Moag and Company Sports Notes (21 Feb 2020)

Date: Feb 2020

Trivia

Who was the NBA’s first rookie of the year?

Last Week’s Answer: Phil Paine, who made his major league debut with the Boston Braves in 1951, pitched 9 games with the Nishitetsu Lions in Nippon Professional Baseball in 1953. He came back to the states to play with the Milwaukee Braves (1954-1957) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1958). 

Football:

There is "mounting optimism" that a new NFL CBA could be completed sometime in the next week, and it is "expected to change the NFL's playoff structure as it is currently constituted for next season," according to sources cited by ESPN.com. Sources said that under the current CBA proposal, the playoff field "would be expanded to seven teams from each conference, while the regular season would be increased to 17 games per team and the preseason shortened to three games per team." Sources added that only one team from each conference "would receive a first-round bye." The changes to the NFL's playoff format "would take effect" for the '20 season, "assuming the new CBA is ratified beforehand." Meanwhile, the proposed 17-game regular season "would not take effect" until '21 at the earliest. As part of the deal now on the table, players "would go from a 47% revenue share under the current deal to 48% share at 16 games, and then to a 48.5% share if they go to 17 games," shifting $5B of revenue to the players' side. One of the concessions players have been "seeking since CBA talks began last year is an increase in the minimum salary, which applies to a significant chunk of the league's population." Sources said that under this proposal, NFL minimum salaries "would rise by roughly 25%." Sources also said that the players who are opposed to a 17-game season have "pushed back and asked" the NFLPA to "demand further concessions from owners".

Baseball:

Billionaire Steve Cohen has "not given up on buying the New York Mets," and he could want the team's "majority stake in cable network SNY to justify a new bid anywhere near" the Wilpons' $3B valuation, according to the N.Y. Post. What still "remains unclear is whether the Wilpons have any interest in selling SNY or dealing with Cohen a second time." The Wilpons own 65% of the net, and sources said that it is valued between $850M-$1B, with gross earnings near $150M annually. Considering the Mets are "thought to lose" $50M in an average year, SNY "would be hugely useful in any sale of the organization." The Wilpons are "moving forward with the plan to sell the Mets in an auction," but attempting to "determine how far along they are in that process results in a murky picture." One source said, "They clearly don't want to sell to Steve Cohen." Sources said that Cohen is "equally not thrilled by the idea of negotiating with the Wilpons again." They added that Cohen's next offer "might not be much higher" than the $2.6B he offered "without SNY and with the five-year window in place." The sources said that Cohen is "increasingly certain no bid will come close, even with SNY in the mix".

The Kansas City Royals have a "'handshake deal' for a new television contract" with FS K.C. that "could be in the 10-to-15-year range," according to MLB.com. It is thought that the new deal, which was first reported as being in the works back in August, was worth around $48-52M annually, though that figure has not been confirmed. The '19 season was the final year of the previous agreement between the Royals and the RSN; that deal "was backloaded and brought the Royals about $25 million last season, though its annual average was closer to $20 million." Talks between the team and FS K.C. "have been slowed by outside factors," including Sinclair's deal to buy the former Fox RSNs. The new rights deal "won't necessarily be a financial game-changer" for the Royals, as the team would "still have one of the lowest TV revenue deals in baseball." However, it would be "on par with Kansas City's market size".

Tampa Bay Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg said that the team remains "fully committed to their radical plan to split future seasons with Montreal" starting in '28, according to the Tampa Bay Times. One way the Rays could "reconsider staying in Tampa Bay full time" would be a "massive increase in attendance" this season. Sternberg said, "If things blow through this year and we sell a ton more tickets -- a ton -- and get up heading toward league average and we open up the (upper) decks and sponsors come on and we do that again next year, I’d be silly not to consider it." The Rays would need to "nearly double their attendance from last season -- an average of 14,734 that ranked 29th in the 30-team league, and 1,178,735 overall -- to get to the league average of 28,198 per game, that would seem rather unlikely." Meanwhile, Sternberg said that the team "would contribute to the cost" of the new Tampa Bay ballpark, although he "wouldn’t say how much." He said that the team is "talking only to Tampa as of now," given that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has said that he "isn’t interested," though acknowledged that could change. Sternberg also reiterated that the "reason to pursue the Montreal plan is to keep a team in the Tampa Bay area on at least a part-time basis rather than abandon the market and relocate elsewhere".

Basketball:

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that the league will likely lose "hundreds of millions of dollars" over the rift with the Chinese government that has affected sponsorships and TV revenue, but added that he "believed there would 'be a return to normalcy fairly soon,'" according to the N.Y. Times. Silver in his annual State of the League address labeled the financial harm to the league as "substantial." Silver, on the amount of losses, said, "Probably less than $400 million, maybe even less than that." He added that the NBA's overall financial health was "sound, even though its games are not on the air in a country with hundreds of millions of fans." Silver said that he "believed CCTV would resume airing games 'at some point in the future.'" Meanwhile, in the months since the fallout there has been a "sign of a slight warming in relations between China and the league." Silver said that the league was "discussing playing more preseason games in China next fall," and that USA Basketball "could play an exhibition game there" before the Tokyo Games, but that nothing was firm. The uncertainty on those possible games "go beyond the Chinese government's backlash" over Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey's tweet and the NBA "publicly supporting his freedom of speech." It also partly "stems from the coronavirus outbreak". Silver also said the TV ratings in China are "about where they were last season".

Soccer:

MLS expansion club Inter Miami CF’s kit sponsorships still are being negotiated, as “nothing has been finalized,” and because of its “global reach, the club is working on jersey sponsors related to tourism companies such as airlines, cruise lines and hotel chains,” according to a source cited by the Miami Herald. A leaked photo of a stack of Inter Miami kits with "'Qatar Airways' emblazoned across the front went viral”, “sparking rumors that the club had signed a sponsorship deal with the airline.” U.K.-based tabloid The Sun reported that a $234M deal “was done.” The country of Qatar at one point “wanted to invest in the Inter Miami ownership group, but those plans never materialized.” Inter Miami co-Owner David Beckham has a “long relationship with Qatar,” dating to ‘13, when he played for Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain, which is owned by Qatar Sports Investments. The Qataris of late have “gotten increasingly involved in sports sponsorships around the world”. The deal was "signed two weeks ago," following "weeks of secret talks with the controversial Arab state." A source said, "Qatar is keen to drive investments overseas to improve and soften its image. Miami and the Beckham brand fits perfectly with this”.

Other:

AT&T’s auction to sell its four RSNs in Seattle, Denver, Pittsburgh and Houston "appears to be faltering," as bids it received for the channels came in around $500M, "significantly short" of expectations in the $1B range, according to the N.Y. Post. The "key stumbling block: AT&T admitted to bidders that over the next 12 months it expects its regional sports networks, or RSNs, will suffer a drastic plunge in EBITDA." Sources said that the "lead bidder" is currently Sinclair Broadcast Group. But the sources added that "since receiving the underwhelming bids late last year, AT&T has not moved on an offer -- raising concerns that it might cancel altogether".

Sources: SportsBusiness Daily; ESPN; NFL Network; N.Y. Post; MLB.com; Tampa Bay Times; N.Y. Times; Miami Herald

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