Moag and Company Sports Notes (31 Jan 2020)

Date: Feb 2020

Trivia

What was the first AFL (American Football League) or AFC (American Football Conference) team to win the Super Bowl?

Last Week’s Answer: The Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets are the two teams tied for the second-longest Super Bowl drought (51 seasons).

Football:

The NFL is "booming once again, further cementing its position as the king of U.S. sports," as the league's TV viewership "surged during the most recent season for the second straight year," according to Bloomberg News. The league's viewership climbed even as TV watching "declined overall," with a "remarkable 41 of the 50 most-watched programs on TV last year" being NFL games. The increase "comes at a propitious time" for the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, as the rights to broadcast the "media world's most coveted asset is now up for grabs for the first time in a decade." Goodell has "begun renegotiating television deals" with CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN that "expire in the next two years." With digital companies like Apple and Google likely to be involved for the first time, experts said that the NFL "could pull in as much as 35% more than the roughly" $6.5B it now gets annually. There also is a "possible labor battle" on hand, as the current NFL CBA expires after the '21 season. The prospect of "new, richer TV deals have already factored into talks, and may help facilitate a new deal." Analysts said that they "can't imagine Fox, CBS or other networks doing anything to jeopardize their rights at a time when record users are leaving live television for the fractured world of digital streaming".

The NFL "no longer seems to be pushing for a new stadium" for the Buffalo Bills, as Commissioner Roger Goodell said that a significant renovation of New Era Field would satisfy the league's desires, according to the Buffalo News. Bills co-Owners Terry and Kim Pegula said that a market research study they had commissioned last year has "been completed." The intent of the survey was to "examine 'potential stadium sites, designs, and financial planning for all options.'" Kim Pegula said that more than 30,000 people "were surveyed," but the findings were "never meant to be made public." Goodell last June "voiced strong support for the need for a new home" for the Bills, and that was "consistent with what he and league owners had been saying in recent years." The team's 10-year lease for New Era Field with N.Y. and Erie County is "due to expire" in '23. Goodell "didn't offer a specific timetable on when any decision of the direction the team and public entities would go with a stadium would be finalized." But he did make it clear that he was "expecting a solution in the not-too-distant future".

Baseball:

MLB has "issued a pointed and heated letter in response" to a MiLB message that "cast doubt over whether the two sides could ever reach an agreement on the future of their relationship," according to the N.Y. Times. MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote that MiLB President Pat O'Conner and the league as a whole were "doing significant damage" to their relationship with the 30 MLB clubs by "attacking MLB publicly and in the political realm." Halem added MLB clubs were "united in our negotiating position and misinformation tactics you have employed have only made the 30 clubs more resolute." With another bargaining session scheduled for Feb. 20, each side is "accusing the other of spreading falsehoods and misinformation, as the tenor of the discourse becomes increasingly acrimonious." The letter "underscored MLB officials' belief that MiLB, instead of negotiating in good faith, had instead sought to build outside pressure to prevent any changes to the existing agreement." If a new deal is "not reached by September, MLB could choose to continue operating under the current" Professional Baseball Agreement, or it "could leave it to individual MLB teams to act as they see fit." Meanwhile, a source said that MLB has "all but abandoned the Dream League concept." The league, instead, is "floating a different league," one "consisting of players preparing for the MLB Draft, which is likely to be cut from 40 rounds to 20".

Hockey:

The Winnipeg Jets said that it will be "lowering the price of concessions items such as beer and popcorn by an average" of 30% at Bell MTS Place, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. True North Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates Bell MTS Place as well as the Jets, will "immediately roll out" the lower pricing. True North in '20-21 also will "introduce the lowest annual price increase on tickets in six seasons," as the organization is "pledging to increase the average price of Jets tickets" by 2.1%. Meanwhile, True North has more than $9M in "renovations and venue improvements scheduled for this summer, including on-ice projection, concourse enhancements, and an extensive renovation of the arena's Exchange restaurant." Since the Jets' return to Winnipeg in '11, True North has spent more than $55M on the arena. True North Senior VP/Venues & Entertainment Kevin Donnelly said that the organization "looked at the highest-selling items in deciding which items to discount." True North also "gained fan feedback through a series of surveys and interacting with fans on the concourses." Donnelly said that those surveys "made them increasingly aware of a growing sentiment related to ticket prices, the cost of food and beverages, mobile ticketing, and elevated security measures, as well as the team's performance".

The Las Vegas Golden Knights have "expressed an interest in purchasing a franchise in the AHL and ultimately moving it to Las Vegas," according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. AHL President & CEO David Andrews indicated that the Golden Knights "have discussesd buying a team with other owners, but no plan was in place." The team currently is affiliated with the Chicago Wolves and has a five-year agreement through '21-22. The Wolves are independently owned by Don Levin and Buddy Meyers and are "one of the league's most successful and stable franchises." AHL teams are "increasingly seeking to exhibit more control over their minor league club and provide players with access to the same training facilities as the parent club." The San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets in recent years have "relocated their minor league teams to the same city" they play in. Chicago is around 1,750 miles from Las Vegas, making it the second-longest distance between AHL and NHL affiliates; Utica is nearly 3,000 miles from Vancouver and the Canucks. Meanwhile, there "doesn't appear to be a 'for sale' sign hanging on any doors at the moment" of any AHL clubs.

Other:

Penn National Gaming agreed to "buy a stake" in Barstool Sports for $163M in a deal that "positions the casino operator to compete in the growing U.S. sports-betting market," according to the Wall Street Journal. Penn National "plans to take a 36% stake" in Barstool, gaining "exclusive rights to use the Barstool brand in its sports-betting products." Penn National will pay $135M in cash and $28M of its stock in a deal that values Barstool at $450M. In three years, Penn National "will increase its stake to around 50% for a payment" of $62M. Sources said that options would then kick in to "increase the casino company's stake to control or full ownership, based on fair market value at the time." Penn National is "aiming to convert" some of Barstool's audience of roughly 66 million into "customers of its casinos and an online sports-betting app it is developing." Sources said that the company would do so "through marketing on Barstool Sports outlets and live events in Penn National casinos." The Chernin Group, which has held a majority stake in Barstool since '16, is to "keep 36% ownership." Key Barstool employees, including Founder Dave Portnoy and CEO Erika Nardini, would "keep a collective 28%”.

Sources: SportsBusiness Daily; ESPN; NFL Network; Bloomberg News; Buffalo News; N.Y. Times; Winnipeg Free Press; Las Vegas Review-Journal; Wall Street Journal

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