Friday, May 27th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports

05/27/11

Good morning. It’s Friday, May 27, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer will retire following three decades at the network, staying on board through the end of the summer. He had served the last 13 years as president of its sports division. His retirement follows the company’s recent decision by Dick Ebersol to leave after being unable to agree to a contract with new owners Comcast.

“It has been the greatest privilege of my professional career to have contributed to the growth of NBC Sports and to have worked with so many prodigious people,” said Schanzer. “It’s comforting to know that when I leave at the end of the summer, the NBC Sports Group will be in the hands of Mark Lazarus and all the talented people here who have meant so much to me throughout my career.”

Schanzer played key roles in the group’s recent deals in landing all three Triple Crown races as well as the company’s recent 10-year agreement with the NHL. Throughout his career, he also was part of the organization’s partnerships with Notre Dame, the PGA TOUR and the NFL. Schanzer has overseen day-to-day operations of NBC Sports since being named the division’s president in June, 1998.

On the Air

With 113 television companies representing 220 different countries set to televise the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday, Fox Sports has finalized in its own coverage plans for the event. The channel will air the match for the second consecutive year at 2p, featuring FC Barcelona and Manchester United. Curt Menefee will anchor pregame, halftime and postgame coverage for FOX Sports from Wembley. He will be joined by FOX Soccer analysts Eric Wynalda and Warren Barton with Brad Friedel joining the panel as guest analyst for the broadcasts. Martin Tyler will handle play-by-play and Alan Smith will serve as analyst for the action from Wembley Stadium.

Fox’s newly signed Gus Johnson will introduce his own style to fans in a segment that illustrates what soccer’s most exciting moments would sound like if Johnson were behind the mike for them.

The cash-starved owners of the New York Mets have agreed to sell a minority share of the team to David Einhorn for a cool $200 million. The move will now allow owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz to retain control of the team, pay debts and cover operating expenses. The agreement is expected to be finalized in late June. The sale will not include a stake in SNY, the television network owned by the team.

It’s that time of year again, when the country unites behind our children so we can pretend we knew that “stromuhr” was a real word. ESPN and ESPN3.com will run the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals next week beginning June 1 at 8a. Preliminary rounds will run on ESPN3.com and the finals will air on ESPN the next day. SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele is set to return for the second straight year as host finals while former Bee finalist Paul A. Loeffler returns as the word analyst. Throughout the competition, ESPN3.com will carry a second “play along” version that will allow viewers to watch its coverage without graphics for fans at home to test their knowledge against the champion spellers.

Fox Sports Networks has lined up The Boys in the Hall, a new weekly half-hour series hosted by NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and feature interviews between former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent and baseball Hall of Famers. The series  makes its debut on FOX Sports Networks (FSN) and local affiliates on Sunday, May 29 at 6p. The Baseball Hall of Fame get full rights to the series after its debut.

It’s the US vs. UK in a NBA TV and ESPN partnership that will broadcast the first-ever WNBA game to be played in Europe. The match will feature the Atlanta Dream against The Standard Life Great Britain Women’s basketball team on Sunday, May 29 at 12p in the US on NBA TV and 5p on ESPN in the UK. Daniel Routledge will serve as the play-by-play announcer, while former Head Coach of the Great Britain Senior Women’s Team and veteran broadcaster Mark Clark will provide color commentary for the telecast. The game is part of the multiyear partnership between the Manchester City Council, the NBA, WNBA, and USA Basketball that will give basketball fans in Manchester the opportunity to attend live games in the city.

After 50 games, John Rhadigan is out as the Texas Ranger’s play-by-play voice. The team announced that Dave Barnett will take over the seat for the remainder of the season, joining analyst Tom Grieve in future telecasts. Rhadigan will return to Fox Sports Southwest as the lead anchor of the channel’s pre and postgame coverage and other programming on the network.

Fox Sports president Eric Shanks told USA Today that if the company won its bid to televise the 2014 and 2016 Olympics, the company would depart from the traditional strategy of airing taped events in primetime in would instead “plan on doing everything live.” Fox is expected to join ESPN/ABC and Comcast/NBC in the bidding.

The Liberty Bowl will be shifted from ESPN to ABC this year for the New Year’s Eve game, according to bowl officials. The move will return the Liberty Bowl back to ABC for the first time since 1980.

The Big Ten Network and the NCAA have announced that the Big Ten Network will televise the 2011 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship from Stony Brook, N.Y., this weekend. One semifinal, pitting Northwestern against North Carolina, will air on delay beginning at 10:30p, or following the network’s coverage of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament. The other semifinal, Duke vs. Maryland, will air immediately after. Sunday’s championship game will air live at 4p, or immediately following the network’s coverage of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament championship game.

Stats for the week ending May 22


The 136th running of the Preakness Stakes on NBC averaged a 4.2/10 with 6.6 million viewers, according to final Nielsen numbers. The score is up 2% on Saturday, up 2% over last year’s 4.1/11. The actual race finished with a 6.7/16 with 10.8 million viewers at 6:15pm, up by double digits at 10%. Through two races, NBC coverage of the Triple Crows is off 5% however, with an average of 5.6/13.

A primetime airing of interleague matches on Fox Saturday Baseball earned the network with its highest rated regular season telecast of the sport in almost three years. The games drew a 2.8/6 with an average of 4.6 million viewers. Saturday night’s action was up 65% over last year’s 1.7/5, which neither ran in prime time nor featured interleague schedule.

Select sports’ year to date averages:
Sport                     2010 M18-34 Rating                    2011 Rating          Difference
NBA Playoffs (ABC)               2.8                                 3.7                        +25%
NBA Playoffs (ESPN)              2.6                                 3.0                        +15%
NBA Playoffs (TNT)               2.6                                 3.4                        +31%
NASCAR Sprint Cup                1.6                                 1.9                        +19%
Triple Crown                      1.4                                 1.3                        -7%
MLB (Fox)                         0.9                                 1.0                        +11%
MLB (ESPN & ESPN2)               0.7                                 0.8                        +14%
NHL Playoffs (NBC)               0.8                                 0.8                        0%
NHL Playoffs (Versus)            0.4                                 0.4                        0%

Sponsorship & Promotion

JD Motorsports is partnering with the film Cowboys & Aliens, which will act as the race team’s primary sponsor for multiple races over the next ten weeks. The deal will kick off at the Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Moto Speedway on May 28 where Mike Wallace will drive the No. 01 ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ Chevrolet Impala. Fans will also have the chance to submit photos of themselves and win a chance for their picture to be incorporated into a mosaic featured on the race car. The car’s paint scheme will feature a movie’s mysterious lone cowboy as well as action scenes from the event film.

Heineken is extending its sponsorship of UEFA Champions League soccer for three more years, in a deal estimated to be worth around $28 million. The new deal will carry the Amsterdam-based brewer’s contract through the end of the 2014/2015 football season.

NBA stars Grant Hill and Jared Dudley will join in the new social campaign “Think B4 You Speak,” lending their images to fighting homophobic language among teens. The project stems from a partnership with the Gay. Lesbian and Straight Educational Network, the Ad Council and the NBA and is designed to make schools safe for all students.

Kudos to CNBC.com for pointing out that The Dallas Mavericks play in the American Airlines Center while The Miami Heat play in the American Airlines Arena. If those teams meet in the NBA Finals, America will be about to get a double dose of American Airlines. The report projected that the airline could draw $95.9 million worth of exposure if the finals went to seven games.

Digital Fields

JibJab Media is partnering with MLB Advanced Media for the company’s latest Starring You campaign. The program will let users insert photos of themselves, family and friends into JibJab’s famed animated videos set to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” After creating their videos, fans can then share them via Facebook, e-mail, and Twitter and by embedding them into their blog at no cost.

As we enter the homestretch of the Stanley Cup playoffs, EA announced new features for upcoming videogame EA SPORTS NHL 12, which will ship on September 9 in Europe and September 13 in North America. Updated features include a new gameplay presentation, a revamped Be a Pro mode, as well as the opportunity to knock off goalies.

The Main Event

Friday: Game 7, Lightening at Bruins at 8p on Versus.
Saturday: UEFA Champions League Final at 2p on Fox
Sunday: 100th Indianapolis 500 at noon on ABC

In My Opinion …

With all the talk about Big East expansion this week, perhaps the most telling words come not from Commissioner John Marinatto, but from UConn Coach Jim Calhoun who CBS Sports, “”My own personal opinion – and I won’t probably see this – in the next couple of years, four or five years down the road, I think you’ll see a separation [of the football and non-football membership]. I think it’s inevitable.”

After reportedly turning down an offer from ESPN to extend media rights, there remains a clear divide between football and basketball within the conference. With 8 (soon to be 9) football playing members and 16 (soon to be 17) basketball teams, universities will have to soon decide which is more important, money or tradition. A quick survey of media executives and analysts showed that keeping the conference together would provide a bigger overall deal than if the football schools broke away. However, if the football teams formed their own conference, while adding three other football playing teams, the payout per school would be greater. Of course, that would mean the end of traditional rivalries with basketball brands such as Georgetown and Villanova (providing they don’t move up in time.)

Which road to travel? The answer will continue to reshape college athletics.

(Agree or disagree?  Email your comments to chris -sports@cynopsis.com for inclusion under Emails to the Editor on Monday)


ON THIS DAY in 1971 – UCLA won the NCAA basketball championship.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: What number does Hines Ward wear for the Steelers?  Hines Ward sports number 86 for the team. Kudos: Rick Rosenfelt – New York Jets/Florham Park, NJ; Tony Ferranti – MMSI/Warwick, RI; Mike Doyle – Spot On Media Consultants/Madison, CT; Pete Gautieri – AETN/Stamford; Dan Radman – Busch Media Group/St. Louis, MO; Kevin Shannon – Charter Media/St. Louis; Aly Stogol – KMSB / KTTU/Tucson, AZ; Jordan Cohen – USC Athletics/Los Angeles; Nick Monroe  – Monroe Photography/San Diego

In The Know:  In what year were the Mets founded? (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 Cyn opsis | Sports
May 27, 2011

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