01.04.16 Happy New Year! It’s Monday, January 4, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. A mighty thank you to Michael McCarthy for stepping in while I was away.
The opening of the New Year brings the traditional harbinger of brighter things to come with the annual CES gathering in Las Vegas this week. Along with the innovations in cars, TVs, wearables and fitness tech, this year will also see Turner Sports entrench itself into hustle and bustle with the launch of a trio of events at the expo, serving up a quartet of panels at the new Sports Business Forum on Thursday, followed by an eSports Showcase teasing the upcoming launch of the eSports-driven ELeague as well as a live NBA on TNT broadcast in the afternoon.
The forum will include sessions ranging from a sit down with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred (moderated by Ernie Johnson), to topics that include “Updating the In-Venue Experience (with Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag, Qualcomm executive Chairman Paul Jacobs and moderator Dana Jacobson), “The Future of Sports Content” (with NextVR Executive Chairman Brad Allen, Verizon SVP Brian Angiolet, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, and Uninterrupted President Maverick Carter), as well as “Tech Investing in Sports” with speakers Shaquille O’Neal, Mark Cuban, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Joe Ravitch, Co-founder, The Raine Group.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels about the investment in CES, as well as the company’s expectations for its eSports venture ELeague and what to look for in 2016.
Daniels on setting up a tentpole at CES: We will be there to present how we are at the forefront of being innovative in the media industry. How we have defined innovation in the past is far different than how we will define it moving forward. I really think that’s going to be the thing that people walk away with, the “wow” factor, thinking of sports in a much different way. It doesn’t mean we are alienating any sports fans, we are still going to do Inside the NBA and we are going to do it the best. But maybe we are going to do some content a little differently with these guys and maybe we are going to figure how to present eSports differently and showcase storylines and build characters. So I think it is a whole new generation of innovation.
On panels: We have a great lineup that begins with the Commissioners focused on what forward-thinking will look like. On the other side, topics will cover how you continue to build brands and build franchises and do it in an ecosystem that’s changing. You have to be able to take risks, but how much of a risk do you take. Where’s that line? In between, we are going to have people talking about different kinds of content and how they perceive creating content for that next generation because it will be very different from the kinds of content we grew up watching. Again you have to raw that line because you don’t want to alienate either side.
On eSports fans: This is going to be a great new space for us to explore. There are different versions of fans. When you talk about traditional sports, we all think we know what the traditional sports fan and how they operate and think. But when it comes to eSports, there is an underserved fan, there’s an overserved fan and then there is the purist. If we can connect all three of those in a way that keeps it authentic, but grows the sports and helps people understand it more, that’s really what is growing to grow the industry.
On sponsors’ approach to ELeague: It’s been positive. As with anything new, it is very much that they want to get involved but aren’t sure how to get involved. That’s one thing that we are finding that Turner can bring to the table that they didn’t have before. They trust us. If we say we are going to do this, the new we are going to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt their brands. I think that’s kind of where we are with them, they see the size and scale of the audience and now they are figuring out how to get their brand to interact with it.
On Turner Sports’ take on 2016: I’m looking forward to all these next-generation of thinking events that we are going to be taking part in. We’re going into a new NBA deal, which is not really far different from our previous deal but now we have a whole different way of thinking about how we grow together with the league. It’s the same thing with the NCAA, now we have to figure out how to move it to the next level. eSports is clearly something I want to watch and grow and I think how that whole ecosystem of how the athletes and economics come together will be very interesting. So I think there is a lot going on that’s going to be a lot of fun.
A one-two punch of blowouts and New Year’s Eve festivities delivered a loss of a third of audiences for the College Football Playoff semifinals on ESPN, according to Nielsen. Shifting the action to New Year’s Eve, the two telecasts saw a 35% decrease from last year’s action, played on New Year’s Day, with total viewership dropping from a cable record of over 28 million to 18.5 million (which clearly still packs a wallop). ”That decline, frankly, is not much of a surprise and it’s modest,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock told the AP. ”It’s too soon to know how much was due to the lopsided games or how much what I think we all thought would be an inevitable decline from the excitement of the first year or the semifinals on New Year’s Eve. I suspect it’s a combination of those three, but I don’t have any idea what the weighting is. ESPN is studying the numbers and we’ll learn a lot more in the next few months.”
Meanwhile, the New Year’s Six also saw a Rose Bowl blowout hand the game with a 7.9 score, to mark its lowest rating since the fixture became part of the BCS in 1999. Overall, the ratings for the six major games played Thursday and Friday averaged a 7.1 overnight rating, down from 8.2 last season. On the digital front, the semifinals via the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl become the second and third most-streamed games for any sport, excluding the World Cup, in the history of WatchESPN based on average minute impressions. The Cotton Bowl scored 318,000 average minute impressions to its TV audience while the Orange Bowl reeled in 300,000 average minute impressions to its TV audience. Other positive spins on the numbers saw four of the six games notching ratings increases (bowl to bowl and time slot to time slot) over last season’s inaugural year with the four bowls not designated as a semifinal this season (Peach, Fiesta, Rose, and Sugar) averaging a 5.8 overnight, up 26% from the four bowls last season which were not semifinals (Peach, Fiesta, Orange and Cotton).
CBS and the NFL announced a deal with ESPN Deportes to carry Super Bowl 50 in Spanish on Feb. 7, marking the first Super Bowl telecast for the channel. “As the broadcaster of Super Bowl 50, it was a priority for us to find a Spanish-language partner to televise this historic broadcast and reach the NFL’s Hispanic fan base,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports. “The ESPN Deportes presentation of Super Bowl 50 will be a great complement to our broadcast on CBS.” ESPN Deportes’ Monday Night Football commentator team of Alvaro Martin (play-by-play), former NFL kicker and Super Bowl champion Raul Allegre (analyst), and sideline reporter John Sutcliffe will call the game from Levi’s Stadium.
Meanwhile, the NBA’s Christmas Day game saw audience’s swell for ABC and ESPN with game averages growing over year ago numbers. This year’s slate averaged 5,546,000 viewers for a 6% markup over last year’s lineup five-game slate (5,217,000 viewers p2+), which saw three games on ABC and ESPN combined and delivered ESPN’s second-most watched prime-time doubleheader ever.
Wrapping up some 2015 numbers, CBS and NFL Network report that, for the 16 games of the season’s schedule, Thursday Night Football on the channels averaged 13.0 million viewers, this season, up 6% compared to last year’s 12.3 million. The roster scored a national household rating/share of 7.93/14, up 5%, making it the most-watched and highest-rated THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL season ever.
Ifyou’re headed to CES this week, make sure you check out the "Tech Futures Suite” @Aria, a hospitality oasis hosted by Cynopsis, MyersBizNet, and GK Digital Media. Media, brand, and agency executives will be networking, attending our“Knowledge Exchange” sessions, andenjoying a bite to eat. Register to be invited here.
Showtime Sports announced plans to expand its coverage of The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and will be offering a bonus bowl game episode of the series A Season with Notre Dame Football tomorrow night at 10p. The season finale will feature the team’s preparation for the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
Showtime also announced that ShoBox: The New Generation will launch its 15th year on Jan. 22 with a quadrupleheader at 10:35p. The main event will spotlight undefeated middleweight Rob “Bravo” Brant (18-0, 11 KOs, 0-3 in World Series of Boxing) versus Decarlo Perez (15-3-1, 5 KOs) in a 10-round matchup.
Feld Motor Sports unveiled the television schedule for the 2016 AMSOIL Arenacross season with FS1 offering 12 of the 14 stops. The premiere broadcast from the opening round at Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena will air on Saturday, January 16 at 11a. Robbie Floyd will handle the play-by-play duties with analyst Daniel Blair and Dianna Dahlgren as trackside reporter.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) and MSG Networks locked in a multi-year agreement for live programming from Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. MSG+ will see live programming from mid-May through early October with shows featuring NYRA TV analysts Jason Blewitt, Richard Migliore, Sean Morris, Andy Serling, and Maggie Wolfendale. In addition, MSG+ will air a special Belmont Stakes Preview Show in early June and live shows for New York Showcase Day during the Belmont Park Fall meet and Cigar Mile Day from Aqueduct Racetrack in November.
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Hyundai announced a lineup of high-profile directors for its four ads during Super Bowl 50. Directors will include Peter Berg, who takes on two of the spots, while Fredrik Bond is also on board for a new ad as is Aaron Stoller and Janusz Kaminski. "We collaborated with these world-class directors to create what we think will be incredibly engaging and memorable ads," said Dean Evans, CMO, Hyundai Motor America. "As we are finishing up shooting the spots, seeing their talent and skill in storytelling was inspirational to our entire team. We can’t wait to see the finished products."
Meanwhile, LG Electronics is turning to family for its first-ever Super Bowl commercial, announcing that its spot will be produced by Ridley Scott’s production company, RSA Films. Jake Scott will direct the spot, which promoted LG’s “widely acclaimed OLED TV technology” and introduces a soon-to-be announced addition to its OLED TV line in a father/son collaboration. Jake has six Super Bowl commercials under his belt, including Budweiser’s ‘Lost Dog’, USA Today’s highest rated commercial from last season.
With the Winter Classic in the books, Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016 is once again on the hunt, in its annual search for America’s most passionate hockey community. The campaign reunites the NHLPA, NHL, NBC Sports Group, and USA Hockey with hockey communities offered the chance of hosting an NHL Pre-Season game televised live on NBCSN and $150,000 in arena upgrades. “Our first Kraft Hockeyville in the U.S. last year was a tremendous success that truly ignited the passion of hockey communities across the country,” said Nina Barton, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kraft Heinz. “The spirit and tradition in Johnstown last year’s winning community demonstrated to America what Kraft Hockeyville is really all about. Now, as Kraft Heinz, we’re eager to once again celebrate the pride of local hockey communities and help build the sport by providing much needed awareness and financial support for local rinks.”
MLB.tv is reportedly introducing single-team packages next season, according to FanGraphs, expanding its menu beyond the season-long out-of-market package. The new comes from the lawsuit, Garber vs. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, challenging some of the league’s broadcasting practices under federal antitrust law.
NBC Sports Digital launched its Snapchat account, NBCSports, ahead of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Friday with the account going behind-the-scenes into NBC Sports production trucks and onto the ice. Dec. 31 saw NHL analyst Jeremy Roenick take over the account to show “a day in the life” as he visited the set and interacted with fans.
Oculus and Samsung debuted “Striving for Greatness: An UNINTERRUPTED Original,” a 12+minute virtual reality experience featuring LeBron James created exclusively for Oculus on Samsung Gear VR. The experience was directed by Felix & Paul Studios, taking fans inside the world of LeBron’s training regime and allowed viewers to experience the “intensive training, challenges and inspiration it takes to stay on top of his game.” Samsung also released a new ad campaign, highlighting the LeBron James virtual reality content.
ESPN announced that it reached 89.9 million unique US visitors in November, the sixth largest total all-time in the sports category. Fans spent 9.0 billion minutes using ESPN digital properties with 1.0 billion total visits.
After luring MLG co-founder Mike Sepso to Activision Blizzard, the company is now reportedly plotting a reunion, acquiring the eSports giant Major League Gaming for $46 million, according to eSports Observer. The move follows Activision Blizzard’s launch of a new eSports unit in October.
Daily fantasy site DraftKings and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan agreed to an expedited schedule and a bench trial in a lawsuit to determine the future of fantasy sports betting in the state. Local reports state that Madigan agreed to respond to the company’s complaint by Jan. 22 with a potential trial set to begin on June 27.
Oklahoma/Kansas on ESPN at 9p.
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ON THIS DAY in 2004: LSU captured its second BCS National Championship with a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
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Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Speaking of Bradshaw, what was his won-loss record in the Super Bowl? Answer: A perfect 4-0. Kudos: David Kalan-NHL.com/NY; Lewis Blaustein-Lewis Brand Solution/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Joshua Duboff-TSBX Networks/NY; Matt Deprey-Discovery Communications/Silver Spring; Glen Ross/Harrisonburg; Michael Goodman-Radio-One/Atlanta; Tom Wetzel-MMSI/Warwick; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Steve McNair-KUBE TV/Houston; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Hauptman/Denver; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver; Paul Gygli-NBCUniversal Television Distribution/Universal City; Rich Greene-FOX/LA; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills; Adam Deverell-Cox Reps/LA.
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