Good morning. It’s Tuesday, January 3, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
Following a record setting 2011, Golf Channel is looking to open 2012 with a bang, pairing Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo to work together as co-analysts for the first time at the upcoming Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The channel will kicking off the new 2012 PGA Tour season on Thursday at 6p with a two-hour Opening Drive special on Golf Central featuring Golf Channel and Golf Channel on NBC personalities previewing the tournament and discussing the hot topics of the 2012 season before hitting the tournament on Friday.
The channel’s move to add to its collection of events in the fourth quarter paid off, and with Tiger Woods beginning to return to form, combined with the development of new stars in the sport last year, the channel will use the New Year to capitalize on the sport’s momentum. Cynopsis Sports spoke with Golf Channel President Mike McCarley about the network’s strategy in 2012, what’s on the programming docket and how advertisers are taking notice.
McCarley on the success of 2011: We are coming off a year where, after the merger, we were able to really move the needle for this channel with some quality production and broad promotion, which made 2011 the most watched year in Golf Channel history. Three things helped: the broad reach of the overall network, the specific targeting of a 24/7 cable channel, and the ability to utilize the resources of NBC Universal to point audiences toward a specific event to get a lot of viewers to tune in to something. We’ve been able to move viewers from NBC to Golf Channel and Golf Channel to NBC pretty seamlessly. We haven’t figured it all out, there is a lot more to do and a lot more to test in 2012 which we are all looking forward to but we are looking to a great 2012.
On new shows in development: There are a couple that we are launching this year that we are pretty high on. In addition, we are also taking the approach that we should expand on the successful franchises that we already have. Feherty was a huge success this year and we are expanding that to provide more coverage. Big Break as well, we are expanding that franchise, and all of the digital extensions that come with it. One show that we are really looking forward to, and working with the PGA Tour on, is called On the Range, which will be a Wed. night show that really chronicles what happens at a PGA Tour event before play starts. Viewers will see a lot of the biggest names in golf working on their game and fixing that may not have worked the weekend before.
On the outlook for 2012: We want to start this season with as big of a bang as we possibly can. There are several things that we will be able to do this year that now that we were not able to do in years past. One is to use Sunday Night Football, the number one show on television, to promote the kick off of the PGA tour season. We have also worked with the PGA to shift events so that it now starts on Friday and ends on Monday and helps us get away from the competition of the NFL and the NFL playoff.
On advertising in the New Year: We are seeing a lot of new advertisers who have advertised on the network with NBC. There are a lot of sales that are being finalized in 2012 and we are getting new advertisers to the network. Much of that is due to the positive momentum that has been associated with the network this year.
On the Air
With a playoff spot on the line, Sunday night’s Cowboys/Giants game on NBC posted the network’s highest overnight rating ever, delivering a 17.1 score, according to Nielsen. That number also marks the best overnight for any Sunday or Monday primetime NFL game in 13 years. Compared to last season’s Week 17 “win-and-in” game, the Cowboys/Giants match-up grew 36%. Top markets included Dallas, with a 37.1/55, as well as San Antonio, Austin, New York and Albuquerque.
Now that the regular season is over, the league announced the playoff broadcast lineup. Wildcard games beginning Saturday on NBC with Cincinnati/Houston at 4:30p and Detroit/New Orleans at 8p. Sunday finds Atlanta/Giants on FOX at 1p and Pittsburgh/Denver at 4:30p.
The New Year also brought no resolution to the Time Warner/MSG feud, with the MSG channel officially off the channel in cable systems in New York and Buffalo. Time Warner has since added NBA TV to the mix as a replacement, and has told reporters that MSG had been demanding a 53% price hike in a new deal. In a message to viewers the company stated that “We want you to know that while MSG is preventing you from enjoying their channels, other channels still carry your favorite teams. Nearly 40% of the Knicks games and almost 30% of the Rangers games will still be available on your Time Warner Cable lineup.”
Meanwhile Michael Bair, President, MSG Media stated: “All we have asked is for Time Warner Cable to value our programming in the same way as other TV providers — nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, they rejected every offer we made to them for almost two years.”
The holiday season wasn’t all bad for MSG Network however, the channel drew the highest west coast Knicks game rating in over a decade with a 3.15 household score. Last season, the first Knicks regular season west coast game delivered a 0.86 HH rating and averaged a 1.0 for the entire 2010-11 Knicks season.
The NBA has performed well for national channels as well, with the opening day Christmas games generally up versus 2010. ABC saw 11 million viewers for the Lakers/Bulls contest to score its third-largest NBA audience ever. TNT averaged 5.9 million viewers for the Celtics/Knicks game to score as the most-viewed NBA Christmas Day game on cable.
ESPN’s broadcast of the high-scoring Alamo Bowl between Washington and Baylor handed the channel with a 4.5 rating, according to early ratings, to make it one of the most-watched games in Bowl history. Top markets included Seattle, Austin, Birmingham, San Antonio and Tulsa.
The big college news over the holiday period, however, was the pact between the Big Ten and Pac-12 that will see the two conferences not only beef up scheduling beyond the Rose Bowl, but cross-promote each other on league networks. Officials said during the announcement that the agreement will help both leagues extend their reach without having to expand. By 2017, each team’s nonconference football schedule will include one game against a team from the other league with basketball scheduling also included and potentially beginning next season.
More alleged scandal out of FIFA, with Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner telling reporters that he received World Cup television rights for as little as $1 in exchange for helping Sepp Blatter win the election as president of the organization. Warner resigned from FIFA last June due to bribery allegations and said in a statement that he was handed TV rights to the 1998 World Cup in Trinidad & Tobago for a buck and later was sold the rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups after helping Blatter get re-elected in 2002. After the declaration, FIFA said in a statement that “we are currently looking into the matter.”
Meanwhile, Ted Howard was promoted to acting General Secretary of the CONCACAF, soccer’s regional governing body, following the resignation of Chuck Blazer last year. CONCACAF governs the North and Central American regions as well as the Caribbean. Howard had served as deputy general secretary of the organization since 1998.
FOX Sports Media Group announced the passing of Doug Sellars, Executive Vice President, Production and Executive Producer of the company. Sellars died at age 50 following a heart attack and passed away on Friday. The company made an on-air tribute to Sellars, who oversaw all studio and event production for the networks and entities within FSMG, including FOX Sports, Fox Sports Regional Networks, SPEED, FOX Deportes, FOX Soccer, FUEL TV and FOXSports.com, and was an advisor to the Big Ten Network.
ESPN ruled that a review of the overhead Insight Bowl camera that fell on the field during the game was an isolated incident and that the company will add extra precautions during the remaining bowl games. The camera fell with just over two minutes left in the game between Oklahoma and Iowa, although no one was hit by the equipment.
FX will debut UFC 143 Primetime on the channel on Friday, Jan. 20, immediately after the network’s first live UFC event, UFC on FX 1 which starts at 9p. The Primetime series will examine the behind-the-scenes lives of fighters being featured in upcoming bouts.
TNT reporter and essayist Jim Huber has passed. Huber worked the channel’s golf coverage and had worked with the company full time since 2000. David Levy, President of Sales, Distribution and Sports, Turner Broadcasting System stated, “The Turner Broadcasting family suffered a great loss and we are saddened by the passing of our colleague and friend, Jim Huber. A terrific Emmy Award winning journalist and essayist, Jim made so many contributions during his more than 27 years with our company. He was a gentleman and wonderful individual and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his wife, Carol, and son, Matt.”
Yesterday marked the rebrand of VERSUS into NBC Sports Network, with the channel officially relaunching during the (slightly delayed) NHL Winter Classic on NBC. The move marks a new strategy to bring all four tiers of NBC Sports Group’s assets (broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital) into a consistent framework of branding.
With a boost of eyeballs and attention on the newly-minted NBC Sports Network, the channel also launched a new ad pitting New York against Philly for recent acquisition MLS featuring New York Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere lining up a kick against Philadelphia.
Turner Sports PR executive Jeff Pomeroy announced that he is leaving the company to serve as President of JDP Communications, a full-service Atlanta-based Boutique PR Sports & Entertainment firm that he is establishing. JDP Communications’ initial roster of clients will include A & M Holding Group (AMHG); the owners and operators of Sadekar World Golf, All-American Games; the owners and producers of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and Kenny Smith Entertainment Group (KSEG), with additional clients to be announced at a later date. Pomeroy previously served as senior director of public relations for Turner Sports, where he oversaw the day-to-day operations for the division’s linear and digital assets.
Digital voting determined NBA TV’s first 2011-2012 regular season Fan Night game with balloting deciding on a Western Conference matchup with between the Rockets and Lakers tonight. The matchup received a third of all the votes that were cast via NBA.com, NBA Facebook page and Yahoo.com. The next programming vote will be for a Jan. 10 game.
The 2011 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing stuck a tidal wave online last year, according to ESPN, setting an action sports industry record with more than 10.4 million live streams on vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com as well as on mobile devices for the series’ 13 days of competition, which ended on Dec. 11. Webcast viewership peaked with more than 6 million streams initiated during the three consecutive days of the Billabong Pipe Masters, from Dec. 8-10 and the total number of visitors to the site during the contest period rose from 2.6 million in 2010 to just more than 4 million this year.
Online HD TV service FilmOn.com is partnering with XOS Digital to form two new premium college sports networks for the platform. These channels will add NCAA game to the service’s sports slate.
The Main Event
A battle of BCS bowl controversial picks between Michigan and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl on ESPN at 8:30p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1983: The Cowboys’ Tony Dorsett sets NFL record with a 99-yd run against the Vikings.
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What was the original name of the San Antonio Spurs? Answer: The Dallas Chaparrals. Kudos: David Baer – Kingworld Productions/CBS/NY; Evan Perlmutter – One Line Sports Agency/NY; R J Cavallaro – Mills James Productions/Columbus; George Finkel – MegaSports Productions/North Myrtle Beach; Bruce Levinson – NBCUniversal/Ft. Worth; Mary Ryan – Raycom Media/Dallas; Scott Fairhurst – Comcast Spotlight/Albuquerque; Greg Moloznik – GLM Media/Scottsdale; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA; Steve Hirsen – Director/Sherman Oaks; Tony Rice – Skipping Stone/LA.
In The Know: For which school did John McEnroe win a NCAA Championship? (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
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