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INDIAN WELLS: MARCH 10-MARCH 18 ROLAND GARROS: MAY 27-JUNE 10
MIAMI: MARCH 24-MARCH 30 WIMBLEDON PRIMETIME: JUNE 25-JULY 8
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Good morning. It’s Thursday, March 1, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
ESPN is taking Championship Week to a whole new frontier, making games available via Facebook with the launch of a syndicated ESPN3 player that will be available throughout the week. This move marks the first time that live, streaming sports games from an ESPN network will be available through the social networking platform. In order to access the content, Facebook users must receive ESPN3 through an affiliated provider and the action is set to begin Thursday on ESPN’s various Facebook pages. In addition, teams and conferences will also be able to display the ESPN3 player on their official fan pages to showcase live games for their fans.
Lots of reports yesterday that MLB and the players association are locking down plans to expand the playoffs beginning this season. The change would make 10 teams eligible for the post-season, instead of eight, with five from each league. Although the deal isn’t finalized, ESPN, CBS Sports and FOX Sports all report that a deal is expected to be completed soon. The expansion would now make two wild card teams for both the AL and NL, who would then square off in an one-game elimination to the right to move on.
Golf Channel named Molly Solomon as Executive Producer and Senior Vice President, Production and Operations, Golf Channel. The promotion marks the first female hire named to the role for a national sports network. Solomon, who was previously a coordinating producer for NBC Olympics, is a nine-time Emmy Award-winner and will report to Golf Channel President Mike McCarley. In her new position, Solomon will oversee all aspects of production for programming for the network, including tournament coverage, news, original productions and operations. Although she will assume duties immediately, she will continue to serve NBC Olympics through the 2012 London Games and beyond.
The NFL’s pre-season is officially set to begin on Aug. 5 with a showdown between the Cardinals and Saints for the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. The game will be televised on NFL Network at 8p.
Former Indianapolis Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian is now on team ESPN. The six-time NFL Executive of the Year inked a deal to serve as an NFL analyst for the company and is slated to debut on March 12. In addition, he will appear throughout the year on NFL Live, NFL32, and SportsCenter. He will also regularly contribute to ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Radio and other platforms where he will focus on the NFL Draft, free agency and other business-related aspects of pro football.
With more than 100 hours of coverage, 45 stage/studio shows and more than two dozen on-air personalities for the slew of events at Daytona, SPEED saw ratings for the M18-49 demographic rise an average of 16% over the two weeks of coverage, according to Nielsen. The network reports that broadcasts for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice were up 70% in the demo over six sessions, with series Trackside more than doubling audiences in the category with a 133% increase.
NFL Network’s 2012 NFL Draft coverage is bringing back Path to the Draft, with the sixth season returning on Monday at 6p and running through the 77th annual NFL Draft from Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock headlines the show along with NFL Draft analyst Charles Davis, former NFL front office executive Michael Lombardi and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly. Paul Burmeister and Fran Charles will rotate as hosts.
Meanwhile, NFL Network personalities Paul Burmeister and Charles Davis are on deck this year for microphone duties for the network’s coverage of the AFL, which begins its 25th season on March 9, with the Pittsburgh Power/Orlando Predators. This season marks the third consecutive year of the channel’s “Arena Football Friday” and the first with NET10 as the presenting sponsor. The season will include 23 games, as Burmeister shares play-by-play duties with Fran Charles and Ari Wolfe, while Davis, Brian Baldinger, Solomon Wilcots, Kurt Warner and Anthony Herron serve as analysts.
ABC and ESPN are set to offer an NBA quadrupleheader on Sunday, March 4, that will include the Heat squaring off with the Lakers on ABC at 3:30p. Mike Breen and analyst Jeff Van Gundy calling the action with reporter Lisa Salters. Other matchups will include Knicks/Celtics at 1p on ABC, as well as ESPN’s Bulls/76ers at 7p and Nuggets/Spurs at 9:30p.
Universal Sports Network is running the 2012 Strade Bianche from Tuscany, Italy this Saturday, March 3 at 9a. The 190 km race, which starts in Chianti and ends in Siena, includes eight hilly sections of dirt and gravel roads for a total of 57.2 km of racing, is part of the UCI Europe Tour and leads into the European Classics Season.
Integrated Sports Media announced today that it will distribute “Island Assault 4: The Battle,” featuring the World Boxing Organization Flyweight Championship between defending champion Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria and challenger Omar Nino Romero, March 31 live from the Philippines. The bouts are being distributed in the US by Integrated Sports Media at 9p via iN Demand, DIRECTV, DISH Network and Avail-TVN and will be available via on-line PPV on Ustream.tv.
San Diego sports anchor Ross Shimabuku was suspended for his on-air implications about NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. Fox 5 tweeted that he had been suspended without pay for a week following his proclamation describing her as a “B” and it’s not “beautiful.” Shimabuku has since apologized.
Sirius XM Radio begins broadcasts for its annual MLB Spring Training Tour today, with a look at all 30 Major League Baseball clubs as they prepare for the 2012 season. Sirius XM’s MLB Network Radio and Mad Dog Radio will both broadcast live from ballparks in Arizona and Florida and feature one-on-one interviews with managers, players and executives from every MLB team. Coverage begins from Tempe with a focus on the Angels.
The PGA Tour locked down an extension with American Honda Motor Co. and Children’s Healthcare Charity, Inc., to keep Honda in the title sponsorship of The Honda Classic by four years, through 2016. Honda initially became title sponsor of the tournament in 1982, and is the longest-running continuous sponsor on the PGA TOUR.
The NBA unveiled plans for tonight’s Noche Latina (Latin Night) program, with commemorative games celebrating fans and players across Latin America and U.S. Hispanic communities with special telecasts and in-arena festivities, including distinctive NBA team uniforms. Celebrations are slated to take place in LA (Lakers), Miami, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, Chicago, and New York with seven nationally televised games across TNT, ABC, and ESPN. Noche Latina merchandise, including the special game jerseys produced by adidas, will be available at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, online at NBAStore.com, and at in-arena stores for participating teams.
CALL FOR ENTRIES: Think you’re an MVP in the world of sports media or will your rivals steal the spotlight? Enter the Cynopsis Sports Awards and bring home a crystal award for your shelf, recognizing the grit and strategy you’ve shown all year long. The awards will cover the best of 2011 from the world of television, radio and online, with categories that range from news shows to apps to marketing campaigns.
NBA Digital received a record-breaking performance during NBA All-Star 2012 for traffic to NBA.com, total votes for the Sprite Slam Dunk and video streams on NBA Mobile Web. New records included NBA.com generating more than 114 million video streams as well as 209 million page views, for boosts of 40% and 30% over last year’s tallies. The Sprite Slam Dunk contest drew more than 5 million votes from fans to mark a spike of more than 15%. The All-Star Game also scored a record of more than 2.5 million comments on Twitter and Facebook, up nearly 370% over last year. NBA Mobile Web video streams also scored a record with a rise of more than 305% during the weekend compared to last year’s event.
After yesterday’s report that NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski scored 100,000 additional followers for tweeting during the delay at Daytona, NASCAR ruled that his actions didn’t violate any rules of unauthorized communication. In fact the organization stated that they “encourage our drivers to use social media to express themselves as long as they do so without risking their safety or that of others.”
In addition to the ESPN3 player, ESPN has also launched a new Facebook Page for SportsCenter that reflects the major milestones in sports that have occurred since SportsCenter hit the airwaves.
SB Nation’s YouTube channel officially launches today, with shows like Shutdown Fullback and contributions from bloggers such as Amy Nelson, Bomani Jones, Matt Ufford and more.
The Main Event
Oklahoma City/Orlando face off on TNT at 8p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1941: Elmer Layden becomes the first NFL commissioner.
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question:For which Big Ten school did Bobby Knight play basketball in college? Kudos: Ohio St. Kudos: Greg Schoen-NCC Media/NY; Todd Hommel-ESPN NY 1050AM/NY; James Stuart-NBC Sports/NY; Matt Pumo-Triad CW 20/Greensboro/Winston-Salem; Jay Goslee-Comcast Spotlight/Nashville; Jennifer Hernandez-Comcast SportsNet/Chicago; Candice O’Connor-GreenLeaf Media Services/Flower Mound; Elizabeth Conlisk-BTN/Chicago; David Hauptman-Katz Television Group/Denver; Don Wollman-Big Brother/LA; Brian Sullivan-KHQ-TV/Spokane; Jim Himmel-RM Marketing/San Clemente; Anne Wettig-FX Network/LA.
In The Know: Bo Jackson was originally drafted in the NFL by Tampa Bay, but spent his entire football career with which team? (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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