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Volume 26 No. 207
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SBJ Unpacks: Coronavirus -- More Cost-Saving Measures For Learfield IMG College

The most highly anticipated NFL draft in the history of the league will provide the first whiff of normalcy in the sports world in five weeks -- a major sporting event carried out on the date and time as scheduled.

Still, in a sign of the times, announcers, reporters and team officials will be working remotely tonight, presenting ABC/ESPN and NFL Network with the challenge of integrating all of the disjointed parts into one seamless broadcast.

Cincinnati, you’re on the clock.

-- Michael Smith

 

LEARFIELD IMG COLLEGE FEELS THE PINCH

  • Learfield IMG College is in the process of notifying its 200 school and conference partners this week that it will be 60 days late making its rights fee payment, SBJ’s Michael Smith reports. 

  • The company also has initiated talks with schools and conferences about:

    • Reducing the amount owed because of canceled events in the winter and spring, which gave Learfield IMG College no games to sell against.

    • Shifting from the traditional guaranteed rights fee model to a revenue-share model. Maintaining a model that guarantees a rights fee when there is no guarantee of games played should no longer “apply to our commercial partnerships,” the company said in a statement to SBJ.
  • Without March Madness, spring sports or a stable economy, Learfield IMG College has had to “unwind more than $75 million of sponsorship agreements and ticket sales, leading to make-good conversations with thousands of brand partners,” the company said. “We are working with our partners on the right ways to operate together in highly uncertain, volatile times.”
  • Most of the athletic directors contacted this week expressed mild concern about the late payments. The bigger issue is whether the football season is canceled or shortened, which would hamper Learfield IMG College’s ability to generate revenue from sponsorship sales. Even before the coronavirus hit, Learfield IMG College’s credit rating had been downgraded by Moody’s, which cited lower-than-expected sponsorship revenue.

 

 

COUNTDOWN TO VIRTUAL NFL DRAFT

  • An NFL Draft unlike any other is upon us, hosted, as always by Commissioner Roger Goodell -- this time, from the basement of his home. Microsoft Teams will replace war rooms. Live streams and social media posts will replace draft parties. Advertisers will flock to what almost certainly will be the most watched sport telecast since the Super Bowl. SBJ NFL writer Ben Fischer joins Bill King to set you up for tonight’s telecast on a pre-draft edition of the SBJ Unpacks podcast, available here.
  • Meanwhile, SBD goes deep on the social media habits of the NFL Draft class. Among the findings? This year's class has been deleting posts, indicating an elevated sense of awareness of the impact that old posts can have on potential draft stock; 82% of this year’s draft class deleted at least 1 social media post.

 

SOURCE: MLB COULD ALLOW "SMALL GATHERINGS" OF FANS LATER IN SEASON

  • MLB is discussing a middle-ground scenario that would entail a small gathering of fans attending games later in the truncated season and adhering to appropriate and necessary social distancing guidelines throughout each ballpark, a league source told SBJ's Eric Prisbell. It's important to stress that no one has the expectation that MLB will begin a season under those conditions; the almost universal belief is that when and if MLB starts its season, it will be in spectator-less venues. Allowing a select group of fans to attend games later in the season would be part of a phasing-in process. But, the source cautioned, MLB -- and sports in general -- is a long way from that because developments change daily.

  • The MLB source confirmed a CBS Sports report that one idea being discussed is opening the season with games in three locations: Arizona, Dallas and Florida. The source also did not rule out the possibility of using other MLB markets for teams to play true home games, albeit with no spectators, later in the season if those cities re-open for business at that point. But clearly too many variables exist now related to the availability of testing and the rate of spread in most markets to assess the feasibility of that idea. 

 

 

MLB-MiLB NEGOTIATIONS ENTER STRETCH RUN

  • The most important part of the statement released this morning regarding the MLB-MiLB negotiations was that it was jointly issued by both parties, per SBJ's Eric Prisbell. This was the first public indication supporting what multiple sources say: That the negotiations over a new Professional Baseball Agreement, which grew increasingly contentious over the past several months, are nearing the finish line. The expectation still is that MiLB will agree to eliminate 40 affiliated teams (down from 160). One important order of business that will remain is for both parties to try to preserve baseball in those 40 markets; those details are still to be worked out.

   

STATUS OF LEAGUES ACROSS THE U.S.

  • Plans for returning to competitive action are beginning to materialize for several sports leagues, including the PGA Tour, NASCAR and IndyCar, writes SBJ's Bret McCormick. But questions of how to proceed without fans abound, and many more remain suspended with their 2020 seasons in limbo.

  • Listed below is a snapshot of some major sports leagues/organizations and where they currently stand with regard to the resumption of play.

  • For in-depth details on where each league stands and their current plans for re-starting, check out this link on SBJ’s website.

 

LEAGUE(S) STATUS
AHL Suspended at least until May
ECHL Remainder of 2019-20 season canceled
F1 Suspended at least until the summer
G League (NBA) Suspended indefinitely
IndyCar Suspended until June 6
LPGA Suspended until week of June 15
MLB Suspended indefinitely
MLS Suspended until June 8
MiLB Suspended indefinitely
NASCAR Suspended until May 3
NBA Suspended indefinitely
NCAA Spring sports season canceled
NFL Still on as scheduled
NHL Suspended indefinitely
NLL Remainder of regular season canceled
NWSL Suspended indefinitely
PBA Suspended indefinitely
PBR Returning to action April 25
PGA Tour Returning to action June 11
PLL Suspended indefinitely
IOC Postponed until 2021
UFC Resuming action on May 9
USL Suspended indefinitely
WNBA Suspended indefinitely
WTA/ATP Suspended until July 13
XFL League filed for bankruptcy
Download the
Status of Sports Leagues

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH BUCKS EXEC JAMIE MORNINGSTAR

  • Bucks Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service Jamie Morningstar has been continuing her department’s efforts from her home just 10 minutes away from Fiserv Forum, stationed in the family’s “craft room” that normally serves as an art sanctuary for her three children (ages 4, 2 ½ and 7 months). “It’s the best of both worlds!” she said. Morningstar and her husband take turns watching the kids while the other focuses on work, and she said they have found a “silver lining” in the fact that they get to spend so much time together while the kids are still young.

  • The current climate is certainly not optimal for ticket sales, but Morningstar isn’t discouraged. “This is a great exercise in working through things that might be out of our control,” she said. “If we can see success during this time, we can accomplish anything. Our reps are still actively engaging our members and prospective members. It’s been extremely important to us to maintain contact so that they know we are here for them.” Morningstar added, “We are also working hard on developing our team. This is a great time to focus on fine tuning our skill set and focus on the fundamentals. There are so many possible scenarios that could become reality.”

  • Morningstar said it has actually been a little easier to get her work done -- with one caveat: “Staying on schedule is sometimes at the whim of some very curious kiddos!” She has enjoyed the extra time available to exercise and be with her family, though. “I have realized how important it is to take care of yourself both mentally and physically,” she said. “Without a positive attitude and the discipline to get going every day, we won’t be ready once we are back to the new normal.”

 

Morningstar and her husband have been taking turns watching the kids while the other focuses on work
Morningstar and her husband have been taking turns watching the kids while the other focuses on work
Morningstar and her husband have been taking turns watching the kids while the other focuses on work

 

 

SPEED READS

  • Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin last night helped raise money to support COVID-19 relief as they squared off in EA Sports' "NHL 20" live on the Capitals' Twitch channel, SBJ’s Mark J. Burns notes. Both Gretzky and Ovechkin matched fans’ donations, bringing the total amount raised to $41,041.67. The live stream reached over 286,000 viewers, and it included peak concurrent viewers at 26,642. The airing will be cut down into an hour-long event and is scheduled for broadcast on NBCSN on April 28 (5-6 pm ET) and NHL Network on April 30 (7-8 pm ET), though that is subject to change.
  • The second iteration of “The Match” will see Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson bring on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for a two-on-two charity match next month, and the podcast crew at Barstool Sports’ “Fore Play” are all for it. Trent Ryan: “All the naysayers for ‘The Match’ the first time around were mad about production. They were mad about the commentators. Not enough banter. Now we just need anything. Look at the buildup for ‘The Last Dance’ on Sunday. … Now we’re talking about actual live sports.” Frankie Borrelli: “Woods is going to be playing golf on TV. I’m in. The Peyton stuff, the Tom Brady stuff -- that’s all just extra.”
  • Digiday cites sources as saying that over the past six weeks, a number of sports publishers, including CBS Sports, USA Today Sports and Minute Media, "have either pitched or discussed pitching advertisers different ad programs that combine either those publishers’ audiences, media, production capabilities and content." 
  • Allied Esports Entertainment has netted increased registration and participation for its online offerings amid the pandemic. Players registering at ClubWPT, an interactive division of the in-person World Poker Tour, for the first time between March 1 and April 10 increased 148% compared to 2019. ClubWPT revenue is also up 33% over the same time period. 

  • New Jersey-based PGA of America pro Keith Stewart tells SBJ's Thomas Leary that he strongly believes golf will be the first sport to return. But he also worries about what that return will mean for smaller brands and organizations in the industry.  "Not everyone is going to come back from this 'Great Reset,'" he said. "Many golf industry professionals work at facilities that were excluded from the PPP funding due to the facility's tax status." 

 

 NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

  • During this crisis impacting the sports business, we want everyone to be up-to-date on the latest news and information. SBD's "Coronavirus & Sports" section is free, outside the paywall, for the foreseeable future. Below are today's headlines:

    • Sources: NHL Wants To Finish Regular Season Before Playoffs
    • NBPA President Chris Paul Trying To Keep Fellow Players Informed
    • Endeavor Could See Revenue Boost With Pro European Soccer Return
    • Louisville Cuts Athletic Staff In Attempt To Cover $15M Shortfall
    • Having "Fully Recovered" From Coronavirus, Dolan Helping Others
    • Sources: ESPN Wants Free Broadcast Rights To Korean Baseball League
    • Uninterrupted Working With Soccer Properties For FIFA 20 Tourney
    • Knicks Launch Instagram Initiative To Salute Coronavirus Heroes

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- WEATHERING COVID-19

 

 

 

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.