Tonight in Unpacks: The NWSL has its eye on further expansion and is poised to end the season on a resounding high note in D.C. on Saturday night after a 2022 full of controversy and upheaval.
- Ally Financial’s Brimmer on NWSL’s prime time championship
- Expanded MLB postseason culminates with Phillies-Astros
- Barstool’s “College Football Show” visiting two game sites on Saturday
- Activision Blizzard leverages NFL to promote Call of Duty release
- Wild ownership’s sustainability efforts paying dividends
- ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith unloads on dearth of big boxing fights
In today’s Morning Buzzcast, Abe Madkour covers MLB’s postseason bullishness; NWSL taking a prime time slot for its title game; and LIV Golf getting set to conclude its inaugural season.
Formal applications for the right to acquire an NWSL expansion team are due next Friday, and Commissioner Jessica Berman said she expects 5-10 potential ownership groups to apply, reports SBJ’s Alex Silverman.
Speaking at the site of tomorrow’s Portland Thorns–Kansas City Current NWSL title game in D.C., Berman said she expects recent transactions to drive team valuations in the expansion process. These include the sale of the Washington Spirit for $35 million, along with minority investments in Gotham FC and Angel City FC at valuations of $40 million and more than $100 million, respectively.
The league, which plans to add two teams for the 2024 season, began its expansion process in July by retaining Inner Circle Sports to manage the process. Sources say one of the two teams is earmarked for the owners of Real Salt Lake, who have an option to acquire an expansion team at a predetermined price. Berman said the league has received interest from 82 groups throughout the entirety of the process.
Looking back on the 2022 season, Berman said sponsorship revenue increased nearly 90% year over year. She conducted her press conference in front of a backdrop featuring an array of blue-chip sponsors, including Ally Financial, Verizon, Nike, Delta, MasterCard, Budweiser, Nationwide, Deloitte, UKG and Carmax. Berman praised the league’s sponsors for sticking by the league amid the fallout from the Yates Report and ahead of the findings of the forthcoming joint investigation between the league and its players’ union, saying sponsors “understand the challenges ahead and are prepared to stay with us and do hard things and set examples for other industries.”
Tomorrow night’s championship match will air in prime time for the first time on CBS, thanks in part to the support of Ally Financial, which increased its media investment to facilitate the move from noon ET. Berman said CBS, whose media rights expire following the 2023 season, has an exclusive negotiation for a renewal that begins after Saturday’s match.
At this week’s SBJ Game Changers conference, Ally Financial CMO Andrea Brimmer talked about the NWSL championship being on network TV in prime time, as well as the importance of “trying to move women’s sports to bigger stages.” Brimmer spoke with SBJ correspondent Paxton Elrod.
The Phillies-Astros World Series gets underway tonight on Fox, and MLB‘s expanded postseason to date has “been an overwhelming success,” said league Chief Revenue Officer Noah Garden, as quoted by Erik Bacharach in next week’s issue of SBJ.
When the league announced a playoff expansion from 10 clubs to 12 as part of its new five-year collective-bargaining agreement last spring, the primary motive was to keep more markets engaged longer. Games league-wide drew 1,644,658 fans the last weekend of the regular season, marking the best-attended weekend overall since August 2015.
What few might have anticipated was the benefit of keeping one market engaged as long as possible. The Phillies, who won 87 games this season, would have been two wins short of a postseason berth under the previous format. Instead, they became the first third-place team ever to reach the World Series, sparking a resurgence of romance for the team in Philadelphia that is expected to pay dividends for years to come, and lays a template for future teams to do the same. That success is reflected in merchandise and ticket sales for the team, while MLB is seeing the larger playoff field pay off in terms of attendance, viewership and revenue.
Check out more Fall Classic business angles:
Barstool Sports’ “College Football Show” is pulling double duty tomorrow, broadcasting live pre-game shows from two different Big Ten campuses in the same day, writes SBJ’s David Rumsey.
Like ESPN’s “College GameDay” and Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff,” Barstool’s livestream program visits a different school each Saturday. But tomorrow, the CFB team will host one show at 10am ET in State College ahead of Ohio State–Penn State at noon and then another at 5:30pm in Ann Arbor ahead of Michigan State–Michigan at 7:30.
The plan has been in the works since the summer, “College Football Show” co-host Kayce Smith told SBJ, but was dependent on getting two kickoffs far enough apart. “It worked out nicely where we get two different game times,” she said. “Everything came together in a perfect storm.” Normally, the show’s hosts charter a flight in and out of that Saturday’s location in the same day. But this weekend, Smith and fellow co-hosts Dave Portnoy, Dan Katz and Brandon Walker are flying to State College tonight.
Tomorrow, they’ll fly to Ann Arbor immediately following the first show, in addition to chartering a second plane for the show’s production and tech crew. “I’ve been making the joke all week that this is our first Saturday that we have a fleet of private planes,” Smith quipped.
Smith expects to see more of this strategy at Barstool moving forward. “Things are changing so much with how the internet is being distributed and people want things on demand at all times,” she said. While the logistics aren’t the simplest, Smith is confident being in two places in one day will happen again. “If we can pull it off and if other people can pull it off, I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to expand that footprint.”
Activision Blizzard launched the newest iteration of its flagship franchise, Call of Duty, when went it live with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II on Friday. Activision Blizzard made sure to get the word out about the newest edition of one of the most popular video game franchises in history (over 425 million copies sold), note SBJ’s Kevin Hitt and David Broughton.
Activision spent $17.8 million promoting the release of Modern Warfare II on national linear sports telecasts, according to an SBJ analysis of iSpot.tv data, with 96% of that running during NFL programming. Fox has been the beneficiary of 40% of the airings. The ad was produced by 72andSunny. The game publisher also used sports programming to push the October 2019 release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, when NFL programming made up 80% of the $3.4 million ad spend, while 10% was earmarked for college football programming.
Activision Blizzard needs a huge win with the franchise as it looks to navigate the challenges associated with its acquisition by Microsoft, which likely will be completed in Q1 or Q2 of 2023. There have been numerous court challenges associated with the franchise by Sony, as Call of Duty is mostly looked at as a PlayStation title. Microsoft is the developer of PlayStation’s direct gaming console competitor, Xbox. Call of Duty is a huge money-maker for Japan-based Sony, which does not want the title to become Xbox only.
Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Wild and operators of Xcel Energy Center, has reduced its electric use by 37% over the past decade, according to the organization’s annual sustainability report expected to be released this week, reports SBJ’s David Broughton. MSE also runs the Saint Paul RiverCentre convention venue.
Over the course of the 2021-22 NHL season, MSE’s offset of 1,300 tons of CO2 — done through a sustainable forestry partnership with paper mill UPM Blandin — was equal to the Wild’s entire season of team air travel. Additionally, MSE purchased 2.1 million kWh of windsource renewable energy and 5.3 million kWh solar power generated through a nearby Solar Garden collaboration.
“We have also renewed our focus on sharing information and best practices with other leaders in the industry through the United Nations Sports for Climate Action coalition, the NHL’s sustainability metrics program, and the City of Saint Paul’s energy benchmarking platform,” said Jim Ibister, MSE VP/Facility Administration.
Ibister designed the sustainability model that helped the venues in 2014 become the world’s first facility to achieve LEED, Green Globes and American Society for Testing and Materials certification simultaneously, and then led the site’s platinum level award in 2019. SBJ recently named him as one of the top executives who are leading planet-conscious actions across sports franchises.
Amid a barren stretch for major fights in men’s boxing in the second half of 2022, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith criticized the state of the sport Friday morning on “First Take,” notes SBJ’s Adam Stern.
Multiple major fights that were reportedly in the works for this year have been delayed repeatedly because of an inability to strike a deal amid the sport’s highly decentralized structure. Terence Crawford has been in talks to fight Errol Spence in what is seen as likely the biggest fight to set up currently in U.S. boxing, but the sides have reportedly been unable to come to final terms and it’s been delayed until at least early next year.
Similarly, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis have not been able to strike a deal, and Garcia tweeted his frustration last night with the situation, which led Smith’s rant: “This is the damn problem with boxing. … Why the hell are we not getting these fights? Because promoters are holding the sport hostage and depriving the public of the fights we desperately want to see.”
Smith went on to praise Jake Paul for helping generate buzz for boxing at a time when some of the top-ranked professionals are having trouble doing so. There have been a handful of major women’s boxing fights recently as that side of the sport continues to grow.
In the latest edition of SBJ Football, Ben Fischer examines:
- NFL searching for new international chief
- Jets’ social media overhaul paid off when the winning started
- As American football expands in Europe, will customers change?
In this week’s SBJ Esports, Jason Wilson, Kevin Hitt, Hunter Cooke and Tobias Seck cover:
- U.S. time zones translating to lower streaming numbers for League of Legends Worlds
- NBA 2K23 enjoys strong September launch, but FIFA 23 looms
- ESL Faceit Group eyeing myriad Counter-Strike records in Rio
Sports Business Journal’s Reader Survey is back! This year’s questions take a broad look at the industry and the many changes that have occurred in recent years. Questions include:
- What was the sports business story of the year?
- Have you watched LIV Golf this year?
- Is NIL good or bad for college sports?
- How have your sports betting habits changed in the past year?
The survey will take no more than six or seven minutes to complete. Click here to cast your votes and look for the results in SBJ the week of Dec. 5.
- The Frozen Fenway field is set, reports the Boston Globe. The second matchup for the women’s college hockey doubleheader at Fenway Park will see Harvard play Quinnipiac on Friday, Jan. 6, at 3pm ET. That will be followed by the previously announced Boston Univ.–Holy Cross matchup at 6:30pm.
- Portia Archer, the first woman and the first African American to hold the newly created position of COO with the NBA G League, will be among those honored by the Riverside Hawks, a staple youth basketball program in the Harlem community since 1961, for her work with the organization, notes SBJ’s Eric Prisbell. The 2022 Riverside Hawks Gala celebration will take place Dec. 13 in N.Y.
- The NBA 2K League has suspended six players and a coach for violating the league’s rules on gambling and fantasy, and a source said that this concludes the only current investigation into breaches of the league’s betting policy, writes SBJ’s Hunter Cooke. The punishments affect four players and a coach from Blazer5 Gaming, plus a player each from Jazz Gaming and Mavs Gaming.
- In Politico, sports historian Fred Frommer looks back at the election cycle of 1960, when Jackie Robinson’s endorsement was so valuable that both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon personally courted him. Robinson’s choice “would torment him for years.”
- NRG Esports has added Minecraft-focused content creator Nicholas “Sapnap” Armstrong as a co-owner of the organization, reports SBJ’s Kevin Hitt. One of the most prominent Minecraft streamers on YouTube, Armstrong boasts over 20 million followers across all social platforms. Armstrong is repped by Night Media.
Are you or someone you know in the sports business industry running in the TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 6? If so, contact Xavier Hunter at email@example.com after the race with your time, a photo and a quick note about the experience to share with our readers.
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