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11.1.19 Rick Horrow interviews Alex Saratsis

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NBC Sports

11.1.19 Rick Horrow interviews Alex Saratsis

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick interviews Senior Director of Operations Alex Saratsis and breaks down the biggest sports business stories of the past week.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST EPISODE HERE

1. A new football league unveils its inaugural schedule. The XFL unveiled its 2020 schedule which will serve up a 10-week regular season that starts February 8 at 2 pm with the DC Defenders hosting the Seattle Dragons on ABC, followed by the Los Angeles Wildcats traveling to Houston for a game against the Roughnecks at 5 pm on FOX. According to Cynopsis Sports, the eight-team league is divided into two four-team divisions, East and West. The XFL East features the DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis BattleHawks, and the Tampa Bay Vipers while the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, and Seattle Dragons comprise the XFL West. Overall, ABC and ESPN will combine to televise 22 games during the 2020 XFL season, concluding with the inaugural XFL Championship on April 26. ABC will televise 14 games with most telecasts starting at 2p on Saturdays and both ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to carry eight games, all on Sundays. The XFL season is being broadcast after the end of the NFL season which finishes in early February, but the XFL needs to be careful to not make the same mistakes as the AAF, which collapsed after just three months into its inaugural season in 2019.

2. National Women’s Soccer League inks an exclusive deal with Octagon for media rights and marketing consulting. According to Sports Video Group, Octagon will provide comprehensive media rights valuation, sales strategy services, and work directly with NWSL executives to secure and amplify new media distribution opportunities. In addition, Octagon’s Marketing division will assist the league with brand marketing, asset development, sponsorship valuation, and fan engagement insights to help generate increases in overall reach and revenue for the league and its teams. Featuring more than 200 of the world’s best professional soccer players, including U.S. Women’s National Team members and two-time World Cup Champions Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Alex Morgan, as well as international stars Marta, Christine Sinclair, and Sam Kerr, the NWSL is highlighted by 23 current FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions and 58 FIFA Women’s World Cup team members. Budweiser has also launched a campaign focused on finding the NWSL new sponsors as more money is being put into women’s soccer across the globe.

3. The sports world aims to tackle ocean plastic pollution. According to SportTechie, a research expedition embarked from the southwest coast of the U.K., on a two-year mission to sail westward around the world. The crew aboard the S.V. TravelEdge, a 73-foot floating laboratory, will travel 38,000-nautical-miles and cross all five of the world’s major ocean gyres, regions where rotating currents lead to the accumulation of floating plastic waste. The 300 women joining the all-female rotating team will investigate to find solutions to plastic pollution. The “eXXpedition Round The World” is being organized by sailor Emily Penn, who is among a growing group of athletes and people connected to the sports world that is advocating for and taking action to protect the environment. Another goal of Penn’s journey is to create a global network of ambassadors who can advocate helping solve the problem. She has been working with a larger environmental organization called 11th Hour Racing over the last few years to give talks and run workshops for other sailors to learn how they can play a role in tackling plastic pollution. By having athletes tackle environmental problems head-on, they can use their social influence to be advocates for policy and lifestyle change.

Teenager Coco Gauff to return to the Citi Open in 2020

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Teenager Coco Gauff to return to the Citi Open in 2020

Teenage tennis sensation Coco Gauff will return to Washington D.C.'s Citi Open in 2020. 

Gauff, who will be 16 at the time of her second appearance in D.C., broke onto the WTA Tour with a historic run at last year's Wimbledon Championships. She upset seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams en route to a Round of 16 finish in her major main draw debut. 

Last year, Gauff made the trip to the nation's capital a month after her phenomenal run. However, due to her low ranking and her primary source of ranking points coming from Wimbledon, she had to play in the qualifying tournament just to make the main draw of the Citi Open. She would end up losing in the First Round of the singles draw but win her first WTA title with fellow American teenager Caty McNally in doubles

That will not be the case for the Florida native this upcoming year. Gauff won her first WTA singles crown at the Linz Open in Austria and became the youngest player ranked in the top 100 at 15 years of age. She wrapped up her 2019 campaign ranked No. 68 in the world. 

Coco Mania in D.C. helped contribute to one of the best Citi Opens ever. The tournament set several new attendance records in 2019 and sold out seven of the 11 sessions. An empty seat could not be found in any of Gauff's qualifying or main draw matches.

“Seeing the energy and excitement that Coco brought to our Citi Open fans and community last summer was one of the highlights of the tournament, so we are thrilled to welcome her back in 2020,” the manager of the Citi Open Mark Ein said in a release.

Gauff will be defending her doubles title, in addition to playing singles, and hopes to do so with McNally again. 

The 2020 Citi Open will be Aug. 1-9, where they will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the women's draw at the event. 

MORE CITI OPEN:

11.27.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Phil de Picciotto, Founder and President of Octagon

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USA TODAY Sports

11.27.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Phil de Picciotto, Founder and President of Octagon

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick sits down with  Founder and President of Octagon Phil de Picciotto and takes you through the biggest sports business stories of the week.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE



1. Minor League Baseball has announced the continued long-term commitment to its U.S. Hispanic fans and communities with the return of the 2020 Copa de la Diversion campaign and event series. Next season, each of the 92 participating MiLB teams covering 34 U.S. states will transform its on-field brand into a culturally-relevant Hispanic persona, representing an extension of the team’s and community’s identity. MiLB’s Copa-specific website features each team’s unique identity, including the story behind its Hispanic on-field persona, and links for fans to purchase available apparel for select Copa teams. As the New York Times noted, “the local embrace of a professional baseball team is ingrained in American culture.” MiLB performs critical community outreach through programs such as building youth sports facilities and sponsoring creative initiatives in schools. As American communities continue to become more diverse, events like the Copa de la Diversion campaign only serve to cement MiLB’s role as a communal centerpiece across the nation.

2. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan confirmed that he has signed a long-term contract extension. Whan is “completing his tenth year as the LPGA’s leader, the longest tenure of any commissioner in tour history,” according to Golf Channel. During his tenure, Whan has “rebuilt the LPGA with a healthy, diversified foundation, with 33 events” and more than $70 million in total prize money.” When Whan was named LPGA Commissioner, the organization had only 23 events on the 2011 schedule in his first year. “Ten years ago, I’m not sure many of us would have been bold enough to predict where we are our today,” he wrote in an update to members. “Events like the KPMG Women’s PGA, Race to the CME Globe, UL International Crown and Founders Cup weren’t even an idea back then. In fact, 19 of the 33 official events on the 2020 LPGA Tour Schedule weren’t on the LPGA Tour just 10 years ago! Now we have an official team event, five strong majors, multiple events played with men, exciting season-long competitions, events staged in 12 different regions of the world, and TV coverage in over 160 countries.” Well done, Mike – we are proud to call you a friend.

3. The National Lacrosse League’s Alterna Cup begins Friday. On November 29, the National Lacrosse League will usher in a brand-new season-long competition among all five Canadian clubs. Calgary, Halifax, Saskatchewan, Toronto, and Vancouver will be competing for the inaugural Alterna Cup. This Cup was created in partnership with Alterna Savings and Alterna Bank (Alterna), who will be the exclusive banking partner of the NLL in Canada this season. To capture the Cup, Canadian teams will be competing in head-to-head matchups throughout the NLL regular season. To get the action started, the Calgary Roughnecks will pay a visit to the Vancouver Warriors next Friday, November 29 at 10:00 pm ET. Save a little room for lacrosse after you gorge on turkey and football.

4. The 2020 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target is heading to Los Angeles where, for the first time, the MLS All-Stars will face the Liga MX All-Stars on July 29 at Banc of California Stadium. The match will be broadcast on ESPN and Univision networks in the U.S., TSN, and TVA Sports in Canada, as well as on ESPN throughout Mexico and Latin America. “We are so pleased to bring the 2020 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target to Los Angeles, one of the great soccer markets in North America,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement. “As we celebrate our 25th season, we wanted to deliver a unique and unprecedented format for our annual All-Star Game. Our first ever game between the best of MLS and Liga MX’s top players is the perfect way to build on the growing relationship between the two top soccer leagues in the region.” The MLS All-Star Game will unfold in the same timeframe that SoFi Stadium, the new home of the Rams and the Chargers, will roll out inaugural concerts before it hosts its first official NFL games. Next summer, it seems, all eyes will be on LaLa Land.

5. NASCAR launches a new OTT platform with NBC Sports. The new live and on-demand streaming platform, TrackPass, will launch on the NBC Gold OTT service next month and will provide access to live motorsports events and archive footage and documentaries, including NASCAR practice and qualifying sessions, but not live races. According to Sports Pro, subscribers will have the option of watching exclusive live race coverage from the American Flat Track motorcycle series, select events from the ARCA Menards U.S. stock-car series, as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and live International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) events. The new TrackPass service will cost $4.99 per month or $44.99 per year, while other price offerings include series-specific sub-packages for select motorsports. Creating an OTT offering just for NASCAR fans attracts more millennial and Gen Z audiences while other companies like DAZN or ESPN+ could add them to their roster in the near future.