03.24.16 Good morning. It’s Thursday March 24, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
The NFL is putting the spotlight on LA for the next edition of Hard Knocks, announcing that the newly-relocated Los Angeles Rams will take center stage for HBO’s newest edition of the show. With the city playing home to a franchise for the first time in 22 years, HBO Sports, NFL Films and the Rams will debut the first episode on Aug. 9 at 10p on the channel, with five-episodes overall on the docket. “We are thrilled that the 11th edition of Hard Knocks will spotlight a team from the NFC West Division for the first time,” says Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “It’s exciting to chronicle a franchise with so many compelling storylines, highlighted by the team’s return to the Los Angeles market and the enormously warm reception the Rams are experiencing.”
Speaking of the City of Angels, the NBA confirmed that LA will host NBA All-Star 2018 at Staples Center on Feb. 18. The announcement marks mark the record sixth NBA All-Star in the city, which hosted in 2011, 2004, 1983, 1972 and 1963. Festivities tip off on Feb. 16 with the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge. “Los Angeles is known for first-class hospitality and entertainment, making it the perfect host for NBA All-Star,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “The city is home to some of the most passionate basketball fans in addition to extraordinary facilities, including Staples Center and L.A. Live.”
ESPN’s historic MLB game from Cuba spiked its numbers. The exhibition game between the Rays and the Cuban National Team ranked as the highest-rated MLB preseason telecast Spring Training or exhibition on any network since 2004, according to Nielsen, pulling a 0.9 metered market rating. It also ranked as the most-streamed MLB preseason game ever on WatchESPN, generating 5.4 million total minutes viewed and 99,000 unique viewers.
Speaking of the network, ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of the NCAA Division Women’s Basketball Championship for the first and second averaged 343,000 viewers, rising 46% over year-ago numbers and marking the highest early-round viewership number since 2013. Hartford ranked as the highest-rated market across the weekend games, with a 2.0 average rating, followed by Louisville, Knoxville, Oklahoma City and Baltimore.
Golf Channel’s Feherty is continuing a hot run to open season six, notching record audiences with Monday night’s episode featuring former President George W. Bush. The episode delivered 184K average viewers for a 254% markup over the Ep. 3 premier in 2015. Additionally, Golf Channel’s WGC-Dell Match Play Bracket Special served up 105K average viewers across the two hours, up 119% vs. 2015’s one-hour selection show.
The NHL’s Penguins/Flyers will battle in primetime in an outdoor battle at Heinz Field on Feb. 25 of next year. The 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series matchup will run at 8p on NBC and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.
The Dodgers’ SportsNet LA is looking to break its broadcast standoff with distributors and is slashing the price of the channel by 30% in an effort to get picked up before the new MLB season, according to the LA Times. Meanwhile, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred urged city-area pay TV distributors to end the two-year stalemate over the network, noting, “The distribution dispute involving DirecTV, AT&T, Cox and Verizon has gone on too long. The Dodgers’ massive fan base deserves to be able to watch Dodger games regardless of their choice of provider,” he said in a statement. “The situation is particularly acute given that this is Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully’s final season. Time Warner has made a significant economic move that I hope will be accepted by the providers.”
SiriusXM will produce and broadcast an original three-part radio series with a “reality style” look at the Texas Rangers. Starting March 28 at 6p, Deep in the Heart of Texas: Behind the Scenes with the 2016 Rangers will air across three consecutive days with each one-hour episode, narrated by Casey Stern, airing on MLB Network Radio and featuring conversations with the players on the team bus, play-by-play of the team free throw shooting tournament, celebrity impressions by pitcher Derek Holland and more.
Notre Dame will join the Big Ten’s hockey lineup, accepting a sport affiliate membership into the conference for men’s ice hockey. The school will begin Big Ten play with the 2017-18 season. "While we have enjoyed our affiliation with Hockey East, the opportunity to participate in Big Ten hockey is a compelling one from the perspective of our student-athletes. The move will significantly reduce the time our team spends traveling, increase the broadcast exposure for our program and allow us to take advantage of the natural rivalries that exist with the Big Ten schools that participate in hockey," said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and James E. Rohr director of athletics.
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Turner Sports’ Craig Sager, who announced that his cancer has returned for a third time, released a statement about his condition. "I’m grateful to HBO for telling my story and I’d like to thank everyone for their ongoing support. I have acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive type of cancer. The typical prognosis is 3-6 months to live, but I would like to stress that is for a patient who is not receiving treatment. Fortunately, I am receiving the best treatment in the world and I remain fully confident I will win this battle.
RIP to Hall of Fame announcer Joe Garagiola, who died in Arizona at 90. His career spanned multiple decades, where he worked for NBC Sports television and radio as both play-by-play announcer and color commentator, in addition to Today, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and more. He was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2004. “It’s not enough to merely say that Joe was a Hall of Fame baseball announcer, although he was,” said NBC Sports’ Bob Costas on Garagiola. “Beyond that, he had a genuine impact on the craft. He was among the first to bring a humorous, story-telling style to the booth. He didn’t fit any one category. He was a very good play-by-play man, but no matter his role, he was always both anecdotal and analytical.”
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The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association & Hall of Fame is undergoing a rebrand and will now be known as the National Sports Media Association and Hall of Fame. The NSMA has also now relaunched its website, www.nationalsportsmedia.org and will open its membership to all sports media professionals, students and more. "It makes sense to take advantage of the rapidly-changing media landscape to include all facets of sports media in our organization," NSMA executive director Dave Goren said. "With the focus moving to digital media, and people performing different jobs, the timing is right for change."
The NBA is partnering with social commerce platform Teespring and launched a 10-day campaign with nearly 30 celebrities and musicians creating shirts dedicated to their favorite NBA teams. The shirts feature officially licensed NBA logos while showcasing the artists’ unique personalities and can be seen at myteammycity.teespring.com. Among the artists taking part include Fall Out Boy, New Kids on the Block, Big Boi, and more.
Elsewhere on the clothing front, Lucky Brand is partnering with NASCAR to create vintage inspired T-shirts dedicated to the sport. To celebrate, Lucky Brand and NASCAR are giving one Lucky customer a limited edition VIP trip to the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola on July 2, 2016 at Daytona. The introductory collection will be available at Lucky Brand stores on March 24.
NBA Digital is giving its NBA App an overhaul. The platform is getting upgrades that include the addition of a “Totals” tab in the Leaders section. Fans can now switch between season totals and per game averages for league leaders in multiple statistical categories, including points, rebounds, assists, field goals, three pointers, free throws, blocks and steals. Meanwhile, as part of the Defensive Impact page within the Player Tracking section, the NBA App has also introduced new defensive statistics that include field goals made and field goal percentage while defending at the rim and blocks per game in those situations. Meanwhile, the expanded NBA League Pass “Watch” integration allows fans to stay up to date on top stories, and gives fans the opportunity to set up customized notifications for league, team and player milestones in real time throughout the season.
Maryland could become the first state to let voters decide whether daily fantasy sports should be fully legal, with a bill about the industry now pending in the Legislature. According to local reports, if the House of Delegates opts not to put the matter to referendum or if voters reject fantasy sports, another pending bill would completely ban the practice. Meanwhile, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association released a statement about the moves: “The actions taken by the Maryland Senate show that they are out of touch with their constituents and the larger trend throughout the country. States all across America, including their neighbors in Virginia, have already agreed upon the legality of fantasy sports and have moved to pass legislation that will provide meaningful regulation and consumer protections."
NYC-based eSports Hero announced $1 million in financing from eSports Mogul an Australian based eSports investment Company. The funding will be dedicated to expanding its compliant, skill-based online tournament platform which allows gamers to play for real cash and prizes in head-to-head matchups. The company also announced the expansion of its leadership team with Andrew Schneider, former Live Gamer, Sony Pictures Digital and NBC executive, joining ESH as co-founder, director and CXO.
Nintendo denied reports that the company would be ending production of the Wii U console. In a statement provided to Japanese website IT Media by Nintendo, "The company plans to continue production through [and beyond] the next fiscal year."
Sweet Sixteen action with CBS carrying Miami/Villanova at 7p and Maryland Kansas at 9:40p. TBS serves up Texas A&M/Oklahoma at 7:30p and Duke/Oregon at 10p.
ON THIS DAY in 1998: Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon becomes the eighth player in NBA history to play 1,000 games or more for the same team.
In The Know:Which US President had a bowling alley installed in the White House? (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 coached the Lakers when Kobe Bryant was drafted? Answer: Del Harris. Kudos: Mitch Askenas-nathanCore/NY; Jason Robert-Columbia University/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Tim Overmyer-20th TV/Atlanta; Chris Schwartz-International Speedway Corporation/Charlotte; James Taguchi-NSM/Richmond; Rich Dubroff-CSNmidatlantic.com/Baltimore; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Steve Hirsen-Director/Sherman Oaks; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills; Jack Simmons-Fox Sports/LA.
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