Good morning. It’s Thursday, January 19, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
ESPN unveiled the 2012 Sunday Night Baseball lineup, opening with the White Sox and Rangers on April 8 as well as a pair of Yankees/Red Sox rivalry games later in the season. In all, the Yankees and Rangers are slated to appear the most often at three times each. The Red Sox, Nationals and Cardinals will each appear twice (with the Cardinals also appearing on Opening Night.) This season will mark the debut of analyst Terry Francona who will join Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser in the broadcast booth.
On the Air
The MSG Networks are showcasing the New York Giants this weekend, as the team prepares for the NFC Championship game on Sunday. On Sunday, MSG Network’s lineup of Giants programming kicks off at noon with Giants Online, featuring local writers analyzing the team’s playoff run followed by an all-new Giants Chronicles that dissects the history of the Giants-49ers rivalry and looks back at some their great playoff matchups over the years. At 1p, the channel will run Giants Opening Drive Live to breakdown of the teams just before the game.
HDNet, home to a slate of staple sports programming that includes MMA series such as Inside MMA and HDNet Fights, is undergoing an overhaul. The network will relaunch as AXS and focus on live event programming for fans of pop culture. The rebrand comes after channel owner Mark Cuban teamed up with Ryan Seacrest, concert powerhouse AEG and firm CAA. Although the new programming slate will include concerts and other entertainment news fare, executives said that the channel’s sports coverage will continue and actually feature more live elements under the new moniker.
FOX Sports announced its plans for the first-ever live Barclays Premier League match on U.S. broadcast television with Arsenal and Manchester United squaring off on Sunday at 10:30a ahead of the NFC Championship game. Rob Stone will make his first FOX Sports appearance along with FOX Soccer analyst Eric Wynalda, as well as CNN talk show host and Arsenal supporter, Piers Morgan. FOX soccer kicks off coverage with Manchester City/Tottenham at 8:25a.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told reporters that the university is in discussions with the NHL to bring the Winter Classic to Michigan Stadium for the 2013 game. Brandon speculated that the game would feature Detroit and Toronto, although the league has remained mum on the event. If the deal gets done, it could potentially mark the biggest live crowd for the event as Michigan and Michigan State drew a Guinness World Record of 104,173 people for a hockey game in Dec. 2010.
In honor of the AFC and NFC Championship Games, NFL Network will offer a special six-hour edition of NFL GameDay Morning on Sunday beginning at 9a, with host Rich Eisen and analysts Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin offering analysis and the latest news. In addition, Super Bowl winners Deion Sanders,Willie McGinest, Brian Billick and Rod Woodson are on deck to break down the key matchups and preview the games.
Sportsman Channel announced that the channel had passed the 30 million household threshold, with 31.1 million households holding access to the outlet. The network’s growth has come via a series of launches and upgrades to digital basic with Sportsman Channel now carried on DIRECTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS, Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Suddenlink and other operators.
The UFC has added a pair of additions to bolster the organization’s television production efforts. Former ESPN Deportes coordinating producer Kieren Portley has been named Vice President of Studio and Spanish Production for the promotion, while former ESPN producer Zach Candito was tapped as Event Producer for UFC’s weigh-in, pre- and post-fight shows on FUEL TV.
Meanwhile, FUEL TV’s coverage of the UFC this weekend will begin today with the live UFC on FUEL TV: Weigh-in. Jay Glazer hosts the show while Stephan Bonnar steps in as the analyst, commenting on all the action from Nashville. Ariel Helwani will be doing backstage interviews. On Friday, the channel runs the UFC on FUEL TV: Prelims live. Glazer and Bonnar will be back to introduce event, while Jon Anik and Kenny Florian will call the action.
Spike TV is poised to tap sports radio broadcaster Craig Carton to host the channel’s new MMA magazine show MMA Junkie Live. Mike Straka and MMA middleweight fighter Nate Quarry will serve as fight experts for the show, which will preview the weekend’s major fights. The weekly series will premiere Feb. 23 at 11p.
TV vet Michael Bloom is joining the FOX Sports Media Group as Senior Vice President where he will oversee a newly established Original Programming division at the company. In his position, he will be responsible for creating and developing new, original programming for all FSMG networks including SPEED, FOX Soccer Channel, FUEL TV, the FOX Sports Regional Networks, FOX Deportes, and more. Bloom joins FSMG after serving as an executive development consultant for AMC Network.
Sports News Television, the partnership between the AP and IMG Worldwide, has launched a high definition Sports News service. The move to HD was designed to allow sports news customers to have more choices in how they receive content.
Lexus, who will debut the brand’s first Super Bowl commercial this year, is also partnering with NBC Sports to create a game for fans to play sports trivia and win prizes during the NFL Playoffs, according to Autoweek. The promotion will be dubbed TweetDrive, Engineered by Lexus, encouraging fans watching the games to tweet answers to trivia questions to #LexusTweetDrive. Correct answers give the user yards toward a touchdown and each touchdown scored will enter fans into a drawing to a future sports event.
The Madison Square Garden Company has expanded its partnership with Chase to make it the “Official Card” of MSG. Under terms of the deal, Chase credit and debit card members will be given exclusive access to events and experiences across MSG’s venues and sports and entertainment franchises. Experiences will include fantasy camps, meet and greets and behind-the-scenes access.
Del Monte inked a sponsorship agreement with the Miami Heat making Del Monte the “Official Fresh Fruit” of the team for the next three years. In addition to collaborating on advertising and promotional campaigns, the two organizations will work together to support South Florida community outreach events including the Heat Season of Giving, the Miami Heat Family Festival, and the Heat Back to School Event. Also, as the official sponsor of the “Fresh Fan Poll” on the team’s Facebook page, Del Monte will sponsor a 6-week online promotion designed to encourage healthy living.
ESPN released the company’s digital year in review, announcing that ESPN.com drew an average minute audience of nearly 77,000 users on the site at any given minute across a month in 2011. Overall, users spent 3.3 billion total minutes per month with an average of 41.8 million unique visitors per month. Compared to 2011, the site’s monthly average minute audience was up 10% and daily unique visitors grew 8%. The NBA section of the site was particularly strong, up 30% over the previous season in average minute audience. ESPN’s local sites in New York, LA, Chicago, Boston and Dallas average a collective 8.6 million uniques with 77.2 million minutes per month. The new Grantland.com site has pulled nearly 2.3 million uniques in the six months since it launched, generating 27 million minutes per month.
Yahoo! is partnering with Bud Light for the third annual Bud Light Hotel during Super Bowl weekend. The alliance will feature Yahoo! publishing photos and videos from the biggest events of the weekend, including live streaming of a concert the night before kickoff which includes 50 Cent, Pitbull and Lil Jon. The Bud Light Hotel will also host EA Sports’ Madden Bowl XVIII on Thursday, February 2; the Playboy Party on Friday night; and a Barenaked Ladies concert on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Main Event
Pittsburgh Penguins/New York Rangers on NHL Network at 7p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1903: Officials announce a new bicycle race called the “Tour de France”.
Answer to Friday’s Sports Trivia Question: What is the name given to the annual Texas/Oklahoma football game? The Red River Rivalry (formerly known as the Red River Shootout) Kudos: Keith Allo – Golf Channel/Orlando; Amanda Rykoff – espnW.com/NY; Glenn Grimshaw – NBC Sports Group/NY; Andrew Giangola – IMG College/NY; Bob Ramsey – WCIU/Chicago; Lucie Prann – The Richards Group/Dallas; Mary Ryan – Raycom Media/Dallas; Dory Melman Petsrillo – Petry Television/Dallas; Eric Bates – Tennis Channel/Culver City; David Chill – DIRECTV/LA; Willie Price – American Forces Network/Riverside; Joe Pedri – KLAS/Las Vegas.
In The Know: Who is the only team to beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl? (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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