01/08/18: ESPN’s Megacast makes its return for the CFP Championship with more options than ever

Good morning. It’s Monday January 8, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

ESPN is all in for tonight’s telecast of the College Football Playoff National Championship pitting Alabama and Georgia. The company’s fifth national championship MegaCast production will serve up 20 productions tonight at 8p. Fans can watch the traditional telecast on ESPN or pick from alternate productions across 10 additional ESPN platforms: ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, SEC Network, ESPN Deportes, and multiple options on ESPN3. ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Tom Rinaldi and Maria Taylor call the game, which will see ESPN offer more than 110 cameras inside the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Among the alternate selections, however, will be Voices on ESPNU, which will offer five different individual ESPN-themed centric shows/productions operating on their own, with all five shows, plus the game, in a six quadrant viewing experience.
The Homers Telecast on ESPN2 returns for its third appearance with Joe Tessitore teaming with Landon Collins to offer fans a viewpoint from the Alabama fans perspective, while Adam Amin teams with Aaron Murray to provide people the Georgia perspective. The Coaches Film Room hits ESPNEWS. Other options include (but are not limited to) Sounds of the Game (ESPN Classic and ESPN3), Command Center (Goal Line), All-22 (ESPN3), Data Center (ESPN3), Home Town Radio (ESPN3), SkyCam (ESPN3), and High Sky Cam (ESPN3).
Meanwhile, Fowler and Herbstreit, recently chatted about the game, the all-SEC matchup and 
Fowler on the Rose Bowl telecast: At the top. I mean, we had a beautiful Rose Bowl last year with the USC Penn State game back and forth. Highest scoring Rose Bowl until this one, but in a different feel because it wasn’t a playoff game. It was just a beautiful Rose Bowl part of history for both those two programs. But that was the ultimate game for both teams. There was no greater prize to play for. And I think Monday night felt different. I think you do it differently when there is the weight of the potential championship hanging in the balance. I think that that all contributed to it.

On the risk of an all-SEC game: Potentially. I think that we try to stay away from worrying about the business side of the match up and the implications and just call the game. That’s where the enjoyment lies for Kirk, myself, and our entire production team. Certainly there are people at the network that are very concerned about the ratings and things like that. But honestly, there is not much you can do about that. And if people have a problem with the fact that two teams from the same conference are there, I’d remind them it’s hard to argue. They’ve earned their way there. And again they happen to be from the same league, but they don’t play every year. They really don’t play that often, considering they are in the same conference.
Herbstreit on expanding the playoffs: I think we’ve seen the last two years teams that have not won their conference championship or been invited to the conference championship make it into the playoff. So if you did go to eight, I wouldn’t have any problem with eliminating the conference championship, personally, and get it to eight. I think that way if you keep it at five power conferences and you can make sure that you get the higher seed of the group of five, like a UCF this year, assures them of getting in and still have a couple spots for a couple at-larges. It all makes sense on paper, but there is the wear and tear factor. There is the whole issue of where do you play the games and things like that. But if it ever went to eight, I don’t think you would see Chris or I or anybody from ESPN saying that that’s crazy. That’s the worst idea in the world.

Early fast affiliate Nielsen numbers saw NBC’s 14.9/26 overnight rating (not including digital) for Atlanta’s win over the Rams in the NFC Wild Card game on Saturday. While we wait for more numbers from the weekend, top markets included: New Orleans 30.0/43; Atlanta 29.0/46; Minneapolis 21.5/39; Norfolk 21.0/31; Buffalo 20.0/32. Meanwhile, the Rams’ 18.7/35 local rating in LA marks the team’s best since returning to the city in 2016.
Meanwhile, after a run in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth that spanned 2009-2017, Jon Gruden is officially heading back to the sidelines to serve as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders will host a press conference at noon on Tuesday to officially introduce him on his return the Silver and Black.
ESPN broadens its NCAA Gymnastics coverage this season, lining up broadcast plans for more than 20 meets in 2018 across ESPN, ESPNU, SEC Network, and SEC Network +.  For the second straight season, 18 meets will air live on SEC Network including the SEC Championship, which will also air on ESPN2.
Speaking of ESPN exits, Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis have been axed from the company following investigations into sexual harassment allegations against the two men that allegedly occurred during their time at NFL Network. ESPN originally suspended McNabb and Davis last month while it investigated the allegations in the lawsuit before opting to snip the pair.
It is time! Don’t miss out on the Cynopsis Sports Awards, once again honoring the best in the business in production, marketing, digital and more. Don’t miss out on our new categories for 2018, including: Awareness Campaign for a Social Good Initiative; Event of the Year for a Breakthrough Sport; League of the Year for a Breakthrough Sport; Live Coverage of a Breakthrough Sport; Reality Series; Shining Stars (individual); Shining Stars (team/company); and Social Good TV Special or Episode. Get your work in NOW by clicking here.
Finally, in this ESPN-heavy edition, the company reports that First Take equaled its highest-rated show ever with a 0.6 household rating on Jan. 2. The day also ranks third in audience with an average of 823,000 viewers (P2+), behind December 30, 2013 (880,000), and January 16, 2017 (851,000).
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Professional Bull Riders and Monster Energy hitched a partnership expansion last week just ahead of PBR’s 25th anniversary season, which kicked off on Friday night at Madison Square. The deal sees Monster, which has sponsored PBR riders and events since 2011, land primary marketing rights to PBR’s 25th anniversary tour, now called PBR 25thUnleash the Beast Tour.” The multi-year agreement makes Monster PBR’s largest global partner and will see Monster become the primary partner for the major PBR tours in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S. Globally, PBR annual attendance is 3 million fans, and the sport is available in more than 400 million homes on television.
Formula One is touting that the sport ranked as the fastest growing sports brand across social media in 2017 while television and digital viewing figures also increased, according to Reuters. Now under the ownership of Liberty Media, Formula One said in a statement that the sport ended the year with a total of 11.9 million followers on its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channels – marking an uptick of 54.9% percent compared to 2016. Video content performed best on Twitter, with more than 64 million views representing a 165% year-on-year increase.
Milk-Bone kicked off an official partnership with Team USA, leveraging a “Dogs Inspire More” campaign with the org. Throughout the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, Milk-Bone will celebrate “the unsung heroes who inspire Team USA athletes to be their best: their dogs,” highlighting how dogs support and comfort their owner athlete. Included in the content will be athletes Jessie Diggins, Maia and Alex Shibutani and Hailey Langland.

With the NFL Playoffs underway, DraftKings launched its newest game variant, Showdown, which runs through the NFC and AFC championship games. The one game slate follows the salary cap format, lineups will consist of six players total – four offensive players and two defensive players.
“With Showdown, we can offer our customers a more unique way of engaging with the NFL post-season, some of the most anticipated and watched sports matchups of the year,” said Mark Nerenberg, Vice President of Games at DraftKings.” “Showdown pairs well with the post-season because it’s just one game at a time that everyone is watching.”
This year’s NFL 1st and Future competition had its deadline extended until Thursday. The start-up competition sees contestants compete in three categories: Advancements in Protective Equipment; Technology to Improve Athletic Performance; and New Therapies to Speed Recovery. Comcast NBCUniversal, repped by Minneapolis-based SportsEngine Inc. is collaborating with  the NFL and Mayo Clinic to administer the competition.

Leger released its latest study on the viewing habits of adults and esports, noting that – as of Dec. 2017 – one if five US adults reported watching an esports event, with YouTube again being the leading way for them to do so. Meanwhile, between June and Dec. 2017, awareness of esports jumped from 36% to 50% among US Adults.
Overwatch League reports that day one of its inaugural season has sold out, as play prepares to begin on Wednesday. Meanwhile, one of the key tournament’s for the game, Overwatch APEX, a South Korea based event run by OGN, is shutting down after reportedly learning that Blizzard were planning to partner with a rival broadcaster for a tournament
The weekend also saw news that the Galaxy Battles Major hosted by Fallout Gaming had its major status revoked with publisher Valve claiming “unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players” as the primary reason for the pullout.  “Based on information we’ve recently confirmed regarding new government regulations for esports players entering the Philippines, we have decided to rescind the tournament’s Major designation, including the Pro Circuit qualifying points, for the Galaxy Battles 2018 tournament,” Valve said in a statement. “This is based on what we feel are unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players as a condition to enter the country”.

Georgia/Alabama on ESPN at 8p.

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ON THIS DAY in 1984: The NCAA increases its men’s basketball tournament to 64 teams.
In the Know: Which core Winter Olympic sports are held indoors? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: In 1987, what did Killer Khan do to Hulk Hogan’s eyes to escalate their rivalry? Answer: Blinded him with green mist. Kudos: Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Mike Lucas-Windy City ThunderBolts/Crestwood; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank
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