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Digital Sports Firm Fanatics Names Former Dick Clark Productions Chief Mike Mahan CEO Of Trading Cards And Collectibles Unit – Deadline

Digital sports firm Fanatics has hired former Dick Clark Productions chief Mike Mahan in the newly created role of CEO of its trading cards and collectibles business.

The collectibles division includes brands like Topps, Candy Digital and zerocool. Fanatics acquired Topps from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s investment firm Tornante Company last January in a deal worth a reported $500 million. The transaction followed the news that Topps lost its Major League Baseball trading card deal after more than 70 years. (MLB rights are now back under the Fanatics roof on an exclusive basis.)

Fanatics’ card and collectibles unit is projecting annual revenue north of $1 billion, with expectations for growth once new rights deals take effect with the NBA, NFL, WWE and other prominent partners. With “name, image and likeness” rules now in play for college athletes, Fanatics made news recently by announcing a line of college sports trading cards.

Mahan, a former investment banker at Bear Stearns and executive at private equity firm CDP Capital Entertainment, has accrued experience in digital media, content creation, influencer marketing, entertainment and finance. He has been an investor in several media, sports, gaming and consumer companies, including the Los Angeles Football Club, the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Axiomatic (Team Liquid), Aviation Gin and Next VR.

Mahan will report to Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin.

“Our collectibles business has seen tremendous growth since launching last year, and we couldn’t be more confident in bringing Mike on board to shape the bright future of this division and its alignment within our larger Fanatics digital sports platform,” Rubin said. “As a collector and passionate sports fan, Mike’s vision for both the trading cards hobby and emerging digital collectibles properties, driven by exceptional products, will further position Fanatics as a leader in these categories, creating incredible opportunities for fans, collectors, hobby shops, retailers and our partners.”

Mahan will oversee the global, exclusive rights and future rights within Fanatics Collectibles, spanning players associations, sports leagues, professional and college teams, as well as individual athletes, brands and entertainment properties. He will explore opportunities in coordination with other divisions of the company, Fanatics said.

“I could not think of a more perfect next step in my career than to lead the incredibly talented teams within Fanatics Collectibles, where I’ll have the opportunity to combine my entrepreneurial passions that lie within sports, marketing, and content creation, with my love for trading cards and collectibles at large,” Mahan said. “The worlds of trading cards and digital collectibles have been forever reshaped over the past several years, and these new assets and the connections they create have the ability to bring fans and collectors closer than ever before to the players, teams and entertainers they love.”

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SDC readies sports NFT, collectibles


Mr Watchai said the company’s NFT first series will concern sport moments in both pictures and video clips, set to be launched in the last quarter.

SET-listed tech and ICT solution provider Samart Corporation, via subsidiary Samart Digital Company (SDC), plans to launch its first non-fungible tokens (NFT) linked with sports by the final quarter and then expand to collectible tokens to explore new opportunities in digital assets.

The company also aims to kick off its one-stop astrology service application in July under new startup LUCKY Heng Heng, which will provide services ranging from live fortune-telling, physiognomy and feng shui to determining auspicious dates and times.

The latest plans are meant to drive SDC to attain profitability next year following five years of losses.

Watchai Vilailuck, executive vice-chairman of Samart, said the company’s NFT first series will concern sports moments in both pictures and video clips, and they are set to be launched in the last quarter.

The firm is also now in the process of developing world-class collectible NFTs, he said, adding the move is more complicated as it needs to draw many parties to join the project.

Despite economic and pandemic challenges, the company is looking for new opportunities to strengthen its group’s foundation, he said.

“Samart is operating under the 2022 strategy of ‘Alert-Adapt-Achieve’,” said Mr Watchai.

The astrology app will gradually replace the firm’s horoscope phone service via 1900, which has been operating for two decades. The phone service generates around one million baht a month.

“Around 52 million people, or 79% of the population believe in horoscopes, astrology and feng shui so this service has strong potential,” he said.

Apart from the horoscope service app, LUCKY Heng Heng will soon launch a new app, called Thai Merit, which allows people to make merit online, including paying respects to Buddha images, making donations, redeeming vows and dealing with fortune sticks as well as worshipping sacred objects from many temples and holy places.

According to Mr Watchai, 90% of SDC’s revenue is now from the Digital Trunked Radio System (DTRS), which involves a ground-ground radio communication for coordinating among users.

The two key DTRS users are the Interior Ministry and the Provincial Electricity Authority, which capitalise on 85,000 DTRS devices, he said.

The number of devices used is expected to surge to 115,000 by the end of this year.

“We are finding ways to lessen its financial burden while increasing investment flexibility,” he said.

The company issued debentures early this year and is now studying the process to set up an infrastructure fund to raise money for the DTRS project, he said. No timeline has been set for the launch of the fund.

Samart currently has a backlog of 22 billion baht worth of projects. It is now pursuing the bidding of projects worth more than 12 billion baht in total by 2022, Mr Watchai said.

The company aims to attain 14 billion baht in revenue this year, up 60% from 2021.

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Blockchain, crypto set to take sports industry beyond NFT collectibles

Bitcoin (BTC) has been attributed as the most prominent blockchain use case, showing the technology’s prowess in successfully delivering an immutable and truly decentralized ledger over the past 13 years. Adding to the years of innovations since then— that saw the introduction of altcoins, non-fungible tokens (NFT), decentralized finance (DeFi) and more, a study conducted by fintech giant Deloitte highlighted the untapped potential of the crypto ecosystem to open up newer markets for the sports industry.

Fan tokens and NFTs were first introduced to the sports industry to increase fan engagement via collectibles and voting mechanisms. However, Deloitte, one of the Big 4 accounting firms, envisions the industry further embracing crypto and blockchain technology over the coming years:

“A nexus will form around sports collectibles, ticketing, betting, and gaming. We are just beginning to see its [cryptocurrency’s] potential, as well as the new markets it could lead to.”

Highlighting incoming trends in the sports industry, Deloitte’s 2022 sports industry outlook report expects an eventual rise in blockchain-enabled innovations, as a result of which “The use of NFTs, crypto, fan tokens, and ticket innovations will grow and evolve.”

“Moving beyond NFTs,” Deloitte expects the sports industry to start soon linking spectators with season tickets over the blockchain. While the initial move toward this goal would mean merely associating game tickets with NFTs as means to reward fans, innovations around smart contracting could potentially open up new use cases:

“We could see fractional ownership of season tickets and suites and a reinvention of the ticket resale process.”

As a result, new revenue streams can be created for sports organizers and teams as smart contracts streamline the processes related to dynamic ticket pricing and resales. However, Deloitte shared four key factors that need to be addressed by the ecosystem: implementing new standards, educating fans and considering compliance and tax implications.

Additionally, Deloitte’s study revealed that NFTs catalyzed the merger between the physical and virtual worlds in sports while predicting over $2 billion in sports-related NFT transactions in 2022 alone.

On an end note, the finserv recommended sports organizations keep an eye on the NFT boom and its impact on other segments such as gaming.

Related: Aussie media company goes all in on NBA fan engagement with NFTs

Supporting Deloitte’s report on the rising NFT trend across the sports industry, Australian media company Basketball Forever recently launched Hoop Hounds, an NFT project aimed to increase National Basketball Association (NBA) fan engagement and provide substantial real-world utility for the tokens.

Basketball Forever founder Alex Sumsky resonated with Deloitte’s findings when he told Cointelegraph that the technology is more than just a token tied to a JPG and allows organizations to provide innovative ways to increase user engagement and give the fans real utility.

As part of the initiative, Basketball Forever will offer 8,888 different “hounds” — various basketball and NBA personalities depicted as animated canines — each with unique traits and differing levels of rarity.