01/11/17: Clemson win scores 22 million; FIFA thinks 48 is great; Tennis prepares for Aussie action


Good morning. It’s Wednesday January 11, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Clemson’s victory over Alabama pushed ESPN’s MegaCast carriage of the College Football Playoff National Championship to a total live audience of 26,029,000 viewers across all of its outlets. That number is off-pace from last year’s viewership numbers but still ranks as the most-watched event carried on a cable network since last year’s game between the same two teams. Overall, the College Football Playoff three-game (semifinals + national championship) scored a total live audience average of 22,230,000 viewers, up 9% from last season’s same three game total live audience average. Digital channels scored a streaming audience of 535,000 average viewers, with 1,655,000 unique viewers watching 120,090,000 minutes.


FIFA is now officially blowing up the World Cup, ruling unanimously to expand its flagship event to 48 teams beginning with the 2026 edition. Team will be split into 16 groups of three with the top two teams from each group then moving forward to a 32-team knockout stage.

Elsewhere in soccer, Major League Soccer extended its English-language television rights agreement in Canada with TSN for an additional five years, while locking in a deal with TVA Sports to replace RDS as its French-language carrier.

Finally, the New York Cosmos have a new owner with Mediacom owner Rocco B. Commisso purchasing a majority stake in the team. He will also become its new chairman, the team announced in a statement.

In tennis, the Australian Open will see ESPN begin coverage on Jan. 15 with the Women’s and Men’s Championships on January 28 and 29 with over 100 hours of live television as well as 1,400 on WatchESPN and the ESPN App. Programming will see ESPN2 present daily, marathon, overnight telecasts from Melbourne through the women’s semifinals; with more than 40 additional hours aired on ESPN2 during the afternoon. ESPN.com will once again feature Courtcast, an application presented by IBM, featuring official IBM tournament and real-time statistics, Hawk-Eye technology, a rolling Twitter feed and interactive poll questions.

Around the dial, Tennis Channel hits the Australian Open with nearly 200 hours to the season’s first major. The network is adding Mary Carillo to its on-air team this year, who will handle play-by-play duties as well as special features throughout the two-week event. Overall, the network will air daylong blocks of encore matches and highlights with Australian Open Today starting Jan. 16 at 7a.

NBCSN locked in a deal to serve as the television home of American Flat Track, serving up coverage of all 18 rounds of the 2017 season beginning in July that will feature 18 straight weeks of telecasts, produced by NASCAR Productions. In addition, NBCSN will re-air each of the shows the following week, which will also be available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

ESPN revised its NBA telecast schedule for Jan. 18, adding the Bucks/Rockets contest to the lineup at 8p. The game replaces the previously scheduled Atlanta Hawks-Detroit Pistons game.
The Waterman League Group, which offers a professional paddlesurfing racing and surfing league, closed a Series A round of financing led by private equity firm AID Partners (AID), LLC and Darren Shaw, a Hong Kong based co-investor. Both entities will join the Company’s board of directors with proceeds of the investment used to expand the Waterman League’s Paddlesurf World Tour events.

In local news, the Cubs locked in a three-year contract extension with television play-by-pay announcer Len Kasper and analyst Jim Deshaies that runs through 2019. Kasper and Deshaies have been working together the past four seasons.

MSG Networks announced that legendary NHL play-by-play voice Jiggs McDonald will return to the broadcast booth tonight to celebrate his 50th year calling NHL action. There, he will call the Islanders/Panthers game on MSG+ at 7p.



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Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada locked in a multi-year corporate marketing agreement with the NHL to become the official heating, ventilation and air conditioning and hand dryer partner of the NHL in Canada. The partnership was launched at the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic in Toronto. “The corporate marketing agreement between Mitsubishi Electric and the NHL marks an exciting milestone for our company in 2017,” said Akihiko Ninomiya, President & CEO of Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada Inc. “This year marks three decades in Canada for Mitsubishi Electric as a leading heating and cooling company with a strong and vibrant Canadian corporate head office.”

New Era Cap announced five new brand ambassadors for the 2017 season, selecting Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets), Jose Altuve (Houston Astros), Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox), Corey Seager (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Dansby Swanson (Atlanta Braves). They now join players that include: Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals), Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants), Dellin Betances (New York Yankees), Josh Donaldson (Toronto Blue Jays) and Kyle Schwarber (Chicago Cubs).
Sports Illustrated celebrates the launch of its 2017 swimsuit issue with a two-day music, food and culture festival, called VIBES by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. The event will be held in Houston on Feb. 17-18 and feature live performances by artists Diplo and Miguel as well as a food festival curated by Houston’s James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd and special appearances by the models of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Class of 2017.

With Clemson now college football’s champs, the school’s hometown fans will have the chance to have official championship gear delivered straight to their door through a new partnership between Uber and Fanatics. Fans can get merchandise with the click of a button by opening the Uber app and requesting ‘CHAMPS’ from the option list. If matched, a driver will be curbside in minutes with the opportunity to purchase the official t-shirt and hat.
PBR is offering a new look for the 2017 season as the men protecting the riders will now be known as the Matador Jerky Bull Fighters. The Jack Link’s brand signed an agreement with PBR to sponsor the bull fighters at the PBR’s top two tours: the Built Ford Tough Series and the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour with the partnership offering on-the-dirt visibility at PBR elite series events, retail marketing programs, and branded content integration on PBR’s CBS and CBS Sports Network telecasts. In addition, branded content vignettes, “Bullfighting 101,” will bring fans up close and personal with crew.
Alliance MMA announced the acquisition of SuckerPunch Entertainment, a MMA fighter management and marketing company. Operating under the Alliance MMA umbrella, SuckerPunch will provide representation for fighters inside and outside of the cage with has more than 100 fighters under contract worldwide.


ESPN Audio launched a new weekly podcast featuring Adam Schefter. The interview series, called Adam Schefter’s Know Them from Adam will feature long-form conversations with individuals who have a connection to pro football. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones served as Schefter’s first podcast guest.


Big new partners for esports teams. The NBA’s Miami Heat announced a partnership with Misfits, picking up a stake in the team and assisting the organization with the team’s marketing, branding, promotion, retail, digital, and sponsorship activation responsibilities in addition to cross-promotion. “The Miami Heat pride ourselves on being innovative in all aspects of sports and business,” said Heat Chief Executive Officer Nick Arison in the announcement. “For us, it made perfect sense to partner with Misfits, a young and ambitious franchise in a sport that is blazing a trail in terms of 21st century recreational competition amongst Millennials.”

Meanwhile, Lionsgate announced an investment in eSports franchise the Immortals, joining fellow investors that include Michael Milken and previous investors Steve Kaplan, co-founder of Oaktree Capital and co-owner of The Memphis Grizzlies and the Premier League’s Swansea City, investor Gregory Milken, Third Wave entrepreneur Allen DeBevoise and CrossCut Ventures, among others. "We’re delighted to be an early mover in a market that has the potential to transform the face of sports entertainment," said Lionsgate President of Interactive Ventures & Games Peter Levin. "Our involvement in eSports creates tremendous opportunities to develop new content and utilize our suite of distribution platforms for a coveted consumer demographic with compelling engagement metrics. Collaborating with an elite group of partners, the combination of the Lionsgate and Immortals brands will be formidable."

Azubu acquired Europe’s leading eSports broadcaster Hitbox, blending the efforts of Hitbox, an eSports leader in Europe/Eastern European markets with Azubu’s strong followings in South American and Asian markets. The company also announced the appointment of gaming industry veteran Mike McGarvey as Chief Executive Officer.

Four European events have been added to the competitive Call of Duty calendar, including: CWL London (Jan. 28-29) hosted by Gfinity, CWL Paris Open (Feb. 17-19) hosted by ESWC, followed by the CWL Birmingham Open (Apr. 14-16) hosted by Multiplay, and the CWL Sheffield Open (Jun. 24-25) hosted by EGL. The CWL events in London, Birmingham, and Sheffield will be dedicated to European Call of Duty competition as official stops on the road to the CWL Championship.

WorldGaming and Cineplex opened registration for the Cineplex WorldGaming Canadian Championship Series Presented by PlayStation. The tournament features teams of four from across Canada competing in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for over $65,000 in cash and prizes as well as the Championship title.

The International eGames Committee named Rt Hon Ed Vaizey MP as the Chairman of its Advisory Board. The IEGC created The eGames, an international medal only esports competition, which sees gamers compete for gold, silver and bronze medals.

Twitch announced that TwitchCon 2017 will take place in Long Beach this year. The event will span Oct. 20-22 from the Long Beach Convention Center.

Shout! Factory nabbed worldwide television format and ancillary rights to the 80s game show Starcade from JM Production Company. The company will now look to develop and produce a reboot of the show for TV, which featured gamers competing on popular video game titles for prizes. Created by James Caruso and Mavis E. Arthur, Starcade first aired in 1982 during the dawn of the video game era and is widely recognized as the first-ever video arcade game show.


Penguins/Capitals on NBCSN at 8p.


(sponsored by Nielsen)
Cross-platform Ratings: Bridging the Digital Divide (Sessions 1 & 2)
Total audience measurement tools are here, including measurement of viewing across linear, VOD, DVR, mobile, connected TV devices & tablets. Plus, Marketers aren’t just looking for age/gender – they’re aiming for specific targets & want you to find and measure them.

During these sessions, you’ll learn:
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ON THIS DAY in 1946: Bert Bell becomes the second NFL commissioner.

In The Know: Who holds the all-time record for most career points in NCAA men’s college basketball? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What number did Michael Jordan wear when he came out of retirement for the end of the 1994-1995 season? Answer: 45. Kudos: Chris Long-DraftKings/NY; Mike Lee-Blue 449/NY; Charmaine Leary-NBCUniversal Content Distribution/NY; Mike Polvere-Optimum Sports/NY; Jon Miller-NBC Sports/Stamford; Paul Beckles-Learfield/Drexel Dragons Sports Properties/Philadelphia; Justin Hirnisey-USA Gymnastics/Indianapolis; J D Spangler-JDL Broadcasting/Terre Haute; Lance Davis-Good Karma Brands/Milwaukee; Matt Fumagalli -NBC Sports/Chicago; Evan Vladem-rEvolution/Chicago; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Hauptman/Denver; Jack Neumann-University of Calgary Dinos 5th Quarter Alumni Development/Calgary; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Adam Deverell-CoxReps/LA; Jason Kleinhein-CoxReps/LA; Joseph Lepe-Comcast Spotlight/San Francisco.

Later — Chris
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