03/17/14: With 68 teams in the dance, truTV tips off the action tomorrow at 6:40p


Good morning. It’s Monday, March 17, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

With March Madness putting the spotlight on the stars of tomorrow, Upper Deck is already plotting their future. The staple sports and entertainment trading cards memorabilia company is hitting 25 years and recently announced a new deal to become the exclusive licensed manufacturer of NHL Trading Cards. The company is also launching multiple activations for its silver anniversary, including a 250-card, 25th-anniversary multi-sport set, brand-new versions of its popular Legendary Deck Building Game, and a series of social media contests and promotions.

As Industry Summit, the sports card and collectible trade show, gets underway in Vegas this week, Cynopsis Sports spoke with Upper Deck President Jason Masherah about 25 years, surprises and the NHL.

Masherah on the company’s 25th anniversary: The big thing for us is that we view it as an opportunity to engage not only our current collectors but also collectors who maybe haven’t traded cards in several years. The way we are doing that is through social media, and we’re doing outreach, giveaways, contests through our Facebook page, our Twitter page and our blog. We are also going to be doing some activation in some of the key shows in our industry. This anniversary also marks an opportunity for us to reach out and engage collectors who may not have collected for 5, 10 or 20 years and try to engage them again and bring them back to the hobby they love. What is really gratifying is to see fathers who grew up with Upper Deck now going to their kids and sharing the pastime that they loved with their kids and create a hobby where they get to spend time together.

On social media: The beauty of social media is that it’s an opportunity to get honest feedback, both good and bad, from the consumers and really be able to adjust our product offering and content for the fans. It also allows us to engage and do some things directly with the fans. We just introduced a program, the Random Acts of Kindness, where people can submit different stories to us and it allows us to change or affect the lives of people who have unique stories. Over the past 12-18 months, we’ve really been activating behind these stories.

On the biggest pleasant surprise: We were surprised by how well collectors reacted to a lot of the programs that we’ve run like this. As a company, we are in a position of privilege and get a chance to interact with the world’s biggest athletes and the world’s biggest brands, both on the sports and entertainment side. The ability to give back and do things for these organizations, like Operation Gratitude, and see people engage and react to that has been really eye-opening and very rewarding.

On the NHL deal: Hockey has been extremely important to us from the beginning. As much as the US consumer thinks about Upper Deck and that original Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card, for the Canadian consumer, it harkens back to the beginning of our brand and what it means to hockey. We’ve always embraced hockey, it has always been a priority for us. So, to return as the exclusive licensee for the NHL Players Association and the NHL is an honor and a big responsibility for us and we take it very seriously.

On the Industry Summit: It’s an opportunity for us to engage with the hobby shops and our distributors and to do it in a very close knit setting. To hear what’s going right or wrong in the distribution chain, it helps to get feedback from the collectors and their shops. So we will say thank you to those guys and are giving away a set that harkens back to the 1989 design that will be built exclusively for those in attendance. You will probably see a lot of those cards pop up on eBay. We will do a couple of player signings to promote from products and then go through with them what our plans are as well as talk about some of the promotions we have coming up.


And so it begins. truTV tips off the NCAA Men’s Tournament with the First Four tomorrow at 6:40p, featuring Albany/Mount St. Mary’s, followed by NC State/Xavier at 9:10p. On Wednesday, Cal Poly/Texas Southern opens the 6:40p slot, followed by Iowa/Tennessee. Brian Anderson and Dan Bonner will call Tuesday’s First Four games with reporter Kristine Leahy. Kevin Harlan will team with analysts Len Elmore and Reggie Miller and reporter Rachel Nichols for Wednesday’s games.

Second round game coverage begins Thursday and Friday at noon starting with Ohio State/Dayton at 12:15p on CBS (Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery/Allie LaForce on microphone duties), Wisconsin/American at 12:40p on truTV (Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Lewis Johnson), Colorado/Pittsburgh (Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner/Kristine Leahy) on TBS at 1:40p and Cincinnati/Harvard at 2:10p on TNT (Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb/Jaime Maggio). Friday’s action starts at 12:15p with Duke/Mercer on CBS.

Speaking of college basketball, ESPN revealed that the 2013-14 season proved a successful one, and ranks as the network’s most-viewed and highest-rated ever, averaging 1,454,000 viewers and a 1.0 household score. That marks the third consecutive year ESPN has set a viewership record for its game telecasts and besting last season by 6%. On digital platforms, ESPN’s content saw 4,500,000 unique devices, a 36% spike over last season. 

ESPN also announced that in 2015 and beyond, the SEC Network will exclusively carry the first three rounds of the SEC men’s basketball tournament. The expanded coverage will mark the first time the entire tournament will be nationally televised. Set to launch on August 14, the channel will showcase more than 100 SEC men’s basketball games annually tipping off on Nov. 14 with a doubleheader featuring Kentucky and Florida.

NBA TV’s final NBA Fan Night presented by Sprint of the season tomorrow will feature the Raptors visiting the Hawks at 7:30p. Host Vince Cellini will be joined by analysts Isiah Thomas and Chris Webber to offer analysis during theAutoTrader.com Pregame Show starting at 7p.

Univision Deportes Network features an interview tonight with President Barack Obama on weeknight analysis and commentary show, Locura Deportiva at 6p. Series host, Jose Luis Lopez Salido will discuss soccer as well as the Affordable Care Act for Hispanics on the show.

David Feherty is back tonight with Feherty opening a new season on Golf Channel at 10p. The first episode features PGA TOUR pro Brandt Snedeker as his first guest. Other guests this season include Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Jason Dufner, Henrik Stenson; Charlie Rose; former PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman and more.

ONE World Sports reached an agreement with Nippon Television Network Corporation to extend its exclusive, multiplatform rights to all home games of the Yomiuri Giants for the 2014 Nippon Pro Baseball season. Games will be offered live on the network’s linear channel and digital platforms.



You don’t have to be a bracketologist for our March Madness Contest. Which school will win it all? Win a chance for a $50 StubHub gift card by answering our reader poll. The winner will be announced Tuesday, April 1st.

||| DEADLINE: Monday, Mar. 31st ||| CLICK HERE TO ENTER |||


The Killers’ song Shot at the Night will serve as the 2014 featured musical backdrop for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV. New content was filmed last month at The Skywalk outside of Grand Canyon National Park, and designed to ignite "the passion and thrill" of NCAA March Madness in a music video that can be found at www.NCAA.com/MarchMadness. The Killers are also performing at this year’s 2014 NCAA March Madness Music Festival on Saturday, Apr. 5 at the Coke Zero Countdown Concert

UPS is unveiling a new digital hub today at www.ncaa.com/ups designed to enable college basketball fans to utilize the UPS Team Performance Index (TPI) and help them fill out their NCAA Tournament brackets for both men’s and women’s college basketball. UPS is the Official Logistics Partner of the NCAA. The hub also includes original digital video content featuring UPS brand ambassador Greg Anthony.


Google is teaming with the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports to launch a campaign that will include a March Madness destination site and fan access through Google+ Hangouts featuring CBS Sports and Turner Sports talent. The NCAA, Turner Sports, CBS Sports and Google will feature March Madness related search insights in Google Trends throughout the tournament, highlighting the topics and teams that are popular on Google Search.

Spanish sport network Fox Deportes signed on with Twitter’s Amplify program along with sponsorship from Heineken to promote highlights from the UEFA Champions League tournaments. The three-way partnership is the first Spanish-speaking deal with Twitter, which will feature ten promoted tweets throughout the tournament and a five-second clip from Heineken before each soccer highlight.


OneUp Sports launched a new predictive gaming app, NASCAR Connect, on iOS devices this weekend. The app will allow fans to compete against each other using live event predictions and win game tokens by selecting tiles with race action descriptions that predict what happens next on the track. OneUp Sports now adds NASCAR to a sports portfolio that includes the NFL, MLB, the NBA, the NHL and the PGA Tour.


NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Special at 7p on ESPN.


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ON THIS DAY in 1970: Peter O’Malley becomes CEO of the Dodgers.

In The Know: Which team going to the Tournament has a mascot named Smokey? (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: Which ACC team has the longest current streak without a bid to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament? Answer: Most popular answer by far was Wake Forest (2010), but the correct answer is Virginia Tech, which hasn’t made it since 2007. Kudos: Aymon DeMauro-Discovery Communications/NY; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
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