Good morning. It's Monday, May 21, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
Sunday brings the Indianapolis 500 to ABC, which will mark the channel's 48th year of covering the event. As the biggest event of the season, networks, league executives, and team owners are all counting on swelling interest in the sport carrying over from last season.
Racer and team owner Ed Carpenter became the 33rd driver to qualify for this year's race, guaranteeing a full field for Sunday. Cynopsis Sports spoke with Carpenter about the race, the pitfalls of being an owner and the international support for the sport.
Carpenter on the importance of Indy 500 to sponsors: For our team and pretty much every other team in this sport, the 500 is our marquee event and it doesn't matter whether it's a primary sponsor or an associate sponsor, it's the race that everyone wants to be a part of because of the sheer amount in attendance, the amount of media we get and the TV numbers that we get. That is on the numbers side of it, beyond that it's an iconic event so there is nothing better.
On the comparison between being a driver versus an owner: It depends on how the car is. When the car is working really well, I'd say being an owner is harder, when the car is challenging being a driver can be harder so it depends on the day. As an owner, you have to understand the organization and your people and be able to communicate and listen. Having the right people and the right chemistry is the most important thing in IndyCar racing.
On sustaining the growth of the sport: IndyCar needs to continue to put on good storylines and showcase exciting racing. The bottom line is making sure people can find us and when they do, make sure they want to return.
On international audiences: We have a huge following abroad and we love that, but it doesn't make sense for a majority of our sponsors to be going overseas. So that's the challenge of traveling internationally for us.
On the Air
The Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference announced a five-year agreement to pit their football champions head-to-head in a Rose Bowl-esque post-season bowl game on New Year's Day following the 2014 season. As part of the deal, the champions of the two conferences face off unless one or both are selected to play in the new four-team model that determines the national championship. If that happens, another team from the conferences would be tapped for the game. Details, including host sites, will be announced at a later date.
Numbers for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs continue to set records with the NHL reporting that more than 66.9 million viewers have tuned in for all or part of the Conference Quarterfinals and Conference Semifinals on television this season. In the US, more than 44 million watched all or part of the first two rounds on either NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC, NHL Network or a regional sports network (RSN), marking a 12% boost over 2011. In Canada, more than 23 million watched across Canada on CBC, TSN, TSN2, RDS, RDS2 and RDSI. Online, NHL.com drew a record 22 million unique visitors with page views up 10%, visits up 19% and video starts rising 15%.
Erik Kuselias has been tapped as the primary host of NBC Sports Network's NBC SportsTalk, shifting away from Golf Channel's Morning Drive. Kuselias has covered the NFL, PGA, NASCAR, college football and fantasy football during his decade long career as a sports television and radio host.
SPEED's telecast of Thursday's NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge rose 9% in households, according to Nielsen, scoring a .35. Among men 35-54, the event scored a 144% spike to a .44 and was up 127% among men 18-49 with a .25. That marks the second highest-rated Pit Crew Challenge even on the channel.
With the 96th Indianapolis 500 airing live on ABC on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, ESPN Classic is running a marathon of Indy 500-related programming in the week leading up to the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Programming will include airings of highlights from the past four decades of the race as well as episodes of ESPN Classic's signature program SportCentury featuring Indy 500 personalities. The marathon starts today at 11am with a feature on the 1979 Indy 500 won my Rick Mears.
BTN is pulling back on its academic programming, according to the AP. The report stated that due to low ratings and poor production quality, the network and university presidents agreed to cut academic programming and instead push quality and ratings rather than quantity with more time dedicated to football and other revenue sports.
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ESPN announced that Scott Parker has been promoted to Vice President of Consumer Marketing where he will oversee brand marketing across a variety of ESPN properties and franchises. He previously served as Senior Director, Marketing at the company.
NASCAR has accepted an invitation to join Beyond Sport, a global organization that "promotes, develops and supports the use of sport to create positive social change." NASCAR now joins the likes of MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL as part of the global network. Through the organization, NASCAR joins a community designed to exchange best practices on community involvement, and to promote the numerous efforts of drivers, race teams, track operators and others within the industry to improve communities and the lives of people.
NASCAR and Twitter announced a unique digital partnership designed to create "a new way for the sport's millions of fans to experience what happens inside NASCAR and its teams on race day." As part of the partnership, when fans click on #NASCAR, search for #NASCAR on Twitter.com or visit twitter.com/#NASCAR, they'll reach a new Twitter experience where they will see the most relevant tweets from their favorite NASCAR drivers, NASCAR families, teams, commentators, celebrities and other racing fans and personalities. The association makes NASCAR the first organization to team with Twitter to create an enhanced live event experience on the Twitter platform. The initiative will begin with the Pocono Raceway race weekend and will be most active on Sunday, June 10 in conjunction with TNT's turn to broadcast the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
The Main Event
Lakers/Thunder on TNT at 9:30p.
ON THIS DAY in 1948: Joe DiMaggio hits for the cycle for the Yankees.
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What quarterback led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl victory? Brad Johnson. Kudos: Sheila Larkin Mills-SHOWTIME Sports/NY; Jay Goldstein-Screenvision/NY; Marc Nightingale-Lake 5 Media/NY; Mark McDonald-ESPN/NY; David Koonin- MELT/Atlanta; Tony Ferranti-MMSI/Warwick; David Desmond-PGA TOUR/Orlando; David Kersh-Genesco Sports Enterprises/Purchase; Kevin Micklo-Digitas/Chicago; Paul Tarants-RTM Productions/Nashville; David Hauptman-Katz Television Group/Denver; Brian Manning-WBTV/Burbank; Allan Kass-Viamedia/LA; Adam Deverell-Cox Reps/LA; Paul Barrere-Cox Reps/LA; Paul Gygli-NBCUniversal Television Distribution/Universal City.
In The Know: The last time a Big 12 and SEC team squared off in the BCS Championship Game, which two teams were represented? (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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