The New MLSE

Recently the CRTC approved the purchase of MLSE to Rogers and Bell which is one of the final hurdles in the transition of MLSE from the Teacher's Pension Fund. People will never look fondly back on that era of the company. While the company always projected that they were committed to winning in terms of all their sports teams, that for the majority of people was never believed to be true. The facts of how they did are self evident. The perception of their efforts is up for interpretation. However, most feel that by nature of being a pension fund the number one goal was always profit not winning. When you go around the ACC and see the development that they have created around the arena it seems like a monument to that fact. When you consider just the Real Sports Bar and retail store next door are more profitable than a lot of NHL franchises and probably some NBA franchises as well it puts that into context. The fact that while always promising to go above and beyond the luxury tax they never delivered on that promise. While you can say they spent money in other areas of the organization in the most obvious area to fans they stayed below the tax level. This while great in terms of the bottom line and creating all kinds of new revenue streams of income for the company is outstanding from a business stand point,  it is winning however people care about. That all might seem like a bunch of amateur economics for people but the bottom line was people had a perception this company was profit first, winning was at best second.

Now in this new era will anything change with the big corporate empires of Bell and Rogers taking over? Well that obviously remains to be seen. However the Raptors push for Steve Nash might be a sign of a fresh new direction for the company in terms of the Raptors. Still they never did deliver the goods and land Nash ultimately. That said the whole concept of signing Steve Nash means something different for companies like Bell and Rogers. The simple reason is ratings for all of their media outlets lead by TSN and Rogers Sportsnet. There is no one that will question the addition of Steve Nash would have meant a significant change in ratings for Raptors with casual sports fans. There is also the fact that the beast that drives the company the Toronto Maple Leafs may not have a league to play in come the fall. Like the NBA last season the NHL is on the verge of a labor war. The NHL is the only pro sports league to have the distinction of cancelling an entire season. While most don't feel the NHL will go that far this time around there is a very good chance the NHL will be working with some sort sort of lockout shorten season. It makes the Raptors success a more important part of the companies bottom line.

So this Raptors off-season might well be a modest success in terms of what they are able to accomplish. It will be interesting to see how the organization responds to what ultimately happens this season. Bryan Colangelo has had a fairly long run as the G.M/President of this organization. The lack of success that he has had in recent years make his future up for debate. He has slowly started the dig out from Chris Bosh basically getting the better of him by leaving for Miami for basically nothing. One of the big parts of that was his surprising draft pick  of Jonas Valanciunas. It was a move that was first met with negative response from the general fan base. The Raptors have spent a year in building Jonas into the can't miss prospect. How well and how fast Jonas develops could play a major role in Colangelo's ultimate future. However not in how fans take to that but if the two major stakeholders believe in Jonas as prospect and if Bryan along with Jonas' actual performance and what Bryan can sell on his future. The Raptors have a number of young players that need to come through and deliver. Rogers when you consider the direction they have taken with the Blue Jays may be more patient and be willing to buy into what Bryan is selling. Ultimately though the goal of both BELL and Rogers is to turn the Raptors into a viable property that will attract people to all their various outlets from T.V, through Radio to the Web and everything on down the line.

There is a general sense that winning will matter more in terms of the Raptors for the future with these companies. They ultimately want strong content that will have growing numbers so they can turn that around into advertising dollars for not just the Raptors but all the companies they own. If the Raptors do not win and do not have success and numbers decline that is likely not something that is going to sit well with this new ownership. MLSE has in a sense grown to indirectly to become part of a larger corporate pie. In which the success of these sports franchises will be more vital to their ultimate bottom line. At the end of the day they are no different in terms of wanting profit first and foremost. However the road to that profit might be more connected to winning than it was for the past administrators of MLSE.

The other question will be if these media rivals can ultimately agree on the major decisions in running this company. If they can agree than they ultimately will steer the direction of the company. If they can not than Larry Tanenbaum becomes a significant player in this. He is one remaining part of the former Ownership group that in effect will be the tie breaker if the companies can not agree. Some might see that as a bad thing. Still most who have ever come in contact with the man express his true passion and desire to have a winner in all of the sports franchises in MLSE. He was ultimately handcuffed in some respects by his former partners in the teachers pension fund from ultimately going that extra mile one might logically think. I guess will get to see now if that is fact or fiction especially if Rogers and Bell are not able to play nice in the MLSE sandbox or boardroom if you prefer.

In terms of the fanbase more of the same is not going to cut it. Will see if this new setup responds and makes the moves that fans will ultimately see as trying to win. Will the days of pretending to be a small market franchise in the NBA be a thing of the past? Time will ultimately tell. If you have been paying attention to this off-season in the NBA if they don't shake off that mentality the Raptors are doomed to be nothing but an average to bad team for years to come. You can do all the right things in building a team the right way like an OKC has done but ultimately when you have the money and power to be a big time player and fail to do it that is just silly. The Raptors ultimately need to make a statement that they are heading in a new direction and come up with something that people can truly believe in. In pro sports today, I don't care what anyone says it ultimately takes spending money to have ultimate success. If you can achieve winning a championship or even get to a level as a team that is contention you will make that investment pay off with a increased interest in your brand and ultimately have the tools to be a success. That said it still takes making the right investments. Will see what the future holds but fans grow more frustrated as the years pass. The amount of tolerance for excuses is likely at an all time low. Sports like anything else is a results business.

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