03/31/21: The NFL confirmed plans to expand the regular season to 17 games


Medias First Morning Read


Wednesday March 31, 2021

The NFL formally switched on a 17-game regular season that will kick in this year, with each team playing 17 regular-season games and now three preseason games for the first time. The NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in March of 2020 enables the league, with the approval of the union and its players, to enhance the regular season with the move. The 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021. NFL Kickoff Weekend will begin Thursday night, September 9, and the regular season will end Sunday, January 9, 2022.

“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”


DraftKings acquired Vegas Sports Information Network in a move that will allow DraftKings, which is live with mobile and/or retail sports betting in 14 states, to “further build out its content capabilities and will augment VSiN’s ability to broaden their audience alongside the expansion of legal sports betting in the U.S.” “VSiN creates authentic and credible content that resonates with sports bettors at every level, whether they’re experienced or new to sports betting,” said Jason Robins, DraftKings’ co-founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board. “In addition to its brand equity among sports bettors and engaging talent roster, VSiN also has an established infrastructure that DraftKings can immediately help expand, in the hopes of adding value to consumers who are looking to become more knowledgeable about sports betting.”

WWE and USA Network announced a multi-year extension for NXT, which will now shift to Tuesday nights live on USA Network at 8p beginning April 13. The new agreement for the live, weekly two-hour show furthers WWE and USA’s nearly three decade-long relationship. All new episodes will be available on demand in the United States exclusively on Peacock, the day after its airing on USA Network. “We are incredibly proud of our three-decade partnership with WWE and in extending USA’s NXT deal, we are further establishing our portfolio as an unrivaled home for quality WWE content,” said Frances Berwick, Chairman, Entertainment Networks, NBCUniversal. “By transitioning NXT to a Tuesday timeslot where WWE has performed well in the past, we are giving our passionate fanbase more of what they love with back-to-back nights of exhilarating, live programming.”

The NBA stated that NBA Draft 2021 presented by State Farm will take place on July 29, beginning at 8p. The first round will be televised by ESPN and ABC, and the second round will air on ESPN. In addition, the NBA Draft Combine is now slated to run June 21-27 with coverage on ESPN. NBA Draft Lottery 2021 will take place on June 22, airing on ESPN at 8:30p.

CBS Sports and Turner Sports saw the Sweet 16 lay claim to the round’s best viewership since 1993, averaging 12.9 million viewers and up 12% over 2019. Meanwhile, the companies also report that official March Madness social handles are on pace for all-time highs, up 13% through the Sweet 16.

Meanwhile, the debut of the 2021 Formula 1 season boosted ESPN2 as Sunday’s Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix drew an average audience of 879,000 fans, up over all of the F1 races run during the pandemic-shifted 2020 season. The race was the most-viewed live Formula 1 telecast on ESPN2 on record dating back to 1995 and the most-viewed Bahrain Grand Prix on record since the event started in 2004.

Multi-platform host and reporter Charly Arnolt is joining ESPN on a full-time basis beginning in early April as part of a new, multi-year contract extension with the network. Arnolt – who recently launched the weekly ESPN Podcast First Take, Her Take – will continue to contribute to select editions of ESPN’s morning debate show First Take and the network’s signature news and information show, SportsCenter. Arnolt will regularly appear on ESPN+’s weekday morning show, SportsNation along with other digital shows across the industry-leading sports streaming service as well.

MLB Network announced that Alanna Rizzo has rejoined MLB Network’s roster of on-air personalities. Beginning on Friday, Rizzo will serve as a regular contributor to High Heat with Christopher Russo, providing news and commentary on the latest MLB storylines. Following two seasons with MLB Network from 2012 through 2013, Rizzo spent the last seven seasons as an in-game reporter and host for SportsNet LA’s coverage of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Cynopsis unveiled finalists for the 2021 Sports Media Awards, saluting the best industry plays of the past year. In addition, the ceremony will honor NBA COO Mark Tatum as Executive of the Year, Bud Light at Brand of the Year, and the 20211 Hall of Fame inductees will include Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman and Tennis Channel President Ken Solomon. To see this year’s finalists, visit ow.ly/2q1y50EcJf7. Congratulations to all of the luminaries and nominees!

Athletes Unlimited will host its second volleyball season in Spring 2022 following the completion of its inaugural season this year at Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas. In total, 750 hours of its debut season were broadcast on TV in the US across CBS Sports Net, FOX Sports, with 15 games in Spanish on FOX Deportes and the league’s regional partners during the five-week season.

CBS Sports offers a special three-hour block of original programming focused on the history and culture of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their contributions and impact on college basketball on CBS’ coverage of Men’s Final Four on Sunday. Sunday’s block of programming begins with Big House, The Pearl & The Triumph of Winston-Salem State (3p), continues with Soul of the Game: The John McLendon Story (4p) and wraps up with HBCUs: Elevating The Game (5p).

ESPN and the NCAA announced the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship semifinals and final will be presented live on ESPN’s linear and digital networks through at least 2023. The NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship semifinals and final will be available on an ESPN network for the first time in the sport’s history, with the 2020 title game televised live on ESPNU on May 9 in primetime at 7p. The semifinals, available on ESPN3, are set for May 7 at 1 and 4p. Mike Corey will handle play-by-play duties while Leah Secondo will provide analysis.

The Professional Fighters League partnered with Globo, Brazil’s leading media company, to become the promotion’s exclusive content provider in the country for the upcoming 2021 season. The company will carry each of the league’s live events and viewers in Brazil will be able to watch MMA in a true season format for the first time through Combate platforms.

SiriusXM, the exclusive audio broadcaster of the Masters Tournament, revealed its broadcast plans for Masters week, April 5-11. through April 11. SiriusXM will be producing and presenting live play-by-play broadcasts of all four rounds of the Tournament for the first time with lie tournament coverage each day – Thursday through Sunday – starting at 2p. “This is our first year as the exclusive audio broadcaster of the Masters and we couldn’t be more excited to bring golf fans everywhere extensive and expert coverage for this great event,” said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s President and Chief Content Officer. “Between our live Tournament play-by-play, features on Masters history, one-on-one interviews with the competitors, plus insight from some of the people who know the Tournament as well as anyone, listeners will feel like they are on the grounds at Augusta National.”

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DKC Sports announced the launch of a new practice area – DKC Campus – to provide insight and support in the Name, Image & Likeness space via “strategic counsel and curated partnership and monetization opportunities as a result of the paradigm-shifting NIL regulations set to take effect in the coming months.” DKC Campus will look to leverage the agency’s experience working with major global brands, higher education institutions and their athletic departments, collegiate conferences, as well as professional and amateur athletes to help stakeholders navigate the new environment.

The Buffalo Bills announced a new naming rights partner for their stadium, which will now be known as Highmark Stadium. “We are proud to welcome Highmark to the Buffalo Bills family and we are thrilled to partner with them on a new naming rights deal for our stadium,” Bills owner and president Kim Pegula said. “We are confident that Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York is committed to maintaining their status as a healthcare and philanthropic leader in our region.”

Whiskey brand Dewar’s agreed to a multi-year partnership with the US Golf Association, which will include the release of annual limited edition products to mark the Open Championship in the States. The Bacardi-owned brand now become the official blended Scotch whisky of the US Open Championship golf tournament, starting with the 121st competition this year.

The PGA TOUR saw Comcast Business sign a multi-year deal to sponsor the Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 starting with the current 2020-21 PGA TOUR Season. The initiative emphasizes player performance by rewarding top players in the FedExCup standings at the end of the FedExCup Regular Season.


DraftKings and WWE announced that DraftKings will become an Official Gaming Partner of WWE, subject to regulatory approval in all applicable jurisdictions. The collaboration centers on DraftKings’ free-to-play pools product and will launch with an inaugural free-to-play pool at WrestleMania on April 10 and 11. DraftKings will receive an exclusive license to media assets and in-game branding for WWE pay-per-view events. Additionally, both WWE fans and DraftKings customers will be able to participate in a number of integrated, free-to-play pools contests and products and experience digital promotion and program integration.

The PGA TOUR and Score Media and Gaming unveiled a content and marketing relationship designating theScore Bet as an Official Betting Operator of the PGA TOUR across the United States and Canada. In the United States, theScore Bet will become the TOUR’s fifth Official Betting Operator, and in Canada theScore Bet will become the TOUR’s first Official Betting Operator. Through the deal, the PGA TOUR will begin to incorporate daily odds updates from theScore Bet within the TOUR’s live audio play-by-play, distributed via SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and PGA TOUR Digital platforms.

Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot and the new Flow blockchain, announced that it has closed $305M in new funding led by Coatue. The company received support from NBA legend Michael Jordan as well as current players and funds including Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Lowry, Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Drummond, Alex Caruso, Michael Carter-Williams, Josh Hart, and more. The funds will be used to scale the Dapper Labs team to continue building out the NBA Top Shot vision, expanding the platform to other sports, and helping a new generation of creators develop engaging experiences using blockchain technology including NFTs.

Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Company revealed team locations, names and logos for the Hall of Fantasy League, described as the first national fantasy league that allows users to experience a fantasy team with a community of shared stakeholders. The 10 franchises that will comprise the HOFL include: Atlanta Hot Wings; Boston Barflies; Chicago Hogmollies; Los Angeles Sidekicks; New York Bodega Cats; Ohio GOATS; Philadelphia Powderkegs; Seattle Haze; Texas Y’allers; and Vegas Pocket Kings.

The Masters announced the launch of Masters Fantasy for this year’s tournament, which will include player insights from IBM Watson. The platform has integrated IBM Watson through player insights, to help fantasy players use artificial intelligence (AI) to make the most informed decisions when selecting their teams.

Pac-12 Networks is launching Pac-12 Insider on its first international platform, SportsTribal, extending its reach to the UK. “SportsTribal is a perfect fit for Pac-12 Insider and we are excited to provide some of the best Pac-12 Networks content to fans across the pond,” said Pac-12 Networks Vice President of Distribution Henry Watson. “With so many college sports fans feeling energized by March Madness, the timing couldn’t be better to increase the reach and accessibility of our Pac-12 content to an even greater international audience.”

Electronic Arts lined up EA SPORTS PGA TOUR, a new next-gen golf video game, currently in development. The title will allow fans to build their virtual career and experience the sights, sounds, and thrills of the PGA TOUR including THE PLAYERS Championship, FedExCup Playoffs and more events. The game will also feature many of the world’s most famous courses, where fans will have the option to play against and as some of the biggest names in professional golf.

ELEVEN SPORTS acquired Team Whistle. The acquisition will bring together ELEVEN SPORTS’ 150+ commercial partners, 20million+ users and 30,000hours of LIVE sport each year; with Team Whistle’s slate of original programming, 1,655 distribution channels, 629 million aggregated social media followers and 4billion monthly video views


Misfits Gaming Group revealed details of its renewed partnership with SoFi. The partnership features an Activision-Blizzard first: an in-game jersey patch activation during Call of Duty League broadcasts. SoFi also becomes the presenting sponsor for the Florida Mutineers (MGG’s Call of Duty League franchise) and the Florida Mayhem (MGG’s Overwatch League franchise). They will collaborate together on original content on personal finance and financial literacy. Content will be published across team channels and MGG influencers.

Twitch detailed plans for the AT&T Annihilator Cup, a multi-genre game competition featuring 20 of Twitch’s top content creators – including Shroud, Lirik, Yassuo, GoldGlove and Mizkif – competing for a grand prize of $100,000. The competition will be streamed on AT&T’s Twitch starting Friday at 4p and will span five weeks and five games: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Mortal Kombat 11, Halo 3, Apex Legends and Among Us.


Learfield IMG College named Jennifer Davis as CMO. She will lead the company’s comprehensive marketing and champion its brand and communications strategy. Most recently, Davis served as Amazon Web Services’ head of product marketing management for training and certification. Prior to that, she was the CMO for Honeywell’s smart buildings and homes business and the CMO for Leyard International and Planar Systems.

OneTeam Partners announced that Lindsay Amstutz will join the company as Chief Media Officer beginning in early April. In this newly created role, Amstutz will lead strategy, development, and optimization of media and content initiatives across platforms and formats to drive reach, retention, engagement, and revenue. OneTeam is a joint venture between the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), MLB Players Association (MLBPA) and RedBird Capital Partners.

fuboTV named Ali Ghanavati as head of regulatory technology for its new Fubo Gaming subsidiary. Ghanavati’s gaming career includes roles as chief engineer and as deputy chief of the Technical Services Bureau (Gaming Laboratory) of the State of New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.


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On this Day
2002: Andre Agassi wins his 700th career match, facing Roger Federer.

Which MLB club used to play at Three Rivers Stadium? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
Which baseball stadium has the deepest outfield? Answer: Three, not counting a block. Kudos: Frank Costa-CBS Sports/NY; Kevin Lyons-OMI/NY; Kathi Gillin/Philadelphia; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Matt Sautter-WideOrbit/Harrisburg; David Westberg-SAG•AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Dan Weiner-Condé Nast/LA

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