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Forum: A Princeton power couple, musings on media and the bundle

A mental mind dump from recent news, television viewing and interviews.

Keep your eye on Chris and Angie Long and their plans for the NWSL’s Kansas City Current. I’ve heard good things about them from sources close to the league and I can see why after having them speak at our Dealmakers in Sports conference. Smart and earnest, with business savvy, they are Princeton graduates who now run Palmer Square Capital Management, a hedge fund that manages more than $13 billion in assets. They have the right intentions and hit the right buttons. They believe in the community benefits of a sports team, they understand the importance of a true partnership with players, they stress the need for state-of-the-art facilities and are building the first women’s soccer-specific stadium at an estimated cost of $70 million. Finally, they are true advocates for gender equity. While well regarded from inside soccer circles, they are new to the game and will have to invest in getting to know the major players. Insiders tell me they will do the work and truly believe in their vision for women’s soccer and team ownership, which makes them a dynamic couple to watch.

My two biggest takeaways from watching the NFL this season: Yes, I am one of the many who watch the Manning brothers instead of the main “Monday Night Football” feed. While it bogs down occasionally with guests, the two offer a fast, funny and insightful viewing experience. Whether it’s a deep dive into football strategy, frustration over player mistakes or the edgy, personal banter, I look forward to its lighthearted laughs, and it saves me the guilt I feel when I watch such unlikable characters from my addiction to “Succession” and “Yellowstone.” … I understand NBC Sports has big plans for Drew Brees, but he still has a long way to go. “Football Night In America” lost a great deal of energy when it moved Rodney Harrison out of the studio and replaced him with Brees. He is proof that it takes time to get comfortable with analysis, opinion and building rapport. I miss Harrison’s strong points of view on teams, players and his jawing (respectfully) with his former rival, coach Tony Dungy. Yes, Harrison still throws barbs with the likable Jac Collinsworth (whose voice rings identical to his dad’s), but the show has lost a lot of its smarts with the new format.

I remember sitting in a trailer with executives from a popular sports network in 2015 and asking them specifically, “Where do you see the floor for the cable bundle?” At that time, a fully distributed sports network was still in north of 95 million homes, and there wasn’t much delay before the executives all said 80-85 million homes was where they thought it would bottom out in a decade. I thought of that conversation when the New York-based research company MoffettNathanson estimated that the pay-TV floor will drop to around 53 million homes, which came just a few days after Disney disclosed that ESPN’s distribution had dropped to 76 million homes. The analysts feel confident in that number, saying “there are 53 million households who describe themselves as regular sports and news viewers that we are assuming, all things equal, to be the bedrock floor of the pay TV world. This group of more affluent, more male and somewhat younger consumers are also consistently more likely to be regular viewers of all other genres of pay TV content, which indicates that the most essential parts of today’s linear bundle are live channels.” The reason for such pessimism: Cable operators see themselves as broadband providers more than video providers. I’m in Charlotte and subscribe to Spectrum. Every outreach touts mobile and broadband, not the lower-margin video offering. If operators decide to drop video and let the YouTubes of the world go with the offering, would that lower the floor even further?

One of the most honest personal reflections I’ve heard recently came from USTA Chief Stacey Allaster, who spoke with me on SBJ’s I Factor podcast and shared what she learned from her most high-profile professional and personal failure.

“It was the ending of my career at the WTA. What I have learned on this journey is that the No. 1 thing we need to do as leaders is to manage our energy. And I failed at that miserably. I was running around the world trying to build the WTA on a shoestring budget. First mistake was trying to do too much on my own. And I did that for fiscal responsibility. … I just ultimately ran myself into the ground.

“In addition to the physical was that inner [belief] that I’ve got to prove to everyone that a woman with two kids can be the CEO and a very successful CEO of the WTA. I didn’t want to let anyone down. … It was a classic case of a professional mom who just ran herself to the end. And the bottom line is, and this is what it was for me anyway, I put myself last. I put the work first at that stage. … You got to reverse it. Stacey has to be first. Get rid of the guilt and take care of the mind, body and soul. … You just can’t work from five to midnight for six, seven years in a row. It doesn’t work.”

Abraham Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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