05/21/18: AXS TV Fights CEO Andrew Simon breaks down 400 events on the network

CynopsisSports
Good morning. It’s Monday May 21, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

 
Friday will see history made for AXS TV, which will celebrate the 400th event for AXS TV Fights, with Legacy Fighting Alliance 40 broadcast live from The Bomb Factory in Dallas. Through 14 years, the division has showcased over 2,500 fights in 16 countries, with named that have included Fedor Emelianenko, Daniel Cormier, Cris Cyborg, Mirko Cro Cop, Nick Diaz, Josh Barnett, Vitor Belfort, Roy Nelson, Pat Miletich, Alistair Overeem and Benson Henderson across promotions such as DREAM, Elite XC, Strikeforce, K-1 and more. Headlining Friday’s action starting at 9p will be a LFA featherweight title unification bout pitting Kevin Aguilar against interim champion Thanh Le. AXS TV Fights commentators Pat Miletich and Ron Kruck will call the action with cage side reporter Phoenix Carnevale.
 
Cynopsis caught up with AXS TV Fights CEO Andrew Simon to talk about the occasion and the network’s role in the growth of MMA.
 
Simon on the history of fights on the network: Historically, we had our first fight in 2004 so we’ve been doing this for a long time in the mixed martial arts space. We have been one of the leaders in this space and along the way, we’ve worked with nearly 50 MMA promotions, and helped form a building block for the UFC. Their fighters are getting their experience on our network, and then they are appearing, performing, winning and becoming champions on UFC. Along the way to 400 fights, we’ve really become a place where fighters have become superstars.
 
On the evolution of production: Our biggest contribution to the sport was bringing it into the hi-def world. We were the first to do that, but today I would say the biggest production innovation has been the ability to bring international productions live to the network. The ability of our network to work with so many promotions around the world regardless of the technological issues, such as different formats, has been something that I am proud of as well.
 
On how audiences have changed: We are seeing that audiences have a much better understanding of the sports and its athletes. They know their backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, etc. These fans are a lot more knowledgeable and articulated and will definitely let us know if they think we are doing it right.
 
On the future: We are really looking to cement our place in the sport to become where you go to find those next great champions. Nobody sends more people to the UFC than AXS TV and the promotions that are on our network. It isn’t even close. We are the place where people go to get noticed and with the amount of eyes that are on our network, no one will go unnoticed. If you perform, you will go to that next level. That is something we intend to cement as we move forward.
 
On network founder Mark Cuban’s support: It was Mark’s vision to bring mixed martial arts to the network. He saw the sport before it hit the mainstream and knew that was something he wanted to get involved in and he has remained supportive through 400 shows on our network.
 
 
ON THE AIR
 
With Justify laying claim to the second jewel of the Triple Crown, NBC saw Saturday’s telecast of the Preakness Stakes notch a 5.5/12 in Nielsen overnight numbers, up 12% over last year’s equivalent. Top markets included Louisville with a 15.2/30, followed by Baltimore, Tampa, DC and Ft. Myers. Afterward, the Lightning’s win over the Caps on NBC, drew a 2.13 overnight Nielsen score, marking the best in three years for a conference final game on the network.
 
Meanwhile, ESPN’s coverage of the Cavaliers win over the Celtics on Saturday night became the network’s second-highest rated NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 ever, according to Nielsen. The telecast drew a 5.1 metered market rating, up 11% from ESPN’s Western Conference Finals Game 3 last year, and up 2% from the same Eastern Conference Finals matchup in 2017. Through three games, ESPN’s Eastern Conference Finals coverage is up 19% from its Western Conference Finals coverage in 2017. Additionally, Saturday night’s edition of NBA Countdown delivered a 1.3 metered market rating, up 8% from last year’s one-hour Game 3 preview show.
 
The Cleveland Browns are locked in to make their first appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks when season 13 of the series kicks off during training camp later this year. The five-episode run debuts Aug. 7 on the network at 10p. “HARD KNOCKS returns with 91 football players determined to fulfill their NFL dreams, yet only 53 will succeed,” says Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “The standard set by this landmark program is for fans to witness the truth as it unfolds: no staging, no second takes, no varnish. We are grateful to the Browns organization for allowing us to spend the summer with the team in what promises to be an intriguing training camp experience.”

Stadium hosted its second Upfront last week in the atrium of Chicago’s United Center, unveiling a slate of programming initiatives that included recapping the Stadium Stories franchise, which will now see an additional six new episodes of Baseball Stories, extending the inaugural series into August; plans to increase the amount of live programming that airs across its platforms, beginning this Fall; and the debut of a new daily half-hour show, EMERGE, which will give sports fans and athletes a look behind the scenes of some of the elite high school athletes across America.
 

AT&T Audience Network will serve up its new documentary Alone in the Game on June 28 at 8p. The doc is coming off an official selection at AFI Docs Film Festival in DC and follows a group of athletes and sports figures to explore the ongoing struggles LGBTQ athletes are facing at the professional, collegiate and Olympic levels. The program includes perspectives come from: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver; Former ESPN President John Skipper; Former NBA center Jason Collins; Former NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan; MLS Cup champion Robbie Rogers and more.

 
The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football confirmed the 15 venues spanning 13 US cities that will play host to the 2019 edition of the expanded Concacaf Gold Cup. In addition to the announced U.S. venues, 2019 Gold Cup matches will also be played in Central America and the Caribbean for the first time in the tournament’s 15 editions. Venues and host cities include: Allianz Field – Saint Paul, MN; Banc of California Stadium – Los Angeles; Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte; BBVA Compass Stadium – Houston; Children’s Mercy Park – Kansas City; FirstEnergy Stadium – Cleveland; Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia; Nissan Stadium – Nashville; NRG Stadium – Houston; Red Bull Arena – Harrison; Rose Bowl – Pasadena; Soldier Field – Chicago; Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Denver; Toyota Stadium – Frisco; and University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale.
 
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Saluting Media’s Commitment to Community
Tuesday, May 22nd | 8:30AM – 10:30AM | The Yale Club, NYC
 
Cynopsis, the industry’s most trusted name in media news, will be hosting the year’s most inspirational gathering of media partnerships, campaign creators and community minded innovators for a breakfast awards celebration like no other. Is your team in?!
 
 

SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Airbnb is teaming up with the World Surf League to bring 75+ unique and local surf Experiences to travelers across the globe, including an exclusive, one-time Experience for 10 guests to join actor and surfer Scott Eastwood at the WSL Surf Ranch. All proceeds from the Experience will go to PURE: Ocean Health, the World Surf League’s non-profit dedicated to working with and supporting ocean advocacy organizations.
 
 
DIGITAL & STREAMING

The WNBA is teaming with FanDuel for a new multi-year partnership that will transform the way sports fans experience WNBA games. WNBA contests are now live on the platform and FanDuel will introduce single-game contests so every WNBA game will now have a daily fantasy component. In addition, FanDuel will continue to serve as the “official one-day fantasy partner” of the WNBA and FanDuel will have the right to stream select future WNBA games in addition to incorporating WNBA game highlights throughout its platforms
 
Ahead of Bellator 200 in London, the MMA org launched original web series Unbreakable with Jay Glazer. The premier episode features Bellator 200 Main Event participant Roy “Big Country” Nelson as he prepares to meet Mirko Cro Cop.
 
 
ESPORTS

SteelSeries locked in a partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA 2K League team, Cavs Legion GC. SteelSeries will serve as the official peripheral partner of the team, supplying a full suite of peripherals including Arctis Pro headsets, Apex M750 keyboards, Sensei 310 gaming mice, Stratus XL controllers and QcK gaming mousepads. In addition to supplying all the peripherals for the Cavs Legion GC gaming house, SteelSeries will also outfit each player on the team with a full suite of SteelSeries products.
 
ESL reteamed up with Oculus to for the biggest VR competition series worldwide, dangling more than $220,000 in prize money to players. The VR League relaunched over the weekend with a new, more flexible tournament system, featuring up to seven games over a five-month period. “Oculus is committed to fostering long-term growth of the VR esports ecosystem, and season two — with its new format and additional games—is an amazing next step on this exciting journey,” says Oculus Head of Esports Chris McKelvy.
 
Speaking of ESL, the company is partnering to launch the inaugural esports season of Guns of Boom, starting June 9 with $200,000 on the line. All Guns of Boom players in North America and Europe are invited to compete through the first round Go4 Open Cups hosted by ESL. The Guns of Boom European Invitational will invite Europe’s four best teams to compete in the esports capital of Katowice, Poland on July 29th. Then later this year, eight of the world’s best teams will be invited to compete in Los Angeles for the title of Guns of Boom 1st Season Champion.
 
Ubisoft and Lenovo announced that Lenovo Legion will serve as the official PC and monitor sponsor of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege Pro League and Majors in an exclusive global partnership. The partnership will extend for the duration of the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League season, from spring 2018 through spring 2019 across North America, EMEA, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
 
 
ROSTER MOVES

The Race Team Alliance, an association of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams, announced the hiring of Jonathan Marshall as its Executive Director. Marshall is formerly the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of the World Surf League.
 
 
THE MAIN EVENT

Lightning/Capitals on NBCSN at 8p.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Cynopsis’ Latest Webinar:
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 | 1:30PM
New and increasingly sophisticated solutions are emerging, but the lack of consistent measurement is a challenge. Equip your team with the tools needed to target viewers, streamline measurement and extend the reach of television campaigns. Hear from: Jonathan Bohm (VP Strategic Insights & Research at NBCU ), George Tsivin (SVP of Product & Leadership at Nielsen ) and Jeff Boehme (SVP of Television Research at comScore ).
 

ON THIS DAY in 1930: Babe Ruth hits three consecutive homers.
 
In the Know: What type of animal is Chance, the mascot for the Vegas Golden Knights, who are going on to the Stanley Cup Final? (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: At the age of 40, this pitcher threw a perfect game in 2004 to become the oldest MLB player to accomplish the feat… Answer: Randy Johnson. Kudos: Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Bob Dudelson-Leverage Agency/NY; Brianne Maciejowski-Miles/Sarasota; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; John Langermann-WINK-TV/Ft. Myers; Matt Sautter-WideOrbit/Harrisburg; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

Later – Chris
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