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Inside the NBA's plan to make money and engage fans in the Disney 'bubble' – CNBC

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media after the Board of Governors meetings on July 12, 2016 at the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

David Dow | NBAE | Getty Images

It’s on to phase two for the National Basketball Association’s reopening after the league finished the first phase by finalizing comeback plans for a season suspended by Covid-19.

The league’s Disney World “bubble” campus will host 22 teams in efforts to crown a champion and will proceed with the season despite the increase in Covid-19 cases throughout Florida. NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke to media members on Friday and discussed how the league would continue if Covid-19 cases spread inside the bubble. He said if cases reach a certain point, “that ultimately might lead us to stopping” season.

“I think we just want to get down on the ground and start to see how our testing is working and how the protocols are working, and then we’ll make decisions as we go,” Silver said. 

And so, the show goes on. 

The NBA is headed to Orlando to save some of its lost revenue, which is projected to reach $1 billion if remaining games are canceled, with players missing out on more than $600 million in salary. In addition to the pandemic-related revenue losses, the NBA still has an unresolved issues with China, which Silver said in February could cost the league $400 million

So, the NBA will get creative since there is no playbook for games without spectators. 

The NBA’s virtual grandstand

Behind the scenes, the NBA scanned abroad for ideas on ways to engage its fans, looking as far as Denmark’s Aarhus Gymnastikforening (AGF), where the soccer league invited 10,000 fans to watch via a Zoom video broadcast. Fans signed up for tickets and were paired on Zoom calls that featured other fans in sections they would normally sit with during games. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, who oversees the league’s business affairs, hinted at ideas like AGF’s, which is being called the world’s “first virtual grandstand.”

“We’re going to use this as an opportunity to bring our fans closer to the game,” Tatum said. “And so, what you’ll see in the arena are opportunities for fans to interact, to be seen in the arena, and to have hundreds of fans be able to appear on the video boards surrounding the court.”

Craig Howe, CEO and Founder of Rebel Ventures, advised the NBA on ways to develop its content in Orlando. He said the league is attempting “to gather as much insight as possible to give their teams an idea of what content they will be able to create, so they can start thinking about overcoming the challenges.”

Howe’s firm helps sports organizations transform their media and entertainment businesses. He said the “biggest challenge is going to be capturing the emotion” of fans not in attendance.” But, he added, “I expect the NBA to take that to another level because they’ve had time to see what other leagues were doing.” 

The NBA will also be able to use the lower space of the Arena, the Field House, and Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for advertising space. It’s similar to what the National Football League is planning to do by placing tarps with ads over the first few rows of seats around stadiums.

“There will also be corporate advertising and partners, both by the local teams and national partners, as well, which you would see nationally and locally televised games,” said Tatum. “We are working with our corporate partners to ensure that they have the appropriate placements on the court and different marketing and advertising opportunities.”

The underutilized asset 

Tatum said the NBA is “still working through the projected revenue” the league expects to bring in from the resumption of the season. Another way to combat losses is revitalizing under-utilized assets, said Chris Lencheski, Columbia University professor, and CEO of Granite Bridge Partners’ Winning Streak Sports, a marketing, licensing and promotional organization.

The NBA has long tried to monetize its game audio. Former NBA commissioner David Stern advocated for more microphones to be placed around games in 2013, and now could be the time the NBA creates a revenue play with its audio. With Spotify increasing audio’s value after investing over $600 million to acquire various podcast platforms and stars, and Twitter testing audio-only tweets, the NBA could be sitting on a profitable asset as on-the -court chatter could command fans’ interest.

Would fans pay to hear the exclusive commentary of Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid trash-talking Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook during a game? Would there be interest in the fourth quarter audio of Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green? The offerings could be “especially entertaining and easily monetizing,” said Lencheski, also chairman of Phoenicia, a sports and entertainment management firm.

“The audio on the court, and all of that interface, player-to-player, player-to coach, player and coach, and referee, is one of the most underutilized media assets in sports,” he said. 

And with the NBA’s global reach, “and now the development of platforms like Spotify and TikTok … and the age of those users and their unique usage patterns changing from traditional radio to podcasting or subscription based audio – there is tremendous unlocked value,” Lencheski said. 

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Yankees' Tanaka released from hospital after line drive to head – CANOE

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New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of teammate Giancarlo Stanton on Saturday, has been released from hospital, the Major League Baseball team said on Saturday.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tanaka had concussion-like symptoms before leaving for the hospital but they have since dissipated and a CT scan returned negative. Tanaka will have to go through concussion protocol before returning to the field, Boone said.

The incident happened the same day the Yankees announced that infielder DJ LeMahieu and right-hander Luis Cessa have tested positive for COVID-19 and are away from the team.

According to Boone, both players tested positive before arriving to New York and are self-isolating at their homes, outside the state. He said LeMahieu was asymptomatic while Cessa has mild symptoms.

“We are hopeful (their absence) will be a short time but they are not here at this point, so we’ll see how that continues to unfold over the next several days,” Boone said during a virtual news conference with reporters following workouts.

In a terrifying scene during his team’s first official workout since returning from the COVID-19 layoff, the right-handed Japanese pitcher immediately dropped to the ground where he remained for several minutes.

Trainers and teammates rushed to the mound where Tanaka, 31, was tended to. He was then helped to his feet and walked off the field with the assistance of trainers.

“Anytime you see that on a baseball field and then add a layer, that it’s a teammate, I mean that stops you in your tracks and you hope for the best,” said Boone.

Tanaka, who was facing his third batter of the day in the simulated game, was responsive after the incident but was sent to hospital for further evaluation and testing.

After the incident a protective screen was placed in front of the mound before Jordan Montgomery took over pitching duties.

“I was a little timid after seeing that, a little squirrelly,” said Montgomery.

“That’s kind of a freak accident, a one-in-a-million chance of happening. And then it does, it’s terrifying. Especially as a teammate and friend, you don’t want to see anybody hurting.”

Tanaka became the fifth-highest paid MLB pitcher when the prized free agent signed with New York in 2014 following a dominant career with Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

In 2019, Tanaka finished the season with a record of 11-9 in 31 starts with an earned-run average of 4.45.

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The long and the short of Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau – TSN

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They are arguably the two hottest golfers in the game, two players who’ve been fixtures at the top of the leaderboard since the PGA Tour restarted play.

Yet the styles of play of Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau couldn’t be more different. As they head into the weekend at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, they find themselves separated by just a shot at the top of the leaderboard.

In the three and a half tournaments since the tour returned to action, Simpson has a missed cut and a win, the latter coming at the RBC Heritage. He leads the FedEx Cup standings and sits sixth on the Official World Golf Ranking. He also has the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour at 68.662.

A win or runner-up finish this week would make Simpson the top-ranked American golfer.

His game has been a model of consistency for some time, mind you. The missed cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge was just his second in his last 38 starts.

Last week, he skipped the Travelers Championship after his daughter tested positive for COVID-19, a test that Simpson said later showed to be a false positive. Still, the week at home was a good rest and allowed him to keep his well-tuned swing in shape.

“Coming off Hilton Head feeling like everything in the golf swing was simplified, I felt like there was not a whole lot to work on or improve upon, so it was more just kind of like maintenance work,” he said.

“I’ve tried to become more well-rounded through the bag and I’m seeing results. I’m having fun out there.”

DeChambeau has finished tied for third, tied for eighth and tied for sixth in three tournaments so far. He’s had a legitimate chance to win all of them. His play puts him 12th on the FedEx Cup points list and 10th in the world ranking. He has the third-best scoring average on tour with a mark of 68.822.

Despite the great numbers and results, DeChambeau is far from satisfied with his bulked-up body and how it’s translated into his overall game

“Playing the golf that I want to play, if I was to give myself a grade, and I know people are going to say things about this and people are going to chirp and chime in on what they think, ‘oh, he’s playing unbelievable golf,’ I’d really say it’s B game right now,” stated DeChambeau. “It’s not 100 per cent, but it’s not bad, either. I’m still able to get it in, I’m able to score, which is great, but I still have to refine some things.”

One of those is his wedge play, which lags behind the rest of his game. He sits 104th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and is 194th in Scrambling from outside 30 yards.

But the big difference in the games of the two players comes at the start and finish of every hole.

DeChambeau and his newfound muscle feature a game built to overpower the golf course, while Simpson’s relies on accuracy and touch.

This week, DeChambeau sits unsurprisingly in top spot in Driving Distance with his longest whallop travelling 377 yards. Simpson is at the opposite end of that statistic, sitting in 89th spot with an average of 293.6.

But in accuracy off the tee, the numbers flip around. Simpson is tied for fourth while DeChambeau is well back in a tie for 93rd. Simpson also has a healthy lead in hitting greens, reaching 32 of 36 so far. DeChambeau has only found 27.

It proves once again that in golf, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just how many strokes it takes to get it done.

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NASCAR's Johnson has COVID-19 – TSN

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INDIANAPOLIS — Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss this weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,

The 44-year-old Johnson is the first driver in any NASCAR series to test positive and the news Friday evening cast a shadow over the historic NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader races coming up Saturday and Sunday. There was no indication any races would be affected.

Hendrick Motorsports said Johnson will not return until he is cleared by a physician. He was tested earlier Friday after his wife, Chani, tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms.

Johnson is asymptomatic.

“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”

Johnson earlier Friday held a Zoom session with reporters to discuss Sunday’s race and an upcoming test of an Indy car on the road course at the fabled venue. He will now miss that test, as well as what was supposed to be his final Brickyard 400. Justin Allgaier will replace him in the No. 48 Chevrolet.

“Jimmie has handled this situation like the champion he is,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “We’re relieved he isn’t showing symptoms and that Chani is doing great, and we know he’ll be back and ready to go very soon. It’s going to be difficult for him to be out of the car and away from his team, but it’s the right thing to do for Jimmie and everyone involved.”

Hendrick Motorsports said it has implemented detailed procedures to protect the health of its team members. They include daily COVID-19 screenings at the team facilities; the separation of facility operations and travelling personnel; split work schedules; stringent face covering and social distancing requirements; and an increased level of disinfecting and sanitization of all work areas.

Johnson is scheduled to retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of the season and was trying to tie Jeff Gordon and Michael Schumacher as the only five-time winners at Indianapolis.

Johnson has made 663 conscutive Cup Series starts — the longest streak among active drivers — and is currently 12th in the standings, 63 points inside the playoff picture. NASCAR’s rules state a driver must be symptom free and have two negative coronavirus tests in a 24-hour span to return.

NASCAR said it has granted Johnson a playoff waiver.

“Jimmie is a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery,” the series said.

Johnson could potentially also miss the Cup race at Kentucky and the All-Star race at Bristol. Next week’s test of the road course at Indy in Scott Dixon’s car has also been scrapped.

NASCAR was one of the first sports to resume competition from the pandemic shutdown and has completed 11 Cup races since its May 17 return. The sanctioning body does not test for coronavirus but participants are required to do a temperature check as they enter the facility.

Drivers have been told to isolate at the track and there is very little interaction beyond radio conversation between the competitor and his crew.

Although Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske both said they’ve had positive tests from shop-based team members, Johnson is the first driver. Earlier Friday, Brazilian sports car driver Felipe Nasr said he had tested positive and will miss Saturday’s IMSA event at Daytona International Speedway.

Johnson earlier Friday discussed the Indy car test scheduled with Chip Ganassi Racing, which he said was the first step in determine if actual races are in his future. If he’s any good, he said, he would be open to racing all 12 street and road course events on the IndyCar schedule.

Johnson has long said safety concerns would keep him from racing on IndyCar oval tracks, but Friday he offered a surprisingly softer stance about the Indy 500. IndyCar this year unveiled its aeroscreen windshield designed to protect the drivers from debris as they sit in the open-air cockpits. Saturday will mark just the second race with the device, but it appeared problem-free last month on the oval at high-speed Texas Motor Speedway.

“Their safety on ovals has dramatically increased this year with the windscreen. So, I’ll keep a close eye on things there and see how the safety level looks,” Johnson said. “I’ve always wanted to race the Indy 500. I’d have to do a lot of selling to my wife to get that pass, but my true desire right now is to just run the road courses.”

Johnson has his eye on the street course race in Long Beach, California, a race that was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic but is one of the most storied events on the IndyCar calendar at a track just a couple hours from his native El Cajon.

“When I was a kid growing up, the closest IndyCar racing for me was at Long Beach so one of my hopes is that I am able to race at Long Beach,” Johnson said. “I hung on the fence a lot as a kid watching and dreaming. …. There’s a lot of sentimental value with that race and I hope to race there.”

He is stuck in a three-year losing streak but Hendrick Motorsports has been dramatically improved this season and Johnson has been competitive. He has also been actively prepping for a whirl in an Indy car and had been scheduled to test with the McLaren team before the pandemic.

“It’s a test, it’s a tryout and it’s a two-way street. Two-way tryout for the team to look at me and for myself to look at a team,” he said. “If I’m about four seconds off the pace, then that’s probably a quick sign that I don’t need to be in one of these cars. If I’m within a certain amount of time and I have a good feel of the car, then for me, I feel like that’s an important first step that I need to know that I can be competitive.

“I do not want to go race in any series and not be competitive,” he said.

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