Tonight in Unpacks: Vince McMahon is eyeing a return to WWE — not to retake the reins on a permanent basis, but in order to pursue a sale of the business. This comes in the wake of the July 2022 sexual-harassment scandal that led to his relinquishing the CEO duties.
In this morning’s Buzzcast, SBJ’s Abe Madkour dives into John Henry and Tom Werner stepping up to the plate to keep Rafael Devers on the Red Sox. Also, The U invests big in athletics; Michael Rubin gets out of the NFT space; and a legendary sports architect passes away.
Vince McMahon is planning to return to the WWE, reports the Wall Street Journal, with the intention “to pursue a sale of the business.”
McMahon — who vacated his CEO position in July following multiple payouts to women amid allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity — told WWE that he is “electing himself and two former co-presidents and directors, Michelle Wilson and George Barrios, to the board.” McMahon still has a controlling stock state in WWE, and he “sent a letter to WWE’s board in late December detailing his desire to return to the company.”
McMahon “believes there is a narrow window” for the sale because WWE’s media rights deals ends in 2024, and he views these as particularly valuable as streaming platforms look for intellectual property to feed demand. The existing deals for the company’s two marquee weekly programs, WWE Raw on USA Network and Smackdown on Fox, are for a total of $468 million. In his 2023 media predictions, SBJ’s John Ourand believes the WWE will start working on TV deals as soon as April around WrestleMania.
The WSJ report said it wasn’t sure what would happen to Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter and current co-CEO, who has steered the organization to what it’s projecting as record revenue and profits. WWE posted over $1 billion in revenue in 2021 with a market value of over $5 billion.
The PGA Tour and its broadcast partners are hearing their fans’ call for more golf in 2023, as NBC/Golf Channel and CBS are both stepping up efforts to streamline broadcasts and add technological innovations as the season resumes this week in Hawaii, writes SBJ’s Josh Carpenter. CBS producer Sellers Shy said his network has been working with the Tour and its partners on streamlining broadcasts for several years.
A common complaint among fans is that not enough golf is shown during broadcasts on the weekends, with the networks’ commercial ad load inundating significant portions of the telecasts. Efforts to address that start this week, from 7-8pm ET, as Carpenter also reports Golf Channel and Peacock will show the last hour of the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions commercial-free for the first time, with presenting sponsorship from Callaway Golf.
Both CBS and NBC have plans to increase aerial shots at tournaments. NBC and Golf Channel this week will utilize a drone at the Tournament of Champions for the first time. CBS will ramp up use of its fly cam this season, especially at the designated events. CBS also intends to enhance usage of on-course audio.
Both networks also will have some fresh faces and voices on their coverage in 2023. NBC added Smylie Kaufman and Brad Faxon, while CBS is bringing on Trevor Immelman as the replacement for Nick Faldo, who retired this past offseason.
In other golf news today, Matt Goodman, who became president of franchises for LIV Golf in May, is no longer with the Saudi-backed golf organization, according to sources cited by SBJ’s Eric Prisbell.
CBS will have 23 PGA Tour events in 2023, starting with the Farmers Insurance Open
Amid new reports today that Bills safety Damar Hamlin has “shown remarkable improvement’’ and is moving his hands and feet, sources at the NFLPA confirm that CPR and the swift activation of an automated external defibrillator “saved his life,” writes SportTechie’s Tom Friend.
A meticulous league-wide emergency action plan — which a source said is “required by the union and league and drilled (pre-game) by the medical staffs” — included the positioning of the latest medical tech, such as an AED near the playing field in Cincinnati on Monday night. During the Bills-Bengals game, sources said the AED and CPR resuscitated Hamlin when he went into cardiac arrest.
An hour prior to every NFL game, medical staffs from each team huddle with airway specialists and neurotrauma consultants — upward of 30 people — to discuss logistics in case of on-field trauma. The home team’s lead physician runs this 60-minute meeting, and that process includes knowing the whereabouts of an AED and verifying the locations of an on-site ambulance and a nearby Level 1 trauma center.
A third-party expert approves the NFL and NFLPA’s emergency action plan before every league year. Each team also rehearses what to do during a catastrophic medical event prior to the regular season. On Monday night, the protocol included detaching Hamlin’s facemask, feeding him oxygen from a portable tank and administering the AED. Bills assistant trainer Denny Kellington has been praised specifically for administering CPR promptly and effectively.
Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center today said that Hamlin is not only “neurologically intact” but that he was also able to write a note asking if the Bills won Monday night’s game. The NFLPA source said, “We hope to never see (catastrophic traumas), but we always want to be prepared for them.”
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s “That’s So Cincinnati” podcast took a deep dive on how the paper covered Hamlin’s on-field collapse while playing the Bengals on “MNF.”
Andretti Global is partnering with General Motors and its Cadillac brand to apply for an F1 expansion team slot, a move that could vault the team onto the grid of the global racing series, writes SBJ’s Adam Stern.
A potential Andretti Cadillac team will apply for the slot as part of the FIA’s newly announced Expressions of Interest process. GM would enter F1 for the first time in its history. GM President Mark Reuss indicated that the carmaker wasn’t looking to get into F1 until Andretti came calling in recent months, but the move makes sense because GM is trying to turn Cadillac into a global brand.
Andretti Global Chair & CEO Michael Andretti told reporters this morning he feels “very, very confident that we’ll be on the grid soon.” It’s unclear when Cadillac Andretti could begin competing but it may not be until 2026 when F1’s new engine regulations begin. The team would be based in the U.S. with a support factory in the U.K., and it likely would feature an American driver, potentially Andretti’s IndyCar star Colton Herta. F1 has yet to comment on today’s announcement.
TNT saw 1.78 million viewers for Penguins-Bruins in the Discover NHL Winter Classic on Monday afternoon from Fenway Park (2:14pm ET start), notes SBJ’s Austin Karp.
That is up 31% from the network’s first time with the game last season, which featured Blues-Wild on New Year’s Day in prime time. There was no Winter Classic two season ago, and three seasons ago, Predators-Stars from the Cotton Bowl on NBC in the 1pm window averaged 1.97 million.
See more of the latest sports viewership figures in Audience Analysis.
NOTES: * = Played Jan. 2.
Supplement brand BOA Nutrition signed NIL deals with two Tobacco Road basketball stars: North Carolina’s Armando Bacot and Duke’s Jeremy Roach, reports SBJ’s Xavier Hunter.
The deals include equity ownership positions in the North Carolina-based company. BOA, whose products are distinguished by their oral aerosol delivery system, will be launching the first brand marketing campaign to feature both UNC and Duke hoops players. Bacot and Roach will be featured in creative content promoting BOA Ignite, the brand’s newest offering. The initial deal is through the end of the academic year, with an option.
BOA CEO Jon Pritchett, founder Hank Durschlag and CRO Daren Lucas reached out to the players through personal connections they had on each campus and then collaborated closely with the representative agents of each player: Engage CEO Daniel Hennes for Bacot and Intrusive Sports CEO Deshaun Harris for Roach. BOA’s list of athlete endorsers includes U.S. triathlete Morgan Pearson, T’Wolves guard Wendell Moore Jr. and LAFC forward Christian Torres.
UNC's Bacot will appear in BOA commercials, PR and social media, and his likeness will be used in various digital marketing
The White Sox have seen record spikes on their social platforms to start the year, thanks in large part to a collaboration with the Bulls, reports SBJ’s Erik Bacharach.
Artwork posted to ring in the “Jordan Year” this week drew all-time high engagement numbers. The post, which features White Sox players Tim Anderson, Dylan Cease and Luis Robert in uniforms reminiscent of the Bulls’ 1990s pinstripe look, has reached more than 1.1 million accounts and 159,000 likes on Instagram, both record highs for the club. A tweet of the artwork by the White Sox, which was retweeted by the Bulls, has drawn nearly 42,000 likes and is among the club’s top-performing tweets of all time.
The White Sox regularly work with the Bulls (both owned by Jerry Reinsdorf) for respective promotional nights, like Bulls Night at Guaranteed Rate Field, or players attending games for ceremonial first pitches, but this is one of their first collaborative design projects together.
White Sox graphic designer Uriel Gutierrez created this image with input from his counterparts at the Bulls
Tonight’s op-ed comes from Raf Keustermans, CEO of athlete tracking tech startup Sportlight Technology, former co-founder and CEO of mobile games startup Plumbee:
“From the outside, professional sports may appear to be a realm of unlimited resources and razor’s-edge technology. But the reality is something that’s distinctly — and, in many cases, dramatically — different. Even sports franchises worth billions of dollars are beholden to budgets and saddled with high overhead costs from player and coach contracts, travel and operations. …
Sports organizations have acknowledged the need for long-term (or at least full-time) investment in certain areas that aren’t closely associated with instant profits or on-field gratification. Underwriting expansive training and medical staff, as well as related equipment and diagnostic tools, for instance, is now viewed as the cost of doing business in sports. Yet there remain other untapped veins of potential that exist almost universally across athletics, and one may be more overlooked than all others: data science.”
Read the full submission here.
Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were a bonanza for TV networks running live sports, delivering an estimated $604 million revenue, notes SBJ’s David Broughton after analyzing data from iSpot.tv.
With a slate of three NFL and five NBA games, Christmas Day delivered $322.7 million, the biggest chunk of that $604 million and a whopping 80% of the day’s TV ad spend. Ad spend for NFL games on Christmas was $230.47 million, with $72 million on the NBA.
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