03.14.16 Good morning. It’s Monday March 14, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
Ten years ago, with the backing of the New York Mets, Time Warner and Comcast, SNY flipped the switch to enter New York’s channel wars, angling to establish itself amid the passionate sports fray of a city divided in its loyalties. Now, the channel is coming off of a 2015 viewership surge, complete with partnerships that include the New York Jets, UConn and more and availability to viewers throughout New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and northeastern Pennsylvania in addition to national carriage deals. As the new baseball season prepares to take the field, the RSN announced plans to offer viewers more than 125 exclusive Mets games starting April 5 against the Royals. Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Cohen, will return for their 11th season together, with on-field reporter Steve Gelbs.
To celebrate the anniversary, the channel will run special vignettes over on the network and online on March 16 throughout the day showcasing memorable moments from the past ten years, while studio programs such as Daily News Live, Mets Talk Live, and SportsNite will look back with the network’s very first sign on, footage from its first spring broadcast, and more. Cynopsis Sports spoke with SNY President Steve Raab about the journey, the passions and challenges of New York sports fans and how they are tackling changes in media.
Raab on ten years of SNY: I think what feels so good is that when we created the idea for the network, there were some basic tenets about objectivity and being the home for all New York sports, not just the teams that we had partnerships with, and we’ve held true to that. While we are the home of the Mets, we have found the way to serve all fans in this area while super-serving Mets fans. It creates an upside for us as we tap into the Jets, Giants, Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, etc. On the production side, we set out to educate, entertain and inform. When you watch our programming, one of the things that our fans love is that they get something they didn’t know. I’m really proud of that.
On the 2015 Mets season: 2015 was a terrific year for us. It was our 10th Mets season, and not only was it our best ratings since 2010, but it was a tale of two seasons. The season half of the season was so explosive. For the full season we were +60% in households and +80% in key demos and so much of that was driven by the last 60-65 games of the season. That carried over for us outside of the Mets, carrying over to pre- and post-game which had triple digit growth as well as to our studio programming and or Jets programming. Everything was lifted last year and the opportunity to expose content that we were really proud of to a bigger fanbase felt terrific.
On team/ratings correlation: If you think about the 2015 season, the Mets were 52-50 after the first 102 games and there had been an upward-trending year but certainly not explosive until the last third of the season. So when we see the enthusiasm at the beginning of the season this year, we didn’t have this a year ago. We will now get a full year’s benefit from it. We think there is a base there now, and what we’ve seen is that they are watching and watching with greater frequency. We’ll be using the Mets as a promotional platform for our other programming. The other side to that is that we’ve done a pretty good job establishing ourselves as objective and I think fan appreciate that and differentiated us from other networks. There are other networks that, by their own admission, will tell you that they are homers for their own teams. That’s not us.
On the New York fanbase: The New York fan is pretty savvy and really educated. What’s unique in the New York marketplace is that you have at least two of everything, two football teams, two baseball teams, three hockey teams, two basketball teams. They are usually one or the other. In that respect, it heightens the passion that fans bring in that it isn’t just about what’s happening in your division, it is also about what is happening across town with your natural rival. It is a very different vibe because you have so many teams in so many sports. One of the challenges because of that, because we are the home of the Mets, is getting Yankee fans to understand that we are going to be objective and serve Yankee fans with content they might not get elsewhere as a result.
On how streaming is changing the game: I think in some respects, the headlines about cord-cutting are a little louder than what we would necessarily see. We are seeing some of it but what consumers are finding is that there is still an aspect of bundling and choices that certainly work better for them. We’ll see where it levels off. For us, it is about trying to figure out with your distribution partners how we best capitalize on that and try to understand to what degree the market is changing. On the one hand, change is terrific because the technology allows for more opportunity and more flexibility and in-market streaming is a great example of that. On the other hand, that also provides viewers with other flexibility and other opportunities. We’ve been doing business the same way for a long time and we have to figure out what will work best for us.
March Madness programming notes:
Showtime Sports unveiled a slate of seven live boxing telecasts running over a 12-week span, showcasing nine world championship fights and 14 overall matches including two heavyweight bouts and the Keith Thurman/Shawn Porter WBA welterweight title fight on CBS on June 25. The action begins with Charles Martin/Anthony Joshua on April 9 as part of Showtime Boxing International in England. “This schedule features high level matchups with champions taking on the highest-rated contenders available, and top-ranked challengers facing one another,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President & General Manager of Showtime Sports. “We are thrilled and grateful to the promoters and the fighters themselves who have worked with us these last few weeks to put together such an impressive lineup for SHOWTIME Boxing. It has to be one of the best we’ve ever assembled.
Meanwhile, Bellator detailed its own broadcast plans for the upcoming one-two punch of Bellator 152: Pitbull vs. Campos and Bellator Kickboxing: Torino from Italy on April 16. The two events will be broadcast separately with Bellator 152 carries on Spike that Saturday at 10p, while the kickboxing event will run the following week on April 22 at 11p, following Bellator 153, also on Spike.
Last week’s US Grand Prix from the US Ski and Snowboard Association touched 6.972 million viewers over the three-stop tour, and included the highest-rated winter action sports television broadcast of the season from its Polartec Big Air at Fenway on NBC, which drew an average of 1.357 million viewers with a .87 rating for the channel. International coverage is expected to hit an aggregate of over seven million viewers worldwide with each competition a part of the FIS World Cup. “As the exclusive path to the Olympics, the US Grand Prix continues to provide the strongest broadcast coverage both in America and around the world for winter action sports through our partnership with NBC, the network of the Olympics,” said USSA Chief Marketing Officer Michael Jaquet. “Our commitment to growing the broadcast coverage for the U.S. Grand Prix with our partners at NBCU has paid off in becoming the number one property in the space.”
ESPN announced plans to carry the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships live from Madison Square Garden with the network set to offer every session and cover every mat for the entire three days of the event, which runs March 17-19. Specifically, ESPN hosts the semifinals and finals in prime time which ESPNU on deck for the first and second rounds, quarterfinals and medal round. ESPN3 will carry individual mat feeds throughout the tournament. Actor Billy Baldwin will join the talent lineup as a guest analyst, joining Jim Gibbons, Tim Johnson and Anthony Robles.
The Pac-12 is moving its Men’s Basketball Tournament across the street in Las Vegas, locking in a deal with T-Mobile Arena and Las Vegas Events to host the event for the next three years. The tournament will be played in T-Mobile Arena after selling out the tournament this year following a move to Las Vegas in 2012.
SiriusXM is launching a new national show that pairs broadcaster Jac Collinsworth, a current junior at Notre Dame, and veteran college sports voice Chris Carlin on SiriusXM’s 24/7 college sports channel. Dubbed The Student Section, the program will tackle topics for younger generations in today’s college sports world. The show debuts today and will air every Monday from 7-9p.
Smithsonian Channel lined up a six-hour docu-series entitled Sports Detectives that will debut on April 24 at 9p. The series will look to hunt down “the truth of what happened and find missing treasures behind some of the most iconic moments in American sports history” using technology, sports analysis, and detective work. CBS Sports Network reporter Lauren Gardner and PI Kevin Barrows will hunt down and confirm lost items with episode one tracking down the American flag that was draped over goaltender Jim Craig after the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team’s Gold Medal game victory.
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NCAA and Turner Live Events, joining Corporate Champions AT&T, Coca-Colaand Capital One, unveiled its lineup of musical acts performing at the 2016 NCAA March Madness Music Festival in conjunction with the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four. The free, three-day music festival will take place at Discovery Green in downtown Houston starting April 1 with the AT&T Block Party with performances by Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco, with additional acts to be announced. On Saturday, April 2 the Coca-Cola Music Mix will feature Jason Derulo, Conrad Sewell and more. On Sunday, April 3 at the Capital One JamFest features Pitbull and Flo Rida who join the previously announced headliner Maroon 5.
Ford Motor Company was named the winner of the NASCAR Driving Business Award, becoming the first three-time recipient of the annual honor, which is bestowed upon the Official NASCAR Partner that demonstrates leadership and results through its participation in the NASCAR Fuel for Business Council. Highlights from Ford’s success in 2015 leveraging the NFFB Council included: selling more than 3,500 vehicles through its “Partner Recognition Program”; co-marketing programs with MillerCoors, Goodyear and SiriusXM that resulted in nearly 900 vehicles sold and executing multiple deals that eclipsed $5 million in value.
Speaking of NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson announced the launch of the 2016 Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope campaign, which will award $125,000 to five non-profit organizations in May. The initiative allows fans and consumers to nominate their favorite education-focused charities, including Parent/Teacher Associations, to receive a $25,000 grant, a Blue Bunny ice cream party, and special recognition on Johnson’s race helmet.
Premier Boxing Champions announced a string of successes from its use of Facebook and Facebook Live. Facebook released a case study breaking PBC’s strategy, Overall, 70% of the PBC Facebook fans were between 18-44, and last year PBC on Facebook reached a weekly audience of up to 10 million people, posting highlights with over 8 million complete views of its 30-second view highlight video clips. “We’ve found that not only have we grown a digital audience via Facebook, but also we’ve increased tune-in for our PBC broadcasts through our Facebook promotions,” said Alex Balfour, Chief Digital Officer, Haymon Boxing. “Since starting our postings we have seen support escalate for the authentic fan experience. Views rise for the purity of the sport and performance in the ring, regardless of if the fighter is well known, a main event name or a fighter on the undercard. We know our PBC digital fans care about good fights and good fighters, and support watching and learning about results from the matches as well as training.”
UFC 196 saw a spike in social values following the event, reporting that the promotion scored over $6.5 million in digital value around the PPV. Overall, 2,139 posts to social media generated over 185.9 million impressions across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+, while UFC athletes tweeted 875 times generating 45,757 likes, 86,268 retweets, and over $370K in value for #UFC196 on Twitter. Outside of UFC, NFL players posted about the fights 154 times over the weekend and generating $151k in value.
ESPN.com is lining up ESPN.com/Analytics, described as “a single online destination for analytics content powered by ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.” Once launched, fans will be able to access featured rankings including QBR, Football, Basketball and Soccer Power Indexes as well as original work from SIG writers. In addition, a roster of ESPN.com writers will contribute regularly to the section, along with content from Football Outsiders, Hockey Prospectus, Fangraphs and others. ESPN.com/Analytics will also complement and cross-promote the work of FiveThirtyEight.com.
Perform Content, a division of digital sports media and content group Perform, is now building OptaUS, a specialized arm of Opta dedicated to collecting, packaging, analyzing and distributing live data across all major US sports. The platform will look to leverage “the longstanding experience and expertise of the Opta team, collecting and providing data for one of the world’s biggest and most passionate of sporting markets” and is currently collecting and providing detailed data from pro and college football, pro and college basketball and baseball. Hockey will be added to the list this fall for the start of the 2016-17 season.
E3 may be in the mood to open the curtains. In an interview with MCV, the Entertainment Software Association’s Rich Taylor stated that the trade show is mulling opening its doors to the public for the first time. If the decision is made, the move could begin next year. The statement comes after E3 saw Activation and EA opt not to get booths this year, joining the likes of Sega, Disney and Bandai Namco. "The consumer question is certainly part of the equation and one we will be taking a hard look at," says Taylor. "You saw last year, certain companies brought along some of their most valued customers. We will probably end up doing that again this year, and there will be some additional elements on top of that, that may or may not come."
Multiplay, backers of the UK’s largest gaming festival, Insomnia, announced a partnership with Twitter for Insomnia57. Twitter will bring two of its new, exclusive apps to the event: Q&A and Challenger and will fully integrate the apps for the duration of the gaming event for the first time. In addition, Multiplay will deepen the conversation on Twitter, using data visualization to showcase and engage with their social audiences in real-time.
NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Special at 7p on ESPN.
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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.
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ON THIS DAY in 1976: Jockey Bill Shoemaker wins his 7,000th race.
In The Know: Which team in this year’s Men’s Basketball Tournament is nicknamed the Seahawks? (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 portrayed Babe Ruth in the movie The Pride of the Yankees? Answer: Babe Ruth portrayed himself. Kudos: Michael Dittelman-Dedicated Sports Marketing/NY; Linda Lieberman-IMG/NY; Daniel Lowenthal-Mindshare/NY; Carl Schellenberger-VCA/NY; Troy Perlowitz-ESPN/Charlotte; Joe Guarnieri-ESPN/Bristol; B. David Ridpath-Ohio University Sports Administration/Athens; Jerehmy White-BusyBuddy Books/Glen Rock; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Don Cardona-NBC Sports Group/Denver; Dave Sikula-Toovia.com/Sunnyvale; Mark Wolfson-PAC-12 Networks/San Francisco; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Alex Petrilli, Jr.-TiVo/San Jose.
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