Atlanta Braves members, owner, employees and baseball commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. celebrate a 7-0 win over the Braves over the Astros in Game 6 of the 2021 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros on Minute Maid. Park on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Texas.
Mary DeCicco | Major League Baseball | Getty Images
With confetti in the air and cigar smoke in his face, CEO of Atlanta Braves Derek Schiller swept the stage when his team celebrated their first World Series title since 1995.
The Braves beat the Houston Astros in six games, ending a 7-0 win in Texas on Tuesday night. The championship parade is set for Friday, and then Schiller, who took over as CEO in 2018, says the franchise will need a short break to recuperate.
“It was surreal and we’re not done yet,” Schiller said in an interview on Thursday. “Our goal from day one — from the moment I joined the organization 18 years ago until I became CEO — has been to win the World Series. Part of what you see is that we have finally reached our goal. “
Soon everything was back to business.
Schiller wants to build a Braves fan base and take advantage of the team’s unique location in a region of the country where there is no geographic competition. He also sees new revenue opportunities in sports games and cryptocurrency that need to be explored. And there is the future of viewing and what will happen to traditional TV revenues when consumers stop bothering.
Atlanta Braves President Derek Schiller speaks at the grand opening of the Mizuno Experience Center on April 10, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Daniel Shirey | Getty Images
For Schiller, the season, which ended on its highest note, was filled with months of adversity.
Despite winning the East Division of the National League each of the previous three years, the Braves were two-thirds in a bleak position during the season, with a record 55-55 at the beginning of August. In July, they lost star outfielder Ronald Acun Jr, who suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee after watching their other two day 1 outfielders get injured.
Off the field, the organization found itself embroiled in an ugly political controversy. After Georgia officials passed the restrictive voting law, MLB moved the 2021 All-Star Game to Denver from Atlanta. Some praised the league and others criticized the move, but the move was a setback for Liberty Media, the owner of Braves, who lost significant profits to Truist Park and the Battery Atlanta shopping district.
“We expressed our opinion on this, and there was definitely a feeling of disappointment because we wanted to demonstrate the approximate level of The Battery on the global stage,” said Schiller. “And we’ve been working on it for a couple of years.”
In the end, playing three World Series games and winning two of them was the perfect compromise.
“There is a certain satisfaction that we were able to take over the work done, and we know that although it did not happen then, it happened at the stage of the World Series,” said Schiller.
Schiller’s lineup has grown a lot. During the regular season, first baseman Freddie Freeman hit 31 home runs, while infielders Ozzy Albis and Austin Riley hit 30 and 33, respectively. Pitchers Charlie Morton and Max Freed each recorded 14 wins in seasons. Outfielder Jorge Soler then blew up in the World Series to win the Most Valuable Player award, while reliever Tyler Macek found himself unforgettable from the bullpen.
Liberty, which bought Braves in 2007 for $ 1.5 billion of Time Warner said the Braves were the second most attended this season, attracting 2.3 million fans at a price of $ 6.5 million per game.
In its third quarter income statement on Thursday, Liberty said that Braves earned $ 234 million in revenue compared to $ 216 million in the second quarter and more than doubled from a year earlier, when the pandemic prevented fans from entering the park. Fortunately, the World Series will not appear until the fourth quarter results.
According to Schiller, Braves “exceeded 2021 expectations.” “This was partly the result of planning and execution. The fans reacted in part the same way. “
“We also touched on the emotional attachment side,” Schiller said. He added that Liberty and CEO Greg Maffey are “very happy as we are.”
Delta and Coca-Cola, both headquartered in Atlanta, are the team’s two main sponsors. Schiller said that “a few, but not many” of the sponsorship deals include World Series winning clauses. While he did not provide specific details, Schiller sees an opportunity to use his newfound leverage to renegotiate some of the deals.
Freddie Freeman # 5 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with # 22 Jock Pederson after a solo home run against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of Game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 2, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
Carmen Mandato | Getty Images
However, he is especially excited by the fans. Leading up to 2022, Schiller said renewed season tickets, including premium seats, will position Braves “well”. In addition to the local market, Schiller wants to take the World Series trophy with him and reach out to a broader regional consumer base.
Apart from two teams in Florida, Georgia’s southern neighbor, no other neighboring state has an MLB team. The area, which includes Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, is a geographic desert for the highest level of baseball, and Atlanta Magazine-Constitution notes that the Braves do not have MLB competitions within a 450 mile radius.
“The Braves Country is the southeastern United States,” Schiller said. “We are talking about six states. We are going to do a lot in these states to make sure they know who brought the trophy home and to give them the opportunity to celebrate and feel part of it. ”
Fox Sports said an average of 14.3 million viewers watched the Braves beat the Astros in Game 6. That’s more than the 12.6 million viewers who watched the decisive game last year since the Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series since 1988. The sixth game of the 2020 World Series between the Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Races reached 14.3 million viewers.
“We are a leading brand in professional sports and of course MLB,” Schiller said. “And now winning the top prize gives us a lot more room to develop further.”
Besides sponsorships and fans, Schiller is looking for alternative business opportunities for his team.
Currently, 29 states and Washington, DC have legalized sports gambling. American Gaming Association… This includes Mississippi and Tennessee, Braves’ two marketing territories.
According to some Georgian politicians, the state will generate $ 60 million income from sports betting, but there are hurdles to overcome. Schiller said the Brave Men were “very active” in lobbying for the introduction of mobile sports betting in Georgia prior to the pandemic, and that the team will soon return to these efforts.
“We think this should happen here,” he said. “I am still a supporter of this, and we, as a team, think there are many good opportunities for that. And we support this most of all, because it is already happening. It’s time to bring this out of the shadows. and regulate it. “
Then there is cryptocurrency.
In 2021, companies like Coinbase and Crypto.com have spent lavishly on sports sponsorships, including a $ 100 million deal with Formula 1, another Liberty Media property.
“I think there should be a discussion,” Schiller said. With Braves’ expanded profile, “we should try to take advantage of this by working with our sponsors and developing new sponsorship opportunities,” he said.
Atlanta Braves # 43 manager Brian Snitker lifts the Commissioner’s trophy after the team beat the Houston Astros 7-0 in Game 6 for the 2021 World Series win at Minute Maid Park on November 2, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
Bob Levy | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
One topic that Braves and other MLB teams will have to discuss is the future of Regional Sports Networks, or RSNs.
Schiller negotiated an ongoing media rights agreement between Braves and Sinclair’s Bally Sports. This RSN deal brings in more than $ 80 million a year and will last until 2027.
With an increase in cord cut and cable model degradation, RSN networks are at risk, and the leakage effect can wreak havoc on sports franchises. Schiller said he was not worried.
“There is no doubt that there are shifts in regional sports networks and in the way sports content is distributed,” he said. “But we are in the live content business, and live content will always be best positioned in such scenarios. While there may be small glitches that we see happening, this will all balance itself out. “
Closing the interview, Schiller reflected on what he has learned as Braves CEO over the past two years, in particular how to deal with the pandemic.
“Culture matters, especially when times are tough,” he said. “Your inner culture and the culture of your outer community – it matters.”
Schiller said he needed to actively communicate with ticket holders who were unable to attend the games and sponsors who did not have spectators.
“The pandemic taught us that we can’t just hang our heads and wait for the good times and bury ourselves until that happens,” he said.
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