Editor Note: Early Entrants is a bi-weekly series of sports business “rumblings” before the news breaks.
4-Team Mid-Season Tournament to Serve as Trial Balloon for Change in Schedule
N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly expressed a willingness to explore potential changes to the league schedule – an in-season cup tournament (think: European soccer) or post-season play-in tournament (giving teams that would otherwise be headed to the draft lottery another chance at a playoff berth) are the ideas most frequently discussed. While it’s unlikely the wholesale changes referenced will occur before the end of the ’22-’23 season (the next time one side can opt out of the current CBA), JohnWallStreet has heard that the league could float a trial balloon (pending players’ association approval) in the form of a 4-team mid-season tournament (3 games over 48 hours) that would replace the annual all-star game. The tournament, which could take place as soon as ’21-’22 (the league’s 75th anniversary season), would consist of the Eastern Conference All-Stars, the Western Conference All-Stars and two international clubs.
Sports Illustrated Branded Restaurants Coming
Authentic Brands Group spent $110 million to acquire the intellectual property and licensing rights to Sports Illustrated. CEO Jamie Salter has publicly cited opportunities in consumer goods (think: apparel), events (think: conferences), sports gambling, media (think: video), coaching (think: sports-skills classes) and even physical therapy locations – but one concept that has not been discussed to date are themed restaurants. Sources tell JohnWallStreet to expect S.I. branded eateries sooner than later.
Marquee Sports Network Destined for Basic Cable Packages
Charter Communications’/Time Warner’s inability to gain widespread carriage (across Los Angeles) for Spectrum SportsNet LA has baseball fans on the north side of Chicago concerned that their local cable or satellite operator will be unable or unwilling to come to terms with Sinclair Broadcast Group (the Cubs partner) on Marquee Sports Network. But sources tell JohnWallStreet that Cubs fans can rest easy – Marquee has a path to carriage should be far easier to navigate. Sinclair maintains leverage with distributors as the owner of 22 other regional sports networks (including YES) and the team’s standing in the pantheon of Chicago sports franchises is higher than that of the Dodgers in L.A. Cubs games are such a must have for carriers in the Chicago market that it’s believed the RSN will ultimately land on distributors’ basic cable packages, as opposed to a paid tier.
FTC Ticketing Workshop Likely to Be Blood Bath for Industry’s Biggest Players
The FTC is hosting a workshop to explore consumer protection issues within the online ticket marketplace for sporting events (and concerts) on June 11th, but insiders believe what is supposed to be a constructive gathering meant to push the industry forward will turn into little more than a finger pointing exhibition between the business’ biggest players. Ticketmaster is going to blame StubHub and Vivid Seats for allowing sellers to “short-sell” and for deceptive practices (think: marking down pricing on tickets only to increase fees on the back-end). StubHub and Vivid Seats are going to allege Ticketmaster has (at times) restricted mobile ticketing, co-mingled primary and secondary market inventory and scalped an abundance of tickets via their “Platinum Seats” program. Ultimately, the consumer (both buyers and sellers) will benefit from these issues coming to the forefront, but next week’s event is bound to be a blood bath for ticket marketplaces.
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