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10.05.15 Good morning. It’s Monday October 5, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
Hockey fans will finally see the action return to the ice this week, as NBC Sports opens the floodgates to the NHL regular season on Wednesday with a double header pitting the Blackhawks/Rangers at 8p and Kings/Sharks at 10:30p. Last season marked the second-most watched Stanley Cup Final on record, and the third-most watched NHL postseason in the last 18 years. As the league prepares to maintain momentum, it is also mulling the future of the sport with new rules and expansion possibilities making headlines.
Cynopsis Sports chatted with former player/coach/Olympian and current NBC Sports commentator Eddie Olczyk about the upcoming season, the state of the sport, NHL players in the Olympics and whether the NHL should pull the trigger on new teams.
Olczyk on preparing for the season: There’s always something going on in the offseason: movement, free agency, draft picks, etc. So, I hit the season just trying to get the lay of the land on what’s been done. For me, I’m trying to get on top of who’s done what and early in the season is always the toughest because you haven’t seen full lineups or the line combinations and rotations. The first couple of weeks always have a lot more going on than in mid-February because you want to make sure you are seeing everybody. I’m trying to concentrate now on my first couple of games, which involve both New York teams. My VCR will get a workout! Needless to say, this is one of the more chaotic times of the season.
On favorite venues to broadcast: Selfishly, it is always about vantage point and where we are positioned. In Pittsburgh we are positioned right at center ice about 30 rows from the rink and that’s an incredible position because we are right there. The Rangers have improved their broadcast position a lot. There are some that are far away and you don’t have much choice so you do that best you can even though you sometimes call the wrong number or the wrong name. But I think that most teams appreciate the position that the broadcasters are in and try to help them because at the end of the day you are a three hour commercial for their brand and for the game and we want to do the best job we can.
On the growth of hockey: The NHL has taken great pride in how they are marketing the game and how the game is being played. I think there are still areas that they could improve on, but everyone has an opinion. But I think that the product on the ice helps sell the game. We live in a fast food society, we want it, we see it, you want to try it, and you buy it. I think that hockey is the same way where if you make them want to be there, they will then want to play it. Hockey has the toughness of football, it has the skill and grace of basketball, it’s got the hand-eye coordination of baseball. It’s got everything you want. I think there is room to improve but it’s come a long way in a short period of time.
On NHL players in the Olympics: Is it good for the NHL? Is it good for the business to shut down for three-plus weeks in the middle of the season. That’s something only they can answer because it’s a business decision and that’s all it is. End of story. I played in the Olympics in ’84 for Team USA. I’ve always felt that the Olympics are for amateurs, but that’s changed and I understand that things change. It evolves and I understand, and if I had the chance to play in the Olympics as a pro, I absolutely would have done it. Is it fair for the athlete to travel? It’s one thing when it is in Vancouver or Salt Lake City, but when you have to travel halfway around the world for the next Olympics, I’m not sure.
On league expansion: My guess as to what ends up happening is that at some point, you get to the last places where you can take a team. There are so many places now that are legitimately viable and I trust the league in this decision. Could you get another team in Canada? Absolutely! Could you get another team outside Toronto? I would say that you, for sure, could and make it successful. As for the States, where else could you go that you haven’t been yet? Could you go to Seattle or Portland or Kansas City or Milwaukee? Personally, I think that Vegas would be a great place to go regardless of expansion or relocation because eventually you are going to have major sports in Vegas so why not be the first team? I think it would be outstanding there. People don’t realize that hockey is pretty popular in Las Vegas.
On horse racing: I’ve been a horse racing guy my whole life. I actually got my start in television in horse racing during the work stoppage back in 1994. I had won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers and the people at the Meadowlands racetrack were big Rangers fans and the people at the track asked me to be part of the race analysis team. 20 years later, it came full circle when my boss, Sam Flood at NBC, asked me if I wanted to be a part of their broadcasts. I had been trying to become a part of that coverage for five years at NBC but nothing really happened and when Sam gave me a shot. The racing team at NBC is nothing but class. There is some great leadership and great people on the show. To be on the Triple Crown for the first time this year and see what American Pharoah did was an incredible rush.
Major League Soccer unveiled its national broadcast schedule for the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs which will serve up all postseason matches live on national television for the first time across the league’s partner networks, ESPN, FS1, and Univision Deportes. This year’s playoffs will offer an expanded format with 12 teams qualifying leading into the 2015 MLS Cup on Dec. 6 at 4p on ESPN and UniMas. In addition to the domestic broadcasts, playoff matches will be aired in more than 140 countries around the world. On the last day of the regular season, Oct. 25, MLS will debut a scheduling enhancement, entitled #DecisionDay, which will feature games across each conference played simultaneously with the key playoff-race games broadcast nationally.
A shakeup among the college football elite on Saturday saw ABC notch the two highest-rated games of the day as Clemson’s win on Saturday Night Football reeled in a 4.8 in Nielsen overnights, while 3:30p regional action scored a 4.5 overnight. The Notre Dame/Clemson battle ranked as the third-highest overnight of the 2015 season across all networks and up 71% versus the comparable game a year ago. Meanwhile, College GameDay drew a 1.6 overnight score to mark its best numbers since Nov. 20, 2013.
Meanwhile, CBS and NFL Network’s coverage of Thursday Night Football continues its hot streak, scoring an average overnight household rating/share of 13.0/22 in the metered markets, for a 16% spike over last year’s week three of TNF. The Ravens win continues recent ratings trends, with the first three weeks of games earning a combined overnight rating/share of 13.2/23, up 19% from last year’s 11.1/19.
With the first game in London this season now in the books, NFL Media reports that the league will add a game in Mexico City next year as part of its International Series. The slate is expected to be announced this week with the Mexico connection expected to run long-term.
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Showtime Sports announced plans to carry seven live boxing telecasts over an eight week span to wrap up 2015 with coverage set to include three presentations of Showtime Championship Boxing, one Showtime Boxing International telecast and three episodes of ShoBox: The New Generation. Overall, the slate will feature at least 16 fights, several world championship bouts and more than 10 matchups on the prospect developmental series ShoBox. First on the card will be a ShoBox quadrupleheader on Oct. 23 at 10:30p.
ESPNEWS will begin carrying Russillo & Kanell, co-hosted by Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell, on a daily basis starting today at 1p. The ESPN Radio series will be simulcast weekdays.
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Big news on the FIFA front as four of the organization’s top sponsors stepped up pressure against Sepp Blatter with calls for the president of resign immediately. Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch InBev, McDonald’s and Visa all released separate statements on Friday calling for his departure after the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings against him. According to the BBC, AB InBev stated that Blatter was "an obstacle in the reform process," while Coke said FIFA’s image becomes more "tarnished" every day Blatter remains. Blatter, however, has dismissed the calls. Meanwhile, fellow partners Adidas and Kia did not join the calls for his removal.
The Dallas Stars, Dallas Mavericks and American Airlines Center locked in a multi-year agreement with Pizza Hut that makes the brand the Official Pizza Partner of all three properties. The deal will see Pizza Hut will have use of team and arena trademarks across various marketing channels, including branded content, advertising and promotional materials. In addition to the marketing rights, Pizza Hut will have six in-arena concession stands within American Airlines Center, with four located on the plaza level and two on the terrace level.
Country music stars Tyler Farr and Dustin Lynch will perform at the 2015 ACC FanFest, which takes place this year on Dec. 5 ahead of the 2015 Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game. ACC FanFest will be located adjacent to Bank of America Stadium and offer fans interactive games and attractions, team mascots, food and beverage, autograph signings, game merchandise, giveaways and more.
The newest college football bowl game, the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, is getting a digital twist. The contest will take place on Dec. 29 at 7:30p and with the approval, the event will become “the first-ever bowl game to have a digitally-focused broadcast strategy to be orchestrated by primary digital media partner, Campus Insiders.” “We look forward to making college football history,” said Crowley Sullivan, Executive Vice President Campus Insiders. “As the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl game media partner, our goal is to create an enhanced fan experience by giving viewers a unique way to enjoy college football.”
DraftKings locked in an exclusive three-year relationship with the NFL’s International Series in the UK. The daily fantasy job will “engage NFL fans throughout the United Kingdom with branding and fan activities at this year’s three NFL International Series games,” which take place at Wembley Stadium in London. “Our partnership with the NFL’s International Series provides the ideal platform in which to introduce fans to DraftKings in the UK as we expand beyond the United States,” said DraftKings Chief Executive Officer Jason Robins. “As the league looks to introduce more sports fans to American football, we will look to showcase what we believe is the world’s best DFS product to British fans through the support of our new partner.”
2K announced that the release of NBA 2K16 set a franchise record, selling-in over four million units worldwide within the first week of release. “Each year we set out to deliver not only the best on-court basketball video game, but a full off-court entertainment experience that transcends basketball,” said Jason Argent, senior vice president of basketball operations at 2K. “NBA 2K fans around the world are buying this title faster and in greater numbers than ever before.”
Integrated sports marketing and media services agency rEvolution is launching a new eSports consultancy, thanks to the acquisition of sSports sponsorship consultancy Nextgen + MVPs. The new division will be dubbed rEvXP and “look to serve brands, platforms and players in advancing their respective brand connections with fans.” NEXTGEN+MVPs was founded by media and gaming industry veteran, Dan Ciccone, an established eSports marketer.
DGital Media launched a new production studio and is unveiling its first new fantasy sports platform entitled Fantasy Sports Voices. The program will be produced in conjunction with Fantasy Alarm and feature Kay Adams, Eric Kuselias, Fantasy Sports Network with Pat Mayo, Roto Grinders and Swish Analytics.
The NBA tapped the services of retired General Martin E. Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as Special Adviser to Commissioner Adam Silver, effective Jan. 1. General Dempsey will offer the NBA with counsel on leadership and service, while continuing to support the league’s military and youth basketball initiatives. In this role, he will participate in year-round NBA events including NBA Global Games, NBA All-Star and various league meetings. In addition, he will serve as chairman of the newly formed Jr. NBA Leadership Council.
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