Good morning. It's Thursday, March 15, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
truTV's live doubleheader coverage of the First Four of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship on Tuesday pulled a 0.9 metered market household rating, according to Nielsen, matching the average rating for the first four telecasts in 2011.
Meanwhile, broadcasters are bulking up for the Dance, as Turner Sports and CBS Sports have added Villanova head coach Jay Wright and St. John's head coach Steve Lavin as guest studio analysts for the tournament. Wright will appear alongside Steve Smith, Seth Davis and Matt Winer on truTV's Inside March Madness presented by Buick to wrap up each day's action at 12:30a and contribute to upcoming rounds. Lavin will serve as a guest analyst in the New York studio for third round coverage on Saturday and Sunday, joining analysts Charles Barkley, Greg Anthony, Kenny Smith and hosts Greg Gumbel and Ernie Johnson.
Over at CBS Sports Network, Rutgers coach Mike Rice, George Mason coach Paul Hewitt, DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, Penn coach Jerome Allen and former Illinois coach Bruce Weber will all take part in the channel's coverage of the tournament. Rice, Hewitt and Weber serve as guest analysts on Thursday, while Hewitt and Weber return on Friday, March 16, along with Purnell and Allen.
On the Air
For the eighth consecutive year, ESPN is set to offer the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship beginning with the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Selection Show on Sunday, and culminating with the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., April 5 and 7. All 15 games will air live on ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3. Four regional games will be shown on ESPN3 with additional coverage on ESPNU in tape delay. This year, ESPN will debut its Advanced Replay Tool which allows graphics to be used in a replay, a first in the network's coverage of NCAA hockey.
NFL Network's coverage of the first day of free agency drew a five percent uptick in primetime viewership over first day numbers last year (which took place on July 29 due to the lockout). An average of 337,000 fans tuned in and scored as channel's highest ever numbers for the first day of free agency. The league's digital media platforms, which includes NFL.com, NFL Mobile Only From Verizon and other NFL mobile products, posted a 40% increase in page views compared to the first day of free agency last season.
The chairman of the Premier League has apologized for accusing FIFA and UEFA of "stealing" the game of soccer from the English, according to the AP. Dave Richards had previously told audiences at a conference that "England gave the world football. Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said you're liars and they actually stole it. It was called FIFA."
Tennis Channel counts down the top players in the sport's history next week, and is tapping the talents of other sports' athletes for the presentation. The network's100 Greatest of all Time Presented by Ally Bank, will be hosted by a different all-time great across the five-night event with a roster that includes Jack Nicklaus, Jerry Rice, Wayne Gretzky, Lisa Leslie and Carl Lewis. The series begins Monday, March 19, at 7p and spanning the next four nights.
NBA TV is running a special Trade Deadline Show today from 2-4p with host Vince Cellini, along with Dennis Scott, David Aldridge and Sekou Smith,who will be monitoring social media throughout the day. Following the trade deadline, the group returns at 7p to recap the trades and discuss the impact it will have on the teams the rest of the season.
Sidney Crosby returns to the ice for the first time since Dec. 5, 2011 when the Pittsburgh Penguins, take on the Rangers at 7p on newly added coverage on the NBC Sports Network. Beginning Thursday, the NBC Sports Group will offer 12 live NHL or college hockey games across the nexy seven days. Crosby's Penguins will be showcased twice in that span, including Sunday's NHL Game of the Week on NBC when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Mike 'Doc' Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will call Sunday's game on NBC.
Hollywood executive and Warriors owner Peter Guber has joined Magic Johnson's group in a bid to buy the Dodgers, according to the LA Times. While Guber would serve as a minority investor in the group, and would help the team evolve its strategies in marketing, fan experience and community affairs. The group is reportedly one of the final four still in the running for the team. Reports surfaced earlier on Wednesday that MLB is expected to reject the bids by the group led by Stanley Gold and the Disney family, as well as the one by former YES Network honcho Leo Hindery. The bid from Johnson's group is apparently the highest for now at $1.6 billion.
Golf Channel is set to launch programming in India for the first time, beginning tomorrow on TEN Golf, India's only channel dedicated to the sport. TEN Golf's distribution also includes markets across South Asia, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and brings Golf Channel's international reach to 83 countries.
While we are talking India, Kurt Warner and Mark Walhberg are investing in a new league designed to bring American football to the country. The league, dubbed the Elite Football League of India, will create city-based teams of Indian players and coaches who are trained by professional football coaches. Sandy Grossman has signed on to direct EFLI television broadcasts. Coaches training Indian Players and Coaches now include Ron Jaworski, Mike Ditka, Doug Plank, Michael Irvin and Brandon Chillar.
Outdoor Channel announced that the network has renewed a multi-year agreement with AT&T U-verse to carry the channel across all of its markets. U-verse TV now brings Outdoor Channel to their Sports Pack as well as U450 tiers.
The Oscars may be shifting its schedule to avoid the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is set to take place from February 7-23 in Russia. Deadline.com reports that the 2014 Oscars will likely have to move to Sunday March 2nd to avoid the clash.
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Sponsorship & Promotion
Budweiser will remain the exclusive beer sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee and Team USA for the next four years, inking an extension that runs through 2016. The brewer will put promotional content for the Olympic Committee in stores and will also release a limited edition series of Olympic-themed aluminum bottles in June in addition to buying "significant" media time on NBC as part of the sponsorship. Budweiser has sponsored the Olympics since 1984.
Sheets Brand, the creator and developer of Sheets dissolvable strips, locked in a sponsorship agreement to become the official Energy product of the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open. The tournament is owned and operated by IMG and will be held in Miami from March 19 until April 1. As part of the deal, Sheets will offer tennis fans a preview of the brand's new product and will also receive a sponsorship tent, in-stadium and grandstand court signage and stadium court promotions.
The Knicks and Acer wrapped up a first-time marketing partnership that runs through the rest of this season. Acer is headquartered in Taiwan and will be an Official Partner of the Knicks who will promote the company's personal computers. Acer branding will be also featured on the pad position near the courtside signage on the Knicks bench side.
DEADLINE TOMORROW: Cynopsis Sports Awards honoring the industry's top shows, campaigns and people.
Verizon and ESPN found a new way for fans to build and follow tournament brackets during the NCAA men's basketball tournament via the ESPN "Tournament Challenge" TV app. Verizon FiOS TV customers will now be able to access and edit their tournament brackets from their televisions, tablets, computers and wireless phones throughout the tournament with users able to navigate between live tournament games and the viewer's own bracket on the television screen.
The Main Event
Who plays spoiler? NCAA Tourney action on CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV beginning at 12:15.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
ON THIS DAY in 1969: The Cincinnati Red Stockings become the first professional baseball team.
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What team had won the most NCAA Division I Women's basketball Championships? Tennessee with 8 (UConn has 7). Kudos: Michael Goodman-Radio One/Atlanta; Peter SP Gimber-CBSBoston.com/Boston; Carol Teichman-Comcast Spotlight/Bloomfield; Laura Sandillo-Golf Channel/Orlando; Sarah Traficanto-truTV,Adult Swim,Cartoon Network/Chicago; Mike Patterson-Turner Digital/Chicago; Matt Sautter-OpenTV/Golden; Anne Wettig-FX Network/LA.
In The Know: What number does Sidney Crosby wear for the Penguins? (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.)
Later -- Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports
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