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Volume 26 No. 232

SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead

SBJ Unpacks: The New Reality For Sports Facilities

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Pro teams are working hard to make sure their stadiums and training facilities are meeting safety standards, and strict protocols will likely be the new norm even in a post-coronavirus world.

Also:

  • The ATP Tour is confident its season can finish safely in Europe after U.S. Open.
  • NFL Films' Ken Rodgers opens up on a unique season of "Hard Knocks."
  • MLB Network is trying out some new broadcast elements this weekend.
  • How did Indianapolis 500 officials finally decide to not allow fans?

 

YANKEES, COWBOYS EXECS TALK STADIUM SAFETY PROTOCOLS

  • Facilities managers for the Cowboys and Yankees discussed safety at their respective venues during a presentation on Friday sponsored by The International WELL Building Institute, reports SBJ's Karn Dhingra. Yankees Senior VP & Director of Stadium Operations Doug Behar noted that the only employees who are allowed in Yankee Stadium during the 2020 MLB season are workers who are essential to conducting games. The Yankees have two separate contact tracing teams for players and staff. With increased COVID-19 protocols requiring single-use sanitation wipes and personnel having to carry small plastic bottles of hand sanitizer, a “tug of war” between the team’s sustainability efforts and COVID-19 protocols is starting to emerge, Behar added.
  • Unlike Yankee Stadium, and other NFL stadiums, the Cowboys will have fans at AT&T Stadium, which is going cashless, during the 2020 season, noted Legends President of Global Planning Bill Rhoda, whose company also oversees operations at AT&T Stadium. Legends and the Cowboys will not have employees at their offices until sometime in January 2021, Rhoda said. The Cowboys are testing staff that are in contact with players on a regular basis and will have an infectious disease response team to isolate fans at games who might be showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Rhoda and Behar both agreed that stepped-up cleaning and safety protocols at sports venues are likely to stay after pandemic subsides or even if there is a vaccine. The Yankees and Cowboys are investing in upgrading air purification and HVAC systems at their venues. Rhoda also noted that it’s much more difficult to control the spread of COVID outside of a bubble environment.

 

ATP LOOKS FOR STRONG SEASON FINISH IN EUROPE

  • The ATP Tour released a modified 2020 schedule this morning, with 13 tournaments, including the U.S. Open and French Open, culminating in the year-end Nitto ATP Finals in London. SBJ's Bret McCormick reports that the finals, the tour’s biggest money-making event, is tentatively planned to be held without fans in attendance, and the ATP sent out information to ticket holders about incoming automatic refunds from ticketing partner AXS. The tour’s press release also mentioned that it’s exploring possible additions to the tournament calendar, including the issuance of a limited number of single-year tournament licenses for the 2020 season.
  • After the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open in N.Y., the ATP will finish the season, for now at least, with 11 tournaments in Europe. The Austria Open Kitzbuhel, Hamburg Open, St. Petersburg Open, Kremlin Cup, Sofia Open and Roland Garros all survived postponements earlier in the year to make it onto this provisional schedule. One tournament that didn’t survive the pandemic reshuffle: the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, the tour’s showcase for young talent, which was canceled.
  • “Tennis is starting to find its way back,” said ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, “and while we must first and foremost look after the health and safety of everyone involved, we are hopeful we will be able to retain these playing opportunities and produce a strong finish to the season. I would like to commend the tournaments for their continued commitment, flexibility and resourcefulness in finding solutions to operate under these challenging circumstances.”

 

NFL FILMS WORKING THROUGH UNIQUE "HARD KNOCKS" PRODUCTION

  • When the promise of a television show is that it takes viewers inside an NFL training camp, into offices and meeting rooms and training rooms and hotel suites, the restrictions of a socially-distanced, COVID protocol world could prove insurmountable, writes SBJ's Bill King. How hard is it to make the HBO series "Hard Knocks," and make it in a way that its award-winning NFL Films producers and directors and crew could be proud of, when meetings are via Zoom, and under tents, and many areas of camp are entirely off limits? The show’s long-time coordinating producer, NFL Films VP Ken Rodgers, discussed that and more on the latest episode of the SBJ Unpacks podcast.
  • "I wondered constantly, and would say right now, a few weeks into production, I still wonder on a minute-to-minute basis, how we’re doing it and how we can continue to do it safely and effectively," Rodgers said. "It’s an ongoing process. It really is difficult and detailed and you have to stay vigilant."
  • Rodgers: "In March and April, I was of the mind that this will be a good backstory about how maybe the teams didn’t have as much offseason work. But of course everything will be OK come August. And as it got closer and closer, we started saying: This may affect the season, but also our show. Not just content, but the process of the content, and how we’re going to capture it. The logistics of it overtook the summer."
  • For much more about how the show comes together each week, life in pods and bubbles, and a reflection on late NFL Films pioneer Steve Sabol and his lasting influence, check out the latest SBJ Unpacks podcast.

 

The premiere of "Hard Knocks" looked at the teams' virtual communication over the summer
Photo: NFL Films
The premiere of "Hard Knocks" looked at the teams' virtual communication over the summer
Photo: NFL Films
The premiere of "Hard Knocks" looked at the teams' virtual communication over the summer
Photo: NFL Films

 

MLB NETWORK GETTING CREATIVE WITH NEW GAME BROADCASTS

  • In a truncated 60-game season defined by newness, MLB Network is experimenting with two innovative concepts with live game broadcasts this week, reports SBJ's Eric Prisbell. Friday night, for the first time in the network's history, Greg AmsingerDan Plesac and Harold Reynolds will call a game using elements from the network's signature program, "MLB Tonight," when the Cubs host the Brewers.
  • At different points, the telecast will shift to a two-box format and whip around to live look-ins of key moments from other games across the league. The analysts will do rapid demonstrations on important plays from the game in Studio 42, MLB Network's replica baseball field studio, and they will host in-game interviews with personnel from the Cubs and Brewers throughout the game. MLB Net's Jon Morosi also will contribute to the telecast on-site from Wrigley Field.
  • The telecast could have a little of the feel of NFL RedZone. Similar telecasts, if the network chooses to, could be compelling during this season's stretch run because there will be so many teams still in contention vying for the 16 postseason berths. "To me, this makes the most sense in the world," Amsinger said about the concept. "We're going to mix in what we do from a studio perspective considering everyone is doing games from studios. So why not use the best studio in sports television? And we're going to integrate it into how we call this game, Brewers-Cubs."
  • Read more about MLB Net's plans here.

 

HOW INDIANAPOLIS 500 OFFICIALS SETTLED ON NO FANS 

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will take an almighty financial blow from having no fans at next weekend's Indianapolis 500, but IndyCar CEO Mark Miles says that series leaders made the decision on their own, without an ultimatum from local officials, reports SBJ's Adam Stern. The 104th running of the race will be without fans for the first time in history; it was already set to be the first time since 1946 that the race had not been run in May. Miles wouldn't disclose specifics, but the financial hit is sure to be well into the low to mid eight figures.
  • IndyCar had been trying to soldier on with a plan to host fans, first announcing the race would be held with no more than 50% capacity, then 25%, then none. Miles says that he's confident that IMS could have pulled off the event safely, but that key coronavirus metrics in the Marion County area around the venue had doubled or tripled from late June to late July and early August. "It is a significant negative impact on our financials, but one we're capable and absolutely prepared to absorb," said Miles.
  • While Miles insists that series owner Roger Penske and other top IMS/IndyCar execs made the decision without pressure from key local leaders to do so, he conceded that IMS understood the numbers had reached rates that officials had already made clear they would be concerned by. "I won't elaborate on that, but I will say that neither one of them said, 'You can't do it with fans,'" Miles said of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
  • The decision also came the week after the local IU Health healthcare system made public its opposition to the race being held with fans this year. However, Miles said that it would be "false" and "incorrect" to say that this was the final key factor that forced the move. Action for the 500 started this week on Wednesday with practice and continues this weekend with qualifying for next Sunday's race.

 

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: CAN MLB KEEP MOMENTUM GOING?

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from advertising agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners Associate Director of Analytics Matt Sindayen, Associate Strategy Director Jake Bayham and Sccount Supervisor Tony Bossard, who write under the header, "Can Baseball Connect With A New Audience And Drive Home Its Opening Day Success?"
  • "MLB’s return should be cause for optimism among owners, players, fans and sponsors. However, given the sport’s recent history of declining attendance six of the last seven years, sharp ratings drops among younger viewers and lackluster national awareness of its biggest stars when compared to their counterparts in the NBA and NFL, it will take more than pent-up demand to win over a new generation of fans."
  • To read the full contribution, click here

 

SPEED READS

  • The latest COVID-19 testing results from MLB and the MLBPA showed that just four out of 12,301 tests in the last week "were new positives." All four positives came from the Cardinals; two players and two staff members, good for a positive rate of 0.03%. The results mean that the "last time anyone other" than a Cardinals player or staff member tested positive across MLB was July 30.
  • Stadium insider Shams Charania cited sources as saying that the NBA and NBPA are in "serious talks on in-market bubble program in September for the eight franchises that were not part" of the Orlando restart. Framework would include: daily testing, one week of individual workouts, two weeks of group practices, one hour of 5-on-5 per day.
  • The Texans announced Friday that NRG Stadium will not host fans for the team's home opener on Sept. 20 against the Ravens. The decision on whether fans can attend the remaining Texans home games "depends on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the the greater Houston area, which is currently amid its highest threat level." The next game scheduled in Houston is on Oct. 4 against the Vikings.

 

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: Tennis Gaining Momentum With Djokovic Committing To N.Y.

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The U.S. Open field continues to come into shape as we get closer to what will surely be an odd, but still welcomed, Grand Slam tournament at Flushing Meadows later this month.

Also:

  • Social media sponsorship strong during MLS is Back Tournament.
  • Who's on the shortlist to replace ACC Commissioner John Swofford?
  • The Cowboys are intent on making sure fans attend games this fall.

 

DJOKOVIC'S COMMITMENTS WELCOME NEWS FOR USTA

  • The USTA has received two morale-boosters this week, reports SBJ's Bret McCormick, as Novak Djokovic committed to playing both the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, welcome news for the governing body as it scraps to put on the two tournaments amid the pandemic’s challenging circumstances.
  • Another crucial component, the USTA has also secured an agreement with the Italian government waiving two-week quarantine requirements for players returning from the U.S. The WTA/ATP Internazionale BNL D’Italia (Italian Open) in Rome is the next tournament on the schedule following the U.S. Open and ensuring easier travel should help the USTA keep Europeans in the player field who were hesitant about the travel situation.
  • The USTA had been working with the Spanish government on a travel restriction exemption with the Madrid Open originally next up following the U.S. Open, but pivoted its focus to Italy when the Madrid tournament was canceled last week. ATP and WTA players will be eager to get over to Europe and begin their clay court preparations for the French Open that has been moved to the end of September, and a requisite two-week quarantine would have hampered their ability to do so.
  • So far, 11 of the top-50 women either never entered or have withdrawn from the U.S. Open, including top-ranked Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Bianca Andreescu, who announced her withdrawal today, while seven of the top-50 men are out, including Roger Federer (recovering from surgery) and defending men's champ Rafael Nadal.

 

Djokovic -- a 3-time U.S. Open champ -- adds star power to this year's tournament
Photo: getty images
Djokovic -- a 3-time U.S. Open champ -- adds star power to this year's tournament
Photo: getty images
Djokovic -- a 3-time U.S. Open champ -- adds star power to this year's tournament
Photo: getty images

 

MLS TOURNAMENT GENERATES STRONG SPONSORSHIP NUMBERS ON SOCIAL 

  • During the MLS is Back Tournament, which concluded Tuesday evening, the league, clubs and players generated $8.5 million in social media sponsorship value, according to data from social media measurement firm Hookit, analyzed by SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. More than half of the value generated (55%) occurred on Facebook compared to 23% on Twitter and 20% on Instagram.
  • Over 5,400 posts featured an Adidas logo, totaling 84 million video views and 12 million engagements. As a result, the league sponsor received the most value ($2.5 million) of any company. Hookit evaluated 32 brands, including main kit sponsors and top league partners, from June 24 through Aug. 13.
  • Other noteworthy data findings:
    • Besides Adidas, other brands receiving the most value included Target ($2.1 million), Heineken ($1.5 million), Herbalife ($430,000) and Etihad Air ($330,000).

    • Of any club, the Galaxy produced the most value for brands at more than $1 million. For comparison, the two teams in the MLS is Back finale -- the Timbers and Orlando City -- came in at No. 4 and No. 5.

 

ACC BEGINS PROCESS FOR REPLACING JOHN SWOFFORD

  • The ACC today “officially launched the search for a new commissioner to replace" the retiring John Swofford by bringing on two search firms. The conference hired Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, which “in turn brought aboard Ventura Partners, which operates more in the executive arena.” Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch and Notre Dame President John Jenkins “will head the league’s search advisory committee,” which also will include ADs, faculty reps and athletes. 
  • The ACC BOD will make the final decision on the commissioner search that will be conducted during the 2020-21 academic year with the intention of the new commissioner being in place by summer 2021.
  • Make sure to read tonight's edition of SBJ College for Michael Smith's breakdown of the search and possible candidates for the job.

 

COWBOYS GIVE MORE DETAILS ON ACCOMMODATING FANS THIS YEAR

  • The Cowboys today released new details regarding fans at AT&T Stadium this year, saying crowds will be limited to start the season, in accordance with the CDC and local guidelines. The announcement, which did not provide specifics on capacity, comes after Jerry Jones yesterday said he didn't have an expectation for a specific number. Fans will be required to wear a mask, unless they are eating or drinking.
  • Tickets -- which will be 100% mobile this year -- will be distributed in seat blocks known as "pods" to maintain distance between groups. Additionally, AT&T Stadium will transition to entirely cashless this season.
  • Meanwhile, AT&T Stadium today earned GBAC STAR accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council. The annual accreditation demonstrates that the stadium has the proper cleaning, disinfection and infection prevention protocols in place.

 

FLYERS AWARD FREE ADVERTISING TO PHILLY BUSINESSES

  • The Flyers announced the winners of the Hometown Assist Program, an initiative developed to give $500,000 in free advertising assets to five small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, reports SBJ's Mark Burns. The winning local businesses will each receive $100,000 total in advertising value during the playoffs and next regular season and will include radio spots and LED signage as well as digital and social promotions, among other assets. The team’s marketing group will assist the companies in creating messaging, graphics and other content.
  • Here are the five local businesses who won from almost 250 applicants: Byrne’s Tavern, Noir Restaurant and Bar, Denise’s Delicacies, Rock Solid Contracting and Development and Philadelphia Hair Company. The club pledged to select two black owned businesses through the program but ultimately awarded three in Denise’s Delicacies, Rock Solid Contracting and Development and Philadelphia Hair Company.
  • Flyers and Wells Fargo Center President of Business Operations Valerie Camillo said, "We were amazed by the number and quality of applicants, confirming the pressures facing small businesses during the pandemic. The awardees stood out for their community service, commitment to customers, and concern for employees.”

 

EAGLES' STADIUM PROTOCOLS AWARDED SAFETY ACT DESIGNATION

  • The Eagles’ security protocols for Lincoln Financial Field have been awarded a Safety Act Designation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. When DHS "designates" a security plan or a technology as a "Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology," its owner is granted limited liability for all claims that may arise following an act of terrorism. Eighteen NFL venues, plus the league itself, have been awarded some level of Safety Act protection, according to SBJ’s David Broughton.
  • The award expires in August 2025. The application process was handled by Utica-based Petrone Risk, who has now helped six NFL teams secure some level of Safety Act coverage, and JP Hayslip, who has served as the stadium’s Director of Facility Security since 2014.

 

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: USING TO TECH TO KEEP FANS SAFE

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Realife Tech Chief Revenue Officer Brent Kocher, who writes under the header, "Technology Stepping Up With Solutions For Fan Safety."
  • "This marks a truly unprecedented time in sports history, and points to an increased importance for teams to adopt technology solutions that can make the in-person fan experience not just safer, but more seamless, efficient, and ultimately enjoyable for fans. As with any new technology, these systems will require a combination of modified fan actions and behaviors to ensure the systems are being utilized to the full extent of their abilities."
  • To read the full contribution, click here

 

SPEED READS

  • One of the best parts of any major championship is the vast pro shop built on site for fans to purchase merchandise and memorabilia at. But with no spectators allowed at Harding Park for last week's PGA Championship, the PGA of America surely has extra inventory available and is now offering up to 65% off merchandise on its website, which is run by Fanatics.
  • HBO drew just 273,000 viewers for the premiere of “Hard Knocks” on Tuesday night, marking what could be the least-watched episode yet for the show, SBJ’s Austin Karp reports. That figure doesn’t include streaming for the episode chronicling the Rams and Chargers training camps. Last year, the debut episode for the Raiders averaged 705,000 viewers on HBO, with another 174,000 streaming (879,000 total). There was some added competition this year with NBA games from the Orlando bubble.
  • MLS today announced that the league’s three Canadian clubs -- the Impact, Toronto FC, and Whitecaps -- will continue the 2020 regular season in their respective home markets beginning Aug. 18, playing matches against each other during the first phase of the revised schedule. The move is a result of the Canada-U.S. border being closed for non-essential travel until Aug. 21. 
  • St. Louis City SC is the name of the latest MLS expansion club to reveal its identity. Team CEO Carolyn Kindle Betz and Chief Brand Architect Lee Broughton live-streamed the announcement earlier today. Broughton said St. Louis had originally planned for a mid-to-late spring event, before the pandemic altered the timing of the announcement and the launch of the club itself, which will now enter the league in 2023.

 

 

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: Still Hope For College Football

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Debates continue to swirl on whether some version of the college football season can -- or should -- be played, and what will Augusta National look like without patrons at The Masters?

Also:

  • NFL players satisfied with league's health and safety protocols right now.
  • Just what exactly will Tony Petitti be doing at Activision Blizzard?
  • What does WarnerMedia's executive shuffle mean for company?

 

BOB BOWLSBY SPEAKS ON BIG 12'S DECISION TO PRESS AHEAD

  • The college football season appeared to be on its final breath last night, after the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed falls sports. But then the Big 12 announced its intentions to try and play this fall, giving new life to the SEC and ACC's already-stated plans. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby today cautioned that the league’s formal announcement that it would move forward with every effort to play a 10-game schedule "was only a first step and could encounter multiple obstacles."
  • Bowlsby: “We will find ourselves with bumpy spots during the fall, there isn’t any doubt about it. But I think we’re very well prepared to deal with those things. I feel good about our decision going forward. I think our board feels good about it. ... If we get to the point where our doctors and scientists are saying, ‘You know what? You’ve got two wheels off the track,' we will pivot that day."

 

OCTAGON NFL AGENT: PLAYERS PLEASED WITH SAFETY PROTOCOLS SO FAR

  • Octagon Football Senior Dir of Client Management Casey Muir is part of a team that represents 36 active NFL players, two of which decided to opt out of the upcoming NFL season -- Patriots S Patrick Chung and Texans DT Eddie Vanderdoes. Chung cited family concerns and Vanderdoes has a pre-existing condition. But Muir expressed that his players who did opt-in are satisfied with how the league is handling player health and safety thus far.
  • Muir told Sports Business Daily’s Andrew Levin, “The players that we work with almost universally feel as though the protocols are working and they really feel safe. They feel as though the teams, the staffs, have been doing a very good job inside the building -- testing protocols, the safety protocols, the social distancing, constant reminders for players.”
  • Muir also addressed the tenuous state of the college football season. "Things are so fluid," he said. "Just think about the possibilities: There’s a real possibility we could have college football in the fall with a number of conferences, and college football in the spring potentially. That, in and of itself, is mind-blowing.”

 

NO FANS AT MASTERS CREATES SEVERAL FIRSTS FOR AUGUSTA 

  • It was not a huge surprise that Augusta National officially announced today that spectators would not be allowed at The Masters in November. But the unprecedented move does have some interesting domino effects that will play out over the next few months. Official merchandise has always only been available at the tournament, but ESPN's Bob Harig reported Augusta National "will 'allow exclusive access' to purchase Masters merchandise on line to those who had tickets/badges."
  • Augusta National will honor 2020 tickets in 2021, but Eventellect co-Founder Patrick Ryan pointed out that the decision creates a "massive headache and financial loss for the secondary market." Ryan's breakdown: "The chain of custody for these badges is very messy ... It’s not simply: venue - reseller - marketplace - fan ... There are often 3 additional middle men ... Clawing back refunds is going to be a mess."
  • Some reaction to the news from around the golf industry:
    • Golf Digest's Nicole Rae: "Augusta National with zero patrons is going to be WILD to see. Foggy fall mornings around that place are going to be eerie as hell."
    • Golf writer Will Knights: "Wall-to-wall fairway around a firm, fall Augusta National without patrons would be pretty cool..."
    • ESPN's Harig: "A Masters without spectators is better than no Masters. Still incredibly sad. Augusta National likely thought of  everything and has the resources to test or do what others can’t. Was hoping there was a way."
    • PGA Tour Magazine's Jeremy Schilling: "while ANGC can afford testing, one test is just a snapshot. You would need multiple days of these patrons/guests in the days & potentially weeks leading up the tourney to be safe."

 

A patron-less Augusta National may create an eerie-feeling Masters tournament this fall
Photo: getty images
A patron-less Augusta National may create an eerie-feeling Masters tournament this fall
Photo: getty images
A patron-less Augusta National may create an eerie-feeling Masters tournament this fall
Photo: getty images

 

EXPLORING TONY PETITTI'S NEW ROLE AT ACTIVISION BLIZZARD

  • This week's edition of SBJ Esports takes a look at Activision Blizzard's headline-grabbing move -- hiring MLB Deputy Commissioner Tony Petitti. SBJ's Adam Stern writes the hire led to industry curiosity on what projects and responsibilities Petitti will be in charge of. The newly created job also brings questions about where esports division President & CEO Pete Vlastelica fits into that.

  • Petitti was named president of sports and entertainment on Monday, and he will report to CEO Bobby Kotick, while Vlastelica will now report to Petitti. Some fans on social media have also been critical of hiring someone from MLB, given that the sport is seen as having an aging fanbase.

  • Petitti doesn’t officially start at Activision until next week, so the company said it is thus not yet ready to discuss his role beyond what was noted in the press release. SBJ’s John Ourand and Eric Prisbell earlier this week reported that Petitti will oversee efforts to move Activision brands into local markets and help tell stories of players, teams and fans.
  • One team source said that teams haven’t yet been formally informed of what Petitti’s role will mean for Overwatch League and Call of Duty League, but that he clearly could get involved with the properties’ media deals and relationships given his work in this sector with MLB. Activision Blizzard Esports has an exclusive digital streaming deal with YouTube, but none of its premier properties currently have a linear TV deal.

  • Read more about Activision Blizzard's plans for Petitti and get caught up on the esports industry in SBJ Esports.

 

WARNERMEDIA EXECUTIVE SHAKEUP RAISES EYEBROWS

  • The Ringer’s Andy Greenwald said the recent round of layoffs at WarnerMedia -- which mainly hit Warner Bros. and HBO -- was a “shocker” across the entertainment industry, particularly the ousting of the top HBO Max programming leaders in Robert Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly. Greenwald, on “The Watch” podcast, said, “People did not see this coming. … Reilly signed a new contract in May of 2020 for four years. So this was not a cheap decision.”
  • Greenwald’s co-host Chris Ryan, in regards to HBO Max, said it’s “not uncommon to see some executive departures after a certain phase” of a launch. Ryan: “But HBO Max is not an electric scooter company. … Bob Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly were not short-term fixes that then did what they needed to do and left.” Meanwhile, after news of those moves were reported, word came that HBO Sports President Peter Nelson was also stepping down, although that is believed to be his decision.
  • Both Greenwald and Ryan agreed HBO Max’s launch paled in comparison to Disney+. Ryan: “Clarity counts. HBO Max launched with an instructional video explaining whether or not consumers already had it.” Greenwald: “Disney, unlike all these other companies, has been a consumer-facing company for its entire existence. A company like WarnerMedia, that didn’t exist as a unified company just a couple years ago, they don’t have a theme park business. They don’t sell toys. They don’t have cruise ships. They’re not used to greeting consumers and welcoming them into the experience.”

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: CONNECTING IN THE NEW VIRTUAL AGE

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from NBC Sports VP/New Business & Client Development Jim Donofrio, who writes under the header, "Networking Takes On Greater Importance Amid Crisis."
  • "COVID-19 continues to challenge nearly every business sector and industry. When it comes to the job and internship market, the path for students and 2020 graduates to follow is unclear and will look much different that it has ever looked before. ... As an active mentor at NBCUniversal, the University of Delaware’s Lerner College of Business, and Rutgers Business School, this has been a busy period, so I wanted to share some of my advice and recommendations. The key to being successful is NETWORKING."
  • To read the full contribution, click here

 

 

USA WEIGHTLIFTING LATEST NGB TO SEE SUCCESSFUL CHARITABLE CAMPAIGN

  • USA Weightlifting announced today that its month-long fundraising campaign raised $71,292 to support regional clubs and national competitions. SBJ’s Chris Smith notes that more than 670 individual donors contributed to the campaign, which was organized through a partnership with athlete support fundraising platform Snap! Raise. Charitable support has become a key lifeline for Olympic sports struggling to withstand the financial pressures presented by event cancellations.
  • Weightlifting also participated in the recently concluded Giving Games, a joint fundraising effort by more than 20 Olympic national governing bodies, including USA Gymnastics, USA Cycling and USA Diving. Earlier this week, USA Swimming announced that its foundation has approved over $3 million in grants to support local swim clubs adversely impacted by COVID-19.

 

SPEED READS

  • Deion Sanders' unemployment didn't last longAfter NFL Network yesterday confirmed to SBJ that Sanders was leaving his analyst role he had held since 2006, Barstool Sports today announced the HOFer was joining the outlet and would have his own podcast. Sanders detailed his move on the "Pardon My Take" podcast: "That's what I like about these new shows. I get to say all this stuff and nobody wants to stop me. I love it. ... You guys are as controversial as they come and I get to do that too."
  • Sportsbooks around the U.S. have "halted betting on college football, as bookmakers try to determine the best approach to a season in flux," according to ESPN's David Purdum. Some sportsbooks were "planning to refund bets on teams from conferences that won't play in the fall, and other bookmakers were taking a wait-and-see approach."
  • Youth on Course, which offers golf rounds to juniors at 1,400 courses across the country for approximately $5 each, has "seen a 77% increase in rounds this year," according to Golf News Net's Ryan Ballangee. The total is 185,000 so far. Ballangee: "Turns out, the pandemic has created time for juniors to try the game."
  • The Premier Lacrosse League's 2020 championship game had total audience of 340,000 viewers on NBC, up 23% from last year's championship. Overall, the 2020 PLL Championship Series' 14 broadcasts on NBC/NBCSN averaged 153,000 viewers, up 33% from the 2019 season.
  • The PGA Tour tomorrow will integrate odds from DraftKings Sportsbook as part of its PGA Tour Live stream of the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. SBJ's Bill King notes this is a first for the Tour, which recently signed DraftKings as its first authorized sports betting operator. The Tour’s monthly subscription OTT channel will incorporate odds into coverage throughout the day, including during a picks feature that will air before the featured group tees off Thursday and Friday.

  

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: Sports World Waits On Rest Of Power Five

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The first two Power Five conferences make decisions on delaying fall sports official, while the world waits to find out whether there will be any college football this year at all. 

Also:

  • MLS puts a bow on its successful bubble tournament from Orlando.
  • MLB considers a bubble of its own come October.
  • Brands are spending big on NBA and NHL broadcasts.

 

BIG TEN, PAC-12 OFFICIALLY POSTPONE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASONS

  • The Big Ten and Pac-12 made history this afternoon by becoming the first two Power Five conferences to postpone fall sports, severely altering the college football season. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in a statement said, "As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall."
  • Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in his conference's statement noted that while its plan to keep student-athletes safe "was working in accordance with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee guidelines and state and local government orders, the situation was becoming more challenging." Both conferences announced intentions to explore spring seasons for all impacted sports, although the likelihood of successfully delaying the football season appears extremely unlikely.
  • The SEC, ACC and Big 12 are now on the clock, having already announced drastic scheduling changes but so far standing firm on not canceling the season just yet. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey joined "Good Morning America" this morning, before the Big Ten and Pac-12 decisions, to break down his conference's current strategy for the football season. He said, "We have not been through this before so the longer you take to make decisions, the better information you'll have available ... and that has been wise counsel."

 

WHAT WILL BE NEXT DOMINOES TO FALL?

  • In tonight's edition of SBJ College, Michael Smith reports that the ACC and SEC are inclined to keep moving toward a season as long as the Big 12 comes along. If the Big 12 opts out, it becomes tougher for the ACC and SEC to play. Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 say they’ll consider options in the spring, but that’s a non-starter for a lot of administrators. Playing two full football seasons in one calendar year would be asking a lot of the college athletes. An alternative: Play a three-game series of games at the end of spring practice, make a little money, and get fans back in the stadium.
  • What fills the void in the absence of college football this fall? The NFL could move a portion of its games to Saturdays. Then there is Don Yee’s developmental football enterprise that combines games and workouts. Yee, the agent for Tom Brady, could look very opportunistic here.
  • Smith: "I find myself asking this question a lot: Does this year count? It applies to media contracts, sponsorships, athlete eligibility, coaches’ contracts, season tickets and donations. Does everything roll over to 2021 as if 2020 never happened? There will be a lot to figure out in the aftermath of canceled seasons."
  • Read more analysis of today's historic decisions in SBJ College.

 

ESPN PIVOTS AFTER COLLEGE FOOTBALL DECISIONS

  • News of the Big Ten's decision this afternoon began to break shortly before 3:00pm ET, so ESPN quickly shifted the focus of "NFL Live" to cover the ramifications. The show became a defacto edition of "College GameDay," with Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Rece Davis all joining the show to give their reactions live on air.
  • "NFL Live," which normally ends at 3:00, stayed on the air for another hour with Field Yates anchoring the coverage of the developing news and "The Jump" moving over to ESPN2. At 4:00, Kevin Negandhi and Sage Steele came on air for a special edition of SportsCenter, with ESPN covering the college football situation until the finale of the MLS is Back Tournament at 8:30.

 

ESPN's "NFL Live" turned into a defacto edition of "College GameDay" after the historic news
ESPN's "NFL Live" turned into a defacto edition of "College GameDay" after the historic news
ESPN's "NFL Live" turned into a defacto edition of "College GameDay" after the historic news

 

ACC MEDICAL ADVISOR CONFIDENT FOOTBALL CAN BE PLAYED THIS FALL

  • As of now, the ACC still is planning to play football this fall, and a Duke doctor who is advising the conference believes it can be done safely, reports SBJ's Michael Smith. Before the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed their seasons today, Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist who chairs the ACC’s medical advisory team, confidently said he expects the conference to continue its steady march toward a football season. While the unpredictable coronavirus poses a risk, Wolfe said doctors have learned enough over the last six months to understand how to manage that risk.
  • “We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Wolfe told SBJ. “Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.”
  • Wolfe’s optimism helps explain why the ACC has remained steadfast in its desire to play this season, while others have waffled. As of today, the ACC is set to begin its season Sept. 12 with an 11-game schedule, although other factors could come into play, including what the other FBS conferences do.
  • Read more about Wolfe's thoughts for playing a safe season here.

 

MLS CONCLUDING ORLANDO TOURNAMENT AFTER SUCCESS WITH BUBBLE

  • The MLS is Back Tournament concludes tonight as the Timbers face off against Orlando City SC, in what has largely been a success for the league, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. After FC Dallas and Nashville SC withdrew early from the Orlando-based tournament based on too many positive COVID-19 tests, MLS continued forward with a 24-team format. Over nearly the past month, the league has reported zero positive tests inside the bubble.
  • MLS and its media partners have used the unique format as a means to push innovation and experiment with different technologies. The broadcast experience has featured virtual Jumbotrons, where cheering fans have been included in the feed while social media posts and commercial messaging have populated the screens. Virtual advertising has been a large component of the television product as well as drone coverage, embedded turf microphones and live look-ins to VAR. ESPN has opted for natural sounds of the game, while Fox Sports has piped in artificial crowd noise.
  • Following tonight’s championship match, MLS will press on with the 2020 season, which will include limited fan capacity in select markets like Salt Lake CityDallas and K.C., while others will have no fans for the foreseeable future. How MLS will control COVID outside of the bubble-type environment remains to be seen.

 

 

PLAYOFF BUBBLE COULD SECURE SAFE FINISH TO MLB SEASON

  • It's no surprise that MLB is in preliminary discussions about the feasibility of staging its postseason in multiple bubble-like environments, writes SBJ's Eric Prisbell. The surprise would be if those in the commissioner's office were not exploring the concept, considering how well similar constructs have worked thus far to minimize contagion in the NBANHL and MLS.
  • The value of having a secure bubble-like environment has been amplified in light of how swiftly the virus spread within the Marlins and Cardinals organizations. Such an outbreak impacting a playoff team in October could render staging a successful 16-team postseason, which is expected to generate some $1 billion in revenue for the league, untenable. MLB officials have been steadfast that the postseason needs to be concluded in October because its medical experts caution about the risk of a strong second wave of the virus.
  • While Southern California, Chicago and N.Y. appear to be strong contenders in a potential multi-city hub construct, there is of course the potential that one of those cities could become a severe COVID-19 hot spot in the next two months. But the recent spike in cases in Florida has not hindered the NBA from having success thus far in its Orlando bubble.
  • Another challenge is adequately sanitizing clubhouses if multiple games are played in a venue in one day. But tackling those challenges proactively pale in comparison to dealing with a potential outbreak within a playoff team while trying to maintain the integrity of the postseason and minimize further contagion.  

 

BRANDS SPENDING BIG DURING NBA, NHL RESTARTS

  • Since the NHL and NBA returned to play less than two weeks ago, 472 different brands have combined to spend more than $168 million in advertising during game telecasts, according to iSpotv data analyzed by SBJ’s David Broughton. The brands aired nearly 7,500 commercials which generated 6.7 billion impressions. The data includes spots that aired on live, national, linear telecasts but excludes "in-house" promos for the leagues, their affiliates and the networks themselves.
  • In the NHL, U.S. partners Jägermeister and New Amsterdam Vodka each sponsor six of the teams who qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs and were among the brands who generated the most impressions. On the basketball side, Hyundai, who is not an NBA partner, was the league’s biggest advertiser and received the most impressions, primarily via its “Tucson Buddy” spot, created by Innocean USA.

 

AD SPENDING SINCE RETURN OF SPORTS
NBA (July 30-Aug. 9)
NHL (Aug. 1-Aug. 9)
Total Ad Spend
$89.2 million
$79.4 million
Total Impressions
4.20 billion
1.50 billion
Unique Spots
477
430
Total Airings
4,230
3,247
TOP AD SPENDERS
NBA
NHL
1
Hyundai ($2.5 million)
Geico* ($4.4 million)
2
Nike* ($2.4 million)
Honda* ($4.3 million)
3
Apple TV+ ($2.2 million)
Discover Card* ($2.9 million)
4
State Farm* ($1.9 million)
Liberty Mutual ($2.5 million)
5
Michelob* ($1.9 million)
Dunkin'* ($2.5 million)
MOST SEEN ADS (Millions Of Impressions)
NBA
NHL
1
Hyundai - "Tucson Buddy" (106.3)
Discover Card* - "Official Credit Card
of the NHL" (47.1)
2
Burger King - "Christmas in July:
Free Delivery" (76.4)
Jagermeister* - "Cold Brew Coffee: One Unique Spirit" (44.6)
3
Domino's - "Carside Delivery" (68.2)
Subway - "$5 Footlong:
Any Footlong" (32.0)
4
Modelo* - "The Fighting Spirit of Anderson.Paak" (64.7)
Dunkin'* - "Keep Running with Dunkin'" (28.1)
5
Capital One - "Beach" (61.7)
New Amsterdam* -
"Spittin' Chiclets Skills Challenge" (28.1)
* Offical League Partner
Download the
Chart

 

SPEED READS

  • The Spring League is "scheduling a six-team football tournament in Las Vegas in October, using a bubble concept that would be the first of its kind in the sport during the coronavirus pandemic," according to ESPN. The teams would be "stocked mostly with players who were released by NFL teams, according to The Spring League CEO Brian Woods." But it would also "include 20-30 college players from FBS Power 5 schools that either opted out of playing in 2020 or had their seasons canceled."
  • NASCAR has added BetMGM as an authorized sports betting operator, a key expansion for the sanctioning body, writes SBJ's Bill King, as NASCAR launched its official data offering only a month before the pandemic paused sports. Along with access to official streaming data through distributor Genius Sports, BetMGM gets rights to NASCAR marks across its digital platforms, along with access to joint promotions.
  • HBO's "Hard Knocks" premieres its new season tonight at 10:00pm ET and is "attempting something new," chronicling two teams -- the Rams and Chargers -- for the first time in the show's 15 season. The show "was supposed to detail how two franchises attempting to rebound from disappointing seasons approached a year of excitement as they moved into a sparkling new multibillion-dollar stadium." But NFL Films VP & Senior Coordinating Producer Ken Rodgers said that because of the coronavirus, his group "must stretch and tell a broader story."

  

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: Can The CFB Season Be Saved?

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The college football season is officially in jeopardy, and even President Trump is weighing in on whether players should take the field. 

Also:

  • How one MLS club will handle the return to its home market
  • The Flyers capitalize on marketing from the Toronto bubble
  • Tony Petitti leaves MLB after 12 years for Activision Blizzard
  • Elevate Sports Venture's Flavil Hampsten on getting the job done from the home office

 

IMPENDING DECISIONS ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL DOMINATE NEWS CYCLE

  • SI's report on Sunday that the Big Ten and Pac-12 would cancel their college football seasons tomorrow has dominated the news cycle over the past 24 hours, as rumors swirled throughout the day about what was, and wasn't happening. The Big Ten this afternoon eventually said that "no official vote had taken place," denying a report from Dan Patrick that school presidents voted 12-2 to eliminate the season. University presidents reportedly were "expected to meet again" tonight to "formally vote on ending the season."

  • An effort from players to save the season led by Trevor Lawrence caught the attention of President Trump this afternoon, who retweeted the Clemson QB's message about playing. CBS Sports' Barrett Sallee noted that the official Ohio State football account was "retweeting players who want to play," despite the news potentially coming from the conference. Ohio State coach Ryan Day, in response to a question about playing in another conference if the Big Ten shuts down, said: "We need to look at every option. And if that's the only option, we need to explore it and see if that's something we can do." Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh released a statement on "wanting to play the season and why he thinks it can happen."

  • SI's Pat Forde, who helped report Sunday's news of the conferences' thinking, late this afternoon cited sources as saying that ACC ADs "met today and are 'moving forward in an attempt to play.'" However, Forde noted that the presidents' meeting -- which could happen today -- "matters more than the ADs' meeting." Forde: "Buck stops with the presidents, though they will obviously taker input from their ADs." In the SEC, Commissioner Greg Sankey stressed patience in a series of tweets and Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman, after meeting with the Volunteers football team, tweeted that she "can’t wait to see them on the field in Neyland Stadium" this season.

  • Outside of the Power Five, Stadium's Brett McMurphy reported that the Mountain West Conference has "canceled its football season this fall." In a vote of league presidents Monday, the Mountain West "became the second" FBS conference to cancel all of its fall sports, joining the MAC. The Mountain West will "consider playing football in the spring," sources said.

 

SPORTING KC HOPING REDUCED CROWDS PAY OFF IN LONG TERM

  • Sporting KC will play in front of limited fans when it returns to Children’s Mercy Park on Aug. 25 against the Dynamo, despite the move not necessarily making sense financially, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The MLS club will open up its venue with 14% limited capacity, which is around 2,500 fans. “If financial was the driver, this would probably not be a great decision,” said Sporting KC President & CEO Jake Reid. He explained that through fan surveys over the past few months, the team found that a majority of season ticket members would be comfortable and willing to return to matches under safe protocols.

  • Reid: “We feel like we’ve got demand, and ultimately, we just don’t know where this thing goes down the stretch. If it gets into a position where everyone’s got limited capacity, whether it’s throughout this year or as we go into 2021, we want to take baby steps along the way. For us, the real driver was just being prepared, starting small, getting our arms around it, and that way ... we feel like we’ve already got a great plan that we’ve already executed upon.”

  • According to Reid, Sporting KC will check fans’ temperatures upon entry, require people to wear a facemask and provide social distancing guidelines. All concessions and retail shops will be open to prevent any traffic congestion and operate via touchless payments. In addition, fans will have a recommended entry time into the stadium while departures will be staggered by section. 

 

FLYERS GETTING CREATIVE TO CAPITALIZE ON MARKETING FROM BUBBLE

  • The Flyers beloved mascot Gritty was not given access to the NHL’s Toronto bubble when the league resumed play last week. But that did not keep him from finding his way across the border, SBJ's Bill King notes, thanks to the team’s purchase of a billboard along the route players take each day from their hotel to Scotiabank Arena. “Every shot you take. Every save you make. I’ll be watching you,” -- the billboard reads, next to an image of Gritty peering down.

  • The Flyers often win the day on social media, thanks in large part to Gritty. Now, with the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs finally here and the team having swept its way to the top seed in the East, the organization is presented with another opportunity, under unprecedented circumstances. On the latest episode of SBJ Unpacks, Flyers Chief Business Officer Mike Shane discusses the team's strategy to connect with fans and fulfill obligations to sponsors as they embark upon what could be a deep -- but certainly will be very different -- Stanley Cup playoff run.

  • “The momentum of the regular season, where teams are typically building to this dramatic climax that is the playoffs, has been completely lost,” Shane said. “August isn’t hockey season. The Stanley Cup playoffs have never had 24 teams before. And so we had to get our fans back to where they were in March, when the team had won nine of 10 and every game was can’t miss, appointment viewing. I’ve likened it to your favorite television show that finishes with this massive cliff hanger.”

 

VETERAN SPORTS EXEC TONY PETITTI SHIFTS FOCUS TO ESPORTS

  • Activision Blizzard today named Tony Petitti President of Sports & Entertainment, and SBJ's John Ourand and Eric Prisbell write Petitti's decision to leave his role as MLB Deputy Commissioner of Business & Media is sure to catch some by surprise. In his 12 years with the league, Petitti rose through the ranks to the point where he was a key part of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s inner circle. At MLB, he oversaw everything from marketing and special events to broadcast and digital media. He started at MLB in 2008 as MLB Network president, following a successful stint at CBS Sports.

  • Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told SBJ: "What Tony’s going to be uniquely able to do is unite what we’re doing in sport, film and television and consumer products, into what we do in our live operations. Tony has a really unique set of skills. He has both vision and the ability to execute.” Petitti said, "When people are engaging and using the content and it means a lot to them, that’s an environment that you want to be in."

  • Petitti also told Forbes that Kotick "reached out to him a few months ago about the global opportunities in the esports space and how his experiences both at a major pro sports league and major sports networks in scheduling, production, media, content generation, special events and postseason play would uniquely help the company grow Overwatch League and Call of Duty League." Petitti: "I love baseball, so we went through a lot to get to that point [to leave] but it was the right decision."

  • In tonight’s SBJ Media newsletter, John Ourand takes a look at who will fill Petitti’s role in the negotiation room, as well as how Petitti can help make Kotick’s vision come to life.

 

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH ELEVATE SPORTS VENTURES’ FLAVIL HAMPSTEN

  • Elevate Sports Ventures Chief Commercial Officer Flavil Hampsten, a 2015 SBJ "Forty Under 40" honoree, was used to working on-the-go pre-pandemic, often traveling 4-5 days a week, so he didn’t skip a beat in transitioning to full-time remote work.

  • “Along with the investment into a standing desk and larger screen, the presence of crayons, dolls, action figures and more at my feet throughout the day has been a new addition to my office,” he told SBJ's David Rumsey. Hampsten and his kids usually wake up around 6:00am out in San Jose and enjoy a family breakfast before calls begin around 9:00. That is of course baring any 4:00 or 5:00am meetings with international clients.

  • “Any executive working on the West Coast knows that you begin the day hours behind East Coast news and emails,” Hampsten said. “Mornings are devoted to catching up and getting ahead. When video calls subside around 3:30, the lack of commuting provides a brief intermission for exercise and some special moments with my children.” Hampsten’s days don’t always end there, though. “A bit of a night owl, our Elevate clients and partners can expect emails from me well past midnight,” he said.

  • Elevate has done its best to keep employees connected while working remotely, getting creative with what technology can offer. Hampsten: “We have added a number of new, developmentally-focused video calls for our employees to continue to build culture. From virtual training sessions in ticket sales, customer service, corporate partnership sales, negotiations, time management and media training to Elevate Executive Chalk Talks featuring executives such as Tod Leiweke, Tim Leiweke, Scott O’Neil, Jared Smith and Peter Luukko.”

  • Away from work, Hampsten has been making sure his kids get to stay active, with so many youth sports leagues on hiatus. Hampsten: “My 10-year-old daughter, who normally spends her time at the gymnastics studio, has taken to swimming and we go to the pool together every evening before dinner to swim laps. My 8-year-old son, who plays on three separate travel baseball teams, recently fell in love with golf.  … Two to three times a week (we) play nine holes together and generally have the first tee time. I can appreciate how special these days are, when I can play golf in the morning with my son and be at my desk by 9:00.”

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: LOOKING BEYOND THE MASKS

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from The Montag Group President Steve Herz, who writes under the header, "A Fun History Lesson For Our 2020 Reality: Chico And The Mask."
  • "Beyond the technical differences required to communicate with a mask, sometimes the gesture itself wins the day. The mere act of wearing one in this moment (or not wearing one) is also a gesture and a statement. Often, what you wear makes a powerful statement about yourself. In rare moments, what you wear makes an equally powerful statement about others."
  • To read the full contribution, click here

 

SPEED READS

  • Golf Channel's first three days of U.S. Amateur coverage this week (Wednesday through Friday) will each be preceded by a bonus hour of coverage that will stream exclusively on Peacock, marking the first live golf coverage on the service. The tournament from Bandon Dunes in Oregon will air live in primetime on Golf Channel Wednesday through Sunday.

  • CBS saw a year-over-year viewership increase for yesterday's final-round telecast of the PGA Championship. The network drew 5.15 million viewers for Collin Morikawa's win, which aired in primetime from S.F.'s TPC Harding Park, up slightly from 5.0 million viewers last year, when the event aired in May on the East Coast (Bethpage Black).

  • The NHL’s clean record of COVID-19 testing results from inside both the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles continued today, notes SBJ's Mark J. Burns. In the league’s latest reported batch of testing, 7,245 tests administered between Aug. 2-8 returned zero positive results. All clubs’ 52-member traveling parties have been tested daily since arriving in both cities. 

  

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: Fanatics Pulls "Redskins" Merch

We have 34 days until the NFL season is scheduled to start. Under normal times, that might feel like it’s right around the corner.

But think of it this way -- counting backward on the calendar, 34 days ago was July 4. A lot can happen in five weeks, and probably will.

In the meantime, my colleague Liz Mullen has the story on a big shakeup at CAA Sports. That, and much more, below.

-- Ben Fischer

 

FANATICS PULLS ALL "REDSKINS"  MERCH

  • Fanatics has officially pulled all of the "Redskins" merchandise from two of the NFL e-commerce sites it administers: NFLshop.com and washingtonfootball.com, the team’s own site; as well as fanatics.com, its omnibus site for licensed sports products, reports SBJ's Terry Lefton.

  • All those sites are as of now offering “Washington Football Team” products, but many listings caution delayed availability, ranging up to more than a month away. Fanatics.com is now offering 223 “Washington Football Team” items, most in the team's old burgundy and gold colors; a month ago it was offering more than 2,600 items under the former name.

  • Nike, Dick’s, Target, Amazon and Wal-Mart ceased selling the team's former merchandise around a month ago. A Fanatics spokesperson confirmed the change and said it was made in late July, under direction of the NFL. As of 2017, the league had a 3% equity investment in Fanatics.
     
     

 

TODD FRANCE PARTS WAYS WITH CAA SPORTS

  • CAA Sports and powerful NFL agent Todd France have mutually agreed to part ways, the agency and France both confirmed to SBJ's Liz Mullen.

  • France, who was co-head of CAA Football with Jimmy Sexton and Tom Condon,  joined the agency in 2015. He co-represents many high profile NFL players, including Bengals QB Joe Burrow, the No. 1 pick in this April's NFL Draft.

  • France has represented multiple first round draft picks for 13 years in a row, the current longest streak for any NFL agent. 
     

 

DISNEY RAISING PRICE FOR ESPN+

  • Disney is raising the price for ESPN+ by 20% as of next Wednesday, per SBJ's John Ourand. New monthly customers will be charged $5.99 per month for the streaming service, up from $4.99 per month. 

  • Existing monthly subscribers will continue to pay $4.99 per month for at least a year, the company said. ESPN+ annual subscriptions will remain at $49.99 per year, and the Disney+/ESPN+/Hulu bundle will remain at $12.99 per month. 

  • This marks the first price increase since ESPN+ launched in April 2018. ESPN+ reported 8.5 million subscribers as of June, up from 2.4 million in August 2019. Sports on ESPN+ this fall include MLB, boxing, UFC, soccer (Bundesliga, Serie A, FA Cup, MLS), PGA Tour, US Open tennis and college sports.

     

SOURCES: TICKETMASTER FURLOUGHS MORE WORKERS

  • Ticketmaster furloughed more workers last week ahead of parent company Live Nation’s Q2 earnings, sources told SBJ's Karn Dhingra

  • Sources said this latest round affects less workers than the hundreds across multiple offices in North America who were furloughed in April, though SBJ could not confirm the exact number. 

  • During Live Nation’s earnings call earlier this week -- where the company saw a 98% drop in Q2 revenue compared to 2019 -- executives said they did not expect a significant amount of live events to return to the U.S. until summer 2021. Live Nation in a statement acknowledged it has launched a number of initiatives to reduce fixed costs and conserve cash amid the pandemic.

 

XFL DEAL SAILS THROUGH AFTER CREDITORS WIN CONCESSIONS

  • The XFL acquisition sailed to approval this morning after the parties agreed to let creditors retain the right to pursue legal action against founder Vince McMahon, former Commissioner Oliver Luck, the WWE and Raine Advisors even after the sale, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer.

  • The group of Dwayne “The Rock” JohnsonDany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners will pay $15 million for the XFL’s assets. Creditors had objected to the original deal, because the right to claw back past payments to those individuals and entities would have transferred to the new buyers. The sale was renegotiated to remove those potential claims from the deal, no one objected and Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein blessed the transaction today. 

  • The deal is expected to be closed by Aug. 21, but it remains an uphill battle for the XFL to be reconstituted in time for a 2021 season, insiders believe. 

  • The first step is securing media rights deals -- ESPN and Fox have both said their deals with the McMahon-owned XFL would not survive under a new owner -- not to mention reconstituting team rosters, coaching staffs and league employees.

 

 

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP DRAWS BEST FIRST-ROUND AUDIENCE SINCE 2015

  • ESPN drew the best opening-round viewership for the PGA Championship in five years on Thursday from Harding Park, per SBJ's Austin Karp. 

  • The network, which is in the first year of a new 11-year pact to air the opening rounds, averaged 1.25 million viewers from 4:00-10:30pm ET, the best Thursday figure since TNT drew 1.396 million in 2015 from Whistling Straits in mid-August. That also marks the second-best first round in the last decade. ESPN was up 24% from last year, when TNT averaged 990,000 viewers in mid-May for a telecast from 1:00-6:00pm.

  • Tampa-St. Petersburg led all local markets on Thursday, followed by West Palm Beach and host market S.F.-Oakland-San Jose. The last time the PGA Championship was held on the West Coast was in 1998 at Sahalee Country Club in Washington.

 

MLB SETS DIGITAL VIEWING RECORDS IN RESTART

  • For the two weeks that its teams have returned to the field, MLB has set digital viewing records as users have streamed more games for longer times than any 14-day period on record, reports SBJ's John Ourand.

  • Here are the key stats:

    • During this season’s first two weeks, MLB games have logged 1.3 million total unique users -- a number that is up 11% from last year’s record pace.

    • There have been 12.8 million total games watched by users (+12% over 2019; +7% over 2018, which was the previous record).

    • Users have accounted for 988.5 million total minutes watched, a figure that is up 32% from 2019.

 

MiLB's NEW PROPOSAL TO MLB VIEWED AS STEP BACKWARD

  • Just two days after MiLB replaced its negotiating committee, the new negotiating team has "sent a proposal" to MLB which includes the "preservation of Minor League Baseball's independence with a slimmed-down version of the current league offices in St. Petersburg," according to Baseball America's J.J. Cooper.

  • Supporters of the switch in negotiating teams "saw the new proposal as a way to potentially shake loose what have been slow-moving talks." Instead, the move is "more likely to slow any progress that had been made." Sources said that the new proposal is viewed by MLB as a "major step backward in attempts to complete a deal, as it hearkens back to concepts that had been fleshed out a year ago." 

  • Adding to the complications, a number of MiLB owners have "directly told MLB that the new negotiating team does not represent their interests." The two sides have "not held any formal, face-to-face talks since April 22, but there have been a number of informal discussions since." Before the switch in negotiating committees, progress "appeared to be made on the conceptual framework of a deal."

  • SBJ's Eric Prisbell breaks down what MiLB's latest proposal means for its recently contentious relations with the majors in the latest Instant Insight video.

  

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: CLEAN GAME

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America Executive Director Frank DeSocio, who writes under the header, "Bowling Stares Down Crisis Along With Old Stereotypes."
  • "COVID-19 paused the entire world of sports for four months, and while some have returned to action recently, there’s one great American pastime still being held on pause or under severe restrictions: bowling. ... Our industry, as is the case for all location-based entertainment LBE businesses, is faced with an existential threat that can only be addressed by ensuring, first and foremost, the health and well-being of our customers and employees."
  • To read the full contribution, click here

  

SPEED READS

  • Here is more proof of the effectiveness of the bubble approach in returning to sports: the WNBA reports that of the 139 players tested for COVID-19 since the initial quarantine period in Bradenton, Fla., no player has returned a confirmed positive test. The results mirror the NBA’s testing data at Disney and MLS' bubble that has had 13 consecutive reports of zero positive COVID-19 cases also in Orlando, writes SBJ's John Lombardo. The WNBA’s single site season at the IMG Academy began on July 25 and runs through September.

  • Another Cardinals player has "tested positive for COVID-19," which led MLB to postpone the team's scheduled game tonight against the Cubs, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In the past 48 hours, the team has "flown together from Milwaukee to St. Louis, practiced together twice at Busch Stadium, and returned to their homes." The Athletic's Mark Saxon: "This is problematic for a lot of reasons. Among them: the Cardinals haven't played since July 29 and already were trying to play 55 games in 52 days."

  • The Lions told season-ticket holders today they still hope to provide some kind of multi-game packages to the 2020 season, though capacity at Ford Field is still being determined alongside government authorities in Michigan, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer. The team so far is resisting the step taken by at least ten NFL clubs now of simply eliminating all season tickets and shifting to single-game sales only. Lions season-ticket holders can opt out of the season with no penalty on their status, ticket location or seniority for 2021.

 

NFL TEAMS OFFERING SEASON-TICKET REFUNDS
GIVE FANS NO-PENALTY DEFERRAL IF THEY WANT
Bills 
Patriots
Titans
Dolphins
Giants
Packers 
Texans
Jets
Eagles
Colts
Washington
Steelers
Browns
Seahawks
Saints
Bengals
Chargers
Broncos
Panthers
    Falcons    
Vikings
 
    Lions      
DEFERRING ALL SEASON TICKETS
Chiefs
Ravens
49ers
Jaguars
Bears
Rams
Cowboys
Buccaneers
Cardinals
 
Raiders
 
Download the
NFL Team Ticket Refund Policies

 

  • The SEC unveiled details of its medical protocols for fall sports, with football, volleyball and soccer players to be "tested for COVID-19 at least twice a week." Also, games "could be canceled or postponed if virus outbreaks in the local community are considered exceptionally high."

  • Panthers OT Russell Okung is "evaluating whether to retire over COVID-19 concerns," per a source cited by ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. The 31-year-old Okung, who "seriously considered opting out at Thursday's deadline, is comfortable walking away from the game if he feels the football environment is not safe." He was also a stalwart opponent of the new CBA who earlier this year filed an unfair labor practices complaint against DeMaurice Smith

 

  

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 Opt-Outs Exceed Expectations

It only seems longer than the 382 days since golf’s last major as the PGA Championship started today at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. 

The tournament was supposed to be played in May but now sees the spotlight shine on golf amid more uncertainty as NFL teams prepare for the reality of playing in empty or reduced capacity stadiums while college football teeters. 

At least for the rest of this week, we can tune into primetime golf as the PGA of America hosts its championship in the first year of a new 11-year media deal with ESPN and CBS that for the first time will offer wire-to-wire coverage.

-- John Lombardo

 

FINAL NFL OPT-OUT TALLY EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

  • A total of 66 NFL players opted out of the 2020 season by today’s 4:00pm deadline, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports, exceeding most insiders’ expectations. That works out to about 2 per team across the league, but in reality the impact is very unevenly distributed. 

  • The Patriots lost 8 players to opt-outs, including three longtime starters. The Browns lost 5. Eight teams lost 3 each: the Chiefs, Cowboys, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Raiders and Colts. Three teams lost none: The Chargers, Steelers and Falcons.

  • Packers CEO & President Mark Murphy said yesterday there were “maybe a little more (opt outs) than I would have thought.” Murphy, part of the owners’ negotiating team that hashed out terms with the NFLPA, continued, “But our view was, I mean, we absolutely wanted it. The players association wanted it, and we wanted it. If someone’s not comfortable with playing this season they should be able to opt out.”

  • Also today, the NFLPA reported there have been 56 positive COVID-19 test since players began reporting to camp. That’s about 2% of all players in camp.

 

 

RACING INDUSTRY HOPING FOR LIMITED HOSPITALITY AT INDY 500 

  • There will be no fans at this month’s Indy 500, but the racing industry is still waiting to see if some sponsor executives will be allowed on site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, writes SBJ's Adam Stern. Team execs, among others in the paddock, are anxiously awaiting word whether the track will allow a limited amount of hospitality.

  • The topic is a sensitive and important one for many in the industry who sell or handle sponsorships. Some in the paddock believe that given the hit to branding elements from a fan-less event, allowing a handful of sponsor execs from each entry the chance to attend -- both to experience the event in person with a couple guests and possibly even help with social/digital activations --is the least the track can do.

  • Paddock sources believe IMS will likely end up allowing some limited hospitality, but track execs have yet to confirm their plan.

 

NICK KHAN'S WWE CONTRACT DETAILS REVEALED

  • WWE filed details of Nick Khan’s contract with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The WWE’s new president and chief revenue officer signed a five-year deal with a base salary of $1.2 million and an expected annual bonus of $1.9 million, which means he could hit up to $3.1 million if he hits all his bonuses. 

  • Khan received a signing bonus of $5 million and picked up a $15 million stock grant that vests in five years. According to the contract, Khan is automatically enrolled in WWE’s 401K plan (WWE currently matches to the 401k fifty percent (50%) of contributions up to six percent (6%) of salary.) Plus, he gets three weeks of paid vacation and three paid personal days.

  • THR’s Alex Weprin was first with this news.

 

PIRATES PRESIDENT DEFENDS MLB PROTOCOLS

  • Pirates President Travis Williams told SBJ's Eric Prisbell that ensuring players and staff understand the importance of health and safety protocols in the early portion of the MLB season has demanded "a lot of effort, a lot of stress at times."

  • While few may have envisioned outbreaks as severe as what the sport has seen within the Cardinals' and Marlins' organizations, he said that some positive tests were expected, adding that MLB's protocols are sufficient but will continue to evolve

  • "This is not unique to baseball and not unique to sports and entertainment," Williams said, "We all are continuing to learn about this virus and what it does and how it acts. Our health experts at the federal, state and local levels are still learning about it and they are all reacting and trying to get ahead of it. And I think we as an industry are trying to do the same thing. ... It's not something where there is a manual you can pull out and read and say, 'This is how we fix this.' These are situations that are very fluid and changing daily."

 

HIGH MARKS FOR EARLY ESPN+ PGA CHAMPIONSHIP COVERAGE

  • The PGA Championship got underway this morning on ESPN+ as part of Bristol's new 11-year media-rights deal with the PGA of America. Viewer reactions largely praised the variety of camera angles on display from San Francisco's TPC Harding Park, while lead anchor Scott Van Pelt also took an unsurprising victory lap. Below are some notable reactions to first round coverage on the OTT platform. 

    • No Laying Up's Chris Solomon: "It's premium. ... I realize folks are upset that the only option to watch the tournament is to pay, but they really are delivering a big time product. Can get three screens going, and the SVP/Duval combo is fantastic."

    • Golf Magazine's Dylan Dethier: "Best defense of ESPN+, you are paying the same price for all this delightful entertainment as you would for ONE SINGLE GOLF BALL."

    • Golf News Net's Ryan Ballengee: "This is the full 180 from the TNT days. What fun to see golf on the golf telecast!"

    • ESPN's Kevin Van Valkenburg: "No offense to anyone else, but I love hearing @notthefakeSVP call golf action."

    • Golf.com's Luke Kerr-Dineen: "I cannot get enough of these camera angles on putts. The best."

    • N.Y. Times' John Branch (from the grounds): "If you’re home and seeing a crazy cool all-around 3-D view of players at the 14th tee (are you?) here is how they do it: 90 cameras surrounding most of the tee box."

 

ESPN this week is utilizing a significant amount of cameras around Harding Park's 14th tee box
ESPN this week is utilizing a significant amount of cameras around Harding Park's 14th tee box
ESPN this week is utilizing a significant amount of cameras around Harding Park's 14th tee box

 

HAS NCAA CEDED TOO MUCH POWER TO POWER 5 CONFERENCES?

  • The NCAA has ceded so much control to the Power 5 conferences that the leadership in college athletics has become fractured and ineffective. That’s the opinion of Charlotte AD Mike Hill, who spoke on a networking call this afternoon with sports marketing execs. Both ADs on the call, Hill and Doug Gillin of Appalachian State -- two of the most respected and influential voices in the Group of 5 -- boldly predict that the structure of college athletics is about to undergo some serious alterations in the coming years.
  • Hill: “We’re in the middle of the biggest crisis we’ve faced in college athletics and there’s a lot of deference from the NCAA to the conferences. … I just don’t think the NCAA has the same authority level it once did. So, we’ve seen a shift to the autonomy conferences (P5) making a lot of decisions based on what’s in their best interests and that’s created a chasm” between the P5 and everybody else.

  • For more from Hill and Gillin, see tonight's issue of the SBJ College newsletter from Michael Smith.

 

OCTAGON'S ALASTAIR GARLAND ON WTA'S U.S. RETURN

  • Octagon VP/Tennis Alastair Garland is headed to Kentucky this weekend as the WTA returns to the U.S. for the Top Seed Open, which begins Monday. Typical of a hectic year in pro tennis, Octagon moved the WTA-half of the Citi Open to Nicholasville's Top Seed Club, which will host a WTA tournament for the first time.

  • Garland, a member of the WTA’s board of directors as the Asia-Pacific region’s representative, told SBJ’s Bret McCormick that the tour earlier this year considered simply calling it quits on the 2020 season and regrouping for 2021, a choice that ultimately was not made. "While you can’t bring the risk down to zero, I would say this is something that the industry as a whole was comfortable to pursue," said Garland. "As long as the vast majority of people were comfortable with what the return to tennis would look like, then the tours were on board with proceeding.”

  • Garland, on the latest SBJ Unpacks podcast, spoke about how the new Kentucky event came together, whether pro tennis will open its arms to gambling sponsorship and what kind of long-term financial impacts the pandemic will have on the sport. 

  • For more on the WTA's return to the U.S., see Monday's print edition of SBJ.

 

SUMMER PLANNING WITH WASSERMAN'S ALANNA HERNANDEZ

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, Wasserman Senior VP Alanna Hernandez dishes on how she's been spending her free time, what future vacation she'd most like to take and what she's reading and binge watching. 

    • Wasserman's Alanna Hernandez:

      • Working on: "Re-learning Spanish. Given the current state of affairs, chances are high that I will be fully conversational by the time things get somewhat back to normal."
      • Future vacations: "Somewhere in the Mediterranean. Maybe the Greek Islands or Italy. Or both!"
      • Reading: "Unfortunately, there hasn't been a ton of reading outside of Dr. Seuss and anything else my toddler wants to read. I have, however, been listening to Michael Bennett's book 'Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.' For laughs, Trevor Noah's reading of 'Born a Crime' has also been great."
      • Binge watching: "There is a lot of binge-watching over here, and we have even more stuff on our list! Of the shows we’ve watched so far, 'Little Fires Everywhere' and 'Billions' are two of the favorites."

 

Hernandez has been enjoying both "Billions" and "Little Fires Everywhere" in her spare time
Hernandez has been enjoying both "Billions" and "Little Fires Everywhere" in her spare time
Hernandez has been enjoying both "Billions" and "Little Fires Everywhere" in her spare time

 

  

SPEED READS

  • MLS continues to impress with its ability to secure the Orlando bubble, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. Dating back to a report on July 12, the league has released 13 consecutive reports of zero positive COVID-19 cases for those staying at the host hotel. That has included more than 10,000 tests throughout the past three-plus weeks. In the latest release, 190 people were tested Aug. 3-4. The MLS is Back Tournament concludes next Tuesday.

  • William Hill posted its results from the first half of the calendar year, with U.S. net revenue "down some 29% because of the coronavirus pandemic." But William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson told Legal Sports Report that the U.S. is still the key growth story for the business, which is in the process of taking over all Caesars sportsbook operations. That will "give it an estimated 29% market share, although the process is far from complete."

  • The Astros and the Texas Division of Emergency Management have teamed up to open a free COVID-19 testing site at Minute Maid Park. The testing site will be able to process 2,000 tests per day and will begin operations this Saturday.

  • For those looking forward to some new sports TV programs, a few projects are in the works. EW.com notes Amazon Studios is “officially rebooting the beloved 1992 sports comedy ‘A League of Their Own’ as a TV series.” Abbi Jacobson will star in and co-create the series. No premiere date has been set. Meanwhile, filming for ABC’s “Ultimate Surfer is underway at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in California, per Deadline.com. Winners will get the chance to compete on tour for the World Surf League. Slater will “serve as on-air talent and special correspondent for the show,” executive produced by Pilgrim Media Group, WSL Studios CEO Erik Logan and UFC President Dana White.

  • As the PGA Championship teed off this morning without spectators, look for an announcement on a fan-less Masters in the near future. Augusta mayor Hardie Davis said that is "likely what will probably happen" for November's tournament at Augusta National. Davis said of the historic club, "They have the wherewithal to test all the patrons who show up at point of contact. If you got a fever, they can tell you to get in the car. But, again, they’re very thoughtful. They’re going to take those necessary precautions to ensure the health, welfare and safety of not just the competitors, but also the city. Do I believe that the Augusta National golf club can do it better than anybody? Absolutely. My preference is to see some golf. That’s my preference.”

  • The Reds are "going to great lengths" to bring in sponsorship sales with no fans allowed at games, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier's Steve WatkinsTriHealth "bought space for its logo to run on the grass in foul territory" at Great American Ball Park, an area which "shows up prominently on TV." Skyline Chili "bought space in the on-deck circle that couldn’t be sold in the past." The Reds also "added virtual signs in the batter’s eye beyond center field that are visible on TV only," and they "sold space on the back of the pitcher’s mound to a few companies." 

 

  

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

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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: More NFL Staffers Return To Park Avenue

There was finally more clarity today from the NCAA around the fate of collegiate sports in the coming months, with the governing body mandating that all three of its divisions decide by Aug. 21 whether or not fall championships are occurring this year. Hours later, both D-II and D-III threw in the towel. Is D-I now on the clock?

Meanwhile, the MLS is Back Tournament semifinals begin tonight, the NHL is still in the midst of its qualifying and seeding rounds, more NFL staffers are returning to 345 Park Ave. and the NBA returned yet another report of zero players testing positive for the coronavirus. The bubbles continue to hold strong.

Be kind to one another.

-- Mark J. Burns

 

NFL HQ BRINGING MORE WORKERS BACK

  • The NFL is bringing most of its 780-person workforce at its Manhattan HQ back to the office this week after months of working from home, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports. About 150 people had already been working there in staggered shifts since NYC first allowed offices to re-open in June at 25% capacity, but now the NFL is moving up to 50% capacity.

  • Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo: “With our players and clubs safely back in the workplace, we too must continue to advance our return to the workplace. This will ensure we are collectively in the best position to execute our season.” He went on to promise flexibility and HR support for employees with childcare problems or other challenges at home.

  • No one is expected to work at the office full-time, said Chief People Officer Dasha Smith. To maintain social distancing, no more than half, or 390, will be allowed on site at any one time. Workers with offices will be asked to come for 3 days a week, and those in open floor plans will come in 1-2 days a week. "The idea is to get as many back as we can, in compliance with our 50 percent daily capacity,” Smith said.

  • Smith said the league has reinstated about half the employees who were furloughed in April, though she could not give a precise figure. NFL Media offices in L.A. and NFL Films offices in New Jersey have also been partially repopulated over the summer. The salary cuts for all employees earning $100K or more, enacted at the same time as the furloughs, are still in effect and will be re-evaluated at the start of the season, Smith said. That includes Goodell, who is still not earning his base salary.

 

 

NBA PLEDGES $300 MILLION TO SUPPORT BLACK COMMUNITIES 

  • NBA owners today announced that they will contribute $300 million in initial funding to establish the first NBA Foundation to focus on “creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community,” writes SBJ's John Lombardo. The foundation is being launched in partnership with the NBPA and comes after Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the league and the union will create a foundation as part of its social justice platform.  

  • Over the next 10 years, the 30 team owners will collectively contribute $30 million annually to establish the new foundation. 

  • The foundation will focus on three critical employment transition points: obtaining a first job, securing employment following high school or college, and career advancement once employed.

  • According to the league, the foundation also "will work directly with all 30 teams, their affiliated charitable organizations and the union to support national organizations and their local affiliates as well as local grassroots organizations to facilitate sustainable programming and create change in team markets." 

  • “We are dedicated to using the collective resources of the 30 teams, the players and the league to drive meaningful economic opportunities for Black Americans,” Silver said in a statement  “We believe that through focused programs in our team markets and nationally, together with clear and specific performance measures, we can advance our shared goals of creating substantial economic mobility within the Black community.” 

 

LATEST RESULTS IN NBA BUBBLE SHOW NO POSITIVE TESTS

  • The NBA bubble is holding secure even as more team and league executives head to Disney since the games began last Thursday, reports SBJ's John Lombardo. The NBA and the players union jointly announced this afternoon that of the 343 players tested for COVID-19 on the campus since test results were last announced on July 29, zero have returned confirmed positive tests.   

  • The results show how well the protocols are working to date, but there is a long way to go given that the NBA Finals won’t wrap up until October. Still, the league has to be heartened by the zero player positivity at rate over the past three weeks. 


NBA RESTART'S VIRTUAL SIGNAGE: A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR SPONSORS

  • After almost a week of NBA games from ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, the designated home teams have been able to translate the games into opportunities for sponsors on both a local and national scale. Each club has served as the home team at least once, allowing all to present team partners through virtual signage on the court, in front of the bench and along the sideline, writes SportsAtlas' Will Cavanaugh

  • Of the 22 teams, 21 have used on-court and bench signage, with the Rockets as the only team yet to leverage the locations. Most teams have featured at least one of their jersey-patch and facility naming-rights partners, providing marquee sponsors with exposure missed during the long layoff. 

  • A total of 10 teams have presented their jersey-patch partner across one of the three team-owned assets; 14 teams positioned their facility naming-rights partner on the court; while two teams featured their practice facility naming-rights sponsor.

  • The brands occupying the virtual signage have varied between local and national partners. Brands with heavy involvement across the NBA -- LexusToyotaGeicoAT&TStubHubMountain Dew and DraftKings -- have been highlighted during the opening week of the restart. Despite a relatively small footprint across the NBA, brands such as American HomePinnacleMemorial HermannTangerineSweet James and Continental Resources also have invested in virtual signage.

 

 

MLS' RETURN GENERATES OVER $6 MILLION IN SPONSORSHIP VALUE

  • Throughout the MLS is Back Tournament, the league, teams and players have generated $6.3 million in sponsorship value for 32 brands, including all main jersey sponsors and key league sponsors, according to data from social media measurement firm Hookit analyzed SBJ's Mark J. Burns.

  • Adidas received over $2 million of that value, while Target ($1.5 million) and Heineken ($1 million) were the only other two brands to surpass $300,000 in sponsorship value.

  • Here are some other key findings: 

    • The Galaxy drove the most sponsorship value among teams at $800,000, in large part due to social video posts with fewer sponsor logos than other clubs.

    • The league generated 61% of the total value while teams generated 37%.

    • Of the clubs remaining in the tournament, Orlando City SC has generated the most value ($93,000) followed by the Union ($76,000), Minnesota United FC ($44,000) and the Timbers ($41,000).

    • Orlando City’s captain Nani produced the most value ($40,000) of any MLS player.

 

D-II, D-III CANCEL FALL CHAMPIONSHIPS 

  • The NCAA today laid out several measures that it "says schools 'must follow' if they are going to conduct fall sports," emphasizing the NCAA BOG's "serious concerns" about the threat of the pandemic, per CBS Sports. The NCAA's three divisions were given until Aug. 21 to decide whether to hold fall championships at all, but both D-II and D-III wasted no time. Hours after the NCAA statement, both of the division's respectivepresident councils announced the cancellation of all fall sports. 

  • Notable reactions to the D-II and D-III news on Twitter:

    • SI's Ross Dellenger: "If you want to know why the BOG kicked the can to the divisions, it's because of this. D2 and D3 wanted out. DI did not, for now."

    • Extra Point's Matt Brown: "If the argument is 'well, D1 has more resources than D-II or DIII, they can provide a better standard of care, maybe this can be safe' ...might be worth mentioning that the bottom of D1 looks real close to a lot of D-II programs, resource-wise."

    • Detroit News' Matt Charboneau: "Does Division I follow suit, and if so, when? And does that lead to a split by the Power Five?"

    • Toledo Blade's Ron Seibel: "Unfortunate, but in the big picture the correct move. If the current vaccine trials work, I'm guessing spring, 2021, will be the first safe sports season. If only high schools, D-I and D-II take the same difficult, but needed, step..."

  • More headlines from the college space today:

 

LONGTIME MLB CARDINALS VP JOE ABERNATHY RETIRES

  • Longtime Cardinals VP/Facility Planning & Engineering Joe Abernathy, who has overseen operations, event management, security, and guest services for the MLB club since 1995, has retired, reports SBJ's David Broughton.

  • Abernathy’s association with the club began in 1977, when he was managing engineering and construction for capital projects at then-team owner Anheuser-Busch Cos. In the early 90's, he managed engineering and construction projects at old Busch Stadium. In October ‘95 he joined the club as director of stadium operations and was promoted to vice-president in ‘97. He played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium, as well as the ongoing mixed-use development surrounding it. He also helped direct the 1998 opening of Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, the club’s Spring Training facility in Jupiter, Fla

  • Over the course of his 24+ seasons with the club, Abernathy, a 2017 SBJ Power Player, oversaw more than 2,000 home games -- more than Cardinals legends Stan Musial and Lou Brock -- including 29 playoff series.

 

Abernathy played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium
Abernathy played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium
Abernathy played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: PERIOD OF UNCERTAINTY

  • Tonight's op-ed is from sports media consultants Ed Desser and John Kosner, who write under the header, "Sports Slogging Through Cruel Summer of 2020."
  • "Sports has experienced a lost season (NHL) and shortened ones before (NBA, NFL and MLB), but had never been entirely 'on hiatus.' Now, we’re midsummer, and the restarts have begun (motorsports, golf, MLB and, most recently, the NBA and NHL, so far successfully in their respective bubbles). Amid the progress, however, the nationwide spike in COVID-19 infections is feeding a new crisis." 
  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

SPEED READS

  • Positive news on the racing front: more than two weeks after Bristol Motor Speedway "welcomed over 20,000 people to the country’s largest in-person sports gathering in months, local public health officials say they have not yet identified any COVID-19 case clusters directly associated with the NASCAR All-Star Race," per the Bristol Herald Courier's Tim Dodson. BMS "implemented an extensive plan for the July 15 event that physically distanced spectators in the stands and required attendees to wear masks in most parts of the stadium, except for at their seats."

  • Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of Ticketmaster, reported year-over-year ticketing revenue decreased $457.8 million on its Q2 earnings call today, primarily because of refunds to cancelled concerts, sports and other events during the pandemic.

  • While the amount of NBA 2K20 content streamed on YouTube and Twitch from July 4-Aug.3 remained relatively constant, viewership peaked on the Thursday of the NBA restart, according to the latest data from Newzoo Pro analyzed by SBJ’s Andrew Levin. The resumption of live action generated a positive correlation with 2K20 streaming viewership, perhaps due to the general excitement the league’s restart generated in the days leading up to its return. See more in the SBJ Esports newsletter.

  • The USTA "laid out key elements" of its U.S. Open bubble plan in an update sent to players, according to the N.Y. Times' Christopher Clarey. Players need written permission from tournament director Stacey Allaster or the tournament's chief medical officer in order to leave the tournament bubble. If they leave without it, the player "will be removed from the event and fined an unspecified amount." If a coach or other guest of a player leaves the bubble, that credential "will be revoked." 

  • LeBron James, who has owned a 2% stake in Liverpool since 2011, showed off the club's new Nike red kit on his way to the Lakers game tonight in Orlando

 

 

  

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: Disney Earnings Hit Hard, But Streaming On The Rise

Another Tuesday in 2020, another typically bittersweet news day in the sports world.

The Indy 500 announced it’ll be held with no fans for the first time ever, while the U.S. Open’s player fields currently include 19 of the top-20 women, but no Rafa Nadal (or injured Roger Federer) on the men’s side.

Disney’s latest earnings announcement kind of summed things up for the industry these days: the company lost over $3 billion because of closed parks but now tops 50 million subscribers for eight month-old Disney+; in other words, it could have been worse.

-- Bret McCormick


ESPN+ A BRIGHT SPOT FOR DISNEY DURING TOUGH Q3

  • The pandemic hit Disney hard in Q3 as it "continues to feel the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sectors like its parks business," per CNBC. The company "took a $3.5 billion hit to its operating income from parks being closed during the quarter."

  • Some of the only good news came on the streaming side, where Disney+ reported 57.5 million subscribers, and ESPN+ reported 8.5 million subscribers. Last November, ESPN+ was at 3.5 million subscribers. Its growth comes from being the home to UFC pay-per-view events and being bundled with Disney+ and Hulu.

  • Overall, Disney revenues fell 40% to $11.7 billion, a number that "missed expectations, even if the adjusted profit was a pleasant surprise for investors," per Variety. Media networks, including ESPN, saw a 2% drop, to $6.56 billion. The direct-to-consumer and international group, which includes the streaming services, was the only one to see a revenue increase during the quarter, jumping 2% to $3.97 billion.

  • Of note: Disney shares "initially fell on the report but rose more than 4% during the company’s earnings call as CEO Bob Chapek announced an exclusive movie release (Mulan) for Disney+ subscribers."

 


RACING INDUSTRY BEGINS TO FEEL PANDEMIC FALLOUT

  • The motorsports industry has gotten back to holding events as quick as any sport, but today was a stark reminder that the pandemic will still have a major long-term impact on racing, writes SBJ's Adam Stern. In a couple-hour span, owner Bob Leavine announced that he had sold his NASCAR team -- confirming a resolution to talks first reported by SBJ last month -- and Indianapolis Motor Speedway made the unprecedented announcement that the Indy 500 would be held on Aug. 23 without fans. 

  • Leavine explicitly blamed the pandemic for his decision; specifically, how it impacted both his Texas-based construction business and the sponsorship market. NASCAR teams rely on sponsorship for about 75% of annual revenue.

  • Leavine: “We looked at our marketing people and we are going to be lucky to sell $50,000 worth (of sponsorship) for the rest of the year. Big companies are going bankrupt. They can’t invest in something that has no more return than what they are going to get during a pandemic. It was the perfect storm.”

  • Meanwhile, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a facility spread over 500 acres with around 250,000 grandstand seats, today cited increasing virus cases in the metro area in its reasoning for keeping fans away from this year’s Indy 500. Organizers believed that it could hold the event with reduced capacity. The race is by far the NTT IndyCar Series’ biggest annual cash cow, and the financial impact of not allowing fans even for one year could be felt for months -- if not years.

 

NEW ADVISORY GROUP AIMS TO HELP VENUES REOPEN IN COVID ERA

  • Veteran sports and entertainment security executives focused on how safety, security and health interacts with the fan experience have launched a new trade advisory group, reports SBJ's Karn Dhingra.

  • The Innovation Institute for Fan Experience was being planned before the pandemic, but COVID-19 triggered a faster timeline for the launch, said Dr. Lou Marciani, who recently retired as the director of the national center for spectator sports safety and security at Southern Miss

  • The institute will provide “next-level” direction for industries that want fan attendance at live events “back to normal and whose very existence depends on how well they can safely gather fans.” Marciani said he plans to leverage his connections to industry experts and his association with Interpol’s Project STADIA program to hold round tables and discussions among stadium and arena managers about best practices and new technologies that will help them reopen their venues in the COVID era. 

  • Membership will be open to sports and entertainment executives, teams, educators, risk management firms, architectural firms, and security firms. The institute’s founding fellows include executives from Ilitch Holdings, the Blue Jays, Spurs, 49ers and Ironman Group

 

 

ARAMARK'S LATEST EARNINGS REPORT SHOWS STARK REALITY

  • Aramark’s revenue in food service operations for sports, leisure and corrections was down 71% year-over-year, sliding from $681.4 million in June 2019 to $194.3 million in June 2020, executives said during the company’s Q3 earnings call. 

  • Aramark, which reduced senior executives salaries and furloughed others in April, said its losses in the sports, leisure and corrections sector were partially offset by “labor and product cost reduction, SG&A (Selling, General and Administrative Expenses) cost management and the outcome of client contract renegotiations,” writes SBJ's Karn Dhingra.

  • Aramark’s sport business is still a question mark as fans have yet to return to major stadiums and arenas, although it still has the highest potential for growth, if the coronavirus pandemic subsides or there is a vaccine, executives told analysts on the call. 

 

WILL NFL SEE FLURRY OF PLAYER OPT-OUTS?

  • NFL players "must make their decisions on whether to opt out" of the 2020 season because of concerns over the coronavirus by 4:00pm ET on Thursday, according to Mike Jones of USA Today

  • Sources said that owners and the NFLPA "agreed to the terms" last night, and the player body was "notified of the arrangement shortly after." Originally, the NFLPA and owners had "agreed to set the opt-out deadline for seven days after the finalization of the modified Collective Bargaining Agreement." But with final details of the economic aspects of the deal "still unresolved, and as more than 40 players have opted out already, NFL owners wanted to nail down the opt out deadline."

  • ESPN's Dan Graziano cited sources as saying that the NFLPA got the owners to "agree to a number of changes to the final language they feel are beneficial to the players." Changes include "better protection for players in the discipline process for 'high-risk' behavior away from the facility." Per the agreement, players "can be disciplined for engaging in activity that could increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, such as attending a concert or other indoor gathering with more than 15 people."

  • NBC Sports Boston's Tom Curran writes "for players who’ve now seen what it’s like or who bristle at the rules now officially in place -- a fine system for 'refusal to weak mask, PPE or tracking device or maintain social distancing during team travel' for instance -- that Thursday deadline could be busy." As of today, more than 50 players have opted out of the 2020 season. Eight of them were Patriots -- "by far the highest number of opt-outs in the league (the Cowboys and Browns have the second most with three each)."

 

WORLD TEAMTENNIS RE-EVALUATING BUSINESS MODEL

  • World TeamTennis CEO Carlos Silva said he didn’t know if his league “could have done anything any better” following the conclusion of a three-week “bubble” season at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. “This definitely changes World TeamTennis forever,” Silva told SBJ’s Bret McCormick. “It’s really a question about how our planning goes here in the next couple weeks and months to think about how we approach 2021.”

  • Silva and WTT’s owners will look at this year’s unusual competition to see which aspects could be included in future years -- chiefly whether to have all the teams at one site again. All nine teams have traditionally had their own home venue. But Silva said returning to The Greenbrier could be a possibility, as well as moving to a touring model, similar to the Premier Lacrosse League.

  • "All of us being in one location was amazing,” Silva said. “I know all of the players really appreciated not having to fly every day over the course of those three weeks. Will we do it exactly the same again? Probably not. But is there some sort of hybrid approach to it? Absolutely.”

  • WTT administered over 800 COVID tests at a total cost of about $100,000, but returned no positive results. One player, Danielle Collins, was dismissed from the competition for breaking quarantine. 

  • Silva said that sorting out expiring deals with CBS, ESPN and Tennis Channel is his top priority this offseason. WTT set viewership records twice this season on CBS, including a new 45-year high of 556,000 viewers for the championship match on Sunday. That number was just shy of ESPN’s viewership of live coverage of the Australian Open men’s final earlier this year (571,000), though that match aired at 3:30am ET. Silva also feels positively about sponsorship renewal discussions with DraftKings and Guaranteed Rate.

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH MAESTROE SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT’S GABBY ROE

  • Maestroe Sports & Entertainment President Gabby Roe had never been a big fan of working remotely, but the past few months have definitely changed his mind. “We've been trusting technology -- Zoom and Slack in particular have been really, really well-utilized to keep our communication going internally, as well as with all of our clients,” he said. “I can very deeply say that we're more efficient now than we were when we were all commuting into an office together.”

  • The Pennsylvania-based agency, just outside Philadelphia, primarily works with what Roe termed high-growth and emerging sports properties -- think cornhole, break dancing, ultimate frisbee, curling or axe throwing.

  • “Most of them are not in the ticket sales economy as part of the lifeblood of their organization,” he said. “Most of them are in the televised sports and sponsorship economy. So, thankfully sports, whether they were repeats or live shows, were still happening.” He pointed to the American Cornhole League gaining popularity on ESPN and repurposed American Ultimate Disc League footage getting exposure on Fox Sports.

  • With the landscape for the rest of this year still largely unknown, Maestroe is shifting most of its focus to 2021, and Roe isn’t worried about when large crowds will be the norm again. “That's not part of the business model,” he said. “So, as long as we are able to deliver really good digital and television content and package our partners and sponsors into it, the athletes can play and the sport can be watched by fans. The on-site audience isn't really a major factor for almost all of our sports properties.”

  • Roe, a former SBJ "Forty Under 40" honoree, goes for a run most mornings between 6:00-7:00am and spends most of his workday on video calls from his second-floor guest suite. His three children -- two in college and one in high school -- are pretty self-sufficient these days, he said, so they don’t need much help from Roe and his wife when it comes to schooling. Roe has been rooting hard for the Union in the MLS Is Back Tournament and has been playing golf whenever he gets the chance. “I’ve played more recently, just because its outside, you can do it,” he said. “I’m not good at golf but I enjoy playing it.”

  • Want to share what your work-from-home setup is like? Reach out to SBJ's David Rumsey.

 

Roe spends most of his workday on video calls from his second-floor guest suite
Roe spends most of his workday on video calls from his second-floor guest suite
Roe spends most of his workday on video calls from his second-floor guest suite

 

SUMMER PLANNING WITH RED BULLS' KARI COHEN

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, Red Bulls General Counsel Kari Cohen dishes on how she's been spending her free time, what future vacation she'd most like to take and what she's reading and binge watching. 

    • Red Bulls' Kari Cohen:

      • Working on: "My Tom Seaver pitching skills -- I have yet to strike my 4-year-old son out. I'm also perfecting my performance of Anna Kendrick’s Cups 'When I’m Gone' scene from 'Pitch Perfect.'"
      • Future vacations: "Big Sur in California."
      • Reading: "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo.
      • Binge watching: Two shows: "Working Moms" and "Fauda."

 

Cohen has kept busy this summer by working on her wiffle ball pitching
Cohen has kept busy this summer by working on her wiffle ball pitching
Cohen has kept busy this summer by working on her wiffle ball pitching

 

SPEED READS

  • Defending champion Rafael Nadal will skip the U.S. Open because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nadal explained his decision in a series of tweets. He wrote, "The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don't have control of it." Nadal called sitting out the tournament scheduled to begin Aug. 31 in New York "a decision I never wanted to take," but added that he would "rather not travel." The current No. 1-ranked woman, Ash Barty, already had announced she would be missing the U.S. Open.

  • Golf Channel’s Jaime Diaz called Commissioner Jay Monahan the "central figure" in the PGA Tour succeeding in its post-shutdown comeback and said he has "really been a leader." Diaz added, "Primarily he’s been a pioneer, because there is no playbook for this. As a result, everybody’s been watching him. The scrutiny has been huge throughout sports. How do you do it? How do you make your sport work in a pandemic? Jay has gone through a lot of trials and learned from a lot of them. He’s gained great respect.” He later said, “Jay Monahan has risen as one of the great commissioners”

  • Knicks and Rangers parent MSG Sports is "cutting 50 jobs," or about 15% of its corporate staff. MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment -- both run by James Dolan -- "have been hit hard by the pandemic, which has shuttered live events and sports in the Big Apple since mid-March," per the N.Y. Post.

  • Tiger Woods held his media availability this afternoon ahead of his Thursday tee time at San Francisco's Harding Park, and safe to say it was the smallest turnout ever for Woods heading into a major. 

 

 

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: XFL Sale Far From Done Deal

While the effectiveness of "bubbles" as a way to safely bring sports back is becoming increasingly clear, the jury remains out on less extreme methods as MLB deals with two major outbreaks.

In the latest development, the league canceled the inaugural Field of Dreams Game on Aug. 13 in Iowa as it works to successfully get the seasons of the Marlins and Cardinals back on track over the next couple weeks.

Meanwhile, the $15 million purchase of the XFL by partners including RedBird Capital Partners, Dwayne "The Rock'' Johnson and Dany Garcia with hopes for a 2021 season hit a potential snag as creditors say they think they can get more money from insiders and other business partners.

-- Adam Stern

   

OPPOSITION TO XFL SALE COULD FORCE DELAY, CHANGES

  • A creditors’ committee has objected this afternoon to the proposed sale of the XFL announced earlier today, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports, saying it should not include possible civil actions the league could have pursued but hasn’t yet. If successful, the creditors could force a delay and even substantial changes to the agreed upon price of $15 million plus assumption of liabilities and up to $8.5 million to settle old claims.

  • In short, the creditors claim the league could get money back from insiders or other business partners that exceeds $15 million. They claim to have found “substantial potential causes of actions against insiders,” (including, they claim, Vince McMahon) such as “questionable loan transactions” that "could form a significant source of recovery for the Debtor’s many aggrieved creditors.” Also, they point to earlier financial statements showing $60 million worth of “potentially avoidable and recoverable” transfers before the bankruptcy.

  • Even if this does not ultimately derail the sale, a delay could prove problematic for the new owners, a group that includes RedBird Capital Partners, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia. Garcia told ESPN today they are planning on execution for a 2021 season, for which planning would have to begin soon.

 

If successful, the creditors could force a delay and even substantial changes to the agreed upon price of $15 million
If successful, the creditors could force a delay and even substantial changes to the agreed upon price of $15 million
If successful, the creditors could force a delay and even substantial changes to the agreed upon price of $15 million



MLB CANCELS INAUGURAL FIELD OF DREAMS GAME

  • As MLB continues to grapple with independent outbreaks within the Marlins and Cardinals organizations, another marquee event has now been impacted: The Field of Dreams Game on Aug. 13 has been canceled, writes SBJ's Eric Prisbell.

  • The inaugural game in Dyersville, Iowa, was slated to match the White Sox against the Cardinals, who have now seen seven players and six staff members test positive in the last week. The cancellation was first reported by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, and the game is expected to take place in 2021.

  • What's more, the scheduled four-game series (Aug. 4-6) between the Cardinals and the Tigers has been postponed. The earliest the Cardinals, who remain in Milwaukee, will resume their season is Friday at home against the Cubs. The club has not taken the field since last Wednesday against the Twins.  Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak earlier today told MLB Network, "We’re going to do everything we can to try to play (moving forward). The morale up here is good, all things considered. I do think people are tired of sitting in their room, but you’ve got to put safety first.”

 

JETER ACKNOWLEDGES "FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY" 

  • Marlins CEO Derek Jeter this afternoon addressed the outbreak within the organization, which has seen 18 players and two staff members test positive, writes SBJ's Eric Prisbell. Jeter acknowledged that two players had left the team hotel in Atlanta to get coffee or clothes and to have dinner at a teammate's house before the outbreak. He said players did not go to bars or clubs or engage in salacious activity, adding Marlins players "were not running all around town after a game in Atlanta."

  • Calling the outbreak a wake-up call, Jeter also acknowledged some members of the traveling party "had a false sense of security." Of those infected, Jetter said the range in severity is from asymptomatic to mildly symptomatic. 

  • Jeter: "What it boiled down to, guys were around each other, they got relaxed and let their guard down. They were getting together in groups, they weren't wearing masks as much as they should have. They weren't social distancing. The entire traveling party got a little too comfortable. Should they have been doing that? No. And that's been addressed. The entire traveling party is responsible for not following protocols as instructed, that includes coaches, staff and players. Everyone has seen the impact."

 

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM IN NBA CIRCLES AFTER SMOOTH RESTART

  • The NBA successfully completed the first weekend of its season restart, as months of intense planning so far have paid off for the league. Magic CEO Alex Martins, a member of the league’s restart committee, told SBJ’s John Lombardo that he’s been pleased with the early execution at Disney

  • “The league, with Adam Silver’s leadership and his team, have just done a tremendous job of planning and executing upon this campus community at Disney. Whether it’s the health and safety protocols or all of the practice accommodations, weight rooms, all of the activities for the players to keep them busy during off times, all the logistics have really been tremendous.” 
  • Martins said that while it is very early in the restart, there have been no positive tests in the first two weeks of the bubble, giving rise to cautious optimism within the league. “Fortunately, thus far, and we certainly hope it continues, it has been quite successful,” he said, “The games have come off really well. They’ve shown well on television. I think there is great virtual fan interaction. We hope we are able maintain that, but there is a long way to go."

  • For more from Martins on the NBA's return, check out the latest episode of the SBJ Unpacks podcast.

 

 

NHL: ZERO POSITIVE CASES SINCE TEAMS ENTERED HUB CITIES

  • The NHL today said that it has had zero positive COVID-19 cases since players entered the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton on July 26. Between July 27-Aug. 1, the league revealed it administered 7,013 tests, which included daily tests of players and each team's 52-member party.

  • Other leagues have had similar success inside their own respective bubbles, albeit they’re further along than the NHL or have completed their tournament entirely, writes SBJ's Mark J. Burns. The NWSL had zero positive cases during its month-long Challenge Cup in Utah. That included 2,000-plus tests. Since FC Dallas and Nashville SC left the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, MLS released 11 consecutive reports of zero positive cases, a time span over three weeks. The NBA also released back-to-back reports of zero players testing positive.

 

NFL CLUBS DEVELOP SPECIFIC COVID PRECAUTIONS

  • NFL clubs are utilizing a wide variety of safety precautions to increase the likelihood of beginning (and completing) the upcoming season. 

  • Below is a roundup of what some teams have put into practice.

    • The Dolphins recently became the first NFL franchise to "install a series of new air purification devices throughout their team headquarters designed to wipe out the coronavirus before it lands on a surface or ends up in their players' lungs," according to the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley. The team is "using one of the safest -- and most natural -- disinfectants on the planet: ultraviolet rays." Over the coming weeks and months, a company called Healthe Lighting -- which includes Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross among its investors -- "will retrofit the team's facility with a series of UV-C lights and filters that the business says can eliminate virtually all of the coronavirus in the environment."

    • The Cowboys formed a "COVID-19 task force" three months ago, and the group of 10 to 12 employees from various departments has "met at least twice a week, utilizing data analysis and metrics from the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network and consulting with epidemiologists from the Baylor Scott & White Health system," according to the Dallas Morning News' David Moore.

    • The Tampa Bay Times' Eduardo Encina reported each Buccaneers player, coach and staff member "will wear a radio frequency-based tracking device to warn them when they are too close to each other." The device, "called SafeZone, is made by German-based company Kinexon."

    • Finally, the Saints beginning Wednesday have "contracted with the Loews Hotel to rent four floors of the fashionable borderline French Quarter hotel, so that most of the team's 100 Tier 1 and 2 employees (all but some of the team doctors, cafeteria workers and security people) and many of the players would be able to quasi-quarantine in the luxe hotel till opening day."

 

CHASE CENTER LATEST ARENA TO GAIN FACILITY ACCREDITATION

  • The Warriors' Chase Center is the third major U.S. sports arena to gain the Global Biorisk Advisory Council's STAR facility accreditation, considered the venue management industry's gold standard for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention protocols at facilities, writes SBJ's Karn Dhingra

  • The accreditation verifies that Chase Center has adopted best practices to prepare for, respond to and recover from outbreaks and pandemics. To receive the rating, the venue had to comply with the program’s 20 core elements, which range from risk assessment strategies to personal protective equipment and emergency preparedness and response measures.  

  • Chase Center joins L.A.'s Staples Center, Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium and 24 other facilities in the U.S. to gain the GBAC’s highest rating, which is a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association. Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field has committed to becoming a GBAC STAR accredited venue. Other a facilities pursuing accreditation include Chicago’s McCormick Place and Toyota Arena in Ontario, Calif

 

The accreditation verifies that Chase Center has adopted best practices to prepare for, respond to and recover from outbreaks and pandemics
The accreditation verifies that Chase Center has adopted best practices to prepare for, respond to and recover from outbreaks and pandemics
The accreditation verifies that Chase Center has adopted best practices to prepare for, respond to and recover from outbreaks and pandemics

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: RECONCILING SPONSORSHIP VALUE

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Matt Pensinger, managing director & Senior VP at brand experience agency Jack Morton, who writes under the header, "Fixing Sponsorship Disruption Starts With Finding The Floor."

  • "If you’re a brand with a sponsorship portfolio, the confirmation of a return to sports from numerous professional leagues and associations has likely caused two equal and opposite reactions: excitement and anxiety. A spark of joy and excitement comes from major sports properties returning to play. Even if it is without fans or at a neutral site. The surge of anxiety is because it’s finally time to push through the complicated process to reconcile the value and costs associated with sponsorships."

  • To read the full contribution, click here.
 

 

SPEED READS

  • The NFL held its first series of meetings with CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN two months ago in Foxborough to assess the market for its media rights. The upshot is that all the networks want to stay in business with the league, essentially keeping the packages that they already have. Both NFL and media execs believe the league will get huge increases -- possibly more than 50% on the average annual value of the deals -- in spite of the pandemic. Tonight in SBJ Media, check out John Ourand's three takeaways from those meetings.
  • The first golf major in over a year will tee off Thursday morning at San Francisco's Harding Park, but "like the PGA Tour schedule, this PGA Championship is fundamentally diminished by circumstance," writes Golfweek's Eamon Lynch. He writes, "How can it not be? Some players declined to travel to compete given the risks. Media has been largely confined to remote coverage, lowering the typically glaring klieg lights in which some players wilt. Then there’s the absence of galleries that both (Rory) McIlroy and (Brooks) Koepka have lamented." 

  • SBJ's Austin Karp reports Flyers-Bruins on NBC yesterday "averaged 1.45 million viewers (TV+streaming)." That marks the third-best NHL game this season after Canadiens-Penguins on Saturday (1.57 million), and the Winter Classic (1.97 million). Flyers-Bruins was also up 35% compared to NBC's NHL season average to date.

  • The Raiders’ first season in Las Vegas "will be played at an empty Allegiant Stadium." With COVID-19 "dramatically reducing the level of fan attendance across the NFL and sports," Raiders Owner Mark Davis today in an email to fans announced there "will be no fan participation at all this year rather than playing games at a sparsely filled Allegiant Stadium in which thousands of season-ticket holders would be left out in the cold." The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Vincent Bonsignore has more details.

  • NFL Panthers GM Marty Hurney, appearing on Charlotte-based WFNZ-AM, articulated how difficult it is for the team to bring in free agents ahead of training camp. "You can't bring a player in for a workout right now so the only thing you can do is bring a player in for a visit and they can't go into the building. They have to go to a doctor's office and then COVID testing."

  • The Ringer's Rodger Sherman writes under the header, "College Football’s Great Facade Is Cracking -- and the Fracture Could Reshape the Sport." Schools and conferences across the country are "scrambling to figure out how to play a football season during a pandemic." Sherman: "Their decisions will define 2020. They will also reveal how this sport really works."

  • World TeamTennis wrapped up its shortened season yesterday at The Greenbrier resort, and the N.Y. Times' Christopher Clarey noted the league "helped itself this season." Clarey: "Strengthened its niche by taking a chance bringing 9 teams to a single site in midst of a pandemic. With dearth of sports programming, got some consistent TV coverage & got network TV for (yesterday's) final." One more lasting positive for the WTT? There were zero positive COVID tests reported over the league's three-week run this summer.

 

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: NBA Return Gives TNT Boost Over Pre-COVID Viewership

For the first time since last fall, four of the big five pro leagues will be in action on the same day this weekend. The fifth, the NFL, is proceeding gently with its modified training camp.

As we finish another work week, that’s worth celebrating. Behind each of these leagues’ return is months of hard work from dedicated, creative people, and they deserve credit. But the headlines this week kept a lid on the celebratory mood, with several top NFL stars opting out of this season and MLB postponing games as infections keep popping up.

-- Ben Fischer

   

LAKERS-CLIPPERS DELIVERS OPENING NIGHT-TYPE AUDIENCE

  • TNT's return doubleheader for the NBA last night (2.9 million viewers) was well above its single-game season average prior to the pandemic, but the marquee game -- Lakers-Clippers - did not deliver any record-setting viewership, SBJ's Austin Karp reports.

  • Lakers-Clips on Thursday night averaged 3.4 million viewers in the late window (but still one hour earlier than a normal TNT late game). That figure is below the 3.6 million viewers that the same matchup drew on opening night for TNT back in October -- but it comes with a caveat. TNT last night for both of its games had to compete with RSN blackouts in the local markets, something it does not normally compete with for its normal NBA telecasts. When figures for Spectrum SportsNet (Lakers) and FS Prime Ticket (Clips) are added to TNT’s figure last night, the game tops opening night.

  • In the early tilt last night (also an hour earlier than normal), TNT averaged 2.1 million viewers for Jazz-Pelicans (does not include RSN figures for FS New Orleans or AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain). On opening night, TNT averaged 2.3 million for Pelicans-Raptors -- a game the lacked Zion Williamson as well as any audience figures for a non-measured Toronto market. The doubleheader last night averaged 2.9 million viewers without RSN numbers included. TNT for a typical NBA game before the pandemic was averaging just 1.4 million viewers per game. That was down around 12% from the same average at the same point of the 2018-19 season.

  • Some other bright spots? TNT's “Inside the NBA” averaged 1.3 million viewers, which is the pregame show’s best figure since the opening week of the 2018-19 season and up 101% from the show’s average earlier this season. Bleacher Report also had its best site traffic since April and saw a 107% increase over NBA opening night. Social content across handles for the NBA, NBA on TNT and NBA TV also saw video views jump 36% compared to opening night.
     
  • Meanwhile, advertisers spent an estimated $6.87 million during TNT’s two games last night, according to iSpot.tv data analyzed by SBJ's David Broughton. Below are the top five spenders last night, as well as the top five brand advertisers from the regular season before games were suspended.
 
TOP ADVERTISERS DURING NBA RETURN ON TNT (2 GAMES)
BRAND
ESTIMATED AD SPEND
FanDuel*
$425,000
GEICO
$425,000
AutoTrader*
$343,000
Dick's Sporting Goods
$343,000
Rocket Mortgage
$343,000
TOP ADVERTISERS DURING NBA GAMES BEFORE SEASON SUSPENDED
(ALL NATIONAL LINEAR TV GAMES)
BRAND
ESTIMATED AD SPEND
State Farm*
$22 million
Taco Bell*
$12.5 million
Metro by T-Mobile
$11.7 million
Toyota
$11.5 million
GEICO
$10.3 million
NOTE: * = NBA league sponsor.
Download the
nba

 

SOURCES: MANFRED THREATENS SHUTDOWN IF ANOTHER OUTBREAK OCCURS

  • Late Friday afternoon, ESPN's Jeff Passan cited sources as saying that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark that "if the sport doesn't do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season." Should another outbreak materialize, Manfred, who has the power to shut the season down, "could move in that direction."

  • Bleacher Report's Scott Miller reports an MLB internal investigation "found the Marlins were very lapse in following protocols during (their) Atlanta trip last weekend," which included "players going out, players in hotel bar, etc.."

  • This news comes as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on MLB's shortened season, writes SBJ's Eric Prisbell.

  • Tonight, 20% of the league's 30 teams will not play because of the postponement of games related to positive tests within the Marlins, Phillies and most recently the Cardinals. Two Cardinals' players have tested positive, which prompted MLB to postpone their game today in Milwaukee. It has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader Sunday. MLB believes the rescheduling is consistent with protocols to allow enough time for additional testing and contact tracing to be sufficiently conducted.

  • The Cardinals said they learned of the positive tests last night from testing that had been conducted Wednesday prior to their game against the Twins. They have instructed players to self-isolate in their Milwaukee hotel rooms; the team is currently conducting rapid testing of the entire traveling party.

  • While the health of infected players and staff clearly remains the top priority, the reconfiguration of schedules on the fly only accentuates the challenges of playing 60 games in 67 days. MLB intends to make up some lost ground with doubleheaders in the coming weeks, but questions are already arising about potentially compromising the integrity of the season. To that end, the Marlins, who saw an 18th player test positive today and whose return to the field won't be until Tuesday at the very earliest, will enter next week having played three games while many teams will have already played 10. 

  • The Marlins will transport infected players and coaches on multiple sleeper busses from Philadelphia, where they have been in quarantine, to Miami, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers. The rest of the team is expected to remain in Philadelphia, where it undergoes daily testing. 

 

 

PAC-12 GOING WITH 10-GAME, CONFERENCE-ONLY SCHEDULE

  • The Pac-12 this afternoon confirmed it will shift to a 10-game conference-only football schedule that starts on Sept. 26, joining the SEC in "pushing back its season by nearly a month because of the coronavirus pandemic," per the AP.

  • Earlier today, university presidents "approved a model that adds an additional cross-divisional game to each team’s slate and pushes the start back three weeks." In the Pac-12, several of its schools, including USC, UCLA and California, are "operating under restrictions set by local authorities to slow the spread of coronavirus that would prevent football teams from practicing."

  • Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel noted the Pac-12 "plans to start with aggressive scheduling -- with USC vs. UCLA, ASU vs Arizona and Washington vs Stanford planned for Week 1." The conference also will "give schools the option to delay the start of the season by a week." Week 1 opponents "could push back the game to Dec. 12, for example, if playing that week doesn't appear realistic."

 

 

BETTMAN CONFIDENT BUBBLE PLAN WILL WORK OUT

  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday said he is confident the bubble can keep players safe, because “we went through a variety of phases to get to the point that we could actually start playing.” Bettman, appearing on NBC's "Today," said, “The players are being tested every day in the bubble, as are all the other personnel in the bubble. All tests have been negative and so we are feeling good about the fact that we've got a contained environment.”

  • Bettman noted one of the "reasons that we’re playing in Toronto and in Edmonton in Canada is because of the availability of testing and the fact that the amount of COVID-19 is very limited in those places and frankly, throughout Canada." Bettman noted the league is "paying for our own tests, they’re commercially available and we certainly wouldn’t do anything that puts ourselves and our needs in front of the medical needs of a community.” 

  • The Ringer's Katie Baker noted the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway tomorrow, beginning an "improvised, isolated, and ambitious" postseason slate. Teams in the markets are suited with "multiple hotels ... numerous permanent and pop-up restaurants; and access to amenities like pools, cornhole, movie theaters, and, in Toronto, a professional soccer and football stadium." 


MSG NETS LOOKS TO EVOLVE WITH NHL RESTART

  • MSG Networks is finalizing preparations for the NHL’s restart tomorrow. With plans to carry at least the first three games of the Rangers and Islanders’ respective series, MSG today unveiled a comprehensive plan for fan-engagement initiatives and increased original programming meant to get fans ready and keep them watching. These include Zoom watch parties integrated into the broadcasts, a free lunch reward program through sponsor Postmates and “Around the NHL,” a new weeknight hockey program.

  • There also is the matter of producing and broadcasting remotely. MSGN Senior VP/Marketing & Content Strategy Kevin Marotta joined SBD’s Andrew Levin to discuss that, and more, on the latest SBJ Unpacks podcast

  • “It’s been at times challenging and at times super interesting,” Marotta said. “People are used to having a producer in their ear talking to them and that’s not something that’s happening, so that’s a change that has to be made. We are reliant on set direction remotely … adjusting how things are framed without necessarily being able to grab it ourselves and move it ourselves. And then also the flow of content, uploading and editing content remotely without all the benefits of being in our office.” 

 

 

UBS: ISLES' NAMING-RIGHTS DEAL CHANCE TO CAPITALIZE ON N.Y. MARKET

  • While the pandemic continues to rock the sports business, especially the sponsorship market, Swiss investment bank UBS thought it was still the right time to lock into its $350 million-plus naming-rights deal with Oak View Group for the Islanders’ new Belmont Park arena. It’s the largest such deal to date for a standalone NHL arena.

  • UBS sees the deal as an opportunity to show its commitment to New York and its North American business. And for OVG, the deal could open the doors to USB’s high-end clients who may want to invest in the company’s future arena and stadium projects in the U.S. and throughout the world.

  • “When OVG said ‘You know, look our business is going and doing these big stadium arrangements and running the stadium,’ it just became clear that if there's more to come, let’s have a look,” UBS Group Chief Marketing Officer Johan Jervoe told SBJ’s Karn Dhingra this week.

  • While the 20-year deal includes many of the typical premium elements for UBS to entertain clients at Belmont, it also includes marketing opportunities to amplify its brand through traditional media channels, social media and any future media distribution platforms. 

  • “It's a multiple year deal that includes all channels, both the ones we know of today and then ones we don't know of today,” Jervoe said. “And when you look at the location, when the planes are up flying again, you will have 55,000 planes flying over that stadium every year. If you look at the top shot of the arena from above, you'll see the branding is extremely prominent, but also, you know it's clearly a premium location and a premium branding.”  

 

BINGE WATCHING WITH RICH LISK & JENE ELZIE

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, N.Y. Riptide & GF Sports Exec VP Rich Lisk and Athletes First Partners Chief Growth Officer Jene Elzie dish on what they're reading and binge watching. 
  • Rich Lisk:

    • Reading: "Atomic Habits" by James Clear.
    • Binge watching: Netflix' "Outer Banks" (with my younger son), HBO's "Run" (with my daughter) and "The Newsroom."

  • Jene Elzie:

    • Reading: "Red at the Bone" by Jacqueline Woodson and "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas.
    • Binge watching: "Watchmen," "Normal People" and "Cheer." 

 

Lisk has been taking in "Outer Banks" with his son; while Elzie is binging "Watchmen" on HBO
Lisk has been taking in "Outer Banks" with his son; while Elzie is binging "Watchmen" on HBO
Lisk has been taking in "Outer Banks" with his son; while Elzie is binging "Watchmen" on HBO

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: LASTING IMPACT

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from L.A.-based consulting firm Rebel Ventures Founder & CEO Craig Howe, who writes under the header, "Transformational Trends In The Sports Business."

  • "Watching games unfold on the court, pitch, field, octagon, etc., across our many different screens may look somewhat the same, albeit minus the passionate crowd energy. However, in the front offices of sports organizations across the globe, the lasting impact and changes created by COVID-19 will be felt for years to come."

  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH THESCORE’S AUBREY LEVY

  • TheScore VP/Marketing & Content Aubrey Levy and his wife have been splitting time between the Catskills and their N.Y. apartment the past few months, and Levy says he’s remained busier than he originally thought he would overseeing the Toronto-based media and betting company, without live sports. Levy: “Our guys spun up a ton of new formats -- long form reads, interactive content, polls, quizzes, contesting. … Social content continued to perform fairly well during this period, driving engagement from our social feeds back towards our app. And as a result, fortunately, we were able to keep just shy of 75% of our app user base around.”

  • Levy spends most of his days video conferencing on Zoom or Google Hangouts. “We have a couple different moving pieces and all of them have to be so heavily integrated between content and product and analytics and marketing and comms,” he said. “There are elements where you're off doing your own thing, but by and large, you need to move in lockstep with other teams.” Levy: “There’s a pretty heavy level of communication.”

  • The return of the NBA and NHL is certainly welcomed news for theScore, which is focused on having a successful finish to 2020 by rolling out a new betting app -- currently only available in New Jersey -- in Indiana and Colorado. With a big focus on betting, Levy is certainly watching how each sport continues to combat the coronavirus. “Each league is going to have their own set of circumstances they have to deal with,” he noted. “I'm pretty optimistic that most of the major leagues are going to go and hopefully figure out a path through.”

  • When Levy isn’t huddled up in his living room workspace, he likes to get outside for a run or quick workout before his day starts. “There’s a bonanza of Netflix going on,” he said of his content consumption. And Levy has even ventured for a U.S. history lesson via the HBO series “John Adams,” partly inspired by his wife’s reading habits. “My wife is reading the biography of Eliza Hamilton (and) like everybody we watched ‘Hamilton’ when it came on Disney+,” Levy said.

 

Levy and his wife have been splitting time between the Catskills and their N.Y. apartment the past few months
Levy and his wife have been splitting time between the Catskills and their N.Y. apartment the past few months
Levy and his wife have been splitting time between the Catskills and their N.Y. apartment the past few months

 

SPEED READS

  • NBA action resumed Thursday night in Orlando, and there was no shortage of sponsorship activation, per SportsAtlas' Will Cavanaugh. With the Pelicans and Lakers acting as the home teams, each was able to provide marquee partners with significant exposure via virtual signage throughout the games. The Pelicans’ venue naming rights partner, Smoothie King, was featured most noticeably via on-court signage, while the team’s practice facility sponsor, Ochsner Health, also appeared in front of both teams’ benches. The most noticeable absence during the Clippers-Lakers game was prominent signage featuring Staples, which serves as the naming rights partner for the teams’ shared facility. The Lakers’ two primary activations were occupied by practice facility sponsor UCLA Health (on-court) and jersey sponsor Wish (bench area).

  • When the NHL returns to play tomorrow, the league and its players will be actively and openly supporting social justice initiatives, health professionals and other essential workers during the pandemic, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. Players will be sporting #WeSkateFor decals on their helmets to support Black Lives Matter and other social movements. Additionally, prior to both tomorrow’s Oilers-Blackhawks game as well as Penguins-Canadiens game, 24 healthcare professionals and others will be honored for their courage via a virtual ceremony. 
  • CFRA research analyst Tuna Amobi on CNBC today noted the absence of live sports during much of the pandemic lockdown “accelerated cord cutting in the paid TV ecosystem,” but the “return of sports will likely have the opposite effect.” Amobi: “In other words, more and more people are likely to subscribe to pay TV when you have the NBA back and all of the other leagues.” Amobi added that as a result, there could be some “deceleration in the growth of streaming services.”

  • From the beginning of the NBA bubble on July 7 through July 28, the league, teams and players generated $63 million for 53 brand partners, which include all the jersey sponsors, many top league sponsors, and a handful of athlete sponsors, according to data provided to SBJ's David Broughton by Hookit. Approximately $22 million of that value was generated for Nike and $40 million (64%) of the total value was generated on Instagram. Meanwhile, the NWSL, teams and its players athletes generated over $1.8 million for the 20 corporate partners over the Challenge Cup. Secret ($670k) and Nike ($640k) accounted for 70% of that total value.

 

 

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: Subway Takes Over NFL QSR Category

As we ready for tonight’s eagerly anticipated resumption of the NBA, live from the sanitized seclusion of the Disney bubble in Orlando, in comes news from the cradle of college football, where the SEC has announced its intention to begin a 10-game conference-only schedule at the end of September.

It feels a bit like buying time. Which is not a bad thing, considering what we’ve learned about the havoc wreaked by an outbreak, even one contained to a single soccer side or baseball club.

So far, it appears to be better to bubble than not to bubble, though, to be fair, the math and the calendars of baseball and football aren’t at all like those of basketball and hockey.

One of the nice things about these games is that while they initially will draw attention to the unsightly furniture -- be they empty seats or cardboard cutouts or phony sights and sounds -- we eventually forget about all that and turn our attention to things familiar, like bases loaded in a tie game, or a last-second shot.

However it may look, sound or feel, tonight counts.

-- Bill King

   

NFL ADDS SUBWAY TO ROSTER OF SPONSORS

  • Subway has signed what it is calling a long-term deal as the NFL’s new quick-service restaurant sponsor, reports SBJ’s Terry Lefton, filling the void in the category left by the exit of McDonald’s after the 2018 season. Activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent. Subway will underwrite NFL youth platforms, including Play 60 and flag football. Momentum Worldwide, N.Y., negotiated the deal for Subway and will handle activation. The agency would not comment.

  • Subway receives exclusivity in the QSR and fast-casual restaurant categories. Pizza Hut retains its rights in the pizza category. While Subway was the presenting sponsor of NFL games in London for the past three seasons, this deal does not include overseas NFL rights. One potential conflict is that Subway pours Coca-Cola, while Pepsi has held NFL sponsorship rights since 2002. However, Subway does sell snacks from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay brand.

  • Subway has dozens of local sports sponsorships, primarily college, largely driven by franchise owners. But it does have NFL team deals with the Ravens and Chargers, according to SportsAtlas. However, the NFL league sponsorship is the chain’s first large rights deal in years, as its national marketing had become increasingly product- and price-focused following the 2015 Jared Fogle scandal. However, Subway continued as a heavy ad buyer of NFL and other sports media. In March, it debuted a TV spot with J.J. Watt and his brothers T.J. and Derek.

  • Subway CMO Carrie Walsh, who joined the company last October, has years of experience with sports-marketing heavy brands, including Pizza Hut, Pepsi, and Frito-Lay. Subway hopes the NFL will be a lifeline, as the chain itself was already declining before the pandemic. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, Subway’s U.S, sales were $10.2 billion last year, down from a high of $12.5 billion in 2013. Another trade estimate pegged the number of U.S Subway locations declining from 27,000 in 2015 to 23,800 last year.

 

Subway activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent
Subway activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent
Subway activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent

 

SEC ADOPTS CONFERENCE-ONLY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

  • The SEC is moving to a 10-game football conference schedule after university presidents and chancellors met virtually earlier today, per the Birmingham News' John Talty. The move, which comes one day after the ACC moved to a 10 conference game and 1 non-conference game schedule, "eliminates marquee non-conference games like LSU-Texas, Oklahoma-Tennessee and Auburn-North Carolina." 

  • SI's Ross Dellenger reports the SEC "will kick off the season Sept. 26, three weeks later than the scheduled Labor Day weekend start." While the SEC’s divisional structure is "expected to remain the same -- winners of two seven-team divisions playing in a Dec. 19 championship game -- league teams will play two more opponents from their opposite division."
     
  • Dellenger cautioned the SEC’s decision "doesn’t mean a season is imminent." Virus case numbers, "on the rise over the last month nationally, are still high, with many hotspots in the SEC’s 11-state footprint." The "hurdles to playing a season amidst a pandemic are a plenty: testing availability and delays in testing turnaround time; the return of thousands of students onto a college campus; a mandatory 14-day quarantine for positive contacts; and maybe most of all, the lack of a college sports bubble like the NBA has created."

  • The SEC now joins the Big Ten and Pac-12 by going to conference-only schedules, with the Big 12 expected to do the same.

  • Look for more analysis on the SEC's move from Michael Smith in tonight's SBJ College newsletter.



SAFETY FIRST WITHIN NBA BUBBLE

  • The spotlight shines on the NBA’s ambitious restart tonight with the league and the players union going to great lengths to protect and provide health care inside the Disney bubble. Dr. Benedict Nwachukwu, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon in N.Y. who has previously worked with the Bulls and the NBPA, has been selected to be part of the league’s physician team. He arrived in Orlando today to begin his month-long assignment inside the bubble, and spoke to SBJ’s John Lombardo on his role and responsibilities.

    • On how he was chosen to work at Disney: "Through my involvement with the league, I understood the processes and that they were actively vetting and interviewing physicians. Given my experience with the Bulls and the players association, they felt it was a good fit. There are more than 15 doctors and people are going to Disney at different times. I’ll be down there for the month of August during the highest density of games. Part of it is that it’s a great opportunity, but I appreciate the opportunity to provide service.  There is a stipend associated with the assignment. I will also be trying to keep my practice going virtually. I’ll have tele-medical visits throughout the month of August."

    • On his specific duties: "The NBA has a cadre of sports medicine physicians and they have a suite of physicians in other specialties. I’ll be providing orthopedic coverage. I will be covering all the teams down there. We are working as a unit. Assuming everyone is negative, you still maintain social distancing and wear a mask. If someone tests positive and still needs orthopedic care, we will still provide it wearing barrier protections."

    • On his level of concern for injuries given that players haven’t played a NBA game since mid-March: "The guys are aware of the risk of a return to sports but teams and trainers are attuned to ramping things up safely and increasing minutes appropriately. That is what this ramp up period in the bubble is all about. It is one of the things that we as physicians are attuned to and we know that recovery after a game is critical and making sure that the players are conditioned up to the point of game performance fitness.  These guys are elite athletes and it is part of their preparation and their mindset. I do think they will ramp up appropriately without seeing a rash in injuries, but we always prepare for the worst.” 

    • His concerns for contracting the virus: "I am appropriately cautious but I am not overly concerned about it. I have tested negative and I will be tested every day that I am down there. I think the NBA should be commended when you compare them to other leagues as far as safety measures. A lot of thought has been put into this. The players are also aware of it. I’ve been impressed by the safety measures." 

 

NBA READY FOR MOVING PARTS ON SIDELINES

  • The sidelines will look a bit different when the NBA restarts tonight as the league changes its policies for health and safety reasons, including a wider border around the sidelines and a revised setup for team benches, writes SBJ's John Lombardo.

  • According to the league, team benches will consist of multiple rows of seats (with appropriate distance between each) and are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats.

    • The 17-seat players section is divided into three rows, with each player assigned a seat by his team.

    • The 12-seat coaches and team staff section, slightly separated from the players section, is divided into three rows of four seats, with each person assigned a seat. 

    • The unassigned seats section is located near the baseline and reserved only for temporary use to enable player-to-player, coach-to-player or trainer/physician-to-player communication during the game. The unassigned seats are promptly cleaned and disinfected after each use.  

  • During timeouts, players and coaches can huddle like normal “except they must sit in or congregate around movable chairs separate and apart from the team benches." The movable chairs used during timeouts or period breaks are "cleaned and disinfected after each use."     

  • The court’s sideline border is also wider to help with court visibility and to adjust for not having courtside fans. To help define the boundaries, the border around the court has been widened to 8 inches from 2 inches. Other changes include a provision that prohibits photographers and camera operators from their typical baseline areas on the floor. Instead they must shoot away from the floor. The scorer’s table will be surrounded by plexiglass.
     

 

Team benches are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats
Team benches are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats
Team benches are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats

 

YAHOO SPORTS PARTNERS WITH NBA IN NEW BETTING-CENTRIC DEAL

  • Yahoo Sports will add sports betting and fantasy overlays and integrations to its distribution of the NBA’s out-of-market streaming service as part of a deal announced today that makes it an official marketing partner of the league, writes SBJ's Bill King. The new-look streaming content is designed to appeal to NBA League Pass viewers who also bet on sports or play in fantasy contests, giving Yahoo Sports the opportunity to drive them to its BetMGM-powered sportsbook referral site and its daily fantasy contests.

  • Though not quite “watch-and-bet,” which allows sportsbooks to stream games on their own betting sites, this gets the league and its official sports betting sponsor, BetMGM, one step closer to it. Watch-and-bet is popular in Europe but has seen resistance from U.S. broadcast rightsholders who worry that it will cannibalize the streaming audience. Thus far only NHL has offered it to U.S. sportsbooks.

  • For the full story, click here.

  

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

NFL PROMISES "RADICAL TRANSPARENCY" ON COVID TESTING, EVENTUALLY

  • NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills promised “radical transparency” about the league’s COVID-19 testing procedures and results, but declined Thursday to release current stats because they’re still figuring out which positive results actually constitute new cases.

  • “We’ve been trying to divide those into people who are truly newly-infected versus those who have been infected in the past,” Sills said. Through Thursday, 65 players were on COVID injured lists, but those can include suspected cases and positive results, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer. NFL teams are conducting tens of thousands of tests this week as players report for camp.

  • Sills said the promise to share testing results extends to public health officials and the media. When asked if the NFL would follow the NBA’s lead in opening community testing, Sills demurred, but said the NFL will help by sharing information. “We're going to have an enormous amount of very important and instructive medical data in a very short period of time, and we think it's important that we share that for the benefit of everyone,” Sills said.

 

DIGITAL EXPERT DISHES ON TRENDS IN COLLEGE SPACE

  • The past five months have illustrated just how important a robust digital staff in the college ranks can be, writes SBJ's Michael Smith. COVID-19 took away games across the board last spring. Now the pandemic threatens the football season, yet the content continues to flow out of athletic departments and team accounts.

  • Smith caught up this week with Jason Matheson, founder of SkullSparks, a collegiate-focused digital/social shop, and asked him to identify trends he’s seeing in the college digital space.

  • One is that schools are embracing the branding of the individual athletes much more than ever before, a by-product of the name, image and likeness movement. “They really are putting resources behind their personal brands,” Matheson said. “You saw schools like Texas and Oklahoma on signing day build logos into their graphics that were specific to the signees. We’re going to see more of that. … It’s part of the power shift in college athletics to the athletes.”

  • For more from Matheson, see tonight's issue of SBJ College and Monday's print edition of SBJ.



PENGUINS TOP NHL FACEBOOK VIDEO VIEWS DURING SHUTDOWN

  • The Predators posted an average of more than three videos per day on the club’s Facebook page since the NHL shut down on March 12, the most in the league, according to data from Tubular Labs analyzed by SBJ's David Broughton. The Hurricanes, Wild, Senators and Flyers were on the other end of the spectrum, posting an average of one every other day.

  • When it came to actual video views, the Penguins (17.6 million) topped the list, while the Panthers, Coyotes and Senators were the only clubs to draw less than 1 million views over the 20-week period. The league’s Original Six clubs all finished in the top 10 among overall views, although the Red Wings did not make the playoffs.

  • The most-watched video of the COVID-19 era was the Preds’ “Do your part. Stay apart” (899,000 views), a PSA by the Tennessee Department of Health which featured former Pred Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood.

 

NHL TEAMS ON FACEBOOK DURING SHUTDOWN (BY UPLOADS FROM MARCH 12-JULY 28)
TEAM
VIDEO VIEWS
UPLOADS
TEAM
VIDEO VIEWS
UPLOADS
Predators
4.1 million
436
Golden Kinghts
3.7 million
188
Devils*
2.4 million
330
Stars
2.3 million
188
Penguins
17.6 million
326
Blues
8.2 million
182
Avalanche
4.9 million
316
Red Wings*
8.9 million
178
Rangers
9.0 million
313
Sabres*
3.8 million
176
Flames
5.6 million
313
Panthers
545,000
166
Blackhawks
16.2 million
289
Oilers
7.9 million
145
Bruins
14.2 million
282
Canucks
5.4 million
143
Kings*
3.8 million
274
Coyotes
817,000
128
Islanders
2.2 million
266
Ducks*
1.4 million
97
Jets
9.0 million
247
Sharks*
1.8 million
91
Canadiens
11 million
245
Flyers
2.5 million
78
Maple Leafs
6.2 million
199
Senators*
681,000
63
Blue Jackets
1.7 million
198
Wild
1.6 million
61
Capitals
6.0 million
195
Hurricanes
1.2 million
53
Lightning
2.1 million
192
NOTE: * = Not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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nhl

 

SUMMER PLANNING WITH CHAMP KELLY & CHRISTINE FRANKLIN

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, Bears Assistant Director of Player Personnel Champ Kelly and Octagon Exec VP/Marketing Christine Franklin dish on how they've been spending their free time and what future vacation they'd most like to take.
  • Bears' Champ Kelly:

    • Working on: "My wife and I started a nonprofit called Heart Power where we typically host youth football camps in the summer. However, due to COVID-19 precautions, we cannot physically meet with our campers. We are working to host a virtual camp with speakers that would serve to invest in our campers from multiple states. Heart Power also recently hosted a Black Lives Matters Cookout & Movement Discussion on June 28 in my hometown of Campbellton, Fla."
    • Future vacations: "I’m biased: I’m from North Florida and believe the Gulf beaches are some of the best in the world. We love Mexico Beach. It is small and serene. It is known as the forgotten coast. It was hit extremely hard by Hurricane Michael, but I love the resiliency and love of the people. It is family friendly and a great spot for our crew."

  • Octagon's Christine Franklin:

    • Working on"Home improvement has a new meaning these days. My projects have been centered around people and my family. Embracing life as it is right now with my three children, husband, dog, parents, colleagues, clients and friends. ... Early on in the quarantine we started taking family hikes exploring the many local trails. Exercise and nature have been great remedies for all that we are confronting on a daily basis.”
    • Future vacations"We enjoyed a fun-filled long weekend skiing at Mont-Tremblant (in Quebec) last winter with several friends from our town. The village, the skiing, the food and the people made the trip unforgettable. We just have to pack more glove warmers next time.”

 

 

Kelly's nonprofit hosting a Black Lives Matters cookout in Florida; Franklin and her family exploring some local trails
Kelly's nonprofit hosting a Black Lives Matters cookout in Florida; Franklin and her family exploring some local trails
Kelly's nonprofit hosting a Black Lives Matters cookout in Florida; Franklin and her family exploring some local trails

 

SPEED READS

  • The Cowboys and Buccaneers became the latest NFL teams to eliminate season tickets for the 2020 season in light of the pandemic, a further sign of pessimism growing around the potential for fans inside NFL stadiums, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer. Eight teams have now done away with season tickets altogether, asking those customers instead to opt in to possible single-game sales if allowed. The Cowboys and most other clubs have asked those fans if they want to opt in to those one-off sales or sit out entirely until 2021. The Bucs, however, automatically are rolling over accounts to ’21 and giving those fans access to single-game seats this year. If fans want refunds, they have to opt out by Aug. 9 and won’t have access to this year’s games.

NFL TEAMS OFFERING SEASON-TICKET REFUNDS
GIVE FANS NO-PENALTY DEFERRAL IF THEY WANT
Bills 
Patriots
Titans
Dolphins
Giants
Packers 
Texans
Jets
Eagles
Colts
Washington
Steelers
Browns
Seahawks
Saints
Bengals
Chargers
Broncos
Panthers
    Falcons    
Vikings
DEFERRING ALL SEASON TICKETS
Chiefs
Ravens
49ers
Jaguars
Bears
Rams
Cowboys
Buccaneers
 
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NFL Team Ticket Refund Policies
  • The three-game Blue Jays-Phillies series scheduled to begin with a doubleheader Saturday "will not occur" after a Phillies coach and clubhouse attendant tested positive for the coronavirus. The Phillies "have been off all week," as they had their four-game home-and-home series with the Yankees postponed. The Phillies had been having "scattered workouts at Citizens Bank Park this week" after hosting the Marlins on opening weekend, per NBC Sports Philadelphia. All activity at Citizens Bank Park is canceled until further notice.
  • The PGA Tour is "reporting no positive COVID cases among players or caddies" at this week's WGC event in Memphis and opposite field event near Lake Tahoe. ESPN's Bob Harig notes that is "approximately 425 players and caddies combined." Through 8 weeks, there have been 10 reported positive cases (7 players 3 caddies) on tour.

  • The NHL, NHLPA, Hockey Canada and Bauer Hockey are partnering to launch the Hockey Equipment Relief Program, an initiative that’ll include $2 million worth of hockey gear being donated to help families and kids financially impacted by COVID-19. The country’s seven NHL teams along with Hockey Canada and provincial governing bodies will carry out the new equipment program, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns

 

 

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: MLB Seeks Source Of Contagion

The 22 NBA teams at Disney are off today as the league gets set for its restart tomorrow night in a bubble environment that is proving effective. The league and the players union reported this afternoon that zero of the 344 players at Disney tested positive for the virus.

Those results could give MLB and the NFL second thoughts about playing without some type of bubble protection. Doubts are increasing about baseball being able to play its full 60-game regular season due to the Marlins' virus outbreak, while the number of NFL players opting out of the coming season is likely to grow. 

-- John Lombardo

   

QUESTIONS SURROUND MLB'S HANDLING OF MARLINS OUTBREAK

  • As MLB investigates the source of contagion that led to at least 18 members of the Marlins testing positive in recent days, leading epidemiologist Dr. Zach Binney of Oxford College at Emory University told SBJ's Eric Prisbell that the most alarming scenario is if all Marlins' players and staff did in fact follow proper protocols.

  • If MLB and the Marlins can't find an obvious reason why the virus transmitted through the traveling party, Binney said, then perhaps "we have too much virus here in the U.S. for a plan like Major League Baseball's to withstand the sheer assault that they are going to get from just interacting with the community and the virus' ability to infiltrate the league." Binney: "It would suggest that Major League Baseball's protocols are insufficient in some way or another. You would like to identify something that happened."

  • While MLB's operations manual is very specific about testing protocols and player behavior, it lacks specificity about how to handle an outbreak. Binney said he understands a league's resistance to draw a "specific red line" ahead of time about what circumstances would warrant suspending play of a team of league. But he added that it was concerning to see MLB "struggle for a couple days" as it grappled on the fly with the ramifications of the issue, saying that in retrospect it was an "enormous, reckless mistake" for the Marlins to play against the Phillies on Sunday after a handful of the Marlins tested positive.

  • As recently as last week, several executives told SBJ that they were cautiously optimistic that smaller gatherings of fans would be permitted to attend baseball games in some markets at some point during this 60-game season. The only responsible choice, Binney said, is "no fans, not unless our situation ends up improving to the point of Taiwan or New Zealand." Binney: "There is just too much virus. When we are struggling to open schools, why are we talking about fans in the stands of sporting events?"

  • For more from Dr. Binney, check out the latest episode of the SBJ Unpacks podcast.

 

 

ACC GOES WITH MODIFIED FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

  • After meeting today, the ACC announced its "intent to play football this fall, with a modified schedule that includes 10 conference games and one out-of-conference," per the Richmond Times-Dispatch. ACC Commissioner John Swofford in a statement said the decision "presents a path, if public health guidance allows, to move forward with competition." He added that member institutions are "committed to taking the necessary measures to facilitate the return in a safe and responsible manner."

  • The season’s first games will take place the week of Sept. 7-12. All non-conference game opponents, "selected by the respective school, must be played in the home state of the ACC institution, and all non-conference opponents must meet the medical protocol requirements as agreed upon by the ACC." 

  • Notre Dame will also play a 10-game conference schedule and be eligible to compete in the conference championship game. All television revenue for the 2020 season, including Notre Dame’s home games broadcast by NBC, "will be shared equally by all 15 institutions." 

  • SBJ's Austin Karp notes an appearance by Notre Dame in the conference championship "would obviously be a TV boon for the game, which was the least-viewed of Power 5 title games in 2019." The ACC title game has "drawn over 10 million viewers only once since starting in 2005." Meanwhile, the SEC Championship has drawn over 10 million viewers every year since 2007.

 

USGA MAKES IT OFFICIAL: NO FANS AT U.S. OPEN

  • It comes as no surprise, but the USGA made it official today in announcing that the U.S. Open -- set for Sept. 14-20 at Winged Foot in N.Y. -- will be played with no fans in attendance, writes SBJ's John Lombardo.

  • Fans who bought tickets will be given full refunds. The move comes after the USGA on March 1 announced a major rebranding campaign called “From Many, One to increase fan engagement around its signature event. The campaign was centered around celebrating the nearly 10,000 golfers who attempt to qualify for the major in a typical year. All qualifiers have since been canceled due to the pandemic. The decision to hold the event with no spectators or hospitality also will hurt the USGA’s bottom line given that the U.S. Open accounts for 75% of its revenue. 

  • No doubt that USGA officials and executives at NBC, which this year takes over broadcast rights from Fox, will be paying close attention to next week’s PGA Championship in San Francisco that also will be played with no fans on-site. 

  • USGA Chief Brand Officer Craig Annis acknowledged that while the organization "can’t replicate the on-site experience," it will do its best to "bring the championship to life" for fans through its partnership with NBCUniversal and other digital platforms. 

 

NBA EXTENDS COMMUNITY TESTING PROGRAM IN ORLANDO

  • One day ahead of the league's restart, the NBA announced it will continue to help provide free COVID-19 testing in the Orlando area through the end of August. 

  • The league in a statement said it "collaborated with UnidosUS and the National Urban League as well as several private laboratories to identify communities most in need and provide access to no-cost testing programs in addition to communicating public health information to community members."

  • The NBA is also working with The Fight Is In Us, a nationwide coalition of health officials and other partners, to encourage COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma for virus research and treatments and to share the latest health and safety information and resources regarding the pandemic.


LAKERS TOP NBA FACEBOOK VIDEO VIEWS DURING SHUTDOWN

  • The Rockets and Warriors posted an average of nearly four videos per day on their respective Facebook pages since the NBA season shut down on March 12, leading all teams, according to data from Tubular Labs analyzed by SBJ's David Broughton. The T'Wolves, on the other hand, posted an average of every eight days, the fewest of the clubs.

  • When it came to actual video views, the Lakers (185 million) topped the list, while the T'Wolves and Hornets were the only clubs to draw less than 2 million video views. Additionally, the Warriors (110 million) and Bulls (52.6 million) were each left out of the league’s restart, but ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, among most video-viewers.

 

NBA TEAMS ON FACEBOOK DURING SHUTDOWN (MARCH 12-JULY 28)
TEAM
UPLOADS
VIDEO VIEWS
TEAM
UPLOADS
VIDEO VIEWS
Lakers
359
185 million
Pelicans
268
9.1 million
Warriors
536
110 million
Kings
149
7.6 million
Spurs
303
80 million
Raptors
226
7.3 million
Bulls
168
52.6 million
Heat
108
6.8 million
Bucks
240
47.7 million
Cavaliers
174
6.2 million
Mavericks
377
25.8 million
Nets
143
6.2 million
Rockets
538
23.2 million
Jazz
261
5.6 million
Clippers
195
22.3 million
Pistons
192
4.2 million
Grizzlies
214
15.4 million
76ers
156
4.1 million
Trail Blazers
291
14.9 million
Pacers
205
3.5 million
Nuggets
428
14.3 million
Wizards
367
2.9 million
Celtics
427
13.9 million
Suns
228
2.7 million
Knicks
383
12.3 million
Hawks
312
2.3 million
Thunder
254
10.1 million
Hornets
246
1.3 million
Magic
393
9.2 million
T'Wolves
65
1.1 million
Download the
nba

  

WORLD SURF LEAGUE CEO BULLISH ON SAFE RETURN

  • The World Surf League will make its return for a one-day event on Aug. 9, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith. The spectator-less Michelob Ultra Pure Gold Rumble at the Ranch will feature a tournament bracket of eight mixed-doubles teams, including Kelly Slater, Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks and Kolohe Andino. Prize money will be awarded to the charity of the winning team’s choice. 

  • The event is the first stop on the WSL Countdown, a new series of regional exhibition events modeled loosely on the bubble concept being used in other pro leagues. “We actually believe we’re one of the safest sports,” said WSL CEO Erik Logan. “If we can get (surfers) tested and into a location, we think it’s fairly safe to run.” Athletes and staffers will be tested before being quarantined in a local hotel, from which they’ll be directly transported to the event area. On-site safety protocols include mandatory masks and distancing. 

  • Next month’s contest will take place at WSL’s Surf Ranch, an artificial wave pool in Lemoore, Calif. Logan says the venue not only offers plenty of space, but that the environmental control allowed WSL to work with broadcast partner Fox to nail down exact timing of the event to best fit in Fox’ broadcast plans. “You can’t do that if you’re surfing at an ocean location because we have to wait for the waves,” said Logan. “With the Surf Ranch, we just hit a button.”   

 

NFL TEAMS READY TO PLAY OFFENSE AGAINST PANDEMIC

  • One day after Giants President & CEO John Mara said he believes the NFL is "positioned to manage" positive coronavirus tests, more team leaders began to express confidence in a 2020 season. Broncos President Joe Ellis told the Colorado Springs Gazette, "We're not in a bubble, but we're going to have to behave and act like we are." Broncos President of Football Operations & GM John Elway: "We can't sit here and bitch about it. We've got to realize it's part of it, and we've got to deal with it and stay with our nose to the grindstone."

  • Raiders Owner Mark Davis spoke on how his late father Al Davis would have viewed the current situation. "The virus would be something that would concern him. He felt he could dominate anything except maybe life and death. I do know he would have been calling every doctor in the country and person trying to come up with an answer for it, that's for sure."

  • Meanwhile, the Texans and Lions both unveiled facility changes to minimize the pandemic threat. The Texans' NRG Stadium now has "facial recognition systems to automatically open doors without touching them, hand sanitizer at every table, socially distanced chairs for team meetings inside their practice bubble and limited seating in the team auditorium," per the Houston Chronicle. The Lions have installed glass barriers in between each locker at the team’s Allen Park training facility, among other pandemic-related innovations. 

 

The Lions today unveiled new barriers in the locker room to adhere to safety protocols
The Lions today unveiled new barriers in the locker room to adhere to safety protocols
The Lions today unveiled new barriers in the locker room to adhere to safety protocols

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: CHARITABLE GIVING

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Harrie Bakst, a founding partner of WCPG, a N.Y.-based agency focusing on cause and social impact. He writes under the header, "How Can We Replace Over $300 Million For Charity?"
  • "Often overlooked by the loss of revenue teams and leagues are incurring, charitable organizations are missing out on fundraising dollars that are tied to these events to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, despite the major professional leagues getting the overwhelming majority of the media’s attention, most of these lost donations come from mass-participatory sporting events such as runs, walks and rides. ... And with the potential for no vaccine ready until summer of 2021, and a growing fear of a second surge of cases in the fall, events that are planned in the first and second quarters of 2021 such as Cycle for Survival and the Boston Marathon (April) present more questions than answers at this point."
  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

 

SPEED READS

  • NBC Sports Boston's Tom Curran delved into the fallout of three longtime Patriots starters opting out of the 2020 NFL season on Peter King's latest podcast. Curran said of Patrick Chung, Dont'a Hightower and Marcus Cannon, "Each of these guys, when we ask what’s the common denominator, they’re over 30 years old. They’ve all made more than $30-45 million plus in their careers. They all have three Super Bowl rings. What do they have left to conquer? … You come to a point where you’re like, ‘I’ve won Super Bowls. I’ve made money. I’m in my thirties. Do I want to deal with this in 2020 to have a rebuilding season and go 7-9? 8-8?’ … That to me is what we’re looking at."

  • Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley, a projected first-round pick in next year's NFL Draft, is the latest college player to "opt out of the coming season," a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

  • Turner Sports has "sold out of commercial time" for the remainder of the NBA season, which restarts tomorrow in Orlando, according to Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi. Turner Sports CRO Jon Diament said that while the playoffs, which begin Aug. 17, are not yet sold out, "most regular season advertisers do end up buying commercial time in the playoffs, so he is confident that will also move quickly." Diament said that nearly 100% of the advertisers who had previously made commitments for NBA inventory before COVID-19 shut down the season "kept their money in place." SBJ's John Ourand earlier today gave his insights on what this quick sale really means for Turner and other sports networks.

  • The National Women’s Hockey League will begin its sixth season in January 2021, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns, after this most recent year’s Isobel Cup Final had to be canceled due to COVID-19. Each team is slated to play 20 regular season games next season before a champion is crowned sometime before the end of March. The six-team league, which now counts Toronto Six as an expansion club, said it’s aiming to hold its All-Star Game after the playoffs conclude.

  • Citing “unprecedented times," Nike confirmed that it will close its facility in Goodyear, Ariz., which was "supposed to create more than 500 jobs," per the Phoenix Business Journal. The Goodyear plant was "supposed to begin operations this year, but a Goodyear spokesperson confirmed the company had not moved in, with tenant improvements still underway."

  • As lockdown measures continue to be implemented worldwide, revised predictions to the global esports economy in 2020 are forecasted to increase only 1.7% from 2019, according to data from Newzoo analyzed by SportsAtlas’ Michael Cupello. The projected 2020 bottom line becomes more and more negatively impacted as esports events continue to be postponed and cancelled, and many leagues and tournaments are switching to an online format. See more in today's SBJ Esports newsletter.

 

 

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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: Giants' Mara Feels NFL Positioned To Manage Outbreak

The sports world continues to witness in real time the extent of the challenges involved in playing a season outside of a bubble environment.

Today brought the significant, yet not unexpected, move by Major League Baseball to temporarily suspend the Marlins' season through Sunday after at least 17 members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days. The Phillies' series with the Yankees has also been postponed.

MLB had first explored playing a shortened season in bubble environments in Arizona, Texas and Florida. Once a large number of players balked at the possibility of being in quarantine for a long period of time away from family, the league moved to playing in all 30 home markets.

Now the precarious nature of that model is on full display.

-- Eric Prisbell

   

MARA CONFIDENT NFL WILL HANDLE PANDEMIC HURDLES

  • Giants President & CEO John Mara told SBJ’s Ben Fischer that the Marlins’ outbreak is “obviously something we’re paying attention to.” But he defended the NFL’s plan to minimize the pandemic’s effect on teams and players, and said it’s prepared to adjust based on new information as camps open and the facts emerge.

  • Asked if MLB’s struggles just four days into the season is proof that COVID-19 trouble is inevitable, Mara said: “I’m sure the perception is out there among some people, but we have had a whole second round of CBA-like negotiations with the players, with the joint medical committee, and those took a long time. ... We came up with these protocols, and we believe they’re going to work and protect players and staff.”

  • Mara continued: “We think there will be some positive tests, because that’s what we’ve been told, but I think we’re positioned to manage it well.”

 

NFL SEES FIRST WAVE OF PLAYER OPT-OUTS

  • The rash of player opt-outs reported today -- in particular six Patriots (and three longtime starters in Patrick ChungDont'a Hightower and Marcus Cannon) -- spooked some other team executives around the NFL who have expected few or none on their own roster, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports. “It’s really strange,” one said. “We haven’t had any so far. So maybe it is an outlier.”

  • Another exec also used the word “strange,” adding: “I don’t think we’re anticipating any, and certainly not a high number.” Of course, the NFL and NFLPA bothered to negotiate terms of opt-outs fully expecting some players to take advantage, but few if any thought there would be a critical mass.

  • If that expectation was wrong, or if the first wave of opt-outs spurs others at scale, then teams will have to scramble -- both for the roster and for the marketing side if more stars follow through. NFL Network reported this afternoon that “dozens” of players have informed teams they will opt out, but the actual legal document encompassing the union agreement hasn’t been finalized yet.

 

Patriots defensive starters Patrick Chung (23) and Dont'a Hightower (54) both opted out of the NFL season today
Patriots defensive starters Patrick Chung (23) and Dont'a Hightower (54) both opted out of the NFL season today
Patriots defensive starters Patrick Chung (23) and Dont'a Hightower (54) both opted out of the NFL season today

 

WHAT'S NEXT FOR MLB AFTER MARLINS OUTBREAK?

  • MLB's 100-plus page operations manual is exhaustive in its health and safety protocols related to testing, ballpark behavior and how to handle an individual who tests positive, writes SBJ's Eric Prisbell. What's less clear? How to handle a significant outbreak within an organization.

  • MLB is now grappling with the challenges an outbreak presents in full view of the sports world, making the dramatic move today to temporarily suspend the Marlins' season through Sunday in the wake of at least 17 positive cases. Throughout the drafting of the manual, baseball officials stressed that the document was fluid and the need to be nimble was paramount as circumstances warrant. That is being tested now.

  • MLB also decided, out of an abundance of caution, to postpone the remainder of the Phillies' series with the Yankees, who were scheduled to play the next three nights. The Phillies, who finished a three-game series with the Marlins on Sunday, have not had a player test positive afterwards. But epidemiologists caution that the incubation period for COVID can be two to five days, so early testing of Phillies' players this week may not be a conclusive indication of contagion.

  • In its announcement to pause the Marlins' season, MLB also defended its health and safety protocols, saying that its response was triggered immediately upon learning of the spate of positive cases. That response included contact tracing, quarantining and testing of all close contacts. Marlins' personnel who tested positive remain in isolation and are receiving care. MLB also said that more than 6,400 tests conducted since July 24 produced no new positive cases among on-field personnel from any of the other 29 teams. 

  • Had MLB not moved to pause the Marlins' season, the Nationals were not expected to make the trip to Miami this weekend. Manager Dave Martinez said that the players voted nearly unanimously not to make the road trip. 

 

MLB VIEWERSHIP SEES UPS & DOWNS ON UNIQUE OPENING WEEKEND

  • The COVID-shifted TV schedule to start the MLB season led to more overall exposure across Fox Sports and ESPN, but that opening weekend shift also made for a mixed bag in terms of comparisons to the start of past seasons, per SBJ's Austin Karp.

  • ESPN had four exclusive games from Thursday through Sunday, beginning with record opening night viewership for a rain-impacted Yankees-Nationals game (4 million viewers), as well as its best late-night game on record with Giants-Dodgers. The net’s “Sunday Night Baseball” opener, featuring the Braves’ 14-1 win over the Mets (1.39 million viewers), did not fare as well, seeing a 25% drop compared to the Braves-Phillies opener last season. ESPN also had a late-night “SNB” tilt -- Giants-Dodgers -- which drew 1.33 million (no comparison). When two non-exclusive ESPN games from Friday are included, the net averaged 1.78 million viewers over six telecasts.

  • Fox Sports averaged 1.72 million for four games on opening weekend. Three games aired on Fox on Saturday. Last year, the broadcast network did not air an MLB game until around a month-and-a-half into the season. Those three Fox games averaged 2.21 million viewers, down 8% from Fox’ first three games last year. Fox for the entire 2019 season averaged 2.4 million viewers for a slate of regionalized windows on Saturdays and some Thursdays. Yankees-Nationals on Saturday in primetime was Fox’ best game of the weekend, averaging 2.79 million viewers, 19% better than Fox’ primetime MLB average last season.

  • FS1 carried one game late on Saturday night, drawing 279,000 viewers for the Padres’ win over the D-backs. That figure was well below FS1’s average of 340,000 viewers in 2019, and even 16% lower than the net’s average last July (333,000).

 

 

 

SUNS LAY OFF STAFF MEMBERS ACROSS MULTIPLE DEPARTMENTS

  • The Suns have laid off an undisclosed number of staff across a variety of departments due to internal restructuring, reports SBJ's John Lombardo. Suns Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Dean Stoyer confirmed the job cuts but refused to disclose the specific number of layoffs or positions.

  • “The impact of COVID-19 was not a factor but we are looking at how the sports and entertainment landscape is changing moving forward and how our structure is set up to address it,” Stoyer said, adding that the layoffs were caused by a combination of role redundancy and some outdated roles.
  • Stoyer would not discuss whether there are other layoffs to come in the future. 

 

SO FAR, SO GOOD IN NBA BUBBLE

  • The NBA "appears safe, secure, and comfortable in its Walt Disney bubble," as the consensus from players and coaches there is that they are "being well taken care of, even if some of the players aren’t exactly pleased with all of the medical protocols required for the season to resume," according to the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.

  • Clippers C Joakim Noah said, "It’s very repetitive, but overall I think the NBA is going a great job. They’re keeping us safe, that’s for sure." ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said there is a sense that the NBA "got it right early" with deciding on the bubble concept. He added NBA players and the league are "far different than what you’ve seen in baseball and I think it is at the root of the NBA's ability to put a bubble together." There is a "sense among players and the league that they're in this together and for the future of the league financially, on a lot of levels, they've got to work to make this thing get to October."

 

CAA IMPLEMENTING SIGNIFICANT LAYOFFS

  • CAA confirmed to SBJ's Liz Mullen that it is implementing workforce reductions, including laying off 90 agents and executives across all departments of the company and furloughing 275 assistants and other hourly employees. 

  • CAA will continue to pay the health care premiums for those being furloughed, the company said in a statement. “CAA began working remotely earlier this year due to the pandemic," the company said. "Everyone at the company participated in reducing compensation with the hope that we could keep all employees financially whole through the end of our fiscal year, September 30th, 2020. We are honoring that commitment, including for those impacted by today’s announcement."

  • It was not immediately clear how CAA Sports was affected by the workforce reductions, but reports earlier in the day said the division is expected to be among the hardest hit.

 

 

CANADIAN NHL CLUBS DROVE TWITTER MENTIONS DURING HIATUS

  • Toronto and Edmonton are the two hub cities for the NHL’s return to play, and it’s those same two teams -- the Maple Leafs and Oilers -- who were the most-mentioned clubs on Twitter in Canada during the pause in action, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. Others listed include the Canucks, Canadiens and Flames to round out the top five, according to data provided by Twitter to SBJ. The timeline spanned March 13 to July 25, and the rankings were only based on mentions of teams’ Twitter handles.

  • The top-five mentioned teams in the U.S. during the stop in play were the Bruins, Flyers, Seattle Kraken, Penguins and Rangers. During just the regular season, the Golden Knights had the top spot. The Blues and Hurricanes came in second and third, respectively, followed by the Avalanche and Penguins. 

  • Meanwhile, the top mentioned NHL players on the platform globally during the same period included Connor McDavid (Oilers), PK Subban (Devils), Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals) and Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs). During the regular season, the rankings were completely different, as the top mentioned NHLers globally from Oct. 2 to March 12 were Marner, John Tavares (Maple Leafs), Ovechkin, David Pastrnak (Bruins) and Matthews.    

 

SUMMER READING WITH KATIE LAVIN & FRANK VUONO

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, NLL VP/Marketing Katie Lavin and 16W Marketing co-Founder Frank Vuono dish on what they're reading and binge watching.
  • NLL's Katie Lavin: 

    • Reading: “'Daring Greatly' by Brené Brown (a mix of life, lessons, leadership, and growth); 'Big Summer' by Jennifer Weiner (good ol’ millennial murder mystery summer read). Next up: 'Rodham,' by Curtis Sittenfeld."
    • Binge watching: "Billions," "Love Life," anything HGTV.

  • 16W Marketing's Frank Vuono:

    • Reading: "'The Last Stand of Payne Stewart' by Kevin Robbins; 'The Beatles From A to Zed' by Peter Asher; 'Three Days At The Brink (FDR’s Daring Gamble to Win WWII)' by Bret Baier; 'NFL Century (The One-Hundred-Year Rise of America’s Greatest Sports League)' by Joe Horrigan.
    • Binge watching: "Everything! 'Money Heist,' 'The Wire,' 'Ozark,' 'Bosch,' 'Jack Ryan,' 'The Man in the High Castle' and 'Shameless' (second time around)."
       

 

Vuono is making his way through a Payne Stewart biography, while Lavin has opted for a murder mystery
Vuono is making his way through a Payne Stewart biography, while Lavin has opted for a murder mystery
Vuono is making his way through a Payne Stewart biography, while Lavin has opted for a murder mystery

 

SPEED READS

  • Both ESPN and Fox say their involvement in a future XFL under new ownership can’t be counted on, even though the defunct league had at one point hoped to include those contracts in a bankruptcy sale, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer. Bids are due Thursday, with an auction for XFL parent Alpha Entertainment’s intellectual property set for Aug. 3. While neither contract included a rights fee, the robust promotional and programming commitment made by ESPN and Fox were seen as key to the XFL’s initial success before its abrupt cancelation and bankruptcy at the start of the pandemic. Read more here.
  • Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson writes if there is "anything the NFL is taking away" from MLB’s situation with the Marlins, it is that an outbreak preceding a game "isn’t going to be taken lightly." Especially if it "means an NFL team would take the chance of sending out a team on Sunday that might have multiple infected players taking the field." “Definitely a ‘no’,” said one NFL GM, when asked if he’d risk playing with a swath of potentially infected players. “No way,” said another. “Never.”

  • An update in the ATP's rulebook late last week makes “repetitive or blatant” breaches of COVID-19 precautionary measures a violation of the players’ code of conduct. A major violation could result in a fine of up to $20,000. An ATP spokesperson told SBJ’s Bret McCormick that the addendum was published last week, part of a gradual process to update procedures that have been impacted by the pandemic. The 19-page addendum also spelled out a new requirement for events to appoint a Tournament Infection Control Officer (TICO), to be submitted to the ATP well before the tournament for the tour’s approval. The addendum spells out criteria the TICO candidate must meet, including (but not limited to) at least two years’ experience with infection control. 

  • Beginning Thursday in Memphis, there "will no longer be COVID-19 pairings on the PGA Tour for players who continue to test positive for the virus after 10 days of isolation and 72 hours without any fever or respiratory symptoms," per Golf Digest's Brian Wacker. Golfers Dylan Frittelli, Harris English and Denny McCarthy have been "subject to the 'timed out' policy in recent weeks and were required to play as a single or in a group of other players who tested positive for COVID-19."

  • Ohio State "will likely limit capacity for football games at Ohio Stadium this season to 20%" according to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch. Tailgating also will be "banned, concessions will be limited and spectators must wear face coverings." The school has "sold 44,320 season tickets to donors, faculty members and the general public, a renewal rate of 87%."

 

 

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THE FUTURE OF FACILITIES

Lead Up Webinar
Tuesday, July 28 – 1-2pm ET

These executives will discuss how venues are preparing for live games. They will share what new design elements, ingress/egress patterns and safety procedures will be implemented when fans return to live events.

Bobby Sloan, Associate Principal, Populous
Gerardo Prado, Sports Practice Leader & Vice President, HNTB 
Justin Wood, Principal, Sports Practice Director, Dimensional Innovations

The webinar is complimentary to all SBJ/SBD subscribers, click here to register.

 

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: MLB Digs In

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Just days into its long-awaited restart, MLB is now contending with a full-blown COVID-19 outbreak, as a reported 14 members of the Marlins’ traveling group have tested positive since Friday. Tonight’s home opener against Baltimore is postponed, as is Yankees at Phillies (Miami played in Philly yesterday, even after four players tested positive).

This is the harsh reality of playing sports during a pandemic, and all eyes will be on MLB as it scrambles to avoid an even wider fallout that could put the season in jeopardy. That may already be the case if the Marlins face a prolonged shutdown, as one leading epidemiologist suggests to SBJ’s Eric Prisbell below. 

Also under the microscope? The NFL. The league is moving full speed ahead with neither a bubble nor even baseball’s on-field spacing. No wonder league execs are keeping such close tabs on MLB’s handling of the outbreak.

-- Chris Smith

   

MLB FACES FIRST OUTBREAK

  • MLB owners today held a regular conference call, and there was reportedly "no talk of canceling the season" in the wake of the Marlins' positive tests and multiple game cancellations, per Bleacher Report's Scott Miller. The Marlins news is "sobering for the game," but the "plan remains to try & manage pandemic." The league office will "redouble health directives, e.g. players must wear masks in clubhouses," and it will "reinforce on-field behavior prohibitions against high-fiving, spitting."

  • Dr. Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College at Emory University, told SBJ's Eric Prisbell that the Marlins "need to shut down for the next two weeks while they quarantine everyone who was in the club's traveling party to Philadelphia." Binney: "You have over a dozen people in your organization sick with a potentially very serious virus that they could spread around to teammates, staff members or, if you send them back home, to their families. ...  We need to take a moment to deal with this on a human level, not just trying to push forward as business as usual. I guess you can fill in those spots, but I think you can assume every Marlin that was a member of the traveling party is potentially infected right now."

  • It remains to be seen what the next steps are for the Phillies, whose home game tonight against the Yankees has also been postponed. Binney believes that, if MLB wants to be cautious, those within the team’s organization who are deemed as potentially high risk of infection, based on their proximity to any Marlins during last weekend's series, should be immediately placed in a five-day probationary quarantine. While he did not believe the Phillies need to shut down for a period of time at this point, he said that just one round of testing today will not be a conclusive indication of which players, if any, could have been infected during the series.

  • The baseball world continues to process the gravity of the situation. When asked about his level of concern considering the fact he had heart issues last September, Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters, "I'll be honest with you, I'm scared. I really am." 

  • For more on MLB's situation, click here. Also, check out SBD's breakdown of the league's strong viewership over its opening week.

 

 

NFL EXECS CLOSELY MONITOR MARLINS AFTERMATH

  • The Marlins’ outbreak came as a stark reminder for NFL executives of how quickly their COVID-19 mitigation plans could all unravel without rigorous discipline from everyone involved, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer. Like MLB, the NFL has eschewed the bubble concept and intends on flying teams around the country to play in each others’ stadiums, and to allow players to come and go from team facilities. That’s the weakness in the NFL’s hopes of staying on track, said one AFC club executive, who worries about player behavior when they’re not at work.

  • “We’re doing everything the league is telling us to do to prepare accordingly, but we can’t be their babysitters as well,” the exec said. “We can’t live their lives for them. They have to be a part of it.” This same exec also said he and others around the NFL are watching closely for how MLB adjusts its season, and for how the public reacts to MLB’s decision to cancel two games but maintain the rest of the schedule despite concerns the outbreak could be wider than currently known.

  • This afternoon, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to fans, telling them to prepare for a season full of unpredictability. “Adaptability and flexibility will be needed for the foreseeable future,” Goodell said. “After all, even the best game plan changes as new challenges arise.”

  • See more here.

 

MLS, NHL CONTINUE POSITIVE MOMENTUM

  • MLS has now released eight consecutive reports of zero positive COVID-19 cases for those players, coaches, staff and other personnel staying at the host hotel in Orlando as part of the MLS is Back Tournament, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. Late Sunday evening, the league announced it tested 884 people from July 24-25 with no positive cases. It’s a streak that stretches over two weeks.

  • Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda told SBJ, "MLS has always stood out due to their way of organizing everything. ... They have taken the right measure to prioritize the health and safety of the players and everyone else in (the bubble). ... We get tested every two days. We eat and then head back to our rooms. We train and then head back to our rooms. We have an hour to go to the pool outside. So, we have tried to take care of ourselves, but the league has also protected every one of us."

  • Meanwhile, the NHL -- which is prepared to resume play Saturday in Edmonton and Toronto -- announced earlier today that there were no positive cases for players from July 18-25 after 4,256 tests were administered to 800-plus individuals. During the league’s two-week training camp period, just two players tested positive for the coronavirus. Both occurred in the July 13-17 window.

 

  

ESPN EXECS ON NAVIGATING MLS PRODUCTION AMID PANDEMIC

  • As the production services provider of the MLS is Back Tournament inside the Orlando bubble, ESPN production execs Amy Rosenfeld and Mike Foss are charged with leading through a number of pandemic-related complexities. These include managing and safely spacing personnel on site, a workload of up to three match slots per day in the scorching central Florida heat and implementing and developing new broadcast technologies designed to bring the games -- and advertisements -- closer to fans who cannot attend in person.

  • Rosenfeld told SBD's Andrew Levin, “It’s hard because we all came off of sort of this layoff where we were all working, but we’re at our homes. You’re in your normal routine. You’re attempting to get eight hours of sleep. The first couple of days -- that getting back at 2:00am and being back at 5:00am, 6:00am -- you have to sort of gear yourself up for that.” 

  • Foss said of broadcasting live sports amid the pandemic, “We don’t know what we don’t know. It is an ever-changing landscape. … With ESPN in particular, we have resurrected, invented, managed new models that put a whole variety of tools on the pallet for us.”

  • For more on the net’s role in Orlando, check out the latest episode of the SBJ Unpacks podcast.



WORKING FROM HOME WITH DUKE BASKETBALL’S DAVE BRADLEY

  • Duke men’s basketball Creative Director Dave Bradley has been tasked with carving out an appropriate social media strategy for the program during the pandemic and the shifting times related to social justice.

  • Bradley told SBJ's David Rumsey, “The biggest thing I tried to do was not rush to anything. … Of course we wanted to say things as well and enter the conversation when it was appropriate. But when we're going to do so, it needed to be -- more important than ever -- that what was put out was representative of how the program felt.”

  • Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s video on Black Lives Matter last month, while only a few minutes long, took a lot of work to set up and make sure the message was accurately delivered. Bradley: “Even to get to that point, it was multiple Zooms with former players -- a couple of them with a hundred-plus former players – coach having a lot of conversations. … Although it was a pretty simple video, it wasn’t a rushed statement, a lot of thought went into it.”

  • One new initiative for Duke this summer is an educational series, for now virtual, called The Brotherhood CEO, for players to learn about branding, communication, and social media. Bradley: “It's an opportunity for us to help educate our players and assist them no matter what happens on court. …  Some of the changes that are coming down with name, image and likeness, it makes branding and social media even way more important to an incoming Duke basketball player than it was even 12 months ago.”

 

Bradley has been tasked with carving out an appropriate social media strategy for the Duke program during the pandemic
Bradley has been tasked with carving out an appropriate social media strategy for the Duke program during the pandemic
Bradley has been tasked with carving out an appropriate social media strategy for the Duke program during the pandemic

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: WORTH THE RISK?

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Arcadia University professor Larry Atkins, who writes under the header, "Filling Stadiums With Fans Is Shortsighted And Dangerous."

  • "It's true that fans are an essential part of sports. They add to the energy and passion that fuels sports. They inspire the home team, intimidate the visiting team, and can influence the referees. There is a distinct home field and home court advantage that is reflected in point spreads and final scores. ... (But) the health risk isn't worth the three hours of sports fans' pandemonium at the stadium."

  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

SPEED READS

  • The Class AA Rocket City Trash Pandas’ strong merchandise sales blasted even higher this weekend following the release of a T-shirt that sums up the MiLB season, per SBJ's David Broughton. More than 800 shirts have been sold since pre-orders began Thursday evening, generating more than $40,000 for the club. The item was conceived by Lisa Nelson, who runs the club’s retail operation, and will be made by Brimm Ridder. Team president & CEO Ralph Nelson (yes, Lisa’s husband) said the team sold $11,400 Friday night, just $500 short of their top record-setting day in 2018. Also, you can read in this week's print edition of SBJ how the club helped propel MiLB to a record year in merchandise sales last year.

 

 

  • The San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner notes while Cal, USC and Washington State have approved plans to shift to remote-only instruction this fall, "football planning rolls on," seeming to contradict Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott's previous stance on fall sports' viability being tied to students in the classroom. Wilner: "Is the conference’s resolve to prioritize the health of the athletes weakening as the season approaches and the economic imperative of football take center stage?"

  • Kyrie Irving is "making sure WNBA players can sit out the season and not stress about a paycheck," per the AP. The Nets guard is "committing $1.5 million to supplement the income of players who choose not to play this season, whether because of coronavirus concerns or social justice reasons."

  • In this week's SBJ, Bret McCormick goes deep on Charlotte's 15-month come-from-behind race to land a MLS franchise  The team’s name, Charlotte FC, and color scheme, a Panthers-like blue, black, white and silver, were announced last week after several delays caused by COVID-19, while renovation work on Bank of America Stadium also reportedly fell behind due to coronavirus-related interruptions. That was one factor in MLS’ decision to delay expansion plans by a year, moving Charlotte’s debut season from 2021 to 2022.  In some ways, though, having 20 additional months to build and launch the team is a blessing, especially after a faster-than-usual bidding process.

  • The Vikings revealed that head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman -- "who is also in charge of the team’s COVID-19 prevention strategy as its infection control officer -- has tested positive." Sugarman and his family are in "self-quarantine." The team "found no additional cases in the front office and that no players have been in contact with Sugarman." 

  • SI's Pat Forde reports Arizona State is "redshirting its entire swimming and diving teams for 2020-21" due to the pandemic. ASU coach Bob Bowman told his team Sunday afternoon in a Zoom call. Bowman: "The hardest part is no clarity, about anything. All our swimmers lost their NCAA (championships) last year. I'm not willing to let them lose two."

  • Golfer Christina Kim is "on her way to Toledo, Ohio, for the first event of the LPGA's restart, and as she put it, she isn't taking any chances," per Golf Channel's Nick Menta.

 

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 


THE FUTURE OF FACILITIES

Lead Up Webinar
Tuesday, July 28 – 1-2pm ET

These executives will discuss how venues are preparing for live games. They will share what new design elements, ingress/egress patterns and safety procedures will be implemented when fans return to live events.

Bobby Sloan, Associate Principal, Populous
Gerardo Prado, Sports Practice Leader & Vice President, HNTB 
Justin Wood, Principal, Sports Practice Director, Dimensional Innovations

The webinar is complimentary to all SBJ/SBD subscribers, click here to register.

 

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, Union Install The Spread

A lot of good news this week for sports. The NFL appears back on track for an on-time training camp thanks to a tentative deal reached with the NFLPA just a couple hours ago, and we see continued good COVID-19 test numbers from MLS and the NBA. 

Meanwhile, my wife and I are celebrating our MLB Opening Day tonight with a few beers, a Bluetooth speaker, and the MLB app, which will give us the Reds-Tigers radio call from the banks of the Ohio River -- where the season always should start, as far as this old-timer is concerned.

-- Ben Fischer

   

NFL CAMPS TO OPEN ON TIME, PENDING PLAYER REP APPROVAL

  • A deal between the NFLPA and NFL on how to spread the pain of the pandemic is close at hand this afternoon, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports, keeping the league on track to open training camps on time next week. The headline deal point: Salary cap cuts as a result of this year’s expected $3-4 billion pandemic losses would be spread over four years starting in 2021, with no cuts now. 

  • Under the deal approved by NFL owners and the NFLPA’s executive committee, next year’s salary cap will go no lower than $175 million, sources said. That is still a deep cut compared to what it might have been without any pandemic -- probably around $210 million -- but is far better than the calamitous dropoff (down to $120-$130 million) that would have occurred without alterations to the union contract.

  • Whatever other losses to overall revenue occur due to the pandemic will then hit the cap in 2022, 2023, and 2024. Both sides are hopeful that new revenue from media rights deals and the expanded 17-game season will be in place by then, further offsetting the pandemic. Owners had reportedly wanted to cut $8 million off this year's cap, forcing players to take the pain now, while players originally wanted to spread it out over a decade.

  • Owners did win a crucial change: Players will get prorated salaries if games are canceled this year. The standard player contract strongly suggested players are entitled to full salaries as long as the season starts, regardless of later disruptions. But with the pandemic making every day touch-and-go, owners pushed hard for a change.

  • The deal isn’t totally wrapped until the NFLPA’s 32 player reps agree to the deal, which could come within hours. But the executive committee was unanimous, so there is little drama expected there. Barring a major backlash within the union, you can count on the Chiefs and Texans reporting to camp on Sunday. 


 

NBA TOUTS BROADCAST BELLS & WHISTLES

  • The NBA revealed a multidimensional plan for in-venue and broadcast enhancements it will introduce when its season resumes in Orlando, placing an emphasis on an immersive experience intended to bring fans closer to the game even though they won't be physically in attendance, writes SBJ's Eric Prisbell.

  • The most unique element is that, while games will be played in empty venues, some 320 fans for each game will be invited to appear live on the "Michelob ULTRA Courtside" 17-foot video boards surrounding the court. Those fans will have the opportunity to digitally interact with each other throughout the game using Microsoft’s “Together mode” to create a virtual experience by removing fans from their individual backgrounds and bringing them together in a shared visual space that will be seen both through the broadcast and in the venue. 

  • This new experience -- the first to go live as a result of the NBA’s alliance with Microsoft -- gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game, while players experience their energy in-venue. The fans will be selected by home teams, and the overall process used to select fans will be determined by each team. 

  • For more on the NBA's plans, click here

 

Fans for each game will be invited to appear live on the "Michelob ULTRA Courtside" video boards surrounding the court
Fans for each game will be invited to appear live on the "Michelob ULTRA Courtside" video boards surrounding the court
Fans for each game will be invited to appear live on the "Michelob ULTRA Courtside" video boards surrounding the court

 

MLS CLUBS PREPARE ATTENDANCE POLICIES POST-ORLANDO TOURNEY

  • Some MLS teams won’t have fans in stadiums if and when the league continues with its 2020 season following the bubble tournament in Orlando, reports SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The Sounders today notified season-ticket holders that -- based on local health guidelines -- the club won’t be allowed to have fans in attendance at CenturyLink Field.

  • Meanwhile, LAFC Chief Business Officer Larry Freedman told Burns earlier this week that he could envision a “mixed bag” of fan attendance at MLS matches, if and when play resumes post-Orlando. Freedman: “Look, I’m watching on one ESPN channel. I’m watching our bubble with no fans in Orlando. On ESPN2, they’re airing USL games in various markets where there are fans in the stands. I think it’s going to be interesting when we get back to our home markets, how it all unfolds.” 

  • MLS Commissioner Don Garber earlier this week at part two of SBJ: The Road Ahead virtual event reiterated his desire to return to home markets later this summer.

 

MLB SPONSORS ROLL OUT AD CREATIVE AROUND SEASON'S START

  • Nine different MLB sponsors are breaking a total of 12 new pieces of creative this week around the league's return, more than any opening week in recent memory.

  • The list includes long-standing league partners like Chevrolet and Mastercard, as well as newer sponsors like Doosan and Hankook. The spots, some of which have already been released widely, are running in national and regional early-season TV broadcasts, on MLB Network and in social media campaigns.

  • The chart below lists the new ads.

 

NEW SPOTS FROM MLB SPONSORS
BRAND
AD
BRAND
AD
Bank of America
Gatorade
Bud Light
Hankook
Bud Light
Mastercard
Bud Light
Mastercard
Chevrolet/Jack Morton
Roman
Doosan
T-Mobile
Download the
New Ads From MLB Sponsors

 

NHL'S TECH PLANS TAKE SHAPE FOR RESTART

  • The NHL does not intend to use its puck and player tracking technology, powered by Durham, N.C.-based SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT), for the first two rounds of the playoffs, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. However NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly did say the league is considering utilizing the technology in the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final. Daly did say the league is "committed to having that technology available to use on a full-time basis starting next regular season.”

  • Meanwhile, NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer said virtual advertising in both hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto “is not a piece of our overall design,” which includes eight LED monitors and screens around the ice. Mayer: “The RSNs will also have the opportunity to do some virtual signage on the glass, and they’ll take advantage of that in the early rounds.” He added that “there are possibilities as we get to later rounds to add a virtual component to the environment for the Conference Final and the Final.”



WORKING FROM THE MLS BUBBLE WITH JEFF LEMIEUX

  • Revolution Senior Staff Writer & Editor Jeff Lemieux has been with the MLS team in the Orlando bubble since July 2, but he says the weeks have gone by quicker than expected. He told SBJ's David Rumsey, “We didn't know exactly if the time would feel like it was going to drag on because you're living in a hotel and you're kind of with the same people all day every day, but we’ve been so busy” he said.

  • Practice days include a team breakfast, morning training session and then back to the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Hotel -- where the entire MLS contingent is staying -- for lunch and content production. “Our afternoons is when the schedule changes a little bit from day to day because there are some days I would come back to the room and I would write two or three stories … or I would come back and I'd have to do a sit down with our head coach in the studio.”

  • The nighttime starts have been pretty standard for the Revs, aside from Lemieux moving his now-virtual pregame show with fellow host Elizabeth Pehota (back in New England) up to 3:00pm ET. However, the Revs’ 9:00am match on Tuesday was a shock to the system. “It was weird being down in the team meal room at 6:30 for a kickoff,” he said. “It’s a completely different prospect getting up and going to the training facility and practicing for an hour as opposed to getting yourself in the right head space to go play an actual regular season game in 85-90 degree heat.”

  • While Lemieux hasn’t had all that much free time, he’s been able to work out occasionally in his hotel room and catch a few rays down at the pool. He’s also seen plenty of players and referees playing beach volleyball or hanging out at the ping pong and pool tables. “They did set up a lot of random leisure activities … just little things to go down and do for an hour or so, just to kill a little bit of time.”

 

Lemieux (r) in a socially-distanced sit down with Revolution coach Bruce Arena
Lemieux (r) in a socially-distanced sit down with Revolution coach Bruce Arena
Lemieux (r) in a socially-distanced sit down with Revolution coach Bruce Arena

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: PROJECT RESTART

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Robert J. Caldwell, counsel in Fox Rothschild’s Las Vegas office, where he concentrates his practice on business litigation and transactional matters, including sports and entertainment. He writes under the header, "What North American Sports Can Learn From The German Bundesliga."

  • "In completing the full 2019-20 season, German soccer dodged a financial bullet. Although Germany managed the human costs of COVID-19 efficiently, the pandemic still threatened the existence of several professional soccer clubs. ESPN reported that German clubs would have lost $350 million in broadcast revenue if the season had been abandoned in March. According to Transfermarkt, 12 of the 36 teams in Germany’s top two leagues had pledged their final broadcast rights payment to creditors, leaving fears of insolvency and unemployment. The focus was not only on saving the season, but on saving the system."

  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

SUMMER PLANNING WITH JULIE ALEXANDRIA & ADAM RICHMAN

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, LaVida Baseball Live co-host Julie Alexandria and Strat-o-Matic President Adam Richman dish on how they've been spending their free time and what future vacation they'd most like to take.
  • LaVida Baseball Live's Julie Alexandria:

    • Working on: "I have hosted the (digital media) show remote, from my study in San Diego, with co-hosts Jennifer Mercedes and Ozzie Guillen Jr. both in the Chicago-based studio for the past eight months. ... La Vida Baseball never took a break, never went off air and continued to tell the stories of Latinx ballplayers and influential icons in the industry."
    • Future vacations: "I would love to get back to my place in NYC once the quarantine restrictions are lessened and it's deemed (more) safe to fly. I'm hoping to introduce my one-and-a-half year old son, Kingston, to his extended family, whom he has never been on the East Coast."

  • Strat-o-Matic's Adam Richman:

    • Working on:"Many home improvement projects as we finish up the house we just moved into in New York, including some landscaping in the backyard, painting and having our basement finished."
    • Future vacations:"Mexico would be great.  But that feels like a couple of years away." 

 

SPEED READS

  • ESPN averaged 4 million viewers for the 5-inning Yankees-Nationals season opener last night -- an opening game record for the network (previous was 3.7 million for Cubs-Cardinals in 2017). It was also the most-watched MLB regular-season game on any network since 2011, per SBJ's Austin Karp.

  • The MLS is Back Tournament and the wave of soccer matches throughout the past month has resulted in increased digital metrics for the league, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The league’s digital audience on MLSSoccer.com is up 22% in the U.S. and 40% in Canada, compared to July 2019. Additionally, Twitter and Instagram interactions have seen an uptick of 48% and 35%, respectively, during the same time period while video watch time during the 24-team tournament on MLSSoccer.com is up 20%, too.

  • The NWSL Challenge Cup heading into Sunday’s Chicago Red Stars-Houston Dash championship game has generated more than $1.1 million for brand partners, over half of which went to Procter & Gamble’s Secret brand, according to data provided to SBJ's David Broughton by Hookit. Meanwhile, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird appeared on "CBS This Morning," where she talked about what she has learned as commissioner during the pandemic. Baird: "Make sure that you come up with an end-to-end solution and that’s what we did when we designed the tournament. I talked about the health and wellness of the players and we spent a lot of time with our doctors doing that."

  • NBA Kings owner Vivek Ranadivè is launching a company – BowX Acquisition -- to invest in tech companies that can benefit from the rush to digitization due to COVID-19, per the Sacramento Business Journal. Ranadivè is seeking to raise $403 million for the effort. BowX will target businesses with enterprise valuations between $1-3 billion.

  • The fall season for LigaMX begins tonight, and all matches across Univision networks (including UniMas and TUDN) will feature virtual fans in the stands, SBJ’s Austin Karp notes. The network tested virtual fans during some matches of the recently-concluded Copa por Mexico preseason tourney. Univision also will deliver recreated fan noise during games that will be taken from previous matches involving whichever clubs are playing on a given telecast. This season will also see Monday night LigaMX games for the first time.

  • The clock is ticking on college decision-makers as the football season nears kickoff, and according to Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel, one conference commissioner's actions will have a domino effect across the nation: Thamel, on the Yahoo College Sports Podcast, said, "At the end of the day, this is Greg Sankey's call. You can talk about president this, and board of governor that, ultimately everyone is going to follow the SEC. ... They'll be some synergy and some cohesion. It'll all sound good in the press release. But ultimately, what Sankey does -- folks are going to end up following. And it's a fascinating, pressure-filled situation."

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

2020 SBJ THOUGHT LEADERS RETREAT (VIRTUAL)

  • Aug. 13, 2:00-7:00pm ET (by invitation only)

  • The road ahead has never been more challenging -- and it has never been more important for executive leadership to pause, learn, reflect and relax in order to prepare themselves to step up and navigate what the future holds. This year, we are continuing the tradition of Thought Leaders, creating the industry’s most intimate, senior-level event with a virtual program.

  • Content will include:

    • Mindful Leadership with Pandit Dasa
    • The C-Suite Imperative: Corporate Responsibility & Social Impact
    • The New Fan Experience: A 360-degree approach; a 365-day Journey
    • Reinvented: A Conversation with Agent Leigh Steinberg
    • Supporting Social Justice Reform: Backing Words with Action
    • Navigating the Road Ahead: Fundamental Shifts We Can Expect in the Sports Business (group discussions)

  • In addition to the compelling content, we will have plenty of time for some of the best virtual networking activities of the year, including:

    • Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting
      Aquimo golf (live challenge)
      Aquimo cornhole (live challenge)
      • Cooking demo with "Iron Chef" Marc Forgione
      • A private set from John Popper and Brian Wilson of Blues Traveler

  • For more information please visit, www.Thought-Leaders-Retreat.com.

 

 

 

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: A Whole New Ballgame

Today is a bizarre MLB Opening Day as baseball finally begins its 60-game sprint of a season with no fans in the stands.

Many questions surround the season but none more important than whether MLB’s lengthy list of health and safety protocols will be protective enough. Players are competing not in a tightly controlled bubble as their MLS and NBA brethren but in cities and stadiums across the country, carrying greater risk.

This afternoon came a report that Nationals star Juan Soto has tested positive for the virus and won’t play in tonight’s opening game against the Yankees.

Still, baseball finally is back, signaling at least some semblance of a summer sports calendar.

-- John Lombardo

   

REPORT: MLBPA AGREES TO EXPAND PLAYOFFS

  • The MLBPA, just hours before the season's first pitch,has "agreed to a plan to expand the playoffs to 16 teams for the 2020 season," sources told ESPN's Marly Rivera.

  • All second-place teams in the six divisions "will qualify for the playoffs," sources said. Then the seventh and eighth teams in both leagues "will be chosen by best record among other teams."

  • Sources said an "important aspect for the players was player and family housing and access to the stadium during the playoffs." If a 16-team format is officially adopted by club owners, it "would include a televised postseason-seeding show in which top-seeded teams pick their first-round opponents." 


MLB NETWORK TEAMS UP WITH PEARL JAM

  • MLB Network and Pearl Jam have formed a content partnership timed to the start of the season, reports SBJ's Eric Prisbell

  • A new MLBN promotional spot began recently that features Pearl Jam's song "Who Ever Said," from the group's new "Gigaton" album, and highlights the net's live games, extensive studio programming, and wall-to-wall Opening Day coverage. Social media activation, and a new piece on the phenomenon of MLB’s season featuring the song “Superblood Wolfmoon debuted this week on “MLB Tonight.”

  • Diehard Pearl Jam fans and MLBN analysts Sean Casey and Ryan Dempster also participated in a recording session on Pearl Jam Radio on SiriusXM, scheduled to re-air Friday at 6pm. ET. There will also be a new piece highlighting MLB players and their favorite Pearl Jam songs, scheduled to debut on “MLB Central” this Monday at 10am ET.

Sean Casey (l) cutting loose with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and his MLB Net colleague Ryan Dempster
Sean Casey (l) cutting loose with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and his MLB Net colleague Ryan Dempster
Sean Casey (l) cutting loose with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and his MLB Net colleague Ryan Dempster

 

PADRES, TIGERS TOP TEAMS FOR POSTING FACEBOOK VIDEOS DURING SHUTDOWN

  • The Padres and Tigers posted an average of more than two videos per day on their respective Facebook pages since MLB shut down on March 12, leading all teams, according to data analyzed by SBJ's David Broughton from Tubular Labs

  • The Cardinals and Rockies, on the other hand, posted an average of just two per week, the fewest of the clubs. When it came to actual video views, the Yankees (29.3 million) and Red Sox (28.3 million) not surprisingly topped the list, while the Marlins were the only club to draw less than 1 million video views. 

  • The most-watched video of the COVID-19 era was “TBT: Max Muncy Sends One Deep to the Bay” (1.6 million views). It served as a reminder from the Dodgers (presumably to Giants fans) of a 2019 into-the-ocean home run launched off Madison Bumgarner. A similar rivalry stoked the AL’s highest viewership -- the Red Sox-provided “2004 ALCS Gm 7: Johnny Damon Grand Slam” clip drew 1.4 million views.

  • The Padres told SBJ that they did not reduce social media staff during the shutdown, but they did launch a daily Padres Social Hour multimedia show right after the stay-at-home orders were implemented in California, which certainly included lots of videos.

  • For more on MLB's return, check out SBD's special preview section from earlier today.


TEAM
UPLOADS
FACEBOOK
VIDEO VIEWS
Padres
300
3.8M
Tigers
288
12.9M
Mets
182
11.3M
Mariners
178
7.0M
Yankees
172
29.3M
Red Sox
164
28.3M
Rangers
161
8.6M
Indians
157
4.6M
Blue Jays
157
8.3M
Reds
147
14.8M
Brewers
143
9.1M
White Sox
141
6.9M
Royals
138
10.2M
Nationals
132
4.5M
Orioles
132
8.8M
Angels
129
6.8M
Cubs
121
19.3M
Twins
119
6.1M
Astros
111
3.6M
Phillies
108
4.5M
Dodgers
101
17.3M
Giants
85
9.0M
Braves
78
9.5M
Rays
76
2.2M
A's
68
1.3M
Pirates
58
2.0M
D-backs
58
2.3M
Marlins
56
333,000
Rockies
38
1.5M
Cardinals
36
6.3M
Download the
MLB Facebook Video Chart

 

NFL-UNION NEGOTIATIONS TAKE A TURN

  • The potential for labor strife to derail the NFL’s return became much more real on Thursday, reports SBJ’s Ben Fischer, with brinkmanship emerging late in the day amid ongoing NFL-NFLPA negotiations. Citing league sources, the NFL Network reported that owners are prepared to halt training camp without an economic agreement by Sunday, when the Chiefs and Texans players start working out.

  • The sudden threat of a deadline in three days lends a new, ominous tenor to the talks. While the league clearly wants some kind of agreement with the NFLPA on how revenue losses will affect player salaries, it hadn’t been clear until how urgent the matter was. Without a separate agreement, the 2021 salary cap would be adjusted in one fell swoop to account for losses this year -- possibly by $70M or more per team. Owners want players to take cuts now, while players want to spread out the cuts over the next decade.

  • Union spokesman George Atallah took to Twitter after the league threat emerged. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “When players wanted to wait until the safety protocols finished to come in, management set reporting dates before that was all done. Now that coronavirus protocols are done, they leak a threat to shut down because they don’t have players’ money.”

  • Along with the broader salary-cap issue, owners want clarity on whether payers would be paid if the season starts but does not finish. It’s not clear exactly what would happen without a deal by Sunday. The union contract has a no strike-no lockout clause, but NFL Network reported the teams could just make training camp virtual-only.

 

OLYMPIC SPONSORS MAKE MOST OF ONE-YEAR MARK TO TOKYO

  • Today officially marks one year out from the rescheduled Tokyo Games, and Olympic sponsors are rallying around the milestone to roll out long-held announcements and new initiatives, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith.

  • Coca-Cola revealed its full roster of 14 athletes, which includes the original “Six Pack” of endorsers announced in September and an additional eight athletes who have partnered with Coke’s subsidiary brands. The athletes signed on over a year ago, but were kept under wraps as COVID-19 disrupted initial announcement plans. All 14 contracts have been extended through the end of 2021.

  • Official USOPC outfitter Ralph Lauren today also debuted its new One-Year-Out Collection. Earlier this week, IOC global partner Airbnb introduced a five-day schedule of online experiences with Olympians and Paralympians. Yesterday, Procter & Gamble extended of its IOC sponsorship and announced the newly created Athletes for Good Fund.

  • IOC Director of Digital Engagement & Marketing Christopher Carroll also joined AdAge’s “Ad Lib” podcast to discuss marketing a delayed Olympics. Carroll: “We need to engage with people now. … That gave birth for us to do real-time marketing. We basically created a global user-generated marketing and digital led campaign called ‘Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, Stay Active.’” 

  • Carroll said the campaign empowered Olympians to use their voice to “provide council to people around the world that were confronted with physical as well as mental challenges” amid the pandemic. That included the Olympic Channel carrying live workouts of its athletes, as well as strategic content across the Olympics’ Instagram, TikTok and Twitter handles to “motivate and inspire people to stay active in these times.” 

  • Ben Fischer and Chris Smith take an in-depth look at major issues facing Tokyo organizers, sponsors and athletes one year out in Monday's print edition of SBJ.

 

SEATTLE NHL FRANCHISE CELEBRATES NEW NAME, BRANDING

  • Seattle’s incoming NHL franchise today unveiled “Kraken” as its name, with team CEO Tod Leiweke saying the organization "considered everything" before zeroing in on the unique moniker

  • Leiweke: "Many of the names had plusses and many had minuses. But at the end of the day, like an endearing friend, this name just kept hanging in there.” Leiweke added that the team "closely monitored fan polls" and understood that SockeyesTotems and others "had staying power as well." But Kraken "kept finding its way into the discussion -- especially in focus groups the team put together."

  • The name and branding received praise on social media this afternoon after the unveil. ESPN’s Mina Kimes: “Very good name. … 1. fun to say out loud 2. a little weird 3. good colors.” TSN's Frank Seravelli: "Love the Space Needle anchor." Seattle-based KOMO-TV's Eric Johnson: "Wasn't sure at first... now I DIG it! I'm on board!" The Undefeated's Clinton Yates: "Dope name." Actor/director Kevin Smith: "FINALLY! A tiny bit of good news in 2020! ... The most metal sounding name in Hockey since the @NJDevils!" The Miami Heat: "Another pro team whose name doesn't end with S. ... Welcome to an exclusive club."

 

 

SUMMER READING WITH PACKERS' MARISSA MELI & FAMER'S RICH ABEND

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, Packers corporate transactions counsel Marissa Meli and coaching/mentoring mobile platform Famer CEO Rich Abend dish on what they're reading and binge watching.
  • Packers' Marissa Meli: 

    • Reading: "My dad and I have our own book club, and we just started Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci biography. I am also reading James Baldwin’s 'Go Tell It On The Mountain' and Erik Larson’s 'The Splendid and the Vile.'"
    • Binge watching: "Just finished rewatching 'Seinfeld.' It really holds up. 'The Last Dance' was amazing, of course. Now it’s on to 'Documentary Now!' and 'Luther.'"

  • Famer's Rich Abend:

    • Reading: "Currently reading two books. 'The Power Broker' by Robert Moses and 'This is Now Your Company' by Mike Rognlien, the former head of people at Facebook. It's a great book about 'building culture.'"
    • Binge watching: "I started with the old school programs that I missed the first time around and always wanted to watch ('The Wire' and 'The Americans'). Both fantastic but I know I'm a little late on that opinion. I also started watching 'The Man in the High Castle.'"

 

 

SPEED READS

  • The USOPC today announced the launch of the COVID Athlete Assistance Fund, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith. The fund, launched in partnership with the USOPC’s Athlete Advisory Council and national governing bodies, will provide a one-time stipend to American Olympians facing financial hardship. Earlier this week, more than two dozen NGBs joined to launch the Giving Games, a fundraising effort to support member athletes.

  • The shutdown has been a double-edged sword for Twitter. User growth in Q2 was up 34% from a year ago and marked Twitter’s biggest year-over-year gain since first reporting that metric four years ago. However, Twitter’s ad business was hit hard again by a sharp drop in revenue amid the pandemic. The company is exploring other lines of business, including a possible subscription offering. CFO Ned Segal also noted Twitter is optimistic ad growth will improve with the return of live sports, which typically drive consumers to the platform.

  • Much of the talk around attendance at college events in the fall has centered on football. But what about other sports? Illinois AD Josh Whitman has said there will be no fans for women’s volleyball this season. The program was No. 8 in NCAA attendance in 2019 with 3,000 fans per match. But the Champaign News-Gazette’s Bob Asmussen had an interesting idea: “Plenty of room exists to put down a court at Memorial Stadium. The home of Red Grange, Dick Butkus and Dana Howard has hosted wrestling matches and a basketball scrimmage in the past. The school can bring in a portable court, net and all. Depending where it is placed, you can put fans in the stands without violating any social distancing guidelines.”

  • USTA Chief Revenue Officer Lew Sherr said all systems are go for the start of the U.S. Open next month. Sherr, speaking during Part II of SBJ: The Road Ahead Virtual Series, said, “We feel great about the health and safety plans and operating manual that we put in place. ... Having said that, there's still uncertainty and we're trying as best we can to deal with some of that.”

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

2020 SBJ THOUGHT LEADERS RETREAT (VIRTUAL)

  • Aug. 13, 2:00-7:00pm ET (by invitation only)

  • The road ahead has never been more challenging -- and it has never been more important for executive leadership to pause, learn, reflect and relax in order to prepare themselves to step up and navigate what the future holds. This year, we are continuing the tradition of Thought Leaders, creating the industry’s most intimate, senior-level event with a virtual program.

  • Content will include:

    • Mindful Leadership with Pandit Dasa
    • The C-Suite Imperative: Corporate Responsibility & Social Impact
    • The New Fan Experience: A 360-degree approach; a 365-day Journey
    • Reinvented: A Conversation with Agent Leigh Steinberg
    • Supporting Social Justice Reform: Backing Words with Action
    • Navigating the Road Ahead: Fundamental Shifts We Can Expect in the Sports Business (group discussions)

  • In addition to the compelling content, we will have plenty of time for some of the best virtual networking activities of the year, including:

    • Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting
      Aquimo golf (live challenge)
      Aquimo cornhole (live challenge)
      • Cooking demo with "Iron Chef" Marc Forgione
      • A private set from John Popper and Brian Wilson of Blues Traveler

  • For more information please visit, www.Thought-Leaders-Retreat.com.

 

 

 

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: Silver Confident, But Realistic, On NBA Restart

It might not count in the standings, but it was refreshing to see the NBA return to the hardwood this afternoon for exhibitions. We’re a little over a week away from basketball and hockey returning to play inside their own separate bubbles, while the NWSL is in the final stages of its Utah-based tournament. MLS enters the knockout round later Saturday. 

MLS in particular has had four consecutive reports of zero positive COVID-19 tests in Orlando where they’ve tested over 1,000 individuals in each cycle. The NBA has had similar news in recent days, proving that the bubble concept can potentially work. 

Meanwhile, the second installment of SBJ: The Road Ahead virtual series continued today, with Adam Silver and Don Garber addressing their leagues' return to play, with Garber optimistically saying that teams will return to their home markets post-MLS is Back. Fingers crossed. … 

Be kind to one another.

-- Mark J. Burns

  

SILVER PROMISES TO "STAY HUMBLE" SHOULD OUTBREAK OCCUR

  • As the NBA begins team scrimmages at Disney, Commissioner Adam Silver today was typically open and direct in offering his perspective on the upcoming July 30 season restart, writes SBJ's John Lombardo. Silver, speaking at the SBJ: The Road Ahead virtual series, stressed that while owners and players were determined to find a way to continue the season, it “wasn’t as if we were determined to play no matter what.”

  • Silver continued his message that despite testing protocols that so far have been effective, a virus outbreak on the Disney campus could halt the season that isn’t scheduled to end until mid-October. “Obviously we're hoping that time doesn't come, but we learn things all the time. We learn how this virus spreads in ways we might not have understood. On a relative basis, to me, there's no doubt it's safer on the campus than off.  And one thing we've learned with this virus is to stay humble.”

  • Silver plans to arrive at Disney in time for the July 30 tip-off, though he acknowledges that the more people that enter the bubble, the greater the risk of an outbreak. Silver: “There are other people who enter the campus, they get tested, but not at the same extensive protocol as the players who are on campus. And I'm one of those examples. ... I'll in essence be in a section in the arena far from the court in contact with anybody where I could infect them. But the more sort of outside elements you introduce onto this campus, the greater risks you take. And we bring in food, we bring in packages. So as I said, it's not sealed. It's still a living campus with people who go on and off, including, incidentally, players."

  • Social justice will be a major platform around the restart, with the league and the players union nearing an effort to create a foundation "focused on ultimately empowerment in the black community." Silver: "We are taking a bit of time to make sure we get it right. Not months away, weeks away, but we wanted to ensure that we put an infrastructure together so that we could set clear targets, have measurable results and I think we can really make an impact in that particular area.”

  • See more from Silver in tonight's issue of SBJ Media.

  

 

MLB CLUB PRESIDENTS ON THE CHALLENGES AHEAD

  • MLB will begin its regular season tomorrow night in D.C., and the pandemic has brought health and safety to the forefront of the league's concerns like never before. D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall during today’s SBJ: The Road Ahead virtual series said, “We're not playing in a bubble, of course, as an industry, but I think we've done a nice job of creating 30 bubbles for ourselves. And I can tell you, our players have never felt as safe as they do when they're together playing, because they know that everyone around them is also being tested frequently. It's every other day for our players.”

  • Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy admitted that despite his optimism that the 60-game regular season will be completed, there is a level of anxiety. The pandemic has created a situation where much is unknown, which runs counter to the experiences of front-office executives. Kennedy: “Our job in these roles is to see around corners and see what's coming. And usually we feel like we have a good grip on what we need to do, but this is unlike any challenge that anyone has ever seen, whether it's elected officials, or leaders of institutions, schools, hospitals, sports teams, whatever. It's uncharted territory.”

  • While social justice has been an issue MLB and its players have mostly steered clear of in years past, players and managers have taken the initiative to use their platform by taking a knee during the National Anthem prior to exhibition games this week. 

  • Pirates President Travis Williams said, “From our perspective, obviously when George Floyd was killed, we debated internally on how to respond and how to be that agent of change, if you will. We were obviously outraged and appalled by what happened, but we didn't want to make just an empty statement. We wanted to have a plan of action that came behind that, and like all good plans that we develop in our businesses, we wanted to start with listening to our employees, and really our partners in our community, and learning from them more about the issues surrounding both his killing and, in particular, the systemic racism that came out from that.” Hall added, “The end goal is the same, I think, for all of us. We want more diversity on the field. We want more diversity in the front office. And it can't just be lip service. It has to be real.”



CHARLOTTE FC LOOKS TO DRIVE ENGAGEMENT IN HOME MARKET

  • Tepper Sports & Entertainment CMO Meredith Starkey said it has been a journey getting to today, which saw her organization unveil the name, crest and colors for Charlotte FC, the expansion MLS club that will begin play in 2022. Speaking during today’s SBJ: The Road Ahead virtual series, Starkey said: “It's not often in one's career that we get to introduce or be a part of introducing a new-to-world brand in sports. That's the opportunity we've been given here, and one in which we've taken with a lot of care."

  • That process for the MLS club centered largely around "taking fan input, studying the history of Charlotte and also where Charlotte is headed," noted Starkey. The team had hoped originally to make its grand unveiling earlier in the year, but as with many things, the pandemic pushed that date back. The pandemic also pushed the team’s inaugural season from 2021 to 2022. Starkey: “In the end, it will give our fans an opportunity to be a part of firsts and milestones fully as they deserve and give us more time to prepare.” 

  • Charlotte FC will share Bank of America Stadium with the Panthers, and that played a role in deciding the team’s color scheme. “We play in a stadium that obviously has a lot of blue in it. So, I think that was something we had to really take a hard look at. We also wanted to look at how the two brands could complement one another." The team was helped by N.Y.-based Doubleday & Cartwright during the branding process.

  • Starkey has also been tasked with the job of finding ways to keep Panthers fans excited for the season amid the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, which already forced the cancellation of the team's annual fan fest event. Starkey: “We need to think about how we create opportunity for our partners who potentially are losing opportunity there, and how do we create opportunity for fans and the fan experience at home?”

  • SBJ's Bret McCormick will have the behind-the-scenes story of Charlotte's 15-month road to becoming an MLS city in Monday's print edition of SBJ.

 

 

SOURCES: INDYCAR LOOKING INTO ADDITIONAL DOUBLEHEADERS

  • IndyCar is looking into hosting additional doubleheaders at some of its upcoming event weekends, sources tell SBJ's Adam Stern, as the remaining West Coast races in 2020 are in question amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • The open-wheel racing series, which just wrapped a doubleheader in Iowa this past weekend, has two event weekends left on the West Coast this season -- one race at Portland and a doubleheader at Laguna Seca in California. However, U.S.-based racing series have largely had to cancel races this year in that region of the country due to strict coronavirus protocols, and IndyCar’s ability to pull off those events this year remain in doubt. 

  • As a result, sources say that IndyCar has been talking with other upcoming venues about possibly hosting a doubleheader if it needs to make up for newly canceled races. Upcoming tracks that the series will visit include Mid-Ohio and World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. The series has yet to comment.

 

HBO'S "REAL SPORTS" GOES DEEP ON LEAGUES' RETURN

  • On HBO’s “Real Sports last night, host Bryant Gumbel welcomed SI's Tom Verducci, The Athletic’s David Aldridge and NBC Sports’ Peter King for a virtual round-table on the return of sports.
  • With COVID infection numbers still climbing in so many states, Gumbel questioned whether leagues like MLB, the NBA and NFL will be able to finish their respective seasons.

    • Verducci on MLB: “They have some of the most rigorous testing protocols in place of any population of employees in the country. Now, that's working fine, if you will, right now while teams have been training in their individual ballparks. The next phase is going to be more difficult, though. I call it the mobility phase. They are playing a season that's based on regional rivalries so there’s less travel, but there is travel. So once teams start moving, then I think the challenges get even greater.” 

    • Aldridge on the NBA: "The problem to me is not going to be this initial phase because they've only had a couple of positive tests. The problem’s going to be when you start allowing families in, frankly, and the problem’s going to be what happens a month from now when guys are bored and when guys want to bring friends in proximity to or inside the bubble itself, and I think that's where the rubber’s going to meet the road.” 

    • King on the NFL: "I've got a lot of skepticism. In football you’ve got so many more people … and we’re talking about a five-month period. ... Whether the NFL can play a season or not is going to be totally dependent on the maturity of 20-something-year-old people."

 

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: EMBRACING AT-HOME FANDOMS

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from streaming platform Kiswe President & CEO Michael Schabel, who writes under the header, "What Live Sports Can Learn From Esports About Fandom."
  • "The vast majority of audiences experience live sports at home, just like esports audiences. However, unlike esports, which deeply engage and embrace at-home fandoms, at-home fans of live sports are largely invisible to the players, leagues and broadcasters."
  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

SPEED READS

  • One nugget that stood out from MLS Commissioner Don Garber's interview at today's SBJ: The Road Ahead virtual series: a bullish attitude towards returning to the league's home markets this summer. Garber: "Oh, no doubt. We will be back in our home markets. We're working through those protocols now, working through the schedule now, working through that start date. But without doubt, we will be playing games in our home markets sometime later in the summer. If not, the end of August." Read more from Garber here.

  • An ESPN roundtable asked its MLB experts whether they were surprised by the Dodgers extending Mookie Betts for 13 years at more than $380 million. Sam Miller: "At this stage of the pandemic, I'm surprised when I see somebody manage to get a decent haircut, so, yeah, I'm surprised to see human achievement. From the Dodgers' perspective, this is a bet that they're going to be able to sell 3 million tickets next year. I think that's probably likely, but it's a bet on something that is even bigger and even more out of their control than the typical stuff -- player health, aging curves, etc."

  • It appears that one of MLB’s media partners will not be carrying games this season. Sources tell SBJ's John Ourand that DAZN will not produce its whiparound show “ChangeUp” for the shortened season after the two sides butted heads over rights fees. A blog called The Streamable was the first with this news this afternoon. See more in SBJ Media.

  • NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy today confirmed via Twitter that in "stadiums where fans are allowed to attend games in 2020, they will be required to wear face masks." The news is "not surprising, given that the country is still grappling with the coronavirus." The NFL "does plan to allow fans to attend games, though attendance will be based on local authorities" in each market.

  • There were nearly 87,000 Twitter posts featuring the combined terms “Fauci” and “Nationals” this past Monday, the day the announcement was made that Dr. Anthony Fauci would be throwing out the first pitch at tomorrow night’s game at Nationals Park, according to Block Six Analytics. The firm analyzed the 7,697 original Twitter posts featuring “Fauci” and “Nationals” to determine the sentiment of fans, media, and sponsors on the team’s decision. Per SBJ's David Broughton, an increase in sentiment scores means that the probability of revenue growth rises. “Teams generate an average range of sentiment scores in the 10-20% range and Fauci-related Nationals’ conversation is at the upper edge of that range,” according to Block Six CEO & Founder Adam Grossman. Overall, the original posts generated 18.4 million impressions with a sentiment score of 19.86%.

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf today officially "rejected the idea" of the Blue Jays playing their home games at PNC Park, ruling that the team "would not be allowed to play here because of the coronavirus pandemic." Logistics had been coordinated to allow the Blue Jays to play in Pittsburgh, including a setup where the Pirates "would turn the left-field lounge into a clubhouse" and the Blue Jays "would potentially rent out one of two hotels across the street." Nevertheless, Wolf "shut down the plan," meaning the Blue Jays "will have to look at other options."

  • USA Fencing has announced a new three-day celebration to coincide with the one-year countdown to the Tokyo Games, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith. Virtual panels and interviews with past Olympic medalists will highlight a digital series across the NGB's social platforms, beginning tomorrow, as part of an effort that will also celebrate USA Fencing’s 125th anniversary.

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

2020 SBJ THOUGHT LEADERS RETREAT (VIRTUAL)

  • Aug. 13, 2:00-7:00pm ET (by invitation only)

  • The road ahead has never been more challenging -- and it has never been more important for executive leadership to pause, learn, reflect and relax in order to prepare themselves to step up and navigate what the future holds. This year, we are continuing the tradition of Thought Leaders, creating the industry’s most intimate, senior-level event with a virtual program.

  • Content will include:

    • Mindful Leadership with Pandit Dasa
    • The C-Suite Imperative: Corporate Responsibility & Social Impact
    • The New Fan Experience: A 360-degree approach; a 365-day Journey
    • Reinvented: A Conversation with Agent Leigh Steinberg
    • Supporting Social Justice Reform: Backing Words with Action
    • Navigating the Road Ahead: Fundamental Shifts We Can Expect in the Sports Business (group discussions)

  • In addition to the compelling content, we will have plenty of time for some of the best virtual networking activities of the year, including:

    • Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting
      Aquimo golf (live challenge)
      Aquimo cornhole (live challenge)
      • Cooking demo with "Iron Chef" Marc Forgione
      • A private set from John Popper and Brian Wilson of Blues Traveler

  • For more information please visit, www.Thought-Leaders-Retreat.com.

 

 

 

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: Tiger Still King For PGA Tour

It remains an open question when the first football game of note will be played at any level this fall.

The NFL and NFLPA are discussing the possibility of playing no preseason games before the league opens the season on Thursday, Sept. 10. We await decisions by the ACC, Big 12 and SEC to see if they’ll join the Pac-12 and Big Ten in playing conference games only, if they play at all. And it was announced just today that major high school football in the hotbed of Texas will postpone the start of games for its two largest classifications, Class 6A and 5A, until Sept. 24.

With many schools moving to virtual learning in the fall, the sight of football games at any level would normalize things just a bit. But it remains to be seen how much football we will see ... and how soon.

-- Eric Prisbell

  

WOODS' RETURN FUELS STRONG VIEWERSHIP FOR MEMORIAL

  • The Memorial saw a big uptick in TV viewership last week on both CBS and Golf Channel, fueled by Tiger Woods’ return to PGA Tour play for the first time since the pandemic halted sports in the U.S., SBJ’s Austin Karp notes. Despite Woods finishing tied for 40th at the event in Ohio -- held in late May last year -- CBS averaged 3.23 million viewers for Jon Rahm’s three-stroke win. That’s the best figure for Sunday at The Memorial since 2015 and up 9% from 2019.

  • Golf Channel on Sunday from 12:58-3:34pm ET averaged 1.47 million viewers, which is the network’s best lead-in figure for The Memorial on record (dating back to 2007). Lead-in coverage also was up 40% from 2019. CBS on Saturday averaged 2.64 million viewers for Round 3, up 28% from last year. Golf Channel’s lead-in on Saturday averaged 1.24 million viewers, also up 39%.

  • For early round coverage on Golf Channel, the network saw its two most-watched days of 2020 to date. Thursday’s opening round averaged 1.08 million viewers, which is the best figure for The Memorial since 1997 on ESPN (1.18 million viewers). Thursday also was the most-watched weekday Tour telecast for the network since the opening round of the 2018 Tour Championship (1.25 million). Even the Thursday primetime replay on GC averaged 337,000 viewers, which marked the best Tour replay on the network in over five years. Friday’s second round averaged 937,000 viewers, helping GC to its best Friday total-day audience since last year's Presidents Cup.

  • Meanwhile, since the return of live PGA Tour action in June, CBS has seen TV viewership increase 28% from comparable events in 2019. For Golf Channel, that live Tour viewership is up 61%.

  

RAMS ANTICIPATE NFL WILL CANCEL ALL PRESEASON GAMES

  • The NFL has not officially confirmed reports that the preseason will be canceled altogether, but at least one team is telling their fans that’s the case, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports. The Rams told season-ticket holders in an email today, “We anticipate that the NFL will cancel preseason games.”

  • In the email, the Rams became the fifth team to completely cancel season-tickets this year, instead telling stadium seat license holders they will get first dibs if any ticket sales are allowed. Because of the preseason cancelations, the Rams’ first game at the new SoFi Stadium is now the week one Sunday Night Football matchup with the Cowboys. “In hopes of having fans at the opener, we ask that you please join us in wearing a mask to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Rams said.

 

PACKERS INCOME SOARS ON NFL MEDIA RIGHTS GROWTH

  • The pandemic will deliver a financial body blow to the NFL this season, but the gravy train kept rolling last year as broadcast revenue continued to climb, according to financial statements released today by the Packers. The Packers posted $34.9 million net income on $506.9 million in total revenue in the fiscal year ending March 31, a bottom line more than four times larger than 2019. Excluding investment results that reflected the market’s plunge at the start of the pandemic, the team’s operating profit stood at $70.3 million, nearly 100 times last year’s $700,000 figure and double its 2018 operating profit.

  • Most of the revenue growth came from the team’s share of national NFL revenue -- mostly media rights, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer. That revenue grew from $274.3 million to $296 million, or 7.9% year-over-year -- meaning that the NFL booked nearly $9.47 billion to share across all 32 teams, up from $8.78 billion from one year ago. “As we look to the future, we feel very good about those continuing to grow at a very healthy pace,” said Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy. Every major media deal is up for negotiation in the next two years, and most industry experts expect increases of nearly 50%.


PACKERS STATEMENT OF INCOME
2020 ($M)
2019 ($M)
+/- ($M)
% CHANGE
National Revenue
296.0
274.3
+21.7
+7.90%
Local Revenue
210.9
203.7
+7.3
+3.60%
Total revenue
506.9
477.9
+28.9
+6.10%
Total expenses
436.6
477.2
-40.6
-8.50%
Profit from Operations
70.3
0.7
+69.6
+9610.40%
Net income
34.9
8.4
+26.5
+316.60%
Download the
Packers Financials

 

  • Murphy pointed to the team’s reserve fund, now at $411 million, and expected growth in income from Titletown, its development adjacent to Lambeau Field, as bulwarks against pandemic losses. “Looking ahead, obviously things are going to be very different,” Murphy said. “This year, we anticipate revenue will drop significantly, and there’s a lot of uncertainty as every business and organization has. We do feel the organization is well-positioned to weather the pandemic.”

  • Read more here.

 

DODGERS PRESIDENT STAN KASTEN ON MLB RETURN

  • On Thursday night, the Dodgers will open the 2020 baseball season against their storied rivals, the Giants, in the second half of a long-awaited ESPN doubleheader. Having made it through the ups and downs of an uncertain four months, the Dodgers finally get to take the field with a roster favored to win the National League. Cardboard cutouts will replace fans, crowd noise will be manufactured and Dodgers radio voice Charlie Steiner will call the game from his home.

  • Dodgers President Stan Kasten told SBJ’s Bill King, "It was not that long ago that we had real doubts about whether anything like this was going to work. But we think it is going to work, we think the steps that we have put in place -- together with our union -- have been effective so far. Keep your fingers crossed. … We always have great anticipation leading into every year, but there’s an extra measure of exhilaration because the challenges that we had to overcome were far, far greater than every year’s challenges."

  • For more on the negotiations that led to MLB’s return, health and safety protocols, how Dodgers games will look and sound and more, check out the latest SBJ Unpacks podcast.

 

NEW PRIVATE EQUITY FIRM ADDS NOTABLE SPORTS BUSINESS LEADERS TO BOARD

  • Arctos Sports Partners, the new private equity firm planning to acquire minority ownership stakes in pro teams, has announced the first of two planned advisory boards, reports SBJ's Chris Smith. The Arctos Sports Advisors, Fellows & Executives Council is comprised of nine sports business leaders.

    • TJ Adeshola (Twitter Head of U.S. Sports)
    • Caryn Seidman-Becker (Clear Chair & CEO)
    • Akshay Khanna (StubHub GM of North America)
    • Tim Leiweke (Oak View Group Founder & CEO) 
    • Stephen Master (former Nielsen Global Head of Sports Media)
    • Angela Ruggiero (Sports Innovation Lab co-Founder)
    • Ari Segal (Immortals Gaming Club CEO) 
    • Sara Slane (former American Gaming Association Senior VP)
    • Malcolm Turner (former Vanderbilt AD)

  • Arctos launched earlier this year and is being led by former MSG CEO Doc O’Conner and former Landmark Partners board member Ian Charles. The firm plans to raise more than $1 billion to invest in sports team limited partnerships. 

 

ROCKETS SUE INSURANCE PROVIDER OVER DENIAL OF COVID-RELATED CLAIM

  • The Rockets "filed suit in Rhode Island against the team’s insurance provider, which last month rejected the team’s claim for damages related to the shutdown of NBA games and concert performances" in the wake of the pandemic, according to David Barron of the Houston Chronicle.

  • The lawsuit, filed in Providence County Superior Court on behalf of Clutch City Sports & Entertainment and Rocket Ball Ltd., "accuses Affiliated FM Insurance of breach of contract by refusing last month to honor a policy that provides a maximum of $412 million in coverage for which the team paid $790,490." The Rockets are believed to be the "first NBA team to file suit over insurance claims related to losses after the NBA season was halted."

  • The Rockets "did not specify the amount of the claim but note in the lawsuit that the policy provides 'a substantial portion ... in coverage for business interruption losses on a per occurrence basis.'"

 

 

CITI OPEN CANCELLATION STALLS TENNIS' MOMENTUM

  • The ATP’s planned return to action was dealt a blow today with the cancellation of the Citi Open, SBJ’s Bret McCormick notes. The event in D.C., which would have re-started ATP play, was set to begin 23 days from now, but tournament operator Mark Ein said that “there are too many unresolved external issues, including various international travel restrictions as well as troubling health and safety trends, that have forced us to make this decision now.”

  • The cancellation raises more questions about how many international players will come to the New York for the Western & Southern Open and U.SOpen, being held back-to-back at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center beginning Aug. 20. Travelers from most of Western Europe are prevented from entering the U.S. under current CDC travel restrictions. Additionally, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s list of travel-restricted states now includes Virginia and Maryland, meaning anyone that stayed in either of those states and was then traveling to New York would have had to quarantine for 14 days.

  • European players’ reluctance to travel to the U.S. is likely compounded by the fact that the six tournaments after the U.S. Open are back in Europe, including the French Open in late September. The USTA said the Citi Open cancellation “in no way impacts" the U.S. Open or the W&S Open.

  • Meanwhile, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley "cannot see any situation" where the 2021 Australian Open is "held anywhere other than Melbourne Park." Tiley and his team have "laid out six scenarios, ranging from best case to worse, of how the Australian Open would operate given the significant hurdle of COVID-19." See more in SBD Global.


WORLD TEAMTENNIS SENDS PLAYER HOME FOR BREAKING QUARANTINE BUBBLE

  • World TeamTennis last night had to send a player home after she broke the organization’s quarantine bubble at The Greenbrier resort.  A statement from the WTT said Danielle Collins, a member of the Orlando Storm, left not only the resort but the state of West Virginia. WTT’s quarantine bubble contains 245 people involved with the league’s three-week competition.

  • "She just put me in a position where I really had no choice,” WTT CEO Carlos Silva told SBJ’s Bret McCormick. “We’re trying really hard to keep everyone safe and do the right thing. That was a mistake she made and I think she understood it and we had to dismiss her last night.”

  • WTT did get positive news Tuesday, though, in the form of its viewership from weekend matches. CBS averaged 484,000 viewers for a WTT match on Sunday from 1:30-3:30pm ET, marking the league’s best figure in its 45-year history, per SBJ's Austin Karp. The previous WTT record was on July 21, 2019, when the league debuted on CBS (409,000 viewers). CBS will also air the WTT title match on Aug. 2.

  • Compared to some other sports on TV last weekend, WTT was still short of the 731,000 viewers for AVP volleyball on NBC or the 509,000 viewers on ESPN for UFC Fight Night prelims. WTT beat out a Yankees-Mets exhibition on Saturday night on ESPN2 (410,000), but the cable net was blacked out in N.Y. It also topped both IndyCar telecasts on NBCSN on Friday and Saturday night from Iowa Speedway (334,000 and 356,000, respectively).

 

SUMMER PLANS WITH DRAFTKINGS' JASON PARK & USA WRESTLING'S RICH BENDER

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. First up is DraftKings CFO Jason Park and USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender, who dish on how they've been spending their free time and what future vacation they'd most like to take.
  • DraftKings' Jason Park: 

    • Working on: "I’ve been spending a lot of time with my two daughters, ages 4 and 1. For the most part, it’s been summer vacation for them since COVID-19 turned the world on its head, but we’ve found a silver lining and I’ve really enjoyed spending time with them instead of commuting to and from the office."
    • Future vacations: "My family has a particular affinity for mountains during the summer months. Perhaps a vacation in Colorado when it’s safe to travel again and restrictions are lifted. If not Colorado, a quick trip to the Berkshires could suffice."

  • USA Wrestling's Rich Bender:

    • Working on: "Have become a very experienced 'Zoomer' during the COVID crisis, but restricted travel has kept me home on the weekends and I have been able to do several home improvement projects. I installed a cedar ceiling on my outside patio, removed carpet and installed hardwood flooring in three rooms of my home (and) have my yard and pasture in shape for the first time in a long time."
    • Future vacations: "Hoping to make a trip to see our daughter in Oklahoma soon and have scheduled a trip to Ozarks later in July."

 

Park (l) and his family have an affinity for the mountains during summer months; Bender showing off his freshly-installed hardwood floors
Park (l) and his family have an affinity for the mountains during summer months; Bender showing off his freshly-installed hardwood floors
Park (l) and his family have an affinity for the mountains during summer months; Bender showing off his freshly-installed hardwood floors

 

SPEED READS

  • The Premier Lacrosse League this weekend will be the next sports property to start a fan-less "bubble" tournament to complete its 2020 season, and it has made changes and additions to its product to pull it off, writes SBJ's Adam Stern. The tournament will be held over three weeks at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, airing across NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold. To pull the tournament off, PLL co-Founder Paul Rabil said that the league has done everything from add new fan elements to the stadium and broadcast to restructuring sponsor agreements. That is in addition to a coronavirus testing protocol that will involve multiple rounds during the course of the tournament.

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway today said that attendance for the Indy 500 on Aug. 23 will be approximately 25% of capacity, down from previous estimates of 50%. Ticket sales will not be permitted after Friday. IMS will release its full race protocols tomorrow.

  • ESPN's Bob Harig notes Augusta National has "offered no updates" on hosting fans in the intervening three months since The Masters' postponement, and the "clock is ticking on a fall Masters" set for Nov. 12-15. A "cursory check of several hotels in Augusta, Georgia, shows that they are packed for that week, meaning that the original reservations transferred from the April date appear to remain intact." There is also "no indication that Augusta National has reached out to its patrons to offer refunds for 2020 badges or postpone 2020 practice-round tickets to 2021."

  • Spotify is "rolling out video podcasts, with a feature that allows listeners to switch to audio-only mode when on the go, following a successful test of the service," per Deadline's Dade Hayes. The initial roster of shows adding video includes Bill Simmons' "Book of Basketball 2.0" and the popular "Fantasy Footballers."

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

2020 SBJ THOUGHT LEADERS RETREAT (VIRTUAL)

  • Aug. 13, 2:00-7:00pm ET (by invitation only)

  • The road ahead has never been more challenging -- and it has never been more important for executive leadership to pause, learn, reflect and relax in order to prepare themselves to step up and navigate what the future holds. This year, we are continuing the tradition of Thought Leaders, creating the industry’s most intimate, senior-level event with a virtual program.

  • Content will include:

    • Mindful Leadership with Pandit Dasa
    • The C-Suite Imperative: Corporate Responsibility & Social Impact
    • The New Fan Experience: A 360-degree approach; a 365-day Journey
    • Reinvented: A Conversation with Agent Leigh Steinberg
    • Supporting Social Justice Reform: Backing Words with Action
    • Navigating the Road Ahead: Fundamental Shifts We Can Expect in the Sports Business (group discussions)

  • In addition to the compelling content, we will have plenty of time for some of the best virtual networking activities of the year, including:

    • Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting
      Aquimo golf (live challenge)
      Aquimo cornhole (live challenge)
      • Cooking demo with "Iron Chef" Marc Forgione
      • A private set from John Popper and Brian Wilson of Blues Traveler

  • For more information please visit, www.Thought-Leaders-Retreat.com.

 

 

 

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 Players Score Win With Daily Testing

There seems to be more at stake every week, and this one is off to a running start with news from every corner of the sports world.

The NFL nears training camp amid pushback from its top players, the Ballon d’Or -- a staple from France Football since 1956 -- won’t be awarded for the first time in its history and the Blue Jays near a restart without a field to call home. 

How about some good news? The NHL today announced that, after five days of training camp, it had just two of a total 2,618 administered tests came back positive for COVID-19. Then came word that the NBA saw zero positive tests last week in the Orlando bubble.

Maybe we can pull off this return-to-sports thing after all. Here’s hoping, at least. 

-- Chris Smith

  

NFL-NFLPA STRIKE TESTING DEAL, BUT STILL WORK TO BE DONE

  • The NFL and NFLPA struck a deal on COVID-19 testing procedures today, a necessary step toward maintaining progress toward an on-time season, reports SBJ’s Ben Fischer. Players won an agreement to undergo tests every day for the first 14 days of camp, at which point testing will decrease to every other day if the team shows less than 5% positivity rates. The deal also covers employees with direct access to players.

  • This is a win for players, who wanted daily testing throughout camp and some of whom took to Twitter on Sunday to build popular support for their cause. It will be the start of many hundreds of thousands of tests administered throughout the league this season -- if every team brings a 90-man roster to camp, the first two weeks alone will include more than 40,000. Testing will go back to daily if positivity rates go back above 5% at any point.

  • The NFL expects to spend about $75 million on tests, according to a source familiar with the matter. The league will use tests from BioReference Laboratories, the same as MLS and the NBA, and expects results in about 24 hours. 

  • After days of stalemate at the negotiating table while camps began to open up for rookies, today’s deal was celebrated around the league for at least allowing camps to start on time. But it may be the easy part. Still to be negotiated: The number of preseason games, rules for players who opt out, face shields, guaranteed money in the event of cancellations and the details of how players and teams will share revenue drop-offs. 

  

LEAGUES GAIN MOMENTUM WITH MOST RECENT TESTING RESULTS

  • Earlier today, the NHL revealed that it received two positive COVID-19 tests during the first five days of teams returning to the ice for training camp (July 13-17), writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. Both positive tests were players. The league conducted 2,618 tests across 800+ players during the five-day period. The NHL last week had 30 tests come back positive during Phase 2, while 13 players tested positive outside of the Phase 2 protocol. Players are expected to travel to the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton later this week with exhibition games starting July 28.

  • MLS has had three consecutive reports of zero positive cases from the 24-team delegation staying at the host hotel inside the Orlando bubble. Most recently, the league tested 1,114 people from July 16-17.

  • Meanwhile, the NBA and NBPA sent out this joint release tonight: “Of the 346 players tested for COVID-19 on the NBA campus since test results were last announced on July 13, zero have returned confirmed positive tests.”

 

MARK MILES ON EXPECTATIONS FOR INDY 500

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will likely need continuing government approval to run the Indy 500 with fans on Aug. 23, but IndyCar CEO Mark Miles remains confident that the race will go on “unless the COVID world crashes in on us.”

  • Miles, speaking to SBJ's Adam Stern from Iowa Speedway over the weekend, said that it’s full steam ahead for now on running the race, but conceded that there are some things related to the pandemic that are outside their control.

  • "Unless the COVID world crashes in on us and healthcare metrics really turn south meaningfully (in Indiana and Indianapolis), I'm quite confident we'll be able to do the race,” Miles said. “We’ve done everything that can be done. ... We continually refine those plans with outside experts -- it’s just a continuing process, and it probably will be through August until the checkered flag waves. ... We can be in a great place and have all the public approvals we need soon, and yet if Indiana became the next hotspot state or city (with Indianapolis), then things would have to adjust.”

  • Miles is not ready to reveal the expected attendance, but IMS Owner Roger Penske told the Indianapolis Star recently that he’d be okay with a crowd in the 65,000-100,000 range, what he referred to as a Super Bowl-sized crowd. 

 

 

SEAT COVER PROVIDER PLEASED WITH WORLD TEAMTENNIS PARTNERSHIP

  • TV viewers watching World TeamTennis over the past week got a glimpse of the 38 black-and-white seat covers with Chosen Foods branding blocking off every other row at The Greenbrier resort’s tennis stadium. They came from Toronto-based Covermaster Inc., one of the biggest providers of covers used by venues and stadiums to protect playing surfaces and cover seats, writes SBJ's Bret McCormick.

  • Covermaster already handles over 90% of MLB and NFL teams and 85% of MLS teams’ seat and playing surface cover needs, including most of the tarps that are hurriedly dragged over MLB fields during rain delays. Covermaster VP Ken Curry wouldn’t discuss details of the pandemic’s impact on the company’s business, but did say they’re optimistic about 2020, largely because of the sudden widespread need to cover empty sections of seats. WTT’s use of the seat covers is a good example, allowing the league to ensure social distancing at a stadium where 20% fan capacity is allowed.

  • Putting a sponsor’s logo on the seat covers also allowed WTT to create a new revenue stream to help offset the lack of paying fans. “We’re providing new branding opportunities that weren’t there before,” Curry said. “In fact, it is a positive for the stadium that’s making the best of a bad situation.” 

  • One of Covermaster’s missions is to make stadiums and venues multipurpose, and that flexibility is even more key this year as pandemic public safety requirements ebb and flow. Creating seat covers that allow the owners to swap out multiple sponsors’ logos with ease is one example. Curry: "We’re adapting as we’re going along, as we see potential needs, as we’re communicating with our customers and what they’re telling us they’re looking for. And I don’t think we’ve hit the end of that.” 

 

WTT viewers got a glimpse of the Chosen Foods covers blocking off every other row of seats at The Greenbrier
WTT viewers got a glimpse of the Chosen Foods covers blocking off every other row of seats at The Greenbrier
WTT viewers got a glimpse of the Chosen Foods covers blocking off every other row of seats at The Greenbrier

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: OPEN TO ALL COMERS

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Michael Kuh, a partner in Hogan Lovells' Sports, Media & Entertainment industry sector group. Before joining the global law firm, Kuh was the lead outside counsel guiding the creation of the NWSL. He writes under the header, "COVID-19 Is Opening Up The Sports Media Landscape For Non-Marquee Sports."
  • "Sports fanatics have been abandoning expensive cable sports packages that funnel millions into league coffers through rights fees and lucrative advertising and sponsorships in favor of mobile and subscription services offering popular, underexposed sports. During the lockdown, consumers’ habits changed; they have not only embraced distance learning, online grocery shopping and telemedicine, but myriad streaming services that feature live sports programming."
  • To read the full contribution, click here

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH U.S. SOCCER’S CAITLIN CARDUCCI

  • With U.S. Soccer’s Chicago HQ closed the past several months, the federation’s Manager of Member Programs Caitlin Carducci called an audible early in quarantine and has been working remotely from her hometown of Columbus, Ohio. “I could either stay in Chicago in my 600-square-foot apartment by myself or I could be in my parents' basement, which is now where I've pretty much taken up residence,” she said. The move has paid off in her eyes. Carducci: “I don't think I would have been able to keep my sanity there, so I’m fortunate that I've been able to come here and be with family.”

  • With 113 member organizations to oversee, Carducci is used to traveling at least once or twice a month for various games and events, which has obviously not been these case as of late. Carducci: “In my role, I'm really outward facing. … So, that was a change, and not necessarily a negative one, but definitely the interaction piece.” She added that one positive as U.S. Soccer works on guidelines for teams to safely return to the field has been being able to get input from the entire organization, as many employees’ roles have not been what they normally would be.

  • U.S. Soccer has been relying on the wisdom of Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Chiampas, who Carducci said is often internally referred to as “Soccer Fauci.” She said, “He likes to tell us, ‘Always just remember the virus is in charge, we're not in charge.’ … So, we have plans, we have ideas, we’re very conservatively thinking spring 2021, we might start seeing more games, as far as on the higher level. But beyond that, if we can get some programming in this fall that would be huge.”

  • Carducci is preparing for a potential return to the re-opened Chicago office after Labor Day, but knows nothing is a given at this point. “Our organization and our leadership team are being very understanding that even with all the safeguards in place, returning to an office setting is just something that some people might be a little more nervous about,” she said.

 

Carducci has been carrying out her work duties from her parents' basement in Columbus over the past several months
Carducci has been carrying out her work duties from her parents' basement in Columbus over the past several months
Carducci has been carrying out her work duties from her parents' basement in Columbus over the past several months

 

SPEED READS

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci will be on-hand to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park this Thursday as part of the defending World Series champion's Opening Day. The Nationals in a statement said Fauci "has been a true champion for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career."

  • The MLS is Back Tournament is averaging 231,000 viewers across Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and FS1, and the broadcast windows for several games is contributing to lower figures, SBJ's Austin Karp reports. Four of the 14 games to date have aired at 9am ET, and none of those games have topped 175,000 viewers. ESPN and ESPN2 are combining to average 236,000 viewers, while Fox and FS1 are averaging 224,000. For more on MLS viewership, see tonight's SBJ Media newsletter.

  • In this week's SBJ, Mark J. Burns catches up with NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird about being the first U.S. pro team league to return from the sports shutdown. When asked what grade she’d give herself and the NWSL thus far for the Challenge Cup, the first year commissioner said she’d wait until after the tournament and once “the health of all of the players and staff is secured.”

  • There is a "good chance the college basketball season will look different this winter," and Wichita State AD Darron Boatright is "preparing for all of the what-if scenarios," per the Wichita Eagle. In the case that fans are allowed in arenas but social distancing must be followed, Boatright said that WSU has "briefly explored the possibility of hosting games at Intrust Bank Arena." The downtown Wichita arena has "about 5,000 more seats than Koch Arena, WSU’s on-campus arena."

  • All-sources handle for the first four days of the Saratoga Race Course's 40-day summer meet was nearly $81 million, a 9.4% increase over last year’s figure of $73.4 million, per Daily Racing Form's David Grening. Due to COVID-19-related restrictions, "which include no fans on-site and only limited owners with no access to mutuel machines, nearly all money wagered on Saratoga came via account-wagering platforms."

  • The Ballon d'Or has been "cancelled for the first time in the award's history" due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the soccer calendar. Organizers of the award announced in a statement that the "conditions for the prize to take place had not been met." 

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

2020 SBJ THOUGHT LEADERS RETREAT (VIRTUAL)

  • Aug. 13, 2:00-7:00pm ET (by invitation only)

  • The road ahead has never been more challenging -- and it has never been more important for executive leadership to pause, learn, reflect and relax in order to prepare themselves to step up and navigate what the future holds. This year, we are continuing the tradition of Thought Leaders, creating the industry’s most intimate, senior-level event with a virtual program.

  • Content will include:

    • Mindful Leadership with Pandit Dasa
    • The C-Suite Imperative: Corporate Responsibility & Social Impact
    • The New Fan Experience: A 360-degree approach; a 365-day Journey
    • Reinvented: A Conversation with Agent Leigh Steinberg
    • Supporting Social Justice Reform: Backing Words with Action
    • Navigating the Road Ahead: Fundamental Shifts We Can Expect in the Sports Business (group discussions)

  • In addition to the compelling content, we will have plenty of time for some of the best virtual networking activities of the year, including:

    • Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting
      Aquimo golf (live challenge)
      Aquimo cornhole (live challenge)
      • Cooking demo with "Iron Chef" Marc Forgione
      • A private set from John Popper and Brian Wilson of Blues Traveler

  • For more information please visit, www.Thought-Leaders-Retreat.com.

 

 

 

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.