01/29/16: Turner targets ELeague debut; Showtime Boxing hits 30; NBA All-Star feels the Sting


Good morning. It’s Friday January 29, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Turner Sports’ upcoming esport entry ELeague has landed its dates. The Turner and WME/IMG partnership will debut on May 24 at 10p on TBS with live event coverage featuring Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive from Turner Studios in Atlanta. Tournament coverage will run three hours each evening and run 10 weeks, including a six-week regular season (followed by a bye week), a one-week last chance qualifier round, and two weeks of playoffs. July 29 will see the Semifinals, while the Global Championship (best of three match) takes place on Saturday, July 30, at 4p. Meanwhile, live event coverage will also run across digital platforms Tuesday through Thursday from noon-7p through the quarterfinal round.


Showtime Sports marks three decades of Showtime Championship Boxing in 2016, and will showcase the 30th anniversary throughout the year with some of its most memorable fights. The network’s flagship sports series launched on March 10, 1986 when “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler defeated John “The Beast” Mugabi in round 11 by knockout. Marking the occasion will be classic fights, grouped together by a common theme each month with a new fight replaying every “Throwback Thursday” night on Showtime Extreme. January has been dedicated to Evander Holyfield, while February will be dedicated to rivalries.

After all this time, Sting is set to anchor the halftime show at the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 14 in Toronto. The former frontman of The Police will perform a compilation of his biggest hits during the halftime event. Before the game, Cirque du Soleil will tip off the evening with a performance illustrating the story of a basketball dream that will culminate with the introduction of the 2016 NBA All-Stars.

Speaking of boxing, PBC’s run on FOX on Saturday night scored a 1.5/3 household rating/share with 2.5 million viewers tuning in from 8-10:37p, according to Nielsen, for a 36% markup in rating and 39% rise in audience compared to its last primetime telecast (on NBC). That ranks as the most-watched PBC event on any network since April 11, 2015 on NBC.

FOX also got a rise out of Sunday’s Villanova/Providence showdown averaging 905,000 viewers on the broadcast network to rank as FOX Sports’ most-watched Big East men’s college basketball game (featuring two conference teams) since the package launched during the 2013-14 season.

ESPN Virtual 3 will debut on Saturday as part of the Spurs/Cavaliers matchup on NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC. The technology illuminates the 3-point line for every 3-point shot attempt and subsequently be used for all broadcasts on the franchise this season. The technology will “illuminate the 3-point line in red. In the event of a successful 3-point shot attempt, the three-point line will remain illuminated until the ball transitions to the other team. For a missed 3-point shot attempt, the illumination will end instantly.” “ESPN Virtual 3’ will provide a subtle, yet impactful new way to enjoy an element of an NBA game,” said Tim Corrigan, senior coordinating producer, NBA on ESPN. ”It will give viewers instant clarity on whether a three-point shot has been attempted, which hasn’t been consistently evident during a live telecast.”

ESPN Deportes unlocked its Super Bowl telecast plans, carrying the Spanish-language version on Feb. 7. The channel’s Monday Night Football crew of Alvaro Martin (play-by-play), Raul Allegre (analyst), and sideline reporter John Sutcliffe will call the game and will be joined by nine other commentators to present weeklong coverage from San Francisco. Overall, ESPN Deportes’ will serve up nine hours of coverage on Super Bowl Sunday, including a 90-minute NFL Super Bowl pregame special at 4:30p.

Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, led by LA Phil Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, has been tapped to perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show on Feb. 7 on CBS. The performance will see Coldplay, among other artists, during the festivities.

Featherweights Dennis Galarza battles Bence Molnar on the next edition of Premier Boxing Champions: The Next Round on Bounce TV on Sunday at 9p. Headlining the card will be Erickson “The Hammer” Lubin/Jose De Jesus Macias. Fran Charles will call the blow-by-blow action with Austin “No Doubt” Trout and Kevin Cunningham providing insight and analysis.

Chicago’s Comcast SportsNet is seeing its Blackhawks game average over 205,000 total Chicago market viewers per game through 34 telecasts. Those numbers give the network the distinction of being tops in the country for hockey games. So far in total this season, the Blackhawks are currently averaging a 3.89 household average rating with the current single game high occurring on Jan. 19 at Nashville with a 5.48 household rating, according to Nielsen.

Congratulations to Linda Cohn, who is set to anchor #5000 in her SportsCenter resume next month. Cohn has hosted more editions of the ESPN staple than anyone in the 36-year history of the program, with the milestone set to take place on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 8a on ESPN. “Congratulations to Linda on the momentous occasion of her 5,000th SportsCenter,” said John Skipper, ESPN president and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks. “It is a remarkable achievement. In her 23 years at ESPN, she has been one of the defining personalities of SportsCenter. The quality of her work and commitment has distinguished ESPN and made her one of the preeminent sportscasters of her time.  She is an unsung pioneer though not to be unsung today.” 


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As the WNBA prepares for its 20th season, the league is launching a new campaign “Watch Me Work” that “highlights the legacy of the WNBA, and its inspiring current and former players.” Extedning the theme of the postseason ad “Watch Me,” the campaign’s  first spot features Brittney Griner, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Skylar Diggins and Sue Bird, showcasing the athletes’ competitive spirit. “Watch Me Work” will premiere on Saturday during NBA Saturday Primetime game between the Spurs/Cavaliers at 8:30 p on ABC.

Chalk up another first for The Players’ Tribune, which announced its first-ever corporate partner in American Family Insurance. The deal will see AmFam sponsor TPT Assist, the cause-related platform that highlights athletes who are making a difference in their community and be exclusively featured on the TPT Assist landing page, and in branded essays, photo diaries, podcasts, video content, and events. TPT will also debut a new, documentary-style branded video series profiling athletes who are leading change and helping to make dreams come true.

The PBR locked in a deal with American Legacy Firearms as the Exclusive Firearms Partner of the 2016 PBR BlueDEF Tour, the premier expansion tour of the PBR, and the BlueDEF Finals. In addition to in-arena, dirt-level signage, public address announcements, and video board messages, the one-year agreement also gives ALF the opportunity to engage PBR fans with a sweepstakes for its commemorative PBR Henry Rifle, ALF will also take orders for the PBR-branded, custom PBR Henry Rifle at their concourse booth.

The Collegiate Licensing Company announced a five-year extension of its global partnership with Vanderbilt University to continue managing the University’s successful trademark licensing program. “We are honored to extend our partnership with Vanderbilt as we continue to expand the reach of its prestigious brand at retail through unique consumer-focused programs,” said Cory Moss, SVP and Managing Director for CLC. “Vanderbilt’s trademark licensing team has established itself as dynamic leaders in the industry, and I look forward to our staff working side-by-side with the University to maximize the value of the Vanderbilt brand.”

Danica Patrick’s new sponsor is kicking off the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as Nature’s Bakery unveiled the Nature’s Bakery Fantern Program. The fan internship experience will be offered at 26 race weekends throughout the year, starting with the March 3 Sprint Cup race in Las Vegas, offering a “hands-on opportunity to gain a unique and valuable experience. Each Nature’s Bakery Fantern will get to bring a guest to the track to share in the special at-track journey with the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery team, spending time with the Nature’s Bakery pit crew, a tour of the Sprint Cup garage and pit area, meeting Patrick and watching the race from pit road.

Penn Station East Coast Subs and Learfield Sports partnered for the inaugural “Lemon-80” basketball in-game promotion featuring nine of the collegiate marketer’s university partners. The promotion offers free lemonade for fans university men’s basketball programs at Butler, Cleveland State, Duquesne, Eastern Kentucky, Middle Tennessee State, Missouri State, Saint Louis University, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and VCU.


CBS Sports Digital inked Jonah Keri to its team of national writers where he will cover baseball as well as other topics crossing sports and pop culture, and contribute to video programming in addition to writing. Keri covered baseball for multiple publications, including Grantland, Sports Illustrated, ESPN.com, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Baseball Prospectus, and Fangraphs and hosts of The Jonah Keri Podcast.

Fox Sports is tackling Twitter on its home turf. Company series Garbage Time with Katie Nolan, Outkick the Show and @TheBuzzer will shoot live and taped Segments from Twitter Headquarters throughout the week.

The ACC Digital Network launched on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox 360 platforms, allowing fans to access to ACC’s Official Game Highlights, Must See Moments, archival footage and unique video features on their TV through their Xbox consoles. “We’re pleased that ACC highlights and video content are now available on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox 360 platforms,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “The ever-changing world of technology allows us to constantly improve the ability to provide fans with ACC highlights across an array of digital platforms.”



ESPN is raising the stakes on its esports coverage, announcing that it will once again carry the Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament this year on ESPN platforms. The round of 64 kicks off March 19 with live streaming coverage on ESPN3, Twitch and YouTube with the semifinal round running live on ESPN2 on April 9, while the Grand Finals run the next day. “Last year’s Heroes of the Dorm was an amazing experience for the students playing and everyone watching, and we’re excited to again offer college athletes an epic opportunity to team up and compete for scholarships in 2016,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “It’s inspiring to see players from last year’s championship team, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, now thriving in pro esports careerswe look forward to seeing how this year’s competitors shape the future of competitive gaming.”

2K and WWE extended their partnership with a new multi-year exclusive agreement that hands 2K the worldwide rights to develop and publish WWE video game properties across all major platforms and distribution channels. In addition, 2K will continue to invest in WWE SuperCard, the card-battling game developed by its Cat Daddy Games studio, which has been downloaded more than nine million times since its initial release.


Whit Albohm is heading to FOX Sports as its Vice President, Daily Studio Production for FS1. Albohm, a former ESPN executive, now oversees the day-to-day production of current FS1 studio shows including The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Garbage Time with Katie Nolan and FOX Sports Live.

Learfield Licensing Partners is adding former Major League Baseball licensing chief Howard Smith to its roster as Senior Advisor. Smith and newly appointed COO Eric Johnson join CEO Bob Bernard in directing strategic initiatives and ideation in support of Learfield Licensing Partners collegiate clients.


Virginia/Louisville on CBS on Saturday at 1p.




ON THIS DAY in 1936: The Baseball Hall of Fame inducts its first members.

In The Know: In which sport could an athlete win the Grand Challenge Cup? (Email Chris-Sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Vince Lombardi wrapped up his coaching career with which team? Answer: Washington Redskins. Kudos: Pete Gautieri-A&E Networks/NY; Aymon DeMauro-Discovery Communications/NY; Jon Latzer-CBS Digital Media/NY; Andreas Droste-NBC Sports/NY; Brianne Maciejowski-Miles/Sarasota; Paul Brewer-TV Talent Agents/North Augusta; Troy Perlowitz-ESPNU/Charlotte; Chris Kiernan-MVPindex/Southport; Tim Rank-blueprint314/St. Louis; Kristin Staskowski-Spectrum Reach/Birmingham; Will Allmendinger-Clear Channel Outdoor/Chicago; Kevin Micklo-Pinnacle Advertising/Chicago; Bill Robertson-WCHA/Edina; Brian Lee-Pro Sports MVP/Colorado Springs; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Hauptman/Denver; Jack Neumann-Alumni Development University of Calgary Dinos football/Calgary; Warren Weideman-Producer/LA; Steve Scheer-FOX Sports/LA; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills; Mike Bridges-New West Broadcasting/Hilo.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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