Sports Finance Report: Wide-Spread Corruption Within Tennis’ Lowest Levels

by 11 months ago

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: In this photo illustration, Wimbledon 2009 tennis balls are pictured at Queens Club on June 10, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

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An independent task force has determined that “tennis is responsible for more suspicious betting than any other sport”, resulting from wide-spread corruption at the sport’s lowest levels. 14.5% of the 3,200 players polled in the investigation reported 1st hand knowledge of match-fixing. The review panel offered a dozen proposed solutions to curb match-fixing including; a ban that would prevent betting companies from participating as sponsors, discontinuing the sale of official live scoring data and the elimination of gambling on the game’s lower levels. It must be noted that the study did not indicate a “widespread problem” at the sport’s top level and found no evidence of cover-ups or collusion by International Tennis Federation (I.T.F.) officials. The final report will be released in its entirety this fall.

Howie Long-Short: The report incorrectly attributes the I.T.F.’s 2012 deal with Sportradar, (worth $70 million) to distribute live scores from low-level tournaments around the world, for the “tsunami” of corruption within the sport’s lower levels.While it’s true that the deal provided bookmakers with the ability to offer odds on Futures events, that market existed prior to the partnership. The insufficient prize money offered at Futures events is what make them susceptible to manipulation.

It’s simply misleading to insinuate the sport would be better off without Sportradar’s Integrity Services, as the report suggests. As Sportradar’s Director of Communication, Alex Inglot, told us last month, “we’ve identified over 3,506 matches (that have been manipulated) since 2009 and have initiated or supported well over 200 sporting sanctions and 24 criminal convictions.” You can read our full-length interview with Alex on preventing corruption, here.

While privately-held, there is one way to play Sportradar; EQT Holdings Management (EQGP). The publicly traded private equity/venture capital firm with 11 exits (IPO/M&A) to its name, invested $55 million into the company in July ’12. In October ’15 the company raised another +/- $45 million; Revolution led the round that also included Michael Jordan, Mark Cuban and Ted Leonsis.

Fan Marino: Speaking of Tennis, 2017 was a banner year for the Tennis Channel, no television network added more subscribers (12 million) and 2018 has gotten off to an equally strong start. In January, the network announced it would be doubling the number of live tournaments aired on its OTT service, Tennis Channel Plus. Then in March, the network reported subscriber revenue had grown +42% YoY. Viewership numbers were also impressive in March, as events at Indian Wells (+19%) and Miami (+21%) drew big YoY increases. The network has also added several high-profile sponsors in Q1 2018 including; BMW, Pfizer, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Clorox, Ford Motor Co., Weight Watchers, Alfa Romeo.

Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI) owns the Tennis Channel. Sinclair is awaiting the Department of Justice’s approval on its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media (and their 42 television stations). Should the deal be approved (SBGI just agreed to sell 23 stations to comply with FCC rules) SBGI would own channels in 215 networks in over 102 markets (in an unprecedented 70%+ of the country).

The company has had a rough start to 2018, as its share price has declined +/- 30% over the last 90 days (since Jan. 19). Its “fake news” scandal, certainly didn’t help.

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Most Followed Sports Media Brand on Social Media Adds DevinSuperTramp

Whistle Sports has signed Devin Graham, better known as DevinSuperTramp, to create branded original content (including some longer-form) for the post-millennial sports network. The Whistle Sports Network (WSN), which produces, curates and distributes sports-related content (across social, digital and TV) for a youth audience, will add Graham to its talented network (500+) of creators (think: Dude Perfect, Nitro Circus). The extreme sports film-maker with a reputation for producing viral content for some of the world’s biggest brands (see: Ford, Intel), will bring a loyal following to the “most-followed (170 million subs/followers) sports media brand on social media”; 9 million followers across various social platforms, including 4.9 million YouTube channel subscribers. Content delivered by WSN generates +/- 2 million views per month.

Howie Long-Short: Whistle Sports remains privately held, but the company has raised $80.5 million to date; with much of the capital coming from publicly traded companies. iHeartMedia, Inc. (OTC: IHRTQ) participated in the company’s seed round, Sky (SKYAY) and Liberty Global (LBTYA) invested in their $28 million Series B round, and both Tegna, Inc. (TGNA, formerly Gannett) and NBC Sports Ventures (CMCSA, led round) invested in the company’s most raise; a $27.5 million Series C round in January 2017.

Fan Marino: Whistle Sports and DevinSuperTramp previously collaborated on a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi and Papa John’s Pizza, a project called “The World’s Longest Touchdown Catch.” In the viral video (2.6 million views), Joe Montana throws a spiral out of an airplane cruising 14,000’ over California. A team of skydivers jump out after the loose ball, battling for it as they free-fall towards the earth’s surface. I won’t spoil who comes down with “The Catch”, but you can watch the video (and find out who grabs it), here.

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What is JohnWallStreet?

JohnWallStreet, located at the intersection of sports and finance, is a destination for the educated sports fan.

While we won’t be publishing “hot takes” on LeBron’s relative greatness to Jordan, we will be offering up the most relevant sports related business news, in easily digestible bites, with commentary from both the sports money and sports fanatic perspectives.

We’ll cover publicly traded professional teams & stadiums (MSG, RCI, BATRA, MANU), television networks (DIS, FOXA, CMCSA, CBS, TWX, MSGN), apparel & footwear companies (NKE, UAA, ADDYY, FL, LULU), equipment companies (GOLFELY, FIT), ticketing companies (EBAY, LYV) content and facilities providers (CHDN, DVD, ISCA,TRK, LMCA).  If it trades on Wall Street, and has a sports angle, it’s in our wheel house.

Howie Long-Short and Fan Marino will be providing their expert opinions on each story. They have slightly different areas of expertise. Fan Marino is a firm believer that the SEC is the premier football conference. Howie Long-Short knows it as the Securities & Exchange Commission. Fan Marino lives and dies with the college selection of 5 star, blue chip recruits. Howie Long-Short spends his days analyzing blue chip stocks. Howie Long-Short knows that Black Monday occurred on October 19th, 1987. Fan Marino swears it happens every January after Week 17. You get the point.

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TAGSdevinsupertrampmatch-fixingsports finance reportTennisWhistle Sports