03/06/15: Jon Miller looks to punch up PBC & boxing; MLS partners prepare for the season; NBA, WNBA Lean In


Good morning. It’s Friday March 6, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Saturday marks the return of boxing to primetime network television as the PBC on NBC hits the ring at 8:30p as the first of 20 live boxing events set to run on company platforms in 2015 and led by a card that includes Keith Thurman/Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner/John Molina Jr. Created for TV by Haymon Boxing, the PBC’s run this year will include not only NBC’s family of channels, but new shows on CBS, Spike TV and Bounce TV as well. As the boxing company hits television audiences, NBC has given the sport its “big event treatment,” with promotion across its platforms, reeling in the likes of Al Michaels, Marv Albert and Sugar Ray Leonard as talent, and tapping the services of famed composer Hans Zimmer for the show. 

Cynopsis Sports spoke with President of Programming at NBC Sports and NBCSN Jon Miller about the new franchise…

Miller on the interest in boxing: The first conversations took place in the fall of 2013, when we had a meeting with both Ryan Caldwell and Al Haymon about finding a way to make boxing big again, taking it from where it has been and turning it into a major property. We were obviously interested. The last time we had a fight in primetime in NBC was in1985 and I was actually in NBC Sports Sales at that time, working for Jim Burnette. I actually sold that Larry Holmes/Carl Williams fight. I remember how big it could be and I grew up following those great fighters of the 70s and 80s. We knew in the current format, where promoters had a single agenda that didn’t include growing the sport, it couldn’t work with NBC. So Al came in with a very unique concept that was pretty breathtaking and ambitious. He had already put together a solid team and we were very intrigued.

On talent: Al made it clear that he was going to deliver top-level talent to us and our promise to him was that we would respond in kind with top-level talent as well. Clearly Al Michaels is the premier live event host in the business. Marv Albert called boxing for NBC back in the glory days of the sport and is clearly one of the greatest announcers of our generation. Sugar Ray Leonard is an iconic name in the sport who also does a great job communicating what was going on. That is a credit to Sam Flood and the production team because they know how to make big event bigger. Everybody in the sports group was interested in this project, and everybody from the sports group has touched this project. That’s what makes it even more fun.

On the growth of boxing and other PBC shows: While we keep our expectations to ourselves, we think that the property can do very well. We think that Saturday nights are nights where if you put on quality programming, people will come find it. These are high-end fights and there are some spectacular matchups. The sport needs fights who become recognizable. These matchups were all part of the deal up front. We knew that Al’s plan was and that is one of the reasons there was a central sponsorship organization that handling sponsorship for Premier Boxing Champions across all the different platforms. It would have been very difficult to go out there and have NBC selling a package, CBS selling a package, Spike selling a package and so forth. So there is one group that integrates sponsorship across all the different platforms which is brilliant.


Let’s kick it off with Major League Soccer. FOX Sports 1 announced that MLS play-by-play announcer John Strong would team with analyst Alexi Lalas this season to form its top broadcast team for the sport. The du will be joined by sideline reporter Grant Wahl and make their debut together on Sunday at 9:30p, calling the nightcap pitting the Revolution/Sounders as part of the channel’s doubleheader. The earlier game will see the Red Bulls/Sporting KC at 7p with JP Dellacamera calling the action beside Brad Friedel, who makes his network television booth debut, while Julie Stewart-Binks joins on the sidelines. FOX Deportes hits the season with its lead broadcast team featuring play-by-play announcer John Laguna and analysis from Mariano Trujillo and Claudio Suarez.

Meanwhile, Univision Deportes will offer English-language on-air talent for MLS matchups this year via SAP starting with Friday’s opener between the Galaxy/Fire at 10p on UniMas and UDN. Paul Caligiuri will join play-by-play announcer Ramses Sandoval on the English-language SAP broadcasts, which will also be offered at UnivisionDeportes.com. Spanish-language broadcasts will feature talent that include Jorge Perez Navarro, Diego Balado, Jose Luis Lopez Salido, Raul Guzman, Ivan Kasanzew, Jorge Calvo and former Marcelo Balboa. The network also unveiled new weekly Sunday night one-hour highlight show dubbed Somos MLS starting March 8.

Major League Soccer and Eurosport locked in a four-year deal that will see the company carry league matches in all of Eurosport’s European territories (except the UK). The agreement spans exclusive TV and digital rights for all regular-season matches, the AT&T MLS All-Star Game, MLS playoff matches and MLS Cup with up to four matches shown live each weekend on a combination of Eurosport and Eurosport 2.

The Sprint US Grand Prix last weekend notched record television viewers worldwide, according to the USSA, which serves as that broadcast rightsholder and owner of the event. The premier broadcast, which ran on NBC, saw a 20% markup over last year’s Grand Prix ahead of the Sochi Olympics to claim the highest rating of any winter action sports series. Meanwhile, the International Ski Federation World Cup also saw over 60 nations tune in worldwide.

NFL Media revealed its free agency plans, lining up 27 hosts, analysts and reporters to offer up-to-the-minute updates on the latest player movement and NFL.com’s Free Agency Tracker, NFL Network, and other league platforms. Coverage launches Monday at 7p with NFL Total Access: Free Agency Frenzy 2015, and continues through Wednesday with nine-hour editions of Free Agency Frenzy 2015 starting at 10a each day. Special two-hour editions of NFL Total Access will also run on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7p to recap the latest transactions.

Tennis Channel serves up live coverage of the U.S. Davis Cup team’s first-round competition against Britain in Scotland this weekend, with the first match today at 8a. The meeting will consist of two singles matches on Friday, followed by the doubles match Saturday at 8a with Tennis Channel’s coverage wrapping up with the remaining singles play on Sunday at 9a. Tennis Channel will also offer live coverage of the France-Germany competition on Tennis Channel Plus. Brett Haber takes on play-by-play duties during the US/Britain coverage this weekend, with Justin Gimelstob as analyst.

CBS Sports Network has picked up Secret Golf with Steve Elkington for its second season. The show will debut on the channel on May 9 with a 15-episode run. “Moving to CBS Sports Network is a tremendous opportunity for our team to show people why golfers love golf so much and how much it means to them. The characters and quirky courses we discover all swirl together to make Secret Golf with Steve Elkington one of the most unique shows on television and we are thrilled to bring it to them on CBS Sports Network,” Elkington said.

College basketball heats up with conference tournaments tipping off this weekend. In addition to ESPN and NBC’s coverage plans announced earlier this week, CBS Sports has lined up games from the Missouri Valley Conference Championship and Patriot League Championship. The MVC games will begin on Sunday at 2p on CBS, with Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel and reporter Allie LaForce on microphone duties. CBS Sports Network delivers the Patriot League semifinals on Sunday at 2p and 4p. Jason Knapp and Chris Spatola announce the first semifinal, while Dave Ryan and Steve Wolf call the second.

FOX Sports will see four teams punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with coverage of the Big East and Conference USA’s men tournament, along with the Big East and Big 12 women’s tournaments over a span of nine days starting today. FOX Sports 1 plays host to the entire Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament with play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson and analyst Bill Raftery calling four conference first-round and quarterfinal games before Raftery takes the microphone in Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament. Jim Jackson joins Johnson to call the semifinals and final, while Justin Kutcher and Donny Marshall call a pair of quarterfinals on the afternoon of Thursday, March 12, and Molly McGrath serves as sideline reporter for the entire tournament. The action begins March 11 at 7p.

Join us for the annual Cynopsis Sports Media Awards Breakfast on Thursday, April 16 from 8:00-10:00am at the NYAC to celebrate the work of this year’s Sports Awards Finalists. Register you and your team here.

Bernard Hopkins will be ringside as an analyst on Saturday, March 14 for the HBO World Championship Boxing telecast. Hopkins will work alongside Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Harold Lederman for the tripleheader, starting at 9:45p.

SummerSlam is moving east this year, as the WWE shifts to Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Aug. 23. Tickets go on sale Saturday, March 14 at 10a.

SportsSouth announced that the 11 Hawks games on the RSN that ran in February averaged a 3.7 household score in the area, marking the highest-rated month ever for the team on the channel. Through 56 games, Hawks television ratings in the Atlanta DMA are up 120% YTD (2.2 vs. 1.0) on SportSouth.

Yahoo! Sports Radio has another outlet, as WVHI-AM/Evansville, Ind. will transition their sports programming to Yahoo Sports Radio. The switch begins on Monday, carrying Travis Rodgers Now, Hit ‘Em Up with Geoff Ketchum, Prime Cut with Sean Salisbury and John Granato, Yahoo Sports evenings and select weekend programming. “We look forward to being heard in the Evansville market,” said David Gow, CEO of Yahoo! Sports Radio. “And it’s just in time to deliver their listeners all the latest news and interviews surrounding the NCAA Basketball Tournament, with the Final Four taking place only a few hours away.” 


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LeanIn.Org recruited the NBA and WNBA for #LeanInTogether, a public service campaign that highlights how men benefit from equality and offering tips for men to do their part at home and at work. The campaign encourages men to show their support and women to celebrate men leaning in by posting with the hashtag #LeanInTogether. As part of the campaign, the leagues created a PSA encouraging men to lean in with the likes of NBA All-Stars Chris Bosh, Stephen Curry, Al Horford, LeBron James, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, and Russell Westbrook in the mix, along with with WNBA All-Stars Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins.

The NFL organized its second NFL Boot Camp: Consumer Products, with the four-day program kicking off on March 8 and serving as one of several training programs for post-NFL careers that NFL Player Engagement offers to its athletes. In addition, four of the players’ significant others will participate as part of NFL Player Engagement’s Women’s Resource Initiative aimed at engaging the women who support the players. The boot camp is run in conjunction with the annual NFL Consumer Products Summit, and will see participants interact with NFL licensees and the trade show experience as well taking on a Group Pitch Project, competing in teams to develop and deliver a product pitch to a panel of NFL executives and industry experts.


Red Bull TV will now be a part of Roku, and is available as a streaming channel on the platform in the US, Canada, U.K. and Republic of Ireland, as well as Roku TV models in the US. On demand programming includes Focus, a series that explores how the world’s best professional athletes evolve, progress and innovate their skills as well as a new series, Plus 27, which debuts on March 11.

NBC Sports’ Rotoworld.com notched its best February ever last month, scoring 4.1 million unique users (up 25.5% over the same month in 2014), with 74.7 million page views and 16.5 million visits. In addition, the company reports that the site’s Golf and NASCAR sections posted all-time single month highs.


Have a gander at PBC on NBC on Saturday at 8:30p.


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In The Know: Which NHL team has the longest current playoff drought? (Email Chris-Sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What NFL team has gone the longest without drafting a QB in the first round? Answer: The Saints with Archie Manning in 1971. (Most popular answer: Patriots). Kudos: Lewis Blaustein-Lewis Brand Solutions, Inc./NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Tim Overmyer-20th TV/Atlanta; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA.

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