Monday, September 19th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports
09/19/11

Good morning. It’s Monday, September 19, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

The return of the NHL this season marks some high points for a league that once seemed crippled over labor issues. Fresh off a new national broadcast deal that delivers a record amount of money to the league, partnered broadcasters are gearing up for a major push for the sport this year. Cynopsis Sports previews the upcoming season on their national platforms, and make sure to check out a terrific Q&A with NHL COO John Collins here

With the beginning of preseason games tonight, the NHL is back on the ice and ready to take center ice thanks to its record new broadcasting agreement with NBC Universal that will put nearly $2 billion in the league’s coffers over the next ten years. Although the NHL has been working with NBC and Versus for a while now, the new agreement puts the two organizations in uncharted waters, creating a deeper relationship designed to broaden the sports’ exposure to audiences and sponsors as well as anchor programming for the Versus rebrand into NBC Sports Network in January.

“I think it’s an incredibly building block to really begin driving the entire business,” said NHL COO John Collins. “In NBCU, we have a big time media company and they are going to give us the national promotion and exposure that I think the league has never had. We have a bunch of growth initiatives with those guys that we are focused on together and I expect our growth to continue as we move forward.”

Last season literally ended on a high note for the league, with Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals drawing an average of 18.3 million viewers across the US and Canada, a viewership record. The new deal, which runs through the 2020-21 season, not only opens the door for more national games on the NBC and Versus platforms with 100 regular season games on deck for the networks, but also places a greater emphasis on the playoffs, with every single playoff game set to be televised nationally for the first time.

“I think the 100 regular season windows are going to be valuable, but I think the Stanley Cup plans are at least as valuable if not more so,” said Collins. “We have created some great events and got some landmark ratings over the past couple of years with them. But we are important to those guys as well because while they are pulling together all these different assets to see how they can leverage them and make them work, the NHL is the one property that really ties their platforms together through their broadcast network, the soon to be christened NBC Sports Network and all of their digital properties.”

The ties grew deeper shortly after the rights deal, with the creation of a sponsorship sales venture that will streamline national U.S. NHL media sales over the next five years. Through the venture, NHL media sales for all national platforms — NBC, Versus, NBCSports.com, NHL Network, NHL mobile and all official NHL digital sites, including NHL.com — will now be sold by the NBC Sports Group Sales Department.

“NHL is a tentpole property on the Sports Network and we will take advantage of the relationships and build from there,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer,NBCSports and Versus. “The biggest benefit we have going forward will be the consistent look and feel for production and talent across the two platforms so it will really is one group of talent that will do all the games on both NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports. I think that is a huge advantage that when you tune in you know what to expect on a nightly basis. The sport deserves a bigger audience. It started last year in a big way and we think with the production plan and talent we have, we can make this a big jump for the NHL.”

NBC Sports Group

With 100 games in the docket and its first full season ready to go following the Comcast merger, NBC Sports Group is increasing its number of national games this season, with NBC set to begin its coverage earlier than ever this year the day after Thanksgiving on Friday, November 25, at 1p featuring the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins hosting the Red Wings live from the TD Bank Garden in Boston. Coverage will continue on NBC with its national “Game of the Week” on Sundays beginning January 14 with an inter-division battle between rivals Chicago and Detroit from Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Versus/NBC Sports Network is set add two new nights of nationally exclusive games, as well as a live pre- and post-game show surrounding every telecast dubbed NHL Live, as well as the return of NHL Overtime. In addition to televising games on Monday and Tuesday nights, the network will now add a ‘Game of the Week’ telecast on Wednesday night and, beginning in January, additional Sunday night games. In addition, the channel’s first official day as NBC Sports Network will fall on the same day as the annual Winter Classic.

“Now that we are one group, we are able to utilize the same broadcast teams across the two platforms and that will drive audiences back and forth between the channels,” said Flood. “Starting in January, when the NHL on NBC Game of the Week launches, we will have the studio show on Sunday afternoon come from our Connecticut studios on the NBC Sports Network. Then that night, the Sunday night game will be on Versus and the studio show will come from the same location. We will be able to have this common studio and this common group that will host all the intermissions for the NHL. That will be a nice synergy that will let fans know that we are the home of hockey.”

In addition, the deal will ensure that every single playoff game is available to a national audience, something that the league has never been able to do before.

“If you are a displaced Bruins fan lining in the New York area, there is nothing worse than not being able to see a Bruins playoff game because the cable package had picked up another game and you weren’t able to watch the team you had a passion for,” said Flood. “There are so many fans that are out of their home market, and were very frustrated by not being able to see their team in the playoffs. This changes everything.”

NHL Network

NHL hockey games return to NHL Network beginning tonight as does network show NHL Live, with a total of 32 preseason games set to air in the U.S. through Sunday, Oct. 2. Then the regular season will see the channel air a total of 78 games get play on the outlet. Overall, NHL Network continues to add distribution and is set to hit 50 million households within the next year.

“We’re excited about the growth of our content and we have made some moves that we think we help deliver the kind of programming hockey fans would expect from this network,” said Bob Chesterman, Vice President of Programming at NHL Network. “We started building upon the tentpoles last year and put our best foot forward to be on site a lot more.”

This year, the channel is shifting staple series NHL Live into early access with a move from 5p to 7p. The channel is also changing broadcast control to avoid blackouts and instead have alternate programming ready to air.

“We’ve updated the studio for NHL Live, and we will literally be everywhere around the league,” said Chesterman. “We’ve installed cameras in every arena below the scoreboard and we’ll be able to look in during pre-skates and have access everywhere and be able take the fan to a lot more places than we ever could before. Our goal is to be live as much as possible and we want to be the home for highlights, news and information.”

On the Air

After turning down an extension with ESPN for media rights earlier this year, the Big East’s financial gamble appears to have been a bust. On Sunday, the ACC announced the additions of longtime Big East member Syracuse and Pitt into the league, and jeopardized the conference’s future in football. The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents voted unanimously to accept the two schools as new members over the weekend, and will now seek to renegotiate its television deal sometime soon. The conference may add an additional two members, however, before negotiations take place, with reports speculating that the next two will also come from the Big East. The ACC just began a 12-year, $1.86 billion television contract this season, which already appears low compared to other deals some of the BCS conference have been making.

Meanwhile, multiple reports state that the Pac-12 may be finalizing final details of a deal that would bring Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to the conference. The deal would allow Texas to keep a form of its current Longhorn Network, which news site Rivals said could become known as the Pac-16 Texas Network and air Pac-16 programming. Schools would then be divided into four 4-team pods grouping the Texas/Oklahoma schools together, the Oregon/Washington schools, the California universities, and finally the Arizona/Utah/Colorado teams, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Universities would play every team in their pod once a year in football, as well as two teams from each of the other pods. Oklahoma and Texas Board of Regents are both scheduled to meet today to review conference realignment.

Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt asked permission from a bankruptcy court to auction the team’s media rights, which could allow him to remain owner of the stories franchise. The court date is set for October 12 and the plan would give team executives a 45-day window for exclusive negotiations with FOX, followed by an open auction with the likes of Time Warner, Charter Communications, Dish Network and DirecTV if a new deal with FOX was not struck. The club’s current deal with FOX runs through the 2013 season.

Last week’s debut of A Football Life: Bill Belichick on NFL Network was watched by an average of 657,000 fans, ranking as the most watched documentary in the eight-year history of the network. In addition, 252,000 average viewers tuned in to the 10p encore of the show. The episode showcased the Patriots coach, who became the only coach ever to be wired for sound for an entire NFL season in 2009. The second part of the documentary will air on Thursday at 10p.

The Pac-12 unveiled its slate of television games for the upcoming men’s basketball season. The conference will feature 67 men’s contests set to be run by national, regional and local outlets. The Pac-12 men’s basketball package will include 56 games airing nationally or regionally on FSN, as well as seven nationally or regionally on CBS (including the Pac-12 Tournament championship game), and four nationally on ESPN or ESPN2. Other appearances will also be made via other conference television agreements and various in-season tournaments. Around 80 games will be also be run on local telecast and will be announced by the institutions. The first FSN game of the season will pit Georgia at COLORADO on Monday, November 28.

After a controversial finish during Saturday’s PPV bout, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. wasn’t pleased with the line of questioning from HBO’s Larry Merchant. “You don’t never give me a fair shake,” Mayweather said during the interview. “So I’m gonna let you talk to Victor Ortiz, alright? I’m through. Put somebody else up here to give me an interview. HBO need to fire you because you don’t know (expletive) about boxing. You ain’t (expletive).” The longtime boxing commentator later said, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your ass.”

BYUtv is welcoming home a fan favorite, slating Jimmer’s All-Stars on the schedule on Sept. 22 at 9p. The event will feature former BYU player and first-round NBA draft pick Jimmer Fredette, who will rejoin his college coach to captain one team of NBA draftees and draft-eligible players against rival captain Kawhi Leonard and his coach Steve Fisher from San Diego State. Teammates will include first-round picks Bismack Biyombo, Kenneth Faried, Tobias Harris, and Chris Singleton, as well as Fredette’s former teammate Jackson Emery.

MLB Network analyst and former MLB pitcher Mitch Williams is set to be featured in tonight’s new episode of DIY Network’s House Crashers at 8p. Mitch will join series host Josh Temple as the team tears up and renovates the room and backyard of Philadelphia Phillies fan Johnny McDonald, with the results set to include an autographed baseball-infused bar and an outdoor viewing area complete with seats and a turnstile from Veterans Stadium. This episode will mark the third partnership between MLB Network and DIY Network.

Sponsorship & Promotion

NASCAR is joining the Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management (TEAM) Coalition, an alliance that promotes responsible drinking and positive fan behavior at sports facilities. As part of the membership, NASCAR will launch a promotion in partnership with Miller Coors that will reward one fan with a grand prize trip to Las Vegas, Nev. to attend the crowning of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Digital Fields

BTN has launched a series of weekly web series dedicated to the conference’s soccer teams through the BTN Soccer Report. Hosts Kevin Egan and Aron Hyde will review and discuss men’s and women’s soccer from around the league.

The Main Event

Week two of MNF as the St. Louis Rams visit the Giants on ESPN at 8:30p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1988: US Olympic diver Greg Louganis gains worldwide fame when he hits his head on the diving board

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:   What is the only school to have played in all five BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar and the BCS Championship)?  Oklahoma. Kudos: Synda Kollman – Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Glenn Schineller – Time Warner Cable/Charlotte; P.J. Fitzgerald – Zimmerman Advertising/Ft. Lauderdale; Jason Viers – MTV Networks – Nickelodeon/NY; Joanna Kuebel – Entertainment Studios/Chicago; Warren Weideman – Producer/LA; Joe Ferreira – CBS/LA; David Chill – DIRECTV/LA; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA

In The Know: Which Big East men’s team has recorded the most NCAA Tournament appearances? (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
09.19.11

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