Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 27 No. 84

SBJ Unpacks: NFL Ready For Thanksgiving Feast

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL is less than 48 hours away from Thanksgiving, and Fox will be one of the broadcasters making the most of its holiday telecast.

  • Greg Sankey believes SEC can get to finish line.
  • Jazz set to welcome limited capacity at season's start.
  • How Superstar Racing Experience is prepping for 2021.
  • Riot Games rolls out Valorant season structure, sponsors.

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

Fox Still Going All-In On Thanksgiving Production

Fox Sports wants to create a sense of normalcy on Thanksgiving when the country tunes in to watch the Cowboys host Washington. For Senior VP/Production & Talent Development Jacob Ullman, that means treating the game as one of the net’s biggest broadcasts of the year. Ullman told SBJ's Andrew Levin, “We’ll have all of our production bells and whistles, be it our cable cam, our pylon cams, our yard-to-go cam. ... It really tends to be one of the biggest regular-season games of the year.”

Ullman said the lack of the annual crew dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving is one of the aspects he’ll miss the most this year. “It extends a lot of times beyond just the crew members," he said. "There will be spouses and some children of people who have traveled to be with their significant others to have a little sense of home.”

Ullman also shared his thoughts on new broadcast talent at Fox. He said of Aqib Talib’s Week 10 debut as an analyst, “People loved that it felt authentic and real … and his analysis of the game was pretty spot on, so we were very happy with how he did and hopefully there’ll be another opportunity.” On Fox signee Greg Olsen, who the Seahawks placed on IR yesterday, he said, “When Greg is done playing, he has a home.”

For the complete conversation with Ullman, check out the latest episode of the “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.

SEC's Sankey Looks To Finish CFB Season Strong

As college football conferences look to finish out their respective seasons with as little disruption as possible, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said providing a definitive schedule earlier this fall "was an important message" for fans and teams. Speaking on "The Paul Finebaum Show" this week, Sankey said, "We need a finish line because simply moving the finish line doesn’t guarantee a finish. At some point, we have to say we want to finish and name a champion."

Sankey continued: "Across the board in college football, we’ve been highly, highly, highly successful at actually playing games. ... We have dates. Whether an adjustment is needed or not, I’m not able to predict." But Sankey admitted that the "overall economic impact on the conference due to the pandemic is going to be substantial."

On those financial ramifications from this challenging season, Sankey said, "We reduced our regular-season football schedule by 20% ... but those are typically home games. ... Then we’ve had between no crowds in some circumstances to 25% of a full stadium. That's a substantial impact."

Jazz To Open Season With Some Fans At Home Games

The Jazz said that home games at Vivint Smart Home Arena will be "played with a limited number of fans in attendance" to start the season. The arena will "reopen with a seating capacity of 1,500 in the lower bowl only and limited seating on the suite level."

Season-ticket holders will be "given priority access to the limited number of seats." Safety protocols will include "mandatory face coverings, mobile entry and screening procedures at all entrances, plexiglass barriers at point-of-sale locations, and social distancing signage."

Superstar Racing Experience Confident In 2021 Launch

When spectator sports have few spectators -- and the value of sports-marketing assets is ebbing -- it’s a difficult time for any sports property, even more so a new one, writes SBJ's Terry Lefton. That’s the situation facing Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) a new six-race, stock-car series scheduled to begin in July on CBS in prime time with well-known drivers like Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, and Bill Elliott.

Nonetheless, Brian Corcoran, whose Shamrock Sports & Entertainment is handling sales for SRX, believes the circuit’s single-entity structure, associated integrated packages combining drivers, trucks, and its back-half of the year timing will make it a clutter buster. Shamrock is in the market with an SRX title deal for around $5 million, which includes CBS inventory; official sponsor packages vary by category for $500,000-$1.5 million; and official supplier status is for $250,000-$500,000.

“It’s an uncluttered environment, during an uncluttered time of the year for sports,” said Corcoran, “and it’s the right time for something that’s new with some real personalities.” As for selling during a pandemic? “Brands are asking for more flexibility,” he said, “and as a single entity we’re offering as much of that as anyone.”

Make sure to check out this week's edition of SBJ Marketing for more insight within the industry.

Riot Games Unveils 2021 Structure, Sponsors For Valorant

Riot Games on Tuesday revealed the structure and initial sponsors of Valorant esports for 2021, and a tournament-based model will continue but with new levels of competition that culminates in a world championship, reports SBJ's Adam Stern.

The publisher debuted Valorant as its new first-person shooter game earlier this year, and it has started the esports scene around it with tournaments instead of immediately starting with a franchised league. That will continue next year but with a more structured scene called the Valorant Champions Tour that will involve regional and global competitions to determine the best pro team in Valorant.

The first two sponsors of the competitions will be Red Bull and SecretLabs, two pre-existing League of Legends esports sponsors. The three-tier pyramid will consist of the Valorant Challengers series on the lowest rung; this will be regional competition and the way to qualify for the next rung, the Valorant Masters, and the top tier will be Valorant Champions, which will be a global competition pairing the top teams from the various regions.

Speed Reads

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "may soon shorten the length of time it recommends that a person self-quarantine after potential exposure to the coronavirus" from the current 14 days down to a range of 7-10 days, per the Wall Street Journal. Such a move could have a large impact on scheduling within pro sports.
  • NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that Thursday night's Ravens-Steelers game in Pittsburgh is "still on as scheduled" despite a number of cases on the Ravens. The Ravens canceled practice today and "announced that they would hold all meetings remotely amid a coronavirus outbreak." 
  • U.S. women's hockey F Kendall Coyne Schofield "will join the Rockford IceHogs" as the "first female full-time coaching hire" in the Blackhawks organization, per the Chicago Tribune. Coyne Schofield yesterday was named Blackhawks player development coach. She has been "part of the Hawks organization in various roles for seven years, and she said male players and staff have been very supportive."
  • Toronto-based fashion golf towel brand Uther is set to release a new golf ball collection with nine unique icons available. Marketing its products as a more personalized golf accessory, Uther has produced 55,00 balls, which will be available across 200 Dick's Sporting Goods locations, beginning next month.

News 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. Select stories from Sports Business Daily are free, outside the paywall, for the foreseeable future. Below are the headlines: