06/01/18: The Atlantic 10 locked in a deal with ESPN+ for digital carriage

Good morning. It’s Friday June 1, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

ESPN and the Atlantic 10 Conference locked in a multi-year media rights deal that will see more than 500 conference events each year carried on ESPN+ and makes ESPN+ the exclusive streaming home for a number of the Atlantic 10 Conference’s sports and includes exclusive games from multiple A-10 Championships including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, women’s volleyball, baseball, softball and lacrosse. Starting in the 2018-19 season, ESPN’s and the Atlantic 10 Conference’s new deal will make at least 330 men’s and women’s basketball games available on ESPN+ annually, which add to the 16 games already available on ESPN’s linear networks through an existing media rights deal between ESPN and Atlantic 10. Also, ESPN+ will now exclusively stream two opening round games from the men’s basketball championship and four quarterfinals from the women’s championship. An ESPN’s linear network will continue to air the A-10 Championship final of the women’s tournament.

Game 2 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night ranked as the most-watched Stanley Cup Final game on NBCSN in three years as well as the most-watched primetime program on NBCSN in three years. The Game 2 TAD of 3.788 million viewers, according to Nielsen Fast National data and streaming data by Adobe Analytics, was up 16% vs. last year’s Nashville-Pittsburgh Game 2 on platforms and up 47% vs. the comparable 2016 game NBCSN averaged a TV-only audience of 3.648 million viewers, making it the most-watched NHL game and the most-watched primetime program on the network in three years, Digitally, Game 2 is now the most-streamed NHL game in history, with 366,000 uniques (+60% vs. 2017) and 27.0 million live minutes (+32%).
Networks continued to lock in their features college football telecasts. FOX Sports announced the release of its highest quality college football schedule to date with 136 games on deck across FOX, FS1, FOX Sports Regional Networks and BTN with games from the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences, including matchups such as Michigan/Ohio State, USC/Texas and the Red River Showdown between Texas/Oklahoma, as well as the Pac-12 and Big Ten championship games. Programming kicks off the weekend of Aug. 30-Sept. 1 with three straight days of action over Labor Day weekend, including appearances from Oklahoma, Penn State and Stanford.
ESPN tackles the return of college football with an early season schedule that includes the annual five-day kickoff weekend slate from Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, and includes Alabama opening their title defense on ABC’s Saturday Night Football vs Louisville  on Sept. 1 at 8p in the 2018 Camping World Kickoff from Orlando, capping a tripleheader on the network that also includes Oregon State/Ohio State and the 2018 Chick-fil-A Kickoff between Washingto /Auburn. ESPN, meanwhile, serves up a quadruple-header beginning with the 2018 AdvocCare Texas Kickoff between Ole Miss/Texas Tech as well as Chip Kelly and Kevin Sumlin making their debuts with their respective programs with Cincinnati/UCLA at 7p and BYU/Arizona at 10:45p. Meanwhile, ESPN+  will stream more than 20 football games during the season’s first three weeks.
CBS Sports Network announced its 2018 college football schedule, featuring teams and games from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and Mountain West Conference, as well as playing host to six Army games, seven Navy games and seven Air Force games. The schedule kicks off on Aug. 25 with Hawaii/Colorado St.  at 7:30p. Week one will see Colorado/Colorado St. and  Syracuse/Western Michigan on Aug. 31, and Washington St/Wyoming on Sept. 1 at 3:30p.
ESPN added an American League West showdown to its September Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell slate during Labor Day weekend on Sept. 2, picking up the Angels/Astros game at 8p. Play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian will have the call with analysts Alex Rodriguez and Jessica Mendoza
NBC Sports Regional Networks are launching Fair Play: Youth Sports in America, a multi-platform documentary project that explores the $15 billion organized youth sports industry. The special is told through the voices of students, coaches, professional athletes and scholars, and will air in June and July across all NBC Sports Regional Networks, on NBCSN and on NBC Owned Television Stations. The special is presented by GEICO.
Meanwhile, NHL Network delivers Picture Perfect: The 1992-93 Season tonight at 8p. The NHL Network Original will mark the 25th anniversary of “the most remarkable season in NHL history.”
Wheel of Fortune is teaming with Tennis Channel with “Tennis Week,” from June 4 –8. The network provided the featured prizes on the Wheel, which include luxury vacation packages surrounding upcoming major tennis tournaments around the world: the French Open in Paris, the WTA Finals in Singapore, the US Open in New York, the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals in London, and the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. During the week, some of the world’s top tennis players including Roger Federer, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Coco Vandeweghe, Alexander Zverev, Jack Sock, John Isner, Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard, and Ryan Harrison will be featured in show opening segments, bumper segments, closing packages, and prize packages.
The Association of Volleyball Professionals, in partnership with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, announced a first-of-its-kind beach volleyball event, the AVP Hawai‘i Invitational, presented by HTA. The event will be held in the heart of Waikīkī Beach from September 14-16 and “bring together top male and female beach volleyball stars from across the United States and abroad as event organizers join to celebrate and honor one of the birthplaces of the sport. Fans can enjoy an interactive sponsor village experience, a keiki volleyball clinic, meet-and-greets with the best players in the world, sunrise yoga in the Club AVP area, bouncing in the kid-friendly bounce house, dancing the day away with tunes provided by AVP-icon DJ Roueche, and more.
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Univision Deportes locked in Heineken, KFC, Nissan and Walmart as sponsors for its World Cup coverage content, which will include reporting and analysis of the month-long tournament. In addition to Univision Deportes’ state-of-the art studios in Miami, telecasts will originate from a special on-site studio at the Four Seasons in Moscow and include Minuto 45 on UDN, pre- and post-game shows on Futbol Central and more.
Major League Baseball unveiled the debut of the “All-Star Armed Services Classic presented by T-Mobile,” a new championship tournament that will feature co-ed softball teams from each of the five United States Military Branches – U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard – competing for the opportunity to play at Nationals Park during MLB All-Star Week in DC in July. The Championship Game will stream LIVE on MLB.com,
The owners of Triple Crown contender Justify named Leverage Agency as the marketing, licensing and sponsorship Agency of Record for the thoroughbred racehorse as he contends to sweep the Triple Crown with a win at the upcoming Belmont Stakes on June 9. “Leverage Agency has an unprecedented track record working with Triple Crown contenders and maximizing opportunities for brands and sponsors,” said Elliott Walden, President/CEO of WinStar Farm.  “Their intimate knowledge and understanding of the industry, along with their broad range of services makes them a perfect addition to our team.”
Twitter partnered with UNINTERRUPTED and Crown Royal for “Halftime is UNINTERRUPTED,” a live streamed halftime show on Twitter that will serve as as a social-driven companion event to the NBA Finals. Los Angeles Clippers’ Austin Rivers, Milwaukee Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe, San Antonio Spurs’ Rudy Gay, NBA Analyst and Cultural Critic Big Wos, plus more surprise guests will provide fans with commentary as the action unfolds throughout the NBA Finals.

Sony Crackle will launch Rog & Davo’s Guide to Russia, a series of 10 original shorts will air from June 11-13 ahead of the World Cup. The shorts will be hosted by Roger Bennett and Michael Davies, from NBCSN’s “Men in Blazers” and each four to six-minute installment will feature a specific country along with Roger and Michael’s predictions for that team. The series is produced by Embassy Row with Roger Bennett, Michael Davies and Jen Simons serving as executive producers.
The Olympic Channel announced the worldwide premiere of The People’s Fighters, the second film in its Five Rings Films signature series, which examines the triumphs and challenges faced by Cuban boxing. The feature-length documentary is directed by Peter Berg at olympicchannel.com and its mobile apps.
Sportech, the international betting technology business, and sports data company Sportradar, unveiled a commercial betting deal in the US. Under the terms of the agreement, Sportech will be able to offer Sportradar’s trading and risk management services, as well as its comprehensive range of tools and services for legal sports betting to licensed operators in the emerging U.S. sports betting marketplace.

The ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational 2018 will be the first major fighting game tournament to track both competitors’ in-game eye movements at the same time, the league announced, when the five-week showdown begins Friday at 3p on Twitch. ELEAGUE, in collaboration with its technology and marketing partner Dell Gaming, will leverage eye-tracking technology to offer fans “unprecedented access to the minds of professional Street Fighter players” as the compete for $250,000. Micro projectors and sensors supplied by Tobii Group will track each player’s eye movements and use the data to create a visual of where the competitors look throughout a given match The overlay will be shown during special Dell “Getting Technical” studio analysis segments.
Lots of news from Riot, which announced that the 2018 NA LCS Scouting Grounds will return in November to the NA LCS Studio in LA where the top 20 unsigned players from North America will fight for “their chance to prove they have what it takes to go pro and showcase their skills in front of NA LCS organizations.” This year, the event will introduce the Scouting Grounds Selection Period, a 4-month timeframe where a player’s progress on the Challenger ladder will be tracked and recorded every two weeks.
Meanwhile, the EU LCS is heading to Madrid for the 2018 Summer Finals. Taking place at the Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid, the 2018 Summer Finals will run on September 8-9.
Finally, Riot Games will consolidate its existing pro leagues in Latin America under one banner.  The combined league will be played out of Santiago, Chile with the move designed to improve the competitive level offered by the region, per TEO.

NASCAR announced that Gene Stefanyshyn will lead the sport’s international efforts as Senior Vice President and Chief International Officer, while John Probst has been promoted to Vice President, Innovation and Racing Development, John Bobo upped to Vice President, Racing Operations, and Scott Prime has been promoted to Vice President, Strategic Development.

Saturday sees Game three of the Stanley Cup Finals with Golden Knights/Capitals at 8p on NBCSN.
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Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: How many pins do you have to knock down to bowl a 300 game? Answer: 120. Kudos: Luke Tarby-A+E Networks/NY; Matt Meachem-Gracenote/NY; Joe Brucia-AMC Networks/NY; Ken Posner-WFAN/NY;  Joe Massa-First Coast News/Jacksonville; Craig Dunn-The Logan Daily News/Logan; Melissa Goyne-Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari and Hurricane Harbor/Jackson; Jacob Newton-Turner Broadcasting/Atlanta; Joe Lyons-Back 9 Productions/Dallas; Lance Davis-ESPN Milwaukee/Milwaukee; Travis Wacker-Good Karma Brands/Milwaukee; John Tingue-CBS/Chicago; David Hauptman/Denver; Rick Pike-InterMedia Advertising/Woodland Hills; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Tony Reyes-Walt Disney Imagineering/Glendale; Jaymz Wooden-Bottelsen American Dart Lines/Santa Maria
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