11/20/17: NLL Commissioner talks about the league’s growth and initiatives for the new season

Good morning. It’s Monday November 20, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

December will bring a new season of the National Lacrosse League, the largest men’s professional indoor lacrosse league in North America, with the league announcing the Twitter Game of the Week schedule for the second year in a row, featuring a free live broadcast of a key matchup as well as playoff and Champion’s Cup games and league-wide highlights, on its platform throughout the season. Games will also be simulcast live on NLLTV.com starting Dec. 8 with Toronto/Buffalo. Meanwhile, the org comes off an off-season that saw the addition of a new franchises in San Diego and Philadelphia (for 2019) and a game between the Saskatchewan Rush and Calgary Roughnecks on Saturday that drew a record preseason crowd of 22,462 fans.
Cynopsis spoke with NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz on the league’s growth and what lies ahead.
Sakiewicz on media partnerships: This is the second year of the Twitter Game of the Week Partnership. This features one game a week free to all Twitter users whether you are logged in or not. Fans can watch the entire season live through our own OTT platform, NLL TV. Live games are part of paid packages (full season and single game), but there is also free content featured there. The Colorado franchise does have an RSN deal with Altitude which features all the Mammoth games. The NLL is positioning itself as a digital first, video first league. We feel that we have a moment in time, and this moment has been a convergence of digital media, the popularity of the sport (fastest growing sport in the US) and the cost efficiencies to reach our audience to grow the league exponentially.
On NLL Productions: NLL Productions was a major success this year with the production of over 500 hours of live and on demand content. NLL Productions is adding new on camera talent this year with Ashley Docking, and now has studios on both the East and West coast. Biggest successes were averaging just over 344,000 viewers on Twitter per game, giving fans access to the entire schedule of games (never been done before in league history), surpassing our subscriber and revenue goal by double and Tyson Geick of NLL Productions has been nominated for a Notable award as rising star in Canada.
On expansion: Expansion is a key pillar of our 5-year strategy. San Diego is the combination of a five-star blue chip owner, Joe Tsai, who has a passion for lacrosse and the right arena deal in a passionate lacrosse community. It has expanded the NLL to its most Western point in the US. We are focused on thoughtful expansion—not just awarding teams to the highest bidder. It must be the right owners, with the right arena/lease deal with the right plan for operation of the team.
Key targets are NHL/NBA owners and other building operators since it is really a plug and play model—they have the infrastructure, they know how to operate a franchise successfully, they have arena/lease deals, and they want more content programming for the arena.
On schedules: San Diego and Philadelphia won’t begin play until the 18-19 season, so the conferences remain unaffected for the 17-18 season however, the playoff format has been changed to single elimination games in the division finals. For 18-19, we are exploring a few options: the realignment of conference, a weighted schedule and the addition of more games in the schedule.

In ratings news, FOX Sports notched the top sporting event on Saturday with the Michigan/Wisconsin matchup on the broadcast channel, laying claim to a 3.5 overnight metered market Nielsen score. That number marks FOX’s top rating for a noon game this season.
Meanwhile, ABC reports that the network was up 35% year-over-year for college football’s week 12 with ratings year-over year in all three individual game windows, ABC’s Saturday Night Football featuring UCLA/USC at 8p earned a 2.9 overnight and up 16% from last season’s week 12 Saturday Night Football game.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s edition on TNF averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 13.8 million viewers across all platforms – NBC, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video, NBC Sports Digital, NFL Digital, and Universo, according to Fast National data released today by The Nielsen Company, and digital data from Adobe Analytics and Amazon Prime. The telecast was the first to utilize the SkyCam system to provide a live primary-viewing angle. The TAD topped last year’s Week 11 TNF game.
In golf, Golf Channel reports that Thursday’s opening round at the CME Group Tour ranked as the most-watched round one at this event, generating 261,000 viewers and up 178% vs. 2016.
As NASCAR wrapped up its 2017 season over the weekend, NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France delivered his annual state of the union to press, pointing toward the next generation of stars that will carry the sport with stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. opting to retire. “Well, I’m really more optimistic right now, and I know you may expect me to say that, but we’ve made the transition largely,” France said, per reports. “We’ve gotten the council meetings going. We’ve gotten charters in position so we can get our interests aligned more closely with drivers, OEMs and the charters and the team owners.
The NFL and Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism announced a deal that will see the league play three tregular season games to the country from 2019-21. The current deal spanned games in 2016-18.
Meanwhile, the NHL announced that the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will take place at Notre Dame Stadium, pitting the Blackhawks and Bruins outdoors on Jan. 1, 2019. “The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams.”
Can we call it the NIT? The United States Soccer Federation is reportedly in preliminary talks to pull together an international tournament featuring teams that failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Goal.com reports that discussions have taken place between the USSF, Soccer United Marketing, and FOX to host a summer event ahead of next year’s World Cup, with other countries participating that could include Italy, the Netherlands, and Chile. BBC Sport reported that FIFAwould not raise objections to the idea, as long as the event followed the standard rules and regulations of international soccer.
ESPN Radio unveiled a new lineup that will debut Jan. 2 and feature a national broadcast of The Stephen A. Smith Show on terrestrial radio stations across the country. The program will run from 1-3p and is currently broadcast terrestrially in New York and Los Angeles, as well as on SiriusXM. Other schedule notes will see Golic and Wingo run from 6-10a, Russillo and Cain from 3-6p and Spain and Fitz from 6-9p. “Top to bottom, ESPN Radio will have the strongest, most experienced and most thought-provoking lineup in sports talk radio,” said Traug Keller, senior vice president, ESPN Audio. “Diverse voices with a variety of perspectives will provide listeners with compelling content all day long.”
The Cynopsis Social Good Awards honors civic-minded professionals who find a way to utilize the media industry as a tool for social good. With a panel of judges who’ll benchmark excellence in the TV and entertainment industry. This is an incredible opportunity to shine a light on your team’s social good initiative, raising awareness and inspiring action! ( check out our 2017 winners, here).

NASCAR and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company locked in a renewed sponsorship agreement that will extend their long ties and continues Goodyear’s designation as the “Official Tire of NASCAR” and extends an uninterrupted relationship that started in 1954. “We are tremendously proud of the pivotal role Goodyear plays in the best racing competition in the world and excited that NASCAR drivers will be crossing the finish line on Goodyear tires in the years ahead,” said Rich Kramer, chairman, CEO and president of Goodyear. “With this new agreement in place, we celebrate our enduring relationship with NASCAR and the continuing value of NASCAR to the Goodyear brand”

Verizon is reportedly close to a new deal with the NFL for digital streaming rights allowing that wireless carrier to deliver game broadcasts to smart TVs, tablets and phones. Bloomberg writes that the deal expands on Verizon’s previous contract, which limited the carrier to streaming on screens 7 inches or smaller. Verizon will lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices, however.
The NCAA locked in times and programming plans for the 2017 NCAA Football Championship as FCS teams square off all the marbles. Playoffs begin with the first-round on Saturday, with all games carried on ESPN3 and opening with Furman/Elon at 1p. Top seeds James Madison University (#1) and North Dakota State (#2) open play the following week, with fellow seeds Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Wofford and Southern Utah.
ATP and ATP Media today announced two new deals with Amazon Prime Video for live and on-demand distribution rights to the ATP World Tour in the UK and Republic of Ireland, and the availability of Tennis TV on Amazon Channels in the US.

Logitech G announced a partnership with G2 Esports that includes sponsorship, technology, and new product research “G2 is one of the most exciting teams in esports, and we love the fact that some of their pros have been using our wireless gear in competition. We’re excited about this partnership and look forward to leveraging their expertise to develop even more wireless gaming gear for pros,” said Ujesh Desai, VP and GM of Gaming at Logitech.

Atlanta/Seattle on ESPN at 8:30p.

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ON THIS DAY in 1997: The Mavericks’ AC Green sets an NBA record by playing in his 907th consecutive game.
In the Know: AC Green finished his NBA playing career as a member of which team? (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: Actress Geena Davis once nearly qualified for the Olympics in what sport? Answer: Archery. Kudos: Bruce Jackson-Disney and ESPN Media Networks/NY; Marc Goldstein-Marc Goldstein Media Solutions/NY; Jamie Euster-Endeavor/NY; Brad Stern/NY; Jon Miller-NBC Sports/Stamford; Don Micallef-Discovery Communications/Silver Spring; Stephanie Ann-Inside Lacrosse/Baltimore; Tom Odjakjian-American Athletic Conference/Providence; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Robert Teinowitz-Live Action Media/Chicago; John Kukla-KDFW/KDFI/Dallas-Fort Worth; Kristin Staskowski-Spectrum Reach/Birmingham; Christy Benson-Outdoor Sportsman Group/Denver; Peter Steckelman-Tennis Channel/Santa Monica; Anne Wettig-Fox Cable Networks S&P/LA; Amy Zimmerman-Santa Anita Park/Arcadia; Brian McAloon-Fox Sports/LA

Later – Chris
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