08/20/18: The Contender is coming back for another round on EPIX

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Good morning. It’s Monday August 20, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

 

As the demand for boxing content continues to rise, this week sees the relaunch of reality series, The Contender. This version, which marks the fifth season, begins Friday night at 9p and run until November, moving to EPIX for the first time and a format that will feature full fights for the first time. In addition to Mark Burnett, the show returns a slate of the original production talent, including executive producer Eric Van Wagenen. Cynopsis asked Van Wagenen about what may make this new “Contender” a knockout this fall.
 
Van Wagenen on bringing back The Contender: I think boxing as a sport has made resurgence since we were last on the air, especially in the lower and middle weight divisions.  The television marketplace has also changed significantly since our premier in ’05. Back then, the big networks were king and you could only survive with big network audiences, 10-15 million viewers per week.  Now with so many network and streaming options available, a show’s success is measured in other ways… how passionate is the fan base?  Are they active on social media? What kinds of advertisers are attracted to the demographic? Boxing is a sport with a passionate fanbase who will seek out and pay for boxing programming.

 

On changes to the show: Premium cable is allowing us a lot of creative freedom to produce this show in 2018.  There are no commercial breaks, no censorship for language or content, and each hour long episode is actually an hour long.  Additionally, the fights are shown in their entirety – as they happened – without any music, sound effects, or deceptive editing.

 

On the show’s legacy: The original Contender was one of the very first sports-based reality series.  The format has been successfully utilized by “The Ultimate Fighter” for years, and shows like HBO’s “24/7” and Showtime’s “All Access” implemented some of the high production values and featured the intimate backstories that the original Contender was known for.  A good format is a good format, and the authentic drama that occurs in any sports tournament will always make for great TV.

 

On selecting fighters and personalities: Of course personality is an important factor in casting, and anyone who follows boxing knows that boxers are naturally big personalities.  We were able to find a very diverse cast from different backgrounds and from different parts of the country.  We have veteran boxers, undefeated prospects, sons of legendary boxers, Olympians, guys that have fought world-class competition, and guys that are just looking for an opportunity to be discovered.  There’s someone for everyone to cheer for.

 

On the popularity of boxing: I think that much of the enthusiasm around boxing – and all combat sports – is driven by the internet and social media.  Over the years, fans have grown accustomed to seeking out content through alternative media.  Unlike during our first seasons, we now have multiple social media platforms that will support our viewers with extra content and keep fans actively engaged during the run of the series.
 
 
ON THE AIR

 

ESPN saw its Monday Night Football preseason game featuring a Redskins’ victory over the Jets draw a 2.1 overnight rating according to Nielsen metered markets numbers. That marks a rise of 11% over last year’s preseason opener, featuring the preseason debut for ESPN’s new Monday Night Football commentator team of play-by-play voice Joe Tessitore, analysts Jason Witten and Booger McFarland, and reporter Lisa Salters.In New York, the game delivered a 2.0 rating on ESPN and a 4.1 rating on WABC-ABC, for a combined 6.1 rating in the market. In Washington, the game delivered a 4.3 rating on ESPN and a 6.3 on WJLA-ABC, for a combined 10.6 rating in the market.
 
CBS Sports Network lined up three original pilot episodes as part of its “Summer Showcase” today. The showcase will run from Monday-Wednesday from 6-7p, while Time to Schein is dark, and features emerging talent personalities and production ideas that the network has been developing throughout the summer. Today sees Best Served Fresh, featuring up-and-coming commentators/hosts discussing the latest in sports and pop culture; tomorrow will feature  Memory Serves, from the Lawrence Deloache led “historical” idea featuring conversations around memorable teams and moments from sports history; while Wednesday serves up No Easy Buckets, from the hosts of the Flagrant 2 Podcast; with Best Served Fresh at 6:30p.
 
In other programming news, FS1’s NASCAR Race Hub will feature the short film, The Adventures of Janet Guthrie, on Wednesday at 6p. The film will look at Guthrie as a trailblazing driver in NASCAR and the first to breakdown the sport’s gender barrier in the modern era. A physicist for NASA before her racing days, Janet was the first woman to qualify for both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 in 1977. The film marks the third installment in the short film series “Beyond the Wheel” from FOX and NASCAR.
 
For the second consecutive year, Stadium and the Mountain West will partner to showcase women’s volleyball and women’s soccer contests on Stadium’s linear over-the-air platform. During the 2018 volleyball season, 10 MW contests will be elevated across Stadium’s network. The first telecast of the volleyball season will feature TCU visiting Colorado State on Sept. 2. The 2018 MW volleyball season opens officially on Aug. 24.

 

WWE and Nine today locked in a deal to extend broadcasting rights for WWE’s flagship programs Raw and SmackDown on free-to-air television in Australia. Channel 9GO! will continue airing weekly one-hour versions of the series.
 
VSiN inked an agreement with WBZ-FM 98.5 The Sports Hub to provide the station with VSiN’s Boston-focused updates. Starting today, the platform will run VSiN Action Updates covering how the sports betting markets are reacting to Boston’s sports teams with reports coming from VSiN’s Las Vegas studio at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa.
 
Bob Lamey, the voice of the Colts, is retiring after 35 years. Lamey could be heard calling play-by-play for Colts radio broadcast and spent 23 years at WIBC Radio.
 
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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

 

ESPN’s media day in Bristol saw company executives address its new direct-to-consumer streaming service ESPN+. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro, according to Axios, stated that ads will start being added beyond live games in the future. “Our primary focus is growing reach & subs,” Pitaro said, according to Axios’ Sara Fischer. “That being said, yes — we are very interested in an ad-lite type of experience within ESPN+ where you have various forms of sponsorship integration. Fair to say you can expect to see that going forward.” While dynamic ads have been inserted into live games, the platform had not opened the doors to pre or post-roll ads, sponsored segments, etc.
 
 
DIGITAL & STREAMING

 

EA Sports announced plans to add 16 LaLiga stadiums to FIFA 19, with FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou, the sole holdout, although Barcelona players will still be among the 200+ new head scans for LaLiga players this year as well as the league’s broadcast package.
 
Yahoo Sports is bringing in former Washington Post reporter Kimberley A. Martin  to join the team as its newest NFL writer. At the Washington Post, she had served as the paper’s Washington Redskins beat writer.
 
 
ESPORTS

 

Ubisoft unveiled a “Pilot Program” revenue-share initiative to bolster the Rainbow Six Pro League, opening the door to revenue sharing with a slate of Pro League teams as well as with the Six Invitational 2019 prize pool. The Pilot Program will span 11 teams representing all 4 Pro League regions (Europe, North America, Latin-America, Asia-Pacific) 0 including FNATIC, PENTA Sports, Vitality, Evil Geniuses, Rogue, SK Gaming, Mousesports, FaZe Clan, Team Liquid, Immortals and Ninjas in Pyjamas. “For us, the Pilot Program is a way to reward the teams that are contributing to the League and help it grow,” said François-Xavier Dénièle, Esports Director, Ubisoft EMEA. “For fans, we believe it is one of the most direct ways to show their support to specific teams and players. With this program, we are expanding on the Team Charm initiative we ran with different teams during last year’s Pro League seasons.”
 
WESA is making changes, announcing that Pietro Fringuelli will take over duties as the Commissioner and Chairman of the executive board, succeeding Ken Hershman in the role. Hershman, who joined WESA as commissioner in 2016, helped to achieve the goals set by the teams in the initial phase of WESA’s development, according to the announcement, transforming the startup organization into a sustainable company. However, moving forward, a larger group will lead WESA and manage the day to day operations, headed by Fringuelli. Meanwhile, Jan Pommer, will also join as special adviser to the new Commissioner and the teams to achieve new goals in this second phase.
 
The Call of Duty World League announced that the first tournament for Black Ops 4 will take place at CWL Las Vegas from Dec. 7-9. Meanwhile, the league’s reveal event this year will take place on Sept. 19 on the official Twitch Channel. Black Ops 4 is set to be released on Oct. 12.
 
Rocket League Esports is paving in-roads for South America, announcing plans for the region to debut in the RLCS next year. In the announcement, Psyonix told fans that “Over the past month, you may have noticed a long-overdue push by Psyonix to get more involved and support our incredible community partners in the South American region. We were extremely excited to have the opportunity to sponsor tournaments from great organizers like Rocket Street and LVP. Their hard work gave us a glimpse at the deep pool of talent from our players in the SAM region, and while those tournaments were an amazing start for players and fans, we think we can do more.”
 
eGency Global, in collaboration with SMU, to announce the addition of a collegiate Overwatch tournament powered by Team Envy and the Dallas Fuel to the lineup of events at OP Live Dallas. The Overwatch tournament at OP Live Dallas will feature 16 collegiate teams that will vie for the title of Over Powered Champ and a special prize package provided by the Dallas Fuel and Team Envy.
 
 
THE MAIN EVENT

 

Indians/Red Sox on MLB Network at 7p.
 
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