03.23.16 Good morning. It’s Wednesday March 23, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
MMA’s biggest battle yet is over. The sport notched a big win when a bipartisan New York State Assembly passed legislation to legalize and regulate professional mixed martial arts throughout the state. The passage of A.2604-C, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and 72 other Assembly sponsors, will now see the bill sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his approval. UFC has committed to holding at least four events per year in New York for the first three years once MMA is legalized.
“While there are still additional steps that have to occur before professional MMA becomes a reality in New York, I want to assure our fans that if Governor Cuomo signs the bill into law and the State Athletic Commission puts in place the appropriate regulations, we look forward to hosting our first New York event in the world’s most famous arena Madison Square Garden, home to so many epic sporting events throughout the decades,” said UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. “We also look forward to scheduling events in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany, and Brooklyn. We are excited.”
Meanwhile, Bellator MMA President Scott Coker noted: “The New York Assembly’s vote to legalize MMA is a watershed moment for this incredible sport. As someone who has been promoting combat sports for more than 30 years, this is a very exciting time for mixed martial arts. We at Bellator MMA are very much looking forward to hosting an event in the ‘Crown Jewel of America,’ New York.” He added, “We’ve already been in contact with the great people at the Barclays Center and several other incredible venues, and we can’t wait bring our world-class athletes and action-packed shows to an arena in the Empire State soon."
Last weekend’s Spurs/Warriors battles on NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC gave the channel the night across P18-34, M18-34 and M18-49, according to Nielsen. The heavyweight telecast generated nearly 5.2 million viewers and a 3.1 \ household rating for the contest to mark the second-most watched and second-highest rated NBA regular-season game (non-Christmas) in more than three years. Overall, with the first season of franchise, the NBA on ABC is up 11% in viewership and 9% in rating over last season.
ESPN is set to blanket all 15 games from the 2016 NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Championship, which begins with the regional semifinals on March 25 and running through the championship on April 7. ESPN’s lead hockey play-by-play commentator John Buccigross joins lead hockey analyst Barry Melrose to call the action in the Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.) and, for the fourth consecutive year, the Frozen Four. Other ESPN broadcast tandems will include: Allen Bestwick/Colby Cohen (Midwest Regional), Clay Matvick/Sean Ritchlin (West Regional) and Kevin Brown/Billy Jaffe (East Regional).
SNF’s Michele Tafoya is joining Golf Channel to serve as a reporter for the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on Sunday, April 3 beginning at 8a. Tafoya will report from the venue, conducting interviews with juniors from across the US and Canada having advanced into the 80-person field. She will also lend her voice to narrate select feature stories, providing viewers with a closer look at the personalities of a few competitors in the field.
It’s the end of the line for the X Games in Austin. ESPN announced this June’s event in the city will be the last and that it was actively engaged with and seeking interested cities to be the next host of an X Games summer event for two consecutive years in 2017 and 2018. “We’ve been honored to call Austin home of the X Games since 2014 and are proud to have run world-class competitions for athletes, hosted amazing musicians for our fans and sponsors together with the Circuit of The Americas,” said Tim Reed, VP, X Games. “We thank COTA, the City of Austin and State of Texas for their support, and look forward to an amazing final X Games Austin event this June. Looking to the future, we’re enthusiastic to identify the next X Games host city and continuing to improve and bring the franchise to new locations and fans.”
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Turner Sports and CBS Sports added Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams to serve as a guest studio analyst for the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship spanning TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV. Williams will join the Atlanta studio team for Regional Semifinals on both Thursday and Friday.
ONE World Sports unveiled its programming plans for the new season of the North American Soccer League, including the NASL Game of the Week set to start April 2 at 7:30p with the Indy Eleven/Tampa Bay Rowdies. The channel will also premiere its second season of its weekly highlights show, NASL This Week, on April 5 at 6p. JP Dellacamera and Ed Cohen and analysts Shep Messing and Janusz Michallik are on deck to call all the action throughout the season, with 11 matches on the slate on Saturdays and 23 overall.
ESPN networks announced plans for coverage of the 2016 International Champions Cup tournament starting July 23 and running through August 13. All matches will air live on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and ESPN Deportes beginning with Celtic/Leicester City on ESPN on July 23 at 12:30p.
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The NHL and NHLPA unveiled the first lineup of Official Partners for the World Cup of Hockey 2016, which spans Sept. 17-Oct. 1. Among the brands signing on will be Air Canada, Canadian Tire, Honda, Molson Coors, PepsiCo, Scotiabank, Tim Hortons and Visa who join the likes of adidas and Rogers Communications and will engage fans through World Cup-themed promotions and campaigns, ticket opportunities, in-venue signage in game broadcasts, NHL media and national broadcast integrations, and on-site activations at official World Cup of Hockey 2016 fan events. The league also announced the Scotiabank World Cup of Hockey Fan Village, a primary activation point for all World Cup of Hockey partners to connect with hockey fans from around the world in Toronto for the tournament.
Sports and entertainment marketing agency ESP Properties, part of WPP’s GroupM, formed a strategic partnership with The Branded Entertainment Network, Corbis Entertainment’s marketplace for branded integration in popular global entertainment. ESP Properties will now have access to BEN’s technology, database of content, planning and analytics to enhance advertising, marketing and branded integration campaigns.
US Speedskating locked in a multi-year sponsorship deal with Froozer. The brand will provide product to the organization for national team camps, premier events and recovery smoothies and will support US Speedskating at numerous domestic events throughout the season.
Yahoo is making changes to its Sports Daily Fantasy product to make contests more transparent and fun for users. Among the notable shifts will me a limit to multi-entries for a max of 10 per user per contest. In addition, the company will label a small percentage of “veteran” players with a distinct badge so all players will be able to know who they are playing against and Yahoo Sports Daily Fantasy will not allow any type of scripting tool to upload or edit entries.
The Ringer is partnering with Callaway Golf to bring the newest Ringer podcast, ShackHouse, to the The Ringer Podcast Network. ShackHouse will feature co-hosts Geoff Shackelford and longtime Joe House to discuss all things connected to the game, from PGA TOUR players and venues to amateur golf passion to fringe and irreverent elements of the sport. Bill Simmons will also occasionally appear on the show. The first episode debuts today.
Learfield company ANC and Digital Media ETC. announced an exclusive agreement to integrate TSQS’s 3D Projection Mapping into sports, retail, transportation and event venues. DME’s 3D technology creates an “engaging augmented reality, using projection to turn large surfaces into three-dimensional video experiences” and will be integrated into ANC’s vSOFT control system, which controls digital displays at more than 80 venues nationwide, to create an immersive atmosphere by seamlessly controlling and synchronizing all video experiences from one platform.
FloSports is launching a new sport site catering to the competitive volleyball community in a new exclusive partnership with ASICS America Corporation. FloVolleyball – Powered by ASICS will offers fans live and on-demand coverage of elite volleyball competitions across the country, as well as breaking news, original documentaries, technique videos and more. “With an enthusiastic fan base in the high school, club, college and beach levels, volleyball is a growing sport that we’re really excited about,” FloSports co-founder and CEO Martin Floreani said. “We have amazing resources and contributors who are committed to making FloVolleyball Powered by ASICS the go-to, 24-7 news source for every volleyball athlete and enthusiast across the globe.”
eSports team SK Gaming locked in a sponsorship deal with Amazon that will see the group partner ahead of the Vainglory Winter Championship. Amazon’s partnership will allow the team to make use of their Fire tablets and nab in-game items via Amazon Coins. The move marks a first for Amazon in the space. “We’re very keen to support the eSports community and in particular this talented, storied team. Mobile MOBAs align well with what we offer through the Amazon Appstore,” said Annie Dumitrescu Amazon’s strategic partnership manager for games to Redbull.com.
Sony is shuttering DriveClub developer Evolution Studios, developer of franchises that include MotorStorm and World Rally Championship. The announcement comes a year after laying off a slew of staff at the division. “Regular reviews take place throughout SCE Worldwide Studios, ensuring that the resources that we have in such a competitive landscape can create and produce high quality, innovative and commercially viable projects,” said Sony in a statement, according to GI.biz.
It’s the end of the line for Raymond Moore, who resigned as CEO and tournament director at Indian Wells. Moore’s resignation came a day after declaring that women players ride the coattails of the men.
World Series of Fighting named Michael Mersch as its new Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel. Mersch previously worked for the UFC, as a senior level executive and Assistant General Counsel and most recently served as General Counsel and Chief Political Advisor for the Nevada Attorney General.
American Sports Network tapped Ibra Morales as Vice President, Operations and Todd Siegel as Vice President, Sales for ASN. Morales most recently served as President/CEO of MundoMax, while Siegel most recently held the position of Executive Vice President, Sales for Ipowow.
Troika named Smruti Shah as Head of Strategy and charged with the leadership and development of the agency’s growing strategic practice. She joins after serving as Director of Strategy at Interbrand.
Bruins/Rangers on NBCSN at 8p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1994: Wayne Gretzky scores his record breaking 802nd career NHL goal, passing Gordie Howe atop the list.
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Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Who holds the Marlins’ single-season record for home runs? Answer: Gary Sheffield. Kudos: Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Molly Tow-MSG Networks/NY; Jared Lowenthal-Momentum Worldwide/NY; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA.
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