03/11/14: ESPN Takes a Creative Route via Exit 31



CYNOPSISSPORTS
03.11.14

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, March 11, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

ESPN unveiled a new content division, dubbed Exit 31. The creative unit will look to combine the resources of ESPN Films, Grantland and FiveThirtyEight under one umbrella and is designed to "experiment with subjects, formats, editorial approaches and platforms to create offerings that complement ESPN’s already expansive storytelling in new and different ways." Exit 31 will be led by Marie Donoghue, Senior VP, Global Strategy, Business Development and Business Affairs.

"Storytelling is at the core of everything ESPN does, across divisions," said Donoghue. "Formally combining these teams will create a collaborative studio environment whose mission will be to take risks and experiment with editorial approach, visual presentation and programming across platforms. We hope to continue to bring a variety of creative people into ESPN from varied sources  including non-traditional sports media sources  to cross-pollinate within Exit 31 and across ESPN’s existing and award-winning content divisions."

ON THE AIR

FOX Sports has some new blood on the roster, adding John Smoltz and Matt Vasgersian to its on-air team to call MLB games on FOX and FOX Sports 1. The pair now join a roster that includes Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci, as well as reporters Erin Andrews and Ken Rosenthal, and play-by-play announcers Kenny Albert and Thom Brennaman. Meanwhile, Smoltz and Vasgersian will continue their work on MLB Network as well.
 
Rogers lined up its slate of broadcasters to anchor its Canadian coverage of the NHL across all Rogers properties, as well as Hockey Night in Canada. The company announced that George Stroumboulopoulos, Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, Daren Millard and Jeff Marek will serve as the cornerstones of the company’s NHL coverage this fall.

The Madison Square Garden Company announced that MSG acquired the right to own and operate an NBA D-League team that will play in White Plains. The NBA Development League team will become the league’s 18th team and will serve as the exclusive affiliate of the New York Knicks, playing its home games at the Westchester County Center. With the purchase, the Knicks become the seventh NBA team to fully own and operate their own NBA D-League affiliate.

HBO has plans to showcase the Middleweight Championship of the World with Miguel Cotto/Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez set for June 7. The card will take place at Madison Square Garden and be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View, beginning at 9p.

Speaking of fights, Spike TV reports that the Eduardo Dantas/Anthony Leone battle on Bellator 111 notched 793,000 viewers on Friday. Overall, the card drew an average of 653,000.

Universal Sports Network is serving up multi-platform coverage of the 2013-2014 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland from March 12-16 on TV and online. The network’s broadcast team includes play-by-play announcer Steve Porino and analyst Doug Lewis to call all the finals action.

IMG Audio announced that it is broadcasting 15 of the national’s NCAA Men;s Basketball Conference tournaments, covering more than 60 colleges and universities. With over 500 hours of programming on deck, production includes all 13 games of the SEC Men;s Basketball Tournament with all game broadcast via Sirius/XM satellite radio, the SEC Digital Network, and more than 50 radio affiliates across the Southeast; all nine game broadcasts Wednesday thru Saturday from the American; and eight broadcasts for all five days of the expanded ACC Tournament.


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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

After taking on NY for the Super Bowl, the Bud Light Hotel now has plans for college basketball. Bud Light announced that the brand would be taking its famed franchise to Dallas for the NCAA Final Four. The three days of festivities begin Saturday, April 5 and will include Rolling Stone Live at Bud Light Hotel Dallas, a VIP concert featuring alternative rockers Empire of the Sun and New Politics on Sunday night. The venue will also include special areas like the Bud Light Platinum Lounge and the Bud Light Lime Poolside deck. Now through March 23, consumers 21 and older could win a trip to Bud Light Hotel Dallas by initially participating in Bud Light Mini Hoops Challenge tournaments.

MLB, Target and People announced the Target Presents PEOPLE All-Star Teachers campaign, designed to honor current and retired teachers who make an impact on the lives of their students and communities. All-Stars Carlos Beltran and Adrian Gonzalez will support the initiative by encouraging fans to nominate an outstanding teacher through May 6 at AllStarTeachers.com. All 30 winners, one representing each MLB Club, will be announced during All-Star Week and included in All-Star Week activities and recognized during the pre-game ceremony of the 2014 MLB All-Star Game on FOX.

DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY

Universal Sports Network, which serves as the national television and digital media home of the Boston Marathon, announced the launch of the Run as One series, a 15-episode, short-form digital series that is offered online on the channel’s website. The series tells the stories of those directly affected by the tragic events of the 2013 Boston bombings. Live coverage of the 118th Boston Marathon begins at 8:30a on April 21. 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nielsen SocialGuide released a list of the top ten sports events since the launch of Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings in September 2013 (with the Super Bowl, of course, at the top) reporting that posts about sports represented a full 50% of all tweets sent about TV during the year. Overall, in 2013, 492 million Tweets were sent about sports events, with 12 of the top 20 most-Tweeted TV airings in 2013 in the genre. Here are the top five:
1.  Super Bowl XLVIII on FOX on 2/2/14
2.  NFC Championship Game on FOX on 1/19/14
3.  AFC Championship Game on CBS on 1/19/14
4.  BCS National Championship Game on ESPN on 1/6/14
5.  XXII Winter Olympics on NBC on 2/7/14

THE MAIN EVENT

Capitals/Penguins on NBCSN at 7:30p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1991: Steffi Graf’s streak of 186 weeks as the top-ranked women’s player ends (Monica Seles gets the spot).

In The Know: Before this year’s run by Wichita State, what was the last school to enter the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament undefeated? (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: Name three Pac-12 teams that have never won the conference’s men’s basketball tournament. Answer: Arizona State, Oregon State, Washington State, Utah, California. Kudos: Michael Brown-PGA Tour/NY; Jim Bernard-FOX Sports-LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles local/LA; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Paul Barrere-FOX Sports/LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine
03.11.14

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