Editor Note: ‘Early Entrants’ is a series of sports business ‘rumblings’ before the news breaks.
No Sponsored Patches on NFL Uniforms Before ‘23
A Sports Illustrated article suggesting sponsorship patches on NFL game jerseys would be worth at least $220 million/year has most believing that their placement is inevitable, but JohnWallStreet hears that we’re at least a half decade away from experiencing that reality. One well-connected agency source says that “there’s no sense of urgency [from team owners]. NBA teams are going to go back into the marketplace this year [with their three-year trial period expiring] and negotiate new terms [with sponsors]. MLB teams will probably add patches to sleeves in 2022.” The expectation is that the NFL is going to “let the NBA re-set the market, watch MLB re-set it again and then look to get the most money [of the three leagues] for a sponsored patch in ’23.” The president of one NFL franchise said that timeline “sounds about right – there’s been little to no discussion on the topic.”
Expect PGA Tour to Remain on Broadcast Television
The PGA Tour hopes to have a new media rights agreement in place before the end of 2019 and has reportedly told potential partners it wants to be able to control its own linear television network. CBS, NBC and The Golf Channel currently split PGA Tour broadcast rights and NBC appears willing to cede control of The Golf Channel, so there’s no guarantee a change is coming, but ESPN, Fox and Warner Media (+ Amazon) have all expressed interest and each controls a channel it could turn into a golf-centric network. ESPN (with ABC) and Fox are viable destinations for the Tour, but the former president of one broadcast network says “it’s hard to imagine the PGA would sever its relationships with CBS and NBC. Affluent, well-educated, suburban network golf viewers are the principal driver of revenues for the Tour and its event sponsors; and that demographic cannot be replicated on cable channels (see: much smaller audience) or digital platforms (see: much younger, less wealthy audience).”
No ‘Real Appetite’ for 9a Kickoffs, Commissioner Scott Lacking Support
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott floated the idea of scheduling one or two 9a local-time kickoffs – to increase exposure (as opposed to playing at 10:30p EST) – at the conference’s media day gathering last month. It has since been announced that the radical idea has been tabled until at least 2020. While publicly the conference stated that several schools were interested in hosting an early morning start, the athletic director at one P12 university tells JohnWallStreet that there was “no support from the schools, no real appetite within the conference. [Scott] was [just] testing the waters to see what might come out of the conversation – both with the networks and the institutions.” Logistics on short notice aside, it’s no surprise that the Pac-12 commissioner was unable to drive a scheduling change; he lacks support amongst the conference’s athletic directors. Scott is probably safe through the Spring of ’22 (when his current deal expires) – if the P12 is going to sell an equity stake, now is not the time for turnover – but he’s not long for the job. Expect the conference to have new leadership sooner than later.
Panini America to Launch on Weibo
Panini America will announce plans to introduce a presence on the leading Chinese social platform, Weibo. The licensed sports collectibles and card manufacturer has “seen an increased level of interest” in its products in China, having experienced “positive growth year-over-year in the market” over the “last several years.” The idea is to use the platform to promote trading card culture. The company has said it will develop Chinese specific content for NBA, FIFA, EPL and NFL fans in the country.
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