04/16/14: ESPN Gets Big Ten ready for Primetime


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Good morning. It’s Wednesday, April 16, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

With the NHL’s regular season over, NBC Sports Group announced several viewership records set ahead of today’s playoffs. NBCSN completed its most-watched full regular season ever, averaging 351,000 viewers over 88 telecasts, for a 6% rise versus the last full regular season in 2011-12. (Note: last year’s lockout-shortened season averaged 392,000 on the network.) NBC is also pacing ahead for its most-watched regular season since it began broadcasting the NHL with the 2005-06 season. While national data is not yet available for NBC’s final broadcast this past Sunday, the network averaged 1.73 million viewers through its first 12 games, which tops the previous best of 1.65 million viewers for the 2010-11 season and is up 22% vs. last year’s lockout-shortened season. Overall, through 100 regular-season games across NBC and NBCSN, the 2013-14 season is averaging 532,000 viewers, up 11% over the last full regular season.


ESPN announced six Big Ten Conference college football games that will run on its Saturday prime-time telecasts on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 during the 2014 season. The action begins with Virginia Tech/Ohio State on Sept. 6 at 8p on ESPN. Overall, four of the six telecasts will involve defending division champions Michigan State and Ohio State. Games are slated to also include Miami/Nebraska on Sept. 20; Nebraska/Michigan State on Oct. 4; Penn State/Michigan on Oct. 11; Ohio State/Penn State on Oct. 25 and Illinois/Ohio State on Nov. 1.

WWE’s WrestleMania 30 broke the 1 million threshold mark for US households watching the event on April 6. Numbers were based on the combined reach via WWE Network and PPV and marks the first time the annual WWE staple has broken that mark. WWE Network will be rolled out in Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordics in late 2014/early 2015.

It wasn’t all good news for WWE however. DIRECTV confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that the company is joining Dish in not carrying company upcoming PPVs for the near future, beginning with the May 4 event, The Extreme Rules, due to the PPVs being shown on the WWE’s digital platform. "Yes, DIRECTV has decided to stop offering our PPV’s residentially and commercially," WWE said in a statement to the paper. "The only other option would be to work through the local cable provider."

FOX Sports will indeed pair Greg Norman with Joe Buck as the voices of the US Open when the company takes over coverage of the golf tournament in 2015. Company sources confirmed earlier SBJ reports about the move, which will see the tandem team up behind the 18th green.

2015 will see a grand total of 40 Bowl games for NCAA FBS teams, according to ESPN, counting the incoming Championship game. That tally comes with the addition of a new game that would reportedly be called the Cure Bowl and take place in Orlando, pitting teams from the AAC and the Sun Belt. There are no television partners at this point.

See you tomorrow at the Cynopsis Sports Media Awards as I co-host with Campus Insiders’ Bonnie Bernstein to honor the year’s best and brightest work from across the sports industry. We are thrilled to welcome this year’s presenters which include executives such as Rick Hendrick, founder of Hendrick Motorsports. In addition, the show will now include FOX Sports’ Kenny Albert, NBA TV, CBS and Turner Sports analyst Greg Anthony, NBC Sports Premier League host Rebecca Lowe, 120 Sports host Michael Kim as well as Matt Yallof, co-host of MLB Network’s The Rundown, among others. Click here for more info.

FOX UFC Saturday: Werdum vs. Browne is ready to rumble this weekend at 8p with the battle of heavyweights headlining the network’s card of four fights. Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg call the action live from Orlando while host Curt Menefee and analysts Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann open the show on FOX. Victor Davila, Mario Delgado and Erick "Goyito" Perez call the fights on FOX Deportes. FOX Sports 1 kicks off the night at 5p with the three-hour FOX UFC Saturday Prelims.

CBS Sports offers one last look at the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 2p with Moments of March Madness: Final Four. The show will offer footage form embedded crews to showcase "the frenetic atmosphere of this year’s Final Four in North Texas" from the point of view of the players, their families and fans.


Thank You to Our 2014 Sponsor – Electric Sheep
View the impressive list of finalists that will be honored
TOMORROW at the Yale Club in NYC!

2014 Sports Luminaries
LEGACY AWARD: Mark Lazarus, Chairman of the NBC Sports Group
VISION AWARD: Brian France, CEO & Chairman of NASCAR
NAVIGATOR AWARD: Christina Miller, NBA Digital’s SVP & Turner Sports’ GM



NHL partner Enterprise Rent-A-Car is partnering with hockey analyst Barry Melrose to launch of the Playoffs edition of the NHL Hat Trick Challenge. The content allows fans to try to predict various game outcomes, including which teams will win, and which players will score goals and make assists. The person with the most hat tricks during the contest gets two tickets and a trip to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. The challenge will be supported by an integrated marketing campaign that includes digital advertising, public relations and social media. In addition, Enterprise has partnered with St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie on a new TV spot that will air throughout the Playoffs and mark Oshie’s first national television commercial.

NBC Sports Group got sweet via an exclusive partnership with Chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery to celebrate the start of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs today. This year, the company will offer the "Puck Cake," a limited-edition variation of Bouchon Bakery’s MallowMore dessert. Overall, NBC Sports Group and Bouchon Bakery will cook up more than 6,500 of the hockey-puck-sized cakes, comprised of marshmallow and a shortbread cookie encased in a chocolate shell and embellished with one of 18 unique, edible graphics representing the logos of the 16 NHL teams that qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the logo of NBC Sports or the logo of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The desserts will be hand delivered to athletes, celebrity hockey fans and social influencers in key markets across the country.

Lifestyle food brand Luvo inked a sponsorship deal with the Yankees. The agreement, forged with the help of Derek Jeter, Luvo’s Brand Development Officer/Partner, will see Luvo meals offered in select locations at Yankee Stadium. Luvo will also receive permanent signage in the Yankees bullpen, and will have the ability to use the Yankees marks in advertising.

MSG Network is producing New York Rangers playoff previews for New York City cab riders as the team prepares to face the Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow at 7p on the network. Appearing in over 7,500 yellow cabs, each 45 to 60-second segment will feature MSG broadcasters Al Trautwig, Bill Pidto and former Ranger Ron Duguay.


Tennis Channel has another player for its TV Everywhere platform, announcing that Dish Network subscribers would be able to access Tennis Channel’s linear stream through DishAnywhere.com on computers and the Tennis Channel Everywhere app for Android and iOS devices.

High school sports media company PlayOn! Sports is tapping the talents of marketing agency CSE to develop an enhanced multi-platform product redesign of their digital offerings. During this school year, PlayOn will offer live broadcasts of more than 40,000 high school sporting events.


NHL Playoffs begin with a trio of games starting at 7p with the Canadiens/Lightening on CNBC and Columbus/Pittsburgh at 7:30p on NBCSN.

ON THIS DAY in 1929: The Yankees become the first team in the league to wear uniform numbers.

In The Know: Other than the Yankees, name a MLB team that doesn’t feature player names on their home jerseys? (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: At what university did Jackie Robinson become the school’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports? Answer: UCLA. Kudos: Jay Goldstein/AdMore/NY; Jon Latzer-CBS Digital Media/NY; Matthew Willence-ITN Networks/NY; Julian Segal-Fox Digital Media/NY; Ken Nice-Yoh/Silver Spring; Jon Clateman-Frozen Ropes/Syosset; Larry Haber-Comcast Sports Southeast/Atlanta; Dave Goren-NSSA/Salisbury; Jennifer Hernandez-Comcast SportsNet/Chicago; Robert Teinowitz-Live Action Media/Chicago; Chris Hartweg-Wunderman3/Chicago; Bill Robertson-Tunheim Partners/Minneapolis; Michael Jaquet-US Ski and Snowboard Assoc./Park City; David Hauptman/Denver; Daniel Hanson/Aspen; Matt Sautter-OpenTV/Golden; Don Surath-CBS/San Francisco; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills; John Mazur-KCET Studio and Production Facilities/Burbank; Jaime Martinez-Univision KMEX/LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
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