08/25/14: Bleacher Report’s Dave Finocchio talks content; MLB looking to ease up blackout rules; NASCAR, ESPN go big for the Chase



CYNOPSISSPORTS
08.25.14

Good morning. It’s Monday, August 25, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

After reeling in the likes of writers Howard Beck, Kevin Ding, Mike Freeman, Jason Cole and Jason King, Bleacher Report saw dividends last week when it announced a new site record with more than 41.6 million unique visitors in July, according to comScore. That marks its second consecutive month of record-setting delivery for the Turner Sports property among multiplatform uniques and was bolstered by the World Cup and NBA news. Its Team Stream mobile app also hit personal bests with 749 million minutes spent, nearly double the usage in May 2014 and 3.3 million uniques.

With more initiatives in the works, Cynopsis Sports asked Dave Finocchio, founder and GM of Bleacher Report, about its growth, talent, use of video and where it will focus its resources in the future.

Finocchio on talent: Bleacher Report is focused on hiring the best talent available to cover the topics where sports fans show the most interest. Does content about those topics perform better with top tier video/writer talent? Absolutely. From our standpoint, we want every piece of content we create to be as productive as possible both from an audience and brand building standpoint. We also want to continue bringing in talent who have unique access and can help B/R tell great stories. In that vein, we’re very excited about adding folks like Jason Cole to our NFL team heading into the upcoming season.

On the rise of mobile video: Mobile-first video is a huge emphasis. We’re focused on a younger demographic than some of the other major players in the space, and young fans want well-produced, high-quality content on their phones. We’re having more and more success with sharable/social video content. We also view video as a great opportunity to shape our brand. In a lot of ways, it has the potential to have a greater impact on how we’re perceived than text content. We’ll be introducing a lot of new, compelling video content and original features this football season.

On areas of growth: Bleacher Report is doing really well on social platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter. Our reach and engagement on both platforms has been terrific, and continues to grow quickly. The B/R voice is really resonating at scale, especially in the 18-34 demo, where our numbers are incredible. Our Team Stream app is the other major growth catalyst. We have some enhancements to the product coming out soon that we’re very excited about. From an event standpoint, the NFL Draft, NBA Finals, World Cup and NBA free agency were all enormous wins. The World Cup, in particular, ignited international growth on Facebook that has actually accelerated since the tournament ended.

On evolution: Bleacher Report is continuing to evolve very quickly, as it always has, and we believe always will. But the goals remain the same  we’re dead set on building the next-generation sports brand in the United States. It’s our mission to provide fans of all teams and topics with the best content experiences possible, regardless of what device or platforms they use to consume content. We’re probably still in the 2nd or 3rd inning of our journey, and B/R is going to look a lot different two years from now than it does today. In five to 10 years, even bigger things are possible. I will also say that we’ve seen more growth internationally than we would have anticipated a few years ago, and we’re very focused on expanding that side of our business as well.


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ON THE AIR

Major League Baseball appears set to pull back on its blackout restrictions for its MLB.tv streaming platform, according to the AP, starting next season. MLBAM chief Bob Bowman said he is optimistic that a deal could be reached soon with various cable operators and channels to make it happen, although, in addition to an MLB.TV subscription, fans would additionally need a cable or satellite TV subscription to view hometown teams. He added in the report that it’s possible only some networks will agree to participate, so some blackouts would remain in place.

NASCAR is slated to reveals its 2015 race and broadcast schedules tomorrow at 5p with coverage of the announcement will run on FOX Sports 1 and NBCSN. A special edition of FOX Sports 1’s NASCAR Race Hub, with FOX slated to carry the first 16 NASCAR Spring Cup Series point races in 2015, as well as the first 14 events of the NASCAR Nationwide series, among other events.

Meanwhile, NBCSN offers a special hour-long edition of NASCAR America for the unveiling, with host Rick Allen. In addition, the show will feature a collection of reporters, drivers, track presidents, team owners and NASCAR officials who will weigh in on the 2015 schedule and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which will air exclusively on NBC and NBCSN. Of course, NBCUniversal boasts exclusive rights to the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2015 along with final 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series events.

FOX Sports 1 saw the UEFA Champions League first-leg playoff round match on Tuesday deliver 212,000 viewers, marking a new record for a UEFA Champions League playoff round match on the network. The match audience grew 155% compared to last year’s playoff opener. In addition, the pregame show saw 205,000 viewers, making it the highest-watched UEFA Champions League pregame show of all-time on FOX Sports 1.

Boxeo Telemundo Ford ranked as the most watched boxing program on television regardless of language during its 2014 summer season, according to the network, with an average of 566,000 total viewers. That is up 65% over last year, according to Nielsen.

ESPN released a statement of the weekend, modifying its position toward the use of “Redskins” on its platforms. “Our consistent company policy will continue: using official names and marks as presented by the teams, leagues and conferences we cover. We do, however, recognize the debate over the use of ‘Washington Redskins’ and have afforded individuals the opportunity to decide how they will use those words when reporting on the team.”

An attorney for artist M.I.A. says that his client and the NFL agreed on a settlement over the rapper’s middle finger salute during the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show featuring Madonna, according to the AP. NFL officials have said any money earned from the action would be donated to charity.

David Feherty interviews best friend and European Ryder Cup stalwart, Sam Torrance, on the next episode of Feherty on Golf Channel tonight at 9p. The episode was shot at Torrance’s home in Surrey, England, Starting Sept. 9, the series will shift to Tuesdays, beginning with an episode featuring Lou Holtz. 

Dave Revsine joins analysts Howard Griffith and Gerry DiNardo on the BTN Live East and West Division Preview shows at 6p today and tomorrow, respectively. The special will examine “which teams appear most prepared to contend for a Big Ten Championship,” analyzing the schedule, highlight players to watch and conclude with Griffith and DiNardo selecting their picks to win. In addition, BTN Football & Beyond, which will now be daily Monday through Friday, debuts at its new time slot at noon.

Missed Cynopsis last week? Get all the highlights at “In Case You Missed It,” right here.


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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

NASCAR is gearing up for an all-new Chase with its “biggest, most engaging marketing campaign in the history of the sport.” The organization will team with ESPN with a campaign that offers up five original television spots, an educational video, and an extensive social media push. “We made a bold decision at the beginning of the season to make our Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup all about winning,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR chief operating officer. “Now that we’re just weeks away from the start of The Chase, NASCAR, working closely with ESPN, is going to market with a creative platform that is just as innovative and reflective of how important this moment is for our sport.” The first creative element to be released was an online video dubbed “Spreading the Word,” with Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch shared across social media on Aug. 18 and educating fans about the new Chase format.

In addition, NASCAR announced that NASCAR After The Lap sponsored by Ford, Coca-Cola, and Sprint will return to Las Vegas for its sixth-consecutive year. Fans entering the NASCAR After The Lap sweepstakes will be eligible to win a 2015 Ford Mustang GT. Additionally, two winners will receive an all-inclusive VIP trip for two to NASCAR After The Lap, including roundtrip airfare, hotel, ground transportation and VIP event access.

Roush Fenway Racing locked in Ortho as a sponsor for ”roughly half” of Greg Biffle’s races in 2015, according to the AP. Biffle’s team is losing sponsor 3M after this season but will begin showcasing Ortho colors in Atlanta.

DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY

The World Cup helped propel ESPN Digital Media to 74.8 million unique users across computers, smartphones and tablets, the second-largest total for a single month in category history. That marks a rise of 60% over 2013 numbers. The company saw 54 million unique users on mobile, with 12 million unique devices that streamed WatchESPN and 442 million digital video clips viewed.

For the first time at the US Open, ESPN offers ESPN3 Surround during prime-time matches from Arthur Ashe Stadium. The option gives viewers the opportunity to view the action with four boxes on the screen: the traditional view of the action from one end of the court; the view from above via SpiderCam, plus two smaller boxes in the lower corners of the screen showing each player exclusively.

THE MAIN EVENT

Manchester City/Liverpool on NBCSN at 3p.



ON THIS DAY in 2008: Kevin Duckworth dies of heart failure.

In The Know: The late Kevin Duckworth played the bulk of his career with the Trail Blazers but was drafted by which team? (Email Chris-Sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which team won the FCS Championship last year (and yes, the year before as well)? Answer: North Dakota State. Kudos: Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Will Allmendinger-Zoom Media/Chicago; Suzy Shoup-Moroch/Dallas; Warren Weideman/LA; Carl E. Ossipoff-KSPN AM 710/LA; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles local/LA; Doug Kelly-S.F. Bowl Game Association/South San Francisco.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine
08.25.14

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