RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF JANUARY 13 : MAYOR’S EDITION
with Jacob Aere
- Heading into its conference championship weekend, NFL viewership is up, which should affect media rights negotiations. The NFL averaged 16.5 million viewers per game during the 2019 regular season, up from 15.8 million in 2018 — the league’s second consecutive annual increase of 5%. The rebound in viewership from the previous two years, according to Axios Sports, will give the NFL higher leverage when negotiating new distribution deals with media partners. Currently, the NFL gets around $1 billion annually from each the three broadcast networks that air Sunday games (CBS, FOX, and NBC), over $1 billion from ESPN to air Monday night games, and around $1.5 billion from AT&T’s DirecTV to distribute its Sunday Ticket package. Among predictions about where NFL rights will land in the future, SportsBusiness Journal posits that global streaming service DAZN come close to picking up rights to NFL Sunday Ticket. And Lightshed Partners predicts that CBS will lose Sunday afternoon NFL rights to either NBC or ABC, given price increases, and that FOX will retain its rights. Most of the NFL’s current media deals expire in 2022 or sooner, and experts predict that prices will go up significantly in the next round of deals.
- Two-thirds of Americans support college players being allowed to earn money through endorsements according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. As the NCAA mulls new rules about athlete endorsement and Name, Image, and Likeness compensation, the study found that support for the NCAA allowing college athletes to cash in on their names, images, and likenesses is particularly high among young adults, as well as black Americans and Hispanics. “The opinions of the public in general are very important because they are reflected in the attitudes of universities, who are the ones that actually make the rules,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told the Associated Press. Another interpretation of Emmert’s comments and a peek into the crystal ball on the issue: if two-thirds of Americans support the proposed rules, that likely means two-thirds of college and university boosters, the influential lifeblood of athletic departments, do as well.
- Topgolf’s IPO could value the company at over $4 billion. Topgolf International Inc., an operator of driving ranges with a party atmosphere, has selected banks for an initial public offering that could value the company at about $4 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. The Dallas-based company is reportedly working with banks including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Bank of America. Its IPO could come as soon as this year. The company’s driving ranges, which “bring the spirit of a bowling alley to the golf course,” have bays that can accommodate up to six players who can track their balls electronically while ordering food and drinks. Some venues feature rooftop bars, restaurants, shops, pools, and concert halls. The company has locations in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, with others opening soon in Canada, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates, according to its website. The company’s backers also have included Callaway Golf Co., which acquired a minority stake with other investors in a deal completed in 2017.
- Just hours after news broke that Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg was spending $10 million on a Super Bowl ad, word came that President Trump would do the same. “President Trump made the unprecedented decision to keep the campaign open following his first election, which allows us to do things like buying a Super Bowl ad,” Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, was quoted in the New York Times. Super Bowl ads are rarely deployed in presidential politics due to the high cost and inefficiencies of paying to reach a national audience rather than focusing on key states. The buy highlights Bloomberg’s massive spending power. And it’s just the start of what’s likely to be a huge spending year for Trump. Bloomberg has already spent $170 million on ads this election cycle, while the Republican National Committee just announced that it raised $463 million in 2019 and has nearly $200 million cash on hand. It’s worth noting that the Super Bowl lands just one day before the Iowa caucuses.
- In an era in which legislation such as California’s newly minted Assembly Bill 5 aims to correct inequalities in the workplace, Sports Illustrated staffers announced their intention to unionize, seeking better workplace protections amid turmoil at the legacy brand. The union, according to CNN, represents about 80 staffers in print, digital, and video. Sports Illustrated’s magazine staffers were already a part of the NewsGuild of New York, but digital staffers were not. Now, both print and digital will be included in the new union that is also with the NewsGuild. In October, Seattle-based startup Maven took ownership of Sports Illustrated from magazine conglomerate Meredith Corporation and immediately laid off about 40 staffers. Of the roughly 80 staffers eligible for the bargaining unit, more than 90% “signed a petition supporting the union drive.” Their effort to join the NewsGuild “comes at a time of turmoil for the magazine.” In a letter to management, staffers requested a “pay-equity study; an increased focus on minority hiring; clarity for workers on extended temporary contracts; and clear protocols for handling harassment.”
- Tensions surrounding the Middle East continue to loom over the European Tour’s “Desert Swing.” Concerns are "growing” over the European Tour’s “Desert Swing” over the next three weeks after Iran “threatened to ‘unleash Hezbollah’ across the Gulf as military tensions build.” The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship is set to take place this week, followed by the Dubai Desert Classic and Saudi Arabia International. The European Tour, according to the London Telegraph, was “confident at the start of the week that its schedule would not be affected by the conflict.” Several U.S. golfers are “due to play in Abu Dhabi,” and the region is “vital for the Tour’s ongoing prosperity and officials will be loath to cancel or even postpone.” In the U.S., Phil Mickelson and others will be skipping next month’s Waste Management Open to play in the lucrative Saudi Arabia tourney. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth is now a factor for sport and sports events, whatever the controversy. In the near future, it seems likely that a very big golf name is going to align itself with the kingdom – or take a stand by turning its money down.
- In conjunction with the Protect the Pitch program, which continues to lead the industry in stadium sustainability and clean energy efforts, LA’s Dignity Health Sports Park has installed 12 new Volta electric vehicle charging stations that will be available to guests free of charge at all events. Volta designs electric vehicle charging networks for forward-thinking businesses seeking to provide seamless, simple and free charging. Volta designed Dignity Health Sports Park’s charging network as a foundation for further expansion to match the park’s rising electric vehicle demands. Projecting out based on the average Volta station impact in Los Angeles, Dignity Health Sport Park’s 12 stations will offset an estimated 250,000 pounds of CO2annually. The MLS LA Galaxy and Dignity Health Sports Park have launched numerous sustainability efforts to reduce carbon footprint and become more sustainable through the Protect the Pitch initiative. As increasing numbers of Galaxy fans drive electric cars, Dignity Health Sports Park’s partnership with Volta is a perfect complement to the club’s Protect the Pitch sustainability initiative.
- Soccer stars from around the globe will play a bushfire charity match. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the head of Melbourne-based agency Tribal Sports Group, Lou Sticca, took to Twitter last Sunday to flag plans for a star-studded charity soccer match, which could raise huge sums to help alleviate the suffering of people and communities whose lives have been devastated by blazes scorching Australia. The game is likely to be played at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium in May. Many top European and South American players will be in action at the European Championships and Copa America, but big names who are no longer internationals could be lured to Australia to help raise funds. The charity match is one of a number of fundraising efforts being made on behalf of football in Australia to assist those affected by the bushfires. Currently, the next two rounds of the A-League and W-League will be dedicated to raising funds and showing gratitude to emergency services. And the Australian players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia, also used its “Footballers Trust” to donate $1000 for every goal scored in the A-League and W-League over the weekend of January 11-12.
- Megan Rapinoe is working with Budweiser to change the perspective on branding the NWSL. According to Yahoo Sports, the NWSL looks to shift from surviving to thriving with a target fan base that needs to change from children to young adults. And there may be a shift on the horizon, thanks in part to Budweiser. With help from U.S. Soccer and Soccer United Marketing, who helped broker the deal, Budweiser signed a multi-year sponsorship with the NWSL as the league’s biggest sponsor to date. Budweiser’s campaign is less of the soft and fuzzy approach the NWSL has seen in the past. Budweiser’s current campaign is a call-out of other brands who claim they care about female empowerment to actually put their money where their corporate mouths are. The ironic campaign features Rapinoe enjoying products from future official sponsors of the NWSL – eating a generic hamburger that could be a fast food chain sponsor or sporting a generic watch that could become the official timepiece of the NWSL. Budweiser is simultaneously supporting women’s sports leagues and proving themselves to be a consistent sports sponsor and beverage – regardless of league or gender.
- The Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young cancels $1 million in medical debt for locals. According to ABC 7 and other news outlets, the 21-year-old star donated $10,000 to a medical debt erasure agency that relieved over $1 million in debt for local residents. Through the Trae Young Foundation, Young donated the money to RIP Medical Debt, an organization that buys and forgives medical debt in the United States, according to a news release. The nonprofit was started in 2014 by two former debt collectors. They use donated funds to buy debt portfolios for those in need. Media reports said the average amount of dissolved debt is $1,858 for about 570 people. Although he didn’t contribute the $1 million himself, Young expanded what his money could do and positively financially impacted hundreds of Atlanta residents.