10/16/17: NHL exec David Lehanski breaks down the league’s digital evolution

Good morning. It’s Monday October 16, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

At the conclusion of the last NHL season, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told the Boston Globe he attributed the team’s success in the Playoffs and their Stanley Cup Championship to the league’s new in-arena coaching system. Now the league is going all in. The coaching system comes courtesy of a new partnership with Apple, placing Apple iPad Pros on all team benches loaded with an app that allows coaches to view video highlights in near “real time” and was implemented just in time for the Playoffs last season. The program and partnership is now expanded to all 31 teams and also sees on-ice officials use iPad Pros to conduct all video reviews this season.
The partnership comes as part of a broader digital strategy designed for the league designed to help players, coaches, media and fans. Cynopsis spoke with David Lehanski, SVP, Business Development & Global Partnerships at the NHL about its technological evolution and what to expect in the years ahead.
Lehanski on evolution: We’re seeing a lot of trends from a technology standpoint. Stats and analytics are something that we’ve been thinking about and focusing on in a number of ways over the last several years. Stats are record-keeping hadn’t changed much over the last hundred years. I think there was some kind of organic movement in stats and analytics that was taking place and we really wanted to get ahead of it and create a new offering that would allow everyone in the hockey community to have a better experience from players and coaches to media platforms to fans.  
On digital initiatives: We partnered with SAP a couple of years ago to present all the data that we had in a more compelling manner so we had a whole refresh on NHL.com and across our digital  platforms to give fans a more customized experience with the data that we had. There was more cross-referencing, visualization, comparison tools, etc. We had also started testing different tracking technologies, putting technology on the players, putting technology on the puck as well as some optical technologies. We tested those going back as far back as the All-Star Game in Columbus. We are now pretty far down the road in establishing some official partnerships which we can’t talk about yet that would put in place the beginning of the implementation of a tracking system for the league.
On Apple: One of the other areas that we’ve been working on is the in-arena coaching system we built Apple that we launched last year for the playoffs. Basically, it provides the coach on the benches with the ability to see near real-time highlight of the game while they are coaching the game. Leading up to last season, teams had their own video coaches and were looking at video in-between periods. Now we’ve given them the ability to look at it live during the game. In working with Apple, we’ve been able to really optimize the characteristics of the iPad to create an experience that coaches can use quickly, securely and gives them what they want and nothing else.
On next steps: The next phase would be to add another application to the iPad that would give coaches real-time stats and data so that’s where the future of tracking comes into play. There is some data that we know coaches want to get right now that they are not getting –in-game that we can deliver. Once we have a comprehensive and accurate tracking system in place, there will be a lot more such as exact time on the ice for each player, puck possession per player, things like that. In the near term there will be a small subset of data that coaches will want to get in-game, and we would grow it from there.
On skepticism: Like anything, the coaching side of any sport is pretty much to develop a system for doing what they do. So the introduction of a new system is always going to be met with some skepticism. There were some coaches who openly ready to embrace it from the get-go and others who were skeptical. In addition, we chose a tough time to introduce it during the playoffs so creating a disruption at that point in time was something we had to deal with, as well as the superstition factor. All of that said, by the end, for the most part, every single team saw some value in it, even those that were skeptical in the beginning.

Turner continues to benefit from the MLB Postseason this year, as its presentation of the 2017 National League Championship Series Game 1 between the Cubs/Dodgers handed TBS with an average of 6.4 million viewers across television and live streaming, for an increase of 56% over last year’s LCS Game 1 coverage airing on the network and an 8% bump over NLCS Game 1 in 2016. Saturday’s win by the Dodgers generated an 18.1 HH rating in Chicago and an 11.0 in Los Angeles, with live streaming coverage across Turner’s TV Everywhere platforms averaging 7.3 million minutes of consumption, up 164% over last year, per Nielsen. Meanwhile, the company reports that its coverage of the 2017 National League Division Series averaged 3.7 million total viewers for a spike of 29% over last year’s LDS on the channel.
In other ratings news, Thursday Night Football continues to see gains this year, as last week’s win by Philadelphia over Carolina was seen on an average minute audience basis by 15.1 million viewers across all platforms, including CBS Television Network, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video, NFL Digital and CBS digital platforms. The telecast alone on CBS and NFL Network was seen by an average of 14.6 million television viewers, up over last year’s comparable game per Nielsen live plus same day national ratings.
In college football, ESPN is touting that its networks carried the four highest-rated games of week 7 across all networks and nine of the top 10 overall. Michigan/Indiana on ABC drew a 2.9 overnight, the highest-rated game of the week across all networks while Georgia Tech/Miami on the network earned a 2.5 overnight. On ESPN, Oklahoma/Texas drew a 2.4 Nielsen overnight in the late afternoon timeslot.
Speaking of ESPN, the channel and Barstool Sports teamed up to launch Barstool Van Talk, featuring Barstool’s Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter. Produced by Henry Lockwood, along with Embassy Row, the show will take place in Vanny Woodhead, the conversion van that plays a central role in the trio’s sports podcast “Pardon My Take.” The show will premiere tomorrow and run weekly on Tuesday nights at 1a on ESPN2.
The fires in California caused Turner Sports, in conjunction with the NBA and American Express, to cancel its Road Show fan experience event planned for tomorrow in San Francisco. “Through our ongoing conversations with local officials, we reached this decision primarily to ensure all of the valuable resources and focus can be directed toward those in need.  Our deepest condolences are extended to all of the people impacted by these tragic fires,” the company said in a statement.
Speaking of which, the fires also caused Virgin Sport to cancel the 2017 Virgin Sport Festival of Fitness over the weekend. “Air quality is a major concern,” said Mary Wittenberg, CEO of Virgin Sport. “Another priority for us is making sure that city and local officials, as well as first responders, have no distractions in doing what they need to do to help affected communities manage this situation. This was a big decision, given that this was our inaugural event and many stakeholders, including volunteers and of course the athletic community, worked hard to make it a reality. It’s also the right and necessary thing to do, for the sake of everyone’s health and safety. We truly appreciate the City’s flexibility in supporting our decision – and all those affected have our deepest sympathies.”
IndyCar locked in its schedule for 2018, with the season starting March 11 in St. Petersburg and running through Sept. 16 in Sonomac. New this season will be a Sept. 2 stop at Portland International Raceway, marking IndyCar’s first trip to the Oregon track since races were held from 1984 to 2007 under CART and Champ Car sanction. Portland replaces Watkins Glen on the schedule.
Glory announced the addition of specialized combat sports distributor Fight Globe to its existing network of media rights partners that includes MP & Silva (North and South America) and Total Sports Asia (Asia). Fight Globe will serve as the promotion’s exclusive distribution agency in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), tasked with supplementing existing agreements in those regions.
Check out the 2017 Cynopsis Digital “IT” List Honorees!
Joining us from 38 companies that cover all elements of the industry, digital’s movers and shakers will represent the top brands and innovators in the business at our 5th Annual Digital Awards Ceremony. Share insights and connect with your peers as we celebrate the honorees at this fabulous awards event on November 10 at Tribeca’s ThreeSixty (NYC). See the full list of honorees, companies and event details here.


Martin Truex Jr. locked in his sponsorship partners for the 2018 NASCAR season. Furniture Row Racing, Bass Pro Shops and 5-hour ENERGY are partnering to form a 30-race co-primary sponsorship on the driver’s #78 Toyota during the season with Bass Pro Shops as the dominant brand on the hood with 5-hour Energy dominant on the sides for 16 races, while the brands will be flipped for 14. Auto Owners Insurance will serve as primary sponsor on the No. 78 for the remaining six races on the 2018 Monster Energy Series schedule.

On a weekend that saw Marvin Musquin make history by taking home the Monster Energy Cup and winning $1 million in front of a sell-out crowd at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Monster Energy Supercross owner Feld Entertainment announced that the sports brand is also making history in the gaming sector. The company is teaming up with game developer Milestone for the release of Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame, available on February 13, 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC and shortly after on Nintendo Switch. The title features official bikes, tracks, and athletes from both 250SX and 450SX Classes; a career mode with extreme customization options and a track editor.
ESPN’s has launched The Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings – a new series that will rank the top 10 bands from Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the MEAC and SWAC. The MEAC and SWAC conference football champions will play in the 2017 Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 16. The rankings see a panel of nine top band directors associated with HBCUs rating the bands based on musicality, drill and design, percussion, auxiliary corps, drum majors, and other identified factors. The top band selected after each ranking will be featured on ESPN performing the SportsCenter theme.
Glory announced its exclusive digital partner for Glory: Redemption, the four-fight pay-per-view special event streaming live on Dec. 9, partnering with UFC.TV. The show will be priced at $29.99 and carried by select cable and satellite providers.

League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship locked in teams for the Knockout Stage with play starting Oct. 19 with Longzhu Gaming/Samsung Galaxy at 4a. Meanwhile, SK Telecom T1/Misfits square off on Oct. 20, Royal Never Give Up/Fnatic on Oct. 21; and Team WE/Cloud9 on Oct. 22
Gamingzone Entertainment entered into a distribution partnership with Bomanbridge Media and Passion Distributio, to represent the live esports reality format, GAMERZ.’ Bomanbridge Media will be distributing the format in Asia Pacific, while Passion Distribution will be distributing across the rest of the world including Australia and New Zealand. The series will see a dozen amateur talents live together in the GAMERZ House where they will be pushed “to their mental, physical, and gaming limits.”

Astros/Yankees on FS1 at 8p.

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ON THIS DAY in 2011: IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In the Know: Which athlete holds the record for most NBA games played in a career? (Email Chris-Sports@Cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Who did the Ducks beat to win the Stanley Cup?  Answer: Ottawa. Kudos: Traci Liner-Endeavor/NY; Bob Dudelson-Leverage Agency/NY; Jeff Day-NHL/NY; Thomas Steward-Jamestown Community College/NY; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Deerfield Beach; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Bill Robertson-WCHA/Bloomington; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions/Santa Monica; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank
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