February 25, 2024

Tonight in Unpacks: In an exclusive SBJ profile, Braves CEO Derek Schiller dishes on mixed-use developments, building a model franchise and how success from the business side has helped create a winner on the field.

Other headlines:
In today’s Morning Buzzcast, SBJ’s Abe Madkour looks at possible tensions building in NASCAR over car safety. Also, Bally Sports renews three local media deals, plus reflections on the legacy of Dan Wieden.
Among top business execs across MLB’s 30 clubs, Braves CEO Derek Schiller is the only one with an engineering degree. But after graduating from Vanderbilt in 1992 and spending a year at an engineering firm in a consulting position, Schiller decided it wasn’t for him. His true interest, he decided, was in sports.
Three decades later, he has played a leading role in constructing a model franchise in Atlanta, and he’s done it in part thanks to relying on the innovative approach and zest for small, often-overlooked details that were the backbone of his education. Those traits can be seen today throughout properties operated by the Braves, the reigning World Series champions who this summer were named the most innovative MLB team and one of the top 10 most innovative sports franchises in the world by research firm Sports Innovation Lab.
The Braves brought to life The Battery Atlanta in 2017. The real estate development, which lies adjacent to Truist Park, is the go-to model for other sports franchises piqued by the business potential that such an endeavor offers. Schiller, 52, who oversees all of the club’s business departments, referred to the Braves as being “market makers.”
In the cover story of this week’s SBJ, Erik Bacharach has more on what makes “The Builder of the Braves” tick, including lessons from his father, sports business mainstay Harvey Schiller.
In the first year of ESPN’s new media rights deal with the NFL, a pact that continues to include a hefty dose of NFL shoulder programming, many of the cable network’s programs have come out of the gate strong in terms of audience numbers, notes SBJ’s Austin Karp. “Sunday NFL Countdown” averaged 1.4 million viewers from 10am-1pm ET for shows in September, up 15% from the same period in 2021. The premiere episode on Sept. 11 averaged 1.6 million, which is the best lead-in for Week 1 since 2016.
NFL Live” is averaging 428,000 viewers for its 4-5pm window on weekdays, marking the show’s best September since 2016. The episode headed into the first “Monday Night Football” game of the season on Sept. 12 averaged 664,000 viewers, which is better than any episode that show drew during the 2021 season. Meanwhile, “NFL Rewind” on Mondays from 3-4pm is averaging 411,000 viewers, up 6%.
One show that is seeing a slight dip is “Fantasy Football Now” on ESPN2, which is without Matthew Berry (now with NBC Sports) for the first time in a number of years. The Sunday morning program, which runs alongside “Countdown,” is averaging 366,000 viewers, down 2% from the same period last season.
A new augmented reality overlay seen on “MNF” was the work of Disney Media and Entertainment (DMED), which drew on the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, camera telemetry and live video to produce the statistical visualization, reports SportTechie’s Joe Lemire.
A Saquon Barkley TD run in last week’s Cowboys-Giants game was the first implementation on following some testing at the end of last year. Operated by a touchscreen, the AR graphics enable the ESPN crew to select a player and immediately summon pertinent tracking data. DMED VP of product management & media technology Kaki Navarre said, “We’re really focused on motivated uses of this technology: How does it actually enhance the experience for a viewer and add additional context?”
Prior work from the DMED in sports for ABC and ESPN include the MLB K-Zone and some renderings in NBA and WNBA coverage, as well as fully computer-generated animations for NFL broadcasts.
Giants RB Saquon Barkley's third-quarter touchdown run last week marked the debut of some new "MNF" enhancements
Fintech/online trading brand Plus500 signed on as the new sponsor of the Bulls‘ shooting shirts and warmup jackets, reports SBJ’s Terry Lefton.
The items will make their on-court debut at the Bulls’ first preseason game tomorrow; retail availability is TBD. The global rights deal makes Plus500 the team’s official global online trading partner and includes TV-visible signage, social media content and integration in team community programs, according to Bulls VP/Business Development Mark Levitt. No agencies were involved.
This is the first American sports sponsorship for Plus500. The company’s sponsorships in European soccer include deals with Atalanta, BSC Young Boys and Legia Warsaw. The 3-by-3-inch ad patches on shooting shirts and warmup jackets were approved by the league late last year.
Bulls warmup jackets and shooting shirts with Plus500 branding will make their on-court debut at the Bulls' first preseason game tomorrow
In tonight’s op-ed, Patrick Chown, owner and president of network installation company The Network Installers, writes about cyber crime and how the sports industry can be prepared.
“Digital infrastructure is critical for the everyday operations of any sports business. You use digital tools to set tickets, manage players, social media engagement, manage training, finance, analytics, and a host of other critical activities. An attack on this digital infrastructure could cripple your organization’s ability to even run your day-to-day activities.

Cybercrime is not usually associated with sporting organizations. But when other industries effectively build defenses to protect their digital assets, cybercriminals venture out to greener pastures. Sports businesses could become a target as they do not emphasize much on cybersecurity. Again, cyberattacks on sporting events are not unheard of. A recent high-profile incident is the data breach on the Tokyo Games organizing committee leaking Olympic ticket data.”
For the full submission, click here.
New MLBPA Players Trust director Amy Hever was leading the union’s philanthropic efforts to help victims of Hurricane Fiona last week, while preparing for what Hurricane Ian might bring, writes SBJ’s Liz Mullen. Fiona in September devastated Puerto Rico, and Hever points out “so many players” have ties to the island
Last week, the MLBPA Players Trust revealed it was giving up to $150,000 to Team Rubicon and as much as $150,000 to Project Hope to aid victims of Fiona, as well as Ian and any other natural disasters that could later hit the U.S. Team Rubicon is a veteran-led organization that does things like remove debris from roadways and, later, rebuilds. Project Hope is more focused on getting food, water and other necessities to people in need.
Hever joined the union in May after working for 20 years growing and developing nonprofits, most recently for the 76ers and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. Working for all MLB players is “definitely different” than working for a team, Hever said: “One of the things that attracted me was the size and scope of the marketplace you are trying to impact.”
Fox Sports will debut "David Ortiz: Legend of the Fall" on FS1 around its MLB postseason coverage
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