10/08/14: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman breaks down the new NHL season; NLDS delivers the hits; The NASCAR Xfinity Series leaves its mark



CYNOPSISSPORTS
10.08.14

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, October 8, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

After an NHL season that saw the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs rank as the second most-watched NHL post-season since NBC and NBCSN began exclusive coverage in 2006, and a regular season that set a full-season viewership record for NBCSN, the NHL is officially back tonight. Bolstered by an intensive new deal with Rogers in Canada, the league takes the ice this evening with Flyers/Bruins at 7:30p and Sharks/Kings at 10p on NBCSN. Meanwhile, Canada’s TSN will showcase Canadians/Maple Leafs at 7p, followed by Canucks/Flames at 10p.

Cynopsis Sports chatted with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the sport’s steady climb, the role of media, expansion and the World Cup.

Bettman on the growth of the NHL: I think it all starts with the game. It starts with being balanced, unpredictable and – most importantly – entertaining. What you see taking place on the ice, makes everything we do off the ice a whole lot easier. The tools start with having a system that created competitive balance. We are also engaging the fans with big events, as you saw last year with six outdoor games and the various other events we put on to give our fans new and interesting ways to connect with the game.

Obviously, our broadcast relationships both in Canada and the US have been vital. I think our deal with NBC has been transformational because, among other things, of their creation of Wednesday Night Rivalry Night and the fact that every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been available nationally, which give it an incredible big event feel. I believe that social media has had a big impact because our fans are the most tech-savvy in all of sports. When you package that together around a game that’s never been better, you get very strong, positive results.

On the new Canadian TV deal with Rogers: We believed in the vision that Rogers has in the game. They are going to distribute NHL content on every conceivable platform. They are going to be innovative when it comes to technology and they are going to give fans in Canada an experience that is evolutionary from everything that they’ve been used to. Audiences who are long-time fans of the game are going to get what they want, and they are going to get more things that they never envisioned, whether it is hometown hockey or new camera angles. They are going to be very creative with a profound respect and understanding of the game. I’ve been in their new studio, it is not to be believed. It is probably the most elaborate sports studio, if not in North America, than the world. They are investing in us in ways that no broadcast partners in Canada have before.

On building revenues: We are looking at more of everything. One is more use of social media for our fans to connect. International is something else we think is something that is important to our game. We, more than any other North American sport, have a long history of international competition. Our players have a history and a strong desire to represent their countries. 25% of our players come from outside of North America and are some of the best players in the world. So what we can do to continue to encourage player development and continue to serve millions of hockey fans throughout the world is going to be important. Obviously there is going to be a lot of speculation about bringing back the World Cup and that’s something we are working on the Players Association. After we get that in place, I see more exhibition games, more regular season games and more ways for us to have a continuous and regular presence outside of North America without diminishing for a minute what we are doing here.

On the World Cup of Hockey: To put on a major tournament is never easy, but it’s something that we know how to do. The advantages are that we control it. We get to use what comes out of it and we get to set it at the time of year that we think makes the most sense for our game.

On expansion: There’s lots of interest and we are listening to those expressions of interest from lots of places. But at the present time, we are not prepared to embark on a formal expansion process.

On sponsors: Our approach with sponsors is to make sure they see that working with us is a value proposition that enhances their brand. We have affluent, well-educated, tech-savvy fans, the best in all of those categories in all sports. Our profile, coupled with strong, well-respected brands is a mutually beneficial proposition and we want to work with sponsors who have the same view and want to touch their customers in the same way that we want to touch our fans and that’s in very position, uplifting ways.


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ON THE AIR

The Cardinals win over the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS handed FOX Sports 1 its most-watched Monday show ever, according to Nielsen. The game drew an audience of 2.887 million viewers and ranked as the seventh most-watched telecast in channel history. On the local front, St. Louis led all markets, posting a 23.4/35, a new record in the market and the highest metered-market rating ever for an event on FOX Sports 1. Los Angeles also set a new FOX Sports 1 record, notching a 7.6/12. Through four games, the NLDS on FOX Sports 1 presented by Budweiser is averaging 2.937 million viewers for each game.
 
Around the dial, MLB Network had its own hit, with Game 3 of the Nationals/Giants ranking as the highest-rated program in channel history with a 2.0 coverage rating and 1.8 million viewers. Through its two exclusive NLDS game telecasts this year, MLB Network’s combined Postseason game viewership is up 100% over its two LDS games in 2013.

ESPN’s Monday Night Football game took the evening among all networks in viewers and all key male and adult demos, according to Nielsen. The game averaged an 8.2 household US rating with 13,122,000 viewers. In Seattle, the game delivered a 20.7 rating on ESPN and a 24.5 on KONG-IND for a combined 45.2 rating in the market. In Washington, D.C., the game delivered a 14.0 rating on ESPN and a 9.4 on WDCA-IND for a combined 23.4 rating in the market.

College players are now on the hunt for a slice of the network pie. Ten university football and basketball athletes reportedly filed a class action lawsuit in Tennessee against ESPN, ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC WME and IMG alleging that the companies “have profited from the broadcast and use of Student Athletes’ names, likenesses and images without the Student Athletes’ permission.” The suit claims that, while student athletes sign releases, they are “forced to sign as a condition of playing football or basketball in college.”

ESPN recruited former head coaches Stan Heath and Craig Robinson to the company where they will serve as men’s college basketball analysts for the company. Both will call game telecasts on ESPNU, and debut during the annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon beginning Nov. 17 with Heath as analyst for the Miami (Fla.)/Florida matchup. .

FOX Sports lined up coverage of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship that will, for the first time, feature all 16 matches of the famed competition on TV. Each match will be carried live on FOX Sports 1 or FOX Sports 2 and streamed on FOX Soccer 2Go and FOX Sports GO. The top three teams in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship qualify directly for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The action starts Oct. 15 with a doubleheader live on FOX Sports 2 as Guatemala takes on Haiti at 6p, followed at 8p by the U.S. Women’s National Team opener against Trinidad and Tobago live on FOX Sports 2 with an encore on FOX Sports 1 later that night.
 
EFC, the Extreme Fighting Championship, is going global. The organization, which has been trading under EFC AFRICA since inception in 2009, announced a worldwide expansion that will see its portfolio of event programming distributed by Content Television. “We have global television broadcast deals on every continent. EFC is already shown in over 110 countries,” said EFC President Cairo Howarth. “EFC has signed and built up the best African MMA athletes to be household names and to be competitive on a global scale. Now we are excited to be pitting our current stars and champs against MMA stars from the rest of the world in true world championship bouts.”

Comcast SportsNet Northwest announced the return of Brooke Olzendam to the network where she will host the interactive Trail Blazers postgame show Trail Blazers Pulse. Shewill also do sideline reporting for Blazers pregame show Rip City Live and contribute to weekly programs CSN Pulse and Talkin’ Ball as well as sideline report for live broadcasts of the AFL Portland Thunder.

Time Warner Cable SportsNet signed NBA veteran Antawn Jamison to join the network’s on-air team as an analyst. He will first appear on air on October 22 for the network’s live coverage of the Lakers preseason game against the Portland Trail Blazers and will contribute to Time Warner Cable SportsNet programming, including franchise shows #LakeShow and Access SportsNet: Lakers.


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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

The NASCAR Xfinity Series revealed its mark ahead of the series’ debut next year. According to NASCAR, the mark is “creatively aligned, and in a similar genre, to the other NASCAR national series marks. It is being provided by NASCAR in advance solely for the purpose of allowing teams and tracks to prepare for integration of NASCAR XFINITY Series marks for the 2015 season (i.e. uniform production, paint scheme design, promotional materials, etc.)”

espnW unveiled its roster of sponsors for its fifth annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit presented by Toyota. The Summit, set to take place starting today in Dana Point, will see Toyota return as the presenting sponsor, along with returning sponsors CoverGirl, Gatorade, JBL and Under Armour. In addition, EY has signed on as well. As presenting sponsor, Toyota will again recognize and honor three “Everyday Heroes,” an award that celebrates individuals making a difference for women and girls in their local communities through sports.

DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY

NBC Sports reports that, in September, NBC Sports Digital delivered its best month ever with 149.5 million visits and besting its previous record set in March with 146.6 million visits. Highlights included: ProFootballTalk scoring its best month ever in uniques (12.7 million) and visits (34.6 million) while Rotoworld saw its best month ever in visits (29.1 million) and page views (150.3 million).

THE MAIN EVENT

The NHL launches a new season on NBCSN at 7:30p with Flyers/Bruins.



ON THIS DAY in 1995: The Dolphin’s Dan Marino topples Tarkenton’s NFL career completions record.

In The Know: Which family has had 8 members either coach, manage or play in the NHL? (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: From what school was Walter Payton drafted? Answer: Jackson State. Kudos: Tina Ofori-Discovery Communications/NY; Scott Henkle-Westwood One/NY; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports/NY; Portia Archer-HBO/NY; Ken Nice-Yoh/Silver Spring; Michael G. Hawkins-Francis Marion University/Florence; Chris Faulds-Bell Media Digital/Toronto; Don Abel-Florida State University/Tallahasse; Andy Pittman-Texas A&M University/College Station; Kevin Micklo-Pinnacle Advertising/Chicago; Greg Alm-Intersport/Chicago; Lisa Fikeys-Zimmerman/Chicago; Bob Chasse-Professional Bull Riders/Pueblo; John Baghdassarian-Olympusat/LA; Steve Morrow-Eclipse TV/Mill Valley; Joey Olson/Manhattan Beach; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine
10.08.14

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