WWE Could Replace UFC on FOX, Receive $400 million annually

WWE

The UFC’s 7-year broadcast deal (worth $160 million in ’18) with 21st Century Fox, Inc. (FOXA) is expiring in 2018 and the mixed martial arts promotion is reportedly seeking a new deal worth more than twice as much annually ($450 million). FOXA is reportedly prepared to offer +/-$200 million/year, so it’s possible (if not likely) the UFC will be finding another broadcast home. Should that occur, Dave Meltzer (Wrestling Observer) has indicated FOXA would look to acquire WWE broadcast rights (expiring in September 2019), if not the entire professional wrestling promotion; though it’s been stated McMahon has no intention of selling (owns 41.8% of the outstanding common shares, but controls 82.8% of the company).

Howie Long-Short: NBCUniversal (CMCSA) currently pays $200 million/year for the rights to broadcast WWE Monday Night Raw and SmackDown. The speculation is the next deal will be closer to $400 million annually; potentially twice what the UFC will see. That’s noteworthy because WME paid $4 billion for the UFC in July 2016, $1.5 billion more than the WWE’s current market cap. I think it’s safe to say they overpaid.

Fan Marino: Should FOXA acquire WWE broadcast rights, the prevailing feeling is that RAW would air on network television; with SmackDown moving to FS1. That’s not great news for hardcore WWE fans, as it likely means reducing RAW to a 2-hour program once again (currently 3 hours); Fox affiliates tend to air local news at 10p EST. Speaking of RAW, the 25th anniversary will be held on January 22nd at the Barclays Center. It’s now the longest running weekly episodic show in U.S. TV history.

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Study Finds Super Bowl Ads Worth the Spend

SuperBowl

30-second advertising spots during the February 4th Super Bowl are selling for more than $5 million (40% of U.S. TV households will be watching), but a collaborative study between Stanford University and Humboldt University (Germany) found that Super Bowl advertisers continue to see meaningful post-game sales during other major sporting events (i.e. March Madness, World Series), within the same calendar year, indicating the spend is worth it. Those that built a social media presence or digital campaign to follow their Super Bowl ad, were successful in keeping their product(s) on the consumer’s mind through baseball season. Companies that were the sole advertiser within a specific product category received the greatest long-term value (see: BUD, PEP). Long-term advertisers received a boost in sales during Super Bowl week, despite the product being purchased before the event (i.e. the ad has yet to run).

Howie Long-Short: Just 10 Super Bowl ad spots remain, so the study is unlikely to impact ad sales (and NBC’s bottom line) for this year’s game. If there are going to be immediate beneficiaries, it’s going to be CBS (rights to ’19 SB) and FOXA (rights to ’20 SB); the rights holders of the next 2 Super Bowls. NBC Universal (CMCSA) said it expects to generate $500 million in Super Bowl ad revenue, a figure in line with the total generated for the last 2 years. Advertisers aren’t worried about the NFL’s declining attendance, that trend hasn’t translated to the Super Bowl; last year’s game drew 111.3 million viewers, the 5th most watched TV event of all-time.

Fan Marino: Mean Joe Greene and Joe Namath participated in iconic Super Bowl commercials, but a lesser known collegiate All-American starred in one of my all-time favorites; Terry Tate as “Office Linebacker”, installing workplace discipline in a 2003 Reebok spot. At 6’5, 300 pounds, with 4.3 40 (yard dash) speed and collegiate All-American (Morgan State) game tape, Lester Speight (his real name) should have been an NFL star; position changes and injuries derailed his promising career. He never played in a professional football game.

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Fox Sports Announces WC Content Partnerships with Twitter, Snapchat

FOX-SPORTS-200x200

Twenty First Century Fox Inc.’s (FOXA) Fox Sports, which holds the exclusive English broadcast rights to the 2018 World Cup, has announced several content partnerships that will expand their coverage beyond the television screen. FOXA announced plans to stream exclusive digital content on Twitter, Inc. (TWTR), including 27 live shows (30 minutes per) and near real-time highlights of every goal scored. On Snapchat (SNAP), the broadcast network will create “Publisher Stories” using video, text, artwork and motion graphics to comprehensively document every day of the tournament. SNAP will also produce FIFA World Cup “Our Stories”, featuring highlights and exclusive fan reactions. The 2018 World Cup, hosted by Russia, runs from June 14th through July 15th.

Howie Long-Short: To boost advertiser interest, Snapchat commissioned a recent study (using internal data and insight from Nielsen) on the company’s “unique audience”; users more active on SNAP than they are on other social platforms. The study focused on a subset of users interested in sports and sports-related content. It found SNAP users are more likely to be sports fans (i.e. watch, attend, stream games) than non-users, are more active on their smartphones at sporting events (important to activate and connect with fans) and “feel a stronger connection to sports” (i.e. spend more on officially licensed products). That sounds like a platform all sports leagues might want to explore.

Fan Marino: Twitter is reportedly exploring the concept of implementing micro-payments that would enable sports fans to watch the endings of close games; think iTunes for sporting events. I don’t see it. Fanatics (or gamblers) who would care about the ending of a close game, already have access to the out-of-market packages. The casual fan will simply continue to catch the highlights as soon as the game ends, for free. Proponents of this idea point to video games and the success in-game micro-payments, but gamers are engaged. I don’t believe that’s a valid case study.

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Jeter’s Project Wolverine Projects Unobtainable Revenue Milestones

An Aug. ‘17 document circulated by Derek Jeter, meant to solicit investment capital, projects a “cash-flow” profit of $68 million for the Miami Marlins in 2018; despite the team losing $50+ million last season. Entitled Project Wolverine, the plan assumes a rise in ticket sales (52% by ‘20), corporate sponsorships (117% by ‘21) and television rights (215% by ’22) that will give the franchise $10 million in profits in ’19, $15.8 million in ’20 and $22 million by ’21. Those appear to be pie-in-the-sky projections though, as the document assumed an immediate renegotiation of the television contract (with a $44.8 million up-front payment) and there are no indications FOXA (or soon to be rights holder, DIS) intends on renegotiating the contract prior to its 2020 expiration. The team currently has the lowest paying television contract in the league.

Howie Long-Short: After slashing payroll ($36 million thus far) and accounting for a one-time payment of $50 million, that each MLB team will receive in ’18 from the sale of BAMTech (to DIS), the team will turn a profit in ’18; it just won’t be anywhere close to $68 million. Without a revised television contract, the profit drops to $23 million. The document also assumes a player payroll of $100 million with pension payments (currently sits at $104 million without accounting for pension payments) and a $5 million/year stadium naming rights deal, which has yet to come to fruition.

Fan Marino: MLB accepted the Sherman/Jeter group’s $1.2 billion offer, despite knowing the group was paying an estimated $400 million more than the franchise is worth; and, $200 million more than the next highest bidder was willing to pay. The group will continue to cut payroll, so it can show a profitable business model and raise the $200 million they still seek to cover in debt and expenses. Somehow, there is still money for Jeter though; the team will pay him $5 million/year to act as the team’s CEO. No wonder Dan LeBatard got so heated!

Derek Jeter business plan projects big profits and spike in Marlins attendance

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NFL Remains TV’s Biggest Draw, Khalifa Draws Huge Audience for G-League Game

AdAge published their Top 50 most watched broadcasts of 2017 and despite a 9% YOY NFL ratings decline, 37 were NFL games; up from 28 in 2016 (Olympic year) and matching the league’s total from 2015. 9 of the Top 12 were NFL games and Super Bowl LI was the most watched program. 11 other playoff games made the list, as did 6 Sunday Night Football games, the season opener on NBC and 18 CBS and Fox Sunday afternoon windows. The highest rated non-NFL sporting event was Game 7 of the World Series (#13, 28.2 million); Game 5 of the NBA finals was the NBA’s highest rated game (#23, 24.5 million).

Howie Long-Short: On a network basis, Fox (FOXA) had the most sporting events in the Top 50 with 15; including the Super Bowl, 4 NFC playoff games and 2 World Series games. CBS and NBC (CMCSA) each had 13. ABC (DIS), which does not have regular season rights to the NFL, had just 5 of the Top 50 broadcasts. NFL ratings are down, but ad sale revenue is up 2%, makegoods are down and the average cost per spot is up 1% from the 2016 season.

Fan Marino: Former adult film star (and social media influencer) Mia Khalifa is building a name for herself within the sports world; co-hosting a show on Complex News’ YouTube channel with Gilbert Arenas and starting a Twitch channel to play NBA2K and NHL ‘17. Now she’s using the platform to call G-League games (watch her co-stream Grand Rapids vs. Fort Wayne, here). With 10 minutes to go in the 1st quarter of last night’s game, more than 3 million people had visited her Twitch page. It’s obviously not an apple to apples comparison, but just one NBA game this season had 3 million viewers (GSW vs. OKC on November 22nd). I may not ready to give up Mike Breen, Marv Albert and Ian Eagle for Khalifa; but it appears there is an audience who is and prefers a co-hosted stream to the traditional broadcast.

DESPITE ANOTHER RATINGS SLUMP, THE NFL REMAINS TV’S TOP DOG

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Amazon Takes on The Sports World; 25 Companies That Will Be Affected

Amazon has been credited with killing everything from book stores to electronics retailers since its 1994 launch. Now, with a market cap +/- $570 billion and $16 billion in annual operating cash flow, the company is taking aim at the sports world. In our final newsletter of 2017, we look at 4 of AMZN’s recent initiatives and the 25 companies most likely to be affected in 2018.

Amazon Expands Brand Registry Program, Now Includes Nike

In June, Nike (NKE) agreed to join Amazon’s brand registry program; seeking to curb counterfeiting and non-licensed selling within the e-commerce marketplace. The partnership also supports the athletic apparel and sneaker brand’s initiative to boost revenue through a shift to digital and DTC sales, relying less on struggling retailers. Competitors Adidas (ADDYY) and Under Armour (UAA) already have direct-sales deals in place with AMZN.

Names to Watch: FINL, DKS, FL, HIBB, BGFV; LON: SPD, LON: JD

Howie Long-Short: Athletic apparel and sneaker retailers count on NKE (70% of FL business comes from NKE); but NKE launched its “Consumer Direct Offense” strategy in fiscal Q1 ’18, increasing e-commerce business 19% YOY. Mediocre retailers beware, the company is maintaining just a few dozen wholesale relationships as it looks to increase its e-commerce business (from 15% of revenue to 30% over the next 5 years).

Amazon Entering Private-Label Sportswear Business

In October, Amazon (AMZN) announced it was entering the private-label sportswear business and working with the same Taiwanese suppliers, Makalot Industrial Co. (TPE: 1477) and Eclat Textile Co. (TPE: 1476), that some of the world’s biggest athletic brands use. Elcat’s involvement is particularly noteworthy as the company manufactures high-performance sportswear for Nike (NKE), Lululemon Athletica (LULU) and Under Armour (UAA).

Names to Watch: NKE, UAA, ADDYY, LULU; TPE: 1476, TPE: 1477

Howie Long-ShortAMZN wants to be in the private-label clothing business because it pushes retailers to sell inventory on the e-commerce site. Should a retailer choose not to, AMZN will simply produce the item themselves and compete directly against the brand.

The Pursuit of Exclusive Broadcast Rights

In September, the company hired Brian Potter to lead its sports video business. In November, Jim DeLorenzo, head of sports, Amazon Video, said the company was pleased with viewership numbers, engagement and the reliability/quality of the cloud-based streaming service during its season long experiment streaming Thursday Night Football (10 games, $50 million); though it is too early to say if the company will pursue future exclusive sports broadcasting rights. The company has since done deals that will deliver Prime subscribers 37 ATP tour events (previously owned by SKYAY), the AVP Beach Volleyball tour each of the next 3 summers and docu-series on Michigan Football.

Names to Watch: CBS, DIS, FOXA, CMCSA, FB, GOOGL, NFLX, AAPL, SKYAY

Howie Long-Short: NFL Senior VP, Digital Media, Vishal Shah recently said “we continue to think some of the best days are ahead [for traditional TV partners] despite some shifts in the media landscape.” That doesn’t sound like linear television will be excluded in the next round of negotiations, but the NFL is encouraging interested media companies to bid on both television and streaming rights for the leagues TNF package; leaving the door ajar for the tech giants to receive exclusivity for the first time.

Twitch: The Future of Game Broadcasts?

Twitch, the live-streaming platform most often associated with video games, has agreed to stream up to 6 live G-League (Gatorade sponsored NBA minor league) games. Broadcasts will include interactive overlays (viewers can click a team name/logo for player, team, game and season stats), a loyalty program to reward viewer engagement during broadcasts (i.e. custom emotes for group chat) and the ability for users to provide their own live commentary (over the game feed) via the Twitch co-streaming feature.

Names to Watch: CBS, DIS, FOXA, CMCSA, TWX, RCI, MSGN

Fan Marino: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has gone on record stating he’d like to see changes in the way sports broadcasts are presented; pointing out the lack of live stats and chatter surrounding the broadcast, that gamers have become accustomed to. I’m not ready to give up Mike Breen, Marv Albert and Ian Eagle for Towelliee; but it’s worth watching to see if anyone else is.

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Ticketmaster Accused of Gouging Rugby Fans

Scottish rugby fans have accused The Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) of failing to monitor (and ultimately stop) Ticketmaster, the official ticketing partner of the Six Nations Championship, from selling seats at inflated prices (and collecting exorbitant booking fees) on company owned secondary sites; Seatwave and GetMeIn! Tickets are listed for the more than 10x face value ($118 seats are selling for $2,500) and the perceived conflict of interest has forced the SRU to act. The rugby organization is reportedly speaking to Ticketmaster about removing seats from their secondary sites, while it explores launching a non-profit resale site of its own; where seats are resold at face value or below.

Howie Long-Short: Rare negative news of late, for the LYV subsidiary. Live Nation Entertainment reported its best Q3 of all-time, with the company’s ticketing segment reporting its strongest quarterly adjusted operating income ever. LYV also touted the the introduction of the first open source digital ticketing platform in sports (for NFL) and the increased scale of its Verified Fan product (expects to save fans $100 million in ’17); though clearly not to the scale needed to handle primary distribution of Six Nations Championship tickets.

Fan Marino: If Howie can discuss Scottish rugby, Chilean soccer is fair game. Turner Broadcasting (TWX) won the exclusive broadcast rights to Chilean soccer matches, for the next 15 years; with a $1.3 billion bid. Fox Sports (FOXA) was the favorite to land the rights, but a spokesman for the Chilean soccer commission said regulatory concerns stemming from the DIS deal “influenced the decision.” For comparison purposes, the Argentine Football Association accepted a 5 year $1.03 billion offer from Fox Sports Latin America in March.

Scots rugby bosses ‘failing fans’ over ticket resales with Six Nations briefs going for 10 times face value

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