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Hornets President Whitfield pleased with team's direction on, off court

Having a player with a large following like G LaMelo Ball has helped elevate the Hornets' brandNBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Hornets President Fred Whitfield is "pleased with how the franchise held up during the pandemic" and believes that it is in "prime position to take further flight as the season tips off," according to Roderick Boone of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Whitfield said that the Hornets have a 90% season-ticket renewal rate and added 2,200 new "full-season ticket holders" for '21-22, bringing the number of people with "at least partial ticket packages to 11,000." Whitfield said, “It’s sort of a perfect storm because we are No. 5 in the NBA in new season tickets sold. The other four teams ahead of us went to the playoffs last year." Whitfield said on the business side, the team has tried to "prepare our organization to be able to take advantage of our on-court product as it improves." He added they have been "focused on our game entertainment and making sure everyone feels welcome here." Whitfield said during halftime and timeouts the team will "literally hit every demographic with our music," so fans will "hear a little country music, a little rock and roll, a little hip hop, a little old school R&B." He added all of that is a "part of our game presentation." Meanwhile, Boone notes the Hornets have "set club merchandising records" and "sales on HornetsFanShop.com are up 181%." Whitfield said having a player with a large following like G LaMelo Ball "elevates our entire brand and it gives our brand credibility" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/21).

TV TROUBLES: The OBSERVER's Boone in a separate piece notes Bally Sports Southeast once again is the exclusive RSN of the Hornets, an agreement that has been in place since '14-15. BSS "will televise all 82 regular-season games." But thousands in the Carolinas and nationwide have a similar problem in that live TV streaming platforms like YouTube TV, Sling, Hulu Live TV and FuboTV "no longer carry Bally regional sports networks, leaving scores of fans out in the proverbial cold." Dwindling options means fewer choices for customers, and the "ramifications are having a trickle-down effect that is slowly chipping away at the league’s overall bottom line." Whitfield said that the team is "pleased overall with the relationship it has built with Bally’s dating to its days as Fox Sports." He added that the Hornets’ broadcasts were available in "less than a million households prior to both sides getting together," and that number "now hovers around 4 million." Still, he agrees that there is a "need for a further reach in distribution somehow." Whitfield: "I’m confident that Bally’s will be on the cutting edge, and on the forefront of trying to figure out exactly how to have more people have access to our games. That’s their goal, that’s our goal. How we get there, we are going to obviously leave it to them to lead the way" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/21).

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