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Cyn opsis: Sports
Good morning. It’s Monday, December 5, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
From races to the pits to last week’s awards ceremonies, SPEED has long embraced a NASCAR-centric culture that could soon grow bigger with reports that the channel could potentially land as many as six races in the next round of television negotiations.
Needless to say, SPEED’s fortunes are intimately tied to the success of NASCAR and a ratings spike this year for the sport parallels audience growth at the network. SPEED’s coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011 has officially scored as the most-watched season in SPEED history with an average of 636,000 households and 838,000 total viewers per race. The year also matched the 2009 season as the series’ highest-rated in channel history at a .81.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with SPEED President Hunter Nickell about the 2011 season, how the sport was reversing recent audience trends and where he sees SPEED’s role in the sport down the road.
Nickell on the 2011 season: We are very fired up about how the 2011 NASCAR season on SPEED has performed. I would step back and say that we are also very fired up about how the NASCAR season has performed overall. All three national series were up in TV ratings, all three had terrific stories of competition and there were terrific fundamentals that came out of this season. Stability in the sport and the growth of television audiences has been terrific. In addition, from our perspective, the work that the owners and the track owners are doing to make attending NASCAR races a terrific experience that’s affordable and memorable has been a key driver because is stabilizes attendance and helps the sport grow again.
I think the work that’s going into strengthening the fundamentals is extraordinary, not only is there capital investment but the research and other resources that are going into it are extraordinary. This organization is so motivated to strengthen and grow, that it’s exciting from our perspective.
On the evolution of Raceday: We’ve been fortunate, we’ve had strong years all along. We started strong over last year, and the stories that we built within the sport combined with a lot of work FOX Sports did in giving full scrutiny in how we produce RaceDay from beginning to end had an impact. We got a lot of important input from FOX about how RaceDay could be more appealing. That input was implemented in the shows as the season went on and it made a significant difference. I think that if you watch a full show in the first quarter and watch Saturday’s finale, there is a big difference.
On potentially airing Sprint Cup races on SPEED: Let’s just say I’m really excited about the people who are in the sport now, as well as the competitors and the work that is going into making the product and experience as great as it can be. It would be great if negotiations are wrapped up this time next year, but the timing isn’t as important as the outcome.
On Danica Patrick’s move into the sport: I think it’s going to be sensational to have Danica in the Daytona 500. As we get ready for the new season, we are coming off an incredible year for the sport with the greatest finish in years and that already makes people excited about what the next year will bring. Add that to the fact that Danica Patrick is going to race in the Daytona 500 next year and that’s exciting. From that point on, I don’t know what her impact will be but I like how she handles herself and I think she’s terrific. Now how she’ll do on the track, I have no idea. There are a lot of different opinions about.
The BCS selected an all-SEC title game for this year’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game pitting a unbeaten LSU team against a controversial in-conference opponent in Alabama. The pair will square off on Jan. 9 in New Orleans for the national title. In other BCS games, in a battle of would-be contenders, Stanford will face Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 in Glendale, Ariz. Wisconsin and Oregon meet in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2 at 5p. Clemson and West Virginia meet up in the Discover Orange Bowl on Jan. 4 at 8:30 and Michigan faces surprising pick Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3 at 8:30. All of the BCS games will be on ESPN.
Broadcasters and the NBA officially announced the opening of the new season on Christmas Day. For the ESPN family, the action begins with a doubleheader on ABC, opening with a Finals rematch between the Mavericks and Heat at 2:30p, followed by a Bulls/Lakers at 5p. The Kia NBA Countdown pregame show will start at 2p. ESPN televises a primetime doubleheader with the Thunder/Magic at 8p then a Warriors/Clippers game at 10:30p.
Over on TNT, the network gets the first game of the season with a Bruins/Knicks matchup at noon preceded by an hour-long edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by AutoTrader.com at 11a. The show will feature studio host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, along with the TNT debut of Shaquille O’Neal previewing the day’s action.
The rest of the NBA 66-game schedule is set to be released at 7p on Tuesday night with a special running on NBA TV, according to scheduling information. This year, teams will play out-of-conference opponents at least once, with three teams getting a return matchup. There will be 12 out-of-conference opponents, with six at home and six on the road.
The NHL could make some history today when owners meet to discuss realignment. One key proposal will be to break the league in to four conferences instead of two with the top four teams in each conference moving to the playoffs, according to multiple reports. Alternatively, the league could simply opt to swap Detroit with Winnipeg. The league needs a two-thirds majority for any moves to pass.
Thursday night’s Eagles/Seahawks game on NFL Network was watched by an average of 5.9 million viewers, not including over-the-air stations in Philadelphia and Seattle. That score is up 9% over the 2010 counterpart, and ranked as the night’s most watched program on cable. Halfway through the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football schedule, the channel is averaging a record 7.1 million viewers, up 24 percent from 2010. Complementary coverage of Thursday Night Football online at NFL.com and via mobile devices is up four percent over this point last year.
Lots of media personalities want in as owners of the Dodgers, according to a bevy of articles from around the country. With Frank McCourt on the way out, personalities ranging from Mark Cuban to Earvin “Magic” Johnson to Larry King are all reportedly prepping bids for buy the team. The sale process for the Dodgers could potentially begin this week, when financial details of the team will be released to prospective buyers.
MSG Network is reporting that this year’s telecasts of the New York Rangers have recorded a 7% increase in the average Nielsen household rating, drawing a 0.8 rating vs. .75 last year as well as a 19% spike in the average rating in the M25-54 demo through the first 20 games on the network compared to 2010-11. Monday’s game against the Penguins handed the channel with a season high rating of 1.60 in the household and 1.89 in the demo, according to Nielsen.
London Olympic organizers are projecting that over 4 billion people will watch the opening and closing ceremonies for next year’s Olympics and Paralympics, according to the AP. So far, executives saw that around 20,000 people will perform in the four events, although headliners have yet to be named. Those numbers mean that the ceremonies are worth $3.2 billion in advertising to the country.
Meanwhile, the BBC has announced that newscaster Huw Edwards will serve as the voice of the London 2012 Olympic Games, leading the opening and closing ceremonies for the outlet.
Former FIFA president Joao Havelange has resigned from the IOC, just ahead of a suspension from the governing body based on last decade’s FIFA kickback scandal, according to the AP. Havelange has been under investigation for allegedly receiving a $1 million payoff.
Sponsorship & Promotion
The Sprint Cup continues. NASCAR and Sprint entered a multiyear agreement that will keep Sprint as the entitlement partner of the racing series. The agreement runs through 2016, and ensures that the No. 1 finisher in the sport’s top series will be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Sprint became the title sponsor in February 2004.
CNBC reports that after Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch guzzled Skittles after scoring on Thursday night’s game, which was caught on television, the candy brand is now giving Lynch a two-year supply of the candy as well as a dispenser to keep in his locker.
In a new YouTube video, WWE has announced that the company will launch a new YouTube channel on February 1, 2012. In the video, the company announced “On February 1, 2012, WWE is rolling out with a new WWE YouTube channel featuring exclusive, one of a kind videos from your favorite WWE Superstars and Divas. Get ready and subscribe today!”
The Main Event
A battle of rumored LA franchises square off on ESPN when the Chargers visit Jacksonville at 8:30p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1978: The Phillies sign free agent Pete Rose to a 4-year $32 million contract that makes Rose the highest paid player in MLB.
Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: Who is the all-time receiving leader for the Green Bay Packers? Answer: Donald Driver has the most receptions for the team (but a gold star for everyone who answered that James Loftin had the most yards). Kudos: Noah Coslov – CineSport/NY; David Mulhern – Sucherman Consulting Group/NY; Russ Koch – MPG/NY; Peter SP Gimber – CBSBoston.com/Boston; Jill Fredericks – KVUE/Austin; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA; Stephen Rodgers – PRO- Peter Rodgers Organization/Hollywood.
In The Know: What was the last non-SEC team to win the BCS Championship Game? (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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