02.25.16 Good morning. It’s Thursday February 25, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
Sports Illustrated is gearing up for a major international play, announcing that it had locked in a partnership with ASN Ltd. to develop a Sports Illustrated sports broadcasting and digital network that spans Asia. The new alliance will rebrand the Hong Kong-based, Pan-Asian ASN and ASN2 pay TV sports channels in the spring, along with companion websites and mobile apps to “Sports Illustrated/Sports Illustrated 2.” Both parties will collaborate on daily programming development, coverage of global sporting events and expansion of worldwide distribution across linear networks, SVOD, OTT, digital, mobile and emerging platforms and technologies.
“This groundbreaking partnership speaks to the power of all our brandsin this case Sports Illustratedand enables us to build a significant international presence across new platforms,” said Steve Marcopoto, President, Time Inc. International. “Our partners at ASN have built a strong foundation, and together we look forward to creating a differentiated and compelling sports network in the most populous region in the world.”
NBC Sports Group saw Sunday’s Hockey Day In America tripleheader averaged more than 1.2 million viewers across NBC and NBCSN, rising 21% over year-ago coverage, according to Nielsen. NBC’s Blackhawks/Wild matchup handed the channel with a 1.13 HH rating with an average of 1.86 million viewers to become the second-most watched Hockey Day In America game ever, not counting regionalized coverage. Meanwhile, NBCSN’s Red Wings/Rangers battle served up a 0.42 HH rating and averaged 694,000 viewers to become the network’s most-watched Hockey Day In America telecast of all time. Meanwhile, the Penguins/Sabres faceoff notch a 0.71 HH rating. Through 61 games, NBCSN is on pace to have its most-watched NHL regular season ever, averaging 361,000 viewers, up 8% over 2015 viewership.
beIN SPORTS is adding the FIM MotoGP World Championship to its portfolio, announcing a deal to feature races, along with complementary original programming to US viewers via beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS en Español and beIN SPORTS CONNECT this year.The motorcycling championship begins its 2016 season of 18 Grands Prix events in March.
FOX Sports named Bob Varsha and Calvin Fish as the lead voices of its 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship, with the first event set to run on FS1 on April 17 at 7a. Announcers John Hindhaugh and Graham Goodwin, and reporter Louise Beckett will also handle microphone duties. Meanwhile, 24 Hours of Le Mans will see Varsha and Brian Till call the action, with analysis from Fish, Tommy Kendall and Jamie Howe. Justin Bell and Andrew Marriott report from around the paddock.
With more numbers available, Spike TV saw Bellator 149 average 2.2 million viewers for the entire 3-hour fight card on Friday with 3-day DVR playback now in the mix. Kimbo Slice’s three-rounds with Dada 5000 averaged 2.9 million viewers to become the most watched fight in Bellator history. The main event featuring MMA legends Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock drew 2.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Meanwhile, the Spike/Bellator original special Benson Henderson: Unrivaled delivered 864,000 viewers at midnight.
Just ahead of the FIFA presidential vote, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini had their bans from soccer cut by two years with FIFA’s appeal body announcing a reduction from eight to six years, according to the AP. Blatter and Platini were initially found guilty of a 2011 financial transaction wrongdoing by FIFA’s independent ethics committee.
Speaking of FIFA’s election, Univision announced that Friday will see Univision Deportes offer on-site of the balloting starting at 6:50a with up to the minute coverage, interviews with the candidates and expert commentary. It will offer a special edition of Linea de Cuatro for the event, with at least four hours of coverage that will not conclude until the new FIFA President is elected.
The dramatic story of John Scott and his ascension to NHL All-Star Game MVP is getting the movie treatment. Mandalay Sports Media announced Tuesday that it has picked up rights to Scott’s story for a feature-length film to be produced by Mike Tollin and Jon Weinbach, with Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom writing the script.
Showtime Networks announced that following discussions between DiBella Entertainment its March 12 boxing event has been canceled due to the injury to Keith Thurman and the postponement of the Thurman/Porter bout. The featherweight bout between fellow three-division world champions Abner Mares and Fernando Montiel will remain paired with the Thurman/Porter welterweight world championship event and become rescheduled for a later date on CBS. The other bouts on the card will be rescheduled on a date or dates to be announced.
Stephen F. Austin State University selected Learfield Sports to take on multimedia rights representation in a deal that runs through 2025-26. Learfield will operate as Lumberjack Sports Properties and will manage every aspect of the department’s multimedia rights including signage, digital, corporate sponsorships, hospitality, event marketing, radio play-by-play, coaches’ shows, and television.
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Learfield Sports will announce today that it has acquired Think Social, an agency specializing in building social media campaigns for sponsors. In the past year, Think Social has developed and activated over 600 social media campaigns on behalf of Learfield’s collegiate sponsors nationwide and now the company will continue to operate under the Think Social moniker and brand with all current employees remaining with the firm. “This is a terrific addition to the Learfield family,” said Learfield President and CEO Greg Brown. “Our company, as well as others who develop marketing campaigns for sponsors, have been utilizing Think Social to add significant value to collegiate sponsorship programs. More and more, social media components are strategic elements of the best sponsorship programs, and this new partnership brings the development of these vital concepts under our roof.”
Stewart-Haas Racing is turning to Ford for the 2017 NASCAR season, sporting Ford Fusions with engines prepared by Roush Yates Engines. “I am proud of our association with Chevrolet as they helped build our organization into the team it is today,” said Tony Stewart, co-owner, Stewart-Haas Racing. “This new partnership with Ford allows us to strengthen our position in the sport and ensure the long-term stability and success for everyone who is a part of Stewart-Haas Racing.”
Elsewhere, Honda extended its title sponsorship deal for its PGA TOUR event for five more years, running through 2021. This year’s Honda Classic marks the brand’s 35th as title sponsor of the South Florida event.
Just ahead of the NFL Combine, Verizon turned to Odell Beckham Jr. to surprise customers who believed they were playing a virtual reality experience featuring the Giants receiver, only to find that they were actually interacting with the real thing. The entire experience was captured in a video that can be seen here.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame selected Cliff Keen Athletic and Rudis Athletic Gear as its preferred apparel providers. Apparel will be customized to reflect “the distinct experience” of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum with Keen and Rudis providing apparel for the gift shops in Stillwater and Waterloo as well as online at the NWHOF’s official website.
The Daytona 500 spurred new social media records for the race, generating NASCAR’s most social impressions generated in one day, with a spike of 63% over last year’s Great American Race while engagement grew threefold during the event. According to NASCAR, the Daytona 500, which peaked at 14.1 million television viewers, generated more tweets than any other TV program on that day. NASCAR’s digital platform racked up 2.1 million unique visitors and 13 million page views, while fans spent a record 2.8 million minutes watching race content.
Mobile services provider Smart is now part of Team UFC locking in a multi-year partnership to become the official and exclusive mobile carrier of the UFC in the Philippines, and will introduce consumer promotions and marketing activities that are set to offer unique experiences to UFC fans and subscribers of Smart Bro, the telco’s mobile broadband brand. Smart will also be a provider of UFC Fight Pass.
The North American Soccer League is turning to Opta, a provider of live, detailed sports data, to manage and deliver statistical analysis for the league. The three-year partnership will include web integration, press box statistics distribution, social media interaction, and media outlet integration.
Campus Insiders announced plans to stream the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal and Semifinal games. Partnering with Urban Sports & Entertainment Group and ASPiRE TV, fans will be able to view the games via CampusInsiders.com or on their mobile device through the Campus Insiders app.
Two non-profit groups, the National Council on Problem Gambling and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, are calling for the NFL to stop offering fantasy sports games to children because “the games could lead some young sports fans down the path of gambling addiction,” according to the AP. The groups sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell expressing their concern over a "aggressively marketed" fantasy sports game on "NFL Rush," as well as on SIkids.com.
Catching up on the eSports front, Microsoft announced a final prize pool of $2.5 million for its Halo World Championship, which will conclude with the grand finals event from March 18-20. The company devoted a portion of microtransaction revenues from the sale of REQ to its initial prize, boosting the payouts for winning teams.
On a similar front, Valve announced that it will hike the prize pool for Counter-Strike: GO’s eSports championship to $1 million, quadrupling last year’s tally. Major League Gaming Columbus will become an early beneficiary of the hike, set to take place from March 29-April 3 of this year.
Rockets/Trail Blazers on TNT at 10:30p.
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