02/03/17: NWSL get Life support; Nintendo has Super plans; CBS pulls in Scout


Good morning. It’s Friday February 3, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

A+E Networks is investing in the National Women’s Soccer League with an equity stake, and together the two entities are launching NWSL Media, a media and commercial joint venture. Lifetime will be official sponsor and broadcast partner of the league in a three-year deal beginning in April with the broadcast of an NWSL Game of the Week every weekend of the season. Dan Surrat, A+E Nets’ president, corporate development, strategy and Investments, told Cynopsis at a presser that the move is about the evolution of the Lifetime brand.

“There’s absolutely a sense of mission for the Lifetime brand as it’s evolving, and the launch of the Fempire, which is about creating engaging content and the empowerment of women at all ages. This is a sport that completely fits into that, when you look at what soccer has done over the last 15 or 20 years with its growth in the US.”

A+E Nets’ president/CEO Nancy Dubuc said the new sports content will face “the same challenges we face with any show we do. At first audiences don’t have connection to characters, there’s no connection to story, there’s not even awareness of what that show is or what its brand is. It’s only with risk-taking that we can grow a franchise into a show like a Dance Moms or an Unreal or a Rap Game. And this is a comparable investment.” Dubuc added the NWSL’s existing brand provides a big leg up. “We don’t have to take that risk of whether or not there’s any audience that goes to NWSL games, or whether there’s interest in soccer or not. We know that’s there. And in a world where marketing and social and the way you can target audiences are all evolving, it’s easier for us to find those constituents who are already passionate and predisposed to be passionate about women’s soccer.”


Let’s tackle talent news. Former All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith is joining NFL Network, inking a multi-year deal to appear as an analyst on a slate of the channel’s shows, including NFL GameDay First. His duties will begin immediately as he will be part of the network’s coverage on Super Bowl Sunday from Houston, joining the special 8.5-hour edition of NFL GameDay Morning which starts at 9a.

FOX Sports will see Landon Donovan joins the crew when it hits Chattanooga for its first US Men’s National Team as the Americans host Jamaica today at 7p on FS1. Rob Stone anchors pregame studio coverage with Alexi Lalas. John Strong calls the match alongside Stu Holden and Donovan.

Meanwhile, FOX Sports also announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is scheduled to join the FOX NASCAR television booth as a guest driver analyst during FS1’s live coverage of The Clash at Daytona on Feb. 18 at 8p. Earnhardt will team with FOX NASCAR announcers Mike Joy, Hall of Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon.

NFL legend LaDainian Tomlinson will serve as the Honorary Starter for the 59th Daytona 500, on Feb. 26 on FOX. Tomlinson is one of 18 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2017 class.

Ahead of next year’s XXIII Olympic Winter Games, NBC Sports Group detailed plans for 100 hours of coverage of PyeongChang test events across NBC, NBCSN, Universal HD, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app through March. Coverage spans 13 sports, including alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, figure skating, freestyle skiing, luge, nordic combined, short track, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, and speed skating with coverage starting today with cross-country at 5a.

ESPN carries a special edition of NBA Countdown charged by Mountain Dew, tonight at 7p featuring Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. The former players will join host Michelle Beadle and analysts Jalen Rose and Chauncey Billups, in studio, halfway through the one-hour show.
CBS Sports Network series Men of March will spotlight Tommy Amaker, head coach of the Harvard Crimson men’s basketball team, on its next episode on Monday at 9p. Jon Rothstein sits down with Amaker to discuss life as head coach at the school, his coaching roots, as well as the tradition of Harvard basketball and what it means to coach at the Ivy League school.

NHL Network examines the movie Slap Shot, which hits its 40th anniversary this month. NHL Network Originals: Slap Shot at 40 runs Feb. 8 at 8p, followed by a screening of the movie at 8:30p.


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Brands continue to drop news about their plans for the Super Bowl. Nintendo, for the first time ever, will run an ad during the game with a 30-second spot dedicated to the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild game. In addition, a 90-second version can be viewed on its YouTube channel. The ad is backed by a new song by Imagine Dragons called “Believer.”

Meanwhile, Papa John’s is launching a new brand campaign, titled “We’re More Than a Pizza Company, We’re a Pizza Family,” as part of Super Bowl week. Sunday will see the brand air a 60-second TV ad on FOX, hours ahead of game launching a new logo. The company will also activate through the launch of Papa John’s Halftime Heroes program, which recognizes Team Members who go above and beyond to embody Papa John’s core values.

Finally, the Empire State Building will celebrate Super Bowl LI by becoming a virtual scoreboard, tracking game action in real-time. At kickoff, the building’s tower lights will be split in the colors of the New England Patriots (blue, red and white) and Atlanta Falcons (red and black). With each scoring play, the building will sparkle in the scoring team’s colors and remain lit for the team currently in the lead.

CITGO Petroleum Corporation and the Boston Athletic Association announced the beginning of a multiple-year sponsorship agreement that makes the company the Official Fuel Sponsor of the Boston Marathon. The brand will be the presenting sponsor of a digital campaign titled "The Road to Boston" that provides year-long event information to participants of the Boston Marathon. In addition, CITGO branding will be located just outside the Athletes’ Village in Hopkinton, and at the "One Mile to Go" mark of the Boston Marathon.


CBS is picking up the tab for Scout Media, paying $9.5 million for the bankrupt company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December. Scout.com will now join CBS Sports Digital’s portfolio of properties and focus on sports teams and recruiting coverage.

DraftKings’ DK Live app is now available for NHL fans, allowing users to track their NHL lineup live, get play-by-play updates from all the games and their favorite players and receive breaking hockey news alerts all in a real-time news feed –


Blizzard’s upcoming Hearthstone Global Games tournament is stacking the deck, announcing that this year’s tournament will have teams of four players representing 48 countries vying for a prize pool of $300,000. The team that places first will receive $60,000. The top ranked player from each eligible country will receive an invitation to represent their national team, while the remaining three players will be chosen through votes from the community.

Speaking of Hearthstone, DreamHack revealed that the DreamHack Hearthstone Grand Prix circuit will tournaments at more events than ever with play taking place at seven DreamHack events this year, including Atlanta, Denver and Montreal. Each city will see a minimum of 200 competitor slots per tournament, each with a total prize pool of $25,000 as well as side events with special prizes and a $1,500 prize pool at stake.

Rocket League game developer and publisher Psyonix unveiled a partnership for an upcoming line of toys with Zag Toys based on the indie video game. The new line of toys will initially launch with 12 Rocket League ‘Original Minis Pull-Back Racers,’ with the first cars set to include Octane, Dominus, Masamune, Hotshot, Grog, X-Devil, Merc, and Backfire, as well as variant decorations.

Super League Gaming announced the launch of eight additional city teams for the game, as well as the first-ever city versus city Minecraft City Champs tournament. Season two sees City Champs expand from four teams to twelve with the addition of: the Boston Revolt,Denver Drakes, Houston Blast, Las Vegas Wildcards, New York Fury, Phoenix Blaze, San Francisco Radicals and Seattle Surge. Qualifiers for both League of Legends and Minecraft City Champs will begin in Spring.


ONE Championship announced the appointment of Loren Mack to Vice President of PR and Communications for the company. He previously served the company as Senior Director of PR and Communications. Mack has been involved in the combat sports industry as a prominent figure for over a decade, joining ONE Championship shortly after the promotion’s inception in 2011.


Super Bowl on FOX on Sunday at 6:30p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1993: Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott is suspended for one year over racist comments.

In The Know: Who holds the Super Bowl record for longest run from scrimmage? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: The smallest margin of victory at the Super Bowl was one point, played between which two teams? Answer: Giants/Bills. Kudos: Keith Marder-Halstead Property/NY; Daniel Lowenthal-Horizon Media/NY; Holli Sarner-Home Team Sports/NY; Jason Mammen-Showtime Networks/NY; Dave Gaetano-Yahoo/NY; Chris Schwartz-International Speedway Corporation/Charlotte; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Deerfield Beach; Joe Lyons-SOS Global/Dallas; Derrick Stasica-THV11/Little Rock; Tom Doherty-Starcom Media/Chicago; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner & Triathlete magazine/Houston; David Hauptman/Denver; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions/Santa Monica; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Bruce Trotter-CoxReps/LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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