2017 AXS Ticketing Symposium: The Morning Email, Day 1

What we liked about opening day

Ross | Wild Pitches
L.A.-based singer Nya plays a set at AXS reception.

I took the photo above at the AXS reception at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta the night before the 2017 AXS Ticketing Symposium.

Spent much of the night and early morning working (mostly with Abe Madkour) on SBJ’s morning email for the first day of the conference.

Here’s what we wrote:

SUBJECT LINE: Live from ATL: Ticketing Symposium

HUB OF THE “NEW” SPORTS INFRASTRUCTURE: Two ground-breaking facilities, one heavily hyped renovation, and all within 12 miles of each other. It was an easy decision to hold this year’s Sports Facilities and Franchise conference and Ticketing Symposium in Atlanta, which is at the heart of new construction in sports. From the revolutionary SunTrust Park and The Battery to the jaw-dropping Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this city is at the forefront of technology and the fan experience. More than 400 attendees will experience these two new developments, while also getting a sneak peek at the $200M planned renovation at Philips Arena. Wednesday night, both Thad Sheely and Steve Koonin will reveal the vision behind the renovation at Philips, while on Thursday evening guests will walk through The Battery before being greeted by John Schuerholz and taking in the much-talked-about SunTrust Park, which recently completed its first season and drew more than 2.5 million fans. On Friday, after a set-up by Steve Cannon, guests will conclude the three-day event with a tour of the $1.5B Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has set a new standard for big event facilities. There is so much happening in this city, including one of the hottest stories in sports – the over-the-top success of Atlanta United. Continue reading “2017 AXS Ticketing Symposium: The Morning Email, Day 1”

Deep thoughts at Half Moon Bay

Photography Concierge
A bagpiper roams the Ritz Carlton grounds in the evening to greet the sunset.

Exec Editor Abe Madkour and I put together one of SBJ’s patented conference emails from this year’s Thought Leaders Retreat. It’s the first time we’ve done an email from the Retreat because of the off-the-record format at the event. But this year the content and socializing and setting were so great that we wanted to give a little peek behind the curtain for people who couldn’t attend.

Below are the first few grafs of the email. You can click the link at the end to get to a free page and read the rest.

From Half Moon Bay: Seen and Heard at Thought Leaders Retreat

Photography Concierge
If you were on the other side of the net from this guy, you’d be scared, right?

LISTENING, LEARNING AND PLAYING IN HALF MOON BAY: Innovation. Disruption. Taking big swings. The promise and peril of artificial intelligence. The threat of security lapses. And how you may only be allowed to drive a car for another 25 years. The speakers and discussions at the Thought Leaders Retreat presented by CSM and LeadDog were provocative and frequently frightening, but also offered optimism and ideas for facing an uncertain future. Most attendees – who were drawn from our classes of Forty Under 40, Game Changers and Champions honorees – began arriving Wednesday night at the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay in California. Those early arrivals were the first to enjoy the nightly ritual of a magnificent sunset (usually around 8:30 p.m.) complete with a roaming bagpiper, drinks around the fire pits and a cool wind blowing off the Pacific Ocean.

WHAT WAS SAID: We’ll be a bit circumspect about this. Thought Leaders Retreat is an off-the-record conference so that everyone in the room can speak their mind without fear that ideas, problems and plans will be revealed publicly. But there were plenty of takeaways that were not proprietary and will give you a good idea of the quality of the discussions. The speakers who had everyone buzzing had one thing in common: a certainty that we’ll see more changes in sports in the next ten years than we’ve experienced in the last 50.

MALCOLM FRANK, Cognizant, executive vice president, chief strategy officer and chief marketing officer. With a precise eye and full understanding of the digital economy, Frank offered a sometimes chilling look at how artificial intelligence and machine learning will bring dramatic changes to the way we live. One of our favorites points from his presentation: Things sucking is the mother of all invention.

JEFF COLE, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The professor examined the potential collapse of broadcast networks, how it will happen, the future of ESPN and what all of this means for sports. He spoke boldly of Amazon’s growth plans and said if the company’s leader, Jeff Bezos, wants sports programming, he will get it.

Read the full report.

Behind the Scenes: The Twitter uproar over CBS hiring Tony Romo


New CBS analyst Tony Romo

A few weeks ago, SBJ’s media writer, John Ourand, just about broke Twitter (or at least many sports business feeds) when he reported that Tony Romo would retire from the NFL and join CBS as the network’s No. 1 NFL analyst.

A surprising number of the responses came from people critical of Phil Simms, who Romo is replacing in the broadcast booth. Now Simms has recently landed as part of CBS’ studio show.

Shortly after he wrote the original Romo story, I asked John a few questions about it:

This story blew up on Twitter to a degree that is unusual for a sports business story. You’ve reported on announcer teams and changes before. Were you surprised by the interest in this one?

OURAND: Yeah, I was a little surprised. I broke the news of Mike Tirico leaving ESPN for NBC – a story I thought had a lot of Twitter attention. But the attention really just came from media observers. With Tony Romo, the Twitter activity came from NFL fans, too. I mean, he was the quarterback of the most popular NFL team. The news was amplified by people like Adam Schefter (6.1M followers), Bill Simmons (5.69M followers) and Ian Rapoport (1.29M followers). That made my mentions blow up, making it impossible to keep up with them.

You were asked on Twitter about the risk that CBS is taking on an announcer with absolutely no experience, and you said that not a single television executive you’ve talked to has any doubt that Romo will be a success. How can they be so sure? And what’s the downside if they are wrong?

By Tony Florez
This may be John’s only chance to share a blog appearance with Tony Romo.

OURAND: Former Fox executive Ed Goren says that you can’t teach personality. Tony Romo has personality and charm. He has an ability to connect with the audience, displayed through Instagram videos and his on-air comment ceding the starting QB job to Dak Prescott. TV executives have seen a side of Romo that we haven’t. They all met with Romo before Cowboys games, when Romo would talk about game strategy and things the networks should look for. He was able to articulate hardcore NFL strategy in lay terms, while charming his audience. TV executives say he is a can’t miss broadcaster.

I know you enjoyed reporting this story and seeing the reaction to it. Do any of the responses you received stand out more than others?

OURANDI am always surprised at the venom leveled at Phil Simms. He seems like an inoffensive broadcaster to me. But if you go on Twitter and look through my mentions, people were rejoicing. Stories like this always remind me how much people care about sports, down to the people that call the games.

Many thanks for John for answering my questions, and for acknowledging the Cowboys as the most popular NFL team. (Reminder: We’ll be honoring Cowboys owner Jerry Jones with a Lifetime Achievement Award this month at the 2017 Sports Business Awards in New York.)

The Top 10: Stories from SBJ/SBD

We regularly open a few stories to the public – meaning that you don’t have to be a subscriber to read them – and the headline for those stories frequently contains the letters ‘ESPN’. Over the years we’ve learned that a lot of our readers are interested in the goings-on at the network.

I keep a running 30-day tally of the most popular stories across our websites, and the top story on the list today, with almost three times the traffic of the second story, was on ESPN getting ready to cut about 100 employees. All told, ESPN was in the headline of three of the top 10, and you could argue that it was an influential part of two other stories that related to online streaming of sports and cord cutting.

Other notes on the list: six of the 10 stories are about media, three of the headlines include the NFL, and the first item on the list that isn’t about either of those things is a link to our landing page for profiles of the 2017 Forty Under 40.

In previous years, the Forty Under 40 page would have had a lot more traffic, but this year we kept the list behind our pay wall until last Friday, the day after our annual Forty Under 40 banquet. That affected traffic, but we believe our most exclusive content should be offered first to the people who pay our bills.

Here’s the list of the stories that have led our traffic in the last 30 days:

1) ESPN To Cut About 100 Employees; Layoffs To Be Made Public Today
SportsBusiness Daily – 4/26/2017

2) Sources: Romo To Land With CBS; Could Replace Simms As Top Analyst
SportsBusiness Daily – 4/4/2017

3) Amazon Scores With Live-Streaming Rights For NFL “TNF” Package
SportsBusiness Daily – 4/4/2017

4) ESPN Begins Process Of Laying Off Around 100 Reporters, On-Air Personalities
SportsBusiness Daily – 4/26/2017

5) Interest soars in NFL draft as multicity fan event
SportsBusiness Journal – 4/24/2017

6) Five things to know about NFL-Amazon
SportsBusiness Journal – 4/10/2017

7) Forty Under 40 Class of 2017: Introduction
SportsBusiness Journal – 4/10/2017

8) CAA Sports wins race for F1 agency deal
SportsBusiness Journal – 4/17/2017

9) Change is gonna come
SportsBusiness Journal – 4/3/2017

10) Escalated Cord-Cutting, Rights Fees Among Reasons Cited For ESPN’s Massive Layoffs
SportsBusiness Daily – 4/27/2017

Pages & Stages: World Congress speakers in the news

Our speakers make news.

Here are some recent mentions of people you’ll at the World Congress of Sports, which will be held April 19-20 at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, Calif.:

Michael Rubin, Fanatics: There was lots of news about Rubin and Fanatics, starting with Editor-at-Large Terry Lefton breaking the news that Fanatics was buying VF’s Licensed Sports Group, which has held exclusive MLB jersey rights since 2005.

As Lefton wrote:

The move continues Fanatics’ rollup of licensing rights, e-commerce operations, along with brick-and-mortar venue sales, and a push into a vertical arrangement, within which it controls much of the sports-licensing business from end to end.

Lefton followed with a report on the implications of the deal. Money quote:

Licensing industry sources today were still assessing the meaning of the deal and had more questions than answers. Fanatics’ already pervasive influence over the licensed-sports industry just increased exponentially with the addition of domestic manufacturing capabilities. However, an industry source said, “The industry just got smaller. Does this mean Fanatics will purchase from fewer licensees?”

Finally, the Daily rounded up reports that MLB will keep work at the Majestic facility in Pennsylvania as part of the deal. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the “symbolism” of MLB gear being made in the U.S. is “really important to our brand.” Read the full report.

Rubin will speak as part of the powerhouse opening panel on Day 1 of the conference.

David Levy, Turner: With March Madness just ended, SBJ’s Michael Smith and John Ourand wrote about the unique partnership between Turner and CBS in one of our most-read stories of the week. Levy, from the story:

“I don’t know if there will ever be another event where talent is shared, backroom is shared, production is shared, the trucks are shared. It’s unique. I don’t know if it could be matched.”

Continue reading “Pages & Stages: World Congress speakers in the news”

The Intersection: Sports and Politics

In the age of Trump, I find myself keeping more of an eye these days on the intersection of sports and politics. Here are a few recent items that caught my eye:

— Anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany leader Georg Pazderski told Bayern Munich captain Phillipp Lahm, who led Germany to a World Cup victory in ’14, to focus on football (ahem, I think he means “soccer”) after Lahm said he didn’t want to see “the wrong ones” gain more political power. Pazderski: “Philipp Lahm should look after his football and leave politics to others as much as possible.” Here’s the note in SBD Global and the full story from Reuters.

— OK, so this is not strictly politics, but somehow anything to do with Russia these days reeks of the Cold War and the atmosphere and suspicion that has always been a hallmark of relations between Russia and the U.S.

From SBD Global: After “a week of turmoil” for Olympic hockey, Russia “believes it is poised to be the big winner” at the 2018 Winter Games, according to the AP. The country has waited more than 25 years for an Olympic Gold Medal, and “its top league wants to fight” the NHL for int’l markets, so the absence of NHL players from the PyeongChang Games could be “a golden opportunity.”

I’ve got to think that when they made the decision to not attend the 2018 Games, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his advisers took into consideration the fact that other countries would try to capitalize on the absence of the league. Still, I hadn’t seen any coverage about that until this story.

— Re: The joint bid by the U.S., Mexico and Canada for the 2026 World Cup, Fox’s Alexi Lalas said: “Don’t think for a moment that the political climate in the United States didn’t impact this. A joint Wolrd Cup that includes Mexico probably garners additional support and sends a message.” Read the AP story.

Most people I talk with in the Carolinas seem to think that the NC Legislature has taken all the steps needed to resolve the bathroom issue. Not so fast. From SBD: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Charlotte hosting the NBA’s All-Star Weekend after HB2 was repealed last week “is not a done deal yet.” Silver said that the league will “develop an anti-discrimination policy that will have to be signed onto by participating groups in Charlotte.” … Silver said just because HB2 was repealed, it “does not mean fundamental issues are resolved” as they pertain to protection for the LGBT community. Read the Charlotte Observer story.

— Finally, another note from SBD: In N.Y., Maggie Haberman notes Golden Boy Promotions co-Founder & President Oscar De La Hoya is “broadcasting an ad to promote a Cinco de Mayo weekend match” between boxers of Mexican descent, Canelo Álvarez and Julio César Chávez Jr. The spot, being shown on DirecTV and Dish Network, “shows both men barreling through a concrete wall.” De La Hoya said, “The idea of a wall was a direct hit to Donald Trump.” He added, “This is letting him know that not every Mexican is what he’s stated they are. Mexicans are hard workers.” The story from the NY Times.


Let me know what I missed.

Pages and stages: Our speakers in the news

As we approach each of our events, I like to keep an eye on how our speakers are making news across the industry.

Here are some recent mentions of speakers at our World Congress of Sports, which will be held April 19-20 at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, Calif.:

Val Ackerman: The Big East commissioner was named to the board of directors of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Ackerman is part of the opening roundtable on Day 1.

John Angelos: The Baltimore Orioles EVP, who will appear on our regional sports network panel on Day 1 of the conference, said he doesn’t want to see President Donald Trump throw a first pitch at Camden Yards this season. During a B-More Opinionated podcast, Angelos talked about some of the president’s more inflammatory statements, and said, “It’s really incumbent upon any individual who leads the country to step away from those types of statements, to apologize for those statements and retract them. … Until that happens, it wouldn’t be my preference to have the president come throw a pitch.” Read Dan Steinberg’s story in the Washington Post, or listen to the podcast.

Don Garber: The MLS commissioner, who is on the opening panel for Day 2, talked last week with the St. Louis Post Dispatch about today’s stadium referendum: “I’m very confident that if we’re able to go forward here, all that energy behind bringing MLS to St. Louis for many, many years will be fulfilled.”

Sunil Gulati: The U.S. Soccer Federation added a new policy to its bylaws, calling for players to “stand respectfully” during the playing of the National Anthem at any event in which the USSF “is represented,” according to FoxSports.com’s Stuart Holden. USSF President Sunil Gulati said that there are “no preset consequences,” and the policy “would be addressed as it happens.” Not everyone was happy with the new policy, with some commentators calling it “misguided.” Read The Daily’s report on the issue. Gulati will join Garber on the Day 2 soccer panel.

Ted Leonsis: Shortly after Capitals star left wing Alex Ovechkin said he was going to the Olympics with or without the NHL’s blessing, Capitals owner Leonsis stood behind his star (see story in the National Post), leading many to think that other owners were likely to follow suit. Leonsis, ever the trailblazer, will appear with his son, Zach, in a video interview with SBJ media writer John Ourand on Day 1 of the event. They’ll talk about their leadership of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, including views on team ownership, media strategies, corporate partnerships and the role of team owners in the community.

Leonsis also made our ’Twitter Me This” feature after Ovechkin recorded his 17th career hat trick:

Continue reading “Pages and stages: Our speakers in the news”

What I’ve learned: Ashley Merryman on winning, raising children, and why she won’t tell you how to do either one

Nurture ShockAshley Merryman writes books about why people do the things they do, and though that might seem like an area ripe for longs list of life-changing tips, she won’t give them to you. At least on paper.

She’s not quite as strict about it in person. Her speech at SBJ’s Game Changers conference in New York last year gave me one particular bit of information that I now use frequently. When faced with a tough situation, she said, how you frame it can determine how you get through it. Do you look at it as a challenge? Or as a threat? One way can help you rise to the occasion. The other can make you cower in fear.

She used a tennis example to illustrate it, which worked for me because I’m on the courts three of four times a week. One of Merryman’s friends told her that, since reading the book, when faced with a crucial point, he now asks himself, ‘Challenge or threat?’ Or, rather, the abbreviated it ‘C or T?’ I’ve started using that in my own game, and while I can’t say that I’m winning more, I’m facing more of the tough points with confidence.

Merryman sat with me for a few minutes after her presentation to talk about challenges, threats, and what she’s learned while writing and researching (along with her collaborator, Po Bronson) the books “NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children,” and “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.” I originally posted this back in the fall, when I thought this blog was getting started. But the fall got busy, and things got pushed back, and so I thought it was worth reposting as I restart the blog.

Where did C or T come from?

Merryman: We wrote about the difference between playing to win and playing not to lose in one chapter, and then later in the book we talked about the bio-physiological components of challenge and threat. Then [Captain] Tom Chaby, who is a retired Navy SEAL and former commander of SEAL Team FIVE, called and said, ‘I just shortened it to ‘C or T.’” Tom told me how he used it, and I thought, I’m going to try that myself. It’s just like this really quick gut check. And you might say the answer is ’T’, but if it is, how do you compensate for it? How do you plan for it? Or can you change it? It’s a nice way to remind yourself to ask, what are you reasonably expecting? Oh, wait, I’m prepared. There is a reason I’m here. So I love it.

How do you research and write?

Merryman: I go to a lot of scientific conferences, and I go to as many sessions as I can. In scientific publishing it can take years for a study to come out. So I ask them, What are you working on now? What have you been working on that is in press somewhere? How does it all fit? I love doing that, and then, because I’m just a complete geek, I’ll spend x number of hours, it depends on the topic, researching and finding scientific journals and articles, and I just print them out and sit on my couch and read. And I’ll make notes, or just think about them. I’ll divide them into two piles … that one’s useful, that one’s not on point … and then after I have a section of a few hundred pages, I’ll stop and synopsize or take notes, and then I’m literally going through that same pile again, but I’m now looking for the stuff that I already liked. The science dictates my writing more than anything. Because what I’m looking for is good science. Something that is innovative. Something that explains our views in a new way. Something that makes you think, ‘Ahhh, I always had that, but I didn’t know what to call it!’

Have you always been a science geek?

Merryman: No, but I’ve always been a geek. I’ve been working in the social science and science reporting realm since 1999 or 2000. But my background beyond that has just sort of been as a writer. So my undergrad was screenwriting at USC, and I’ve done some speechwriting and some freelance. I’m trying to communicate an idea. I’m sort of agnostic as to what media. Sometimes it’s a book, sometimes it’s a speech.

Nurture ShockDid you learn anything from writing “NurtureShock” that helped “Top Dog” become what it was?

Merryman: I think you learn that you can do it. That’s a good thing. Structurally, though, the books were so different. Top Dog was all about competition, but there are fewer researchers who are focused entirely on competition. So I was tracking ideas more than a particular researcher’s entire oeuvre. There are 85 pages of sources in Top Dog and about 75,000 words of sources in Nurture Shock. I’m also writing about stuff that’s interesting to me. Can you apply this to your life? All of it! Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have cared in the first place.

Why do you not like lists of tips?

Merryman: Because everybody writes a book with bullet-point tips, and they may be great but no one ever explains why they got the tip, they just give you the tip. Every person on the street is more than happy to tell you how to raise your children. Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re wrong. How do you know? So we decided to go in an entirely different direction. There are no tips. This is not a subtle thing.  It’s in the introduction. There are no tips. We just said, ‘Here’s the science, you can tell us if it applies in your family.’ It’s still based in the idea that if I explain to you that being stressed can halve your grade on a test, I think that I don’t really need to say more than that. For me, I learned the science and it changed how I behaved, just like that.

What’s next for you?

Merryman: I’ve been thinking thoughts. I have a few essays that I’ve got in the hopper that I’ve got to figure out how to do something with. One, I’m just so dying to get out, and I’m definitely … I’m thinking thoughts.