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New Sports Illustrated Owner to Staffers: ‘No One is Important’

“I am not important…. The amount of useless stuff you guys do is staggering.”

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Manoj Bhargava
Courtesy: Bizuayehu Tesfaye, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Following reports of artificial intelligence writing articles for Sports Illustrated and posting them under human pseudonyms, there have been changes pertaining to the executive leadership of its parent company. The Arena Group’s chief operating officer Andrew Kraft and president of media Rob Barrett have been fired, which took place before a conference call with company staff on Wednesday afternoon.

According to Michael McCarthy and A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports, the protracted conversation lasted more than 90 minutes and featured majority owner Manoj Bhargava, who also owns 5-hour Energy. Sources told Front Office Sports that the departures of Kraft and Barrett, however, were unrelated to the AI report from Futurism.

Throughout the call, Bhargava emphasized that he has control over Sports Illustrated and other outlets owned by The Arena Group. This came after the Sports Illustrated Union released a statement that conveyed how writers were “horrified” by the Futurism article and demanded “answers and transparency” from its parent company.

The Arena Group laid off 17 employees earlier in the year as Sports Illustrated looks to solidify a transition from print to digital media, which included a 21% growth in the sector within its third quarter earnings report. Moreover, the company’s sports properties reached the No. 2 sport in the Comscore sports properties rankings on the quarter, something it called “a milestone achievement for the brand.” It was concurrent with a 600,000-follower increase on social media during the quarter as well. Nonetheless, comments from Bhargava revealed his thoughts on the publication, which included a plea for employees to “stop doing dumb stuff.”

“No one is important,” Bhargava said to staffers, according to what a source told Front Office Sports. “I am not important…. The amount of useless stuff you guys do is staggering.”

After the meeting, The Arena Group provided a statement to Front Office Sports about what transpired and the nature of Bhargava’s involvement in the discussion. Furthermore, the source stated that no mention of the Futurism article was made over the course of the meeting.

“Today, Manoj [Bhargava] conducted a virtual town hall and spoke with the staff of The Arena Group, and took questions,” The Arena Group said in a statement. “Also today, some adjustments to the business have been made to improve the efficiency and revenue, and also some changes to senior management have been made.”

Bhargava, under his venture capital company Simplify Inventions, purchased a 65% stake in The Arena Group for $50 million, along with a five-year, $65 million advertising pact. The Arena Group was previously known as TheMaven, Inc., and consists of more than 265 media brands within the categories of lifestyle, finance and sports. As part of the deal, Bridge Media Networks, a Simplify Inventions subsidiary, was also added under The Arena Group portfolio, and Simplify Inventions also received $25 million of preferred stock in the Sports Illustrated parent company.

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Sports Online

Report: Amazon Prime Video Paying $120M to Stream NFL Playoff Game

NBCU wanted to keep the game, however, the report says Amazon has a clause in its agreement for ‘Thursday Night Football’ which allows it to have first choice.

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting Amazon and the NFL have reached agreement on a $120 million deal for Prime Video to have exclusive rights to stream an NFL playoff game at the end of the 2024 season.

Amazon had passed on the opportunity to air the game this past season. It subsequently aired on Peacock in a deal which was valued at $110 million. The AFC Wild Card round matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs made sports media history, garnering an average minute audience (AMA) of 23.0 million viewers, making the contest the most-streamed live event in the history of the United States.

NBCUniversal also revealed that the contest reached 27.6 million total viewers and peaked at an average of 24.6 million viewers during the second quarter. Engagement with the playoff game accounted for the largest internet event in history with 30% of internet traffic prioritizing the game at this time.

NBCU wanted to keep the game, however, the report says Amazon has a clause in its agreement for ‘Thursday Night Football’ which allows it to have first choice.

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VSiN Host Jonathan Von Tobel Announces New Lineup Changes; ‘Hardwood Handicappers’ Discontinued

Von Tobel says he’s ‘Looking forward to being on the lineup M-F once again!’

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The Vegas Sports and Information Network (VSiN) just made some changes to its lineup in time for spring, adding a new host to an established show but sunsetting another. According to VSiN host Jonathan Von Tobel, he will be joining VSiN Primetime as a full-time host alongside Tim Murray and Britton Hess, but Hardwood Handicappers will be discontinued.

In response, Kelley Bydlon said “THANK YOU to everyone who listened and supported along the way,” via his X account, while Zachary Cohen (@BettingOnX) simply retweeted Von Tobel’s post. It’s unknown what will happen with Bydlon but Von Tobel mentioned that he and Cohen will continue to write daily columns for the operation.

Recently, our Derek Futterman spent a day with the VSiN team, observing shows and learning what it takes to build a content enterprise solely around sports betting.

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Eric Hosmer Launches Media Company, New Podcast After MLB Retirement

“I’ll have the opportunity to give the fans some insight on my perspective and my experiences on what might be going on.”

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Eric Hosmer
Courtesy: Adam Hunger, Getty Images

Longtime first baseman Eric Hosmer has announced his retirement from Major League Baseball, concluding a 13-year career in which he won four Gold Glove awards and was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2016 MLB All-Star Game. In 2015, Hosmer served as an integral member of the World Series championship run by the Kansas City Royals, helping the team hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy after a 4-1 series victory over the New York Mets. After departing the Royals in free agency, Hosmer played parts of five seasons with the San Diego Padres before concluding his career with stints as a member of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.

Concurrent with his official retirement, Hosmer and former minor-league teammate Anthony Seratelli are launching MoonBall Media. The media and production company will produce and disseminate original, unscripted programming in addition to social media content and free ad-supported television (FAST) channels. The company will begin operations with the Diggin’ Deep podcast, a new offering hosted by Hosmer and featuring former major-league reliever Peter Moylan and current process and development coach Justin Su’a. Seratelli, who played a decade of professional baseball in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, is slated to produce the show.

“I feel like I have so many fun stories that I want to give back, especially these last couple of years of my career when I got to experience the big-time markets, being in Chicago, being in Boston,” Hosmer said in an interview with Forbes. “I think this podcast is something where I can really have enjoyment and dig deep into other people’s processes and how that helped them succeed.”

Becoming involved in the sports media space became more appealing to Hosmer as he continued through his major-league career. He expressed how the baseball space lacks players sharing insights and perspectives, comparing it to the rise of athlete-driven media among National Football League and National Basketball Association players.

On the podcast itself, Hosmer aspires to cultivate a setting in which interviewees are comfortable expounding and extrapolating on subject matter, deviating from what is done by traditional media in major-league clubhouses.

“That insight from a player’s perspective – that’s what I’m really looking forward to because there are some situations where a player wants to really have his own voice to explain a situation, but you really just can’t in the baseball world because players are wired to be tight-lipped and it’s all about the team and stuff,” Hosmer said. “I’ll have the opportunity to give the fans some insight on my perspective and my experiences on what might be going on. It will be a unique perspective that maybe we’ll be able to give fans a different look and insight.”

The first six episodes of the show have already been produced with an initial focus on baseball; however, the program will aim to broaden its horizons by including guests from other sports. The nature of these interviews will be more reflective rather than trying to reveal news or rumors, something he believes will be unique in the media space as well. Hosmer further explained his decision on the premiere episode of the program, which was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday morning.

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