Good morning. It’s Monday, November 21, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
The NHL is set to expand the league’s big event strategy this week with the first-ever NHL Discover Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC. The game, featuring the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins hosting the Detroit Red Wings at 1p on Black Friday, will seek to launch a new holiday tradition that echoes the success of the Winter Classic.
The game will mark the earliest an NHL regular season game has aired on network television in over 20 years, and the hype is already on overdrive and will include a float in the Macy’s Day Parade. Cynopsis Sports spoke with NHL COO John Collins about the game and its place in the new strategy of the league.
Collins on the state of the season so far: It’s been a great season. We’ve been waiting to have a big fat US Network partner who considers hockey to be this important. VERSUS has been phenomenal since the lockout but this is at a whole different level now as it integrates with NBC Sports. It allows us to do a lot of fun things, including what we are doing on Thanksgiving weekend and building from there.
On holding the series on Black Friday: I can’t tell you how many times on Thanksgiving, we’d drive up to the Catskills and sleep over at my grandmother’s house and get up on Friday and then I’d have to watch her soap operas. There were never any sports on, it was ridiculous! But for us, we were looking to get big NBC focused on the league as early as possible. Typically, they’ve been coming on with the Winter Classic as their first game on the big network so this was a nice event that we felt that we could make a little noise with. Then Discover came on board, and has really taken it to the next level. A lot of credit goes to them as they’ve done a lot of commercials behind it that are phenomenal. They drove the big initiative in getting the float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and of course they will be the presenting sponsor of the Thanksgiving Showdown.
On the big event strategy: We’ve been on this big event strategy for a while now and we’ve been trying to get hockey fans to tune-in even when their favorite team isn’t playing in the game. It seems like a dry run for the Stanley cup playoffs, which is the ultimate big event where we want all hockey as well as sports fans to tune in. The Winter Classic has shown that there is a real appetite for that if you build the right platform, you can get a lot of attention from the sports community. So Friday is being promoted across all of our league assets as well as our club assets around the league as well as across all the new assets that NBC Universal and even Comcast have to offer.
On the benefits of a long-term broadcast deal: We had so many ideas and so many asks and the good thing about renewing on a long term basis with NBC is that we already know what works and what the opportunities are and we have a long term relationship where you are more willing to try things because you can build them. So if in the first year, you come out a little quietly, you then have a couple years to build it into a major platform.
NFL Network’s thrilling Jets/Broncos coverage handed the channel with an average of 7.1 million viewers, not including over-the-air stations in New York and Denver, to continue the network’s viewership climb this season over 2010. The game bested last year’s equivalent game by 31% and after two games, Thursday Night Football is up 17% over last year. In addition, nearly 500,000 fans logged on to the complementary online coverage of the contest online. This week the game pits brother vs. brother when Jim and John Harbough square off for the first time as head coaches.
Saturday’s college football telecast featuring a USC upset of Oregon handed ABC with 6.8 million viewers and a 2.4 rating and 7 share in the adult 18-49 demographic according to early ratings from Nielsen. With four of the top seven contenders falling to the wayside over the weekend, this season could quickly shape up as a worst case scenario for the BCS.
Golf Channel hit record ratings of their own for the first two days of The Presidents Cup from Melbourne, Australia, with day one earning nearly 1.3 million average viewers and day two doing even better to break the 1.5 million mark. Average viewers for the two days combined were up 123% over comparable days when the event was last played overseas (South Africa, 2003), according to preliminary national Nielsen ratings. GolfChannel.com also saw gains, with visitors for day two up 33% from day one and 82% over the same day in 2009. Golf Channel’s coverage for the two days from Melbourne surpassed all previous days on cable TV in the history of the event, which includes four days on ESPN, eight days on TNT and two days on Golf Channel.
Golf Channel also wraps up this season of Big Break Ireland tomorrow night at 9p when Julien Trudeau and Mark Murphy square off. Trudeau and Murphy will compete for the opportunity to compete in the 2012 Irish Open and the Hassan II Golf Trophy on the European Tour; as well as earn an Adams Golf endorsement contract which includes $10,000 in cash; a $10,000 shopping spree to Dick’s Sporting Goods; a $10,000 airline credit for travel use with United Airlines; a “Wonderful West of Ireland” trip for two and $50,000 in cash.
Following Saturday night’s UFC 139 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White confirmed that the next UFC on FOX event will run two hours with four fights slated on the FOX portion of the card. The event will take place in Chicago on Jan 28.
BTN has inked five new men’s basketball analysts, confirming earlier reports that former Maryland coach Gary Williams will join the crew. Williams, as well as Eddie Johnson, Keno Davis, Dan Bonner and Dave Miller will also join the crew this season. For the most part, Williams will serve as a studio analyst while Johnson, Davis, Bonner and Miller will work games. In addition, Gus Johnson is officially on board for 30 BTN games this year.
After a wide-spread scandal enveloped the University of Miami earlier this year, school officials announced on Sunday that they have notified the NCAA that the football team will not go to a bowl this season. Meanwhile, the NCAA continues to investigate the school over allegations that a former booster gave as many as 72 players and recruits with extra benefits over a period of eight years.
IMG Worldwide announced the passing of company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Forstmann yesterday, following a battle with brain cancer. Forstmann had served as Chairman and CEO of IMG since acquiring the company in 2004 and domestic and international growth under his watch for divisions that include IMG College, IMG Clients and IMG Licensing.
ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso had an oops moment over the weekend, dropping the F-bomb on air after getting caught in a prop while trying to make his pick for the SMU/Houston game. Corso returned to the air later on during ESPN’s broadcast of Nebraska/Michigan to apologize for the outburst stating, “Earlier today on ‘College Gameday’ while picking the SMU/Houston game I got a bit excited and used an expletive that I shouldn’t have used. I apologize and can promise it won’t happen again.” Meanwhile, Auburn will play host to College GameDay on Saturday, Nov. 26 ahead of the Auburn/Alabama game.
The city of Rio de Janeiro has signed a two-year agreement to serve as the official tourism destination of the ATP World Tour, according to reporters, with a platinum level sponsorship of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Of course, Rio will host both the final of the 2014 World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Game. Via the deal, Rio now becomes the new presenting partner of ATP World Tour Uncovered, the Tour’s weekly 30-minute magazine-style television show and will have a strong presence on the official website.
The return of the Winnipeg Jets and the team’s newly minted military-inspired logo needed some conditions from the Canadian military before the team could move forward with the look. The logo features a silhouetted CF-18 Hornet on top of a red maple leaf with a navy blue and grey circle around it, known in military terms as a roundel, according to The Globe and Mail. The report states that the contract states that Ottawa will own all rights to the Air Force roundel as long as they abide by certain conditions, and don’t do anything to make the Queen and country look bad.
NASCAR’s nail-biting one-two finish to the 2011 season got a nice sendoff online yesterday, when NASCAR.com and ESPN offered live in-car camera streaming inside of eventual champion Tony Stewart’s car throughout the race. The feature marked the first time that a championship racing event streamed live on the social media platform.
The Main Event
Michigan/Memphis square off in a battle of basketball powers on ESPN2 at 3p.
ON THIS DAY in 1934: The NY Yankees buy the player rights to Joe DiMaggio from the SF Seals
Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:What was the original name of the Houston Astros? Answer: The Houston Colt .45s. Kudos: John Quinn – Dish Network/NY; Larry Kahn – Golf Channel/Orlando; David Danowski – Fox Sports Cable Networks/NY; Adam Freifeld – NBC Sports & Olympics/NY; Bob Rasey – WCIU/Chicago; Steve Hall – TRC Media/Dickson; Dennis Silva – KSTC-TV/St. Paul; Jeff Marozas – Assignment Desk/Chicago; Jeff Akiyama – Magner Sanborn/Spokane; Juan Morales – Academy of Television Arts & Sciences/North Hollywood; Jeff Mirkin – Family Game Night/Hollywood; Cathy Korda – ABC Entertainment/Burbank, CA
In The Know: Who was the last person to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship before Jimmie Johnson? (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
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