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Sports League of the Year

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National Football League

The NFL signed $110 billion worth of new media rights deals in March, and then posted a 10% increase in viewership in the regular season. With pandemic restrictions lifted and two new stadiums open, leaguewide attendance increased slightly for the first time in three years, not counting the pandemic season. Super Bowl LVI drew 112 million viewers, the most since 2017. In December, the league initiated a major expansion to its international strategy, granting 18 teams commercial rights in eight countries.

 

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National Hockey League

The NHL’s last year of business was marked by new media deals, venues and a 32nd team debuting in Seattle. Two new seven-year U.S. media rights deals with WarnerMedia/TNT and Disney/ESPN started in 2021-22, with the deals paying a combined average of $625 million annually. Two state-of-the-art venues — the Kraken’s Climate Pledge Arena and the New York Islanders’ UBS Arena — opened amid widespread praise.

 

Southeastern Conference

Southeastern Conference

Considering both the College Football Playoff Championship Game and College World Series, the SEC couldn’t lose, literally, as competitors in both contests all hailed from the SEC. Building even more strength into the conference, the SEC added Texas and Oklahoma as full conference members beginning in 2025. Commissioner Greg Sankey saw his profile rise to become one of the most influential figures in college sports.

 

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U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee

Successfully navigating putting two Olympic teams together within a six-month span amid a changing pandemic-induced global climate, the USOPC also created family centers for both Olympics with athletes’ families not permitted to attend Games in person. The U.S. came out on top of the medal table in Tokyo (113 medals, 39 gold) and finished fifth in Beijing (25 medals, eight gold). Changes the USOPC made to Rule 40 granted more earning potential to athletes.

 

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Ultimate Fighting Championship

The Endeavor-owned mixed martial arts organization delivered the best financial year in its 28-year history. The UFC sold out all nine PPV events during the judging period and revenue was up in all categories, including sponsorships and licensing. The organization also reached a 10-year deal with Crypto.com that includes the company becoming the first global fight kit partner.

 

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Women’s National Basketball Association

In February, the W raised $75 million from investors, including Nike, current WNBA and NBA team owners and a host of others. The league debuted the Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season tournament with a $500,000 prize pool. It saw notable gains in television viewership, including the most-viewed regular season since 2008 and the most-viewed Finals since 2017. A deal with Amazon marked the first time Prime Video had exclusive global streaming rights to a women’s sports league.

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 18, 2022

The NWSL adds to its C-suite; CA regents ponder next step against UCLA; Bally Sports + sets national launch; the W's strong viewership season and podcast suggestions

SBJ Unpacks: USL Soccer

SBJ's Alex Silverman is joined by USL Chief Operating Officer Justin Papadakis to discuss the state of the organization and its ambitious growth plans.

SBJ I Factor: Jed York

SBJ I Factor: Jed York, presented by Allied Sports SBJ I Factor presented by Allied Sports features an interview with San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York. York is in his 17th year with the organization and his 12th as CEO. He is a two-time SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree as a member of the classes of 2012 and 2013. York talks with SBJ’s Abe Madkour about what he learned from growing up in the sports business, working in multiple departments at the team, the challenges of building Levi’s Stadium, and how his leadership style has evolved through the years. SBJ I Factor is a monthly podcast offering interviews with sports executives who have been recipients of one of the magazine’s awards, such as Forty Under 40, Game Changers and others.

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