This week’s sports industry reading list

Welcome to the latest edition of the sports industry reading list, my regular handpicked selection of the most interesting, relevant writing on the global business of sport. As usual, the list includes profiles, interviews, features and analysis from a range of online publishers – newspapers, magazines, specialist sport sites, the sports industry trade media and blogs. Those are, loosely speaking, the rules so let’s get started. To business:

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • The NFL regular season begins on Thursday and it’s a decade since Roger Goodell was appointed commissioner. His tenure has not been without significant controversy but he has also presided over a period of sustained growth for the league. The Associated Press has put together these two excellent summaries – here’s Barry Wilner on Goodell’s reign to date and the future challenges he faces.
  •  We’re fast-approaching conference season in the UK sports industry and connectivity, linked to enhancing the fan experience, will again inevitably be a central theme. On the eve of the new NFL season TechRepublic’s Teena Maddox delivered this fascinating long read – including plenty of interesting facts and figures – on how the league’s stadiums are being prepared for the online age.
  • eSports will also be high on the agenda at a number of conferences over the next few weeks – the sports industry seems utterly beguiled – and Leaders, now under the editorial command of James Emmett, has produced a refreshing take on a sportsport? – growing in prominence but not without sizeable challenges.
  • The Paralympic Games begin on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro and Jacob Steinberg has written a superb scene-setter for the Guardian, with the background on the troubled build-up and the hope that, ultimately, it’ll be the sport that makes the headlines.
  • Tumultuous times in Formula One, with speculation swirling around the Monza paddock (and then, some time later, the internet) that  a buyout of the sport is imminent. At times like these, Joe Saward’s post-race notebook, over on his blog, is essential reading. Here’s his punchy Italian Grand Prix edition from Monday morning.
  • The US Open looks a bit different this year, with all sorts of improvements designed to improve the spectator experience. The New York Times’ Sarah Lyall examined the on-site changes last week, speaking to fans, players and executives for this excellent piece.
  • And finally, slotting into our popular ‘not-directly-about-the-sportsbiz-but-nonetheless-quite-interesting-and-pretty-relevant’ section, the Boston Globe’s Ty Burr provides a reminder that it’s not just sport that’s facing the challenge of a fragmenting media world and intense competition for eyeballs.

As always, all feedback’s welcome on Twitter – @DavidCushnan – or via email: davidcushnan@gmail.com

Until next time.

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This week’s sports industry reading list

Immediately post-Olympics is one of those moments when the business of sport temporarily becomes a topic of mainstream interest and coverage: How much is this gold medalist now worth? Just how big (or otherwise) were those TV ratings? How much did the Games really cost Rio? And how much money does the silly swimmer from America actually stand to lose? The results are not always pretty (or accurate). Fear not, though, sports industry expert, because this blog has attempted over the last couple of weeks to be even more selective than usual  over in choosing only pieces of the highest quality. So here goes: as usual, what you’ll see below is a mix of work published by newspapers, online publishers, the sports business trade press and specialist sports outlets. To business:

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • Profiles of ESPN captain John Skipper are not uncommon but they’re mostly well worth reading, particularly at a time when the self-styled ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ is grappling with the big challenges of media fragmentation and changing consumption habits. This, by Rick Maese of the Washington Post, paints a fascinating picture of one of sport’s most powerful executives.
  • In the age where great storytelling and good content, distributed effectively, are seen as the keys to unlocking greater value for rights holders and brands across sport, I thought this was a particularly interesting and relevant piece – Joseph Lichterman, writing for Nieman Lab, looks at the strategy being employed by one Mexican sports media outlet.

That’s all for now. More soon. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch either via email – davidcushnan@gmail.com – or on Twitter.

 

 

Just a thought…on every Olympic sport at Rio 2016

 

How was it for you, then? As I write, Rio 2016 is drawing gently to a close, and if you’re anything like me you’ve spent the past 17 days and nights gorging on the feast of Olympic sport from the comfort of your armchair – in my case, mainly watching the main BBC networks, occasionally dipping into the wealth of live action available via the red button, and, when otherwise engaged, at work or asleep, snatching a glance at the key action via the (superb) BBC website. And, without being blinkered, it’s clearly been another exceptional Games for Team GB.

It is, of course, impossible to watch everything at an Olympic Games and, as individuals and nations, we all have our favourite events and those we simply don’t ‘get’. It’s all part of the fun, though, to discover sports for the first time in four years or, in some cases, for the first time ever. And while there’s been a vast amount of comment, opinion and reporting on Rio de Janeiro as host city and the International Olympic Committee as organiser, the Games also provide a vital showcase for the international sports federations. What follows, then, is a collection of thoughts about the sports that made the Games through a British lens, with an eye on how each was presented and what changes ought to be considered before, amid a rather different broadcast landscape (hello, Eurosport!), the world reconvenes at Tokyo 2020.

Aquatics

The Olympic schedule means the swimming events are front-loaded and the problem with that is by the time the Games end, it can be a bit of a struggle to remember everything that happened in the pool – although the exploits of Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky are hard to forget. A bigger problem for the UK was that the swimming finals all took place in the small hours, so the sport did not get the kind of showcase enjoyed by the likes of cycling and gymnastics (that’s not a criticism of the scheduling, by the way; the Olympics is a global events and as a viewer sometimes the scheduling works in your favour and sometimes it doesn’t). The diving finals were on at a much more accessible time and while the BBC’s coverage was generally excellent, it was one of many Olympic events where there was a clear struggle to find the right balance between covering the action and acting as cheerleader for British athletes. Water polo, what little I saw of it, continues to look absolutely brutal: what happens in the pool, stays in the pool.

Archery

Archery seems to get its fair share of interesting Olympic venues – Lord’s cricket ground four years ago in London and this time round Rio’s Sambadrome, home of Carnival – but it’s fair, I think, to say there are still challenges around making it a truly compelling television sport for a mass audience. That’s my excuse, anyway.

Athletics

Thanks to the time difference with the UK, athletics felt a little bit of a sideshow at these Games. With most of the key action well after midnight, my athletics viewing was restricted largely to BBC online highlights packages each morning. Perhaps, given the sport’s current reputation, a moment out of the primetime spotlight as it gets its house in order is no bad thing. Timezone apart, Alan Abrahamson wrote a piece well worth reading on the somewhat disjointed track and field scheduling and with innovations such as staging field events in the centre of cities starting to filter into the thoughts of major championship organisers it would be a surprise – and a shame – if the athletics programme at Tokyo 2020 doesn’t have a substantially different look and feel.

Badminton

Didn’t really catch much badminton. As an Olympic viewer you have to make your picks and there always seemed to be something more eye-catching available to watch.

Basketball

A Team USA benefit in both the men’s and women’s competitions – but this time round there didn’t seem to be quite the same international buzz around the collection of cruise ship-dwelling NBA stars brought together to take gold back to America.

Boxing

The judging system baffles me – and clearly I’m not alone in that regard – but the three and four-round format works well as a broadcast package. As a sport, though, boxing has far bigger problems than how it’s presented.

Canoeing

A sport that tended to take place during daylight hours in Brazil and therefore worked well for a +4 hours timezone, it’s fun to watch, pretty easy to comprehend, and looks spectacular, especially the slalom and sprints. A sprinkling of surprise British success won’t have hurt either.

Cycling

You may remember there was a time, a few years back, when cycling wasn’t a mainstream sport in the UK. At these Games, nearly all of the action from the velodrome was delivered live in primetime on one of the BBC’s main channels – despite the sensational gold rush, at times it even felt a touch like overkill; although the BBC’s team of Sir Chris Hoy, Chris Boardman and Simon Brotherton made for a brilliant broadcast squad, other sports struggled to get a look-in during the crucial primetime coverage. It’s a measure, perhaps, of just how brilliant British Cycling has been in developing a generation of serial Olympic winners. The BMX? It’s wacky, but really works as a TV spectacle.

Equestrian

The multitude of different disciplines and the time the various competitions take can make the equestrian events a bit tricky to follow – there always seemed to be a horse jumping over something whenever I flicked through the red button options – but there should always, always be room in the Olympics for a sport that allows a 58-year old to win a gold medal.

Fencing

I watched a fair bit of fencing in the opening few days of the Games, certainly setting a PB for my own fencing consumption at an Olympic Games. It’s a much slicker broadcast package than I remember: the lighting in the arena gave a real sense of a duel and the graphics package a sport all about speed straightforward to follow.

Field hockey

From a British perspective, there’ll likely never be a better opportunity to promote the sport and increase participation than immediately after two hours of live coverage of a gold medal-winning British team on BBC1, smack bang in the middle of primetime on a Friday night. The penalty shootout format is – was – one of sport’s great hidden secrets. It made for sensational TV.

Football

The Olympic football tournament did ultimately produce one of the moments of the Games but it does feel a bit out of place, or at least the men’s under-23 competition does. A revitalising format change could be for the Games to include a beach soccer or futsal tournament instead.

Golf

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but the men’s golf tournament – blighted beforehand by a perceived lack of interest and multiple withdrawals – ultimately produced one of the best head-to-heads of the Games, between Henrik Stenson, the Open champion, and Justin Rose, the game’s biggest cheerleader for Olympic inclusion. Looking ahead to Tokyo, however, I’d still favour a matchplay format over a regular stroke play tournament. A mixed team matchplay event, for example, would also probably lead to more decisive, easy-to-package moments and greater coverage on the main networks.

Gymnastics

While athletics and swimming suffered with an awkward timezone, this might just have been as close to a perfect Olympics for British Gymnastics as it gets. A series of medal-winning British performances and the crowning of a genuine global superstar in the tiny form of the magical Simone Biles, all broadcast back to Britain in primetime, gave gymnastics the kind of exposure it can usually only dream of in the UK. The competitions and scoring can be difficult to follow, especially in the all-around contests, but the action is never less than spectacular.

Handball

An all-action sport that’s great fun to watch but, inevitably, in the absence of a British team, it received limited exposure on the main BBC channels during the Games. That’s a real shame: I’d say it’s a perfect sport for schools – fast, aggressive and occasionally even a bit violent. There’s a funding question here, too, but perhaps that’s one for another day.

Judo 

I still don’t fully understand the rules of judo and while there was a fair amount of BBC coverage of the British contenders, it all felt to me slightly low-key.

Modern pentathlon 

With so much else going on in the final few days of the Games, it’s hard to keep on top of the modern pentathlon events. And, frankly, I didn’t manage to.

Rowing

The lagoon venue might have been a nightmare at times for the competitors but it looked absolutely stunning on television – kudos to the Olympic Broadcasting Services crew who set up the high shot of Christ the Reedemer overlooking the start of one of the medal races last week. Credit, too, to FISA, the sport’s governing body, for somehow managing to get the schedule back on track after effectively losing two days to the weather.

Rugby

This was everything everyone expected it to be: a roaring success. Huge credit must go to World Rugby for the way they have embraced their Olympic debut over the past seven years and building a strategic growth plan around the Games. Sevens is sport ideally packaged for the modern world and, better still, in the UK the key matches were timed nicely in primetime to provide the ideal showcase. Fiji’s first Olympic gold medal was the icing on the cake, even if it came at the expense of Team GB.

Sailing

Sailing tries, it really, really tries. But, short of the multi-million dollar investment in graphics and real-time telemetry by events such as the America’s Cup, it still struggles as a live TV product. That’s a great shame, particularly as it seemed the BBC was unable to give British sailing gold medal winners the same kind of exposure or coverage as those from other sports. It’s not a new problem, but a problem it remains.

Shooting

Shooting’s a tricky one. It’s not a natural television product and therefore tends to face the same kind of challenges as sailing and archery at an Olympic Games: a fight for exposure. I thought this was an interesting piece by Bloomberg’s David Biller, on another battle US Olympic shooters face: to secure sponsors in a country beset by a major problem with guns.

Table tennis

Another sport that somehow passed me by this time round: I’m sure there were some fantastic rallies, though, which will pop up on YouTube over the coming weeks and months.

Taekwondo

Plenty of primetime taekwondo on the BBC from Rio, thanks to the exploits of Jade Jones and co. But while it’s clearly technically and physically demanding, is it just me or is taekwondo just a little bit dull to watch? Perhaps it’s just the high quality of the Olympic field, but it seemed to me that in any given bout both fighters spent the whole time attempting to execute the same move – and, simultaneously, defend that same critical move. That said, it’s a sport that can provide moments of high human drama: I was massively impressed by Lutalo Muhammad’s dignified and level-headed response to his last-second defeat when he was interviewed the day after.

Tennis

With everything else going on it can be hard to follow the early stages of the tennis tournaments, but, hearteningly for an Olympic sport that has its critics, the players have really come to care about the Olympic Games. The final stages of both men’s and women’s singles tournaments were utterly compelling and, in Monica Puig’s gold and the Murray/Del Potro final, provided a couple of great stories.

Triathlon

The triathlon seems like a mainstay of the Games, so it’s always a surprise to be reminded it only made its debut in 2000. The men’s and women’s events in Rio were another chance for OBS to play tourist guide for Brazil – a role it also played extremely well with its coverage of the cycling road races. I’d echo the views of others, however, by suggesting adding national team colours to the swimming hats; the swim section of the race is a great spectacle, but it’s nigh-on impossible to follow.

Volleyball

Beach volleyball on Copacabana was always going to be a hit (a little joke, there, for the aficionados…) and it provided some of the best broadcast images of the Games – even if, for a British audience, the meaty parts of the tournaments took place overnight. I’m not sure I caught a second of the indoor tournament, though, which is perhaps indicative of the struggle the sport faces to balance up the profile of its two formats and to truly breakthrough in the UK.

Weightlifting

Is there a reason weightlifting competitions need to be held in what tend to be innocuous-looking and often badly-lit halls? Surely there’d be more atmosphere and excitement about a tournament held in a city’s major square or on the beach, World’s Strongest Man-style?

Wrestling

Wrestling is not an Olympic sport you see a lot of on the BBC, at least without clicking a red button. I did catch a glimpse of it, though, while in Germany briefly last week, as ZDF switched away from the cycling omnium points race with two laps left to take in a live bout. It was a reminder of how different levels of importance are attached to different sports in different markets sports and of just how an enormous an Olympic Games is. As a viewer, it’s quite the test of endurance. Well done, you made it to the finish line.

 

Feel free to get in touch via email – davidcushnan@gmail.com – or on Twitter: @DavidCushnan

This week’s sports industry reading list

It’s time. A major multi-sport global gathering, packed full of fascinating stories, inspiring huge debate and intrigue every time, is finally upon us once again. That’s right, it’s time for another edition of the sports industry reading list, your regular handpicked selection of interesting, relevant and sometimes mission-critical pieces on the global business of sport. In this week when the Olympic Games also start, to business:

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • Rio 2016 is finally upon us and my goodness it’s been quite the journey since Jacques Rogge announced, some seven years ago, South America would host its first Games. Back then, as editor of SportsPro, I asked Michael Payne, the IOC’s former marketing director and a noted Olympic consultant, to write the story of a winning bid that he had played a part in. I happened across the piece again this week, reprinted in its unedited form on Payne’s website, and it’s well worth a read for some essential background on the genesis of Rio’s Games.
  • Is Stan Kroenke really sport’s most powerful man? I’m not sure, but with big investments in the Premier League and NFL he’s well worth a Daily Mail profile. This, written by Matt Barlow, contains lots of interesting little nuggets about an elusive yet clearly highly ambitious sports investor.
  • Barely a week now goes by without some sort of significant investment in sport by a Chinese firm or individual and frankly it’s becoming tricky to keep up with the number of European football clubs that are being fuelled by Chinese yuan. On his China Sports Insider blog Mark Dreyer, who has been based in the country for many years, has reprinted a fascinating recent interview he gave to Sky Sports on the subject of Chinese takeovers.

That’s all for now. As always, feedback is welcomed via email – davidcushnan@gmail.com – or on Twitter: @DavidCushnan. Until next time, enjoy the Games.

 

 

This week’s sports industry reading list

Tumultuous times at the top of world sport and, with the Olympic Games less than 10 days away and the reverberations of the IOC’s decision not to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes still registering on the controversy-ometer, there’s doubtless more to come. It’ll come as no surprise, then, that this week’s sports industry reading list is mostly Olympic-flavoured.

As usual, what follows is a mix of the best and most interesting sports business-related features, profiles, interviews and analysis – if sport’s your business, I’d politely suggest it’s well worth reading on.

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • Richard Deitsch’s weekly sports media round-up is always essential reading and his latest edition features a fascinating round-table with half a dozen journalists heading to Rio 2016 – pretty much all the key issues are covered, from doping to to stress levels.
  • As the dust settles on the UFC’s acquisition by WME | IMG, is kickboxing poised to be the next big thing in the fightsports world? The Daily Telegraph’s Gareth A. Davies has taken a look. It’s well worth your time.

And there we have it, another reading list safely in the (virtual) books. As always, do let me know if it works for you via email – davidcushnan@gmail.com – or on Twitter. And don’t forget to tell your friends/colleagues/clients/grandma about it.

This week’s sports industry reading list

Welcome along to the latest sports industry reading list, a semi-regular guide to the best in recent writing on the global business of sport. Recent events around the world – Brexit and the dramatic political fallout in the UK, Thursday’s atrocity in Nice and Friday’s astounding, concerning events in Turkey are but three – provide the latest stark reminders of the insignificance of sport. Frankly, at times like these, there are far more important things to be reading about than the sports industry. And yet, as those of us who love it are all too aware, sport is escapism and, at its best, wonderful entertainment – it’s worth considering that just in the last week we’ve seen perhaps the most bizarre Tour de France stage of all time and perhaps one of the highest quality final round duels in golf history. Yes, sport matters – a bit. So it may seem more trivial than ever, but onwards – to business – with this week’s reading list.

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • Here’s superb examination (tucked neatly behind Autosport’s paywall) of two different Formula One independent team business models, featuring Williams and Force India, by Dieter Rencken:
  • The final countdown to Rio 2016 is well underway and you’ll be all too aware it’s turned into something of a perfect storm for organisers, with health concerns, high-profile athlete withdrawals, political and economic instability and doping dominating the headlines. BBC sports editor Dan Roan has put together a typically sharp summary of where the Games stand with a couple of weeks to go.
  • Talking of the Olympics, should they have a permanent home? A provocative column here, written by former Olympian Derek Boosey for Inside the Games, offers ample food for thought.
  • And here’s one for Olympic history buffs: Jack Todd has written a superbly detailed piece, published as part of the excellent Guardian Cities website, on Montreal’s hosting of the 1978 Games and the financial calamity that followed.
  • Last week saw the annual lull in the US sports calendar, a couple of days when no major professional sport had events scheduled. Sports communications veteran Joe Favorito wrote this fun piece on which sports ought to be looking to fill the gap.

That’s all for now. As always, all feedback’s welcome via email – davidcushnan@gmail.com – or on Twitter, where you’ll find me @DavidCushnan

This week’s sports industry reading list

Thanks for stopping by – or stumbling across – the sports industry reading list, your one-stop, hopefully handy guide to the best, most interesting and most useful recent writing about the global business of sport. As usual, I’ve selected a mix of interviews, profiles and analysis from a variety of sources – newspaper websites, specialist sport outlets and the sports industry trade press. Ready? Set? To business:

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • The Olympic Games are but a month away. Like many, NBC have been preparing for Rio 2016 for years and this Ad Week interview with Jon Miller, NBC Olympics’ chief marketing officer, is a useful guide to the network’s promotional plans for the next few weeks. A.J. Katz asks the questions.
  • Kevin Durant’s announcement (made, as is the way in the modern world, via Derek Jeter’s Player’s Tribune website) that he’s joining the Golden State Warriors has understandably made waves. This interesting Sports Techie analysis of the motives behind the move posits the theory that the draw of Silicon Valley was magnetic.
  • Fitting neatly into this list’s occasional ‘not directly sports business-related but perhaps relevant for anyone whose business is sport’ category, here’s a fascinating piece from The Drum on The Pool, an online outlet aimed at professional women. Katie McQuater’s piece is well worth your time, especially if content creation’s your game (which it almost certainly is).
  • And a ‘sports industry must-listen’ to round things off. Adam Parsons’ Wake Up to Money programme on BBC Radio 5 Live has spawned a sports business spin-off – and an accompanying podcast. The first edition features, amongst others, British Olympic Association chief executive Bill Sweeney.

As always, all feedback is welcome. You can get in touch by emailing davidcushnan@gmail.com or on Twitter, @DavidCushnan.

This week’s sports industry reading list

Time for another sports industry reading list, my handpicked selection of the best recent online content relating to the global business of sport. As usual, you’ll find below a mix of pieces from newspaper websites, dedicated sports business publications, blogs and sport-specific websites – and as usual the list includes profiles, features, analysis and, this week, even a couple of audio treats. To business:

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • Just before last week’s decision by the IAAF to uphold the suspension of Russia’s track and field athletes, the Guardian’s Owen Gibson published this excellent profile of Lord Sebastian Coe and the daunting challenge of what Coe insists is his final major role in sport.

All feedback on what you’ve read or what you’re about to read is, as ever, welcome, either via email – davidcushnan@gmail.com – or on Twitter or LinkedIn. Until next time.

This week’s sports industry reading list

And we’re back. Call it a sabbatical, call it a hiatus, call it a didn’t-quite-get-round-to-it – frankly, call it whatever you want. The key thing to note is that this is the sports industry reading list, your sometimes-weekly guide to interesting, fascinating, informative and entertaining profiles, interviews, articles, features and opinions on the global business of sport. For readers joining us at the start of what we’ll generously call ‘season two’, you’ll tend to find a mix of pieces from mainstream media, specialist trade publications and some sport-specific outlets. Right, let’s get (re)started. To business:

This week’s sports industry reading list

  • Sticking with sports broadcasting, whether baseball is your sport or not this profile of Los Angeles legend Vin Scully – in his 67th and final year of his commentating career – is well worth your time. It’s by Tom Verducci and by dint of the remarkable length of Scully’s tenure it’s effectively a fascinating anecdotal history  of sports broadcasting.
  • In the week when Jose Mourinho is poised to take up the reins at Old Trafford, this is a razor-sharp analysis, by the Irish Times’ Ken Early, of why he makes perfect sense for a club – and company – at this stage in its history. This might just be the best piece of sports business analysis you’ll read this year.
  • China’s investment in sports teams, agencies and events is growing by the week – Aston Villa and MP & Silva have been added to the portfolio in the last few days – but this Reuters piece, by Brenda Goh, approaches the country’s sporting strategy from the other extreme, examining how its athlete development and grassroots plans are evolving.
  • Difficult days for the International Olympic Committee, these, as Rio 2016, with all its challenges, looms, the doping crisis playing out in front of the world and increasingly murky questions around Tokyo 2020’s winning bid for its Games. This, from the Guardian’s Owen Gibson, is a must-read on the latter.

That’s your lot for this week. As ever, you can find me on Twitter – @DavidCushnan, or reach me via email by typing in the following: davidcushnan@gmail.com.

Until next time.

 

 

This week’s sports industry reading list

Hi there, sports business enthusiasts and welcome to another dose of the sports industry reading list (it really is medicinal), your handy guide to what you ought to be reading if sport is your business. This is the first one of these for a couple of weeks so there’s pieces below from the last fortnight or so – and as usual, you’ll find a mix of profiles, interviews, columns and features. You know the drill. To business.

This week’s sports industry must-reads

  • Last week’s SportAccord Convention in Lausanne was, as ever, a chance for some high-level international sports chit-chat. It’s a place where the world’s sports federations, and associated hangers-on, congregate to see which way the wind is blowing in global sports politics. A couple of related recommendations: James Emmett, microphone in hand, was busy pacing the hall searching out the bigwigs from all four 2024 Olympic bidders for a couple of excellent SportsPro podcasts. And Inside the Games’ Nick Butler penned this terrific summary of where the SportAccord organisation lies after a tumultuous year and now the election of a new president.
  • In the week when the Olympic capital hosted the world of sport, this piece by Rebecca Ruiz for the New York Times on the city, its position as home to many an international sports organisation and how it is tightening up its regulation of them was certainly timely.
  • Last week marked the 25th anniversary of Sky Sports. The innovator has become the establishment in an ever-changing media environment, and here’s an interesting interview with Barney Francis, Sky Sports’ managing director, conducted by the Daily Telegraph’s Ben Rumsby.

As always, you can reach me via email: davidcushnan@gmail.com or on Twitter. And a mention, a share or a recommendation is always much appreciated. Until next time.