HARLEY DAVIDSON REPORTS DECLINING SALES AND PROFITS, BACKS FULL YEAR SHIPMENT FORECAST

Harley Davidson (HOG) reported Q3 earnings that beat analyst predictions and the company announced it will meet full year shipment forecasts, despite lagging sales and net income that declined from $114.1 million to $68.2 million YOY. HOG reported U.S. retail sales declined 8.1% for the quarter, with total global sales down 6.9% from Q3 ‘16. Moving forward the company hopes that a price increase on some of their bikes, favorable foreign exchange rates and more models to choose from, will lead to improved profits.

Howie Long-Short: Harley’s core audience is aging. They’re not buying new bikes and they’re flooding the resale market with used ones. The younger demographic is scooping up bargains on the resale market or opting for lower-margin models. Harley can’t solve those problems and they have no control over exchange rates, but they are doing a good job controlling what they can. The company is introducing 17 new models in 2018, 9 of which are under $12,000. They’re giving the consumer what they want!

Fan Marino: Millennial motorcycle enthusiasts aren’t the only ones opting to save where they can. NBA star LeBron James readily admits to being thrifty. Despite an estimated net worth of $400 million, James was recently quoted as saying “I’m not turning on data roaming, I’m not buying no apps, I still got Pandora with commercials.” With that attitude, James is certain to avoid lists like Time Inc.’s “10 Insanely Rich Athletes Humbled By Financial Ruin”.

Harley-Davidson beats profit estimates, backs full-year forecast

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LOUISVILLE SLUGGER OUTFITS WORLD SERIES STARS

If you watched either of the first two games of the World Series, you may have noticed a unique flame tempered bat in the hands of Dodgers OF Kike Hernandez or 2B Logan Forsythe. Those bats, manufactured by Louisville Slugger (OTC: AGPDF), are made from northern white ash timber; with a Bernzomatic (WOR) blowtorch used to create the flame tempered design. Hernandez and Forsythe aren’t the only Dodgers (or Astros) players using Louisville Slugger bats though, as 11 others placed orders with the company prior to the start of the World Series. With 40 popular models to choose from, 3 different types of wood (rock maple and birch are the others) and 7 MLB approved colors/designs; Louisville Slugger can customize bats to the specific needs/taste of a player, ensuring he has utmost confidence when stepping to the plate.

Howie Long-Short: Louisville Slugger is owned by Wilson Sporting Goods Co., a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation (AGPDF). AGPDF issued Q3 earnings, reporting net sales were up 3% YOY (to $733.2 million EUR). Solid growth was reported in both EMEA and China, while the U.S. market remains a challenge for the company. Bernzomatic is owned by Worthington Industries (WOR), an S&P 400, global diversified metals manufacturing company. WOR is off to a strong fiscal ’18, reporting Q1 ‘18 net sales were up 15% YOY (to $848.2 million). The company will next report on December 18th.

Fan Marino: The Astros’ wild 11 inning Game 2 win, means that the series is heading to Houston tied at 1 game apiece. Game 3 is tonight, with first pitch at 8:09 EST on Fox (FOXA). As for the TV ratings, Game 1 drew 11.53 million viewers (down 19% from last year). Game 2 drew nearly 15 million viewers, just a 3% decline from the 2016 Cubs-Indians World Series.

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NFL INTENDS ON TERMINATING VERIZON’S EXCLUSIVE MOBILE BROADCAST RIGHTS DEAL

There are indications that the NFL intends on terminating Verizon Communications’ (VZ) exclusive rights to broadcast games on mobile devices, at the completion of this season. Under the terms of the expiring 4-year $1 billion agreement, only Verizon cellular subscribers can stream live game broadcasts; regardless of cable provider. It is still possible that Verizon could retain the title of “official wireless service provider” of the NFL and continue to stream games, while the NFL grants some of its other partners’ permission to broadcast games on mobile devices.

Howie Long Short: The NFL must end mobile exclusivity because their broadcast partners (ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC) pay a fortune for the rights to carry games and want to make those games available on as many platforms as possible. Some have expressed concern that additional mobile distribution will further contribute to the decline of the league’s television ratings, but no one prefers to watch a game on a small computing device. An increase in mobile distribution will correspond with an increase in “Digital in TV Ratings” (method to account for all viewers across devices with program content and commercials that match the linear TV airing); which is good news for the league, its broadcast partners and their advertisers.

Fan Marino: While NFL television ratings are down 5% from 2016, the decline has yet to influence ad sales. In fact, ad sales were up 2% for the month of September; increasing from $504 million to $513 million. It should be noted that the NFL’s total ad inventory increased by 2% for the ’17 season, as did the cost of an ad (7% to $515K).

Verizon’s NFL Partnership Could End

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NIKE PRESENTS LONG-TERM VISION AT INVESTOR DAY

In 2015, Nike (NKE) Chief Executive Mark Parker, a Phil Knight disciple, projected company revenue would hit $50 billion/year by 2020. Fast forward to Wednesday’s investor day and the $50 billion mark no longer appears realistic. Speaking in broad strokes, Parker presented the company’s long-term vision; offering up padded stats that project 50% of future sales growth coming from “innovation”, 75% of future revenue growth coming from “international” expansion (read: China) and “huge opportunities” in women’s footwear. NKE has even taken a page out of Silicon Valley’s playbook, disrupting the company’s long-time sales model in hopes that partnerships with Amazon and Instagram will help the company reach Parker’s goal.

Howie Long-Short: Parker’s $50 billion revenue target was always ambitious, considering NKE would have had to grow revenue 63% (from the time of his comment) to achieve it. 2015 was an outlier year, with record growth in both the apparel and footwear industries. Parker expected the trend would continue for the balance of the decade, but that hasn’t been the case. Sales growth slowed to just .1% over the last 90 days. I’m confident in saying, $50 billion by 2020 simply isn’t going to happen.

Fan Marino: Forbes released their list of the 40 most valuable brands in sports. Nike finished first with an estimated value of $29.6 billion, up 9.6% from their ’16 valuations. ESPN (DIS) ($15.8 billion, -4.2%), Adidas (ADDYY) ($7.9 billion, +12.9%), Sky Sports (SKYAY) ($5.5 billion, +10%) and Under Armour (UAA) ($4.4 billion, -20%) rounded out the Top 5.

Editor Note: The summary for this story was written by our friends at The Water Coolest. Check out TheWaterCoolest.com for the latest market news and professional advice.

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NFL SPONSORS EXPRESS CONCERNS WITH DECLINING RATINGS AND POLITICAL UNREST

Several NFL sponsors have contacted the league’s front office to express their concerns with declining TV ratings and the political unrest that has engulfed the league, for the first 7 weeks of the season. Long-time sponsor Papa John’s (PZZA) has told the league that in-game sales have fallen, since President Trump’s first comments on NFL player protests, back on September 22nd. USAA, another official league sponsor, has confirmed that it too has been in contact with the league office about the issues. Despite 45’s call for the league to suspend players that fail to stand for the national anthem, the NFL has taken the position that it will allow its players to freely express their beliefs as they see fit.

Howie Long-Short: According to a new Harris Poll, PZZA has surpassed Pizza Hut (YUM) as the most popular pizza chain brand; but that popularity isn’t correlating with revenue growth. While YUM is up 17% this year, PZZA is down 21% YTD. Analysts expect PZZA to report Q3 revenues have grown 1.5% (to $428.73 million) YOY; with Pizza Hut (YUM) expected to report 10.5% growth (to $626.42 million) over the same period. Unfortunately for PZZA shareholders, popularity doesn’t guarantee success.

Fan Marino: League sponsors are contractually bound, so there is no immediate threat of revenue loss for the NFL. Any existing concerns are related to a potentially negative financial impact on future negotiations. The current collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2020 season, so the league isn’t going to be able to force players to stand before that. To be clear, there are some billionaire owners who defend the player’s right to protest. 49ers Owner Jed York was quoted as saying “Our country is more important than a slight economic impact.” At least one of these guys has his priorities in line.

NFL concedes that national anthem protests are hurting business

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ESPN CANCELS BARSTOOL SHOW AFTER JUST ONE EPISODE

ESPN (DIS) has cancelled Barstool Van Talk after just one episode, citing error in its belief it could produce the show while maintaining its distance from Barstool’s offensive core content. Following the premier episode, NFL Countdown host Sam Ponder delivered a series of tweets expressing “disappointment” ESPN would “promote a company” that has attacked multiple women within the company. The ensuing backlash from Ponder’s colleagues forced ESPN’s hand. ESPN President John Skipper made it a point to note that hosts Big Cat and PFT Commenter “delivered the show they promised.”

Howie Long-Short: The premier episode drew just 88K people, down from the 139K that watched Jalen and Jacoby, in the same spot, the week before. You must note that the lead-in for Barstool Van Talk drew just 66K, down from the audience of 174K that Jalen and Jacoby followed. You can spin audience numbers to validate your argument on the show’s relative success, but I found it to be an odd partnership from the start. For Barstool to be great, they must be unfiltered and ESPN standards don’t allow for that. ESPN wants the Barstool fan base, but not the perceived “baggage” that comes with the Barstool brand. You can’t have it both ways.

Fan Marino: The Athletic, a subscription-based local sports digital publication, earned some negative publicity of their own this week with some rather tasteless commentary on their approach to business expansion. Co-founder Alex Mather said in a NY Times article that “we will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing, we will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.” Sounds like a nice guy, someone you really want to root for. It’s a shame, the site has a ton of talented writers (Steward Mandel, Seth Davis etc.) who deserve to be recognized for the quality of their work; not their association with Mather.

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YANKEES, WWE INVEST IN ESPORTS

The NY Yankees have announced an investment partnership with Vision Esports, to accelerate the growth and awareness of 3 esports properties; Echo Fox (manages teams), Twin Galaxies (a league operator and performance validation platform) and Vision Entertainment (a content production studio). Vision Esports leadership will mirror the business model used by the traditional sports franchise; maximizing revenues from advertising, sponsorships, media rights, merchandise and ticket sales, naming rights and content creation. Financial terms of the investment were not disclosed but the investment does give the Yankees a stake in all 3 companies. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers have also recently invested in esports.

Howie Long-Short: This is a strategic partnership as much as it is a capital investment. The Yankees are among the best pro sports organizations at maximizing revenues; squeezing every dollar out of their product is what they do best. Vision Esports has 3 companies competing in an industry that is expected to grow from $696 million to $1.5 billion in revenue by 2020. That sure sounds like a logical fit to me.

Fan Marino: Looking for way to play esports? Cloud9, an organization that manages teams and players that compete in all the popular games has raised a $25 million Series A round. The organization intends on utilizing the capital to expand team development and broaden its presence across multiple leagues (they recently purchased a London franchise for the Overwatch League). World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) participated in the round and will become a board observer.

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UNDER ARMOUR CONSIDERING AN EXIT FROM TENNIS, FISHING AND OUTDOOR CATEGORIES

Under Armour (UAA) is considering an exit from several sporting categories including; tennis, fishing and outdoor gear, amidst slowing sales. Should the decision be made to eliminate their smaller businesses, the company would look to grow its lifestyle line and return to its performance gear roots. Founder Kevin Plank hinted at a restructuring in September saying, “we just can’t do everything”. In unrelated UAA news, COO Kip Fulks will be taking a sabbatical; his replacement has not been named.

Howie Long-Short: The Under Armour name is synonymous with sweat wicking performance gear, not the great outdoors, so a renewed focus on the company’s core competency sounds logical. Waiting on the Curry 4 or a subscription box service to change the company’s fortunes, does not. UAA shares are down 42% in ’17, following 6 years of 20%+ top line growth. UAA will report Q3 results on 10/31.

Fan Marino: Sponsorship deals with Andy Murray and Sloane Stephens will not be affected, should UAA cut tennis. Speaking of UAA athletes, Sports Business Daily conducted a recent survey to identify the most marketable players in the NBA; Steph Curry finished second. LeBron James finished first, picking up 39 out of 49 first place votes; with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden rounding out the Top 5.

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2018 DRL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TO BE HELD IN SAUDI ARABIA, TRYOUTS OPEN NOVEMBER 15

The Drone Racing League (DRL) has announced it will hold its 2018 Allianz World Championship in Saudi Arabia, next September. The 7th and final event of the DRL season will consist of 8 FPV (first person view) pilots racing custom-built drones, that travel more than 90 MPH, through a complex 3D racecourse; with the winner earning the title of “World’s Greatest Drone Pilot”. The race will be televised in 87 countries, on cable networks including; ESPN, OSN, Sky Sports and Fox Sports Asia.

Howie Long-Short: The DRL holds several dozen patents on the core technology that enables drone racing. They use the league to showcase the technology. The company is privately held, but has raised more than $32 million to date; including a $20 million series B round in June. Looking to play the DRL? SKYAY lead their Series B round and participated in both their seed and Series A rounds. Liberty Media Corporation (LMCA), Allianz (OTC: AZSEY), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and MGM Television (OTC: MGMB) are all also invested in the company.

Fan Marino: The DRL consists of 16 professional pilots competing in 6 regular season races before a short postseason whittles it down to 8 qualifiers, competing for the World Championship. Think you can compete in the DRL? The league is holding annual open tryouts, beginning on November 15th, using their Steam simulator. All you need is a computer and an Xbox or drone controller to participate.  The Top 24 competitors will advance to a live racing simulator tournament with a chance to compete for $75,000 and 1 of 16 spots in the 2018 season.

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STUBHUB TO BECOME NFL’S AUTHORIZED TICKET RESALE MARKETPLACE FOR 2018 SEASON

StubHub (eBay) and the NFL have announced a multi-year partnership that will make the world’s largest ticketing marketplace, the NFL’s “authorized ticket resale marketplace”, beginning in 2018. As part of a new 5-year deal with Ticketmaster (LYV), the NFL will be introducing the first open architecture, fully digital ticketing system in sports; meaning StubHub will be able to directly integrate with the league’s primary ticketing system for the first time. The NFL will allow competing marketplaces to integrate with the platform as well, but StubHub will retain exclusive marketing rights and other benefits.

Howie Long-Short: eBay Inc. (EBAY) reported earnings of $514 million ($.48/share) for the quarter ending September 30th. EBAY did $2.4 billion in revenue, up 9% YOY; with $1.9 billion (up 8% YOY) coming from their marketplace platforms. StubHub contributed $275 million in revenue (up 5% YOY), with the growth driven by international sales. The company is currently investing heavily in the redevelopment of their platforms amid stiff competition from AMZN.

Fan Marino: The Province of Ontario is working on consumer protection legislation that would ban ticket scalping “bots” and cap the markup on resold tickets to $.50, on resale sites like StubHub. Banning bots makes sense because it creates an even playing field. Capping resale prices does not. Why would a fan buy a season ticket if they could always get a seat for no more than $.50 above the face value of the ticket? The Raptors & Blue Jays should be lobbying against this bill.

StubHub Becomes Designated NFL Ticket Resale Marketplace

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