07/15/15: NHRA races to FOX; Derby hits clean up for ESPN; FanDuel gets a boost


Good morning. It’s Wednesday July 15, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

NHRA is shifting gears, announcing an end to its run with ESPN and a new deal that will bring its races to FOX Sports. Starting in 2016, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be carried on FOX Sports 1 with four events also airing on the FOX national broadcast network during each season of the long-term agreement. The deal sees FS1 slating coverage of Friday and Saturday qualifying and Sunday eliminations for each NHRA Mello Yello Series event, with a minimum of 16 Sunday eliminations shows to be presented in a live coverage format, and the remainder shown either in weekend afternoon or primetime time slots. Overall, FOX national networks will showcase more than 450 hours per year of NHRA programming. The 2016 season was originally set to be the final year of a five-year rights extension deal with ESPN that took effect in 2012.

“This really is a game-changer for NHRA regarding the presentation of our marquee product, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series,” said Peter Clifford, NHRA president. “FOX Sports promises to be just the right media partner we’ve been looking for to help give our professional series the stage it deserves and to provide our passionate fans the timely, quality coverage they are craving.”


ESPN’s coverage of the Gillette Home Run Derby on Monday handed the channel with ratings gains, drawing a 4.2 rating and 7.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen, to mark the channel’s most-viewed and highest-rated Home Run Derby since 2009. The event ended up being the highest-rated telecast on cable among households, viewers (P2+) and adults 25-54, with viewership rising 32% over 2014 numbers. Host market Cincinnati drew a 19.6, the highest local market rating for a Home Run Derby telecast ever on ESPN.

With the Spieth effect in full force, CBS Sports’ final round coverage of the John Deere Classic on Sunday drew a 2.8/6 rating/share in the metered markets, according to Nielsen. That is up 133% over last year’s score and serve as the highest final round rating for this event in 16 years (1999). Overall, CBS Sports’ 2015 PGA Tour national ratings are up 13% over last year.

ESPN’s debut of Premier Boxing Champions on Saturday was seen by an average of nearly 800,000 viewers, according to Nielsen, up a sharp 110% over 2015’s Friday Night Fights telecasts, which averaged 381,000 viewers. Viewership peaked with nearly 1.2 million viewers according to Nielsen. The next round of PBC hits the channel on Aug. 1 at 9p

NBA TV’s coverage of Samsung NBA Summer League 2015 is hitting a record-setting pace, according to the channel. Last week’s Lakers/Timberwolves telecast on Friday saw an average of 277,000 total viewers to rank as the network’ s most-viewed NBA Summer League game of all time.  Overall, NBA TV’s live NBA Summer League coverage through July 12 is up 14% among total viewers over year ago numbers.

KSE Media Ventures snagged a 100% interest in World Fishing Network. The channel had been jointly owned and operated by KSE Media Ventures and Insight Sports, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, since January 2011. KSE’s partnership in the Canadian World Fishing Network service (World Fishing Network ULC) remains unchanged. World Fishing Network now joins Outdoor Sportsman Group  Networks, whose portfolio includes Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel.

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games saw nearly 5.5 million Canadians tune in to at least some of CBC’s coverage of the opening show. Overall, according to the channel, more than 10.6 million Canadians have watched at least some part of CBC/Radio-Canada’s Pan Am Games coverage so far.

The Basketball Tournament got commentator assignments from ESPN for the July 23, July 25 and August 1 and 2 games on ESPN and ESPNU. The Notre Dame Alumni Play-In Game vs. a TBD opponent from DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago on July 23 will feature Notre Dame play-by-play voice Jack Nolan and current Fighting Irish Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Brey calling the action on ESPNU. The quarterfinals July 25 from DePaul will have the team of play-by-play voice Adam Amin, analyst Dan Dakich, and reporter Lindsay McCormick on ESPNU, while the Semifinals and Championship games on Aug 1 and 2 from Fordham University’s Rose Hill Gym will have play-by-play Mark Jones, analyst Fran Fraschilla, and ESPN Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman live on ESPN.

A new class action suit was filed Monday on behalf of a San Francisco pub, challenging the prices of NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV. The suit claims that the deal and subsequent prices violate the Sherman Act. “Every NFL member team owns the initial rights to the broadcast of that team’s games,” the complaint reads. “However, the teams have chosen to collude with each other, and to grant the NFL the exclusive right to market those games outside each team’s home market. But for the NFL teams’ agreement in which DirecTV has joined, teams would compete against each other in the market for NFL football programming, which would likely induce more competitive pricing.”

AXS TV announced plans to bring web series Exploring Kaman to television for the first time ever on August 5 at 11p. The network will then air a new episode of the six-part series each week, chronicling NBA All-Star Chris Kaman as he and posse head out on a fishing trip to capture the elusive blue marlin.

SEC Network announced a new show, dubbed SEC Inside, a half-hour episode that will “focus on a select team and explore previously unaired footage and sounds from game preparation, the sideline and following the final whistle.” The series will run on Wednesday nights as companion programming to SEC Film Room.

Time Warner Cable SportsNet reports its highest-rated Lakers Summer League game ratings ever during the network’s first three telecasts of this year’s 2015 NBA Summer League.  Friday’s Lakers/Timberwolves game delivered the highest-rated Summer League telecast ever on the channel with a 1.45 household rating, while Saturday’s Lakers/76ers matchup averaged a 1.23 household rating.

MLS is partnering with beIN SPORTS to carry league matches live in Southeast Asia and Australia. The deal delivers MLS games to seven countries throughout the region and marks the first time MLS will be telecast on beIN SPORTS channels in Asia, touching Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Thailand. At least two MLS regular season matches will be aired per week, as well as the AT&T MLS All-Star Game, at least two matches from the newly created Decision Day, all MLS Cup Playoff games and MLS Cup.


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The Jacksonville Jaguars are teaming with Web.com to launch the inaugural "Small Business Breakthrough Powered by Web.com" competition. The promotion will look to give North/Central Florida and South Georgia region small businesses the chance to compete and win a “comprehensive NFL sponsorship with the Jacksonville Jaguars and a full digital makeover from Web.com, together valued at more than $250,000.” The winner’s comprehensive sponsorship of the Jaguars will include both traditional and non-traditional assets the include: logo designation and usage rights; videoboard presence and commercial inventory; television and radio commercials featuring a Jaguars player or coach as an endorser; digital media presence on jaguars.com and in Jaguars social media; in-business appearances by Jaguars players, coaches, and/or personalities; and premium hospitality at EverBank Field on game days.

The New York Red Bulls are partnering with Bayer. Bayer will be granted the following designation rights with the New York Red Bulls: Pharmaceuticals, Pain Relief, Allergy Relief, Vitamins, Crop Protection and Seeds. This deal will signify Bayer’s first partnership with a Major League Soccer club. “At Bayer, we are dedicated to the communities where our employees live and work,” said Raymond F. Kerins, Jr., Senior Vice President of Bayer. “The opportunity to partner with a major sports franchise like the New York Red Bulls, that shares this dedication, is a perfect match. This partnership is about working together to improve the lives of individuals across New York and New Jersey. Bayer is proud to be the Life Science partner of New York Red Bulls Soccer.”

The United States Golf Association (USGA), in partnership with American Express, announced plans for the second annual PLAY9 Day, which is set for July 29. Promotion will see the USGA recognize and celebrate the upside of the nine-hole round and launch a national awareness-building campaign to encourage participation from golf clubs and golfers, highlighted by distribution of PLAY9 toolkits to USGA Member Clubs, on-air promotion through Fox Sports, digital promotion and more.


ESPN3 puts the spotlight on Jordan Spieth at its coverage of The Open this week. The platform will see Spieth’s group highlighted on ESPN3’s “Featured Players” feed for his entire first round, starting on 4:20p on Thursday. Overall, ESPN3 is offering golf fans four options for a second-screen experience during ESPN’s live telecast of The Open.


On-screen score system The ScoreBox announced plans to allow users to “cut the cord” in its newest version. The update now includes a self-contained optical character recognition (OCR) that allows it to read scores and time clock information directly from scoreboards without a cable connection. The ScoreBox is available either as a portable, all-in-one, “lunchbox” system or as a rack-mounted device for mobile production.


FanDuel closed $275 million in Series E financing, bringing the total capital tally to $363 million. The oversubscribed round was led by KKR with Google Capital and Time Warner Investments, together with Turner Sports, also joining.  A number of NFL and NBA team owners participated in the round along with previous investors, including Shamrock Capital, NBC Sports Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Bullpen Capital, Pentech Ventures and Piton Capital. “Having partners like KKR, Google Capital and Time Warner/Turner Sports invest in FanDuel underscores the way this company is transforming sports entertainment,” said Nigel Eccles, CEO and co-founder, FanDuel. “This roster of investors, with expertise across finance, technology, advertising and sports entertainment, is committed to the growth and success of FanDuel as a game-changer for the sports industry.”

Comcast is launching Xfinity Games with an assist from Electronic Arts. On Tuesday, Comcast invited X1 customers to join the beta test that will feature HD gaming, with customers’ tablets and smartphones serving as controllers.The launch list includes 23 games, including EA’s PGA Tour, Monopoly and World of Goo.


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ON THIS DAY in 1960: Orioles’ Brooks Robinson goes 5 for 5 and hits for the cycle.

In The Know: What was Brooks Robinson’s nickname? (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: What was the name of Alex Karras’ character in the movie Blazing Saddles? Answer: Mongo. Kudos: Mitch Burg-Impact Communications/Israel; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports Network/NY; Keith Marder-Halstead Property/NY; Bruce Jackson-Disney and ESPN Media Networks/NY; Michael Novara-ESPN/NY; Howard Goldberg-Ithaca College/Livingston; Barbara Linebarger-Turner Broadcasting System/Atlanta; Scott Borst-Showtime Networks/Atlanta; Amy Hayes-Old Time Sports/Salisbury; Joe Lyons-Back Nine Productions, Inc./Dallas; Kevin Wicker-Chiefs Radio Network/Mission; Jack Hodgson-Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; John Kukla-KDFW-KDFI/Dallas; Will Allmendinger-Clear Channel Outdoor/Chicago; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; Harry S Vested Jr-GCSN/Denver; Michael Jaquet-U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association/Park City; David Hauptman/Denver; Scott Sarra-Universal Sports Network/Denver; Warren Weideman-Producer/LA; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills; Don Surath-CBS/San Francisco.

Later — Chris
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