05/12/14: NBC Sports, Universal Sports ink deal with USSA for 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships; NFL Draft posts record numbers for ESPN, NFL Media, Telemundo pins down Pachuca


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Good morning. It’s Monday, May 12, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will continue its long-standing partnership with NBC, announcing that the International Ski Federation’s 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek will be carried by NBC Sports Group and Universal Sports Network. The new deal will see NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports combine for a most-ever 25+ hours of coverage, including live event programming for the first time in history. NBC Sports Live Extra, Universal Sports Network and the USSA Network on YouTube will also combine to provide live streaming coverage. The event is slated to return stateside from Feb. 2-15, 2015, with a record six hours slated for NBC and 8.5 hours on NBCSN as well as 13 for Universal Sports.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Michael Jaquet, USSA Chief Marketing Officer, about the deal and post-Olympic glow.

Jaquet on extending with NBC: The process from the start has been to upgrade what we were doing from an event and production standpoint because we have a big major media rights negotiation coming up. So we did some live windows, we collapsed our schedule and increased production quality. The next piece of the process was to go out and acquire more rights. That’s what we did with the World Championship Rights for ’15 and ’17, which we announced last December. Once we acquired those rights, I was able to go to NBC and say ‘Ok, here’s our deal and here’s why you guys need to do a much better deal than what we’ve had.’ So we really kicked off negotiations with NBC in January, and we have talked to everybody else about how much appetite there was for our property. We then really got laser-focused with NBC during the Games in Sochi, completed negotiations and have a handshake agreement. We are now working on some of the final stuff on contracts, but this World Championships announcement and its content and everything we are doing with that with NBC Sports and Universal Sports is basically the kickoff to the new deal.

On highlights of the deal: The World Championships are as important as the Olympics for some ski racing fans. Obviously, in America we are an Olympic-focused country, but they are definitely the next event you want to win as a skier, next to the Olympics. This is where stars are made. This is the first time they’ve been back to America since 1999. It is such as different situation now since the last time they were in America. We’ve got American stars competing on American soil. We have a great event host. So if we look at that whole landscape, we had to go big with the coverage. It has to be the biggest and best by far. So what sticks out going back to 2013, it was two hours on NBC, but now there will be six. There were zero hours on NBC Sports Network and zero hours on a fully-distributed cable network, now we’ve got nine hours. Universal Sports will now be featuring 15-20 hours by the time it is all said and done. So we have better distribution, hours as well as increases in being able to combine our star power and the power of the event with consistent start times. We think that is going to really build an audience.

On sponsors: We are almost sold out. The way the new deal works with NBC is that in that past, we owned all the inventory. Now we are a media rights and barter deal so we own half the inventory and NBC owns half. Our half is 90% sold out. NBC’s half will go fast. The deal is structured the way it is because it provides NBC with opportunity to work with my sponsors who want to buy incrementally.

On star power: As we came out of the Games, we nailed the circuit big time. A lot of that was because we won 17 of the 28 medals that Team USA won, we had all the shows with multiple athletes and that was a big success. Mikaela was one of the things that we kept telling people about but they got so hopped up on Lindsey, and know that we don’t discourage people from talking about Lindsey and we obviously didn’t know that she wasn’t going to make it back. Then, when Lindsey went down, people were scrambling. We didn’t want to put that pressure on Mikaela, we didn’t want her to have to deal with being the face of the Games, especially because her event wasn’t until the second to last day. We did a good job managing that and she came though, as did Ted, Julia and the rest of the team. Everything went pretty much according to plan. Some of the places we didn’t expect to medal, we did and some of the places we did expect to medal, we didn’t. But that’s how it always works out.


Plenty of drama at the NFL Draft helped propel both ESPN and NFL Network to new records. ESPN’s presentation of the 2014 NFL Draft, spanning May 8-10, ranked as the network’s highest-rated NFL Draft telecast since 1993, according to Nielsen fast nationals. With over 15 hours of coverage on ESPN and ESPN2, the event drew a 2.7 US rating, for a 31% gain over last year. Meanwhile, average viewership hit 4,121,000 viewers for a 36% rise over 2013. Thursday’s first round averaged 9,943,000 viewers for the network with a 6.1 US rating based on fast nationals, making it the most-viewed NFL Draft telecast in ESPN’s 35 years of presenting the event.

NFL Media saw its own all-time highs for the first round of the draft, with NFL Network’s coverage averaging a 1.46 household score with 2.4 million viewers – both records for the network. Compared to 2013, NFL Network experienced a 54% spike in average rating and a 60%increase in average viewers.

Continuing the ratings theme, the NBA Playoffs on ESPN2 delivered record numbers for the channel with the top two highest-rated postseason games ever. The Spurs/Trail Blazers led the way with a 2.7 overnight rating, according to Nielsen, making it the highest-rated NBA postseason game ever on ESPN2. The Heat’s win over the Nets drew a 2.6 overnight score, making it the second highest-rated NBA postseason game ever on ESPN2.

Major League Soccer is expected to announce its new television package today, according to multiple reports. The current packages expire at the end of the 2014 MLS season, with the league set to announced English-language rights shifting to FOX Sports as well as ESPN, while the primary Spanish-language rights-holder would be Univision.

Telemundo acquired exclusive media rights in the US for all home games of the Mexican first division soccer team Pachuca, beginning with the league’s Apertura tournament in June. The network will carry exclusive Spanish-language rights across all its platforms  broadcast, online and cable  to all of the pre-season, regular season and, if they qualify, the playoff home games of the team.

Thursday Night Football will reportedly have some familiar faces for the pregame show. SI reports that CBS and NFL Network are indeed blending talent, with James Brown, Bill Cowher and Deion Sanders serving as the main group who will appear on the two channels at 7:30p leading into the games.

On Friday, the NBA appointed for Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons as the Clippers’ interim CEO. With its owner accused of discrimination and banned from the NBA for life follows the Donald Sterling controversy and the resignation of team president Andy Roeser.


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This year’s Madden NFL 15 Cover Vote is officially underway, with stars such as Richard Sherman and Cam Newton part of the 16 athletes vying to adorn the cover. Electronic Arts detailed the brackets during the draft, with fans able to vote at ESPN.com/maddenvote. Every Thursday, the results of each round of voting will be announced during NFL Live at 4p. The two finalists will appear and the overall winner will be announced live from LA LIVE Plaza in a special segment during the 6p hour of SportsCenter on Friday, June 6.

The Hawaii Bowl has lost its title sponsor and is on the prowl for another, according to Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Sheraton had been title sponsor for 11 years and will still remain "official hotel sponsor." Kickoff is set for Dec. 24 at 3p on ESPN.


Twitter reports that the first round of the NFL Draft saw more than 6.4 million Tweets around the world containing items related to the event during the live telecast on Thursday. Moments that caused the biggest stirs included: Johnny Manziel picked at No. 22 with 81,817 TPM; Zack Martin drafted No. 16 by the Cowboys with 70,952 TPM; and Justin Gilbert selected No.8 by the Browns with 62,861 TPM.


The first day of NFL Draft delivered the NFL’s digital media platforms with record numbers, boasting more than 14 million visits, for a 54% markup over 2013. NFL Mobile from Verizon had a year-over-year increase in visits of 168 percent. Properties recorded nine million visits on Thursday, a 44% rise year to year.

Meanwhile, ESPN digital platforms  including WatchESPN, ESPN.com, mobile Web and apps  logged an average minute audience of 233,000 on Thursday, up 27% over the previous year. WatchESPN logged 457,000 unique viewers and 27 million total minutes, up 122% and 153%, respectively, compared to Round 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft. On mobile platforms, the ESPN mobile Web NFL section generated 3.3 million unique visitors (up 49%) and an average minute audience of 32,000 (up 68%).


Spurs/Trail Blazers at 10:30p on TNT.



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