05/27/14: Tennis Channel details its new hybrid subscription service; NBC Sports bets big on WSOF; Indianapolis 500 ratings rise


Good morning. It’s Tuesday, May 27, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Tennis Channel is branching out, launching Tennis Channel Plus, a 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination in time for the French Open. The platform can be accessed through the network’s Tennis Channel Everywhere app or through-www.tennischanneleverywhere.com for $59.99 for the season. The platform is designed to offer programming that includes 300 live matches from close to 40 tournaments around the world, including ATP 250 and WTA International events as well as exclusive Davis Cup and Fed Cup coverage as well as classic on-demand events.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Adam Ware, Senior Vice President and head of digital media at Tennis Channel, about the launch and how it impacts the future of the network.

Ware on TVE: The TVE story has been terrific for us and we have buy-in from the affiliates. Next week, 75% of our distribution will be able to authenticate the TVE. So this has been great, we’ve seen data that is slightly ahead of the industry average. We are seeing good usage with a majority on iOS. We are seeing the iPhone being the dominant way to use it with the iPad coming up behind it. We are seeing long session times and we are finding that because of the nature of the sport, with so much of it is on when people aren’t really watching television, the ability to watch live streaming is something that is very valuable to them.

On creating the platform: At the same time we launched the TVE initiative, one of the things I looked at was the fan and how we could possible deliver all this tennis to them, wherever they may be. We then looked at how we complete the coverage, whether it is five courts at the same time at the French Open, or whether that is coverage where we just don’t have enough room on a single channel to put all this content up. We are talking about some great content from the cups, the WTA Tour, the ATP, and so on.

On options: There were really three paths that we could take. One path, which most large companies would do, would be to go launch another channel where we could put all of this addition coverage so that the fan could get virtually all tennis that’s played. We looked at that and wondered to ourselves if this was really the right time to go launch another channel and the economic really didn’t make sense. Option two was to do a simple streaming version of this, but if you chose that path, how do you go about doing that? Do you just do another authenticated feed? Or do you just completely go over-the-top like the WWE. The trouble with another feed is that we don’t get paid nearly the same out as ESPN does and there weren’t enough dollars to support it. Was there a hybrid model? This was a model where we could use streaming as a basis to offer a complete serviced that would complement the existing Tennis Channel schedule, a model that would allow use to go directly to the consumer but doesn’t threaten the ecosystem that we are part of.

On content: We wanted to take some of the best that we learned from MLB and NBA and so on, and put together a product that is relevant, has a lot of live hours to it, a lot of on-demand hours to it. Let’s do multiple courts where there are multiple courts. Let’s build this out and offer it to the consumer so they can buy it directly. So we have a new app launching on it are three basic segments. One segment is the authenticated feed; the second part of this is TC Plus, with 300 additional live matches throughout the year; and the third featured around 1000 hours of on-demand matches available.


Good news on the MMA front as NBC Sports Group and World Series of Fighting reached a multi-year agreement the extends the media company’s exclusive rights to televise the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts promotion’s events through 2017. The deal will see NBC Sports Group carry 14 live World Series of Fighting events this year, including NBC’s first-ever broadcast of mixed martial arts when World Series of Fighting 11: Gaethje vs. Newell takes place July 5. In addition a year-end card will also run on the broadcast channel on December 27. The announcement comes just ahead of WSOF’s next event on Saturday, June 21, when World Series of Fighting 10: Branch vs. Taylor takes place at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and is set to be carried on NBCSN.

A memorable finish helped propel the Indianapolis 500 on ABC to improved ratings this year. The network notched a 4.0 for the event on Sunday, according to Nielsen overnights, up from last year’s 3.8. On the local front, Indianapolis hit a 12.9 this year, up from 9.3 in 2013.

Meanwhile, Game 3 of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals on TNT was up significantly over the same game a year ago, drawing a 3.9 household score, according to Nielsen metered market numbers, for a 26% spike. The telecast also averaged 6,679,000 total viewers for a rise of 25%. The contest drew a 29.5 local rating in San Antonio and a 23.3 in Oklahoma City.

The Pac-12 emerged as the top revenue generator amongst college conferences, according to USA Today. The publication writes that the conference reported $334 million in total revenue for a fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, the first under its news 12-year, $3 billion TV rights deals with ESPN and Fox; the debut of the wholly conference-owned Pac-12 Networks; and operations of the conference’s nascent marketing and media arm, Pac-12 Enterprises. The scored better than any other conference with the Big Ten reporting $318.4 million in total revenue for a fiscal year ending June 30, 2013 while the SEC saw $314.5 million reported for a fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2013.

ESPN reports that six potential buyers have already made inquiries to buy the Clippers. Among those to set up meeting with Shelly Sterling is recent Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who reportedly met with her on Sunday to discuss buying the team. Other potential buyers who recently popped up on the media radar include Grant Hill, who is leading an investor group as well as Yao Ming.

SportsNet LA announced that Conan O’Brien would be the special guest on the next episode of Larry King At Bat. The episode will debut next month.


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Canadian Tire and TSN entered a marketing and advertising partnership that will see the broadcaster will produce branded content for the retailer that will include traditional advertising as well as broadcast and web properties that include YouTube and social media feeds of the various Canadian Tire retailers, as well as on in-store digital monitors.


ESPN is mulling an opportunity to sell online access to live Major League Soccer games to consumers without pay TV subscriptions, according to Reuters. The move would serve as a way to generate revenue outside the traditional pay television system and leverage the recent deal for MLS’ digital rights to offer a package of 200 games outside of viewers’ local markets. ESPN will make a decision in the next few months regarding how the network will package and distribute the games, which could also be offered through a special section on the ESPN3 app.

Arccos Golf will look to change up the game via a new club-to-cloud platform that features a set of virtually weightless smart club sensors that attach to the grips of each club. Once attached, golfers pair each club via Bluetooth to the ARCCOS app on their iPhone mobile digital device and play. The initiative offers real time GPS stat tracking, digital mapping software and analytics platforms, with the app automatically knowing what course someone is playing, track every shot and record data about their game.


Mark Hulsey has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Production/Executive Producer at BTN. Hulsey joined BTN in 2009 and has overseen the growth in the network’s live-event and studio production as well as original programming for the network.


Spurs/Thunder at 9p on TNT.


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ON THIS DAY in 2001: Helio Castroneves wins the Indianapolis 500.

In The Know: Which MLB player was known as "The Wizard of Oz"? (Email Chris-Sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What tandem won the Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball three times in a row? Answer: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. Kudos: Jon Latzer-CBS Digital Media/NY; Tom Turner-Active International/NY; Joe Giovengo-Game Show Network/NY; Katie Cifarelli-ESPN/NY; John Miller-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Gordon Beck-Beck Communications LLC/Northeast Harbor; Mike Antolini-Tiger Woods Foundation/Boston; RT Harris-WideOrbit/Detroit; Suzy Shoup-Moroch/Dallas; Dacia Smith-Continental TV Sales/Chicago; Brienne Chance-G/O Digital/Phoenix; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions Inc./Santa Monica; Carl E. Ossipoff-ESPN Sales/Service  Western Division/LA; Anne Wettig-Fox Sports 1/LA; Dani Beaulieu-USA TODAY Sports Media Group/LA.

Later — Chris
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