15 to watch (Week of 7.25.16)
1. The NBA pulled the plug on Charlotte. The league announced plans to relocate its 2017 All-Star Game from the city “with the hope of rescheduling for 2019” due to the state’s controversial LGBT law, aka the Bathroom Bill. "While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league said in a statement. NBA game broadcaster Turner Sports backed the decision, stating, “At Turner, and our parent company Time Warner, diversity in all its forms is core to our value system and to the success of our company. Laws to the contrary go against our fundamental belief of equality and inclusion for all individuals. We fully support the NBA’s decision to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game and all of the weekend’s events.” Meanwhile, ACC Commissioner John Swofford told ESPN that the NBA's decision "won't have any bearing on the ACC championship game's future at Bank of America Stadium."
Driving up revenue
2. Following Henrik Stenson’s record-breaking performance at The Open Championship, the golf world quickly turns to Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield Township, New Jersey for the fourth and final major of the year, the 98th PGA Championship. The 2016 PGA Championship will generate approximately $100 million for New Jersey’s economy. Last year’s event at Whistling Straits had a similar impact. People from all 50 U.S. states and 28 countries have purchased tickets for this year’s event. Nearly 4,000 people will volunteer with representation from 37 U.S. states and countries. 61% of volunteers are from New Jersey, home of close to 300 golf facilities. The state’s golf industry generates approximately $2.9 billion of economic impact, $857.5 million of wage income, and supports 27,700 jobs. From a media perspective, 28 hours of live PGA Championship coverage will be broadcast by CBS and TNT to nearly 44 international distribution partners, reaching more than 600 million households in 185 countries.
Viva Las Vegas
3. T-Mobile Arena is currently showcasing the NBA’s summer league and Team USA. But soon the arena will be squarely focused on Las Vegas’ first ever major pro sports franchise. Unless the Raiders relocate to Vegas – and that’s a big if – the as-of-yet-unnamed hockey franchise will be the only major pro team in the city. The new franchise will play in the NHL’s Western Conference to help balance the league’s current 16-14 team East-West alignment. And that’s good news for the Stanley Cup finalist San Jose Sharks for two reasons. First, almost all expansion teams struggle out of the gate, so the Sharks are virtually assured of a couple of easy divisional wins. Second, since Vegas is a top tourist destination, not only are visiting Sharks fans likely to choose a road game over Cirque de Soleil, the team may benefit from casual hockey fans choosing live sports over the sports book. What happens in Vegas may well increase the fan base for San Jose.
4. Global media services leader Globecast has been picked by state-owned Greek national broadcaster ERT to deliver ERT World and five radio channels to the Greek “diaspora” across Europe, according to the company. ERT, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, will work with Globecast to deliver content via Globecast’s Paris headquarters and uplink it to HotBird capacity. “ERT was previously carried on HotBird satellite capacity but because of the country’s well-documented problems, it ceased to exist in 2013 and was replaced,” said Globecast Moscow General Director Biliana Pumpalovic. “In 2015 the Greek parliament approved the re-opening of ERT. We launched these new services over Europe…this year.” Pumpalovic continued, “It’s vital for these services to reach the Greek diaspora...The customer also specified reliable, fully-secured contribution from their premises to the teleport, which of course we are using our unrivalled global connectivity to provide.”
ACC Network is here
5. Following the footsteps of the other Power 5 conferences, the ACC is finally set to launch its own network. According to sources, ESPN will launch ACC Network Plus next month, with the 24-hour linear ACC Network coming in August. Modeled after the SEC’s digital network, “ACC Network Plus will be fully owned by ESPN and available to authenticated subscribers through WatchESPN and the ESPN app.” The two partners in this venture have agreed on a 20-year deal and rights extension through the 2035-2036 academic year; the ACC also "extended its conference grant of rights deal nine years" over the same span. Similar to the SEC Network, the ACC Network will likely be owned by ESPN; the network will split profits 50-50 with the conference. In the SEC Network’s first year, distribution deals “accounted for close to 95% of the revenue,” and a similar figure is expected for the nascent ACC Network.
Nothing but Nike
6. The United States Olympic basketball team has taken its official team photos, and only Nike swooshes are visible on players. Three non-Nike athletes, Klay Thompson, Kyle Lowry, and Harrison Barnes are all signed with other brands – Lowry and Barnes with Adidas and Thompson with the Chinese brand Anta – yet their shoes were strategically covered in the images. The Vertical noted that Jimmy Butler and DeAndre Jordan are "awkwardly crouched down, each strategically blocking the footwear of the non-Nike athletes." While this may not mark the first time Nike has gone as far to block out any non-Nike logos, the three non-Nike athletes do “represent the highest total since Nike partnered with USA Basketball.” So far, Nike has not blamed the incursion on its top brand ambassadors who declined to play in Rio: LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, and the now-retired Kobe Bryant.
Detroit takes Delta
7. Nearly three decades after becoming the “first pro sports franchise with a team-owned plane” back in 1987, the Detroit Pistons are ditching those wings to join the NBA’s charter agreement with Delta Airlines, according to the Detroit News. Delta will now service “27 of the league’s 30 teams.” The Dallas Mavericks will "be the only team that utilizes its own plane," while the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets "have agreements with other providers." The Piston’s private jet was known as Roundball One, and was upgraded multiple times over the past decades. The original BAC-11 got switched out for a DC-9, only to be replaced by a modified McDonnell Douglas MD-83. By switching carriers, the Pistons won’t save any money, but the Delta charters “will provide significantly more space and comfort on trips, with fully-reclining seats for players, increased legroom” and a flying range of about 1,500 more miles than Roundball One.
UA heading home
8. Under Armour is one step closer to having a new headquarters in its hometown. UA has “purchased the land” in Baltimore where it plans to build a new $70.3 million headquarters, according to the Baltimore Sun. That number is “more than twice” what company Founder, Chairman and CEO Kevin Plank’s private real estate firm paid back in 2014. The Port Covington waterfront site is about 50 acres, including about eight acres that are currently under water; the completed headquarters campus is expected to be about 3.9 million feet in total. The plan includes a man-made lake, several towers, a field house and a stadium. Plank’s firm, Sagamore Development, "did not respond directly to questions about how much they have invested in the site," which the state valued at about $60 million for tax purposes in 2015. Construction should begin in the fall.
Football goes tech?
9. The NFL is thinking about narrowing its goal posts, and computer chips inserted into each kicked ball used during the preseason will help determine if there will be a change. According to the Toronto Sun, the instrumented balls will "allow the league's competition committee to determine, among things, precisely how far inside the uprights all successful field goals (as well as extra points) have been kicked." If the league wants to collect more data, these same balls could be used during Thursday Night Football games this year, with the ultimate change coming as early as the 2017 season. But the chip-implanted balls may also have a greater reach than the league’s kicking game. NFL teams were recently "informed of plans to use a chip-equipped ball for all plays based in part on feedback from a number of veteran quarterbacks." This could help improve the “inexact science of ball placement.”
'The can with six rings'
10. Building off last season’s successful campaign, A-B InBev is set to expand its selection of team-branded Bud Light cans for the upcoming NFL season. Last year’s marketing campaign was massively successful, as A-B InBev Vice President, Consumer Connections Lucas Herscovici said that the brewer "saw volume increases" of 3.8% in markets where Bud Light was "sold in cans featuring local team logos," according to SportsBusiness Journal. Orders for Bud Light’s NFL cans are already up nearly 200% from last year, and the NFL cans “will be the centerpiece” of the company’s fall marketing campaign and packaging. Team-specific cans will be available for the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Miami Dolphins, among others. Unique taglines will be featured on the different cans. The Steelers version will say, “The Can With Six Rings,” while the Dolphins’ can reads, “The Only Undefeated Can.”
Minneapolis goes X
11. “Thanks to its brand-new stadium, downtown location and ability to provide an adjacent home to a sponsor village and music acts,” Minneapolis has been awarded the rights to host the next two Summer X Games at U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened its doors to the public this week. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the indoor arena will allow the competition to return to its intended mid-July period without competitors and fans overheating like they did in Austin, Texas; that window is also less crowded on the TV sports calendar. Minneapolis beat out Nassau County, New York; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; and Providence, Rhode Island, among others, ESPN noted. Minneapolis is also an attractive city for the X Games because of its demographic: “more than half the Minneapolis area’s population in under 34.” U.S. Bank Stadium is also set to host Super Bowl LII and the 2019 Final Four, adding the X Games to an already-impressive list of mega events coming to town.
12. Amid the team’s stellar season, the Chicago Cubs revealed plans for a $500 million renovation of Wrigley Field. The team plans on adding new premium club space in multiple places within the stadium, all set to open at different times. The first project will be the American Airlines 1914 Club, “situated behind home plate.” According to SportsBusiness Journal, the American Airlines 1914 Club “will have no views to the field, but members will have exclusive access to a 7,200-square-foot lounge underneath the seating bowl, high-end food and drink folded into the ticket price, and private restrooms, plus access to concert ticket presales, pregame batting practice passes and postgame photo passes.” The club is expected to open for the 2018 season, and the team is charging a $500 non-refundable fee to season ticket holders who want to put their names on the exclusive club’s priority list.
The chase continues
13. The Golden State Warriors “cleared a key hurdle” in their push to relocate from Oakland to San Francisco, when a judge “ruled against a group that had filed multiple lawsuits to kill the project,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Opponents of the planned $1 billion Chase Arena claimed that the Warriors failed to consider the environment, but the judge ended a 15-month standoff by ruling that the city’s environmental review “was adequate.” Warriors President and COO Rick Welts said, “We look forward to breaking ground soon." While the Warriors plan to build their new arena in Mission Bay, opponents said that basketball in Mission Bay “is at odds with the cluster of life science research and health care centers that has taken root in the neighborhood,” for the new 18,500-seat arena would “jam area streets with traffic, slowing down access to the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay.” Barring further legal challenges, construction may begin before the end of the year.
Now accepting candidates
14. In a unanimous decision, Big 12 university presidents formally announced the conference is looking to expand by “adding two or four teams,” according to CBSsports.com. Conference Board of Directors Chair and Oklahoma University President David Boren noted that the Big 12 will begin to “actively evaluate” schools that previously showed interest in joining the conference. Despite the conference’s decision to “add a championship game and pass on a television network,” this decision reverses the Big 12’s previous stance on expansion. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby could not provide a timeline for the expansion process. “We intend to be very active pretty soon,” Bowlsby said. “There likely will be a two-stage process of some sort that will involve some preliminary work and a secondary process that gets into a little more fact-finding and perhaps even a negotiation stage." Bowlsby also mentioned that the task of vetting potential candidates “could be done before the end of the season.”
Big TV deal for J.League
15. The J.League has signed “the largest broadcasting deal in Japanese sports history” with its 10-year, $2 billion broadcasting deal with British-based Perform Group, according to Kyodo. The league’s current contract with Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. is only worth $46 million annually, so this new deal comes as a massive spike for the Japanese soccer league. While the deal will not include terrestrial or satellite TV when it kicks in next year, this comes as “the first sizeable overseas investment in Japanese sports.” The league hopes to attract new fans by focusing on live internet game streaming, available on smartphones and mobile tablets instead of solely on TV. The new money from the deal will also be used to build soccer-specific stadiums for multiple clubs, a much-needed improvement for the budding league. J.League Chair Mitsuru Murai said, "We think this underlines our belief that the Japanese sporting industry is a viable content attractive to foreign investment."