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Fanatics Exploring Purchase Of Regional Sports Networks

“The sports merchandise and trading card company just added the latter title to its major business focus in recent months.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: Fanatics

Fanatics is already a major player in sports merchandise and trading cards. Now, they could be angling to enter the sports media rights space. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin has been in preliminary meetings to potentially add regional sports networks to Fanatics portfolio.

The sports merchandise and trading card company just added the latter title to its major business focus in recent months. Fanatics signed long-term trading card deals with the NBA, NBPA, MLB, MLBPA, and NFLPA this summer. The company is also exploring entering the gambling space by launching a sportsbook.

“Rubin’s meetings with league, team, distribution, and network executives have been dormant for several weeks, and nothing is imminent, as sources say Fanatics is concentrating on expanding other parts of its business before tackling media,” Ourand wrote in the article. “Several sources said that these talks with Rubin could pick back up again next year. Plus, leagues, teams and media companies are considering several options beyond Fanatics.”

The company could disrupt the RSN business just like the trading card business, which they came out of nowhere to upend over the summer.

Fanatics Trading Cards hasn’t released any products yet but is already valued at $10.4 billion after its latest funding round. Fanatics owns around 80% of the trading card company, with other investors like private equity giant Silver Lake, talent agency Endeavor, and VC firm Insight Partners all working into the fold.

The Michael Rubin-owned company is pushing into merchandise, trading cards, ticket selling, and sports betting. Media rights are the next logical step in that endeavor, but RSNs aren’t the same as those other industries.

Fanatics would likely have to take a loss on the properties in terms of subscriber-generated revenue, but the access to all of those team broadcasts could do wonders for its other business arms.

Leagues need a buyer for their distressed RSN assets, and Rubin could be their man.

Sports TV News

Notre Dame Expects Next Media Rights Deal to be Worth $60 Million Annually

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Jordan Bondurant

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Chris Coduto

There are still a few more seasons until Notre Dame starts the process of hammering out a new media rights deal, but it’s believed the FBS independent could have its next partner shelling out more than double what NBC is currently paying.

NBC, which appears to be a front-runner alongside CBS to be one of the key rights partners in the Big Ten’s new contract, currently pays $25 million each year for rights to Fighting Irish football according to Front Office Sports.

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Viewership for Fighting Irish games was reportedly down 48% year-over-year for the 2021 season, averaging 2.5 million viewers. The year before that, the pandemic season in 2020, viewership for Notre Dame was its best since 2005.

Notre Dame remains an independent in football, but is in the ACC for its other programs. The Fighting Irish do play some ACC schools in football. With NBC and the Big Ten apparently becoming new partners, it’s believed that Notre Dame would then have more Big Ten opponents in football.

The current contract between the school and NBC ends in 2025.

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Sports TV News

Robert Griffin III Replaces Randy Moss on Monday Night Countdown

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program.

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Robert Griffin III
David Becker, Getty Images

With Monday Night Countdown set to lead into Thursday’s preseason matchup with the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks, ESPN announced their lineup for the show.

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program. Robert Griffin III will join Booger McFarland and Steve Young as the show’s main analysts.

They will be partnered with Suzy Kolber who returns for her sixth year as the show’s host and news breaker Adam Schefter.

It was reported in July that analyst Randy Moss would not be returning to the show, opting instead to focus solely on Sunday Night Countdown.

The first regular season action featuring Monday Night Countdown will be on Monday, September 12 when the Seahawks play the Denver Broncos.

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Sports TV News

Leafs Nation Network, the Toronto Maple Leafs Channel, Is Going Off the Air

“Thank you for your viewership. As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

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The Toronto Maple Leafs launched Leafs TV, a team-specific specialty channel in 2001 and rebranded it as Leafs Nation Network in 2017. However, after nearly twenty-one years on the air, it will fade to black at the end of August.

“Thank you for your viewership,” the channel told viewers who have tuned in recently. “As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

The news was confirmed to the Sun. Staff said they had been informed of the news a few weeks ago however few jobs are expected to be lost, of any, as many of the LNN duties will be moved to the digital format.

Leafs TV was part of the sale of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise sale in 2011 to Bell-Rogers communications (worth $1.32 billion). With that sale, Leafs TV began to become a “redundant” channel focusing mainly on classic games and interviews once Rogers made a 2014 deal to become the dominant NHL network, grabbing the majority of live programming.

“Leafs TV was a big bargaining chip at the time of the (Rogers-Bell sale), but they’ve come to see that (lack of game broadcast presence) doesn’t work,” a source told the Sun.

A statement from MLSE on Tuesday read in part: “With new and increasing opportunities to share content on its digital platforms, subscribers to the Leafs Nation Network were informed earlier this month that the channel would cease being broadcast on Sept. 1. Maple Leafs game day and practice coverage will continue to be shared across the team’s digital platforms, combined with exciting new content on the team’s social and digital channels. The team will continue to produce live Marlies home games with details being shared in the weeks ahead about where those broadcasts will be made available.”

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