Sports Business

Sports Business '15 to Watch': Digital explosion for NBA Finals

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Sports Business '15 to Watch': Digital explosion for NBA Finals

1. NBA Finals ends this week, but creates a lasting impression from the media perspective. Traditional television ratings up 33 percent from last year over the first four games of the series.  Most significantly, the Finals is expected to generate more than 134 million views on the NBA’s official YouTube channel.  This is compared to approximately 7.6 million views from the World Series, 3.8 million from the Stanley Cup Final, and 9.5 million from the two weeks surrounding the Super Bowl.The NBA also signed an apparel deal with Nike worth $1 billion over eight years beginning with the 2017-18 season. The rights fee is approximately a 245% increase over the NBA’s previous apparel deal with Adidas. Unlike during the NBA’s deal with adidas, Nike’s logo will appear on game jerseys. Average $1.1 billion franchise value will undoubtedly increase exponentially after the Finals, the media rights arrangements that kick in next year, the individual superstars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, etc., etc.  Kudos to Adam Silver.

2. NHL Stanley Cup Final concludes this week. Both the Blackhawks and the Lightning will receive over $2.25 million per team for distribution – the champion pocketing nearly $4 million. NHL franchise values are at least 18 percent higher than last year. As originally reported by Arizona Republic, but in an article found and accessed from the Sportsmanias app, the site that provides fans with real-time information on their favorite teams, the Glendale City Council voted to cancel its 15-year, $225 million arena lease agreement with the Arizona Coyotes.  The city expects to lose $8.7 million on the arena deal this year as a result of a shortfall in revenue sharing with the team. Industry stability requires resolution of problems in all markets – Commissioner Gary Bettman has been personally committed to keeping an NHL franchise in the Valley of the Sun. This is a significant test of legal, political and business community support.

3. Phoenix International Raceway will officially be renamed Jeff Gordon Raceway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500. The race is the semifinal race for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and will be Gordon’s last Sprint Cup Series race at the track as a full-time competitor. PIR President Bryan Sperber should be commended in creating a unique driver branding opportunity as a way to honor Jeff Gordon, boost the race profile, increase awareness four months before the actual event, provide resources to major charities, and the like.

[MORE SPORTS BIZ: Impact of Yahoo!, NFL streaming deal]

4. United States Golf Open heads to Chambers Bay, Washington for the first time.  Direct and indirect economic impact in the Northwest may exceed $70 million.  “Old guard” Tiger Woods is viewed from a different perspective – struggling to regain any part of his game.  Jordan Spieth comes off of his “defining” Masters victory, with major Lagardere Unlimited-related promotion and marketing efforts helping his corporate image.  Phil Mickelson (another Lagardere Unlimited client) is the top ranked golfer in the recent Forbes survey of the world’s highest paid athletes -- $50.8 million in total annual pay.  Notably, Tiger is next at 9 and Rory McIlroy next at 12.  “Television musical chairs” defines the golf industry – Fox beginning its 12-year, $100 million annual deal with the USGA.  NBC Sports (outbid for the U.S. Open) enters a deal with the British Open in 2017 – paying over $50 million a year for at least 10 years (doubling the amount that ESPN/ABC paid for the event). Big winner is the Golf Channel, televising the actual British Open event, validating their 78 million homes and their economic expansion.  U.S. Open should also generate significant television numbers, as much of the event is televised “primetime” back to the East Coast by Fox.

5. International sports dominate the landscape over the next two months after the U.S. Open in Chambers Bay:  Wimbledon, Tour de France, British Open in golf. Lagardère Unlimited, one of the world's preeminent sports marketing and management firms, has further strengthened its influence in the European sponsorship market by acquiring German agency Akzio Ajoint Group. The acquisition comes a month after Lagardere purchased Ufa Sports, the Hamburg-based sports rights agency. Globalization of sports requires global solutions. The worldwide business of sports now generates over $1 trillion per year, much of it in Europe.  Last month’s acquisition of the German agency Akzio Ajoint Group by Lagardere continues that trend. 

6. Women’s World Cup in soccer moves into elimination rounds.  Fox pays $425 million to exclusively own the English language U.S. television rights to all FIFA events through 2022.  The return on the investment might be worth it.  The U.S.-Australia open gaming were the most watched women’s World Cup Stage 1 game in history – 3.3 million viewers, up nearly 35 percent from the 1999 record. Welcome diversion from the FIFA scandal – economic impact in Canada might reach $1 billion with all games televised, and venues from Vancouver to Moncton and everything in between.

7.  As originally reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune, but in an article found and accessed from the Sportsmanias app, the site that provides fans with real-time information on their favorite teams, San Diego could hold a citywide special election on a possible new Chargers stadium as early as December 15, few weeks before the January window the NFL has set for teams to apply for relocation.  The ballot likely will be based on a $1.4 billion financing plan released last month. NFL “stadium and city musical chairs” continues.  Key is to coordinate the decision-making deadline for incumbents San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis – and reconcile them with Inglewood, Carson, and other alternatives – before an NFL final vote on the issue.

8. FIFA’s Audit & Compliance Committee Chairman suggested that Russia and Qatar could lose the 2018 and 2022 World Cups if evidence of bribery in the voting process emerges.  Also as a result of the ongoing corruption scandal, FIFA has postponed the 2026 World Cup bidding process.  While both selections have caused considerable controversy on the world soccer stage, substantial amounts of money have been spent on stadium construction, event promotion, and the like.  While international sentiment may dictate otherwise, it may be difficult to undue the logistics surrounding these major location decisions.

9. FIFA could hold a special election as soon as December 16 to vote on a successor to disgraced President Sepp Blatter.  A final decision on the date is not expected to be made until July, when FIFA will hold an emergency meeting of its executive committee. Most experts in international governance suggest a quick election may expedite international improvements for FIFA.  However, there are major procedural factors that may delay the actual vote until 2016 or beyond. 

10. A fantasy football convention organized by Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo was canceled after the NFL expressed concern about the event being held in Las Vegas.  The league contends that the National Fantasy Football Convention violated NFL rules by being held at a casino, even without gambling involved. Leagues remain increasingly concerned about direct or indirect relationships with gambling – especially as it impacts their star players.  The connection between fantasy gaming and traditional gambling is close enough without a major event being held at a Las Vegas casino.

11. DC United’s owners have finalized a stadium development deal to keep the team in the nation’s capital provided that the D.C. government secures the needed land by the end of September.  The proposed stadium is expected to cost $287 million and open in time for the 2018 MLS season. Soccer in Washington has developed a proud tradition, but DC United has had many false starts in the stadium game.  Hopefully, this is different.

12. The IOC has added four new events to the program for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.  The Games will feature curling mixed doubles, speed skating mass start, big air snowboarding, and a team event in downhill skiing for the first time.  From the Summer perspective, Boston 2024’s first quarterly report shows that the group has raised $14 million in cash and in-kind donations since its inception in January 2014.  Of that total, nearly $4 million was raised in the first quarter of 2015.  Among the donors are Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, and Bruins owner Charlie Jacobs. Another example of “Olympic sports musical chairs.”  Whether it’s rugby and golf during the Summer, or these Winter sports, respective international sport organizations fight for recognition and Olympic approval.  Boston may begin to realize the significant impact of the Games – what they might win, and what they might lose!

13. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is concerned about the increase of injuries to high-profile players this season.  Silver said the league plans on reducing the number of back-to-back games in order to give players more rest, but adjusting the length of the schedule could create conflicts with NFL training camps or the MLB postseason. Steph Curry and LeBron James Finals performances prove that the NBA is a star-driven league.  Erving, Durant, and other significant injuries have become marketing challenges, and the NBA and its labor and television partners seek to minimize the “opportunities for high-profile injuries.”

14. Leagues, teams, and agencies are taking steps to minimize retiree financial horror stories. The NHL and NHLPA are finalizing plans on a program to help players reenroll in school after they retire.  The league and the union have each pledged $1.5 million over the next three years to the pilot project, though it is unclear how the money will be spent. The responsibility for “financial intelligence” rests with a number of parties:  agencies, labor unions, teams, leagues, and (most important) the athlete and his family. 

15. The Cowboys signed a two-year deal with StriVR Labs, a virtual reality startup, to train the team’s quarterbacks using a VR headset.  Though not interactive, the technology aims to teach quarterbacks decision-making skills in the context of a real play. Next latest example of pervasive technology that may actually improve athlete performance.  Over time, a blurring of distinction between on-field and off-field video technology.

The Daily Line: Week 7 Football Picks

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NBC Sports Chicago

The Daily Line: Week 7 Football Picks

The Supreme Court opened the door for sports betting legalization with its May ruling that struck down a 1992 law that banned commercial sports betting in most states. Sports betting is not yet legal in Illinois, but with football season underway, former Northwestern offensive lineman Eric Olson will take a weekly look at the odds surrounding the action on the field.

YTD record: 21-7 against the spread (11-1 in last 12)

New England Patriots vs. Chicago Bears 10/21 12:00pm CT

Line: Pats -3
Betting Percentages Split: 76% of the tickets on the Pats
The play: Bears +3

Listen here. I am not being a homer. In fact, I am from the Boston area and have been rooting for the Patriots my entire life. This is simply a great spot for the Bears. You have a Patriots team that is coming off the biggest win any team has had this season, beating the seemingly unbeatable Kansas City Chiefs in primetime. On the other side, you have a Bears team that just turned in one of the most disappointing performances of the season, losing outright to the Miami Dolphins and Brock Osweiler as a 7 point favorite. The Pats have been terrible outside of Foxboro and this is probably the best team they have faced on the road thus far this season. Additionally, this line has stayed firm at 3 and has even moved to 2.5 in some places despite the massive bet discrepancy favoring the Pats. What does that tell us? That the Pros are all over the Bears and refuse to move the line despite the public being all over New England. Ride the home town team catching points at Soldier Field.

Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts 10/7 1:00pm CT

Line: Colts -7
Betting Percentages Split: 55% of tickets on Colts
The play: Bills +7

If you have been reading my column throughout this NFL season you know I love bad NFL games. Go where nobody wants to go, get dirty and pick gross teams. I also have been pretty successful picking my spots betting on the Bills this year and I love going back to the well here. Simply put, the Colts should not be laying 7 points to ANYBODY at this point of the season. Sean McDermott decided to go with Derek Anderson this week and according to reports, this was to the delight of the locker room as they do not have to endure another Peterman Pix-Six Bonanza. I think this could give the Bills a little spark and anything that Anderson has left in the tank will be on display Sunday against the worst defense in the NFL. Circle those wagons, take the Bills and the points.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs 10/21 7:20pm CT

Line: Chiefs -6
Betting Percentages Split: 75% of tickets on the Chiefs
The play: Bengals +6

Good loses are a real thing in the NFL when it comes to betting perception. Not a single person is knocking the Chiefs for their primetime loss to the Pats in Foxboro. I think Vegas could have set this line at a touchdown and the public would still jump all over the Chiefs. What does that tell you? I think this a questions bettors need to ask themselves more often. What it probably tells you is that Vegas values the Bengals more than the general public does and they aren't as bought into the Chiefs hype. Side with the house, fade the public and take a very solid Bengals team getting 6 points playing a Chiefs team having to get up for two straight primetime games.

New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons 10/22 7:20pm CT

Line: Falcons -5.5
Betting Percentages Split: 75% of tickets on the Falcons
The play: Giants +5.5

I said that week of 10/7 was my grossest set of picks to date. What happened that week you ask? I went 5-0. Pick your spots and bet bad teams in the NFL. It works. This league does not operate the way you want it to and you have to be willing to make picks that feel ‘off’. Here is another example of that. By any eye test, this makes no sense. The Giants are in the running for the worst team in the NFL and the Falcons, while overall disappointing, still have shown flashes of their talented roster that brought them to Super Bowl two years ago. However, when you move past the surface, you see a matchup that actually really favors the Giants. The Falcons are ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball and the Falcons have one of the worst defenses in the league and will not be able to exploit the Giants porous O-Line like other teams have. I think these matchups are why Vegas set this line so low and why it has even moved in the Giants direction despite heavy public Atlanta action. Hold your nose and bet the G-men. 

Bonus College Game

Mississippi State vs. LSU 10/20 6:00pm CT

Line: LSU -6.5
Betting Percentages Split: 60% of tickets on LSU
The play: Mississippi State +6.5 (get 7 if you can)

LSU is the most overvalued team in the country. They have actually been out-gained in 4 of their 6 wins. That is an ABSURD statistic that just screams regression as the year carries on. Mississippi State has a really, really good defense and should be able to fluster Joe Burrow all day long. The Bulldogs put it to LSU last year and I expect them to show up again. Take Miss State and the points. Sprinkle the moneyline while you’re at it.

The Daily Line Podcast: How will Khalil Mack's injury affect the Bears-Pats spread?

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NBC Sports Chicago

The Daily Line Podcast: How will Khalil Mack's injury affect the Bears-Pats spread?

On this week’s Daily Line podcast, VSIN’s Sam Panayotovich joins Ryan McGuffey and Paul Aspan to take us inside the scene in Vegas as last week’s Bears-Dolphins line jumped from Bears -3.5 to Bears -7 on the news that Brock Osweiler would replace Ryan Tannehill (3:00). We look ahead to the Patriots (-2.5) at the Bears, discuss what kind of impact Khalil Mack’s injury could have on this week’s spread (6:30) and Sam gives us his best bets of the week (7:30). Joe Ostrowski of the Early Odds podcast also joins the show to discuss the how to get the best of the number (14:00) and whether home underdogs will stay hot. Plus, the guys make their picks for week 7 (18:00) and a quick thought on the Bulls over under. (32:00)

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: