08/17/18: The Davis Cup is revamping its format, announcing a global tournament

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Good morning. It’s Friday August 17, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Big changes ahead for the Davis Cup. The ITF AGM today voted in favor of reforms to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas designed to “secure the long-term status of the competition.” Starting next year, the competition will see 18 nations and the world’s best players compete in a week long season finale to crown the Davis Cup champions. The first edition of the new event will be held in Madrid or Lille from Nov. 18-24 with the inaugural host city to be announced in the coming weeks.
 
“I am delighted that the nations have today voted to secure the long-term status of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas,” said ITF President David Haggerty. “By voting in favor of these reforms, we will be able to work with Kosmos to realize the huge potential of the competition and elevate it to new standards. This new event will create a true festival of tennis and entertainment which will be more attractive to players, to fans, to sponsors and to broadcasters.”
 
The 25-year agreement represents a total investment of US $3 billion into tennis with a significant increase in the nations’ income from the competition and a new player prize fund of $20 million. The new format will involve a qualifying round in February, in which 24 teams will take part in home and away matches. The 12 winners will secure a direct place into the final and will join the four semifinalists of the previous year – who qualify without having to play in February – as well as two wildcards that will be announced before the draw for the qualifying round.
 
 
ON THE AIR

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson announced that he would be stepping down from his role at the collegiate conference. The move will come at the end of his current deal, which expires on June 30, 2019. He has held the role for the past six years. “I am very proud of what the Sun Belt has been able to accomplish since starting here in 2012. I greatly appreciate the leadership that the Presidents, Chancellors and Athletics Directors have provided both myself and the Sun Belt staff. They give us the needed support to drive the Conference’s existing members and new members to the next level.”
 
ESPN has signed SportsCenter on Snapchat host Andrew Hawkins to a new contract that includes increased duties on multiple ESPN platforms. In addition to hosting the Monday and Tuesday morning editions of SportsCenter on Snapchat during the NFL season, Hawkins will continue to co-host Operation Football with Randy Scott and Field Yates on ESPN Radio on NFL Sundays. Hawkins also will contribute to various ESPN shows, including NFL Live, SportsCenter, The Will Cain Show, First Take, and more.
 
In other talent news, television reporters Mike Giardi and MJ Acosta have joined NFL Network where both will contribute to NFL Network shows such as NFL Total Access, NFL GameDay Morning and NFL Up to the Minute, with Giardi based in Boston to cover the New England Patriots and Acosta based in the Bay Area to cover the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.
 
Finally, SNY announced that NFL veteran Bart Scott joined the network as a studio analyst for Jets coverage.  Scott will join Ray Lucas and Willie Colon, host Jonas Schwartz and reporter Jeané Coakley on SNY’s Jets Pre-Game Live Presented by M&T Bank and Jets Post-Game Live Presented by Toyota. He will make his network debut with the pre and post-game team on Aug. 26 at 7p.
 
Tonight at 6p, MLB Network’s telecast of the Mets and Phillies will mark the fourth time that channel will toss fans a stats-driven telecast. Using an analytics-based game call by Brian Kenny, Joe Girardi, Jon Heyman and Mike Petriello, the game will be produced completely from MLB Network’s studios in Secaucus, with an eye to “move away from traditional play-by-play to a different pace that features in-depth context of analytics, plus essays, interviews and in-studio demos.”
 
Tuesday’s edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel will see the HBO series (starting at 11p) feature segments that include: a look at the allure of Mount Everest and the Sherpas’ first-hand accounts of the dangers travels face in their efforts to get climbers up and down the mountain alive; a report on if the hypersexualization of cheerleaders and dancers is appropriate; and a feature on Mansour Bahrami.
 
Tuesday will see BTN offer a special edition of B1G basketball & Beyond at 3p, featuring the complete conference schedules for the 2018-19 men’s and women’s basketball seasons. Host Rick Pizzo will be joined by analysts Shon Morris and Christy-Winters Scott.
 
Austin cleared the way for a potential MLS relocation, after the Austin City Council approved a deal for a soccer stadium in North Austin. The agreement opens the door for Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt to begin financing an estimated $200 million stadium at the 24-acre tract of city-owned land near The Domain. Precourt is reportedly looking to have the team playing in the area next season.
 
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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

The quest for the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy is literally getting animated, courtesy of a partnership between ESPN and Marvel that sees the launch of four comic book covers that feature school mascots facing off over Labor Day weekend. This will mark the fifth consecutive year that the two companies have teamed up to create one-of-a-kind artwork that pays homage to classic Marvel covers. Additionally, ESPN and Marvel have created two behind-the-scenes videos that highlight the creative process of bringing these unique visions to life.
 
Spain’s LaLiga and Relevent announced a 15-year, equal joint venture to promote soccer in the US and Canada. As part of the agreement, LaLiga plans to bring a regular season club match to the United States, marking the first to be played outside of Europe. LaLiga North America will work to cultivate soccer culture in the US and Canada by leveraging the league’s assets. LaLiga North America has the exclusive representation of LaLiga in the US and Canada for all business and development activities and is led by Chief Executive Officer Boris Gartner.
 
Toyota Motor North America announced its decision not to renew its title sponsorship agreement for the annual Grand Prix of Long Beach. “We have had a phenomenal relationship with Toyota for 44 years, a record in the racing world,” said Jim Michaelian, President and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “In recent discussions, however, Toyota has elected not to renew as the title sponsor. This has now opened up an opportunity to identify a new title partner. Coming off a very successful 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, we’re excited about the future and are exploring all possible sponsorship opportunities that might exist in the market.” The 2019 Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place April 12-14.
 
Telecommunications brand ROKiT announced a multi-year partnership with the Los Angeles Chargers. As part of the partnership, ROKiT will become the team’s Official Wireless Partner and title sponsor of ROKiT Field at StubHub Center. Starting Saturday, ROKiT will kick-off a slate of activations including the entitlement of ROKiT Field at StubHub Center; jointly supporting community initiatives for active and retired military servicemen and women; a season-long consumer sweepstakes; and an integrated media program. 
 
Integrated global sports marketing agency rEvolution acquired London-based sports marketing agency Revolution Sports Marketing Group. Revolution works with a variety of clients across golf, equestrian, tennis, motorsports and rugby, and counts SAS, Land Rover and the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 among its current client partners. The acquisition bolsters rEvolution’s current roster of global clients, particularly those active in international sports, including Continental Tire, Polaris, Shell, Samsung and YouTube.
 
Herschend Enterprises CEO Andrew Wexler announced the formation of a new operating company, Herschend Live. The Harlem Globetrotters will be the first Herschend-owned property under the Live banner. 
 
 
DIGITAL & STREAMING

Thuuz Sports unveiled their first “Partner Portal,” a new web-based platform that will give media companies and rights holders the ability to efficiently produce and distribute an unlimited number of game clips and highlights using Thuuz’s automated highlight production platform. The Portal will also enable content creators to automatically produce any variation of multi-game highlights, single game highlights, player highlights, and play type highlights, and can “produce narratives appealing to the home team fan, visiting team fan, or neutral fan through the use of applied artificial intelligence.”
 
SB Nation announced the launch of four podcasts dedicated to Philadelphia sports.  The lineup feature a total of twelve unique shows that cover each of Philadelphia’s four major professional teams from SB Nation’s perspective. A relaunched Bleeding Green Nation podcast will offer comprehensive and authoritative coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as the popular Eagles-focused show BGN Radio. Three new podcasts, The Good Phight, Broad Street Hockey, and Liberty Ballers, will be dedicated to covering the Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers respectively.
 
Rotoworld launched its first-ever NFL daily fantasy sports toolkit. The offering is designed to help users build smarter lineups utilizing an exclusive simulator based on various statistics and factors for FanDuel, Yahoo! and DraftKings contests and features Lineup Optimizer, allowing users to customize their lineups in a variety of ways; Next Man Up, which allows users to select any player and statistically re-simulate how the game will turn out with that player removed, and Custom Projections.
 
 
ESPORTS

Tencent Games and ESL unveiled plans for the start of Arena of Valor’s second competitive season. Following an exhibition at gamescom, the season will officially start on Sept. 8 and feature eight weeks of mobile esports action across three regions (North America, Europe and Latin America) with 18 teams in contention for $200,000 in prize money. Season 2 of the Valor Series will be streamed weekly every Saturday and Sunday.
 
Speaking of gamescom 2018, ESL announced a slate of esports competitions on two stages from Aug. 22-25. In addition to the Valor Series mentioned above, other tournaments will include Shadowgun and the ESL Meisterschaft Summer Season Finals.
 
ASUS ROG has been tapped to serve as Main Sponsor of CORSAIR DreamHack Masters Stockholm, supporting the event for a third consecutive year from Aug. 29-Sept. 2. As the event and official Monitor and PC partner, meaning all professional players will be competing on the ROG Swift PG258Q 240Hz 1ms monitor and the ROG Strix GL12 gaming desktop. On camera broadcast talent will throughout the event be equipped with the ROG Strix SCAR II gaming laptop for both work while on the on camera, as well as backstage preparing for upcoming matches.
 
 
ROSTER MOVES

FOX Sports’ Home Team Sports announced that Alyssa Zeleznik has been promoted to Vice President of Integrated Sales for the Los Angeles HTS office; while Bryan Tellado has been upped to Vice President, Corporate Finance for the HTS group, which includes HTS, FOX Sports College Properties, and Impression Sports. Finally, Rick Gomez was promoted to Manager, Partnership Activation. In addition, the company’s Impression Sports & Entertainment hired Courtney Lowry as Director of Client Services.
 
 
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ON THIS DAY in 1933: The Yankees’ Lou Gehrig plays in his 1,308th straight game.
 
In the Know: Who portrayed Lou Gehrig in the 1942 film “Pride of the Yankees”? (Email chris-sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
 
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