Moag & Company Sports Notes (03 Feb 2023)

Date: Feb 2023


What team won the very first NBA game in 1946? 

Last Week’s Answer: The Jim Thorpe Award, named in memory of multi-sport legend Jim Thorpe, has been awarded to the top defensive back in college football since 1986. It is voted on by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, an organization based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


NFL exec Jeff Miller said that he "wasn’t aware of any conversations about converting conference title games into neutral site affairs," according to Yahoo Sports. Miller, the league's EVP/Communications, Public Affairs & Policy, said, “We haven’t had a conversation, that at least I’m aware of, about neutral site games." He added, “If the ownership wanted to pursue that, I think that they would. ... It’s not a new notion, as I understand it having come up many years ago." That was not "exactly a slammed door on the idea." He added it "shouldn’t come as a surprise given the NFL will always have potential revenue streams on the back burner." But it is "also a stretch to take one email and manifest it into a fundamental push by the league office to change a cornerstone playoff staple." This is "taking a fundamental award for NFL teams and their fan bases and essentially freezing them out of a competitive advantage that was gained through months of work." That is "fiddling with the fabric of the NFL playoffs." One high-ranking team exec panned the media discussion regarding neutral site conference games, calling it a “gross overreaction of speculation".


The "operating assumption" of some with knowledge of the Washington Nationals' sale process is that the Lerner family "will run the team for the entirety of the 2023 season,” according to the Washington Post. That “could change,” but the "assumption, for now, is status quo." While that "isn't a disastrous statement on its own," there is still the "limbo that hangs over the entire operation." Closure was "once expected ... by the holidays," but it is "now a month into 2023, and closure seems more distant than ever." When the Lerners took over in 2006, there was a "carefully articulated plan to build from scratch with scouting and player development, and the spending would follow." The Nationals now are again doing that "not-spending-until-ready part." But it is a question how anyone can "emotionally invest in a future that’s so uncertain." There have "always been three potential outcomes: The Lerners sell the entire team; they sell a minority stake; or they do nothing." MASN is one thing that "has to change for ownership to change." The "shadow that has shrouded the Nationals since they came into existence is at worst preventing and at least delaying their sale." A N.Y. court "will take up the Orioles’ appeal of a decision that granted the Nationals about" $100M in revenue for the 2012 to 2016 seasons. If the court upholds the verdict in favor of the Nationals, there could be a "pathway forward for determining what the Nats are owed from 2017 to 2021." That "might be helpful in determining what a new owner (or partner) might expect in revenue for future seasons".


The sale of the Ottawa Senators "could be about to enter its final, pivotal stages," according to the Ottawa Sun. Groups will be “making a bid sometime before mid-February and those bids will separate the pretenders from the contenders in the process to sell the Senators.” The bids will be gathered and then the process "will be turned over to the NHL’s head office to complete the purchase." The "belief is if all goes as planned," it could be known "as early as March 1 which group has emerged as the frontrunner to purchase the franchise and has signed an agreement in principle.


 The new MLS deal with Apple, which has the tech company airing live games on its platform, is a "model that is turning heads," according to the Salt Lake Tribune. NBA, MLB, and NHL execs are "all watching to see how MLS’ deal with Apple TV goes, especially given the news of the impending bankruptcy of Bally Sports." If Apple is able to "turn a profit despite" their $2.5B investment, interest will "rise in creating a similar product for the more popular American sports". The MLS-Apple partnership "could be where sports are headed." There are "still long-term national network and cable broadcasts deals being made" for the four major sports leagues in North America, but their leaders have "all mused about the possibility of one day selling their product directly to consumers, without the networks in the middle." If the "only way to view NFL or NHL games was through a streaming equivalent of Sunday Ticket or Centre Ice, how many fans would do it?" The other question for the Apple/MLS partnership is whether the tech company can "do what traditional broadcasters have not -- give the league a significant boost in a crowded sports landscape." There will "also be studio shows, highlight shows," and the MLS landing page on the Apple TV service "already includes a boatload of content, from recaps and highlight packages to documentaries and full games." Team-specific pages have "also been created with features on players and special franchise moments." It is the kind of "content splash" that "usually comes with the birth of a league, not one that has been around for 30 years".


Sponsorship revenue for WrestleMania 39 in L.A.’s SoFi Stadium “currently stands at between” $14M-$15M, which will “be a new record for the event,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.  WWE SVP & Head of Global Sales & Partnerships Craig Stimmel said that the company’s sponsorship revenue for this year's event is “already 43 percent higher than it was for the entirety of WrestleMania 38.” It is a “substantial boost” for the company’s bottom line as it “begins a critical period, not only with WrestleMania coming up, but with the company exploring strategic alternatives (including a possible sale) ahead of new media rights negotiations.” A “critical piece” of the sponsorship puzzle for the WWE in recent years has been “brand integrations.” At Royal Rumble, there was a “ Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match” which “took place in (near) darkness.” Stimmel suggested that there will be “surprises” at “WrestleMania as well, specifically calling out a new sponsor, Cinnamon Toast Crunch".

Sources: SportsBusiness Daily;; Washington Post; USA Today; ProFootballTalk; The Athletic; L.A.Times;; Ottawa Sun; Salt Lake Tribune; Hollywood Reporter

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