06/04/18: Pete Murray breaks down the PFL’s new take on MMA

CynopsisSports
Good morning. It’s Monday June 4, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

 
The week sees the debut of the Professional Fighters League, a new MMA promotion that will serve up a regular season, “win-or-go-home” post-season, and championship. Co-founded by Donn Davis, Russ Ramsey, and Mark Leschly, the PFL 2018 Season features 72 fighters across six weight-classes, competing in the regular season on Thursday nights throughout the Summer. The top eight in each weight-class face off in single-elimination playoff fights on Saturday nights in October with the PFL season concluding December 31 with six championship bouts back-to-back with a $10 million prize pool with fights running on NBCSN and Facebook Live.
 
This Thursday at 9p on NBCSN, the action will come from Madison Square Garden, headlined by a featherweight showdown between undefeated Long Island native Andre Harrison and Juma Tuerxun, as well as Lance Palmer vs. Bekbulat Magomedov in a featherweight matchup. Cynopsis spoke with Pete Murray, CEO of PFL, about the league and its goals.
 
Murray on PFL vs. WSoF: World Series of Fighting was an acquisition from my partners to add their assets and ensure that we would have credibility and authenticity in this sport. But PFL really represents a new vision, a new model with a world-class ownership group and our will to reimagine and grow the sport by bringing a compelling format – a true sports format – to MMA for the first time.
 
On the marketplace: When you look at the marketplace, MMA is one of the top three sports around the world and the fastest-growing sport around the world and what we know about a true sports format, where there is a beginning, middle and end, provides true transparency. Fighters in the PFL know when they are fighting, who they are fighting and what they are fighting for with a $10 million championship purse. It really recognizes the athletes from a performance model standpoint and we believe it will really elevate them as well as the sport.
 
On fans: Having this type of true sport format is something fans understand and it provides an easy way to follow the action, the fights and the events and they can pull for their favorite athletes. At the end of that journey, fighters will be awarded a million dollars so there is a great story to that journey. Fans are also assured that the best will be fighting the best as it takes out the matchmaking component.
 
On production: We are really proud of the team that we have in place, which is headed up by George Greenberg, who oversees production of live events and programming. MMA is not a foreign sport to George and he is bringing a fresh point of view to presenting the sport to fans. In addition to the new format, we are going to bring a high-level production value to the presentation, including camera angles that are going to showcase the action in a unique way. We will also be going deep in data and analytics because we know that fans want to get closer to the action and want context on their performance. So that part of storytelling will be part of the live event. In addition, we will have some customization to provide fans, such as leveraging our partnership with Facebook to provide some unique angles or a ref cam.
 
On the schedule: We are proud to be back at Madison Square Garden to kick off the inaugural season and New York had a great history with World Series of Fighting so we thought it would be a great way to start the season here, in addition to hosting our championships here on New Year’s Eve with six title fights in one broadcast. In the middle, we are going to go to Chicago on June 21, and then we go to our ownership backyard to host an event here in DC during July 4th week. Finally, we head to Long Island on July 19 and Aug. 2 and then we go to Atlantic City at the Ocean Resort Casino on Aug. 16 and 30. We will take the show to the west coast, announcing shortly, for our Oct. playoff schedule.
 
 
ON THE AIR

The Capitals win in game three of the Stanley Cup Final continued to add fuel to the NHL’s postseason run on NBC platforms on Saturday. The contest delivered a 2.51 overnight Nielsen score to NBCSN, marking the best game three in three years, and up 16% over last year’s numbers for the equivalent contest. DC delivered a 15.2 local rating, marking NBC Sports Group’s highest-rated Caps game ever on cable. 
 
The fourth edition of Warriors/Cavaliers continued to draw audiences for ABC as Game 1 on the NBA Finals saw an average of over 17.3 million viewers, off about 7% from last year’s game one, but the OT game also drew a peak audience of 21.7 million viewers for a rise of 3% year-over-year. Anyway, the game marked the 61st straight time the NBA Finals on ABC took the night of television.
 
ESPN laid out the matchups for the 2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which hits year 20 this year, with action beginning Nov. 26. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will combine to televise all 14 games of the event, with thirteen teams who competed in the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship: Final Four team Michigan, Elite Eight teams Duke and Florida State, Sweet 16 teams Clemson, Purdue and Syracuse, as well as early-round teams Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, NC State, Ohio State, UNC, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Matchups involving a pair of preseason ranked teams include North Carolina/Michigan and Purdue/Florida State on Nov. 28.
 
Speaking of ESPN, SportsCenter will have a presence at the ninth annual Department of Defense Warrior Games, a multi-sport event for wounded, injured or ill service personnel and veterans held this week at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Anchor Hannah Storm will be at the Warrior Games and will host segments from the event today and tomorrow on the show while Jon Stewart will a interview several Warrior Games athletes for features to air during SportsCenter.
 
Canadian Premier League Commissioner David Clanachan confirmed that the league has granted a conditional club for Vancouver Island. The club has been awarded to SixFive Sports & Entertainment and will begin play in 2019, upon the completion of a lease agreement at Westhills Stadium in Langford.
 
In local news, Atlanta Braves ratings on the FOX Sports regional networks, FOX Sports South and FOX Sports Southeast, have produced double-digit growth year-to-date over last season. The networks report that – through 56 games – the Braves are averaging a 2.85 overall household rating in the Atlanta DMA, up 43% versus the same amount of games in 2017, while May 2018 was the highest-rated month since April 2014. Braves games on the networks in May averaged a 3.22 household rating in the Atlanta DMA, up 84% versus May 2017 and up 13% versus the 2018 regular season overall.
 
The Las Vegas Aces unveiled local TV and radio deals Friday for the WNBA team. AT&T SportsNet will broadcast 15 of the team’s 17 home games, and all 17 regular-season home games and playoff games will air live on Las Vegas ESPN radio affiliates KWWN-AM (1100) and KWWN-FM (100.9). A 30-minute pregame and postgame show will be included in the radio broadcast.
 
In international waters, WWE and Mexico’s Imagen Television, the newest national broadcast television network in Mexico, inked a new agreement to broadcast WWE’s flagship programs Raw and SmackDown on free-to-air television in Mexico.
 
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
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August 2 | 10:30AM – 3:00PM | Dream Downton, NYC
SESSION SPOTLIGHT: THE BOTTOM LINE ON WHAT ADVERTISERS WANT
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Measurement and data are transforming both agency and client approaches. This candid conversation will feature agencies and brands talking about what they want and need around consistent, transparent measurement, the benefits and risks of programmatic, and more.
 
 

SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment inked Jersey Mike’s Subs to take on the title sponsorship of the 2018 Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic, an annual pre-season college basketball tournament held in Montego Bay. The new NCAA basketball MTE tournament for college teams and their fans will run Nov. 16-18 with eight teams contending. “From our ongoing involvement with the NCAA, we know college basketball fans are sub sandwich fans,” said Rich Hope, Chief Marketing Officer, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, Inc. “Title sponsorship of the 2018 Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic allows us to extend the season so we can continue to engage with our customers during the tournament.”
 
 
DIGITAL & STREAMING

For the second straight year, NBA Digital and NextVR will offer fans free on-demand virtual reality game highlights of the 2018 NBA Finals presented by YouTube. NextVR also announced the public availability of a new high-resolution format that will deliver the “most realistic and immersive VR experience yet.” On the day following each game of the Finals, fans will be able to access highlights in the NBA Finals channel within the NextVR app. “Improving fidelity and realism is critical for the success of virtual reality media. This upgraded format adds detail, sharpness and enhanced 3D depth to our broadcasts, greatly increasing realism and overall sense of presence,” said David Cole, NextVR co-founder and CEO. “While all users will see an immediate improvement, this only scratches the surface of the capabilities of this format and our technology platform. More advanced headsets slated to ship in the future will take even greater advantage of this new VR broadcast technology.”
 
Yahoo Sports debuts The Rush, today, a new show built for mobile with host Jared Quay, who will break down the most important headlines in sports and throughout the show’s season. Show will run in weekday mornings and available to view on the Yahoo Sports app or on Yahoo’s sports page.
 
 
ESPORTS

Blizzard announced that the first-ever Overwatch League Grand Finals have sold out, with play running July 27–28 at Barclays Center. More than 20,000 tickets were purchased to mark the largest esports event ever slated at Barclays Center. Meanwhile, voting for the Overwatch League All-Star Game Powered by Intel is now open for business to pit the most popular players in the Atlantic and Pacific divisions into the event. Voting will conclude at the end of Stage 4 on June 17. Starters will be announced the week of June 18, and reserves the week after. The All-Star Game and related festivities are scheduled for August 25-26 at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles.
 
Speaking of OWL, the Los Angeles Valiant announced the formation of a social change partnership with the You Can Play Project, a group dedicated to ensuring safety and inclusion for all who participate in all sports – including LGBTQ+ players, coaches, and fans with the Valiant serving as the first esports organization, franchise, or team to join the social change movement. As part of the partnership, You Can Play will provide diversity and inclusion training to LA Valiant players, coaches, and organization staff. The team will film a PSA to promote awareness of the You Can Play initiative among the esports community and You Can Play will have a presence at select Valiant events for fans to interact with and learn more about the organization and their initiatives.
 
In sponsorship news, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced a partnership with TSM to serve as the team’s first-ever TSM Fortnite House sponsor. The TSM Fortnite House includes Myth – team captain and the second biggest Fortnite streamer on Twitch – Daequan, Camills , and Hamlinz. This partnership will feature multiple integrations, streaming exposure and other activations.
 
 
THE MAIN EVENT

Golden Knights/Capitals moves back to NBC at 8p.
 
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
It’s Time to Celebrate the Titans of the Kids, Tween & Teen Media Sector…
Early Bird Deadline: 6/21
 
The attention span of the younger audience is elusive and harder than ever to capture and keep! Which is why Cynopsis is thrilled to honor the breakthrough campaigns and innovative content in the kids, tween and teen media sector. These are the companies that are ahead of the curve and manage to thrive with this tough (but fun) demographic.
 
 

ON THIS DAY in 1976: The Suns and Celtics go three overtimes in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
 
In the Know: Who beat the Washington Capitals 20 years ago in 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 Which team did John Madden’s Oakland Raiders beat in Super Bowl XI? Answer: The Vikings. Kudos: Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Eric Newman-ENEW FILMS/NY; Eric Wright-DS Simon/NY; Randy Ingram-WISH/WNDY-TV/Indianapolis; Tom Wetzel-MMSI/Warwick; Mike May-PHIT America/Wellington; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Anthony Antonelli-Rogers Communications/Toronto; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; John Kukla-KDFW/KDFI/Dallas-Fort Worth; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank’; Steve Bradbury=Deep Sports/Marina Del Rey; Jim Bernard-VER/Glendale
 
Later – Chris
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