04.01.15 Good morning. It’s Wednesday April 1, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
More details for this weekend’s Final Four action with TBS tipping off at 6p, and pregame beginning at 3p. CBS takes the reigns for the National Championship on Monday at 8:30p. Microphone duties will see Jim Nantz call the action with analysts Grant Hill and Bill Raftery with reporter Tracy Wolfson. On Saturday’s Team Stream Presented by Bleacher Report on TNT and truTV, team-specific presentations will see Tom Werme, Alaa Abdelnaby and Chris Spatola cover the Duke stream on TNT at 6p, while Brian Anderson, Mateen Cleaves and Shireen Saski handle Michigan State on truTV. Later action finds Dave Baker, Rex Chapman and Michael Eaves cover Kentucky’s Team Stream on TNT with Wayne Larrivee, Mike Kelley, and Phil Dawson delivering Wisconsin’s.
Meanwhile, with eyes on Indiana, multiple sports brands continued to question the state’s new religious freedom law. According to Chron.com, CBS released a statement reading, “We believe the recent legislation passed by the state of Indiana has serious potential to be discriminatory. As the final games of the Tournament are broadcast in the coming days, we want to reaffirm our longstanding position that CBS stands for inclusion and against discrimination of any kind.” Meanwhile, Turner echoed the sentiments, stating, “Turner Broadcasting supports inclusion, fair treatment and respect for everyone.” NASCAR also jumped in the fray, writing that “NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race." MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher had the strongest words, according to WTHR, saying that "The Mid-American Conference will not schedule any more meetings or championships in Indiana until this current matter is brought to a sensible and appropriate conclusion.”
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan will be sticking around for a while. The organization gave Whan a long-term extension following significant growth for the Tour. “We’ve built a terrific team here at the LPGA and clearly we are seeing momentum build for all parts of the organization,” said Whan. “I am excited about remaining a part of the future and look forward to accomplishing many more things as we continue to put the LPGA on a bigger platform.”
FOX Sports 1’s debut of the NASCAR Sprint Cup over the weekend drew 4,061,000 viewers to the channel, marking the most-watched motorsports event in network history and the fourth most-watched telecast ever on the network. The race pushed the network to its most-watched Sunday from 6a-3a since launch, averaging 1,068,000 viewers over that span.
ESPN’s NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Regional Final doubleheader on Monday delivered the goods, with games scoring the most-viewed and third most-viewed women’s Regional Finals games since 2012. Maryland’s win over Tennessee notched 1,540,000 viewers to become the most-viewed women’s Elite Eight game since 2012. Meanwhile, a brief scare propelled UConn’s victory over Dayton to tank as the third most-viewed women’s Elite Eight game since 2012, averaging 1,419,000 viewers.
Networks are teeing up for The Masters, with Golf Channel laying out plans starting April 5, with live coverage of the 2015 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship National Finals followed on Monday with the start of the network’s Golf Central Live From the Masters. This year, Golf Channel will offer more than 80 total hours of live news and themed Masters programming, capped by the premiere of Ben Crenshaw: A Walk Through Augusta on April 13.
CBS Sports Network is launching Masters on the Range for its coverage of the 2015 Masters Tournament. Starting April 6 at noon, viewers will have the first look at the setting of Augusta National with coverage continuing each day through Sunday morning. Of course, for the 60th consecutive year, CBS Sports broadcasts the third and-final rounds of the Masters on April 11 (3-7p) and April 12 (2-7p). For the third consecutive year, CBS Sports Network then replays CBS Sports’ live broadcasts of the third and-final rounds of the Masters immediately following the conclusion of its coverage. The channel then re-airs the 2015 final round April 13 at 10a.
On the radio front, SiriusXM said it would feature more than 80 hours of original talk programming during Masters Week, as well as 24 total hours of live hole-by-hole coverage across all four days of Tournament play. In addition, SiriusXM features, for the first time, access to Augusta National’s exclusive archives and will give fans access to rarely heard audio on a special Masters Preview show, starting at noon on Monday and offering multiple features on the history of the Masters going back to its origins in the 1930s, interviews with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player from the 1960s, and more.
More college bowl games appear to be on the horizon, with ESPN.com writing that Tucson will apply for a new bowl game this season, while Little Rock also has "strong interest" in also adding a game. The deadline to apply for new bowl certification with the NCAA is Wednesday. If successful, the new games would boost the number of bowls to 42, including the College Football Playoff title game. Sources states that Fox Sports or CBS Sports Network would be the most likely candidates to televise the Arizona Bowl, while the Little Rock Bowl would likely land at CBS Sports Network or NBC Sports Network.
NBC Sports is adding Bob Costas to the PBC on NBC mix, where he will serve as a special contributor for NBC’s Saturday, April 11 primetime telecast. Costas will join host Al Michaels, and blow-by-blow announcer Marv Albert, marking the first time the trio have worked together on a broadcast. Coverage of the card begins at 8:30p. Michaels, Albert, and Costas will be joined on the telecast by analyst and six-time world champion “Sugar” Ray Leonard, corner analyst B.J. Flores, and reporter Kenny Rice.
Continuing the boxing theme, HBO Sports unveiled its plans for the Mayweather/Pacquiao bout with the one-hour special Mayweather/Pacquiao: At Last. The program will detail the “nearly six-year journey to the most-anticipated fight of the modern era” and debuts April 18 at 11:45p, immediately following the previously announced HBO Boxing After Dark doubleheader beginning at 9:45p
Back to basketball, with two conference teams in the Final Four, BTN is bringing its studio team of Dave Revsine, Jim Jackson and Stephen Bardo to Indianapolis. The network’s coverage includes pre- and post-game press conferences, exclusive interviews with coaches and student-athletes, and analysis from a number of special guests. The network carries both the Wisconsin/Kentucky and Michigan State/Duke press conferences live on Thursday, as well as team press conferences on Friday at 11a. Saturday sees a 5p hour-long edition of BTN Tip-Off Show: Final Four Pregame.
GolTV nabbed broadcast rights to the Portuguese Cup. The deal includes all eight rounds and final match of the 2015 tournament, as well as the entire spring season in 2016. All games will air exclusively on GolTV and broadcast live in HD.
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NASCAR’s Team Penske will use the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion to help drive awareness about the importance of safe digging. For five races during the season, Shell Pipeline Company and the Common Ground Alliance will work with Team Penske highlighting 811, the national “Call Before You Dig” hotline. The 811 logo will be seen beginning with the July 11 race in Kentucky.
Twitter unveiled the top Twitter content and Twitter data from the #Sweet16 and #Elite8, stating that the most Tweeted games from 3/26-3/29 were:
1. Notre Dame (@NDmbb) vs. Kentucky (@KentuckyMBB)
2. West Virginia (@WVUhoops) vs. Kentucky (@KentuckyMBB)
3. Gonzaga (@ZagMBB) vs. Duke (@Duke_MBB)
4. Michigan State (@MSU_Basketball) vs. Louisville (@GoCards)
Most mentioned players on Twitter (3/26-3/29):
1. Sam Dekker (@samdek1) – Wisconsin
2. Daxter Miles Jr.(@dmilesjr4) West Virginia
3. Andrew Harrison (@DrewRoc5) Kentucky
4. Frank Kaminsky ( @FSKPart3) – Wisconsin
ESPN.com is getting an overhaul for its 20th anniversary today, “re-engineered to deliver a more personal, elegant and lively sports experience to fans with greater personalization and functional design across devices anytime, anywhere.” For the first time, the company will publish its flagship digital property in “editions” launching in the U.S. and U.K. simultaneously, with multiple versions to roll out over the next 12 to 18 months. According to the company, the site is built on a completely new technology infrastructure and has been engineered to deliver sports content at real-time speed. The new site will also, according to the company will allow ESPN to continue to “push digital advertising industry forward and provide greater scope for flexibility and innovation” impactful new ad units, prominent video placements and the ability to deliver seamless solutions for advertisers across devices while leveraging the strengths of sports and ESPN.”
Speaking of which, ESPN Digital Media saw an average of 19 Million U.S. fans per day in February, with daily users up 10 million compared to February 2014 to claim 33% of the sports category. Overall, ESPN Digital Media reached 74.7 million unique visitors stateside during the month, up 32% from a year ago according to the company. On mobile devices, 57.3 million unique users accessed ESPN web and app content, up from 37.8 million a year ago.
Sporting News is launching two new editorial partnerships, announcing alliances with Courage in Sports and You Can Play. Teaming with Courage in Sports, SN is working with INTERSPORT, to call attention to athletes who have overcome extraordinary obstacles on their journeys. Stories will appear on SN.com once per week, beginning today. By teaming with You Can Play, an organization dedicated to welcoming all athletes, coaches and fans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the site will feature a rotating cast of voices weighing in on issues related to LGBT players, coaches, policy in sports once per month.
Clippers/Trail Blazers on NBA TV at 10p.
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Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which famed MLB pitcher has the all-time record for the most opening day starts? Answer: Tom Seaver. Kudos: Michael Neuman-Scout Sports and Entertainment/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; David Hauptman/Denver; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA.
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