04/21/14: NASCAR’s Brian France and NBC Sports’ Group Mark Lazarus Talk Game, Universal Sports taps Bostonian Michael Chiklis for Marathon coverage, Facebook drinks up the World Cup


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Good morning. It’s Monday, April 21, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Last week, we were able to sit down for Q&As a pair of new partners in NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus and NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France at the Cynopsis Sports Media Awards. As we conclude coverage of the event, here are some snippets from the conversations.

France on the evolution of NASCAR: Our sport has an interesting balance, as all of the drivers and teams are on the racetrack at the same time. So that means 43 teams are competing every weekend. On the other hand, sports fans in this country feel very strongly that winning is what defines their teams, drivers and their sport. So we had to balance that and that’s why we had to modify our Chase. You can see around the horn that college football evolved its college playoff system into a true playoff. You see baseball with its Wild Card evolution. You see the NFL starting to talk about changes as well. So for our industry, there is a balancing act we have to maintain but we are going to be bold. I tell people all the time that you can go anywhere in the world and you are going to see maybe one or two major sports in a country or region. You aren’t going to have all of these collegiate sports, which are very dominant in the US. This is obviously the greatest country in the world for sports, but it is also the most competitive. Everybody is well marketed. Everybody is embracing technology and running fast so I think we have to be bold down the road to stay in the game.

On recent challenges: One of the reasons we are really excited about our new partners, such as NBC, is that we will be given a significant priority for that network and that’s been a big challenge to overcome. Of course, we have the economy as well. What NASCAR relies on is activation. That’s coming back over the last 12-15 months, but we want to see more robust activation with all of our sponsor groups across the board. That’s getting better, so the future is bright.

On Days of Thunder or Talladega Nights: I’d have to say Talladega Nights.

Lazarus on the Olympics: We had 2700 people working for us in Russia. Getting all of those people in the country, feeding them, housing them, transporting them, and getting them home safely. The last people got home roughly ten days ago following the Paralympics. They did a great job and this is a labor of love with endless hours of work. If you go back to 2006 in Turin, 15 different shows beat the Olympics in primetime. In Sochi, no shows beat the Olympics in primetime so you see that the value of the Olympics continues to grow. It really encompasses and captures the nationalism and patriotism, not just for Americans, but for any country here.

On an upcoming bid for the NBA: We love sports. We are already partners with the NBA through our regional sports networks. We have great relationships with those teams and with the league. They are in relationships right now with other partners, but if the opportunity were to arise, certainly we would talk with them as we are all old friends.

His prediction for the NHL Finals: Bruins and Kings.


The NHL Playoffs continue to roll, with the first two days of coverage on NBCSN/CNBC averaging 448,000 viewers, up 43% from the first two days in 2013. Day two action saw an average of 428,000 viewers for a 35% rise over its equitable game a year ago, led by a 3OT Chicago/St. Louis contest that delivered 697,000 viewers, the second best ever for NBCSN. That game also set streaming records for NBC Sports Live Extra, including most live starts for an authentication-required NHL game at 161,000, and first-round records in live minutes (2.7 million).

Boston takes center stage today for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon on Universal Sports. The channel will see actor Michael Chiklis lend his voice to the opening three-minute sequence of the event, paying tribute to the athletes and legacy of the race. While prerace coverage is set to begin at 8:30a, the segment is slated to air at 9:28a.

Speaking of Boston, MLB Network will have Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and Tom Verducci call the MLB Network Showcase Patriot’s Day game today between the Orioles/Red Sox at 11a. Sam Ryan will be stationed at Boston Common to add live reports during the game on all that will be going on outside of Fenway surrounding the Boston Marathon. On Tuesday, the channel remains at Fenway as Rose and Millar do a third episode of Intentional Talk live from the field, followed by Costas, Kaat and Verducci on the call of the Yankees/Red Sox matchup at 7p.

Following the disaster at Mt. Everest, Discovery is calling off its next extreme sport programs that was slated for May 11. Everest Jump Live would have documented climber Joby Ogwyn’s journey to the summit of the famed peak, but Thursday’s deadly avalanche, which killed 13 people, has now ended those plans. "In light of the overwhelming tragedy at Mt Everest and respect for the families of the fallen, Discovery Channel will not be going forward with Everest Jump Live," the network said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Sherpa community."

Our thoughts go out to Turner Sports Reporter Craig Sager, who will miss the NBA playoffs as he undergoes treatment for leukemia. (Props to his son, Craig Sager, Jr. for stepping in to interview the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich over the weekend in a touching segment.) "My favorite time of year  city to city, round by round, 40 games in 40 nights," said of the playoffs. "A dramatic turn has matched me with acute myeloid leukemia. From the sidelines to being sidelined, 40 veins and 40 electrolytes. Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop."

Finally, the New York Post writes that TNT’s NBA broadcaster Steve Kerr may be soon departing the network to become the newest coach of the Knicks. Although Mike Woodson remains the coach of the team, Kerr "absolutely expects" to be offered the job where he will work under Phil Jackson.


Thank You!

 To everyone who entered, judged, attended and presented at the third annual Cynopsis Sports Media Awards Breakfast on Thursday, April 17 at the Yale Club NYC.

Congrats to our 2014 Sports Luminaries:
Brian France [CEO & Chairman of NASCAR]
Christina Miller [NBA Digital’s SVP & GM for Turner Sports]
Mark Lazarus [Chairman of the NBC Sports Group]

Here is list of winners & honorable mentions  |Sponsored by Electric Sheep


Facebook is looking to make a dent from the World Cup. Ad Age reports that the company is wooing advertisers with a "more precise way of targeting ads to the massive segment of users" who will tune in to the World Cup this summer. This will mark the first time Facebook has built an audience segment specifically for a TV event, with the concept potentially set to be extended to the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Oscars.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that, after an eight-year absence, the Peach Bowl is back. Chick-fil-A Bowl officials are reportedly set to announced today that they will put the "Peach" back in the game, reverting it to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The branding change is a result of last April’s decision by College Football Playoff organizers to make the postseason game one of six rotating sites of national semifinal games.


Nike is cutting out from wearable-hardware, and has let go most of the team responsible for the development of its FuelBand fitness tracker, according to CNET. "As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities," Nike spokesman Brian Strong said to the site. "As our Digital Sport priorities evolve, we expect to make changes within the team, and there will be a small number of layoffs. We do not comment on individual employment matters."


Boston Marathon on Universal Sports with prerace coverage at 8:30a.


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ON THIS DAY in 2008: Danica Patrick wins IndyCar’s Japan 300 to become the first female driver in history to win a race in the series.

In The Know: While the Spurs easily have the longest streak of consecutive NBA Playoff appearances at 17, what team is second with 7? (Hint: It isn’t the Heat.) (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: What NFL player starred on the TV show Webster? Answer: Alex Karras. Kudos: Linda Lieberman-IMG/Big Fish Entertainment/NY; Keith Marder-Halstead Property/NY; Mitch Burg-Syndicated Network Television Association/NY; Lon Samuelson-Hospital for Special Surgery/NY; Ken Nice-Yoh/Silver Spring; Larry Kahn-Golf Channel/Orlando; Cris Aguilar-WCYB/Bristol; Larry Most-WAXY/Miami; Steve McNair-KUBE TV/Houston; John Kukla-KDFW/Dallas; Dory Petsrillo-HRP Rep/Dallas; Lucie Prann-The Richards Group/Dallas; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Hauptman/Denver; Daniel Hanson/Vail; Matt Sautter-OpenTV/Golden; Jack Simmons-Fox Sports/LA; Thomas Tyrer-Circle Change Media/LA; Joe Pedri-KLAS-TV/Las Vegas; Alex Petrilli, Jr.-TiVo/San Jose.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
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