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DraftKings Reports Strong Q2 Revenue Despite Limited Sports Calendar

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DraftKings Reports Strong Q2 Revenue Despite Limited Sports Calendar

BOSTON, Aug. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — DraftKings Inc. (Nasdaq: DKNG) (“DraftKings” or the “Company”) today reported financial results for the second quarter of 2020. For the three months ended June 30, 2020, DraftKings reported GAAP revenue of $71 million compared to $57 million during the same period in 2019. On a pro forma basis, including the effect of the Company’s business combination with SBTech (Global) Limited and Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp. as if it had been completed on January 1, 2019, revenue would have been $75 million in the second quarter of 2020, compared to $83 million during the same period in 2019. DraftKings ended the second quarter of 2020 with over $1.2 billion in cash and no debt on its balance sheet.

“We believe that the best product will ultimately win with the American consumer,” said Jason Robins, DraftKings Co-Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board. “As a technology first organization, we will continue to focus on bringing new and innovative products to market that strengthen our engagement with customers and maintain our competitive differentiation.”

$1.2 Billion in Cash on Balance Sheet after Successful Follow-on Offering

As a result of a successful follow-on equity offering in June and the exercise of public warrants following DraftKings’ call for redemption, DraftKings added over $800 million to its balance sheet and ended the second quarter with over $1.2 billion in cash and no debt. The Company is well positioned to continue to deliver on its key priorities, which include entering new states at the earliest opportunity, investing in product and technology to create new offerings for American sports and American sports fans, and acquiring and retaining customers.

In the second quarter, while several major sports leagues including the NBA, MLB and the NHL remained on hiatus due to COVID-19, the Company worked creatively to engage fans with new fantasy sports and betting products for NASCAR, golf, UFC, and European soccer. As sporting events began to resume, the Company saw increased engagement with its sports-based product offerings, which contributed to sequential monthly revenue improvement during the second quarter. This positive momentum has accelerated with the return of MLB, the NBA, WNBA, the NHL, and MLS.

The Company is introducing fiscal year 2020 pro forma revenue guidance of $500 million to $540 million which equates to year-over-year pro forma revenue growth of 22% to 37% in the second half of 2020. This guidance assumes that the professional sports calendar remains as currently contemplated and that DraftKings operates in the states in which it is currently live. DraftKings at this time does not anticipate an impact to its long-term plans due to COVID-19.

U.S. Legislative Landscape for Sports Betting and iGaming

In the second quarter of 2020, DraftKings launched sports betting in Colorado and iGaming in Pennsylvania. Since the close of the second quarter, DraftKings has launched sports betting in Illinois and iGaming in West Virginia. DraftKings is working to enter Virginia and Tennessee for sports betting and Michigan for sports betting and iGaming; all three states have passed legislation.

Webcast and Conference Call Details

DraftKings will host a conference call and audio webcast today at 8:30 a.m. EDT, during which management will discuss the Company’s second quarter results and provide commentary on business performance. A question and answer session will follow the prepared remarks. 

The conference call may be accessed by dialing (833) 644-0686 for domestic callers or (918) 922-6762 for international callers. Once connected with the operator, please provide the conference ID of 2644858.

A live audio webcast of the earnings conference call may be accessed on the Company’s website at investors.draftkings.com, along with a copy of this press release, the Company’s Form 10-Q filing, and a slide presentation. The audio webcast and accompanying presentation will be available on the Company’s investor relations website until 11:59 p.m. EDT on September 14, 2020.

GAAP Results of Operations, 3 & 6 Months Ended June 30th:

DRAFTKINGS INC.

CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS
(Unaudited)
(Amounts in thousands, except loss per share data)

    Three months ended June 30,     Six months ended June 30,  
    2020     2019     2020     2019  
Revenue   $ 70,931     $ 57,390     $ 159,473     $ 125,482  
Cost of revenue     47,330       17,834       90,746       39,386  
Sales and marketing     46,188       29,671       99,894       66,516  
Product and technology     30,549       12,234       48,590       25,322  
General and administrative     107,308       26,183       146,804       52,996  
Loss from operations     (160,444 )     (28,532 )     (226,561 )     (58,738 )
                                 
Other income (expense):                                
Interest income (expense), net     (588 )     426       (2,939 )     1,087  
Loss before income tax provision and loss from equity method investment     (161,032 )     (28,106 )     (229,500 )     (57,651 )
                                 
Income tax provision     (323 )     (7 )     (332 )     (16 )
Loss from equity method investment     (82 )           (285 )      
Net loss attributable to common stockholders   $ (161,437 )   $ (28,113 )   $ (230,117 )   $ (57,667 )
                                 
Loss per share attributable to common stockholders:                                
Basic and diluted   $ (0.55 )   $ (0.15 )   $ (0.97 )   $ (0.31 )

Due to the timing of the Business Combination, the three- and six-month periods ended June 30, 2020, reflect B2B/SBTech activity beginning April 24, 2020, and the three- and six-month periods ended June 30, 2019 do not reflect B2B/SBTech activity.

Non-GAAP Information

This press release includes Adjusted EBITDA and Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA, which are non-GAAP performance measures that we use to supplement our results presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. We believe Adjusted EBITDA and Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA are useful in evaluating our operating performance and are similar to measures reported by our publicly-listed U.S. competitors, and regularly used by security analysts, institutional investors and other interested parties in analyzing operating performance and prospects. Adjusted EBITDA and Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA are not intended to be a substitute for any U.S. GAAP financial measure and, as calculated, may not be comparable to other similarly titled measures of performance of other companies in other industries or within the same industry.

We define and calculate Adjusted EBITDA as net loss before the impact of interest income or expense, income tax expense or benefit and depreciation and amortization, and further adjusted for the following items: stock-based compensation, transaction-related costs, litigation, settlement and related costs and certain other non-recurring, non-cash and non-core items, as described in the reconciliation below. We define and calculate Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA as pro forma net loss (giving effect to the Business Combination as if it were consummated on January 1, 2019) before the impact of interest income or expense, income tax expense or benefit and depreciation and amortization, and further adjusted for the same items as Adjusted EBITDA.

We include these non-GAAP financial measures because they are used by management to evaluate our core operating performance and trends and to make strategic decisions regarding the allocation of capital and new investments. Adjusted EBITDA excludes certain expenses that are required in accordance with U.S. GAAP because they are non-recurring items (for example, in the case of transaction-related costs), non-cash expenditures (for example, in the case of depreciation, amortization and stock-based compensation), or are not related to our underlying business performance (for example, in the case of interest income and expense and legal, settlement and related costs). Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA excludes the same categories of expenses and is prepared to give effect to the Business Combination as if it occurred on January 1, 2019.

Adjusted EBITDA, 3 & 6 Months Ended June 30th:

The table below presents our Adjusted EBITDA reconciled to our net loss, the closest U.S. GAAP measure, for the periods indicated:

    Three months ended June 30,     Six months ended June 30,  
    2020     2019     2020     2019  
(dollars in thousands)                                
Consolidated net income (loss)   $ (161,437 )   $ (28,113 )   $ (230,117 )   $ (57,667 )
Adjusted for:                                
Depreciation and amortization (excluding acquired intangibles)     5,448       3,274       10,152       6,199  
Amortization of acquired intangibles     13,220             13,220        
Interest (income) expense, net     588       (426 )     2,939       (1,087 )
Income tax (benefit) expense     323       7       332       16  
Stock-based compensation (1)     54,486       1,844       59,328       6,675  
Transaction-related costs (2)     25,255       1,276       30,907       1,276  
Litigation, settlement, and related costs (3)     2,022       814       3,352       1,701  
Other non-recurring costs and special project costs (4)     2,517       223       2,646       1,371  
Other non-operating costs     83             285        
Adjusted EBITDA   $ (57,495 )   $ (21,101 )   $ (106,956 )   $ (41,516 )
(1) The amounts for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2020, primarily reflect probability-based expenses on stock-based compensation awards resulting from the achievement of share price targets under long-term incentive plans and the issuance of our Class B shares (which have no economic or conversion rights) to our CEO.
(2) Mainly includes capital markets advisory, consulting, accounting and legal expenses incurred in connection with the Business Combination, including related evaluation, negotiation and integration costs. Also includes bonuses, paid in the second quarter of 2020, to certain employees in connection with the consummation of the Business Combination. In 2019 these costs related to exploratory acquisition activities.
(3) Includes primarily external legal costs related to litigation and litigation settlement costs deemed unrelated to our core business operations.
(4) Includes primarily consulting, advisory and other costs relating to non-recurring items and special projects, including, for the three and six months ended June 30, 2019, the cost of our move to our new Boston headquarters, executive search costs and, for the three and six months ended June 30, 2020, implementation of internal controls over financial reporting and tax structuring advisory costs.

Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA, 3 & 6 Months Ended June 30th:

The table below presents our Non-GAAP Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA, reconciled to our pro forma net loss, for the periods indicated:

    Three months ended June 30,     Six months ended June 30,  
Pro Forma Information   2020     2019     2020     2019  
(dollars in thousands)                                
Pro forma net income (loss)   $ (156,800 )   $ (37,267 )   $ (238,881 )   $ (77,955 )
Adjusted for:                                
Depreciation and amortization (excluding acquired intangibles)     5,722       3,933       11,274       7,522  
Amortization of acquired intangibles     17,684       18,045       35,383       36,277  
Interest (income) expense, net     601       (346 )     3,399       (833 )
Income tax (benefit) expense     3,008       (4,331 )     920       (8,724 )
Stock-based compensation (1)     65,346       2,018       70,204       7,125  
Transaction-related costs (2)           1,276             1,276  
Litigation, settlement, and related costs (3)     2,022       814       3,352       1,701  
Other non-recurring costs and special project costs (4)     2,517       223       2,646       1,371  
Other non-operating costs     83             285        
Pro forma Adjusted EBITDA   $ (59,817 )   $ (15,635 )   $ (111,418 )   $ (32,240 )
(1) The amounts for the three and six months ended June 30, 2020 primarily reflect probability-based expenses on stock-based compensation awards resulting from the achievement of share price targets under long-term incentive plans, the issuance of our Class B shares (which have no economic or conversion rights) to our CEO, and $10.9 million due to the satisfaction of the performance condition, immediately prior to the consummation of the Business Combination, on stock-based compensation awards granted to SBTech employees in prior periods.
(2) The transaction costs related to the Business Combination described in footnote 2 to the preceding table have been eliminated in calculating our pro forma net income pursuant to the principles of Article 11 of Regulation S-X. In 2019 these costs related to exploratory acquisition activities.
(3) Includes primarily external legal costs related to litigation and litigation settlement costs deemed unrelated to our core business operations.
(4) Includes primarily consulting, advisory and other costs relating to non-recurring items and special projects, including, for the three and six months ended June 30, 2019, the cost of our move to our new Boston headquarters, executive search costs and, for the three and six months ended June 30, 2020, implementation of internal controls over financial reporting and tax structuring advisory costs.

To facilitate comparability between periods, we have included in this press release supplemental unaudited pro forma results of operations for the three and six months ended June 30, 2020 compared with the three and six months ended June 30, 2019. These pro forma results were prepared giving effect to the Business Combination as if it had been consummated on January 1, 2019, and are based on estimates and assumptions, which we believe are reasonable and consistent with Article 11 of Regulation S-X.

Pro Forma Results of Operations, 3 Months Ended June 30th:

Set forth below are our pro forma results of operations for the three months ended June 30, 2020 compared with the three months ended June 30, 2019.

    Three months ended June 30,  
Pro Forma Information   2020     2019     $ Change     % Change  
(in thousands, except percentages)                  
Revenue   $ 74,998     $ 82,987     $ (7,989 )     -9.6 %
Cost of revenue     (53,172 )     (41,985 )     (11,187 )     26.6 %
Sales and marketing     (46,967 )     (31,477 )     (15,490 )     49.2 %
General and administrative     (91,484 )     (30,006 )     (61,478 )     204.9 %
Product and technology     (36,483 )     (21,463 )     (15,020 )     70.0 %
Loss from operations     (153,108 )     (41,944 )     (111,164 )     265.0 %
Interest income (expense), net     (601 )     346       (947 )     n.m.  
Loss before income tax expense     (153,709 )     (41,598 )     (112,111 )     269.5 %
Income tax benefit (expense)     (3,008 )     4,331       (7,339 )     n.m.  
Loss from equity method investment     (83 )           (83 )     n.m.  
Net Loss   $ (156,800 )   $ (37,267 )   $ (119,533 )     320.7 %

n.m. = not meaningful

Pro Forma Results of Operations, 6 Months Ended June 30th:

Set forth below are our pro forma results of operations for the six months ended June 30, 2020 compared with the six months ended June 30, 2019.

    Six months ended June 30,  
Pro Forma Information   2020     2019     $ Change     % Change  
(in thousands, except percentages)                  
Revenue   $ 188,443     $ 175,941     $ 12,502       7.1 %
Cost of revenue     (121,630 )     (87,913 )     (33,717 )     38.4 %
Sales and marketing     (104,240 )     (71,985 )     (32,255 )     44.8 %
General and administrative     (130,624 )     (60,317 )     (70,307 )     116.6 %
Product and technology     (66,225 )     (43,238 )     (22,987 )     53.2 %
Loss from operations     (234,276 )     (87,512 )     (146,764 )     167.7 %
Interest income (expense), net     (3,399 )     833       (4,232 )     -508.0 %
Loss before income tax expense     (237,675 )     (86,679 )     (150,996 )     174.2 %
Income tax expense     (920 )     8,724       (9,644 )     -110.5 %
Loss from equity method investment     (286 )           (286 )     n.m.  
Net Loss   $ (238,881 )     (77,955 )     (160,926 )     206.4 %

n.m. = not meaningful

About DraftKings

DraftKings Inc. (Nasdaq: DKNG) is a digital sports entertainment and gaming company created to fuel the competitive spirits of sports fans with products that range across daily fantasy, regulated gaming and digital media. Headquartered in Boston, and launched in 2012 by Jason Robins, Matt Kalish and Paul Liberman, DraftKings is the only U.S.-based vertically integrated sports betting operator. DraftKings is a multi-channel provider of sports betting and gaming technologies, powering sports and gaming entertainment for 50+ operators across more than 15 regulated U.S. and global markets, including Arkansas and Oregon in the U.S. DraftKings’ Sportsbook offers mobile and retail betting for major U.S. and international sports and operates in the United States pursuant to regulations in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. DraftKings’ daily fantasy sports product is available in 8 countries internationally with 15 distinct sports categories. DraftKings is the official daily fantasy partner of the NFL, MLB and the PGA TOUR as well as an authorized gaming operator of the NBA and MLB and an official betting operator of the PGA TOUR.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, about us and our industry that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this press release, including statements regarding guidance, our future results of operations or financial condition, business strategy and plans, user growth and engagement, product initiatives, and objectives of management for future operations, and the impact of COVID-19 on our business and the economy as a whole, are forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements because they contain words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “continue,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “forecast,” “going to,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “project,” “propose,” “should,” “target,” “will,” or “would” or the negative of these words or other similar terms or expressions. We caution you that the foregoing may not include all of the forward-looking statements made in this press release.

You should not rely on forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. We have based the forward-looking statements contained in this press release primarily on our current expectations and projections about future events and trends, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that we believe may affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, conditions or results, and involve a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other important factors, many of which are outside DraftKings’ control, that could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. Important factors, among others, that may affect actual results or outcomes include DraftKings’ ability to manage growth; DraftKings’ ability to execute its business plan and meet its projections; potential litigation involving DraftKings; changes in applicable laws or regulations, particularly with respect to gaming; general economic and market conditions impacting demand for DraftKings’ products and services, and in particular economic and market conditions in the media / entertainment / gaming / software industry in the markets in which DraftKings’ operates; the potential adverse effects of the ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on capital markets, general economic conditions, unemployment and DraftKings’ liquidity, operations and personnel, as well as risks, uncertainties, and other factors described in “Risk Factors” in our filings with the SEC, which are available on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. Additional information will be made available in other filings that we make from time to time with the SEC. In addition, any forward-looking statements contained in this press release are based on assumptions that we believe to be reasonable as of this date. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this press release or to reflect new information or the occurrence of unanticipated events, including future developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic, except as required by law.

Contacts
Media:
Media@draftkings.com

Investors:
Investors@draftkings.com

 

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Tennessee Baseball: Five Questions to Answer Entering 2022

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After years of struggling to be competitive as the SEC established itself as the toughest conference in college baseball and finally breaking through to a regional in 2019, Tennessee jumped back on the national stage in the sport by getting to the College World Series in 2021 for the first time since 2005.

That success will be tough to duplicate in 2022, as the Volunteers had a whole host of important players drafted over the summer. That’s not to say that the talent isn’t there for Tennessee to make a return trip to Omaha, because it absolutely is, but it will require some newcomers jumping into the deep end and succeeding right away.

These are five questions Tennessee will look to answer next season as it tries to keep the ball rolling in the program.

Who will join Blade Tidwell in the weekend rotation?

Whether he pitches on Friday or later in the weekend, righthander Blade Tidwell will go into the 2022 season expected to lead the Tennessee rotation after a freshman season that saw him put up a 3.74 ERA in 98.2 innings.

After a stint with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team over the summer took his 2021 workload to 105.2 innings for the year, Tidwell got a late start to the fall in the interest of giving him proper recovery time.

Joining him in also being brought along slowly in the fall are perhaps the two prime candidates to jump into the weekend rotation in fourth-year junior righthander Seth Halvorsen, a transfer from Missouri who chose to come to Tennessee rather than sign as a 19th-round pick, and sophomore righthander Chase Dollander, a transfer from Georgia Southern.

Both have excellent stuff. Halvorsen can touch triple digits with his fastball and both his breaking ball and changeup had 44% whiff rates last season. Throwing strikes was his issue at Mizzou, and that played a big role in his 6.00 ERA for the season, but if pitching coach Frank Anderson can help him get that straightened out, his stuff is frontline SEC stuff. His experience, having been a weekend guy for Missouri, also doesn’t hurt.

“Seth Halvorsen, he’s got a background to him,” teammate Evan Russell said of the new arrival. “He’s pitched on Friday nights in this league. He’s done the deal, and he’s been through it, so I think it has been an adjustment for him, but it’s been pretty easy to have him come in and he knows what his routines are, he’s kind of a professional in that aspect.”

Last season, Dollander had a 4.04 ERA in 49 innings with the Eagles, using a fastball that was up to 97 mph and a changeup that had a nearly 60% whiff rate in a somewhat small sample. The question for him will be how he adjusts in taking on a bigger workload than what he had as a freshman and how he handles SEC hitters, but like Halvorsen, stuff really isn’t a question.

One wild card for the rotation competition could be fourth-year junior righthander Camden Sewell. With a 2.54 ERA in 99.1 career innings, Sewell has been an effective pitcher for Tennessee over three years, but it’s come mostly as a reliever.

He may still end up in a relief or swing role come the 2022 season, but Sewell admits that he’s aiming a bit higher, at least for now.

“I think all of us, as competitors, you want to be in the rotation, so I think a big (goal) for me is trying to get in that rotation and do everything I can,” he said. “There’s also a lot of competition here. We’ve got a lot of great arms this year, so it’s fun to be a part of. In reality, it makes everyone better.”

Will Chase Burns make an impact right away?

Righthander Chase Burns, the No. 49 player on the BA 500 going into the 2021 draft, is one of the most talented freshmen on a college roster this fall.

With a fastball that has touched 100 mph in the past, a changeup and two distinct breaking balls, it’s easy to get caught up on Burns’ stuff, but he’s impressed early on for his feel for the finer points of the craft.

“His stuff has been very, very good, which is what’s hyped up, but his pitchability has been outstanding,” said Tennessee coach Tony Vitello. “I think he’s a much better pitcher, if you know what I’m talking about, than people give him credit for. It’s not a ‘I’m just going to try to blow your doors off for three outs.’ He’s got the ability to be a weekend starter at some point in his career, and I think he can not only throw good stuff at you but knows how to utilize it.”

His teammates have similar assessments at this early juncture.

“He’s elite in the category of coming in and having confidence and he’s a guy that can make adjustments throughout the outing,” Russell said. “If a certain pitch isn’t working, he’s okay to admit it and then going with something else. So being able to see him have the maturity that most guys don’t have at this age, it’s special.”

Given the relative surplus of options at Tennessee’s disposal when it comes to the rotation in 2022, the intersection point at which Burns is ready for a weekend starter spot and when one is available might not come in his first season, but it would be foolish to rule it out. Anyone with stuff that good who can also leave coaches and teammates raving about his maturity and feel for pitching is going to be evaluated for the most important spots on a pitching staff.

Beyond that, midweek starts can be a good place for a freshman pitcher to get his feet wet, and it will also be tempting to have an arm as good as Burns’ at the back of the bullpen. Suffice it to say that it seems safe to expect to see plenty of Chase Burns as a freshman for Tennessee one way or another.

Who will take over at catcher?

With veteran backstop Connor Pavolony drafted by the Orioles, Tennessee’s pitchers will be throwing to a different catcher this season.

The early favorite to be the new catcher is actually Russell, a fifth-year senior. In that case, Russell would really be a new old catcher, because while he has been mostly an outfielder for the Volunteers in his career, he came to Knoxville as a catcher out of high school.

The move back to catcher for Russell happened for a few different reasons. For one, a successful move would improve Russell’s standing as a prospect at the next level, as his play in the outfield and at the plate has not yet been enough to entice evaluators to draft him. Tennessee also obviously wants his bat in the lineup as a guy coming off of a 14-home run season with more than 600 career plate appearances to his name.

But as much as anything else, Tennessee simply had a need and Russell wanted to help out. In addition to Pavolony moving on to pro baseball, incoming transfer Matt McCormick from West Virginia decided this fall to step away from the sport. That left the Volunteers with quite literally zero experience at the position.

“I came to Coach V and was like ‘Hey man, I know that you don’t have many catchers coming back. I’d like to give it a try,’ ” Russell recalls. “And he was like ‘You know, we’d be open to giving you an opportunity, but it’s not going to be easy’ and (that) he’d be lying to me if he thought that I was going to get to play much. I’ve put in a lot of work, me and Coach (Josh) Elander. We’ve really been on the same page, and I’ve been grinding to try to get to the point of being able to handle the big dogs on the mound, so I think it’s going well.”

There’s more work to be done for Russell to sew up the starting job, but so far, he’s done nothing but put himself in position to succeed there.

“When he asks you a question or you present information to him, he’s a sponge, and he’s very humble in the whole deal and realizes there’s competition at that position, too,” Vitello said. “I think it would be a shocker if he’s not in our Opening Day lineup, but by no means has he wrapped up the catching position (for) Opening Day.”

Torin Montgomery Courtesymissouri

Missouri Baseball: Five Questions to Answer Entering 2022

Coming off of a tough 2021 season, Missouri has hit the reset button.

Who will lead the offense?

Russell, coming off of a career-best season in many ways, will be one of the leaders, regardless of position, but he won’t be alone.

The two primary catalysts are likely to be third-year sophomore outfielders Jordan Beck and Drew Gilbert.

Beck hit .271/.336/.523 with 15 homers and a team-leading 64 RBIs in 2021 and followed that up in the Cape Cod League over the summer by hitting .267/.377/.400. He’s a good athlete who could play center field if forced into duty, but he profiles better in right field, where he can make the most of his plus arm strength. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Beck looks the part of a first-round talent, and with another big year in Knoxville, he very well could be.

Gilbert hit .274/.341/.437 with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs last season, which helped earn him a place alongside Tidwell on the Collegiate National Team. He’s a good runner, a steady defender in center field and he packs more punch than you would think based on his 5-foot-9 frame.

Also back is sixth-year senior Luc Lipcius, who is locked in as the team’s everyday first baseman for all intents and purposes. Lipcius has dealt with ups and downs in performance in his six years on campus, both individually and from a team standpoint, but he had a breakout season in 2021, slugging 15 home runs, which tied Beck for the team lead.

Two other veterans who could be poised for breakouts like the one Lipcius enjoyed in 2021 are fourth-year juniors Trey Lipscomb and Christian Scott, who also happen to be good friends who co-host a web series on the Tennessee baseball Twitter account.

Lipscomb, who is primarily in the competition at third base, has had fewer than 100 plate appearances, but went 9-for-29 with three doubles and a home run last season. Scott, an outfielder, has never had more than 42 at-bats in any single season, but he’s been an effective hitter when he’s had chances. He’s a .298 hitter with a .425 on-base percentage, and Vitello sees things coming together for him.

“I think he sees himself getting better,” Vitello said of Scott. “While the stats might not be there online, there’s no question (that) he’s gotten better each year in and out, and now I think he’s smelling blood a little bit. I think without Covid, maybe a little more action last year. Without an injury freshman year, maybe more. Maybe it’s his time. I definitely feel like it’s Trey Lipscomb’s time and those two are buddies. So maybe it’s time for both of those guys.”

With several key departures, including Pavolony, third baseman Jake Rucker, second baseman Max Ferguson and shortstop Liam Spence, there are holes to fill, but just taking into consideration the veterans back in the mix, Tennessee still has the makings of a deep, quality lineup.

Which freshmen have stood out among position players?

Given the opportunities for playing time that exist on the infield, it’s worked out well for Tennessee that two freshmen who have stood out so far are Christian Moore, a potential two-way player originally from Brooklyn, and 6-foot-3, 235-pound California native Blake Burke.

Moore is right in the thick of things in the competition at second base. He generates impressive bat speed, which provides good raw power at the plate, and while second base might be where he finds immediate playing time, he showed the ability to handle the left side of the infield during his prep days.

Burke passes the eyeball test, and he has the power to match the physicality apparent in his frame. He’s a first baseman by trade who is also listed as an outfielder on the roster. He worked to get into better shape ahead of his senior season in high school, and that work paid off in allowing his natural athleticism to shine through. Given the relatively crowded outfield picture and the presence of Lipcius at first base, Burke’s playing time might be more situational than Moore’s, but both have done enough to prove they’re deserving.

“You can tell they want to be here every day, and so with that, they’re anxious to learn, to work, to show what they can do, but also they’re not scared,” Vitello said. “That may sound simple to someone who’s listening at home, but when you’re a freshman on campus here and it’s SEC and there’s media around and things like that, you can tend to get a little timid or doubt yourself at times, and while neither one has been perfect, especially with the nuances of college baseball, baserunning is so important, defense becomes highlighted, they’ve been far from perfect, but they’ve been good because I don’t think either one of them are scared.”

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Dune Shows WB Learned Nothing From Zack Snyder’s DCEU

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Dune Shows WB Learned Nothing From Zack Snyder's DCEU

The handling of Dune and its necessary sequel shows Warner Bros. failed to learn its lesson from Justice League and their original DCEU plans with Zack Snyder. Despite the fallout of Snyder’s departure from the DC franchise, the studio handed another epic, bug budget sci-fi project to an auteur director without fully committing to the creative vision.

After Man of Steel, Warner Bros. announced a slate of director-driven DCEU projects surrounding Zack Snyder’s planned Justice League arc, seemingly committing to Snyder’s vision for the DC universe, but after a rocky start, the Snyderverse was abandoned, leaving the future of the DCEU in the lurch. While there was a specific plan in place for a grand culmination of Snyder’s 5-part Justice League story, including a number of spin-offs from other directors, Warner Bros. says there’s no plans to see this original plan to completion, meaning the story set up by the original slate of DCEU films will never be fully realized.


Related: The Snyder Cut Proves WB Killed Their Best Chance to Compete With Marvel

While WB gave auteur director Denis Villeneuve $165 million to adapt the first half of the epic sci-fi novel Dune, the studio decided not to approve the sequel until after they could see how the initial installment, only half the story, performed at the box office. This continues WB’s history of embarking on big director-driven projects without fully committing to the vision, an approach that is virtually guaranteed to ensure the resulting product will be less than its original conception, even if a Dune sequel still happens.

WB’s Failed Director-Driven DCEU Plan

Justice League Snyder cut snyderverse

After the success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Bros. had Nolan develop a modern adaptation for Superman, and Nolan selected Zack Snyder as the director due to his approach with his adaptation of Watchmen. Man of Steel became the highest-grossing Superman movie, so Warner Bros. had Snyder develop a larger DCEU plan, which became Snyder’s 5-part Justice League saga. The story would center on Superman but would bring in the rest of the Justice League members, and a full slate of movies was planned, including Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps., and a solo Batman movie. Warner Bros.’original DCEU plan was to follow the model established by Nolan with The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel by bringing in directors with distinct styles to head each project, including David Ayer, Patty Jenkins, Rick Famuyiwa, James Wan, and Ben Affleck.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were among 2016’s top-grossing movies, but their polarizing reviews resulted in notoriously low Rotten Tomatoes scores, resulting in Warners taking drastic action to change plans for the rest of the franchise. The changes immediately impacted Justice League the most even though it was already in production, resulting in conflict with Snyder that eventually resulted in him exiting the project following a family tragedy, allowing WB to bring in Joss Whedon to drastically reshape the project in reshoots, abandoning most of the sequel set-up and erasing as much of Snyder’s distinctive style as possible. The fallout impacted almost all the remaining movies in the slate. Aquaman was already in production, but both Famuyiwa and Affleck left their respective movies. Versions of The Flash and The Batman are coming out next year, but both are drastically different versions than originally planned (and The Batman isn’t even part of DCEU canon)

Snyder’s plan was very clearly leading to a big culmination, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice teasing a post-apocalyptic “Knightmare” future that had been conquered by Superman who was under the control of DC ultra-baddie, Darkseid. Snyder would eventually get the chance to release his intended version of the movie, the 4-hour long Zack Snyder’s Justice League, spurring excitement for what would have been, but with no plans for Snyder to return and the current slate servicing a different plan, Warner Bros. seems content to leave this epic set-up forever unresolved.

Related: The Latest Restore The SnyderVerse Trend Proves It’s Not Going Away

The odd part is Warner Bros.’ biggest successes with DC movies have always come from the bold visions of distinct directors like Richard Donner, Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, and even Zack Snyder, while attempts to make more broadly appealing crowd-pleasers didn’t work, like Batman & Robin, Superman Returns, and Green Lantern. As if to double down on the point, Snyder’s Watchmen, Batman v Superman, and Justice League saw significant changes for their theatrical releases, only for Snyder’s director’s cuts to be nearly universally regarded as the superior product. Despite the problems caused by their decision to abandon the original DCEU plans, Warner Bros. didn’t learn their lesson and made similar decisions with Villeneuve’s Dune.

Warner Bros. Repeated Their DCEU Mistakes With Dune

Why WB betting big on Dune Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 was lauded by critics, but bombed at the box office, bringing in less than $260 million from a $150 million budget, failing to hit the typical twice-budget break-even point. Blade Runner 2049 was Villeneuve’s highest-grossing movie, despite its box office failure, but his ability to adapt stunning high-concept sci-fi convinced Warner Bros. to hand him the reins to Dune, although they didn’t opt to film it back-to-back with a sequel, or even greenlight a sequel at all, despite knowing Villeneuve was only adapting half the book in the first movie.

While WB’s caution is understandable due to Villeneuve’s box office history, the willingness to begin work on the $165 Dune part 1 without committing to part 2 upfront immediately shortchanges the franchise’s potential. Under this strategy, the absolute best-case scenario was Villeneuve produces a monster hit with an incomplete story and WB has to start the sequel from scratch and can’t capitalize on Dune‘s performance for three years. In addition to the time delay, they also miss out on the massive cost savings of shooting back-to-back, reducing the overall profitability of both movies. The worst-case scenario would be the movie flops and the whole thing looks like a massive, ill-conceived blunder on the part of WB, who would have a massive bomb on their hands after entrusting a big-budget sci-fi epic to an auteur director whose last big-budget sci-fi epic also flopped. While Villeneuve and WB escaped harsh criticism for Blade Runner 2049 due to the movie’s quality, that likely wouldn’t be the case if Dune flopped, since the movie is only half the story of the Dune book, and adapting it would likely burn a chance for another director to take a swing at the property in the near future.

Meanwhile, committing to the whole vision up-front would have been better all-around, even if WB’s concerns came true and Dune flopped.  The cost-savings of back-to-back production would at least partially offset box office losses, audiences wouldn’t be deprived of the second half of the story, and there’s always the chance the sequel could be a bigger hit, salvaging the hypothetical losses from part 1. Like with Blade Runner 2049, the quality of the film would offset a lot of the criticism over the box office losses.

Dune had a solid box office opening and seems to have fair chances of getting a sequel, but it won’t be soon enough for audiences hungry for a sequel and may see a reduced budget, ironically missing out on the cost savings that could have accompanied a back-to-back sequel production. If Warner Bros. was willing to take the risk of the first installment, why not commit to the whole vision?

Warner Bros. Needs To Follow Through On Director Driven Visions

New Warner Bros. Logo

Warner Bros. has a history of being a studio that takes big swings on grand director visions, but changes in leadership in recent years, such as the departure of former Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov (who brought iconic directors like Nolan, Affleck, Snyder, the Wachowskis, and others to the studio) has seen a rise in situations like Justice League and Dune. As if to punctuate the severity of the decline, Nolan decided to make his next movie at Universal after working with Warner Bros. exclusively for nearly 20 years.

Related: Nolan’s Massive Universal Deal Could Reinvent Blockbusters Post-Pandemic

The problem isn’t that the days of bold director-driven projects are in the rearview mirror at Warner Bros., those still exist, there’s even a new Matrix movie coming out December, but there is a concerning pattern of self-sabotage of big projects brought on by a lack of trust in their directors. Situations like Justice League and Dune make the studio’s decision-making suspect and erode consumer confidence in their projects, particularly for big IP adaptations.

The whole thing is also incredibly short-sighted. It’s common for a franchise to overcome early stumbles only for those movies to be well regarded after the franchise finds its footing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had several films in Phase 1 that were considered underwhelming at the time and Fast and Furious powered through several films with a mediocre reception to become one of the biggest franchises in film. Even films like the original Blade Runner got poor reviews and underperformed at the box office and are now considered required viewing. In the case of the DCEU, Warner Bros. was scared away from Zack Snyder’s plan because of reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that movie was so impactful in the zeitgeist that WB’s attempts to pivot away from Snyder couldn’t outpace their momentum, and they eventually had to cave to demands for the Snyder Cut when simply committing to the plan and finishing the plan they started would have seen Zack Snyder’s arc completed by now, allowing them to start fresh without having to deal with the unending reminders of the incomplete Snyderverse.

Fortunately, Dune is well received and performing well at the box office, which bodes well for sequel potential, but the lost time, momentum, and wasted money will ultimately hold back the complete vision from what it could have been if they’d produced the movies back-to-back. If WB wants to retain (or regain) its reputation for being the studio that produces this kind of movie, they need to gain some confidence and stop with the half measures and deliver on the director visions they sell to audiences.

Next: Why Warner Bros Losing Christopher Nolan Is Such A Big Deal

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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