Good morning. It’s Monday, December 19, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
With the NBA season finally set to tip off on Christmas, NBA Digital is taking on the season with an expanded portfolio of content and featuring the addition of some familiar faces to the platforms coming off a strong showing a year ago. NBA Digital, a partnership between Turner Sports and the NBA, recently announced the addition of Greg Anthony to NBA TV’s Tuesday Fan Night program as well as TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal for regular contributions and in-studio appearances as part of its multiplatform digital plans for the 2011-12 season.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Christina Miller, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NBA Digital and Senior Vice President, Turner Sports Strategy, Marketing and Programming, about the new season, the impact of the lockout and what, exactly, viewers are after online.
Miller on her take away from the previous season: Last season was incredible. The NBA is such a strong brand and last year was the epitome of that brand. Every game was performance-based, with high competition and lots of storylines, narratives all the way down to the end. Everybody though it would be all about the Heat but it turned out to be the year that Dallas won, the year that Ray Allen hit his 3,000th point and Blake Griffin came into his own. There were just all these storylines from lots of players, lots of competition and all the things that are so great about the league. We ended on such a high note with all this positive awareness.
On the new season: Now that we are back in play we’d like to pick up the momentum and run with it. Right out of the gate, everyone is talking about the shortened season and who will benefit from it. There is a lot of buzz about the Clippers with Chris Paul going there; Miami has a constant buzz again, Dallas adding Lamar Odom. There are lots of new faces from a coaching perspective as well as from a player perspective. On a digital front, we need to apply that to the narrative of the season, with all of our content platforms focusing on what the fans are interested in and whether we cover it as well as or better than anyone else. Bringing the best talent in the world together across our platforms – whether its online or on the air – becomes what it’s really about. We have to be fan-centric. Whatever the content platform is, we want to be there. We want to make sure you don’t miss a moment, we want to make sure mobile usage is up and people want to watch their games and content everywhere they go.
On what fans look for in content: Fans are always looking for highlights, looking to learn more about the players. I think people want to know more and see more, but it’s the plays and highlights that drive fans first and foremost. Did you see that? Hear that? Watch that? It all goes back to the heartbeat of the game, and that being the great plays and great teams.
On the similarities between this position and her former role at Cartoon Network: Both outlets make sure that they remain focused on their audiences, knowing who they are, what they are interested in and understanding them more, knowing why they are watching you, and what they want more of. You have to understand how to keep them engaged and how to satisfy their demand for more content and in some cases create that demand for content in order to thrive.
MSG Networks has gone on the offensive in its battle with Time Warner Cable as the network’s broadcast deal counts down to expiration on Dec. 31. With Time Warner threatening to pull the channels off the lineup, and the NY teams with it, MSG Networks is now broadcasting a crawl on its networks telling Time Warner customers to speak up and/or find other carriers including RCN, Verizon FiOS and DirecTV. MSG Networks telecast nearly 400 live pro games per year as well as 150 live college basketball games.
Denver is looking to throw its hat into the ring for a potential 2022 Winter Games bid, forming an exploratory committee for a run. The city was previously awarded the 1976 Winter Games, but later turned down the opportunity and forced the Games to move to Innsbruck, Austria. California and Nevada are also teaming up to look into a bid for the Reno/Tahoe region.
Las Vegas wants to get into the Pac-12 one way or another. Local reports state that the city, led by Las Vegas Events and MGM Resorts, is going to make a push for nab the Pac-12 basketball tournament for “five years starting in 2013.” The conference’s deal with Staples Center, where the tournament has failed to draw large crowds, expires this season. Other cities that have submitted bids include Seattle and Salt Lake City, according to the articles.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Saturday that he had “regrets” following a scandal-plagued year, but would not look any further into the choice of Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup, despite claims of rigging, according to the AP. Qatar’s bid officials deny any wrongdoing.
Cartoon Network reveals the list of nominees and voting categories for the channel’s upcoming Hall of Game Awards. Categories include: He’s Got Game (best male athlete), She’s Got Game (best female athlete), Most Awesome Mascot, Alti-Dude (top alternative sports contender), Gnarliest Newb (best newcomer), Dance Machine (best celebratory dance), and That’s How I Roll (most stylish). The second-annual awards will return in early 2012 and be hosted by Shaq.
Fox International Channels announced that the company has wrapped the purchase now launch Fox Sports in Brazil in February, 2012. The new Portuguese general sports service will look to build on the distribution of existing SPEED Channel Brazil, which currently reaches 4 million homes on all major cable, satellite, and telco platforms in that country and will be the only cable network in Brazil to carry live games of the “Copa Santander Libertadores” and “Copa Bridgestone Sudamericana,” the biggest inter club soccer tournaments in Latin America. Carlos Martinez has been promoted to President, FIC Latin America and Emiliano Saccone will become President, Entertainment, FIC Latin America.
The Atlantic 10 Conference and CBS Sports Network announced that the channel will add three games to the lineup, including a regular season women’s basketball game, as well as the 2012 A-10 Lacrosse and baseball Championships.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swatbrick told The South Bend Tribune that the future of college sports and upcoming media deals, including the end of its deal with NBC, have the future of the university’s athletics, as well as independence, in flux. “What we’re trying to do with our media (Notre Dame network concept) is a factor for us. No one more than I would love to have an extended period of status quo. We have to keep watching these other things and see what happens, but we’re thrilled that the Big East was able to add the members they’re adding.”
After protests led by the Indian Olympic Association, DOW Chemical has agreed to remove its logo from London’s Olympic Stadium and was waiving its sponsorship rights to do so. That, however, hasn’t satisfied the IOA, which is still protesting the company’s role in the Bhopal gas disaster and want the chemical company to pull out completely.
In case you missed it, ESPN has tapped the services of musician Nelly for the company’s bowl game coverage this season, which features the song “The Champ” for the games. The song was written by Nelly specifically for the network’s game and studio shows and made its debut with the Gildan’s New Mexico Bowl telecast on Saturday. In addition, ESPN filmed a full-length video of Nelly performing the song to accompany various game highlights montages surrounding the telecasts and marks the first time ESPN has produced a video of an entire original song for use during its coverage.
The UFC announced that remaining preliminary-card fights from this month’s “UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem” event will stream live and for free on Facebook, with four bouts and marking the end of the company’s use of the site before turning toward the Fox-owned channel.
EA Sports is bringing Madden NFL 12, NCAA Football 12, FIFA Soccer 12, NHL 12 and all of its games to Carnival Cruise ships, according to Forbes, in a new partnership between the two companies. Select ships will feature an EA Sports Stadium up on its top deck and include a big screen TV for video games and contests as well as an EA Sports Bar, a gaming lounge that can pull in live games from around the globe and also offer passengers a chance to play any of EA Sports’ video games.
The Main Event
Pittsburgh Steelers/San Francisco 49ers at 8:30p on ESPN in a surprisingly nice matchup.
ON THIS DAY in 1984: Scotty Bowman becomes the NHL’s all-time winningest coach.
Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:What two teams did Roger Staubach’s Cowboys defeat in the Super Bowl? Answer: He beat the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI and Denver in Super Bowl XII. Kudos: Drew Seldin – TriForce/NY; David Kalan – NHL.com/NY; Michael LaPlante – ION Media Networks/West Palm Beach; Luke Dillon – ESPN Event Production/Bristol; Dan Loving – KOCB/KOKH-TV/Oklahoma City; Mary Ryan – Raycom Media/Dallas; Jay L. Clark – Lonewolf Communications/Centennial; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA; Jim Himmel – RM Marketing/San Clemente/David Chill – DIRECTV/LA; Patrick Reynolds – Reynolds Media Consulting/LA.
In The Know: Who was the last receiver taken with the first pick in the draft? (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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