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Bally update before the update. ESPN parent co stock not so good

May 31, 2023, 7:46 PM ET [6 Comments]
Jeremy Laura
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The sports business journal already had 3 updates before the hearing started today as Bally goes to court regarding bankruptcy issues.

My last entry was, I’ll admit, overstuffed. So much is happening so fast that it’s impossible to keep up with. It’s also really important information that affects an already beaten up sect of writers/content providers. Remember when Detroit had multiple journalists all following with the team and available? Now several are either “independent” or behind paywalls. Mlive - paywal. Freep - paywall. People are cutting back on subs as all the individual streams and reads added up pretty quickly.

Well, here’s the focused point on Bally. Before the proceedings even started today Bally released the Padres from their commitment. I’d mentioned a missed payment in the last one for that team. That makes today even more interesting. The local outlets for parts of Ohio and Milwaukee are saying that Bally will get back on track with payments if the teams relinquish streaming rights in addition to current agreements. I won’t give the spin you can probably guess is attached to that.

The case of the Padres strengthens the position of AZ based teams that tried to dissolve their agreements in favor of other options but were forced back. If actual precedent is set in this in terms of other markets, I can’t imagine how many will request the same deal. It would basically render the trial moot in terms of provider stability and give NHL teams plenty of time to find alternatives.

There is a YouTuber named WDWPro that has been on top of pretty much all the (house of mouse) related news. It affects you here because of ESPN. I will admit that on the ESPN concerns specifically, it’s not really hitting the reporting because other issues are much (much) bigger for the parent company.

Investorplace.com actually had a piece dedicated to 3 stocks to get rid of right now. Disney, Ford and Intel are those picks. There is a lot of market variance as other brands are losing billions in shares. Earlier today Disney was around $87 a share, after being near the $200 mark in 2021. I’d posted that ESPN was spun off 2 investor calls ago as the parent company looked at a 3 tier approach: Parks/streaming and entertainment/ESPN. Just seeing that separation when ESPN could easily be in streaming and entertainment was an alarm for me.

Full disclosure, I’ve not found consensus on the concern as Iger announced that “having ESPN is a differentiator”. That was before the books were updated. ESPN employees who are working hard on playoff season also have a cold reality in the back of their mind. ESPN has said there will be more layoffs in June and it will include on air talent.

Detroit, fans and franchise, value the broadcast teams. Even though there are mixed feelings, Trevor Thompson, Mickey Redmond, Ken Daniels, Ken Kal and Paul Wood get flocked for autographs and pics. Osgood still draws lines when he is at the desk or working the kettle bells. If the way forward is with a new partnership, I feel like the organization would push to keep the voices and faces. Too many changes at once tends to hurt the hockey product more than other sports. Not because of outrage or anger, but a fanbase that isn’t getting younger. More than a few of you could pull up a game in less than half the time it takes me at 46. 50, 60 and 70 year old fans are still in the fray. Even younger fans that prefer less “tech” seem to make up a unique family of enthusiasts.

I do not have a good feeling about ESPN’s prominence in the current parent system. Mention the parent brand and this portion is one of the last people think of. Parks, movies, toys etc are the standout products and all are having issues. ESPN seems to be fighting its own fight and then reporting back to the bosses. With the main brand being devalued in trading, it seems that finding liquidity in the sports asset (and possibly combining Pixar into the main animation studio as Lasseter sets up shop as the head of Apple’s skydance studio after being let go a few years back) will be the topic du jour soon enough. Original content and even buildings are being closed because the write off value exceeds the monetary intake (farewell Star Wars hotel, we hardly knew ye….)

I will do the final reiteration. Detroit is positioned well. A logo, brand, franchise legends running the organization and a parent company that was built, literally, for families who were tight on money. The culture that Mike and Marian Ilitch brought to a failing franchise and pulled Yzerman out of a trade at the last minute still exists. We can only hope that it is reinforced in the fires of an ever changing financial, technological and cultural landscape.
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