Monday, September 12th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports
09/12/11

Good morning. It’s Monday, September 12, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Through a shifting landscape of college sports combined with skyrocketing prices for broadcast rights, the Pac-12 has clearly changed perceptions about new ways college sports and media can interact. Conference Commissioner Larry Scott has made moves to broaden the reach of the conference via new members Colorado and Utah, broke records in his recent deals with ESPN and Fox, and made the conference a media player when he announced the launch of Pac-12 networks last month, inking agreements for a national channel as well as six regional channels that each focus on two of the universities.

Scott tapped the services of longtime sports media and marketing executive Gary Stevenson to run the conference’s television and Internet networks, as well as Pac-12 Properties. With the Pac-12 back in the news as media outlets speculate that the conference may grow again by adding the likes of an Oklahoma or a Texas (although Scott has said the conference is content as is), Cynopsis Sports spoke with Stevenson about the future of the networks, the appeal of the conference and the strength of the brand.

Stevenson on why he wanted the job: The Pac-12 brand has been built in such a way that it has in my opinion a unique reputation, not just in the college sports world, but in the sports world in general. I liked that. The quality of the institutions is unparalleled in the major sports world. The brand of the conference and the brand of the universities themselves are very appealing.

On the strategy behind the networks: There is so much content that isn’t being seen right now. If you are a Pac-12 fan, you want to see more content which we can deliver. But even if you aren’t a fan, that content could get you hooked. In addition, Olympic and women’s sports have not had a chance to be televised in the past and we are going to be able to do that now because we will have a lot of time to fill.

On partnering to launch the network: There are partnerships, just not an equity partnership. It’s an operating partnership. We believe that if you have 100% ownership of anything, it allows you to decide the strategy and where you want to go. So Larry constructed a deal where the conference retains 100% ownership and, in my opinion that was the right call. When you have a partner, the partner might have a different interest than you might have. If you want to run a particular feature on the university of Arizona, we can as the sole owner. What you are building an asset, anytime you own 100% of an asset, it’s an advantage.

On building infrastructure for the networks: We’ll build a headquarters for Pac-12 Enterprises which will include a state of the art production facility including studios which is one of the most important things we need to get done. We’ve got five number one priorities tight now. We are in the process of identifying leaders of the different business units, at the same time identifying different locations for where we can house this. The concept is that we obviously will take direction from the universities on our programming decisions, but at the end of the day, there has to be a central organization that has to decide what will be programmed, and that will be us.

On the future of Pac-12 Properties: Pac-12 Properties, when you take all of our content and put it under one umbrella, that gives you the opportunity to create integrated media packages to companies that are both interested in the geographic footprint as well as the demographics that we deliver which is a very attractive demographic. That’s why a lot of networks are paying higher rights fees because college sports and college communities, as well as the audiences attracted to that are attractive to corporate marketers. We are going to  have the ability to give a corporate marketer the opportunity to do things at our events live, on our networks, on our digital networks, so it’s going to be one stop shopping for corporate marketers who are interested in our footprint and also our

On the Air

First off, kudos to all the leagues and networks for some terrific tributes to 9/11 over the weekend. The production was terrific and touching across the board.

Football returned with a bang Thursday night, with NBC’s NFL Kickoff game between the Packers and Saints scoring as the second-highest rated NFL regular-season primetime game in 13 years, and trailing only last year’s record numbers. The game drew a 17.2 overnight rating/28 share in the metered markets, down 3% from last year but still rocking its closest primetime competition among the broadcast networks by 283%. Top markets included: New Orleans with 57.7/75, Milwaukee 53.1/71, Minneapolis 23.8/39, Kansas City 23.0/34 and Nashville 22.6/32.

In other weekend sports, NASCAR Sprint Cup on ABC drew 5.89 million viewers with a 1.7 rating/5 share among adults 18-49. CBS saw the U.S. Open draw 2.76 million viewers and a 0.8/ 3 among adults 18-49.

NASCAR received about as perfect a lineup of household names as the association could hope for heading into the Chase. Not only did regulars Johnson and Gordon return to the mix, but fan favorites Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. did as well. The 12 drivers are set to officially begin their Chase for the Sprint Cup on Sunday in Chicago for the Geico 400 on ESPN at 1p.

As part of the return of the NFL to NBC Sports, Golf Channel is joining in with its own spin on football, with five weeks of NFL-themed programming in the lineup beginning Tuesday. The special, four-part, NFL-themed Playing Lessons series is set to begin on Tuesday at 8p that will feature current and former stars of the NFL, playing with PGA TOUR pro and current Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. Each Tuesday episode will air following a NBC Sunday Night Football telecast, and players will include Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers.

MSG Network is on deck to revisit the New York Knicks’ 1993-1994 season with an all-new series dubbed “1994 March to the Finals.” The 20-part retrospective debuts today at with new episodes set to run every Monday and Thursday. The series will be hosted by MSG Network analyst Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier and new Knicks radio play-by-play man Spero Dedes, who will look at 20 of the greatest games from the franchise’s historic season.

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Darrell Waltrip is going down under for the famed Bathurst 1000 race next month where he will be headlining the SPEED broadcast team in the Australian race. Waltrip will be joined by NASCAR on FOX’s Mike Joy as well as SPEED announcer Leigh Diffey for the race.

Bell Media and CBC/Radio Canada are entering a partnership designed to nab the exclusive Canadian media rights for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games as well as the @016 Summer Games in Rio. The IOC is expected to begin the bidding process for Canadian media rights later this year.

LA Kings staple Heidi Androl is leaving Fox Sports West ahead of the upcoming NHL season. Androl announced her intentions via Twitter on Friday, although the franchise did say she would continue to participate with the organization in various projects. Androl also works as a reporter for NHL Network and covers MMA on Showtime.

Sponsorship & Promotion

NASCAR made its presence known at the debut of the NASCAR Car Wash Company last week, with Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and association VP of licensing and consumer products Blake Davidson on hand for the grand opening ceremony. The company expects to push through 10,000 cars per location each month and has projected growth of approximately 30-50 locations in the Midwest markets of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and upper Indiana by 2016.

Let’s have a shot on the Vikings. The NFL franchise inked a three-year sponsorship deal with Familia Camarena Tequila that includes rights to the Minnesota Vikings logos, as well as in-stadium brand exposure during all Vikings regular season home games

Digital Fields

EA Sports scored a victory after a court ruled against ex-Rutgers University quarterback Ryan Hart, who filed suit against the company for using his likeness in the NCAA Football videogame without his permission. US district court Judge Freda Wolfson ruled in favor of Electronic Arts, citing that the company was within its First Amendment rights of free expression given that Hart’s likeness was based on physical appearance and stats, rather than his name, according to the ruling.

The Main Event

A MNF doubleheader on ESPN begins at 7p featuring the Patriots/Dolphins at 7p, followed by the Raiders/Broncos at 10:15p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1976: The Seattle Seahawks play their first regular season NFL game

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:  What Texas Ranger pitcher holds the team record for most wins in a season?  Not Nolan Ryan! It is actually Ferguson Jenkins with 25 wins in 1974. Kudos:Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA; David Schneider – GroupM Motion/Santa Monica

In The Know:  What two schools are former members of the Pac-12 conference?  (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
09.12.11

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