10 Oct

15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 8


with Jamie Swimmer & Jacob Aere

  1. Baseball’s post season is heating up – but regular season attendance has cooled. According to the league, MLB ended the 2018 regular season with a total attendance of 69.67 million after last week’s division tiebreakers, down 4.1% from last year and the fifth decline at the gate in the last six seasons. The figure is also the lowest since 2003, and the first since that 2003 season to fall below 70 million. The Dodgers again led individual clubs in attendance for the sixth straight year with a franchise record total of 3.86 million including last Monday’s NL West tiebreaker against the Rockies. The Marlins ranked last with a total of 811,104, making them the first club since the 2004 Expos to finish a season below 1 million in home attendance. The defending champion Astros had the largest increase in the league with a 24% spike to 2.98 million, while the Marlins and Blue Jays each shed more than 750,000 in attendance from 2017. MLB’s attendance decrease roughly mirrors a 3.3% decrease this year for Minor League Baseball, with both drops influenced by high numbers of rainouts and cold weather.
  2. National TV advertising revenue for regular-season Major League Baseball games remained stable this year — and looks to stay that way for the playoff season. According to the league and its broadcast partners, pricing for this year’s MLB playoffs is around $100,000 per 30-second unit for early-round games and up to $500,000 for World Series games. Who’s buying in? A blue chip who’s who of this year’s top regular-season advertisers for MLB games, including: Softbank Corp. ($10.1 million); General Motors ($8.6 million); Berkshire Hathaway ($7.4 million); Ford Motor ($6.9 million); Verizon Communications ($6.8 million); Anheuser-Busch InBev ($5.6 million); Procter & Gamble ($5.5 million); Wells Fargo & Co. ($5.0 million); and Yum Brands ($4.5 million). The ad market for baseball’s postseason is looking even healthier thanks to the avalanche of popular big market teams that advanced: thank you Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Astros, and Braves.
  3. As the NHL wraps its first week of regular season play, league-wide revenues are on an upward swing. The league and its 30 teams are projected to increase annual sponsorship revenue by $35 million, boost annual ad revenue by $24 million, and add $6 million from the sale of data each year if legal sports betting spreads as projected to 25 states in the next seven years, according to a study released by the American Gaming Association. The study, based on a Nielsen Sports survey of 1,032 U.S. adults, projects hockey to benefit from an overall revenue increase of $216 million tied to betting, with $132 million of it coming from gains in ticket sales and media rights that it predicts based on an assumed increase in fan engagement. And outside of placing an expansion team in Seattle, the league clearly sees China as the next horizon. The NHL played preseason games in the country last month and recently opened a youth hockey school in Shenzhen. However, should the league decide sit out the 2022 Games like they did this year in PyeongChang, it could alienate the Chinese government and halt the NHL’s progress there.
  4. Ahead of UFC 229, Conor McGregor signed a new one year-deal with Monster Energy that is “worth millions and puts McGregor in the same category as other Monster athletes” like Tiger Woods, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton. McGregor has endorsed the energy drink brand since 2015, and SB Nation notes McGregor is also working hard to build his brand, including “releasing his very own whiskey, as well as his upcoming line of custom-made suits.“ UFC President Dana White told ESPN that UFC 229, headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov-McGregor, was projected to “smash company records” in both PPV revenue and Nevada gate revenue. Beforehand, White said that the $64.99 PPV buys were tracking close to 3 million. McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017 “reportedly sold 4.4 million buys.” Saturday’s brief bout, won by Nurmagomedov, was certainly a hit at T-Mobile Arena, with a live gate of $17.2 million and an announced crowd of 20,034, marking the “second-highest box office number for the promotion.” The fight, however, will be remembered for the ugly brawl that broke out afterward – not good for the fighters’ brands, nor for UFC.
  1. The Chelsea Football Club Foundation and education technology innovator EverFi, Inc. have launched the Digital Blue – Career Inspiration program, bringing hands-on STEM teaching to 25 schools in Manhattan at no cost to the schools and inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals. The Chelsea FC Foundation and EverFi announced the new project during a visit with students at Frederick Douglass Academy, where they joined students and educators to discuss STEM careers. Digital Blue – Career Inspiration introduces middle and high school students to exciting careers in technical fields and uses gamified lessons to encourage and prepare students for a career in STEM. As part of the course experience, students will virtually hear from Chelsea FC and Chelsea FC Women players, and Chelsea FC Foundation executives who’ll talk about the importance of STEM education and how these topics are part of key careers in the industry. Following classroom time, Chelsea FC coaches hosted a soccer skills lesson, teaching the students how STEM is relevant on the field, as well. The Chelsea FC launch follows on the heels of a similar initiative announced with IndyCar driver Zach Veach last month – clearly, EverFi is adept at harnessing the STEM power of sport.
  2. Momentum is a word that has come to define Mike Whan’s tenure as LPGA Commissioner. Since Whan took the LPGA helm in 2011, the narrative emanating from the preeminent women’s golf tour has been one of progress and expansion. Over the course of the past seven years, the circuit’s schedule has grown from 23 to 33 tournaments, total prize purses have exanded to nearly $70 million, and the LPGA broadcast audience has surged to around 500 million households worldwide. All told, LPGA revenues have soared by a staggering 88% since 2012. Commercially speaking, the LPGA’s deal making has accelerated dramatically in recent months. Since the start of 2017, the Tour has signed no fewer than 16 new corporate partnerships, bringing on board eight new tournament title sponsors, including the Indy Women in Tech Championship Driven by Group 1001. That slate is testament to a sponsorship philosophy that spans the entire organization, from athletes to front office staff. Societal forces are also helping to shape the LPGA’s momentum, with a renewed focus on women’s empowerment and equality.
  1. The Phoenix Suns have teamed up with PayPal to put the company’s logo on its jersey, becoming the 25th team in the NBA to sign a jersey patch sponsorship deal. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the agreement makes PayPal the official payment partner of the Suns, the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, and Real Club Deportivo Mallorca, a second-tier Spanish soccer club that is owned by Suns Owner Robert Sarver. “The primary driver for us and for PayPal is the customer experience and creating an environment that is seamless and convenient as possible,” Suns President and CEO Jason Rowley said. PayPal will now become a viable payment option at Talking Stick Resort Arena and at the team’s store there, with fans able to access the service via the official Suns mobile app. The move by the Suns to sign PayPal goes well beyond boosting the team’s top line, it helps make payments easier and quicker, catering to the demands of millennials and younger fans.
  1. The U.S. sports memorabilia market is estimated to be worth a whopping $5.4 billion annually. According to JohnWallStreet and David Yokun of collectable.com, that figure includes “the total gross merchandise volume from eBay ($4.7 billion), independent auction houses ($290 million), auction house private sales ($62.5 million), online retail venues and other sources ($400 million).” Vintage baseball jerseys have fueled a lot of industry’s boom, as they have drawn record bids lately due to their extreme rarity and demand. A 1964 Mickey Mantle World Series jersey recently sold for three times the previous high ($1.32 million), while a Babe Ruth game-worn away jersey that sold for $4.416 million in 2012 is now estimated to be worth $10 million. Fan apparel, products produced in mass, and modern trading cards were all left out of the industry’s estimated value, though it remains possible that trading cards could be factored into future calculations. This seems reasonable, as “baseball cards” are almost synonymous with “sports memorabilia.”
  1. Major League Triathlon made an unprecedented move last weekend: paying out prizes in bitcoin. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the highly volatile cryptocurrency, which reached a peak value of $19,783 per unit in mid-December, is now worth around $530 for one bitcoin, down 88% for 10 months ago. The deal came as “part of a presenting sponsorship sold to Bitcoin.com, a content website dedicated to the cryptocurrency controlled by bitcoin advocate Roger Ver.” The competitors who placed high enough in the event to receive bitcoin cash prizes won the equivalent dollar amount to what they would have otherwise earned based on the current exchange rate; the athletes are free to convert the bitcoin cash into real cash if they choose to. “Our athletes trust us a lot,” said Major League Triathlon CEO Daniel Cassidy. This groundbreaking twist on awarding athletes has the potential for both good and bad: if the value of bitcoin goes up, athletes could earn a lot more than they initially expected, but if they hold onto the bitcoin for too long and it plunges in value, their achievement may have been for naught.
  1. 10.The Tampa Bay Rays are denying that their move to purchase the USL soccer club Tampa Bay Rowdies has anything to do with an attempt to find a new stadium. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the “surprising” purchase gives the ownership group “at least short-term control of downtown waterfront Al Lang Stadium,” the site where the Rays tried to build a new ballpark 10 years ago. This connection is why many speculate the purchase goes beyond a simple entry point into the American soccer market, though Rays President Brian Auld said that it was just an “opportunity to buy the soccer team” from Rowdies Chair and CEO Bill Edwards and “grow their overall business.” The Rays have been trying to move from their current home at Tropicana Field for years now and are seeking an alternative St. Petersburg stadium location “to their proposed new home in Ybor City, where talks have been ongoing to bridge the funding gap in completing that $892 million deal.” The Rowdies deal, complete with soccer stadium, seems to give the Rays a leg up.
  1. The NFL is considering exercising an exit clause in its deal with DirecTV following the 2019 season. According to JohnWallStreet, in doing so, the NFL would strip the satellite provider’s exclusivity rights to broadcast its Sunday Ticket package of all out-of-market games. The current deal, signed back in 2014, sees DirecTV pay the NFL $1.5 million per year and is set to run through 2022. Speculation is that the league would break the contract to then package “satellite rights with global streaming rights and continue to grow the revenue pie.” DirecTV only allows some of its NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers — only college students and those able to prove the inability to place a dish on their home — to stream games online, proving its outdated nature in a 2018 marketplace dominated by OTT platforms. Google previously made a bid for the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket but without satellite capabilities it lost to DirecTV. Expect companies like Google and Amazon to reenter the race for the rights if the NFL opts out of the deal.
  2. .Diamond Resorts has announced the initial group of world-class sports and entertainment celebrities confirmed to play in the inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. The tournament will be held January 17-20, 2019, at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando in Florida. Hall of Famers Ray Allen, Brian Urlacher, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, John Smoltz, and Marcus Allen; six-time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens; Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester; Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander; former NASCAR champion Michael Waltrip; NHL star Jeremy Roenick; and actors Alfonso Ribeiro and Jack Wagner will be among the celebrities playing alongside LPGA winners from the past two seasons at the event. The women will compete for $1.2 million in official prize money over 72 holes of stroke play with no cut, while the celebrities will compete for their own $500,000 purse. All four days will be nationally televised, with Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel, and Saturday and Sunday on NBC. Next month: Tiger vs. Phil. January: the LPGA vs. the OGs.
  1. Roger Federer is looking past his tennis days as he settles into his sponsorship deal with Uniqlo. According to Reuters, Federer’s decision to switch from Nike to Uniqlo as part of a deal speculated to be around $30 million per year stems from the Japanese company’s "commitment to stay with him long after his playing days are over.” Still one of the world’s best on the court, the Swiss superstar has a desire to work through his foundation to contribute more to charity long after he is done playing. As Fed himself put it, “John Jay in New York, where I had an event there, said it very nicely, ‘One day I will retire from tennis but I will not retire from life.’ Life will go on and Uniqlo and [Uniqlo CEO Tadashi Yanai] believed in me very strongly as being very important to their brand, even though maybe my playing days are going to come to an end at some point.” The deal should come out to more than three times the $10 million that Nike payed Fed on an annual basis, which will go great lengths toward giving the tennis legend more flexibility with his charity work.
  1. 14.The Toronto Maple Leafs are the NHL’s first franchise to launch an esports competition, doing so after partnering with online video gaming platform WorldGaming Network. According to SportsPro Media, the Leafs Gaming Network is set to serve as a “one-versus-one online ladder for fans and competitive gamers who play the EA Sports NHL 19 ice hockey title.” The new competition will be launched later this month. "MLSE is taking this first big step to bring structure and significance to Toronto’s NHL gaming community,” said Shane Talbot, esports manager at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the company that owns Toronto’s NHL team. Gamers will compete head-to-head to climb the virtual ladder to the top, with the Grand Finals being hosted January 3 at the team’s facility, Scotiabank Arena. The NHL’s first dip into the esports world came earlier this June, when Finnish gamer Erik Tammenpaa won $50,000 from winning the NHL Gaming World Championship. Clearly, that’s just the tip of the ice[berg] when considering the NHL’s esports potential.
  1. 15.Elite Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona has become the first sports club in the world to surpass $1 billion in revenue in a year. According to the Associated Press, the club recently presented its annual accounts for the 2017-2018 season, which saw it earn $15 million in after-tax profit on $1.054 billion in revenue. The team’s new budget for its 2018-2019 fiscal year calls for an increase in revenue, up to $1.1 billion, but a drop in after-tax profit to $13 million. This now marks the eighth consecutive year that Barca has closed a year with a profit, accumulating $217 million in gains since 2010, and the “fifth consecutive year the club has broken its own record income.” Comparing these finances to arch rival and fellow Spanish and European giant Real Madrid, Real’s operating revenue for the 2017-2018 cycle reached 750.9 million euros. Barcelona’s financial success has largely been buoyed by “the new cycle for distribution of UEFA payments for the Champions League,” the team noted. The World Cup lead up season didn’t hurt, either.

Tech Top Five

  1. Major League Baseball Players Association cashes in on esports for its own players. According to Cynopsis Sports, the MLBPA teamed up with UMG Media Corp. to launch the first-ever esports series of competitions designed exclusively for MLB players. The events started on October 3 with the MLBPA Fortnite challenge and will run until its December championship in Las Vegas. Fans can follow the mixture of active and retired players who will compete against each other through the UMG Twitch channel that will stream the contests. For the Live Championship Finals and the Live Final, UMG partnered with Caesars Entertainment and The Wall Gaming Lounge to host 16 teams of Major League players competing for the MLBPA Challenge Series title in addition to cash prizes. Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, Twins relief pitcher Trevor May, and Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. have already confirmed their participation in the tournament.
  2. Amazon brings new features to Thursday Night Football for fans using Fire TVs. Coming on the heels of a massive two-year, $130 million rights deal to stream NFL games on the esports platform Twitch and Amazon’s own Prime Video, the media giant has introduced interactive game watching to better the fan experience. In addition to U.S. users’ ability to navigate straight to Amazon’s ecommerce platform for home and away teams’ officially licensed NFL merchandise, fans watching games on Fire TV devices will also be introduced to the “X-Ray” experience. According to TechCrunch, this feature incorporates real-time stats integrated into game coverage to allow viewers to select game leaders and team statistics such as rushing, passing, and receiver yardage. In addition, the “Play History” tab will read details on any plays that could have been missed, while the “Teams” tab will provide information about franchise owners, player facts, and Super Bowl wins. With Amazon’s NFL coverage now underway, the company is paving a pathway for interactive fan experiences away from stadiums in professional sports leagues.
  3. Tennis Channel strikes a deal with the Women’s Tennis Association to become the new over-the-top digital streaming and linear television home of the sport in the U.S. According to Sports Pro, starting in January 2019, Tennis Channel will become the host of more than 2,000 annual women’s tennis matches including premier and international tournaments as well as the end-of-season WTA Finals. For matches not on the linear network, fans will be able to subscribe to the network’s Tennis Channel Plus streaming service. The move to Tennis Channel was largely facilitated by BeIN Sports, which is one of the WTA’s largest rights holders worldwide and will continue to offer some global matches. As part of the agreement, Tennis Channel and BeIN Sport will cross-channel promote and BeIN Sport will provide highlights and match replays on the service. This deal provides a crucial next step in boosting the broadcasts of women in sport.
  4. The NBA is now catering its media offerings to fans who love crunch time. According to JohnWallStreet, as part of NBA streaming options for the 2018-2019 season, the league is set to offer fans the “opportunity to purchase only the final 12 minutes of an out-of-market league broadcast on an a la carte basis” for just $1.99. This new option, the partial-game League Pass, will provide the NBA with a new revenue stream on top of its other League Pass offerings: premium ($250 per season), traditional ($200 per season), individual team ($120 per season), and single game ($6.99) subscription plans. This offering has been years in the making, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver first discussed partial game packages and “fan interest in paying a set price for five minutes as opposed to what they would pay for two hours” back at CES in January 2016. This is another great example of a league catering directly to cable-cutting millennials who have short attention spans and crave drama.
  5. Heed, a startup designed to bring together sport leagues, clubs, and fans, raises $35 million. According to Consultants Insider, the large sum of money raised by the company was led by SoftBank Group International. The startup sits at the intersection of sports and the Internet of Things and its primary mission is to connect a young audience with sports leagues and clubs. With younger fans consuming less broadcast TV and linear programming, the company aims to close the technology gap by placing sensors around a match, game venue, or even on players’ clothing and equipment. The main idea is that Heed uses AI and its tracked audio and video data to form a narrative to be viewed on the company’s smartphone app. With Heed, the goal is to replace a standard in-game commentary with unique details and statistics about how the game or match is unfolding. Heed takes modern technology and modifies not only how sports are viewed, but even understood.

Power of Sports Five

  1. With the MLB postseason underway, T-Mobile brings back #HR4HR to help hurricane relief efforts. With recovery efforts led by military-veteran Team Rubicon, the “un-carrier” company will donate $5,000 for every postseason home run to help mitigate the damage caused by recent hurricanes in the U.S. According to Business Wire, anyone who posts, tweets, or retweets the hashtag #HR4HR on Instagram or Twitter until the conclusion of the World Series will play their part by donating $1 to Team Rubicon. The organization is a non-profit that offers military veterans a chance to extend their service by directly helping those impacted by natural disasters and allocates its funds to help rebuild homes that have been destroyed. After last year’s massive success in raising $2.78 million during the MLB postseason, T-Mobile reaffirmed its dedication to U.S. military and veterans during MLB All-Star Week and the T-Mobile Home Run Derby with #HatsOff4Heroes and is back at the plate to make an even greater difference this postseason in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
  2. The Pittsburgh Penguins goalie is ready to flash his glovework with the “Saves MATTer” charity program. Matt Murray will donate a combined $30 to youth-based charities in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario and hockey town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for each goal he saves during the 2018-2019 campaign. According to NHL.com, Murray gets his charitable passions from his father who worked with his hometown charities throughout his life. $15 from each save will go to the Ward Home in Pittsburgh and the other $15 will be split among two charities in Thunder Bay – Children’s Aid Services and Dilico. The Ward Home teaches at-risk teens and young adults how to live independently, while the Thunder Bay charities cater to the safety and health of children as well as the well-being of the Anishinabek community. If Murray can put up similar numbers to last year, that means he will have roughly 1,300 saves and would donate nearly $40,000 by the end of the season.
  3. Vincent Kompany of Manchester City FC doing his part to end homelessness. According to Yahoo! Sports, Kompany’s recent accomplishment of 10 consecutive years playing for Man City will be honored with a benefit match to be held at the end of the 2018-2019 season in which all proceeds will be paid to the Homelessness Fund. Kompany, a Belgium native, said that he is “lucky to have witnessed and played a part in Manchester City’s rise as a club, brand… and region.” However, Manchester’s sudden growth has left people without access to the benefits of rapid development, often times forcing them onto the streets. In addition to 15% of Kompany’s salary going towards the Homelessness Fund, “King Kompany” has teamed up with Burnham FC to create ‘Tackle4MCR’ – a further pledge by the icon to end homelessness by 2020 and ensure every rough sleeper a bed for the upcoming winter. Again, the good-hearted Belgian will pledge a donation toward a city where he has found a home and is trying to provide the same for those who are less fortunate.
  4. NBA and NFL players donate their kicks for children in need.  According to Sole Collector, streetwear marketplace Grailed is collaborating with nonprofit organization The Kickback to sell sneakers provided by professional football and basketball players. Athletes who will participate in the effort include Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors, Emmanuel Mudiay of the New York Knicks, Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams, wide receiver Jaelen Strong, and former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. Although no shoe list has been released, it is expected that there will be everything from pairs of signed on-field collectibles to extensive personal collections. To date, it has been confirmed that Gurley’s “Chicago” Air Jordan 1s and autographed Nike Alpha Menace Elite cleats, and Strong’s “Triple Black” Adidas Yeezy Boost 750s will be part of the donation. The items became available to the public on grailed.com retroactive to September 19 with all proceeds from purchases used to help buy other shoes for children in need in each athlete’s respective city alongside their charity of choice.
  5. Philadelphia Eagles Chris Long keeps on giving back – this time for children’s literacy. After donating his entire $1 million salary from 2017 toward educational initiatives, the Eagles’ defensive end announced that he’s now donating an additional quarter of his post-tax 2018 salary – about $625,000. According to NBC Sports, Long is partnering with the United Way and Philadelphia’s “Read by Fourth” to ensure that every child in the city is reading at their grade level when entering fourth grade. Long is calling his portion of the charity “First Quarter for Literacy” which tackles Philadelphia’s lack of adequate elementary reading ability – almost  two-thirds of children in the city entering fourth grade were unable to read at grade level. Chris and his wife, Megan, also have a goal of donating 75,000 books for children to have personal libraries at home. In addition, three Chris Long Book Nooks will be funded for neighborhood based give-and-go reading spots. The Long’s relentless dedication to philanthropy is spilling over to other players in the NFL as the couple are matching donations from fellow NFL players, up to $25,000, to help literacy in other communities around the country.