Moag & Company Sports Notes (10 Mar 2023)

Date: Mar 2023


In what city was baseball legend Babe Ruth born? 

Last Week’s Answer: The Utah Jazz were founded in 1974 as the New Orleans Jazz, an expansion team based in New Orleans, Louisiana; the Jazz moved to Salt Lake City in 1979.


Official NCAA data shows that average FBS attendance "increased 5% last season to 41,840 fans per game," according to While that "sounds like a modest increase," it is "significant as it indicates the second-highest per game rise (1,992) in history." There has not been a larger increase since 1982. The SEC went from, in 2021, "its lowest average attendance since 1999 to the fifth-largest figure in conference's history last season." The SEC led the country in attendance "for the 24th consecutive year." Perhaps game day is "becoming more 'experiential,'" or perhaps 2022 "was the beginning of a new era in consuming college football." While cable subscribers "are down in general, watching the real thing in person isn't so bad after all." It is "all adding up to a better experience." Even the highest-resourced athletic department marketing division "can't count on winning to sell tickets." But they "can make the football encounter unique." In 2022, primary ticket sales "were up 14% year over year." Ticket transfers "were up 64%".


Bally Sports parent company Diamond Sports Group is “expected to file for bankruptcy protection by Friday, March 17, which affects its 19 regional sports networks,” according to the Sports Business Journal. Most observers “expect the filing to happen as soon as March 16.” Though most do not “expect big changes when Diamond files for bankruptcy.” Any bankruptcy filing “marks the start of the process.” By all accounts, the Bally Sports-branded channels will “continue producing and carrying games.” Diamond execs have also “told most of the teams and leagues that it will continue paying its rights fees, even while in bankruptcy.” Sources have said that Diamond “already is late on one rights payment” to the Arizona D-Backs. Diamond carries D-Backs games on Bally Sports Arizona as “part of a deal that largely is considered extremely favorable to the team and runs through 2035.” Diamond has “a grace period where it can make the payment without penalty, but that grace period ends at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 16.” If Diamond “fails to make its payment by then, expect MLB to try to get the team’s linear television and digital rights back.” Sources also “point to three other MLB clubs that have rights deals that are considered extremely favorable to the teams and could face the same situation” as the D-Backs. One is the San Diego Padres, which has deal with Bally Sports San Diego that “pays the team an average of” $60M “annually through 2032.” Sources said that the Cleveland Guardians’ and Cincinnati Reds’ deals with Bally Sports Ohio also “greatly favor the teams.” NBA execs have been “working with Diamond to figure out a plan to move forward.” The NBA “wants to make sure that its teams continue to receive their local rights fees payments for, at least, the next two years” when the league goes to market with its national rights. The NHL also is “working with Diamond to reach a solution.” At the end of 2021, the NHL was the “first league to cut a digital rights deal with Diamond” and sources said that the “league is looking to accommodate the company”.


Los Angeles Lakers F LeBron James is "increasing his equity" in Fenway Sports Group, according to the Liverpool Echo. James will strengthen his involvement as "part of a lifetime marketing deal" which was recently signed. The relationship between James and Liverpool "goes back some 11 years with Fenway Sports Management, part of the FSG empire, initially wanting LeBron to become a client of theirs back in 2011." FSG "agreed to James's request of being handed a stake of two per cent in Liverpool as part of that early deal." Then came a "bigger move in March 2021 as that stake of two per cent in the Reds was accreted into one per cent of FSG's overall operations."


Nine different groups submitted bids to buy the Ottawa Senators prior to this week’s deadline, with some valuing the NHL team north of $900 million, according to someone familiar with the process. The bidders will likely be narrowed in the coming days, with site visits scheduled later this month, said the person, who was granted anonymity because the details are private. The prospective owners include Montreal Canadiens investor Michael Andlauer, and a consortium that includes actor Ryan Reynolds and Toronto-based real estate developer The Remington Group.  Should the team sell for more than $900 million, it would be a record transaction for an NHL team. Fenway Sports Group purchased the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2021 for $900 million. Sportico values the Senators at $655 million, good for 27th in the 32-team league. It’s been more than a decade since the last Canadian hockey team was sold (Winnipeg in 2011)—and the Senators offer a large real estate opportunity, often a critical factor for new sports investors. The team currently plays at the Canadian Tire Centre, an arena about 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the capital city’s downtown center. Many believe the location has limited the team’s attendance; the team is averaging 16,371 through 33 home games this season, which ranks 26th in the league. In June, the Senators signed a memorandum of understanding for a new downtown arena at the LeBreton Flats site. There are still many steps between the MOU and an arena opening, but securing that agreement in connection with the sale would likely impact the franchise’s sale price. The Senators are being sold by the family of late owner Eugene Melnyk, who died last March. The franchise is currently run by a three-person board. In addition to Fenway’s purchase of the Penguins, former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam’s purchase of the Nashville Predators includes four payments with built-in enterprise values. The Predators will be valued at roughly $900 million for the fourth and final payment in 2025.


The WTA confirmed today the “sale of a 20% stake” to CVC Capital Partners in a deal that “values the organization" at $750M, according to Sky Sports. The “strategic” partnership, which has been “under discussion for close to two years, will involve the establishment of a new company overseeing broadcasting and marketing operations.” CVC’s investment will “aim to accelerate the commercial opportunities.” Sources said that WTA CEO Steve Simon would “become chairman of the new commercial entity, provisionally named WTA Ventures,” with a CEO appointed “in the coming months.” The transaction has been “approved by the WTA's various councils, as well as its board.” CVC will also “invest in marketing the sport's top players more effectively, as well as new digital platforms.” The deal “represents one of the most significant investments in elite women's sport to date”. Simon said that he “hoped the new CVC partnership would lead to a near-term increase in prize money at tour events.” He added that CVC’s investment will “allow the tour to invest more in marketing the women’s game and in producing or commissioning media programming that will raise the profiles of players and tournaments.” Simon said that “most of the WTA’s current rights deals would expire in 2026.” Simon “declined to disclose a timetable for when the tour would receive” CVC’s $150M investment. Simon said it is “certainly not something that is a drip effect.” He added the company has “significant funding coming in that’s going to allow us to invest over the next several years at levels we’ve never been able to before.” He “emphasized repeatedly” that the WTA “still had autonomy despite the CVC deal.” Simon: “The way we set all this up, WTA Tour Inc. is not touched. The WTA still controls 100 percent all of the governance, regulatory and calendar issues.” But Simon acknowledged that tour and CVC officials would “communicate to ensure that WTA decisions did not hurt commercial opportunities”.

Sources: SportsBusiness Daily;; USA Today; The Athletic;; Wall Street Journal;; Liverpool Echo; Sky Sports

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