05/15/17: Watching the Watchmen; FOX Sports’ new morning exercise; ESPN broadens fantasy play

CynopsisSports
Good morning. It’s Monday May 15, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Amid the ever-increasing battle for audience eyeballs, Mark Phillip – founder and CEO of Are You Watching This?! – is doubling down on the gritty play of sports, courtesy of his service, serving up the motto “We watch sports. Every game. Every channel. And alert you when to tune in” in a move to sort through thousands of sporting events carried across the television spectrum, even as viewers cut the cord. Partnering with the likes of Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Comcast, Golf Digest and Sportsradar, the company is able to pinpoint the overtime game, no-hitter, upset, etc. so subscribers can plan ahead and/or be alerted immediately when they need to tune in and catch an “epic” moment. Cynopsis Sports asked Phillip about the company and how businesses are leveraging its data.
 
Phillip on launching the company: I always joke that it was born of selfishness! RUWT?! started from a very personal wish–there are few things I hate more than missing a great sporting event because I didn’t know it was on, and I was young and naive enough to leave a wonderful job in Advertising to jump head first into building it. I had always been a fan of sites like slickdeals.net, woot.com, and digg.com, and thought if I could have an army of people searching for deals on anything from computer parts to airfare, why not an army of people searching for great games?  I left my 9-5 (and wonderful health care) behind in September 2006, realized I could automate the searching, and our first alert went out just a few months later: Boise State vs. Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
 
On how it works: We monitor real-time, play-by-play feeds for games around the globe, searching for instant classics in the making.  Every time there’s a pitch in baseball, every time there’s a shot in Basketball, our patented algorithms re-examine the game and are able to determine how exciting it is in just a fraction of a second.  My favorite way to describe it?  “Our systems can pick out all of the events that make you scream at your TV”.  Some game excitement characteristics like a “Close Finish” or a “Comeback” are common across all sports, but ones like a “No-Hitter” or “Penalty Kicks” are specific to certain sports or leagues. It’s important to know which games are exciting, but it’s meaningless if you can’t help fans watch the game live–Sports has a shelf life.  So we pick apart TV listings each day and match games to airings information, working around typos, the dreaded “Teams TBD”, and even non-English content so when we find the game worth watching, we know how to get your customers right to it.

On its evolution:
We’re continually adding new leagues and sports whenever we get access to quality, real-time data.  And new products are also being added to the suite like our Automatically Generated Headlines and DVR Extender functionality. But the evolution I get the most fun out of watching is the system’s rivalry ratings.  Rivalries (along with our strength ratings) are a big a part of predicting game excitement before they even start.  Sure, the Yankees and the Red Sox is a well-known rivalry, but is it as strong now as it was 10 years ago?  Our automated system definitely doesn’t think so, and I find it fascinating to watch it evolve and change its opinion as it continues to watch games.  (For those curious, right now Sox/Orioles and Yankees/Orioles have higher rivalry ratings than Yankees/Sox.)
 
On other applications: Real-Time, Sports-Aware Social is terribly underutilized. We’ve run tests this year for an overseas sports league after they noticed that end of quarter messages on Twitter were tentpole content that fans gravitated to. Instead of having their social team free to roam around the stadium interacting with fans, they were latched to a computer at the end of every quarter so they could select a game image, incorporate logos, verify stats, craft some prose, and assemble it all into one tweet.  Using our software, we’re able to do all of that in a fraction of a second after receiving data from the official provider, and make sure all of the fans are interacting with the league’s content. Whether it’s a generic tweet or the end of a quarter, a “FedEx Good Delivery” tweet for an NBA player with 20 assists, or a “Grab Some Buds” tweet for a game going into Extra Innings, our intelligent curation creates new possibilities for brands and sports properties to authentically co-brand thrilling moments for die-hard and casual fans alike.
 
 
ON THE AIR

As FOX prepares for its upfront presentation today, FS1 is gearing up for a new morning show. Ad Age writes that the network will debut First Things First with Cris Carter and Nick Wright ahead of the upcoming NFL season, with the series running 6-9:30a on weekdays and leading into Undisputed starting Sept. 5.
 
Meanwhile, ESPN revealed plans to broaden its fantasy presence, with programming that will include the return of the 28-hour ESPN Fantasy Football Marathon as well as the launch of a weekday fantasy sports show hosted by Matthew Berry, plus new content available on the ESPN App, ESPN Fantasy App and WatchESPN. The ESPN Fantasy Football Marathon will return on Aug. 14 at 7p and include Fantasy Football specials in primetime, segments on multiple editions of SportsCenter, and Fantasy Football-themed editions of popular ESPN shows, including First Take, Mike & Mike, OTL, SportsNation and NFL Live. The company will debut its new weekday show The Fantasy Show, hosted by Berry, on Aug. 1, on WatchESPN and the ESPN App, before premiering on ESPN2 at 5p, where it will run on weekdays through the NFL season.
 
Meanwhile, ESPN also announced a deal with Street League Skateboarding, where recap shows will air on ESPN2 and ABC starting this month. Street League Skateboarding recap shows will air as part of the World of X Games programming, beginning with the SLS Nike SB Pro Open, running May 23 on ESPN2 and June 3on ABC.
 
Finally, ESPN signed NBA Countdown analyst Chauncey Billups to a new, multi-year deal. Billups will continue as a core member of ESPN’s and ABC’s NBA Countdown pregame and halftime team and joined ESPN at the start of the 2014-15 NBA season.
 
The deadline for the 2017 Cynopsis Rising Star Awards is a month away. This is a terrific chance to encourage and award the young members of your team who have demonstrated great initiative and who show enormous potential over the past year.
 
NBA All-Star point guard Stephen Curry joins David Feherty on Golf Channel’s Feherty tonight at 9p. The Warrior will discuss “his love for golf, and how he remains grounded despite having evolved into one of the most prominent athletes in the world.”
 
Speaking of the NBA, TNT serves up Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals tonight between the Wizards/Celtics at 8p. Ian Eagle handles play-by-play, with Greg Anthony as analyst and reporter David Aldridge The winner will move on to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals to face the Cavaliers with Game slated for Wednesday at 8:30p. , Play-by-play announcer Marv Albert will be joined by analysts Chris Webber and Reggie Miller with reporters Aldridge and Kristen Ledlow throughout the series.
 
WWE and Saran Media inked a new multi-year agreement to carry WWE flagship programs Raw and SmackDown in Turkey on S-Sport. “We are proud to work with Saran Media to televise WWE’s premier programs Raw and SmackDown to our passionate fans in Turkey,” said Ed Wells, WWE Executive Vice President, International. “This new multi-year agreement shows the increasing global growth of WWE, while also giving us the opportunity to connect with local fans by delivering WWE content via a first-class platform.”
 
Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur is joining FOX Sports South and FOX Sports Southeast as an analyst for select games during the 2017 MLB regular season. Francoeur debuts on Braves LIVE! on June 5, at 7p.
 
 
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Are you registered for next week?
 
Join us for our May 23 webinar, How to Program & Market a Winning Social Good Strategy, and get exclusive advice on determining which issues will be meaningful to your target audience. This timely webinar features Young & Rubicam’s Shelly Diamond, Chief Client Officer and Belle Frank, Chief Strategy Officer, and from AT&T, we’ll have Brynne Dunn Jones, Senior Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility. 
 
 
 
SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Univision is delivering its annual upfront presentation to advertisers on May 16, centering this year’s theme on the concept of “Proof of Passion” anchored by five passion points driving its audience engagement – Soccer, News, Family, Music, and Drama. Its soccer play will showcase the company delivering three times more soccer viewing opportunities than any other broadcaster and continuing that trend to deliver more soccer coverage thus year than ever before, including the UEFA Champions League, as well as the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Nations League.
 
The NHL’s final national TV spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs made its TV debut during Game 1 of the Western Conference Final broadcast between the Predators/Ducks on NBCSN. The promo saw 23 members of the 100 Greatest NHL Players are featured in the spot, including: Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Mike Modano, Bobby Orr, Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Jonathan Toews, Teemu Selanne, Dave Keon, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull, Mark Messier, Sergei Fedorov, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Steve Yzerman, Mike Bossy, Bobby Clarke, Dennis Potvin, Billy Smith, Nicklas Lidstrom and Bryan Trottier.
 
 
DIGITAL & STREAMING

UFC is launching a new, live, and exclusive UFC Fight Pass show titled: Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. The program debuts on July 11 as a weekly series will feature five live fights in each episode, showcasing up-and-coming talent, as well as athletes striving to revive their professional mixed martial arts careers.
 
Seth Davis was a casualty of one of the recent layoffs at Sports Illustrated. Davis joined SI in 1995 and was among five staffers let go by the company, per The Sporting News.
 
 
ESPORTS

Multiple reports that the French government approved legislation to regulate the contracts of esports pros in the country. The law limits player contracts to five years with a one-year minimum, with an exception open for substitutions and suspensions. Meanwhile, players under 12 will be prevented from competing in monetized tournaments.
 
Just ahead of t he Madden Championship, the last of the four competitions in the Madden NFL 17 Championship Series, over the weekend, Electronic Arts announced that New England Patriots quarterback and five-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady will grace the cover of EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18 when it launches worldwide on Aug. 25. This year’s game will be powered by Frostbite, one of the industry’s world-class game engines. “The Madden NFL 18 cover is a great honor for me,” said Brady. “Especially since I have been playing the game since growing up next to EA headquarters in the Bay Area. I’m not one to believe in curses, so I’m ready to take the challenge head on like always! It doesn’t stand a chance!!!”

Gaming headset and audio accessory company Turtle Beach Corporation is diving deep in the Australian market, announcing a deal with pro team SYF Gaming, whose players will don Turtle Beach’s Elite Pro line of gaming audio gear. In addition, the company announced a new Australian distribution partner in Five Star Games.
 
Nintendo announced that the company will hit E3 this year with not one, but two esports events. Competition will center around two titles: Splatoon 2 and ARMS. The Splatoon 2 tournament – aka the World Inkling Invitational – will see four teams from Europe, USA, Japan and Australia/New Zealand compete on June 13th. ARMS will be hosted on June 14th and feature preinvited players competing.
 
 
THE MAIN EVENT

Wizards/Celtics on TNT at 8p.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Future Now Media & Entertainment Conference for Students
June 1-2, 2017 / The Sheen Center, NYC
 
If you’re thinking about your future in the Media/Entertainment industry, this is an invaluable opportunity you’ll want to be apart of (or share with a friend). Learn more here.

Admission is free, but students must apply:
http://www.futurenowconference.com
(Deadline extended = May 22)
 
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ON THIS DAY in 1941: Joe DiMaggio begins his 56-game hitting streak.
 
In The Know : Which NHL team was the last to win back-to-back Stanley Cups? (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: How many points was a field goal originally worth in American football (talking pre-1904 here)? Answer: 5. Kudos: Ken White-KWTV/Charlotte; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Gretchen Brady-KTVT/KTXA/Dallas; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions Inc./Santa Monica; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Steve Bradbury-Deep Sports/Marina Del Rey
 
 

Later — Chris

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