04/27/16: Bayless foxtrots out of ESPN; HBO’s big date with Bill Simmons; NASCAR taps turtle power


Good morning. It’s Wednesday April 27, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Skip Bayless will become the latest high-profile personality to exit ESPN’s campus. Following the news earlier this week that Mike Tirico will depart for NBC Sports, ESPN confirmed yesterday that Bayless, who has served as a controversial staple of First Take for the company, will depart this summer with his final edition of the show coming the day after the NBA Finals wrap up in June. Multiple executives expect Bayless to land at FOX Sports, which has been shifting away from news and highlights toward a personality and context-driven programming strategy on FS1.

“We want to thank Skip for his many contributions to ESPN. His hard work and talent have benefited ESPN for 12 years,” the company said in a statement to media.


HBO has a date with Bill Simmons, announcing that his new series, Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, will debut on June 22 at 10p on the channel. The weekly talk show will see a 20-show season, covering “pop culture and touching on everything from sports and entertainment to arts and technology” with conversations with guests, field segments and commentary from Simmons.

Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Savannah Guthrie are being tapped to host NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games on Aug. 5, from Rio de Janeiro. Rio 2016 will be Lauer’s 11th Olympics for Today and marks his fifth in a role on the primetime Opening Ceremony broadcast. Vieira works her third Opening Ceremony for NBC. Guthrie, in her third Olympics for Today, makes her NBC Olympics debut in Rio. “The Olympic Opening Ceremony is always a singular can’t-miss event, and this year, because it’s in Rio, you know it’s going to be a party like no other,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics, and former Executive Producer of Today. “With Matt, Meredith, and Savannah, we’ve got the perfect team on hand to capture what will be a once in a lifetime atmosphere for our viewers.”

The NCAA National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship now has a TV home, as Turner Sports and the NCAA reached a multi-year agreement for the event. The inaugural championship will run May 6-8 with truTV offering live coverage on May 6-7 from 3-6p while the championship round runs on TBS on May 8 at 2p. Live streaming coverage of every court in each match of the tournament will be available on NCAA.com. In addition, the full television broadcast will be available on Turner’s TV Everywhere platforms including the Watch TBS and Watch truTV apps. Coverage will feature play-by-play announcer Anne Marie Anderson, analyst Holly McPeak and reporters Telli Tennant, Michelle McMahon and Nicole Branagh.

The NHL Awards announced this year’s host, lining up Will Arnett for the June 22 event from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In addition, the league announced that Encore at Wynn Las Vegas will serve as NHL Headquarters during the 2016 NHL Awards. “We look forward to being back in Las Vegas, which has been an ideal destination for our NHL Awards celebration,” said Steve Mayer, NHL Executive Vice President and Executive Producer of Programming and Creative Development. “The end of June marks a special time on the NHL calendar for our players and their families, fans, partners as well as our Clubs. By adding the talents of Will Arnett and a new, exciting setting at the The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel, the League hopes to make this year’s show the best one ever.”

Speaking of the NHL, NBCSN saw Monday night’s Game 7 between the Blackhawks/Blues average 1.353 million viewers to rank as the most-watched first-round game in network history. On the digital front, the game finished with 11.6 million minutes streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra to rank fourth all-time among NHL games. Through 13 days, the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs on cable have averaged 500,000 viewers (38 games), up 5% vs. 2015 through the same period (474,000).

Locally, the Blackhawks/Blues pushed FOX Sports Midwest to its most-watched telecast in history, drawing a 19.6 rating in the St. Louis DMA and averaging 239,000 households, according to Nielsen. Meanwhile, Chicago’s Comcast SportsNet reeled in highest-rated Blackhawks game telecast in network history with a 19.07 Chicago market household rating and around 662,703 Chicago market households for the entire length of the game.

NBA TV saw its coverage of Game 4 between the Heat/Hornets average 662,000 viewers for the network, to mark the channel’s most-viewed playoffs telecast since 2014. Through its first four NBA Playoffs showings, NBA TV is averaging 471,000 total viewers, for a rise of 21% over comparable programming in 2015.

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert are making a play for the MLS, announcing a partnership to bring an MLS expansion club to Detroit. The duo, according to the MLS site, are supported by MLS and Commissioner Don Garber, who recently announced that the league plans to grow to 28 teams and named Detroit as a city of interest. Garber will be in Detroit on Wednesday to meet with the prospective MLS owners.

Audio network TuneIn unveiled its NFL Draft plans, offering more than 71 hours of NFL Network coverage during Draft Week, including the NFL Draft Kickoff pre-show and NFL Draft live via the ‘NFL on TuneIn’ dedicated station. The slate will include NFL show ‘No Huddle,’ with Kordell Stewart, Brian Webber and special guest Lance Zierlein from NFL.com live from Draft Town in Chicago today from 4-7:30p and tomorrow from 4-7p.




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Nickelodeon is once again running with NASCAR, announcing its deal as entitlement sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sept. 18, which will be called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Danica Patrick will drive a special car for the race, which will be broadcast on NBCSN at 2:30p, featuring a special paint scheme for the race, as will other drivers that day. "We are excited to partner with Chicagoland Speedway to continue sponsoring and participating in marquee racing events that resonate with motorsports fans across the country," said Anthony DiCosmo, Senior Vice President, Sports Marketing and Development, Nickelodeon. "Just as we did with last season’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 will continue to expand our relationship with NASCAR, while working with another best-in-class ISC track to give fans a unique and engaging race experience that the whole family can enjoy."

The Citrus Bowl will now be known as Camping World Stadium, courtesy of a new long-term deal with the retailer. In addition, Camping World will be a multi-year sponsor of the series of early season neutral-site football games debuting on Labor Day which will be dubbed the “Camping World Kickoff.” “We’re proud to partner with Florida Citrus Sports and the Central Florida community to help build memories for the next generation of residents and visitors,” said Marcus Lemonis, Chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises and host of CNBC’s The Profit. “Florida is a key market for us as we have 14 Camping World SuperCenters in this state, more than any other. Having a stadium naming rights deal in place was extremely important for us as we look toward the future.  With 60 million-plus visitors to the Orlando area each year, we look forward to strengthening our brand and supporting the growing RV and camping community that has allowed us to be successful in this market.”
On to the NFL Draft. Hyundai unveiled its plans for the 2016 event in Chicago, with an experience that includes allowing families to create and share their own draft videos of their kids at DraftDay2031.com, and through an on-site activation in Chicago. The brand is teaming up with NFL Network Draft Analyst Mike Mayock for the promotion featuring Mayock analyzing the kids who could be selected 15 years from now with cameos from NFL players Lawrence Timmons from the Steelers and Sam Young of the Dolphins. Hyundai also serves as presenting sponsor of Selection Square, part of NFL’s Draft Town, and will be offering an indoor/outdoor structure with Hyundai vehicles on display.

Meanwhile, Visa in partnership with STRIVR followed and taped four of the NFL’s top draft prospects to create “immersive virtual reality 360 videos, so fans can be a ‘fly on the wall’ and see how each prospect individually prepared for the draft. Prospects include Clemson’s Shaq Lawson, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch. :

Finally, New Era Cap, the official hat of the NFL, signed Butkus award winner and former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith and Clemson’s Shaq Lawson as brand ambassadors for the 2016 season. The duo will potentially be utilized in brand campaigns and videos throughout the season.

NASCAR is partnering with Lixar in a multi-year deal that makes the technology company a preferred technology partner that will see the  brand work with NASCAR to enhance the guest experience at national series events, specifically related to garage access via NASCAR’s Garage Access Program. The deal will see NASCAR integrate state-of-the-art technology that will make the credential process easier and faster.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series extended its partnership with GEICO through 2018. The deal makes GEICO the exclusive auto insurance partner for more than 21 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events throughout the country. “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is an all-encompassing sports marketing platform with multiple touch points to reach an engaged demographic,” said Melissa Halicy, senior marketing manager at GEICO. “With a broader footprint at the Health & Fitness Expos, new race day activations on course and at the finish line, we look forward to the GEICO Gecko bringing fun and fitness to running events across the United States.”


Sports data and technology company Genius Sports is extending its run with FIBA’s Foundation, the International Basketball Foundation through 2019. The deal also saw Genius Sports lock in the non-exclusive rights to collect and distribute live data to the betting and media markets from more than 2,000 official games at FIBA events until 2017 with Genius Sports becoming the ‘Official FIBA Data and Statistics League and Federation Partner’ for the next four years


Electronic Arts, the NHL and the NHLPA announced that fans will determine the next face of the EA Sports NHL 17 franchise through a cover vote. Eight hockey stars – one from each of the eight teams competing in the World Cup of Hockey 2016  will be competing for the honor with voting now underway at NHL.com and via Twitter. Cover competitors include Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Jakub Voracek, Aleksander Barkov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Victor Hedman, Anze Kopitar and Connor McDavid.

Good day for Blizzard, which announced that Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft topped the 50 million registered player threshold. Meanwhile, the company will be launching Whispers of the Old Gods, the third expansion for Blizzard Entertainment’s online strategy card game. Whispers of the Old Gods is available now for Windows and MacPCs, iOS and Android tablets, and mobile phones.

Ubisoft and Patrice Desilets have ended a legal dispute over project have 1666 Amsterdam that will see Desilets withdraw legal action against the company and receive rights to the game. “Putting aside our past differences, Patrice and I are above all interested in the creation of videogames and the evolution of this medium of entertainment,” said Yannis Mallat, Chief Executive Officer of Ubisoft Montreal and Toronto. “This agreement is good news for everyone. Ubisoft’s creative teams are currently working on innovative projects that will mark our industry for years to come. This is precisely where we want to focus our energy, on our teams, to continue what we have been building in Quebec for nearly 20 years. As we have always said, Patrice is a talented designer and we wish him all the best in the development of his future endeavours.”


Brad Elders joined Time Inc. to serve as Group Publisher for the Sports Illustrated Group. Elders comes from AOL, where he most recently served as general manager of the company’s content studios.


Game 7: Predators/Ducks on NBCSN at 10p.


The competition for best kids’ programming and marketing initiatives

Entry Deadline: May 18, 2016
Late Submissions: May 25, 2016
Awards Event: September 27, 2016 (NYC)
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ON THIS DAY in 1983: Nolan Ryan surpasses Walter Johnson to become the all-time leader in strikeouts.

In The Know: Who was the last running back to be taken with the very first pick of the NFL Draft? (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 was the last person to be drafted out of UCLA with the very first pick of the NFL Draft? Answer: Troy Aikman. Kudos: Chris Long-FloSports/NY; Andrew Feingold-Fox News/NY; Lewis Blaustein-GreenSportsBlogger/NY; Eric Wright-D S Simon/NY; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports/NY; Tim Buckman-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Michael G. Hawkins-Francis Marion University/Florence; Brian Quinn-Comcast Spotlight/DC; Pamela Wise-The E.W. Scripps Company/Cincinnati; John Kukla-KDFW-KDFI/Dallas; Gretchen Brady-KTVT/Dallas; Glen Ross/San Antonio; Tom Doherty-Starcom Media/Chicago; Miriam Aardahl-OMD/LA; Kevin Fay-Havas Edge/Carlsbad; Willie Price-American Forces Network/Riverside; Doug Kelly-Foster Farms Bowl/South San Francisco.

Later — Chris
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