03/06/17: MLB Network takes on the World; Cotton Bowl goes under Friday night lights; MLS gets Continental drift


Good morning. It’s Monday March 6, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

The World Baseball Classic returns to the mound starting today, with a record of 63 MLB All-Stars set to participate in the 2017 tournament. MLB Network will carry the event, lining up Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz and Jon Morosi to call every Team USA game, the entire second round from San Diego’s Petco Park, and the Championship round from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Other talent is set to include Paul Severino, Gary Thorne and Rich Waltz among the lineup of play-by-play announcers. Severino and Joe Magrane open play today with Pool A from Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. Viewers will also be able to access MLB Network’s World Baseball Classic game coverage through its live, authenticated stream via MLB.com At Bat and online at MLBNetwork.com/Watch.

Cynopsis Sports asked Dave Patterson, SVP, Production at MLB Network, about the legacy of the World Baseball Classic and the channel’s plans for the staple event.

Patterson on the tournament: The ultimate goal of the World Baseball Classic is to globalize the sport of baseball and celebrate the way the game is played all over the world. When you look at the past installments of the World Baseball Classic, you can’t help but get caught up in the raw emotion from the players when they are playing for their countries. The tournament has produced some incredible moments over the last 11 years, from the emergence of Japan’s Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006 before he became a star pitcher in the Major Leagues, to in 2009, just a few months after MLB Network launched, when the Netherlands beat the superstar-packed Dominic Republic team in extra innings to advance to the next round, and in 2013 when Team USA faced the Dominican Republic in a Second Round matchup that still ranks as MLB Network’s most-watched non-Postseason game.

The World Baseball Classic is MLB Network’s most important exclusive live content outside of the Postseason, and this is the third time we’ll televise it and the second time we have the exclusive English-language rights to the entire tournament. Six of our top seven most-watched games outside of the Postseason are from the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and that led to our best-ever Q1. We’re coming off our most-watched Q4 in 2016, so the World Baseball Classic is a great opportunity for us as a network to really own an event and build off that growth.

On storylines: In 2013, the Dominican Republic became the first team to go undefeated and win the World Baseball Classic, so whether the stacked Dominican team can win back-to-back titles like Japan did in 2006 and 2009 is a major storyline. There’s also a sense of urgency for Team USA to break through and get to the finals for the first time. They have star position players in Giancarlo Stanton, Buster Posey, Nolan Arenado, Andrew McCutchen and Daniel Murphy, plus a formidable starting rotation and bullpen for veteran manager Jim Leyland to call on in his return to the dugout. One of the highlights of First Round play this weekend is a sold-out rematch between Team USA and the Dominican Republic on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Given the history and the rosters there, that’s a date we have circled in our calendars.

On new production elements: We’ve got a deep lineup of announcers for the World Baseball Classic, including Matt Vasgersian, Hall of Famer John Smoltz and Jon Morosi, plus Joe Magrane, Paul Severino, and longtime MLB broadcasters Buck Martinez, José Mota, Gary Thorne and Rich Waltz. We’ll also treat the Championship Round in Los Angeles from March 20-22 as we would an All-Star Game or World Series, with on-site pre- and postgame coverage from “Intentional Talk” with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar, and “MLB Tonight” with Greg Amsinger, Robert Flores, Harold Reynolds, Mark DeRosa, who played for Team USA in 2009, and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who played for the Dominican Republic in 2009.

We’ve created a new, custom open for both the MLB Network and MLB International productions of the tournament, and at each World Baseball Classic game in Miami, San Diego and LA, we’ll use a variety of super mo and Phantom high-frame rate cameras for enhanced on-screen resolution and clarity of both live action and replay footage. To make sure we capture as much field-level sound as possible, each game played in the U.S. will have enhanced audio, including mic’ed bases, and in LA, we’ll add to that even more with microphones in the infield grass, around the pitchers’ mound and home plate.  This will also mark the first time that MLB’s tracking technology Statcast, which launched in 2015, will be used in games throughout the World Baseball Classic.
On activations: MLB Network’s telecast of the 2017 World Baseball Classic will be presented by GEICO, a longtime presenting sponsor of our exclusive League Division Series telecasts. Similar to our programming throughout the regular season, Statcast will be powered by Amazon Web Services, and Alfa Romeo will have a World Baseball Classic Player of the Game feature in every game on MLB Network. More than 50 sponsors from 15 countries across five continents are involved in the tournament including four global partners: GungHo, Hublot, Nippon Express, and Nomura Securities. This year’s tournament features a record 23 team partnerships and 12 teams with sponsor branding on their uniforms.


2017 Cable Hall of Fame Celebration
Presented by The Cable Center
April 26, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt, Washington, D.C.
2017 Honorees
Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal
Jill Campbell, EVP and COO, Cox Communications
Michael T. Fries, CEO, Liberty Global
Ken Lowe, Chairman, President and CEO, Scripps Networks Interactive
“The Sopranos,television drama series; David Chase, creator; HBO
David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications
www.cablehalloffame.com, 720-502-7500.


Speaking of the World Baseball Classic, ESPN Deportes takes on the role of the Spanish-language home of the event, airing up to 45 games, including up to 22 primetime windows. Primetime coverage begins tonight at 10p with first-round pool play featuring Israel/Chinese Taipei. In an effort to rally fans behind national uniforms, ESPN Deportes has launched a marketing campaign featuring music from Latin Grammy winners ChocQuibTown. Titled “De Donde Vengo Yo,” the song will serve as the network’s theme music for all World Baseball Classic-related content and marketing efforts.
The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is shifting to Friday night this year, with the game taking place on Dec. 29 and marking the earliest kickoff data in the game’s history. The game will be followed by the Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 20 with Jan. 1 showcasing the Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl (semifinal) and Sugar Bowl (semifinal). The National Championship Game will take place on Jan. 8.

Showtime Championship Boxing helped push CBS to rank as the top primetime network on Saturday, according to Nielsen overnights, with the broadcast tallying a 2.2 rating from 9p-11:15p for a markup of 22% over the previous Showtime Championship Boxing on the network last June. 
T-Mobile Arena locked in an extended multi-year agreement with UFC that makes the MMA promotion an Anchor Tenant of the arena. The deal establishes T-Mobile Arena as UFC’s exclusive Las Vegas arena destination, hosting a minimum of four events annually. UFC will have priority scheduling for designated major events windows, such as International Fight Week, and will have a presence at T-Mobile Arena  headlining the welcome sign in the lobby alongside the Vegas Golden Knights, as well as concourse activations, signage and retail space.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told attendees of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that the All-Star Game will get some tweaks in time for next year’s game in LA. "You hear people talking about 4-point shots, something that’s not about to happen in the NBA, but maybe in an All-Star Game," Silver said, per the AP. "Maybe there’s a few spots on the floor where it’s a 4-point shot. Maybe there’s a halfcourt shot in the last minute that’s 10 points. I don’t know. Those are crazy ideas."


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With the new MLS season underway, Continental Tire announced an extension of their agreement with Soccer United Marketing to continue as an official partner and the official tire of the league in the US and Canada, in addition to giving Continental official sponsor and partner designation and names Continental Tire as the official tire partner of all 22 MLS clubs. The alliance will also see the brand continue as an official partner and official tire of US Soccer.

NASCAR and Lilly Diabetes announced that Lilly is expanding its involvement in NASCAR with a multi-year official partnership with the sanctioning body that designates the brand as the “Official Diabetes Health Partner of NASCAR.” Lilly Diabetes will work with NASCAR on multiple health and wellness initiatives, including launching an editorial series on NASCAR.com.


WatchESPN serves up the 10th annual BNP Paribas Showdown live from Madison Square Garden tonight at 7p. The Showdown will be a team tennis format this year that will feature Americas vs. World. A two hour encore presentation of the event will air on ESPN2 on Tuesday at 11p. The event will also air live in Spanish internationally on ESPN’s networks in 57 countries throughout Latin America including in Portuguese in Brazil and in English in the Caribbean and Pacific Rim, as well as delayed in Canada.


Red Bull Proving Grounds booked its 2017 plans for Street Fighter V, lining up “more qualifying cities, more online competition, and higher stakes.” The slate will see players will compete in monthly competitions, accumulating points to rise up the rankings. At the end of the season, three top players from each of the eleven Red Bull Proving Grounds qualifying stops (plus three online contenders) will meet in Santa Monica to face off for the championship. Stops are set to include Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando (Florida), Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.


Celtics/Clippers on TNT at 10:30p.


WEBINAR: What You Need to Know Now About the Hottest Social Media Platforms

The rapid-fire pace of the social media landscape (R.I.P., Vine, hello Houseparty) requires an ever-evolving social strategy for networks and brands. But staying on top of social is a real challenge. Music Choice and Octagon will offer insights on new platforms and features programmers and advertisers should be exploring, as well as what social media skills your team should focus on updating.


ON THIS DAY in 1964: Cassius Clay is renamed Muhammad Ali.

In The Know: Which school holds the record for most championships in the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What two players in Cooperstown are wearing a Mets cap on their Hall of Fame plaque? Answer: Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza. Kudos: Ed Flamos-ComScore/NY; Phyllis Toss-Magnus Global/NY; Steve Kantscheidt-THREE/NY; Lou Vazquez-Zenith/NY; John Hein-Baltimore County Golf/Towson; Michael Narracci-NESN/ Watertown; Jerry A. Kapner-Kapner Group/Montclair; James Stuart-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; John Kukla-KDFW/KDFI/Dallas; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Amanda Rykoff/Santa Monica; Adam Frank-Lionsgate/Santa Monica; Jason Kleinhein-CoxReps/LA; Jack Simmons-Folds of Honor/LA.

Later — Chris
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