ZIPWHIP PROVIDES FSU ATHLETICS BOX OFFICE WITH TEXT MESSAGING CAPABILITIES

Florida State University’s athletic department has been able to accelerate its ticketing sales cycle by adding text messaging to the process. Using ZipWhip to give its box office phone number text messaging functionality; FSU has seen an increase in the percentage of responders to their outreach, faster response times and increased conversation rates. ZipWhip technology enables two-way texting between businesses and their customers, while the underlying platform facilitates the conversation much in the same way that Outlook or Gmail does for email communication. The company has increased reoccurring monthly revenues by 60% over the last 10 months, picking up clients in a variety of phone intensive industries (i.e. insurance, medical, auto sales).

Howie Long-Short: You can’t invest directly in ZipWhip; as it remains privately held, but Microsoft Ventures participated in both their $9 million Series B funding round as well as the $22.5 million Series C round that was just announced. Microsoft Ventures is the corporate venture capital arm of Microsoft (MSFT).

Fan Marino: Mobile Marketing Watch has indicated that while only 20% of emails are opened, 98% of texts are. I need to meet the 2% of people who have the discipline to avoid checking their text messages when that little number icon appears, because I don’t believe they exist. Of course, if I start getting text messages offering me erectile dysfunction medications, I’ll stop checking my texts too.

Texting is Helping Florida State Win Off the Field

DICK’S SPORTING GOODS ANNOUNCES THE OPENING OF 10 STORES ACROSS 8 STATES

Dick’s Sporting Good, Inc. (DKS) announced it would be opening 10 stores, including 8 flagship stores and 2 Field & Stream outlets by mid-September, as part of the company’s plan to open 43 new stores by the end of the year. The company reported Q2 2017 revenue growth of 9.6% (to $2.157 billion), attributing it to the expansion of its store network (13 stores in Q2), as consolidated same store sales rose just .1 percent YOY. Company CEO Edward Stack believes that retail disruption provides DKS with long-term opportunities and that the company needs to invest aggressively, both in brick & mortar and its marketing efforts, to protect its market share.

Howie Long-Short: DKS recently launched a private label compression and training clothing line named Second Skin, to compete with Under Armour (UAA). It’s certainly worth a shot. The odds of developing a successful private label in-house must be better than banking on a vendor that wants to go DTC (i.e. NKE) to drive future growth.

Fan Marino: Dick’s is doing athlete meet and greets at each of their grand openings. If you happen to be in Medford, MA Sept. 15-17th, Celtics 1st round pick Jayson Taum will be in attendance; while Kings star Buddy Hield will be at the Roseville, California opening that same weekend. 

DICK’S Sporting Ramps Up Store Expansion, To Add 10 Outlets

USED MOTORCYCLE MARKET HURTING HARLEY-DAVIDSON SALES

Harley-Davidson (HOG) reported retail sales were down 9.3% YOY in Q2 ’17 amidst an industry wide slowdown; as baby boomers, historically the company’s biggest customers, aren’t buying new bikes. To exacerbate the issue, boomers are selling their old HOG bikes, which is driving prices down within the used market. As a result, the used Harley market is booming, with pre-owned HOGs selling at 2.5x the rate of new ones. The growth within the used market reflects the strength of the Harley-Davidson brand, but those sales obviously don’t impact the company’s bottom line.

Howie Long-Short: Harley is rolling out 17 new models in 2018, 9 of which are under $12,000. Smart. Millennials want to ride HOGs, they just want cheaper ones.

Fan Marino: Harley envisions adding 2 million new riders in the U.S., by 2027. Their riding schools turn out 65,000 new riders/year. Howie is the mathematician, but 65,000/year over 10 years is only 650,000. Where are the other 1.35 million people coming from?

How Used Bike Growth Is Impacting Harley-Davidson

MLB PARTNERS WITH INTEL TO OFFER FREE OUT-OF-MARKET VR BROADCAST WEEKLY

MLB offers fans a free weekly (Tuesday evenings) out-of-market virtual reality broadcast, powered by Intel (INTC) True VR. Using the Intel True VR App fans can control the broadcast POV, get access to postgame highlights and on demand replays of each game. To watch the VR steams, you’ll need a Samsung (KRX: 005930) phone, a Gear VR headset and to download the VR app from the Oculus (FB) app store. Curiosity is driving viewers for short windows of time, but the challenge ahead for MLB is figuring out how to keep that viewer tuned in for a 3-hour game.

Howie Long-Short: When Intel was looking for a VR partner, they were looking for 3 things. Defensible IP, scalability and the ability to stream its feed into a two-dimensional screen as well as to head-mounted goggles. It found its match in Voke VR. Intel lead their $12.5 million Series A round in March ’16, before acquiring the company in November 2016.

Fan Marino: True VR offers views down the first base line, from the right field corner and behind home plate, but the most popular views thus far have been the dugout views. That doesn’t surprise me. It’s a chance for fans to get “behind the scenes”, without the content being scrubbed first (i.e. Hard Knocks).

Virtual Reality Reaches The Big Leagues With Intel

ESPN OTT SERVICE TO LAUNCH IN SPRING 2018 THOUGH SINGLE APP

Disney (DIS) CEO Bob Iger told investors that ESPN’s OTT service would be offered through a single app, starting in the Spring of 2018. He described the platform as a “sports marketplace”, where users will able to purchase sporting events on an ala carte basis. Iger anticipates the service offering 10,000 live events, that are not on the linear channel, within the first year; including regular season MLB and NHL games. No pricing information was released. 

Howie Long-Short: UBS studied the content that would air on the ESPN OTT app, reviewed an Evidence Lab survey, analyzed Nielsen (NLSN) data streams and compared the prospective offering to what currently exists in the market. They found that ESPN OTT is “only serving small niches”. You aren’t going to find an argument here. The average Joe isn’t buying collegiate volleyball games, sorry.

Fan Marino: ESPN can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. They can aggregate all the non-televised programming they have and roll out a shiny new app, but they are still trying to sell you games that weren’t deemed worthy of airing on the linear channels.

Marvel And ‘Star Wars’ Films To Move From Netflix To New Disney Streaming Service

FOREMAN DOCUMENTARY TO AIR ON EPIX TOMORROW NIGHT; FOREMAN GRILL MANUFACTURER TO EXPAND IN TO CHINA

FOREMAN, a documentary telling the story of world champion boxer, entrepreneur and businessman George Foreman, will premiere on EPIX (OTC: MGMB) tomorrow night (September 13TH), at 8:00 P.M. EST. In 1994, at 45 years old, Foreman reclaimed the heavyweight title he had lost 20 years earlier to Ali and agreed to what would become the second most lucrative endorsement partnership in history (Jordan/Nike), with the launch of his George Foreman grill. The manufacturer of those grills, Spectrum Brands (SPB), has just announced they are expanding in to China, agreeing with Chinese e-commerce company JD.com to open a series of flagship stores that will sell Spectrum Brand products.

Howie Long-Short: Of the $5 billion in Spectrum Brand sales in 2016, only 3% came from Asia-Pacific. With 258 million people (JD.com customer base) about to get their first look at the Foreman Grill, a run on lean meaning fat reducing grilling machines looks to be on the horizon.

Fan Marino: Salton Inc., which has since merged with Spectrum Brands (SPB), paid Foreman $137.5 million in cash and stock to buy him out and to utilize his name on the product in perpetuity, back in 1998. Foreman made more than $200 million in total from the grill.

CADENCE13 TO REBOOT LONG-TIME ESPN STAPLE “THE SPORTS REPORTERS” AS PODCAST

Cadence13 has announced a partnership with Mitch Albom and Mike Lupica, to relaunch “The Sports Reporters”, as a bi-weekly podcast. The podcast will feature Mitch, Mike and a cast of rotating sports writers, including Bob Ryan, Christine Brennan and Lesley Visser. ESPN (DIS) cancelled the show in May, just shy of 30 years after its debut. The show is credited with being amongst the first to “embrace debate”.

Howie Long-Short: It’s been a busy year for Entercom Communications Corp. In February, the company signed a deal to acquire CBS Radio for an estimated $1 billion. Then in early August, Entercom Communications Corp. (ETM) purchased a 45% stake in DGital. DGital has since been rebranded as Cadence13. While Cadence13 is a privately held company, you can buy of Cadence13 through ETM.

Fan Marino: The Sports Reports had 2 all-time great moderators (Dick Schaap, John Saunders) and a rotating cast of the best sportswriters (Lupica, Albom, John Feinstein, Bob Ryan, Michael Wilbon etc.) in the business. One infamous former guest though, is disgraced/deceased Philadelphia sportswriter Bill Conlin. Conlin, who did over 300 editions of the show, was accused of molesting 4 children between the ages of 7-12, back in the 70s.

Mitch Albom and Mike Lupica Partner with Cadence13 to Relaunch ‘The Sports Reporters’ as a Podcast

FACEBOOK’S BID FOR CRICKET FALLS SHORT; MAY PURSUE NFL MOBILE RIGHTS IN 2019

Facebook (FB) submitted a 5-year $610 million bid for the rights to stream the India Premier League. While Rupert Murdoch’s Star India (FOXA) ultimately won the bidding process, with a $2.55 billion bid (to broadcast and stream), it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s most aggressive offer for live sports content to date. Facebook was the only Silicon Valley company to place a bid on the two-month long tournament, that draws 185 million worldwide.

Howie Long-Short: NFL streaming rights have always gone to a traditional phone company. That may change in 2019 though, as companies who wish to distribute media on mobile devices are likely to get into the bidding process. That’s great news for NFL team owners, who are currently receiving $1 billion over 4 years from Verizon.

Fan Marino: 185.7 million people watched the first 3 matches of the IPL season, roughly 8.5x the audience the Patriots/Chiefs season opener did last Thursday night. No wonder Facebook wanted that property!

Facebook bid $610 million for the rights to stream Indian cricket matches

ZEBRA TECHNOLOGIES, WILSON SPORTING GOODS DEPLOY FOOTBALL TRACKING TECHNOLOGY FOR NFL GAMES

Zebra Technologies in a collaboration with Wilson Sporting Goods, will deploy RFID-tagged footballs for every game on the 2017 NFL schedule. The football tracking technology enables the collection of real-time location, speed and rotation data; providing fans with new visualizations, statistics and fantasy recommendations. The data collected will be used by in game broadcasts and distributed through other league media partners, to enhance the fan experience.

Howie Long-Short: Wilson Sporting Goods is a subsidiary of the Amer Sports Corporation (HEL: AMEAS). Amer is a Finnish sporting goods company that owns several brands including; Louisville Slugger, Atomic and Salomon. The company recently updated its 2020 growth target, prioritizing sustainable profitable growth to consumer advances. AMEAS now targets annual mid-single digit organic, currency-neutral growth (previously said $3.5 billion EUR).

Fan Marino: Speaking of Wilson Sporting Goods, the company recently announced the launch of the Wilson Custom Racket Shop. The Shop is the first web based platform that provides players with the opportunity to design a performance tennis racket to their personal specifications. Grigor Dimitrov (ATP #11) was the first tour player to use the Shop and has been playing with the Pro Staff he designed since.

ZEBRA TECHNOLOGIES COLLABORATES WITH NFL AND WILSON SPORTING GOODS TO DELIVER UNIQUE INSIGHTS DURING 2017 FOOTBALL SEASON

SKI RESORTS CONCERNED AS TRUMP LOOKS TO OVERHAUL J-1 VISA PROGRAM

President Trump is considering overhauling a program that provides 300,000 foreign visitors/year (primarily college students) with the opportunity to work temporarily in the United States. As part of his “Buy American and Hire American” campaign, Trump is evaluating several options including; the elimination of J-1 via program, imposing new requirements on program participants and/or requiring employers to prove they are unable to find Americans who want the temporary jobs. Ski resort operators are particularly concerned and have urged Trump administration officials to keep the program intact, as foreign students are estimated to fill 7,000 jobs during the December-March U.S. ski season.

Howie Long-Short: Ever ski/snowboard Hunter Mountain? Mount Snow? Jack Front? They are all owned by ski resort operator Peak Resorts (SKIS). SKIS recently announced revenues of $7.5 million for Q1 2018, a 6% YOY increase, during their slowest time of the year. The company also expressed optimism for the upcoming season, as sales of its “Peak Pass” is up 9% from this time last year.

Fan Marino: Don’t confuse the J-1 program for cheap labor. Ski resorts are required to pay the same salaries to foreign students that they would to U.S. citizens and in some cases, are required to invest in housing or meal plans for students studying abroad. If the resorts could hire local, they would.

Ski resorts and others worry the Trump administration may cut visa workers program