockey world.”

 

UPPER DECK EXPECTS BIG IMPACT WITH TOP NHL DRAFT PICK IN N.Y. MARKET

  • Upper Deck in March of 2019 signed Canadian winger Alexis Lafreniere to an exclusive trading card and memorabilia deal, and if and when Lafreniere is selected No. 1 overall in the NHL Draft tonight, his becoming a New York Ranger will represent a 25% increase in market impact, Upper Deck President Jason Masherah told SBJ’s Andrew Levin today.

  • Masherah attributed that increase to the legacy and fervor of an Original Six franchise’s fanbase, as well as to the overall size of the N.Y. market. He said, “We’re expecting really big things. We’re going to be excited to take advantage of the opportunity that potentially having a rookie in the world’s largest market for trading cards provides us.”

  • Masherah also discussed how the pandemic has impacted the trading card and memorabilia marketplace. On demand and valuations: “It’s really gone into overdrive over the last six months or so during the pandemic. As you’ve had more demand come into the market, the valuations on cards have definitely been driven up dramatically as people get back into the market and really start to invest and collect.”

  • He said that the biggest challenge has been on the authenticated memorabilia side because Upper Deck does live, in-person signings with its biggest athletes for authentication. Masherah: “Supply has definitely been a problem across the board. It hasn’t spared our industry at all.”

  • For more insights from Masherah on Lafreniere, and the present and future of the trading card and memorabilia industry, check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.



HEALTH EXPERTS UNSURE IF NBA CAN HOST FANS EARLY NEXT SEASON

  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver "outlined his hopes last week that the NBA will begin next season in January and its 30 teams will play in team arenas with fans in the stands," but some health experts have "serious concerns about the league's initial hopes," according to USA Today.

  • Texas Sports Medicine Medical Dir Tarek Souryal "expressed optimism," but he "conceded the idea 'is not going to be fool proof.'" Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation epidemiologist and statistician David Swedler said, "It is possible to execute in-arena home games. But I think it is ludicrous to allow fans to attend those in-arena home games." USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Armand Dorian "considered the NBA's fluid start date in January 'a little premature for having fans in the stands.'" 

  • Silver has "proposed hosting games at limited occupancy with rapid testing available while enforcing mask-wearing, social distancing and sanitary rules." American Public Health Association Exec Dir Dr. Georges Benjamin said of allowing fans back for games, "If we have positive rates at less than 5% around the country, then we're much more likely able to do that." 

   

USA SWIMMING SET TO HOLD FIRST TOP-TIER EVENT SINCE PANDEMIC CANCELLATIONS

  • USA Swimming has announced the nine host markets for its upcoming Toyota U.S. Open event, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith.

  • The annual competition, which will be the first top-tier domestic swimming competition since COVID-related cancellations began, will take place Nov. 12-14, almost exactly seven months before the rescheduled Olympic Team Trials in Omaha next June. USA Swimming will combine race times from across the locations to produce comprehensive event results. The multi-site format is expected to allow over 1,800 athletes to compete, more than double the event’s usual number of competitors. A one-hour broadcast of the competition will air from 3-4pm ET on NBC on November 15.

  • The nine markets are Beaverton, Ore.; Des Moines, Iowa; Greensboro, N.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Irvine, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; San Antonio, Texas; Sarasota, Fla..

 

SPEED READS

  • The return of SEC football continues to bolster a pandemic-induced slower start for CBS and ESPN college football numbers, SBJ’s Austin Karp notes. Despite Alabama’s 52-24 blowout of Texas A&M, the game delivered 4.76 million viewers for CBS, marking the best college football audience this season to date. Last year on the same weekend was Week 6 of the season, and Auburn-Florida drew 6.43 million. See more in SBJ College.
  • The Ringer's Nora Princiotti writes under the header, "Week 4 Revealed the NFL’s Limitations in Containing COVID-19."  Four weeks into the season, the league is "still on track to play a normal, 17-week schedule, but the past week was a reminder of how vigilant teams need to be about the virus -- and a sign that even rigid adherence to the league’s safety protocols may not protect against future interruptions." The NFL’s safety measures "balance the need to prevent virus spread against the need to have players available, and to do that, they’ve accepted some risk that their rules can mitigate but not eliminate the threat of the virus."

  • Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in N.Y., has agreed to a 10-year founding sponsorship deal with the Islanders and UBS Arena, which is scheduled to open for the 2021-22 NHL season at Belmont Park on Long Island, reports SBJ's Karn Dhingra. Northwell has an existing partnership with the Islanders and serves as title sponsor for the team’s East Meadow practice facility. Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke, whose company is developing the arena, said, “Northwell Health and (CEO) Michael (Dowling) for over 20 years been involved in the New York Islanders family. Having this relationship now at another level will be so helpful -- not only for the sponsorship in the arena, but for the holistic programs that we enjoy with Northwell."

  • The Ravens’ in-house media arm launched its fourth podcast today, “Black in the NFL,” an exploration of the experiences of Black players in the league, per SBJ's Ben Fischer. Created by Ravens staff writer Clifton Brown, the first episode includes interviews with Ravens backup QB Robert Griffin III, former NFLer and Green Beret Nate Boyer and civil rights activist Dr. Harry Edwards. It is the team’s first podcast aimed at a general-interest audience after the team launched three Ravens-focused podcasts over the last five years.


  • NBC Olympics and Twitter extended their partnership to include both the Tokyo Olympics next year and the Beijing Games in 2022, reports SBJ's John Ourand. The original deal, signed in 2019, only covered the Tokyo Games that originally were scheduled for this year. The deal will see the two companies create original programming about the Games, in addition to video highlights, for the @NBCOlympics Twitter handle. Twitter committed to creating a daily poll that will determine one live look-in to an NBC Primetime or Primetime Plus broadcast. 

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY



SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: NFL Threatens Forfeits For Protocol Violations

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL threatens forfeits as punishment for teams' failure to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. 

Also:

  • Tod Leiweke joins Sounders ownership group
  • Jared Smith gets candid about leaving Ticketmaster
  • Facebook's Rob Shaw talks NBA VR sponsorship
  • USOPC to recognize Maya Moore, 1980 boycott
  • Fitch maintains stable rating on Hard Rock Stadium bonds
  • FanDuel, DraftKings cash in on pent-up demand

 

NFL THREATENS FORFEITS, LOSS OF DRAFT PICKS FOR PROTOCOL VIOLATIONS

  • The NFL for the first time this afternoon threatened forfeits as punishment for COVID-19 protocol violations in a conference call with executives from every team, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports. Commissioner Roger Goodell said that would be an option if violations “result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams,” and again mentioned draft pick cuts as another potential hammer.

  • The NFL and NFLPA also agreed to new steps to double down on pandemic mitigation after the first two NFL games were postponed this week (Steelers-Titans and Patriots-Chiefs, being played tonight). They include: “a league-wide video monitoring system” to ensure compliance with rules requiring face masks when in facilities and traveling and bans on any gatherings outside the club facilities.

  • The meeting came after another Sunday in which coaches were seen on camera without masks, namely the Raiders' Jon Gruden. Today, NFL Network reported that 10 Raiders players were fined $165K in total for being seen without face marks at a recent fundraiser. 

  • “Complacency is our shared opponent,” Goodell wrote. “We must reinforce our commitment to full adherence to our mandatory safety protocols and best practices.” Later, he repeated: “Simply put, compliance is mandatory.”

 

KRAKEN CEO TOD LEIWEKE JOINS SOUNDERS OWNERSHIP GROUP

  • Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke and his wife, Tara, are now part of the Sounders ownership group, per SBJ’s Mark J. Burns

  • Leiweke has prior ties to the club as he oversaw the league’s expansion into MLS in the late 2000s. He also served as CEO of the Seahawks from 2002-2010. 

  • The news follows last week’s announcement that Jed Kaplan, minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies and second-tier English soccer club Swansea City, joining Orlando City as part-owner. Check out Tuesday’s Morning Buzz for more information on the Sounders’ new owners.

 

TICKETMASTER'S JARED SMITH: COVID LANDSCAPE HASTENED DEPARTURE

  • Ticketmaster Global Chair Jared Smith, who will step down from his role by the end of 2020 after 17 years at the company, told SBJ's Karn Dhingra his departure was hastened by the economic fallout from the global pandemic. 

  • “If not for COVID, would I have left this year? Probably not,” Smith said. Smith, who was promoted to global chair in August, said he had discussed with Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino plans to eventually leave over the next few years, but COVID accelerated his timetable and they both decided to make the move now rather than later. Per Variety, Global President Mark Yovich, who was promoted at the same time Smith was named chair, "will remain in that role, while North America President Amy Howe will become COO." 

  • Smith: “We were geared up for a really big year, everybody was touring, it was going to be a huge stadium year, we were opening up with new customers with SoFi (Stadium) and the Raiders. ... We were geared up for a huge year."
     
  • Smith believes COVID will accelerate trends around identity-based digital ticketing that were occurring in the business before the pandemic, albeit at a lesser rate. “What would have been in my opinion a three or five-year progression or shift from paper-based tickets to 100% identity-based tickets, I think will now happen overnight,” Smith said. “As we come out of COVID, for all of the right reasons, almost every team, every venue, every artist is going to want to know who bought the tickets and more importantly who is using the tickets. When that happens, a ton of great things will flow from that."
  • Smith hopes to stay in the live entertainment and sports industry, but is also confident he can apply lessons from his 17 years at Ticketmaster elsewhere as he contemplates his next move. “If I can find the right opportunity to stay in the business, I’d love to. But I’m fortunate if I don’t, I don’t have to,” Smith said. He added that Ticketmaster at its core is a "product and technology business at massive scale with a big consumer tech business and marketplace." Smith: "That’s readily transferable to any number of industries.” 
     

 

 

 

FACEBOOK'S ROB SHAW TALKS NBA VR HEADSET SPONSORSHIP

  • Oculus from Facebook in mid-August became the official virtual-reality headset sponsor of the NBA, and Facebook Director of Sports Media & League Partnerships Rob Shaw said the deal has “provided a great opportunity to leverage” Oculus’ VR technology within NBA games to “really bring our brand out to the public, probably like never before.”

  • Shaw told SBJ’s Andrew Levin, “As a longtime New York Knicks fan … you aspire for the seat that a certain Spike Lee is always seated in, and Oculus, in many ways, affords you that opportunity.”

  • Shaw stressed Facebook is at a point where it is “expanding the gates quite a bit” in the VR space, calling the list of potential experiences “unfathomable.” He recalled a meeting very early in his time at Facebook in which Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained why the company was investing in Oculus. Zuckerberg at the time said, “Think about a world where two people in New Jersey can go on a date to the Louvre in Paris.”

  • Shaw said, “It opened my mind. It blew my mind … to understand the power of VR, the power of being able to truly have yourself an experience that you only could get if you were literally traveling thousands of miles to have.” With that in mind, Shaw concluded, “We’ve always been very honest and clear that Oculus is a long-term play. This isn’t something that we’re buying to make a quick dollar. This is something that we believe is going to change the way people socialize and engage with each other.”

  • For more insights from Shaw on Oculus’ deal with the NBA, and the implications of VR and Facebook’s content strategy, check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.

 

USOPC TO HONOR MAYA MOORE, 1980 OLYMPIC BOYCOTT

  • The USOPC today announced its annual award recipients, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith. The awards will be presented virtually on Thursday, as part of the annual USOPC Assembly

  • The Olympic & Paralympic Torch Award, which celebrates outstanding service to the Olympic and Paralympic movement, will be given to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team in recognition of its decision to boycott the Moscow Games 40 years ago. Minnesota LynxMaya Moore, who won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, will receive the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award for her decision to step away from basketball last year in order to pursue criminal justice reform efforts

  • The two annual Rings of Gold Awards, which honor an individual and a program that have helped children achieve their Olympic dreams, will be awarded to Dr. Tekemia Dorsey and the George Pocock Rowing Foundation’s Erg Ed program. Dorsey founded the International Association of Black Triathletes in 2014 and has since been responsible for introducing hundreds of youths in urban neighborhoods to multisport racing. The decade-old Erg Ed program, which is operated in partnership with USRowing, provides middle and high schools equipment, training and a curriculum that’s used by more than 25,000 students annually. 

 

FITCH KEEPS STABLE RATING ON HARD ROCK STADIUM BONDS

  • Fitch kept its BBB rating on a combined $185.6 million of the Miami-Dade County Industrial Development Authority’s outstanding bonds on Hard Rock Stadium, reports SBJ's Karn Dhingra. One tranche of bonds at $109.3 million is taxable and another at $76.3 million is tax-exempt. 

  • In its rating, Fitch noted some of Hard Rock Stadium’s variable-rate debt exposes the venue’s credit to interest rate fluctuations, but the stadium’s holding company has “revised the debt amortization schedule of its existing debt, easing some near-term pressure on debt service.” But Hard Rock’s overall debt service payments will grow steadily before dropping off in FY 2035. 

  • Fitch also noted that “revenues from suites, club seats, sponsorships and advertising agreements are exposed to renewal risk and continued economic uncertainty." Combined with an "underperforming team, price points and renewal terms may be pressured.” 

  • Fitch’s rating assumes Hard Rock Stadium’s 2022 revenue is expected to be flat and by 2023 revenues are expected to show modest growth and steadily increase in subsequent years. 

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: FANDUEL, DRAFTKINGS CASH IN

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Randy Koch, CEO of Facteus, a leading provider of actionable insights from financial data. He writes under the header, "FanDuel, DraftKings Cash In On Pent-up Demand Over The Summer."

  • Koch: "Spoiler alert: It’s even more than you think. After a slight dip in year-over-year growth in the early days of the pandemic, DraftKings stabilized and picked up steam at the end of May and hit 100% year-over-year growth by the tail end of June. In that same time, FanDuel racked up impressive 100%-200% year-over-year growth numbers. Believe it or not, this is just the warmup."

  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

SPEED READS

  • The Texans have "fired head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien," sources told ESPN's Dan Graziano and Adam SchefterTexans Owner Cal McNair gave O'Brien the GM title this past January. The team is off to an 0-4 start this season following yesterday's loss to the Vikings, and also have the NFL’s highest payroll this year at $248 million. The Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson reports Texans Exec VP/Football Operations Jack Easterby is "expected to be instrumental" in advising McNair on the coaching search.

  • Erika Nardini, the CEO of Barstool Sports since 2016, has been elected to the WWE’s Board of Directors, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. WWE Chair & CEO Vince McMahon said Nardini’s “entrepreneurial spirit, business acumen and understanding of today’s consumers will serve as a perfect addition” to the sports and entertainment property. Nardini is also on the advisory boards of food publisher Food52 and the Premier Lacrosse League

  • The biggest changes to Amazon’s Megacast coverage of “Thursday Night Football,” which begins this week with Buccaneers-Bears, will be the launch of in-game, on-demand replays through its X-Ray feature and more programming developed for Twitch in the run-up to the game, reports SBJ's John Ourand. The game on Amazon Prime, however, essentially will have a similar look and feel to last year. “These are things that you really can only do in an OTT environment,” said Amazon Director of Global Live Sports Production Jared Stacy. “From a content perspective, it gives fans more ways to engage with the broadcast and with the game.”

  • Adweek's Jason Lynch reports without TV's "usual September rush of broadcast premieres, fourth-quarter ad impressions are up in the air due to upended production schedules." Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. advertising sales officer at Discovery, said his outfit "not being so dependent on Hollywood scripted production as many of our competitors are, has been an advantage." But Steinlauf knows it’s "still going to be a fight for viewers." Between unscripted shows, cable news and live sports, said Steinlauf, “television is still super competitive every night.”

  • Golfworld's Tod Leonard writes across the college golf landscape, the NCAA, conferences and universities are in the "strange, unprecedented position of relying on states, counties and even the beliefs of individual families to determine their competitive fate in the 2020-’21 season and beyond." For now, a handful Power Five and mid-major conferences in D-I have begun playing in tournaments this fall. The rest are "waiting for the spring portion of the schedule to start play, with the hope COVID-19 abates and potential vaccines may be available to return some normalcy to the landscape."

  • Why was Fargo, North Dakota, such a popular destination for NFL scouts and executives this past weekend? North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The potential first round pick played his first game of the season on Saturday with the Bison's normal schedule scrapped due to COVID-19. Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reports 26 scouts from 20 different NFL franchises were in attendance, and the Panthers, Lions and Colts sent "three higher-up executives" as well.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: NCAA Seeks Third Party To Manage NIL Needs

Breaking news tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NCAA is seeking third parties to manage its name, image and likeness needs. Michael Smith has the story.

Also:

  • Johanna Faries takes over Overwatch League
  • Grizzlies minority owner buys stake in MLS club
  • Golden Knights join new TikTok-like platform
  • AJ Hinch, Alex Cora have shot at Tigers' opening
  • New ATP strategic plan focuses on unity

 

NCAA SEEKS THIRD PARTY TO MANAGE NIL NEEDS

  • The NCAA is seeking one or more third parties to manage its name, image and likeness needs, SBJ’s Michael Smith reports. An RFP from the NCAA requires bids be submitted by today at 5pm. The RFP asks for companies to make their proposals for three areas:

    • DISCLOSURE: The third-party company would manage an NIL database that would collect and monitor endorsement deals, appearances, camps, any commercial activity that results in income for the college athlete. The plan is for athletes and/or their marketing reps to input the commercial event to the school and then for the school to report to the national NIL database, which also has been described as an NCAA registry.

    • ENFORCEMENT: The RFP asks for companies to submit how they would monitor and enforce NIL rules if, for example, an athlete made an appearance for $20,000 when fair-market value indicates that it should have been $2,000.

    • EDUCATION: A third party would take on the responsibility of educating college athletes on lessons like money management, tax implications, brand building and several other aspects of NIL.

  • Companies can bid on all three categories or just one of them. A group of finalists will be selected by Oct. 23 and presentations will begin in early November. A winner or winners are expected to be named by Nov. 20. As many as 12 to 15 different companies are expected to partake in the bidding process, industry insiders say.

 

JOHANNA FARIES TO RUN BOTH CALL OF DUTY AND OVERWATCH LEAGUES

  • Call of Duty League Commissioner Johanna Faries has been appointed to the newly created position Head of Leagues -- taking effect on Oct. 12 -- and will now lead both the CDL and Overwatch Leagues, per The Esports Observer's Kevin Hitt.

  • According to sources close to the league, owners "received details regarding the change in responsibilities while thanking the now-former Overwatch League Commissioner Pete Vlastelica for his time in the leadership role." Additionally, Brandon Snow will now be adding marketing and analytics for the league to his areas of responsibilities. As head of both leagues, Fairies "will oversee team and broadcast operations as well as being the league administrator."

  • As commissioner of the CDL, Faries has seen the league "thrive despite challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic." While live events needed to be canceled, the CDL championship was the most-watched stream the league produced and "saw solid viewership numbers with an AMA of just over 206K."

 

 

GRIZZLIES MINORITY OWNER JED KAPLAN BUYS STAKE IN ORLANDO CITY SC

  • Jed Kaplan, minority owner of the Grizzlies and second-tier English soccer club Swansea City, is now part owner of Orlando City SC, per SBJ’s Mark J. Burns

  • Kaplan, who won’t be involved in the day-to-day operations, purchased the LP stake from a former minority owner, the club tells SBJ. The deal was “finalized recently” and includes a “very, very small” share of Orlando City. 

  • It is unclear if the deal involves other assets within the Orlando Sports Holdings LLC portfolio. A source with knowledge of the situation recently told SBJ that “a couple smaller LP transactions (in MLS) at pre-COVID valuations” were completed over the summer months. Those deals extend beyond Kevin Durant’s 5% stake in the Philadelphia Union along with LAFC’s two new part-owners, this person said. 

 

GOLDEN KNIGHTS JOIN NEW TIKTOK-LIKE SOCIAL PLATFORM

  • The Golden Knights are believed to be the first sports team to join Triller, a social media platform similar to TikTok that also features music overlays. Golden Knights CMO Brian Killingsworth told SBJ's Mark J. Burns that the club did six weeks of due diligence in researching the company, led by Senior Manager of Communications & Content Alyssa Girardi.

  • “With everything going on with TikTok, Triller is gaining audience share,” Killingsworth said of the Gen Z-centric platform that is also interested in entering sports. “We were the first NHL team that was on Weibo, the first NHL team on Twitch. We’d had this first-mover perspective.”

  • Killingsworth added that Triller’s younger demographics, “short, bite-sized content” and “quick, clean, edit process” made it even more appealing for Vegas to join the emerging platform. Girardi will spearhead content efforts on Triller, he said. To date, the Golden Knights have three videos on the platform and about 1,800 followers. The L.A.-based company launched in 2015 and has more than 120 million downloads as well as an estimated 65 million monthly active users. 

 

TIGERS GM SAYS TEAM WILL CONSIDER HINCH, CORA

  • Tigers Exec VP & GM Al Avila on Friday said AJ Hinch and Alex Cora, both of whom were fired from their respective positions in the wake of the Astros' sign-stealing scandal, are "among the candidates for the team's managerial vacancy," per ESPN. Avila said Hinch and Cora are "just two of the names on what he expects to be a lengthy list of initial candidates."

  • The Detroit Free Press' Evan Petzold notes Avila "initially tip-toed around the subject without stating if Hinch and Cora are options to lead the Tigers" through their rebuild. Avila: "Obviously, the cheating scandal is not a good thing. They're serving their suspensions. And once their suspensions are over, they'll be free to pursue their careers. We have not eliminated anybody from our list at this point."

  • Avila said the Tigers "hope to make a managerial decision by October or November."

 

NEW ATP STRATEGIC PLAN FOCUSES ON UNITY

  • An internal ATP strategic plan shared with stakeholders in early September unveils a vision to more closely align the interests of all tournaments and players through four pillars, including a more stable prize-money formula and aggregated tournament media and data rights under the tour’s direct control. 

  • The ATP’s dissemination of the 92-page document came shortly after the Professional Tennis Players Association -- a players-focused group led by Novak Djokovic that threatens to upend the tour’s 30-year-old structure -- announced its formation.

  • The need for unity and greater alignment of interests within the sport is addressed 22 times in the first 68 pages (containing the actual plan) of the ATP document, which Sports Business Journal has reviewed. 

  • To read the full story, which appears in Monday's print edition of SBJ from Bret McCormick, click here.

 

SPEED READS

  • The Broncos’ charitable arm raised over $130,000 from the sale of cardboard fan cutouts, far exceeding officials’ expectations and recouping most of the team charity’s losses from the pandemic, per SBJ's Ben Fischer. All told, 10 NFL teams have raised just over $1 million via the cutouts, a league spokesperson said, under a new policy that allowed them if they benefitted nonprofits. The Broncos have displayed about 3,000 cutouts in all, including 1,800 that depicted characters from “South Park” last week as part of a charitable contribution from Comedy Central and South Park Studios.”

  • The game between the Steelers and Titans, which was "postponed from Sunday after an outbreak of positive coronavirus tests within the Titans organization, has been rescheduled for Week 7 on Oct. 25" at 1:00pm ET. The Steelers-Ravens game will "move from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1" at 1:00pm. 

  • EA Sports is releasing a new version of "NHL '94" with the "same graphics and game play as the 1994 game, but with updated, current rosters." The game, titled "NHL Rewind '94," will be part of a package for anyone who pre-orders "EA Sports NHL 21." ESPN's Jeremy Willis: "The electronic music. The 16-bit hockey action. It's all back."

  • MLB's postseason marketing campaign "celebrates what might be the biggest departure from tradition yet: a 16-team playoff field," according to Adweek. Channeling its "best impression of college basketball’s March Madness, the league’s spot 'October: The Remix' highlights that 'we’ve never done October like this before.'" MLB Senior VP/Marketing Barbara McHugh said that MLB is "prioritizing bringing the game to fans with unique content across its social media accounts, new interactive fan engagement products and additional content for players to share through MLB’s Player Social program."

 

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Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: Sharp NBA Finals Audience Drop A Continued Sign Of The Times

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Game 1 of the NBA Finals sees steep viewership decline from last year's opener.

Also:

  • Olympic reform bill awaits President Trump's signature
  • ESPN's mid-game MLB player interviews surprise some viewers
  • WNBA commissioner doesn't rule out bubble for next season
  • IndyCar season finale wants to host 20,000 fans this month
  • Why NFL COVID outbreak could have been much worse

 

NBA FINALS SEES SHARP AUDIENCE DROP AMID CALENDAR SHIFT

  • ABC averaged 7.41 million viewers for the Lakers’ 116-98 win over the Heat in Game 1 on Wednesday night, marking the least-watched NBA Finals game since ABC/ESPN acquired media rights to the league prior to the 2002-03 season, per SBJ’s Austin Karp. The game may also be the lowest audience for any Finals game dating back to 1994 (when viewership records began), but that could not be confirmed by presstime.

  • The previous low was Game 2 of the 2003 Spurs-Nets finals, which averaged 8.06 million viewers. Last year, in late May on a normal schedule, Game 1 of Raptors-Warriors averaged 13.89 million viewers.

  • While the game was a record-low for ABC/ESPN with the shift to early October for the finals, Game 1 was the most-viewed program of the night on TV, marking the 71st consecutive time that an NBA Finals game has won the night.


  • Beyond the shift due to COVID-19, ABC also had competition from the MLB Wild Card round last night (2.2 million viewers watching baseball from 9:00-11:00pm). Also, compared to the night of Game 1 in 2019, there were 9.1 million fewer U.S. homes watching any sort of TV last night.


  • Cable news also continues to be strong amid an election year, with 3.5 million more viewers watching CNN/MSNBC/Fox News during the game last night compared the night of Game 1 in 2019. 

 

OLYMPIC REFORM BILL NOW AWAITS PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SIGNATURE

  • The House of Representatives today "passed sweeping legislation that is poised to alter the sprawling landscape of Olympic sports, including giving more power to athletes and forcing more oversight of the coaches and executives who have traditionally controlled the sports," per the Washington Post.

  • The bill, which "easily passed the Senate and now awaits President Trump’s signature, will have immediate ramifications that could prove costly for the cash-strapped" USOPC. But athletes and their advocates say the biggest impact "could be looming a year or more down the road."

  • Born out of the Larry Nassar scandal that "rocked the gymnastics world and toppled the leadership at the USOPC, the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act empowers Congress to decertify individual sports’ governing bodies and dissolve the USOPC’s board of directors." It also "calls for better athlete representation in governing bodies and more funding for the U.S. Center for SafeSport."

  • The bill "effectively means that Congress will keep close watch on Olympic organizations, receiving annual reports and audits, and will be poised to take further action, if needed."

 

 

ESPN CONTINUES MID-GAME PLAYER INTERVIEWS DURING MLB PLAYOFFS

  • SI's Dan Gartland notes ESPN yesterday and last night "gave earpieces to A’s outfielder Mark Canha and Dodgers infielder Justin Turner during their playoff games and interviewed them while they played defense."

  • Gartland: "An in-game interview, even in a playoff game, isn’t a terrible idea, but there were issues with how ESPN deployed it in both of these cases. Doing the interview in the early innings is a smart approach, but interviewing a player whose team is facing elimination is sure to rub some fans the wrong way."

  • ESPN this afternoon did another mid-game interview with A's outfielder Ramon Laureano, and reactions varied with what might be becoming a trend across the postseason.

    • Boston Globe's Pete Abraham: "There's a line between cool and intrusive."

    • Bleacher Report's Zachary D. Rymer: "'Well, Ramón, your team's season is ending before our very eyes. But while we have you, what's your perfect Sunday?'"

    • S.F. Chronicle's Ann Killion: "god, if I was the manager I would be so pissed off right now..."

    • CBS Sports' Adam Aizer: "OK Ramon Laureano is giving an interview while playing center field in the third inning of an elimination game. This is both very cool and very ridiculous at the same time."

    • NBC Sports' Jessica Kleinschmidt: "ESPN broadcast says Laureano 'wanted to do it.' They've spoken to MLBPA and it was encouraged, even in postseason games."

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

  • During this crisis impacting the sports business, we want everyone to be up-to-date on the latest news and information. Tonight, the entire Sports Business Daily section from last night's Sports Business Awards is free, outside the paywall. Below are the headlines, and check out last night's full SBA show here.

    • Tanenbaum: Sports Need To Foster Change In Today's World
    • ESPN's Pitaro, CBS, Bleacher Report Win Big In Media At SBAs
    • Expansion Growth Helps MLS Win League Of The Year
    • Florida's Scott Stricklin Takes AD Of The Year Honors
    • LSU's Viral Posts Help Win Best In Sports Social Media
    • NFL Draft In Nashville Takes Event Of The Year Honors
    • Octagon Tops Sports Business Awards For Corporate Consulting
 

 

ENGELBERT GIVES STATE OF WNBA ADDRESS AHEAD OF FINALS

  • WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert addressed the media via conference call prior to the start of the WNBA Finals tomorrow night between the Seattle Storm and the Las Vegas Aces at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla

  • Engelbert said that she “couldn’t be more pleased with the state of the game" as the league navigated the challenges 2020 presented. But she said that playing in front of no fans made for a trying financial year. Engelbert did not offer any financial specifics, but said playing at the single site Bradenton “Wubble” was “100 percent worth it." Engelbert: "The option of not having a season ... was more devastating financially.”

  • The WNBA already is planning for next season -- whether teams will play in arenas with fans, without fans, with social distancing and with rapid testing, writes SBJ's John Lombardo. The league is also surveying its fan base to determine if they would be willing to come back should the league reopen arenas. Engelbert: "We are hoping by May, they will be.” 

  • Engelbert did not rule out playing next season in a bubble format, if needed. “We may be in a position where we have to do it again, but we need to be prepared for a variety of outcomes here,” she said. “Our teams would like to get their fans back in their arenas, but certainly, would we do it again?  We'd revisit it because, again, I think it's so important to stay in the sports landscape.”  

  • Engelbert’s main priority in the offseason will be to increase marketing efforts around the league. “The key will be to continue to market the players, the personalities, and the rivalries,” she said.
     

 

INDYCAR'S CHAMPIONSHIP RACE COULD HOST 20,000 FANS THIS MONTH

  • Organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg today said they "could host up to 20,000 spectators" for the Oct. 25 NTT IndyCar Series season finale, per the Tampa Bay Times

  • The proposed attendance figure was "submitted to the City Council before its meeting" this afternoon and "discussed as members approved the resolution to hold" the championship race. 

  • Grand Prix co-owner Kevin Savoree told the Council, “We feel comfortable at this 20,000 level. Would we like to have more fans? Absolutely. But I think for us, we have to walk before we run.”

  • Attendance at IndyCar events since the pandemic has been limited. Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course "will be able to host 10,000 fans for this weekend’s doubleheader."

 

SOME GOOD NEWS ON NFL COVID OUTBREAK

  • Postponing an NFL game is unfortunate, but SBJ's Ben Fischer cites sources around the league this afternoon are sounding a cautiously cheerful note.

  • Why? Because the Vikings all tested negative again this morning. They still could test positive -- it’ll be the weekend before they’re out of the incubation period -- but confidence is growing that the outbreak is limited to the Titans.

  • If that holds true, it means two things:

    • The Steelers-Titans rescheduling jiu jitsu will be kept to a minimum.

    • Titans players took the field with the Vikings on Sunday and didn’t transmit the virus.

  • It’s just one game, but it’s a sign that perhaps tackle football is not as high-risk as originally presumed. That’s got major implications for the entire sport -- from Pop Warner leagues to the Super Bowl.
     

 

LEVY USING PANTHERS GAME AS TEST-CASE FOR PREPAID CONCESSIONS

  • Levy Restaurants plan to offer fans attending this Sunday’s Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium a mobile option on their tickets to pay $15 in advance for certain concessions. Those will include a rotating “hot entrée of the game,” chips, candy, soda and water (representing an average of $20 in savings). Levy Exec VP & COO Tom Funk told SBJ's Karn Dhingra that the mobile option could be rolled out at other venues in the near future.
     
  • Funk said the Panthers will be a test case, but the primary purpose of offering this option to fans is to make them feel safe when it comes to food and beverage. This weekend represents the first time the Panthers will host fans during the NFL season. Funk added that from a performance perspective, if Levy can drive revenue, it’s always a plus. 

  • Overall, Levy’s menu items at BofA will be streamlined for speed and feature enclosed packaging. Fans will also have access to in-seat concessions ordering, as there will be no hawkers in the stands. Levy expects a “couple hundred” fans in the stadium’s suites, where they can see and order items via Quick Respose code on the team application. 

  • Meanwhile, the Charlotte Business Journal's Erik Spanberg writes under the header, "How Panthers Plan To Keep Fans Safe At BofA Stadium."

 

SPEED READS

  • The NFL early this evening sent a memo to all teams with the subject, "Post Exposure COVID Procedures." The second bolded graph reads, "There is one simple rule to remember: act as if every person you come in contact with has a COVID infection and take appropriate precautions." Requirements for any club that has experienced an outbreak or been exposed to the virus include PCR and POC tests on game day, strictly virtual meetings and gloves worn by all players on the field with the exception of the quarterback.

  • What brands are getting the most out of the NFL this season? SportsAtlas and Zoomph ran the numbers for us this week, and the top two are not surprises: Long-time league sponsors BudLight and Bose. But Nos. 3, 4, and 5 are newcomers: Allegiant AirInvisalign and SoFi. It certainly shows what primetime telecasts at new stadiums can do for you. Check out the whole list here.

  • MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson in a report today maintained his "neutral" rating on the stock of Disney, but "boosted his stock price target by $18, citing the Hollywood giant's 'strong' position in streaming."
  • As the winter sports season approaches, ski resorts are "ready for a comeback, armed with complicated plans and strategies to keep guests safe," per the Wall Street Journal's Nancy KeatesTaylor Middleton, president and COO of Big Sky Resort in Montana, said, “This winter will be all about getting open and staying open." That means no more traditional “singles” lift line -- "instead, there will be 'self-choice' lines, in which skiers can ride with family groups or more spaced out with strangers."

  • Sporting News' Jason Foster had fun with the Braves winning their first playoff series since 2001. Foster: "The last time the Braves won a playoff series, Twitter didn't exist. Neither did Facebook. Neither did YouTube. Neither did the iPhone. Neither did Blu-ray. It's been a while. Congrats, Atlanta."

 

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.

 

 

 

SBJ Unpacks: NBA's Time To Shine

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The sports business community is set to gather virtually this evening for the unveiling of SBJ's 2020 Sports Business Awards before the NBA Finals get underway in Orlando.

Also:

  • NFL eyeing Monday for Titans-Steelers
  • Panthers prepping for first home NFL crowd
  • Temporary CFP expansion proposal shelved
  • Chris Mann leaving Dignitas esports team
  • Wimbledon gaining steam for 2021

 

LAKERS, HEAT GEARING UP SPONSORS AROUND NBA FINALS

  • Ahead of the NBA Finals tipping off tonight, key executives from the Lakers and Heat weighed in on their takeaways from the Disney bubble and how they are looking to engage their fans and sponsors. Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth told SBJ's John Lombardo the NBA has done an "unbelievable job of keeping everyone safe, and of delivering highly entertaining basketball under difficult circumstances." Lakers President of Business Operations Tim Harris: "It was so impressive what the league pulled off. ... It over-delivered."
  • The Heat have sent fan kits to season-ticket members, and for each designated home games have created a digital version of the team's Tipoff Magazine, which is normally printed and distributed as fans enter the AmericanAirlines Arena. Heat Exec VP & CMO Michael McCullough: "We want these fans to feel like they’re getting the full in-game experience." The Lakers are organizing drive-in type viewing parties for fans in L.A. and will continue to hold Zoom calls with their season ticket members by section. Harris: "It’s nice to see familiar faces and talk Lakers basketball."
  • While the Lakers won't feature any local sponsors virtually during the Finals broadcasts, Harris said they have seen 10x of the use of team logos used locally and on sponsor platforms. "That is a benefit of playing in the Finals," he said. Harris: "They all want to activate locally and they want to benefit on the reflective shine of the team. ... Sponsors are activating within the city, buying billboards and utilizing the IP that they would have done if they had been activating in the arena."
  • The Heat have playoff branding at retail locations, and some food partners running game day free delivery specials. Heat Exec VP & Chief Commercial Officer John Vidalin: "We are encouraging virtual rallies for partners and their employees, doing some virtual partner pre-game happy hours, etc. Really just amplifying local in market promotions virtually or socially that partners are already doing as well.”

 

The Lakers will continue to rely on their virtual fans during the NBA FInals
Photo: getty images

 

STEELERS-TITANS LIKELY MOVING TO MONDAY AFTER POSTPONEMENT

  • The NFL officially postponed the Steelers-Titans matchup that was scheduled for 1:00pm ET on Sunday, and Monday night is reportedly the most likely landing spot for the game.
  • There was just one additional positive test today within the Titans' organization and none with the Vikings, notes SBJ's Ben Fischer, but that new positive pushes the timeframe back to be certain the outbreak has been fully identified and contained. The incubation period for coronavirus means that additional positives could still be discovered Thursday or Friday.
  • The postponement is not likely to present a major contractual challenge for CBS and the NFL, one media industry insider familiar with the rights deals told SBJ. While the NFL has promised CBS a certain number of games, the exact value of a single regional game would be difficult to assess.

 

PANTHERS READY FOR FIRST HOME NFL CROWD THIS SEASON

  • The Panthers will welcome a limited amount of fans at Bank of America Stadium for the first time this NFL season when they host the Cardinals on Sunday, and the team has enlisted the support of aerospace services and technology company Honeywell to ensure a safe environment. Honeywell has implemented and will deploy an air-quality monitoring dashboard that tracks temperature, humidity and carbon-dioxide levels at the stadium.
  • Honeywell Senior Sales Manager Tom Sumner told SBJ’s Andrew Levin, “This dashboard is always watching for conditions that go outside of standards. So, the key point is … it knows if something goes outside those thresholds that have been set.” That way, the facility-management team is able to see those items, check on them and make necessary fixes.
  • Additionally, Honeywell has manufactured about 150,000 Panthers-branded PPE packs to be handed out to fans and staff this season. They also have made arrangements to have up to another 150,000 delivered as needed. The packs include a surgical mask, sanitizing wipe and a pack of hand sanitizer and will be administered before people enter into the stadium, as well as be available within the facility.
  • For more insights on Honeywell’s involvement with the Panthers, as well as other trends in the space, check out today’s episode of the “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.

 

PROPOSAL TO EXPAND CFP SHELVED

  • Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott suggested expanding the College Football Playoff from four to eight teams for this season, but the CFP management committee “did not approve the idea” during today's meeting, CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN.
  • Although the playoff “won't expand this season, the commissioners have reviewed the current format annually.” Wednesday's meeting was the first time, though, that it “became public that one Power 5 commissioner had specifically pitched an eight-team format to the group for consideration.”
  • "They decided that doing that now would be such a significant change, and come with so many challenges, especially given the timing with the season already underway, that they concluded that the best outcome would be to make no changes in the format," Hancock told ESPN.

 

CHRIS MANN LEAVING HBSE'S DIGNITAS ESPORTS ORGINIZATION

  • Dignitas exec Chris Mann is leaving the Harris Blitzer-owned organization to join rEvolution, where he will head up the Chicago-based agency’s Rev/XP gaming division, per SBJ's Adam Stern.
  • Mann was with Dignitas for slightly over a year in the role of VP/Partnerships, where he worked with partners like Verizon. He also has prior stops with NRG Esports, Endeavor and Genesco Sports Enterprises. At Rev/XP, Mann will be responsible for both leading work with current clients -- including Chipotle -- as well as developing new clients who are in, or getting into, esports sponsorship.
  • Mann said that one of the things that attracted him to the role is how Rev/XP can leverage all the different aspects of the broader rEvolution agency to service clients, including consulting, creative, event activation, marketing/communications, analytics, influencer advice and media placement. He also noted that rEvolution “is not owned or beholden to any kind of larger holding company, which is different in this space and avoids a lot of the conflicts of interest.”
  • Read more about Mann's move in this week's SBJ Esports newsletter.

 

WIMBLEDON IN 2021 BECOMING MORE LIKELY, WITH OR WITHOUT FANS

  • Wimbledon is appearing more and more likely to take place in 2021 with the London Times reporting that All England Club execs are "now more open to the prospect of staging one of the biggest events in the British sporting calendar behind closed doors if required."
  • After this year's tournament was canceled and with nine months to go until next year's, the All England Club "confirmed that 'multiple scenarios' are being planned for." Sources said that there is a "growing realisation ... that the best-case scenario will be a reduction of spectators from the usual capacity of about 45,000."
  • The staging of the U.S. Open and other sporting events without spectators has "helped to shift attitudes towards the possibility next year." While the All England Club had an insurance policy in place this year that covered pandemics "ensuring that financial losses were protected to a large extent," the club has found it "impossible to track down an insurer willing to underwrite similar coverage for next year."

 

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: GETTING CREATIVE DURING PANDEMIC

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from former NFL GM Randy Mueller, who is founder and CEO of Mueller Football Advising. He writes under the header, "In This Strange Season, Emphasize Recruiting And Evaluation."
  • "The world, as we know it, has forced us all to re-evaluate. Football programs are no exception. No games for some conferences, no practices for others. Ouch. The athletes’ worlds have been turned upside down, yes, but what about the coaching staffs and their newfound time? How do they remain focused on 'getting better' in the absence of competition? How do they manage their players and inspire growth?"

 

SPEED READS

  • ESPN's Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski looked back at the NHL's playoff bubbles and dubbed hockey fans one of the winners form the experiment, while determining transparency was a loser. The NHL "did all it could to recreate the arena experience for a made-for-TV tournament." However, there was "surprisingly little we saw and heard from inside the hotels and around bubble life."
  • NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent today sent a strongly worded memo around the league threatening more, stronger punishments for coaches or other staff who do not wear face masks on sidelines or in coaching booths. So far, the league has issued $1.7 million in fines to coaches seen not wearing masks. Vincent: “We will continue to address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may also include suspensions of persons involved, and/or the forfeiture of a draft choice(s).”
  • NASCAR's 2021 schedule will include six road courses, the first dirt race for the Cup Series since 1970 and new stops in Nashville and Austin. Dropped from the lineup were Kentucky Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, two “cookie-cutter” intermediate tracks that were part of a "staid schedule that lacked variation or originality," according to the AP. Michigan Int'l Speedway, Dover Int'l Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway each "lost one of two Cup Series points races."
  • Buccaneers and USF officials have both confirmed that they "likely will host fewer than 16,000 fans for their upcoming games at Raymond James Stadium," starting with the Bucs' game Sunday against the Chargers, according to the Tampa Bay Times. A "similar crowd will be admitted for the Lightning's Stanley Cup celebration" at Raymond James Stadium tonight.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: COVID Finally Hits NFL

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Is the NFL prepared to handle the coronavirus outbreak that just hit the league?

Also:

  • Chicagoland Speedway losing NASCAR Cup Series weekend in new schedule.
  • NBA Finals court design features Youtube TV, Disney.
  • NHL happy with successful end to restart.
  • New-look MLB playoffs get underway.
  • Notre Dame dealing with more positive tests.
  • Aramark relying on NFL after no MLB revenue.

 

NFL LOOKS TO WEATHER FIRST VIRUS OUTBREAK THIS SEASON

  • The NFL experienced its first major outbreak this season today, causing the Titans and Vikings to shutter in-person activities, and Commissioner Roger Goodell subsequently preached diligence on COVID prevention in a memo to teams, according to SBJ's Ben Fischer.
  • “These results confirm the need to remain diligent in implementing all of our health and safety protocols to the fullest extent,” Goodell said. “This includes not only our testing program, but facility maintenance, wearing of (personal protective equipment) by players and staff, and carefully regulating behavior and contacts outside of the club facility.”
  • The two Week 4 games most at risk as a result are both regional broadcasts in the 1:00pm ET window, limiting the business risk to the NFL, Fox or CBS. Vikings-Texans is slated to be distributed to less than 10% of the country, a source said, and if it’s postponed, Fox would likely swap in Browns-Cowboys in affected markets. It is not clear how CBS would handle a loss of Steelers-Titans. Despite the uncertainty, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the NFL "wants and intends to have [Titans-Steelers] played as scheduled."
  • The NFL does not officially disclose the names of those who test positive. But according to the league’s daily transactions list, the Titans put three players on the reserve/COVID-19 list today: DL DaQuan Jones and long snapper Beau Brinkley from the 53-man roster, and TE Tommy Hudson from the practice squad.

 

BIG SCHEDULE CHANGES COMING IN NASCAR CUP SERIES

  • NASCAR is planning to release its entire 2021 schedule tomorrow, and it is expected to be a massive shakeup from this season, reports SBJ's Adam Stern. This afternoon, sources said that Chicagoland Speedway will be stripped of its annual Cup Series race weekend next year.
  • The only new track that has already been officially announced as being on the schedule is Nashville Superspeedway, while SBJ previously reported that Road America in Wisconsin was in talks to get a Cup Series race and The Athletic reported last week that Circuit of The Americas was expected to get a race. Reasons for the delayed announcement included talks over the Bristol dirt race and the number of one-day shows.
  • SBJ reported last week that Homestead would move to the second position of the season on Feb. 21, and that Bristol has been considering turning its spring race next year into a dirt track event. Other tracks that industry execs are keeping an eye on for possible changes announced tomorrow include Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has been toying with the idea of moving the Brickyard 400 to its road course; Darlington and Atlanta. The schedule is expected to stay at 36 points races.

 

NBA FINALS COURT DESIGN FEATURES YOUTUBE TV, DISNEY

  • The NBA today unveiled its court design for the NBA Finals that will feature the logos of YouTube TV and Walt Disney World on the floor. This comes as YouTube TV has renewed its multiyear deal as the presenting sponsor of NBA Finals, reports SBJ's John Lombardo, with activation to also include a new TV spot to run during the Finals.
  • The league also will include virtual signage for its sponsors during the Finals, with Gatorade to appear virtually on the apron in front of the team’s benches. The Black Lives Matter moniker that has appeared on the court throughout the playoffs will remain in its same position.
  • In addition, the Lakers and Heat will be able to customize their in-arena PA system, sound effects and music at AdventHealth Arena in Disney to replicate their home venues. The Lakers, the designated home team for Game 1 tomorrow night, will be allowed to mimic the in-arena sound presentation typically used at Staples Center.

 

Photo: NBA

 

NHL REFLECTS ON SUCCESSFUL RESTART, BUBBLE EXPERIMENTS

  • The Lightning winning the Stanley Cup last night "brought an end to the most unique NHL tournament in history," according to the Edmonton Journal. Aside from the logistics around hockey, the league administered more than 33,000 coronavirus tests during its season restart with zero positives reported.
  • Lightning coach Jon Cooper summed up the unprecedented experiment: "There has been a lot of good. It's been an experience and for the most part, it's been a really cool experience." Lightning D Kevin Shattenkirk: "It really brings you closer as a team and a staff and you don't always get that opportunity during the season."
  • Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik could not be in the NHL's bubbles in Edmonton or Toronto, so he called into his players' locker room celebration last night, "congratulating them for their second Stanley Cup championship in team history." Vinik, on a video call, said: "Hey guys, awesome job. So many years in the making, with new guys and the guys who have been here for a while, unbelievable effort. Dominant through the playoffs. You deserve it."

 

EXPANDED MLB POSTSEASON BEGINS AMID UNIQUE CIRCUMSTANCES

  • The MLB postseason began today with four of eight three-game Wild Card Series getting underway as part of the league's expanded playoffs format. The Astros beat the Twins on ABC, the network's first playoff baseball game since 1995, before the other three AL series were set to begin. The higher seeds are hosting all games in the series before the LDS, LCS and World Series shift to neutral sites.
  • It remains to be seen how fans and media will ultimately react to 16 teams competing in the first round of the playoffs, double the number that qualified less than a decade ago. The National Post's Scott Stinson wrote, "There's little point in bemoaning the fairness of this in this particular season since the sample size of a 60-game, heavily unbalanced schedule was so small and meaningless."
  • ESPN's channels are carrying seven of the Wild Card series, with TBS showing the only other one. Play-by-play announcers "will be in studios in Bristol or Charlotte," while analysts other than Alex Rodriguez "will work from home." Some reporters, such as Marly Rivera, "will be on site" for games.

 

NOTRE DAME FACES ANOTHER WAVE OF POSITIVE TESTS

  • Notre Dame football's one-year dance with the ACC continues to drive the news cycle. The school has confirmed that 18 players tested positive in its latest round of testing -- which were conducted between Tuesday and Saturday, per Yahoo's Ryan Young.
  • Seven of those 18 players were already in quarantine after being “previously identified close contacts.” The program "now has 25 total players in isolation and another 14 in quarantine related to contact tracing." Coach Brian Kelly -- whose squad will still resume practice tomorrow -- attributed the outbreak to a pregame meal before the team's Sept. 19 victory over South Florida.
  • This latest setback comes after the Irish were forced to postpone last weekend's scheduled game against Wake Forest. Their next game on the calendar -- hosting Florida State on Oct. 10 -- bears close watching. 

 

NFL STADIUMS COULD OFFER ARAMARK LIFELINE AFTER LOST MLB REVENUE

  • Analysts at investment bank Jeffries said that with MLB ballparks being the source of most of Aramark’s sports related-revenue, the company’s business in providing stadiums with cleaning and maintenance services and souvenirs and merchandise will offer “slight offsets to significant revenue declines in food service,” reports SBJ's Karn Dhingra.
  • Jeffries will be monitoring food and beverage and merchandise sales at NFL venues operated by Aramark, since it is allowing some fans to attend games and believes stadiums opening up to more fans throughout the season could serve as somewhat of a proxy for other leagues and their plans next season. Aramark is the concessionaire for the Chiefs, Texans, Eagles, Ravens, Vikings, Browns, Bears, Bengals, Steelers and Broncos.
  • Jeffries also thinks the NFL will be “staging gradual increases in attendance allowances throughout the season” and that the cashless and touchless payment systems NFL stadiums are rolling out, are expected to bring in more revenues per fan than cash transactions. 

 

 

SPEED READS

  • The NHL administered 33,394 COVID-19 tests to players and staff during its time in the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles, which saw 1,452 league and club personnel make stops in the secure zones. The NHL played a total of 130 games after restarting on Aug. 1.
  • U.S. sports betting companies including DraftKings, FanDuel and Fox Bet are "offering free-to-play contests in which viewers predict what will happen" at tonight's presidential debate. No jurisdiction in America has "legalized betting on elections," but because contestants "don’t risk anything of their own to enter -- and this is a debate, not an election -- it’s all legal."
  • Universal Pictures has entered into a four-year, first-look production agreement with LeBron James and Maverick Carter's The SpringHill Company. The partnership started on the untitled film adaptation based on the book “Shooting Stars” by James and Buzz Bissinger. James, Carter and SpringHill were represented in the deal by WME and Ziffren Brittenham LLP.
  • Suspended NASCAR driver Kyle Larson is eyeing a return to the Cup Series as soon as possible, and he is hoping that some personal growth and outreach can expedite his comeback, reports SBJ's Adam Stern. Larson was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR and fired by Chip Ganassi Racing in April after being caught using a racial slur during an exhibition iRacing event. Click here to read more details on Larson's efforts.

 

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SBJ Unpacks: Sportsbook Partnerships Continue To Reach NFL

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Sportsbooks continue to enter the NFL with new team partnerships.

Also:

  • Saints, Oak View Group optimistic about next Superdome naming-rights search
  • Recently-added ATP Tour events offer less prize money
  • NBA allowing larger sponsor patch on practice jerseys
  • Clippers decide to move on from Doc Rivers
  • Youth sports organizers hoping politicians ease restrictions
  • AEG, Laver Cup looked at non-London venues for 2022 tennis event

 

TITANS-BETMGM DEAL LATEST NFL TEAM-SPORTSBOOK PARTNERSHIP

  • The Titans are the latest NFL franchise to align with a sportsbook sponsor, signing BetMGM, one of three operators conditionally approved to take bets in Tennessee when it allows online sports wagering later this year, reports SBJ's Bill King.
  • BetMGM gets visibility on Titans digital assets and in the stadium, including on the video board during replays, as well as exclusive branding of the Titans' in-venue TV studio at Nissan Stadium, where it produces shoulder programming, including a weekly coach’s show. Legacy daily fantasy sites FanDuel and DraftKings also have been conditionally approved in Tennessee. Financial terms were not disclosed.
  • Additionally, a soon-to-be-announced Titans raffle benefiting The Titans Foundation will be sponsored by BetMGM, according to USA Today. The foundation "directs funds to community organizations across the state of Tennessee." Meanwhile, the Titans-BetMGM partnership was "sourced and supported" by marketing agency SPORTFIVE and Sportradar, which were "both key to the agreement’s development and completion."

 

 

SAINTS, OVG HAVE BIG EXPECTATIONS FOR NEXT SUPERDOME NAMING-RIGHTS DEAL

  • The Saints have selected Oak View Group to help sell naming-rights to the Superdome after Mercedes-Benz’ deal expires next year, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer. The Saints vetted “five or six” agencies before choosing OVG, according to Saints VP/Corporate Partnerships Matt Webb. OVG has closed four major naming-rights deals so far in 2020, and the Saints believe the Superdome can attract a major national or international brand at a premium price despite its age.
  • “We wanted a world-class agency to help us find the next partner for a world-class building, and we really believe (OVG President of Global Partnerships) Dan Griffis and his team represent that type of agency,” Webb said. With the Superdome 45 years old and coming off one major naming-rights deal, most sponsorship experts would expect the price to decline from the approximately $5 million annually Mercedes-Benz has paid since 2010.
  • But the Superdome will soon get a $450 million renovation -- and will host the 2022 Men’s Final Four, Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 and the Sugar Bowl/CFP rotation -- leading insiders to believe it can command a substantial increase. “I kind of look at the Mount Rushmore of stadiums in the world ... and the Superdome is one of those buildings that would absolutely be on that list,” said Griffis. “Those types of buildings don’t become available for sale very often, and when it does, it presents a unique opportunity unlike anything we’ve ever done.”
  • Read more about the Saints and OVG's expectations in Sports Business Daily.

 

The Saints and OVG believe the Superdome hosting more big events -- like the CFP -- will elevate its next naming-rights price
Photo: getty images

 

NEW EVENTS ADDED TO ATP CALENDAR HAVE SMALLER PRIZE MONEY

  • Prize money pools for the four tournaments that the ATP Tour has added to its 2020 calendar are considerably lower than equivalent tournaments from pre-pandemic times, SBJ’s Bret McCormick reports. The tour extended one-year tournament sanctions to four 250-level events being held in October in CologneGermany (back-to-back events), SardiniaItaly and Nur-SultanKazakhstan.
  • The diminished prize pools are a natural result of smaller revenues due to reduced fans allowed on-site -- which would likely be the case in Germany or Italy right now, or no fans at all, which is currently the case in Kazakhstan. Total purses will be reduced by more than half in most cases. The floor for ATP 250 prize pools is normally $610,000, with several topping seven figures. But the added events average roughly $353,100.
  • For a comparison, February's Delray Beach Open, a 250-level tournament, in February awarded $97,585 and just over $53,000 to its winner and runner-up, respectively. But none of the four added events’ champs will win more than $28,535. The winner in Sardinia will claim just $15,526. 
  • However, the money for qualifying rounds and the main draw’s first round remained at pre-pandemic levels -- an effort to support lower-ranked players. First round performers will make at least $5,400 at each of the four events, a level commensurate with normal 250-level tournaments. The ATP Tour told SBJ that the Player Council and tournaments agreed to the temporary prize money structure changes.

 

 

NBA ALLOWING LARGER SPONSOR PATCHES ON PRACTICE JERSEYS

  • The NBA is allowing its teams to sell an additional ad patch on practice jerseys, that’s more than nine times the size of what’s been allowed, that would appear on the belly area, report John Lombardo & Terry Lefton in this week's Sports Business Journal. The sales effort for the 12-by-5-inch patch goes into effect immediately, with at least one team in the Cavaliers having a deal in place with Goodyear.
  • Previously teams could sell only a 2½-by-2½-inch patch on the front shoulder of the practice jersey, the same size of the sponsor patch that’s allowed on game jerseys. These patches will feature either a company name or logo that is similar to the size of ads on WNBA uniforms but not as large as EPL uniforms." Teams also can continue to have a separate shoulder ad patch on practice jerseys. The practice jersey patches only may be worn during official team practices or shootarounds, and up to 90 minutes before a game. 
  • Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment CEO Scott O’Neil said, “It will be good anchor inventory for a deal, for those of us without naming rights or a uniform patch to sell." Team sources see the new program as a potential new moneymaker to be sold with game jersey patches, which range in value from $5-20 million annually.

 

CLIPPERS MOVING ON FROM DOC RIVERS

  • ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski late this afternoon reported Clippers coach Doc Rivers "is out" of the organization. Rivers joined the Clippers in 2013 after his long tenure with the Celtics, and ran basketball operations until 2017. He certainly had become a face of the L.A. franchise that was bounced from the second round of the NBA playoffs this year.
  • Rivers shortly after the news broke tweeted a statement thanking fans for their support. Rivers: "While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won't be able to see them all through."
  • The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor tweeted Rivers "meant a lot to the Clippers." O'Connor: "Guided them through the Donald Sterling fiasco, ran the front office for some years, and won a lot of games. He’s a good man. But Steve Ballmer clearly thinks the Clippers need to do better to win it all. Pivotal decision coming up."
  • Hoops Hype's Michael Scott speculated that Clippers assistant coach Ty Lue, who is popular among the players, reportedly interviewing with the 76ers may have "moved the needle for the Clippers to part ways" with Rivers.

 

 

 

ORGANIZING BODIES PETITIONING POLITICIANS TO ALLOW YOUTH SPORTS

  • A group of sport organizing bodies are jointly petitioning government leaders to be allowed to take an active role in establishing more codified youth sport return-to-play guidelines, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith. "We’re not asking for money," said US Youth Soccer CEO Skip Gilbert. "We’re literally asking for a voice. If you’re opening up AMC theaters so people can go in and watch movies around the country, shouldn’t you allow kids to go out and play?"
  • Gilbert said the initiative is a few weeks in the making, and it was inspired by the ongoing challenges at US Youth Soccer, which has 55 state associations all dealing with different return-to-play standards and protocols. Gilbert has written a letter addressed to political leaders that was co-signed by leaders of 20 other organizing bodies, including USA Triathlon, USA Volleyball and USA Wrestling.
  • The missive calls for elected representatives to involve organizing bodies in the establishment of “common-sense components,” including a youth sports task force, uniform return-to-play guidelines, increased loan repayment terms and a centralized grant fund to pay for taxes related to sporting goods manufacture and sale.
  • But Gilbert said the core intent of the initiative is to begin an open dialogue. "Let’s have discussions about what a fact-based, science-based platform would be to allow states to say ‘They can play,’ or ‘They can practice,’ or ‘They have to stay home,'" he said.

 

 

AEG, LAVER CUP DISCUSSED SEPARATE EUROPEAN VENUE FOR 2022 EVENT

  • London’s O2 Arena last week landed hosting duties for the 2022 Laver Cup after event officials and venue operator AEG had been in conversation for a year and a half about hosting the tennis event at another European, AEG-run facility, reports SBJ's Bret McCormick. AEG Europe Sports VP Gael Caselli said, "There has been a common willingness to work together for a long time now."
  • AEG did not formally enter the Laver Cup bidding process with O2 Arena until February of this year when Laver Cup organizers formalized their set of requests for hosting. Caselli said this deal was initially focused on '21 before this year’s Laver Cup pushed back to '21.
  • See more on the talks between AEG and the Laver Cup in tonight's SBD Global.

 

SPEED READS

  • NFL history was made during Sunday's Browns-Washington game when two female coaches in Browns Chief of Staff Callie Brownson and Washington Full-Year Coaching Intern Jennifer King, referee Sarah Thomas and Fox reporter Laura Okmin all worked the game, marking the first time where women have filled all four of those roles. Okmin, King and Brownson spoke about the opportunity ahead of the game last week.
  • The European Tour can, this week, "reflect on a triumph of a different sort" with the staging of the Scottish Open, its "first Rolex Series event since the coronavirus pandemic ripped up the sporting schedule," according to the BBC. The tour has "continued to provide competition and earning opportunities for its members," every week since it returned at the Austrian Open in early July.
  • The Rapids are "experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak," as 11 people -- two players and nine staff -- have been "confirmed as positive for the virus since last Thursday," according to sources cited by The Athletic. The Rapids and MLS on Friday "postponed the club’s home match" against Sporting K.C. scheduled for Sunday "after one Colorado player and three staffers were confirmed as positive."
  • For the ninth straight week, the NHL had no positive COVID-19 tests from those players and team personnel inside both of the league’s bubbles, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. As part of the NHL’s latest batch of testing inside the Edmonton hub, there were 773 tests administered from Sept. 20-26. All told, the NHL has administered 33,174 tests since teams entered the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles in late July. Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final is tonight, with the Lightning holding a 3-2 series lead over the Stars.

 

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SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.