No, This Isn’t the End of the NFL

Will Leitch (of Deadspin fame) wrote an article that appears in the November 27th issue of New York Magazine entitled “Is This the End of the NFL?”. The piece claims “so many people just aren’t watching (the league) at all”; supporting the argument with just a single fact, TV ratings are down 5.7% YOY. Leitch believes that concerns regarding player brain injuries, anthem protests, the quality of play and even league implemented rules (i.e. targeting) designed to make the game safer are turning fans away. Exacerbating the demise is the ascension of the NBA; a league that he sees as “vibrant, organic and alive” because it embraces the personalities and opinions of its athletes.

Howie Long-Short: I saw this click-bait and felt the need to provide some context. TV ratings are down as Leitch stated, but the league is still averaging 15.1 million viewers/game; the ’17 NBA playoffs (1st round through conference finals), on ESPN/ABC, only averaged 4.26 million. Television ad revenue is up 3% YOY (to $738 million) across the league’s broadcast networks and fan attendance is up (from 68,914 in ’16 to 69,264) this season. Those metrics simply don’t show present the picture of a business nearing its end.

Fan Marino: 3 million DISH subscribers “weren’t watching” the Chargers-Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, due to a blackout of CBS Corp. (CBS) channels. The 2 companies have since managed to agree on a transmission agreement for satellite subscribers; though Sling TV subscribers (DISH’s digital service) remain in the dark. Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker said it was DISH who caved, giving in to consumer demand on a “popular NFL-heavy holiday weekend.”

Is This the End of the NFL?

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Media Sector Consolidation Continues as Meredith Corp. Buys Sports Illustrated (and TIME Inc.)

The Meredith Corporation (MDP) acquired Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine (and the balance of TIME) for $2.8 billion ($18.50/share); after failing to acquire the company earlier this year (and an initial attempt back in 2013). The acquisition gives the Better Homes and Gardens publisher 200 million consumers across all platforms. There is speculation that with the addition of TIME’s publishing assets, MDP could spin off its broadcasting assets (including the newly-launched SI TV). Koch Equity Development is backing the Meredith bid with $650 million in financing.

Howie Long-Short: At $18.50/share, MDP paid a 9.5% premium on the price ($16.90) at Friday afternoon’s close and a whopping 46% premium over the closing price on November 15th. Earlier this month, TIME reported that Q3 revenue declined 9.5% (to $679 million); the 6th straight quarter the company missed Wall Street expectations. Magazine revenue, which still accounts for roughly two-thirds of all company revenue, was down 17% (to $1.3 billion) over the first 9 months of the year.

Fan Marino: Meredith clearly foresees a future for the magazine industry, but it’s Sports Illustrated that received recent acclaim for its fortune-telling prowess. Back in 2014, when the Astros were among the worst teams in baseball, SI published an issue predicting the team would win the World Series in 2017; with George Springer on the cover. Fast-forward 3 years, the Astros are WS Champions and George Springer was the World Series MVP.

Meredith, backed by Koch brothers affiliate, to acquire magazine publisher Time

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A Subscription Box Service for NBA Fans

Sports Crate, a division of Loot Crate, has signed an exclusive partnership with the NBA to provide fans of 13 teams (GS, CLE, NY, CHI, BOS & LA are all available) with a subscription box service. Courtside Crates, offered individually, quarterly or bi-monthly, will contain team apparel, collectibles and fan experiences including tickets to games and meet-and-greets with players. The boxes will be limited to ensure their collectability. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

Howie Long-Short: Since their launch in 2012, Loot Crate has experienced remarkable growth; acquiring 650,000 recurring monthly subscribers. The company was on the cover of Inc. Magazine, where it was named the nation’s “fastest growing startup” in the summer of 2016. The excitement surrounding that rapid growth has long worn off though, as the company burned through the $18.5 million it raised in June ’16 and was forced to lay off 27% of its staff. It does appear to be back on the right track with CEO Chris Davis making more responsible decisions. Loot Crate is privately held, but you can play the company through Time Inc. (TIME); a participant in last summer’s $18.5 million Series A round.

Fan Marino: I don’t subscribe to box subscription services, because I look to keep my monthly fixed expenses to a minimum. Dollar Shave Club, which reduces consumer spend on a necessary product, is one of few that I would consider. Sports Crate, as currently marketed, doesn’t do it for me; I want to shop for my own clothing. But if they introduce a box consisting solely of discounted game tickets and player meet-and-greets then they’ve got themselves a new customer.

NBA Offering Fans Goodies, Collectibles With ‘Courtside’ Sports Crate Alliance

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Stadium Partners with Facebook, 47 College Basketball Games Will Air Exclusively on Watch

Facebook continues to add live sports programming to its Watch platform, announcing a partnership with Stadium that will enable the social network to exclusively live stream 47 college basketball games this season. Stadium, a multi-platform sports network, will tailor the stream to the Facebook audience; communicating with fans in real-time and implementing social elements to the broadcast. The companies have aired 13 football games together this fall; generating over 10 million views. FB is paying Stadium for the rights to air the games, though terms of the deal have not been released. There is no cost for fans to stream the games.

Howie Long-Short: Stadium was created from a merger of Campus Insiders (live games), Time Inc.’s (TIME) 120 Sports (studio operations) and the Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI)-owned American Sports Network (distribution). SBGI reported a 3.3% YOY drop in Q3 earnings, but it hasn’t been all bad news for the company of late. The FCC just voted to relax rules limiting broadcast and print media ownership in a single market. That decision, combined with Bruce Karsh’s (Tribune Media Chairman) recent resignation, would seem to indicate that the company’s purchase of TRCO is likely to be approved by regulators. SBGI expects the sale to close by early ’18.

Fan Marino: The 47-game slate includes some compelling teams, 11 of which made the 2017 NCAA Tournament; Dayton, Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, Florida Gulf Coast, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, U.C. Davis, VCU, Minnesota and New Mexico State. #14 Minnesota, #21 St. Mary’s and R.I. are the best of the bunch. It also includes three first-round Mountain West tournament games and two quarterfinal Conference USA matchups. You can find out if your team is on the schedule, here.

Facebook will stream exclusively 47 college basketball games this season

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Time Inc. to Launch Sports Illustrated TV Without Live Sports Programming

Time Inc. (TIME) is launching a subscription ($4.99/mo.) streaming service, built around the Sports Illustrated franchise, to help offset declining revenues from their legacy print business. Sports Illustrated TV will launch on Amazon Channels (AMZN) with 130 hours of programming (documentaries, studio shows, sports movies etc.), but no live sports. The company is working to increase distribution and is also exploring a D-T-C model. TIME hopes a large portion of the 2.8 million who subscribe to Sports Illustrated in print, will sign up for the service.

Howie Long-Short: CEO Rich Battista has been aggressive with the company’s digital (advertising, content licensing and syndication, digital-only subs etc.) and video (including television) efforts, and that focus has begun to pay off; recently telling investors he expects the company to generate $1 billion in non-print revenue in 2017. That growth hasn’t been fast enough to offset the company’s rapidly declining print revenues though. TIME just reported Q3 revenue declined 9% YOY (to $679 million).

Fan Marino: Sports Illustrated TV programming will include; a basketball lifestyle show hosted by writers Matt Dollinger and Rohan Nadkarni, a documentary series focused on athletes that were once featured in the print magazine, a gambling and daily fantasy show and sports films. I really like the concept of an archive full of sports movies; but at a time when there are 204 video streaming offerings (including subscription services) available within the U.S., I’m certain I can find comparable programming elsewhere (and likely for free).

Time Inc. to Launch Sports Illustrated TV

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Time Inc. (TIME) is working to sell off some of the smaller entities within their portfolio, as the company focuses on developing its core assets; People and Time magazine. Golf Magazine and are among the TIME properties for sale, despite both experiencing significant growth over the last year. Recent comScore metrics indicate unique monthly visitors at are up 76% YOY (to 3.3 million) with mobile traffic, video consumption and social reach all experiencing a similarly high percentage growth. While the targeted price has not been disclosed, reports indicate a sale could occur by the end of November.

Howie Long-Short: Houlihan Lokey (HLI), a $2.7 billion boutique global investment bank that focuses on corporate finance business, restructuring and financial advisory services, is handling the sale. The company, which has grown revenues from $681 million in ’15 to $872 million in fiscal ’17, seems to have found a niche in the golf industry. HLI successfully negotiated TopGolf’s ‘16 acquisition of the online game World Golf Tour and was hired to steer the sale of The Club Company, a chain of 13 golf clubs in the U.K.

Fan Marino: TIME has announced that effective Jan. 1, it will be decreasing the frequency in which it publishes Sports Illustrated. The company will publish just 27 issues (including the swimsuit edition) in 2018, down from 38 issues this year. I’m disappointed to hear that. While I haven’t been a subscriber for years, SI was a “must read” during the early 90s-mid 00s when I became obsessed with sports. I would flip to the back page to read Rick Reilly’s piece first. Not familiar with Reilly’s work?  Here’s a link to 10 memorable “Life of Reilly” pieces, worth checking out.

It’s a bittersweet split with Time Inc. for Golf magazine,


Time Inc. (TIME) has released an all-new free app for Sports Illustrated Play, their youth sports SAAS company. The company’s series of digital tools are designed to help youth leagues and teams operate more efficiently. For the first time, all teams regardless of league affiliation, can utilize the mobile platform to distribute news & content, schedule events, get real-time scoring, update its members and share social content. SI Play which launched in 2015, has 17 million monthly users and a top 5 mobile application; is the official technology provider of US Lacrosse and Babe Ruth League baseball and softball.

Time Inc. launches all-new Sports Illustrated Play mobile app

Howie Long-Short: While there are no shortage of competitors in the space (Bonzi, TeamSnap & LeagueApps etc.), none have the financial backing and distribution platforms (SI,, SI Kids) that SI Play does. That is going to make them tough to beat in the estimated $18 billion market.

Fan Marino: SI Play streamed the semifinals and finals of the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series on the Facebook page. How cool is that for those kids?