Monday, November 14th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports
11/14/11

Good morning! It’s Monday, November 14, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

With the rise of college sports, not to mention the escalating distribution and cost of sports rights, IMG College broke ground over the summer on a new sponsorship platform that delivers “intellectual property rights at universities coast to coast, media opportunities, and abundant local marketing activation” for sponsors looking to break into the college ranks. With UPS and Hyundai quickly signing on as two of the first national brands, and more on the way, IMG College finally succeeded in its vision of creating a national college sports marketing program across the country.

IMG College now represents more than 200 collegiate properties, including the NCAA and its 89 championships, as well as NCAA Football, conferences, and more. The company produces 5,000 hours of local television programming, serves as the leading publisher of college sports publications, and is the largest manager of university athletic websites. Cynopsis Sports spoke with IMG Sports and Entertainment President George Pyne about the evolution of the collegiate platform, the appeal of college sports and where he sees the industry heading from here.

Pyne on the appeal of college sports to advertisers: When you look at the space, there are 172 million fans with 80 million female fans. Not only is it a very attractive and rich demographic, with 29 million fans making more than $100,000, it’s also ethnically diverse. We identified in the space that there was an opportunity to develop integrated marketing platforms at the local as well as national levels that includes any number of assets. We saw opportunity in terms of category expansion as well as enhanced pricing and packaging that is of real value to brand and advertisers, so that is kind of the thesis to college sports. We see the opportunity for a lot of category expansion and new platforms that didn’t exist at the local and regional level. 

On the assembly of the sponsorship platform: It’s something we have been working on for a couple of years. We have new platforms that you can go to one place and we can deliver you 49 of the top 50 markets. We have an opportunity with one buy where you can buy college sports locally as well as in a national package. We have local grass roots relevance and that’s unique. Because if you want to buy the 30 NFL teams, you have to go to the Patriots, Redskins and the Giants and the Raiders to do it. If you want to buy the Celtics and Lakers, you have to go to the Celtics or Lakers for these rights. Here you have an offering where you can go to one place and we can actually deliver you 74 teams that encompass 49 of the top 50 markets and includes football and basketball. We can give you 10 months, not just 6 months.

On the university fan bases: Universities are tapping into one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases in sports. In college sports, the school on the jersey represents who you are and what you stand. It is an expression of your lifestyle, it’s an expression of your values. So, that is what you are tapping into when you buy into college sports and it’s a bond that is unique. 

On the future of college sports: I think the overall exposure of college sports is up and as the industry changes, we will ride along with the industry. As the industry goes, we will go and the industry will go through changes and we will ride along. That said, I think it’s fair to say that the interest level in college sports, right now, is quite high and it’s hard to see that that is not the case for a long time to come.

On the Air

Saturday”s UFC on FOX sparked curiosity in media circles as to the potential popularity of the sport on a national over-the-air channel in primetime. Early numbers from the event helped settle those questions with the broadcast drawing 5.7 million viewers in early Nielsen ratings, to score as the most-watched UFC event ever. The heavyweight match, which barely lasted more than a minute, delivered the channel with a 3.1 rating and 5 share, with time period wins among Adults 18-34 (3.2), Adults 18-49 (3.0); Men 18-34 (4.3) and Men 18-49 (4.0). Las Vegas topped all local markets for the fight with a 5.3/9, followed by Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio and Tulsa.

Meanwhile, in primetime airings of college football, featuring ABC’s primetime Oregon/Stanford game averaged a 6.0/11, while NBC’s Maryland/Notre Dame primetime broadcast averaged a 1.4/3. ESPN averaged a 1.5/3 in prime for Alabama/Mississippi State in overnight ratings.

NFL Network’s debut of Thursday Night Football this season, featuring a Raiders/Chargers matchup was watched by an average of5.3 million cable viewers, not counting over-the-air stations in Oakland-San Francisco and San Diego that ran the game as well. The score bested last year’s opening night record by 6% and ranks as the most-watched opener in the six seasons of the network’s package of games. The contest marked the debut of the TNF announcing team (Mike Mayock, Brad Nessler and Alex Flanagan) and scored as the night’s top show among all programs on cable.

Tiger Woods’ sudden resurgence at The Emirates Australian Open helped drive Golf Channel to strong ratings spikes as a headline tournament recently acquired by the channel for the fourth quarter. Round one drew a 0.4 household rating with 396,000 average viewers to mark a 212% jump over the same week in 2010. Online, traffic on GolfChannel.com drew 1.2 million page views on Thursday to mark the site’s busiest day since the new site launched in June, beating even the US Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have asked a US Bankruptcy court to allow the team to seek bids for new television rights agreement, according to various reports. The television rights must first be approved by MLB. News Corp., which currently has the rights and maintains that it has an exclusive negotiation window for the rights, will have the opportunity to file an objection to any television rights sale.

NBA TV reality show, The Association, has contacted the Knicks about the third season of the show, according to the New York Post. The series, which offers behind-the-scenes footage and storylines for one team, echoes HBO’s NFL documentary series “Hard Knocks.” Talks with the team remain in the initial stages, according to the report. Last season, the series followed the Celtics.

Of course, that’s if there is a season. NBA players are set to meet in New York today to review the latest and apparently last offer from team owners designed to end the lockout. On Saturday, Commissioner David Stern reiterated that if the current offer is rejected, owners would lower their offer. But if it is approved, a 72-game season could be in place to begin on Dec. 15.

Sponsorship & Promotion

Outback Steakhouse announced a partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team co-owned by two-time series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas on Friday to serve as the primary sponsor of SHR’s No. 39 team and driver Ryan Newman for two races in 2012. In other races, the restaurant will be an associate sponsor with placement on the B-post of the No. 39 Chevrolet Impala. Outback Steakhouse now joins the U.S. Army, Quicken Loans and Tornados as primary sponsors of the No. 39 team.

With the championship potentially at stake, First lady Michelle Obama will help preside over NASCAR’s final race of the season at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20. She will join Dr. Jill Biden, as part of their efforts through Joining Forces, to as grand marshals at the championship Chase for the Sprint Cup finale, the Ford 400. “As part of the season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship race, NASCAR will rally its millions of fans at the speedway and online to serve military families through the holiday season by asking them to visit www.NASCAR.com/Unites and JoiningForces.gov to find service opportunities and ideas to give back to those who serve our country,” the White House said in a statement.

Digital Fields

Following the controversial ending to Saturday’s Pacquiao/Marquez bout, Ustream.tv has announced that the site will feature Roy Jones, Jr./Max Alexander for the UBO Intercontinental Crusierweight Title online. The fight will take place on Dec. 10 at 7p and be streamed as an online PPV at $9.95.

The Main Event

MNF Vikings/Packers on ESPN at 8:30p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1993: Don Shula becomes the winningest coach in NFL history

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:    Which heavyweight boxer held the title for the longest period of time, recording 25 successful title defenses? Answer: Joe Louis. Kudos: Phyllis McQuillan – MSG Media/NY; Brian Ricco – BOXTV- The Boxing Channel/Secaucus; Michael LaPlante – ION Media Networks/West Palm Beach; Gayle Saunders – Skinnypost.com/NY; Eric Jackson – Richardson Bikemart/Dallas; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA; Don Surath – CBS/San Francisco

In The Know:  Who did the Knicks beat to win their last NBA Championship? (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
11.14.11

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