Good morning. It’s Thursday, December 8, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
With a sharp focus toward upcoming TV negotiations, the Big East officially added a quintet of new members to its ranks, three for all sports and two more as football-only additions. UCF, SMU and Houston will all join the league in all sports beginning in 2013, while Boise St. and San Diego St. look to add a west coast presence for football-only in that year as well. Commissioner Jon Marinatto told reporters during the announcement that the moves were designed with the upcoming TV negotiations in mind, and the decisions were made to rivalry games and a large footprint across each of the US time zones and allow for four back-to-back games that “don’t compete with each other.” The league is still looking to add two more members in football to have two six-team divisions with an 8-game conference schedule.
Meanwhile, with Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference reeling from the five defections, reports are surfacing that the two leagues are now exploring a full merger instead of simply a football alliance. If that happens, some TV executives have said that they would expect resistance from some eastern teams who might instead look to create a new east coast league.
News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference, that he is against a movement from pay-television providers to shift sports channels to a specialty tier in an effort to lower consumer bills. With Fox owning 19 regional sports channels, but sports rights on the rise, cable and satellite operators fear consumer reaction when bills inevitably go up, according to The Los Angeles Times, especially with Fox, NBC and CBS reportedly close to an eight-year extension of their NFL pacts that for an estimated hike of over than 60%. “The NFL is a fabulous franchise … our goal is to continue to have it be a centerpiece,” Carey said.
The NFL reports that league football games over the holiday season are hitting record numbers, with an average of 19.3 million fans watching games during the first two weeks of this holiday season during week 12 and 13 of the schedule. That marks the most viewers in that period since 1992. In addition, Thanksgiving weekend became the most-watched NFL regular-season weekend in 18 years. Locally, NFL game topped 28 of the 30 NFL markets last week, with New Orleans, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Baltimore taking the top five spots. Meanwhile, the league announced that the final Week 15 NFL schedule would remain intact after NBC chose to keep the Ravens/Chargers as it flex choice for SNF.
The end of Tiger Woods’ victory drought helped deliver NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Chevron World Challenge with record ratings for Golf Channel. Woods’ first professional victory in more than two years at the tournament bolstered Friday’s second round on Golf Channel with the best early round delivery in the history of the tournament, with a 1.2 household rating and 1,228,000 average viewers, according to Nielsen. The mark was 34% higher than the same round last year. Thursday’s round one was up 25% year-to-year. Meanwhile, Sunday’s final round on NBC, which featured Woods’ and Zach Johnson’s late-round battle for the top spot on the leaderboard, tied last year’s playoff-fueled finish as the highest-rated final round of this event in eight years with a 2.4 household rating.
FOX Sports could withhold an upcoming January royalty payment to the LA Dodgers over the company’s TV rights dispute, a lawyer for the network said in court, according to Bloomberg. The two are fighting over a proposal to solicit bids for future TV rights, with Fox against early attempts to put TV rights up for bidding and claiming that the team is wrongly using the bankruptcy procedure to break the team’s contract with Fox’s Prime Ticket unit. Meanwhile, reports say that the MLB agreement with team owner Frank McCourt must sell Dodgers by the end of April, with initial bids due on Jan. 13.
FOX Sports analyst Tim McCarver has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. McCarver becomes the second primary television analyst to win the Frick Award, joining Tony Kubek, who received the honor in 2009. McCarver will be honored as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2012, July 20-23, in Cooperstown, New York.
Spike TV is slating a special UFC Unleashed marathon on Saturday, January 28 beginning at 4p and running through midnight. Of course, UFC on FOX 2 is also set for the same evening. The marathon will be highlighted by three bouts featuring Rashad Evans.
Meanwhile, an average of 2.5 million viewers tuned in for the finale of the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV, peaking with 3.4 million viewers with a household rating of 1.7. The UFC announced that the next edition of TUF on FX will feature Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz as new coaches for show participants. The new season will reportedly begin on March 9.
The 2012 U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas is officially in the books. After it appeared that the race may not take place due to funding issues, a news release from the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council states that the race has been added to the schedule and will take place in on Nov. 18 next year in the sport’s return to the United States.
Last night, MSG Network began preparation for the upcoming NBA season with telecasts over “Knicks In 60″ featuring the best games from the team’s 2010-11 season after the team’s acquisition of All-Star Carmelo Anthony. The show will now run at midnight every night through Tuesday, December 27.
Major League Baseball is now issuing dress codes for media members, according to multiple reports. The new rules, however, aren’t extreme and ban short shorts, certain kinds of shoes/footwear, bare midriffs, visible tank tops or any article of clothing that features a team logo, according to the AP. The dress code is the first to be instituted by a major sports organization and was created by a committee of writers and baseball officials.
Galavisión lined up its first MLS game broadcast of the 2012 season, with the Chivas USA/Houston Dynamo matchup set to take place at 7p on March 11 from the Home Depot Center, according to the league. Other opening games set for the small screen include: Canadian outlet TSN opening with Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Montreal Impact on March 10, NBC Sports Network with FC Dallas/New York Red Bulls on March 11 and Portland Timbers/Philadelphia Unio on ESPN on March 12.
The Sacramento Kings have extended their broadcast partnership with CBS Radio KHTK Sports 1140 in a new five-year deal. The agreement marks the 19th consecutive season that KHTK Sports 1140 will serve as the home of the Kings and allows for the channel to carry all preseason, regular season and post-season games.
With the Big East making moves to secure its part in the BCS, Stanford Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby told a crowd at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum yesterday that the proposed plus-one playoff model in college football is “inevitable.” Bowlsby’s panel, which also included officials from UCLA and Washington, opposed a larger playoff but agreed that a four-team format seemed to be in play after the current BCS model expires in 2013.
Meanwhile, the NCAA’s FCS playoffs continue, with ESPN announcing that it will carry all four games of the 2011 NCAA FCS Championship quarterfinals live on Friday and Saturday with two on ESPN and all four on ESPN3. The first match-up kicks off at 8p on Friday pitting Northern Iowa against Montana.
ESPN and the Oklahoma City All Sports Association announced that Ramada has signed on as the title sponsor of the 2011 RAMADA All-College Classic. The Classic serves as the world’s oldest collegiate men’s basketball tournament and will be held Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, pitting Oklahoma against Houston at 8p on ESPNU, and Oklahoma State against New Mexico at 10:30p on ESPN2.
Brand Affinity Technologies has signed a licensing agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association to become the first company to offer advertisers a streamlined endorsement process utilizing three or more Major League baseball players, for both traditional and digital media campaigns. As part of the deal, BAT and its advertising clients will now have the ability to make offers to any of the MLBPA’s 750+ players. Brands will now be able to utilize the BAT platform to submit offers to players and their representatives for both individual player and group endorsement opportunities across multiple advertising mediums.
Cornhusker fans now have a name for the new home of its basketball teams, with Pinnacle Bank announcing that it will pay $11.25 million for naming rights to the upcoming sports and entertainment complex that will open in 2013. The name of the venue will be Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Well, here’s one way to find a sponsor. British athlete James Ellington has reportedly placed himself on eBay in hopes of finding a sponsor and raise money in an effort to secure a place on Britain’s team for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Top Social Programs in Sports for the month of November (games only), according to Socialguide.com’s Social 100:
1. NFL Packers/Lions FOX 11/24
2. NFL Jets/Broncos NFL Network 11/17
3. NFL Dolphins/Cowboys CBS 11/24
4. NFL Ravens/Steelers NBC 11/06
5. NFL Bears/Eagles ESPN 11/07
The Main Event
Browns/Steelers on NFL Network at 8:20p.
ON THIS DAY in 1940: The first NFL Championship is broadcast on national radio featuring a Bears blowout of the Redskins 73-0.
Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: What famed NCAA men’s basketball coach won 100+ games at each of four different universities? Answer: Not Bobby Knight or Eddie Sutton! The only correct answer submitted was Lefty Driesell with 100+ wins at Davidson, Maryland, James Madison University as well as Georgia St. Kudos: Bob Rathbun – FOX Sports, Raycom Play-by-Play/Atlanta; Jeff Miller – Meredith Corporation/Atlanta; Mike Vest – Big Ten Network/Chicago; David Chill – DIRECTV/LA.
In The Know: Who is the all-time leader for the Knicks in steals? (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 Cynopsis | Sports
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