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Learfield IMG Trying To Renegotiate Rights Deals

“While some schools are understanding of the unprecedented times, others, according to the USA Today story, believe Learfield is using the pandemic as a way of obtaining more favorable deals.”

Brandon Contes

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Rarely does too much time pass without hearing Learfield IMG College has agreed to another multimedia rights partnership, on their way to owning a large collection of contracts with elite athletic programs nationwide. But without the NCAA Tournament, and plenty of uncertainty surrounding the start of the college football season due to a global pandemic, Learfield IMG has “quietly” asked schools for 60-day delays in making scheduled payments, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.

Beyond delaying scheduled payments, Learfield IMG is also looking to restructure some of their partnerships to reduce or even eliminate rights fees. While some schools are understanding of the unprecedented times, others, according to the USA Today story, believe Learfield is using the pandemic as a way of obtaining more favorable deals.

The company isn’t alone in their attempt to alter a college sports partnership. Recently, the LA Times reported Under Armour is looking for a way to renege their 15-year $280 million deal with UCLA which launched in 2017. As Under Armour watched their stock plummet from $50 to $9, they’re also now looking to dump their deal with Cal.

Learfield IMG also isn’t the first media company accused of using the pandemic as an excuse to cut costs. When Sports Illustrated parted ways with senior writer Grant Wahl, the longtime journalist suspected the platform was using COVID-19 as justification to permanently reduce his salary.

Learfield and IMG merged in 2018 amid antitrust concerns to create a company worth over $2 billion, representing more than 70% of NCAA Division I athletic programs. Of those representations, Learfield IMG pays around $1 million for smaller programs and up to $15 million annually for high-profile schools.

Learfield IMG offered the following statement to Wolken and USA Today, saying they built “an aggressive campaign to recoup millions in at-risk revenue on behalf of the universities and conferences we represent” following the cancellation of spring sports, but that the economic fallout and uncertainty about fall sports necessitated discussions about adjusting these contracts.

“From the very beginning, our sole objective has been to ensure that all parties are in a position to weather this storm together, and to exit the other side cooperatively invested in a thriving partnership.”

The unknown of how many more losses the sports industry will endure during this global pandemic shouldn’t be discounted as Learfield IMG and other companies restructure their costs. But that restructuring might force college athletic programs to find a new rightsholder or even choose to operate their own media and marketing rights.

Sports Radio News

NEW STUDY: Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend

More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.

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MLB Radio

When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.

In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.

Radio Listeners to MLB

Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.

The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.

Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.

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Sports Radio News

Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for Final Time

Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”

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Jeff Dean Show

Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:

“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”

Jeff Dean Facebook

Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”

Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.

Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.

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Sports Radio News

Jonas Knox: Adrian Wojnarowski’s NBA Draft Reporting Was Desperate Ratings Ploy

“The idea that Woj is going to get duped by Orlando Magic in the draft! The first time he’s ever been duped in his career?”

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Thursday’s NBA Draft is a moment the guys waiting to hear their names called had been waiting for since the day they picked up a basketball. While his draft came decades ago in the NFL, LaVar Arrington could relate to what they were feeling.

“It’s a dream recognized,” he said on Friday’s episode of FOX Sports Radio’s 2 Pros and a Cup of Joe. “You work so hard for so long. So, when you’re sitting there waiting for them to call your name, it’s a surreal moment.”

His partner, Jonas Knox, wasn’t in such a nostalgic or celebratory mood. He had a problem with the information leading up to draft night and just how much the narrative that Auburn’s Jabari Smith would be taken by the Orlando Magic with the first pick was pushed before all the sudden, it wasn’t.

“What a bunch of crap that we are being fed by Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN, the Orlando Magic,” he said. “Whoever’s feeding it is full of crap.”

Wojnarowski tweeted an hour before the Draft that Jabari Smith was still the favorite to be taken, but he was hearing that the Magic weren’t ruling out Duke’s Paolo Banchero. 

When the first pick was announced, it was Paolo Banchero that heard his name called, not Smith. 

“One of three things happened,” Knox said. “Either ESPN is so desperate for ratings and for people to give a crap about the NBA Draft and their sport that they waited until the final hour to pump up some interest, realizing we’ve got a problem here based on some ratings and some reports on some ratings in the NBA Finals, so they waited until an hour before and had Woj drop a ‘Woj Bomb’ that it could not be Jabari Smith, that it could be Banchero who’s gonna go number one overall. It’s either that or Woj is in some kind of cahoots with the Orlando Magic.”

That is a powerful accusation. Knox finds it hard to believe the information got to ESPN’s renowned NBA Insider so late in the process.

“The idea that Woj is going to get duped by Orlando Magic in the draft! The first time he’s ever been duped in his career?”

He didn’t rule out that someone was trying to make money behind the scenes. As late as Thursday afternoon, the Duke Forward was still in plus territory to be the top pick on many sportsbooks’ odds boards. The odds had gone as high as +1600 last week.

“I call BS. I think it’s all shenanigans and I think somebody needs to get called out for it,” Knox concluded. “That pisses me off, man.”

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