Good morning. It’s Thursday, September 29, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
With ratings upticks on all three networks that ran Sprint Cup races this year, NASCAR is sticking to its guns next season with only moderate tweaks to its 2012 schedule. The organization released its slate of races yesterday, with 13 races once again set to air on FOX, followed by six on TNT and the remainder of the slate on ESPN. The season officially launches once again with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26, although the race will run one week later than norm. Tweaks to the schedule include shifting Talladega Superspeedway’s Chase event running two weeks earlier to Oct. 7, Texas Motor Speedway’s shifting to April 14 in order to accommodate the Easter holiday, and Daytona’s summer event and Kentucky Speedway’s race will swap weekends in 2012.
ESPN revealed the lineup of teams for this season’s Sears BracketBusters event, which will include two of the Final Four teams from the NCAA Tournament (VCU & Butler). Overall, this season will include the largest number of teams ever for the event, with 142 teams, up from 114 in 2011, looking to beef up their RPI. The potential NCAA hopefuls will square off between Feb. 17-19 next year with 13 nationally televised games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3. The 142-team field will include teams from 16 conferences, including: 12 each from the CAA, MAC and Southland as well as representatives from the Ohio Valley Conference, Big South, Horizon League, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Missouri Valley, Summit League, America East, Big Sky, Big West, the WAC, the Southern Conference, the MEAC and the West Coast Conference.
With the NFL in full swing, NFL Network drew record numbers in September with a total of 29.8 million viewers tuning in to the channel, to mark a 10% rise from 2010, according to Nielsen, which designated the September ratings period to run from August 29-September 25. The channel’s primetime lineup of NFL Total Access,NFL Replay,Playbook, No Huddle, Sound FX and A Football Life averaged 314,000 viewers for a 27% rise as well.
MLB Network scored the channel’s best ratings for a single quarter ever for the third quarter of this year, boasting 42% growth in average viewers in total day as well as 31% growth in average viewers and 33% growth in the A18-49 demo in primetime. The network’s studio show MLB Tonight saw a spike of 44% during that same period.
NBC Sports and Universal Sports Network are set to present all of the final events from the 2011 World Gymnastics Championships from Tokyo beginning Wed., Oct. 12, and continuing through the following Sunday. Universal Sports is on deck to broadcast from the championships every night, while NBC will air afternoon weekend coverage of the event. NBC’s Olympic gymnastics broadcast team of Al Trautwig, Elfi Schlegel and Tim Daggett will handle all NBC events and Universal Sports’ weekday coverage while play-by-play announcer Paul Sunderland, along with Schlegel and Daggett, will handle Universal Sports’ weekend coverage.
More Dodgers drama as Fox Sports filed suit against the troubled team on Tuesday in an effort to halt the proposed sale of the team’s television rights. In a filing with a bankruptcy court in Delaware, Fox Sports stated that any team effort to sell media rights would be a violation of their current broadcast agreement with Fox. The current contract delivers Fox with exclusive negotiating rights until November 2012 as well as the right to match any other offer under that contract.
With a potential football-only merger/alliance in the cards in order to gain permanent access to the BCS, Conference USA and Mountain West Conference athletic directors continued discussions this week in Dallas to discuss ways the two leagues could work together to earn an automatic Bowl Championship Series bid. The conference later released the following statement, “Athletics directors and administrators at Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference enjoyed a productive exchange of ideas this week. In today’s dynamic intercollegiate athletics environment, we feel it is important to be proactive and creative. Our intention is to move forward together with this discussion and analysis at a focused pace.”
The ESPN family of networks has locked in plans to cover the WNBA Finals, which will feature the Atlanta Dream and Minnesota Lynx in a best-of-five series. Games begin on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 8:30p on ESPN and ESPN3 before shifting to ESPN2 and ESPN3 for the remainder of the series. Pam Ward will call Game 1with analyst Rebecca Lobo and reporter Heather Cox. Terry Gannon will take over the remainder of the play-by-play duties in the five-game series with Lobo and Cox. Programming will feature coaches and officials wearing live microphones, an EStrator telestrator system and a new open for the WNBA Finals on ESPN/ESPN2 that will feature moments from the first 15 years of the WNBA Finals.
The second day of negotiations in the NBA labor dispute this week saw some movement, according to multiple reports, with more discussion set to take place through the weekend in an effort to salvage the full season. The big news was that the owners moved from their position of a hard salary cap for the league and instead proposed a tougher luxury tax for teams that go over the cap. Friday’s meeting between the two sides is set to host the owners’ 11-member Labor Relations Committee as well as the union’s Executive Committee.
FOX has this weekend’s NFL lineups in place, led by a Lions/Cowboys matchup that will air in 35% of the country at 1p. Meanwhile, Gus Johnson will return to the NFL this weekend with Charles Davis and Tim Brewster. The trio will head to Kansas city for the Vikings/Chiefs game following their duties at Saturday night’s Texas/Iowa State game on FX.
CBS Sports Network is airing a tripleheader on Saturday, beginning with Tulane/Army at noon, followed by SMU and TCU at 3:30p and a battle for Carolina featuring UNC/East Carolina.
SPEED’s coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series continues to grow. The most recent race in New Hampshire drew a .69, up 5% from the same race in 2010. The race marked that third consecutive Truck Series race to post a year-to-year overall ratings increase and the series is now up 8% versus last year and up 4% over the channel’s record-setting 2009 season.
WWE Friday Night SmackDown scored as the top series on cable Friday night with 3.25 million total viewers to mark the highest-rated Friday episode of SmackDown on Syfy among Adults 18-34. The 2.1 household rating is up 17% versus last week.
DIRECTV and FOX Sports Radio have signed Artie Lange and Nick DiPaolo to a three-year deal for a new topical sports show for the platforms, according to TMZ. The Nick and Artie Show will launch on Monday in select FOX Sports Radio markets at 10p with DIRECTV planning to simulcast the show on the Audience Network next Spring.
US-based Asian Sports channel ONE World Sports has signed an exclusive agreement with World Sport Group to distribute Australian A-League Soccer on a multi-media, multi-year basis throughout North America. As part of the deal, OWS will offer live and same day coverage of two soccer matches per week for the entire A-League season.
Bloomberg Sports has reached a new licensing agreement with MLB postseason broadcasters FOX Sports and TBS to provide “custom-designed enhanced statistical analysis, professional analytical tools and a data feed of in-depth pitch analysis for each game of the 2011 playoffs and World Series.” In addition, FOX will get an on-base percentage predictor for each batter that updates with each pitch.
Sponsorship & Promotion
GNC is turning to ESPN reporter Jenn Brown as the newest brand ambassador for the company’s GNC LiveWell program. Brown will join Nora Tobin to “educate aspiring athletes and fitness enthusiasts on living a healthy, athletic life” on behalf of the brand.
MLB is dedicating next season’s two-game Mariners/Athletics series in Tokyo to rebuilding Japan following this year’s earthquake. The two teams will play at the Tokyo Dome on March 28 and 29, and mark the fourth set of teams to play a Japan opener.
TBS and MLB Advanced Media are bringing back Postseason.TV for this year’s Division Series and National League Championship Series starting Friday. The subscription-based Postseason.TV package is designed to complement TBS’ coverage of each series and will stream alternate camera angles live for every LDS and NLCS game in order to allow fans to customize their own online viewing experiences. Postseason.TV will be available on MLB.com and its mobile app platforms.
NBC Sports Group has announced that Nick Johnson, Senior Vice President, Digital Sales for NBCUniversal, will now oversee sales efforts for the NBC Sports Group digital portfolio as well. In the newly created position, Johnson will work with the current sales teams to develop and execute the optimal go-to-market strategy for the NBC Sports Group’s digital properties, which include NBCSports.com, NBCOlympics.com, GolfChannel.com and NHL.com.
The Main Event
Depending on the results of last night’s MLB games, a play-in game on TBS for the right to move forward in the playoffs is certainly must-see TV. Otherwise, the USF/Pitt game on ESPN at 8p could be a good one.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
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ON THIS DAY in 1946: The Los Angeles Rams play their first NFL game in LA after a move from Cleveland
Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: Who has the most victories as a head coach for the Chicago Bears? “Papa Bear” George Halas. Kudos: Steve Valenta – Universal McCann/NY; Matthew Novoselsky – ESPN Consumer Products/NY; Peter S.P.Gimber – CBS Boston.com/Boston; John Barrett – Connection 3 Entertainment/Atlanta; Chris Faulds – Bell Media Interactive/Toronto; Larry Glazer – WTTW TV/Chicago; Mike Patterson – Turner SI Digital/Chicago; Jack Krayson – TvGuyJake/Champaign; Dory Melman Petsrillo – Petry Television/Dallas; Ken Doyle – Fox/LA; David Chill – DIRECTV/LA; Alex Petrilli, Jr. – Tivo/Alviso
In The Know: How many laps is the Daytona 500? (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.)
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