02/18/16: FOX Sports plays up virtual; Nike counts out Manny; Bill Simmons brings in a Ringer


Good morning. It’s Thursday February 18, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Gear up for the newest wave of virtual reality content. FOX Sports locked in a five-year deal with NextVR to broadcast live sports in virtual reality, marking the first type of agreement of this nature, which will include Sunday’s coverage of the Daytona 500 on FOX at 1p. According to the announcement, “the immersive, high-definition virtual reality broadcast will bring fans to the starting line, the middle of the infield and with team racing crews as they change tires on pit row” with the stream offering audio commentary and graphics highlighting the race leaders. FOX Sports’ Daytona 500 virtual reality broadcast will be available free through the NextVR portal, which will feature a dedicated FOX Sports section.

“We have worked with FOX Sports for over a year to test live, virtual reality programming across several sports,” said Brad Allen, Executive Chairman, NextVR. “This wide-ranging agreement is proof that our technology provides an exciting and compelling option to witness great sporting events in virtual reality.”

Meanwhile, hear more about FOX’s plans for VR next week when FOX Sports SVP of Field & Technical Ops Michael Davies joins STRIVR Labs Founder/CEO Derek Belch, FOX Sports SVP of Field & Technical Ops Michael Davies, Gatorade’s Director of Digital Marketing Jeff Miller and LiveLike VR Founder/CEO Andre Lorenceau for the Cynopsis Sports webinar about the future of VR and Sports on Feb. 24. Hear from the drivers who are changing the game by registering here.


ESPN saw Friday’s 2016 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game hand the channel with 2,043,000 viewers for a 14% markup over the 2015 telecast. Nielsen reports that the game snagged a 1.3 household rating, up 8% over last year and pushed ESPN to win the night across all of television in the M18-34 demo. Meanwhile, WatchESPN had its most-watched NBA All-Star Celebrity Game ever, generating 4,809,000 total minutes viewed, up 80% over 2015.

Speaking of NBA All-Star, NBA TV reports that the network scored a 33% rise over 2015 in audience growth for its original programming surrounding the events over the weekend, including the network’s most-watched episode ever of NBA Inside Stuff on Saturday. Other high points included The Starters with a 34% spike over the corresponding week in 2015 and total viewership notching a 20% rise for Inside the NBA following Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. In addition, a record 244 million videos were viewed during NBA All-Star through NBA.com and the NBA App.

In other ratings news, NBC Sports is touting that World Series of Fighting saw WSOF27: Firmino vs. Fodor, reel in average viewership of 213,000, up 13% from NBCSN’s World Series of Fighting 2015 average. The immediate replay of the event that began at midnight, generated another 111,000 viewers. The promotion saw WSOF.com engagement rise by 400% between December and January, while the number of user sessions increased by 480% over the same time period. “It has been a tremendous start to a very promising year, and this is just the beginning,” said World Series of Fighting CEO Carlos Silva. “With a full schedule of world championship live events; a new, athlete-focused web TV series that we will be rolling out; and a host of other opportunities we are exploring with potential partners, it’s going to be an exciting year for World Series of Fighting and MMA fans.”

MLB Network debuts MLB Network Misremembers tonight at 9p. The program is hosted by Bob Costas and examines three significant plays in baseball history, detailing the story of what would have happened if the play had went the other way, spotlighting moments from the 1992 NLCS, 2003 NLCS and 2004 ALCS.

Los Angeles 2024 unveiled Part 1 of its Candidature File to the IOC in a move to sell the city for the Summer Games, breaking out “a truly sustainable and transformative Games Concept combining the very best of LA’s rich topography, significant investment in public infrastructure and its wealth of existing, state-of-the-art sports venues.” The pitch noted that 97% of Games venues were already in place, planned by private investors or temporary, and that the stage would be entirely privately financed. Organizers stated that within three weeks of launching their bid last year, they had nabbed $35 million in cash commitments from private donors.

Speaking of LA, USA Today reports that the NBA will likely name the city as host of the 2018 NBA All-Star festivities. If completed, it would mark its return to LA since 2011.

IMG renewed its agreement with the PGA of America to distribute international broadcast rights for the PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid until 2021. The deal officially kicks in in 2017 and would extend the relationship between the two organizations to 35 years. “The PGA of America is proud of its association with IMG, a trusted partner in expanding the global reach of two of our most prized major championships,” said PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua. “As we celebrate our Centennial, the PGA and IMG will continue to advance the value of PGA Professionals, while sharing these great championships with millions of viewers worldwide.”


[CYNOPSIS SPORTS WEBINAR] Virtual Reality: How to Get in the Game
Wednesday, February 24 – 1:30PM to 3:00PM ET
Learn how to leverage your sports content to connect with fans and more!

Derek Belch, Founder/CEO – STRIVR Labs Inc.
Michael Davies, SVP of Field & Technical Ops – Fox Sports
Andre Lorenceau, Founder & CEO – LiveLike VR
Jeff Miller, Director of Digital Marketing – Gatorade



Just days after Manny Pacquiao stated that gay people were “worse than animals,” Nike has officially cut ties to the famed boxer despite his apologies. "Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community," said the company in a state. "We no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao."

In netter news, NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been tapped to serve as the face of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, featuring the driver as a featured expert who chooses Goodyear tires on and off the track in a series of broadcast, digital and print ads. “We’ve already had a relationship due to the confidence that I have in Goodyear tires on the track with the 88 car and on the street with my own personal car,” said Earnhardt Jr. “There’s a huge trust factor that we’ve had for a really long time, so this feels like a continuation of something that has been going on for a while.”

The NASCAR Foundation is unveiling a new permanent display for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide trophy in the lobby of the International Motorsports Center. The honor is presented annually to a NASCAR fan who embodies France’s commitment to philanthropic causes and whose generosity and compassion has positively impacted the lives of children. “This permanent display befits the growing stature and impact of our award,” France said. “Since its inception, the award has benefited nearly 200,000 children throughout the United States. Today’s unveiling also is an appropriate way to begin The NASCAR Foundation’s 10th year of existence.
Elsewhere, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was named the recipient of a $2.5 million grant from The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. The grant is flagged for a slate of Hall of Fame programs and projects that includes a “dramatic holographic theater experience concentrating on the values learned from the game.” Other initiatives funded by the grant include the digitization of the Hall of Fame archives that will focus on developing a comprehensive digital archive for every NFL player past and present.


We have liftoff for Bill Simmons’ new website, with the former ESPN face unveiling TheRinger.com to serve as his new home for written material via Twitter. CNN writes that Simmons will initially launch an email newsletter in mid-March before the site debuts in late spring or early summer. New hires will include former Grantland names such as Craig Gaines, Bryan Curtis, Ryan O’Hanlon, Danny Chau, Riley McAtee, Joe Fuentes, and Tate Frazier.

Speaking of famous faces and their verticals, today will see Yahoo Sports’ The Vertical with Woj feature the likes of Adrian Wojnarowski, Chris Mannix, Bobby Marks and Brian Scalabrine to break down news and details around the NBA Trade Deadline, marking the first live production for the site. Production will come from Yahoo NYC studios starting at 3p.

Fast Company named its Most Innovative Companies, and laid out the ten sports brands who are changing the space. Topping the list was Hudl, “for changing the game with mobile video,” followed by MLBAM, STRIVR Labs, Quanterix, Motus, the LA Dodgers, Zebra Technologies, Athos, Tap.In2 and Wilson Sporting Goods.

NBA staple Chris Paul was named a strategic investor in Muzik, “creators of the first smart and connected headphone whose platform enhances user experiences and connects culture through award-winning technology.” The nine-time All-Star will also serve as an advisor in the company and play a role in Muzik’s first product launch, Muzik Convertible, due out in spring. 


The Entertainment Software Association released a report stating that the US game industry brought in revenues of $23.5 billion for 2015, for a markup of 5% year-over-year and adding $6.2 billion to the US economy. "The video game industry excels because it anticipates demand – giving people what they want before they realize that they want it – and drives trends in entertainment and across countless other sectors," said ESA president and CEO Michael Gallagher. "Our products are revolutionizing how we consume and interact with media. We know that hardware and software innovations have established this industry as a leader in high-tech development."


Red Wings/Penguins on NBCSN at 7p.


The finalists have been announced for the
Cynopsis Social Good Awards!

Our finalists are a vibrant group of engaged professionals who work hard and are committed to evolving the media industry, while giving back to the public through their profession. Join us on April 7th in NYC to celebrate their achievements.

Click to see the full list of finalists, and save your place at this year’s breakfast event: http://www.cynopsis.com/event/2016-sga-event/.

ON THIS DAY in 2004: Greg Maddux signs with the Chicago Cubs.

In The Know: How many members of a NASCAR pit crew are allowed over the wall at one time? (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: Who was the first woman to run a Daytona 500? Answer: Janet Guthrie. Kudos: Mitch Askenas-MissionOne/NY; Matt Meachem-Gracenote/NY; Dennis Johnson-Jamestown Community College/NY; Ryan Chung-Jamestown Community College/NY; Tom Wetzel-MMSI/Warwick; Chris Schwartz-International Speedway Corporation/Charlotte; Bob Scanlon-Velocity/Silver Spring; Mark Darnell-Golf Services/Augusta; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tim Rank-blueprint314/St. Louis; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver; Nick Monroe-Monroe Photography/Escondido; Joey Olson/Manhattan Beach; Adriana Espinoza-Time Warner Cable/LA; Jim Bernard-FOX Sports/LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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