Good morning. It’s Monday, September 26, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
After a ratings spike for the US Open, USTA officials and players alike are looking ahead to keep audiences engaged during what many households consider to be the offseason (never mind that events such as the Davis Cup and ATP Tour are still underway). One relatively new event that is currently drawing crowds around the country is the Champions Series, a tennis circuit featuring some of the sport’s icons that include Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Jimmy Connors , Bjorn Borg, Michael Chang and Mats Wilander. The series consists of a 12-city tour of one-night tournaments played in arenas from Sept. 22 through Oct. 22 with each of the legs set to be broadcast on Fox Sports Net as well as Tennis Channel.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Jim Courier, who currently serves as an on-air analyst for the likes of CBS and Tennis Channel and co-founded InsideOut Sports + Entertainment which produces the Champions Series, about the sport’s relationship with television, how players are working together to grow engagement and the ups and downs of being in the broadcast booth.
On the goal behind the Champions Series: It’s something I’ve been a part of since 2005 when we started with one tournament in Houston. So I’ve been playing in it and am also involved on the business side of the series since its inception. I really love the format we’ve gone with this year in traveling the country to have one-night tournaments condensed into a three hour timeframe for fans to come and watch four great players play a shootout tournament in a nice setting. We are set to hit 12 US cities in a condensed five week period. There are a lot of great cities that are underserved as far as tennis events go and there are a lot of tennis fans out there that don’t get a chance to see big names come and play.
On driving fan passion for the sport: After the US Open, there is so much interest in tennis that it gets a lot of people out and into the tennis clubs because they are excited about what they are seeing. I remember as a child, that watching the big tournaments would get me fired up and I’d try to emulate those players. So what we are doing as tennis players is to go out and extending the tennis season in America for five weeks and taking tennis to the masses around the country. Of course, the more attention you can get and the more stories you can get placed in the newspapers and online, all of that adds up and helps engage the fans. With more people playing tennis than ever, it is our job to go out there and continue to bring them in the fold.
On being in the broadcast booth: I like being behind the microphone to analyze what’s going on in the matches. I like to try and give the viewers at home a little bit more insight into what they are seeing and what they players are thinking and why they are doing what they are doing out there. That’s the interesting part for me when I watch other sports, I want to get inside the players heads and understand why they are doing specific things on the field of play. That’s my role to add color to what people are seeing on the screen. I think it’s pretty easy to go sit in there, put a microphone on and talk about what I know. The art of doing broadcasting is to know when to deliver information and when not to overload the audience because when the tennis is at its best, that’s probably when the broadcasters should be speaking least. It’s when matches are boring that broadcasters need to fill in the gap and keep audiences interested.
MLB celebrated the league’s 200,000th regular-season game Saturday night, just as news broke about some potential changes to the sport. The New York Post reports that as part of the sport’s new CBA, MLB will add two wild-card teams to the mix where both leagues will hold a one-game playoff to determine who will advance. The new system would go into effect no later than 2013.
Meanwhile, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has filed a motion with a judge to end Frank McCourt’s run as owner of the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers and finally sell the team. The Dodgers subsequently released a statement stating that MLB’s motion was “meritless.”
It didn’t take long for the NBA to scratch out its calendar following last week’s failed labor negotiations. The league officially announced that training camps would be postponed indefinitely and 42 preseason games would be scratched due to the lack of a CBA on Friday. Camps were slated to open on Oct. 3 and all preseason games from Oct. 9-15 are now off the books. Both sides as well as their broadcast partners still hope the entire regular season, which is set to begin Nov. 1, can be salvaged.
It’s official for the Southeastern Conference and Texas A&M. The conference’s Presidents and Chancellors officially announced that the university would join the Southeastern Conference beginning July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2012-13 academic year. The addition of A&M brings the SEC membership to 13, with most analysts suggesting that another move may be in the making to even up the divisions.
Saturday Night College Football on ABC, featuring a LSU/West Virginia matchup, seems set to deliver ABC with another win for the evening, with Nielsen fast nationals delivering a 2.1/7 among adults 18-49 with 6.35 million viewers.
CBS Sports has selected the teams for its Oct. 1 SEC doubleheader, slating an Auburn/South Carolina game for the early slot at 3:30p, with Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein will calling the action. The primetime game will feature Alabama/Florida. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson handle microphone duties.
Univision appointed David Neal to the role of Senior Vice President of Production for Sports. Neal will oversee production for Univision’s sports properties across all platforms. Neal most recently served as Executive Producer for NBC Sports and Executive Vice President of NBC Olympics, where he produced nine Olympic Games, four NBA Finals, two World Series and a Super Bowl pregame show for the company.
MLB Network is celebrating the upcoming post-season by making the series MLB’s 20 Greatest Games available on demand to audiences from Sept. 26 through Oct. 31 across video providers that include Comcast, DISH Network, Cox, AT&T U-verse and RCN, as well as Time Warner and Cablevision, who are carrying MLB Network content on-demand for the first time.
The return of the Winnipeg Jets to the NHL paid off for Canadian viewers, with the team’s first preseason game drawing more than 490,000 viewers in the Jets broadcast region to the new regional channel TSN Jets on Tuesday night.
SPEED has added Ray Evernham to the on-air team, where he is serving as a regular analyst on SPEED Center. Evernham worked as a crew chief of the 1990s, to partner with Jeff Gordon for 47 wins in 216 starts, and netting three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.
NBC Sports Group is developing a new sweepstakes combining two of the company’s biggest franchises, golf and Notre Dame. Golf Channel’s next installment of reality series Big Break takes place in Ireland this season, which happens to also be where Notre Dame is playing next year. So NBC Sports Group has designed the “Lucky Break Sweepstakes” which will award a VIP football and golf experience to the Emerald Isle in 2012. Fans must watch Notre Dame Football home games on as well as episodes of Big Break Ireland on Golf Channel to learn the keyword needed to enter the contest.
IOC President Jacques Rogge made history last week when he became the organization’s first President to go live on the Web as part of an hour-long interview on China’s biggest microblogging site, Sina Weibo. During the interview, Rogge answered selected questions from fans with video of the interview streamed live while his statements were being simultaneously tweeted. The end result saw around 100,000 messages exchanged on Weibo. In less than a day after the interview, the video of the Q&A session had been viewed over one million times, while the Olympic site on Weibo generated more than 40,000 new fans over the same period.
Series WWE Superstars is been cancelled online, according to multiple reports. The series was once part of the WGN programming lineup before shifting to the Internet. Tapings of the show will continue, however, where it will air internationally.
Arizona State University is teaming with Fanatic Fans, a sub-development of Calibrus, Inc., for a new app designed to allow fans to check-in to games and digitally engage with one another through the portal. This app will also involve video board and LED contests during the timeout period of the games, along with text-back abilities that allow fans to win prizes and download the application.
A classic battle of rivals as the Cowboys host the Redskins on MNF on ESPN at 8:30p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1961: Roger Maris hits homerun #60 to tie Babe Ruth’s record
Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: What Red Sox great is the team’s all-time leader in home runs? Ted Williams with 521. Kudos: Terence Gaffigan – MSG Media/NY; Michael Brown – IMG Worldwide/NY; Adam Freifeld – NBC Sports & Olympics/NY; Chris Connaughton – Big Lead Sports/NY; Greg Moloznik – GLM Media Dynamics/Scottsdale; Shane Igoe – ESPN page 2/Malibu; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA
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