05/15/14: CBS makes way for TNF; ESPN Deportes pushes events; Bleacher Report marks a milestone


Good morning. It’s Thursday, May 15, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

CBS executives introduced advertisers to the TNF package yesterday, which marked the network’s turn for its upfront presentation. With seven games of Thursday Night Football on Thursday nights and one on Saturday, CEO Leslie Moonves told reporters that the addition of TNF "made this the most interesting scheduling season in a long time," as a number of established series were shifted to Mondays to make room for the games. That said, Senior Executive Vice President, CBS Primetime Kelly Kahl said that football was "going to greatly enhance our programming lineup  but it isn’t going to define us," according to WSJ. At the presentation, NFL talent were among the first faces to take the stage.


Yesterday’s ESPN Deportes upfront presentation saw the company tout more than 1,000 live events slated to run across ESPN Deportes Television, ESPN Deportes Radio and ESPN Deportes+ and ESPN3 in 2015. Events are set to include the 2015 Pan American Games, Euro 2016 Qualifiers as well as leagues such as MLB, the NFL and the NBA. The network will feature 19 MNF games this upcoming season, which includes a Wild Card playoff game for the first time in ESPN Deportes’ history as well as coverage of the College Football Playoff. In addition, the channel announced that Nacion ESPN will expand to weekends starting this fall.

The Clippers/Thunder stunner on Tuesday handed TNT with a 3.9 household rating with 6.3 million viewers tuning in. That marks the highest-rated and most-viewed game to date on cable during the 2014 NBA Playoffs and was up 55% among total viewers and 39% in rating over the comparable game telecast last year.

Tuesday night’s Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins averaged 1.96 million viewers, according to Nielsen, making it the third-most watched second-round game ever on NBCSN. On the local front, New York generated a 5.8 household, the highest ever in the market for a second-round Rangers game on NBCSN. Pittsburgh posted a 19.3. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks victory over the Wild averaged 1.815 million viewers on CNBC, making it the most-watched NHL playoff game ever on the channel. Through the first 13 days of the second round, NBCSN and CNBC are combining to average 1.464 million viewers, up 17% over last year. In addition, both games set streaming records as the Rangers/Penguins scored the best authenticated NHL game ever in uniques (71,459) and visits (79,122), while the Blackhawks/Wild delivered the best authenticated NHL game ever in live starts (204,798) and minutes consumed (3.876 million).

The quest for the elusive Triple Crown continues as Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome hits the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at 4:30p on NBC. NBC Sports Group offers 8 hours of coverage starting Friday at 4p on NBCSN. Bob Costas handles microphone duties with Tom Hammond; analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey as well as NBCSN host/NBC reporter Laffit Pincay, III and race caller Larry Collmus.

HBO Sports and Mandalay Sports Media announced production on a documentary spotlighting the life and career of Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The film is set to debut in early 2015 on HBO. "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a legendary figure and an American sports icon," says Ken Hershman, president, HBO Sports. "While he has lived so much of his life in the media spotlight, his extraordinary story has never been explored in depth, and we are grateful to Kareem and his team for allowing us to bring this story to life."

FOX Sports is plotting the next fortnight with coverage of the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League finals. Gus Johnson and Eric Wynalda call the action starting May 17, with coverage beginning at 11:30a as Arsenal/Hull City face off. The following Saturday sees rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid face in the Champions League final at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light at 2p. Rob Stone hosts pregame, halftime and postgame coverage of the FA Cup Final and the UEFA Champions League Final from the FOX Network Center in LA with analysts Warren Barton and Brian McBride.

OWN is getting into the football business via a documentary series on recent NFL draft pick Michael Sam who broke barriers by becoming the first openly gay player in league history. Cameras will follow Sam as he works for a spot on the St. Louis Rams. "We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever," said Oprah Winfrey. "I am proud of the focus on authentic storytelling in our new documentary series format."

Volleyball continues to find new doors on television. The SEC Network announced plans to offer "unprecedented national television coverage" of Southeastern Conference volleyball and soccer programs. This season’s matchups are slated to increase from a total of 14 events in 2013 to 80 events in 2014 with a combined 65 live women’s volleyball and women’s soccer games in its debut year, while ESPNU offers 10 women’s volleyball games and 5 women’s soccer games. SEC soccer runs every Thursday at 7p beginning Aug. 22 through the regular season, with additional matchups on Sundays, while volleyball will air consistently on Wednesdays and Sundays through the regular season.

A note on the expansion front. Findlay Sports and Entertainment and The Cordish Companies announced plans to build a 24,000-seat stadium designed specifically for a Las Vegas MLS franchise, according to the Las Vegas Sun. "We recently met with Justin Findlay and Blake Cordish at the MLS League office in New York and were very impressed with their vision to pursue building a new soccer stadium and acquiring an MLS expansion club for Las Vegas," said MLS Deputy Commissioner and President Mark Abbott. "We look forward to continuing discussions as they work to further develop their plans with Mayor Goodman and the City of Las Vegas."


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FOX Sports 1 and NASCAR Productions will turn to the masses for 100,000 Cameras: The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which will utilize fan- and driver-generated video to showcase the race from fans’ points of view, regardless of location. The special debuts Thursday, May 22 at 9:30p, following seven hours of live FOX Sports 1 programming from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Fans are encouraged to tell their own story by using their cameras and smart/mobile devices to capture the event using the hashtag #100KCams and #SprintAllStar while uploading to their social media accounts immediately following the race.

TNT announced during the Turner upfront presentation that the channel will debut its brand refresh "TNT Drama. Boom" on May 19, timed with the network’s coverage of the NBA Western Conference Finals. The new tagline is designed to "represent that moment in all great dramas when the story takes an unexpected turn."


Bleacher Report hit another milestone and, for the first time in its history, ranked as the second-leading standalone sports website in the country among multiplatform users with 35.6 million uniques for the month of April, according to comScore. Versus last year, that number represents a 64% year-over-year increase for the site. The company also announced that the 2014 NFL Draft delivered record-setting results across all key metrics for Team Stream with more than 42 million visits over the NFL Draft period, up 123% over last year.

The Mid-American Conference is partnering with SIDEARM Sports to overhaul its website, mobile site and mobile app, according to Crain’s Cleveland. The new digital properties will go live on July 1 and look to offer a "cleaner" site that’s easier to navigate.


Betfair Group named Kip Levin as the new CEO of its U.S. businesses, which are made up of horseracing network TVG and Betfair Casino. Levin will be charged responsible for leading and managing all aspects of the U.S. business operations, including the development and execution of regional strategies while ensuring alignment with other Betfair Group geographic regions and global business functions. He most recently served as Executive Vice President of Ticketmaster’s e-commerce business.


Thunder/Clippers Game 6 on ESPN at 10:30p.



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