03/08/17: CBS/Turner prepare for Madness; A-Rod finds a home; NCAA is sweet for Hershey’s


Good morning. It’s Wednesday March 8, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Turner Sports and CBS Sports hit year seven of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship with some tweaks to its programming as well as streaming coverage that will now hit 15 platforms. Programming includes all 67 games across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV, with all games streamed on NCAA March Madness Live. This year’s selection show will now run at 90 minutes on Sunday starting at 5:30p. Greg Gumbel hosts and will be joined by analysts Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis from the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City, with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith providing commentary from Turner Studios in Atlanta. CBS carries the NCAA Final Four National Semifinals on April 1, as well as the National Championship on April 3. Overall, Turner will air 43 game telecasts across its three networks with CBS on deck for 24 games. Studio shows will include The Road to the Final Four and Infiniti NCAA Tip-Off pre-game shows, AT&T at the Half, Capital One Tournament Central and the Inside March Madness presented by Buick post-game show.
As for NCAA March Madness Live, the exclusive live streaming suite of products developed by Turner Sports in partnership with CBS and the NCAA, the platform will now feature content that extends to a record 15 platforms this year, including Amazon Alexa and Xbox. For the first time, Turner’s iStreamPlanet will provide the live streaming infrastructure for all games made available through NCAA March Madness Live. New features this year include the Apple TV Interactive Bracket, March Madness Alexa Skill, Capital One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge, an enhanced Desktop Experience and expanded highlights and alerts.


Alex Rodriguez is turning his annual visits to FOX Sports into a full-time gig. After working as a guest studio analyst during FOX Sports’ coverage of MLB’s postseason run in 2016, Rodriguez, signed on with the company to serve as a full-time analyst which will now include expanding his broadcasting responsibilities to serve as a game analyst for select FOX MLB Saturday telecasts as well as feature reporter for FOX’s MLB pregame coverage and FS1 studio show MLB Whiparound.
The Basketball Tournament and ESPN locked in a multi-year extension of their exclusive multiplatform broadcast rights agreement, with ESPN committing to increasing coverage of the event. Ratings for TBT games on ESPN platforms in 2016 increased across all demographics over 2015, led by a 140% rise among younger viewers (18-34). As part of the new agreement, ESPN has committed to airing at least 15 TBT games on ESPN or ESPN2 in 2017 (up from nine in 2016).

Major League Soccer reports that it saw its highest gross viewership for an Opening Weekend since 2004, hitting 1.63 million with all US-based national broadcast partners up year-over-year. The LA Galaxy/FC Dallas matchup on Univision marked the highest viewed MLS Opening Weekend Spanish-language broadcast ever while FS1’s coverage of Atlanta United/New York Red Bulls match was the most watched Opening Weekend ever and the second highest MLS broadcast of all-time on the network. ESPN’s coverage of the Orlando City SC/NYCFC match marked a 14% viewership increase year-over-year on the network, according to the league.

In other ratings news, Monday’s season 7 premiere of Feherty, featuring Phil Mickelson, earned a .31 overnight rating, matching the highest overnight rating ever for a Feherty season premiere. The Mickelson episode was up 35% vs. the season 6 premiere in 2016. Mickelson returns for part two of the conversation on Monday at 9p.

Meanwhile, BTN scored an 11% rise in household delivery in its primary markets during the 2016-2017 men’s basketball season, anchored by 22% growth in its Super Wednesday doubleheaders. The channel also saw six of the top 10 conference games in network history take place during the 2016-2017 season. To close out the year, BTN will air five games from the Big Ten Tournament in DC, beginning with Ohio State/Rutgers at 7p today.

Tennis Channel locked in a two-year broadcast extension with on-air analyst James Blake ahead of the BNP Paribas Open, which begins today. Tennis Channel is also adding Hall of Famer and network commentator Martina Navratilova to its March coverage for the first time, as well as injured American star Sloane Stephens. Blake will now widen his analyst’s role to include more events on Tennis Channel’s 2017 and 2018 lineups and will be part of the network’s French Open team in Paris for the first time this year.

ABC opens the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with live coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday. Coverage begins with pre-race at noon. ESPN’s production of the race telecast will introduce two new innovations to enhance the viewing experience for fans, including the first, exclusive usage of a predictive analytics system built especially for IndyCar racing that will bring viewers closer to the strategy that often determines race winners. Also new this season will be Visor Cam, a tiny camera mounted to a driver’s helmet, which will provide a unique view that will be used during ABC’s course description segment.

IMG is relaunching its sport media archive service as IMG Replay. The redesign and rebrand will “reflect the archive business’ broadening scope and market appeal beyond sport and the introduction of an updated range of content and services.” The new platform includes the addition of daily sports clips from SNTV and UFC content, with plans to expand with content from entertainment and fashion properties including the Miss Universe Organization.


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The Hershey Company is unwrapping a five-year extension with CBS Sports, Turner Sports and the NCAA, continuing its run as “Official Confectionery Partner.” The deal sees Reese’s return as title sponsor of the Reese’s College All-Star Game and the brand will continue to host a kick-off to Final Four® weekend with Reese’s Final Four Friday. Reese’s brand is all about fun and NCAA® March Madness® is arguably the most fun, exciting and highly-anticipated event in college sports,” said Kristen Riggs, Senior Marketing Director, Reese’s brand. “We want to inspire fans and consumers to go for it and get into the game day spirit even more passionately than before.”

The USOC saw 24 Hour Fitness renew its partnership with the organization through the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Elements of the agreement include the U.S. Olympic Committee Certification Program developed exclusively for 24 Hour Fitness personal trainers while 24 Hour Fitness will continue to consult with the USOC about the design of Team USA’s High Performance Training Centers constructed in the Games’ host cities and will also provide on-the-ground staffing and expertise. “We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with 24 Hour Fitness, a company that shares in our mission of supporting U.S. athletes in their pursuit of competitive excellence,” said Peter Zeytoonjian, USOC senior vice president of marketing, commerce and events. “We look forward to combining the expansive fitness knowledge and nationwide network of 24 Hour Fitness clubs with the sports performance expertise of the USOC in effort to provide more programs and training resources for future Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.”

The Ivy League announced that Citizens Bank signed on to become the presenting partner of the 2017 Inaugural Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, spanning March 11-12 at the Palestra in Philadelphia. JMI Sports, the official marketing rights agency of the Ivy League, negotiated the agreement. Citizens Bank will have a significant presence throughout all facets of the tournaments, including on television and radio as well as on-site at the Palestra and digitally on the Ivy League Digital Network. As part of the agreement, Citizens Bank will also be an official partner of the Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse Tournaments that will be contested during the weekend of May 5. Meanwhile, JMI Sports also reached agreements for the Ivy League with Coca-Cola, Under Armour and Nike for the tournaments.

StubHub Center locked in a partnership with AstroTurf, brokered by AEG Global Partnerships, that makes AstroTurf will become an official partner of the multi-use sports stadium and the preferred vendor for all future synthetic turf projects. Additionally, AstroTurf’s cutting-edge DT23 System will replace the crumb rubber synthetic field of StubHub Center’s Field 7.

Yokohama Tire is teaming with Nitro Circus to spotlight Yokohama’s Geolandar line of light truck tires to Nitro Circus’ fan base. The deal sees Yokohama become the exclusive tire of the Nitro Circus Live Tour in the US.

SCORE International reached an agreement with Raceline to become the new “Official Wheel” for the SCORE World Desert Championship. With the season opening at the 31st Annual SCORE San Felipe 250 in Baja California on March 29, the four-race 2017 SCORE World Desert Championship will culminate with the 50th anniversary celebration of the SCORE Baja 1000 in mid-November.


The World Surf League locked in a new deal with Facebook to broadcast all elite 2017 Championship Tour men’s and women’s events and Big Wave Tour (BWT) events via Facebook Live. Fans can watch the action in real-time on the World Surf League Facebook Page.“We’re excited for the World Surf League to deliver its full season of live events to a global audience on Facebook," Dan Reed, Facebook Head of Global Sports Partnerships, said. "Thanks to its innovative video strategy, highlighted by a consistent and creative use of Facebook Live, the WSL has built a highly-engaged community of fans on the platform. Enabling these fans to watch the Championship Tour together is yet another example of the league’s forward-thinking Facebook approach. Because these events begin whenever the waves roll in, broadcast schedules can be unpredictable. However, on Facebook, the WSL can quickly reach fans as soon as a competition starts, ensuring that people can enjoy surfing’s biggest moments whenever they happen.”

SendtoNews Video and the PGA TOUR inked a renewal of an exclusive multi-year rights agreement to distribute digital video throughout the US and Canada. The PGA TOUR will continue to provide STN with clips, which include highlights, interviews and analysis, will be made available to publishers across the territories.

The ACC Digital Network tackles the 2017 New York Life ACC Basketball Tournament, serving up the official ACC postgame highlights, game previews and Must See Moments from the tournament. From March 7-11, the ACC Digital Network will be on-site at Barclays Center with host Jeff Fischel offering special pre-game, break, and post-game entertainment on the court and scoreboards including: ACCDN Hidden Gems; ACCDN Must See Moments from the past season; interviews live from the court with ACC Legends and other ACC VIPs; and all press conferences surrounding the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Tournaments.


IEM booked a ticket to Sydney as the tournament series will kick off its 12th season with IEM Sydney from May 6-7 at Qudos Bank Arena as fans witness teams competing for a prize pool of $260,000 in CS:GO. "Having been to five different continents is a badge of honor for our historic competition,” said Michal Blicharz, VP Pro Gaming at ESL. “Australia has been an attractive market for us as part of our global expansion of the Intel Extreme Masters brand. We look forward to bringing Intel Extreme Masters to new global audiences and making history for esports in Australia.”


Celtics/Warriors at 10:30p on ESPN.


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ON THIS DAY in 1986: Martina Navratilova becomes the first tennis player to pass $10 million in earnings.

In The Know: Martina Navratilova won 109 consecutive matches and 79 titles playing doubles with what athlete? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Although he was best known for his play with the Atlanta Hawks, Dominique Wilkins was actually drafted by which NBA franchise? Answer: The Jazz. Kudos: Andrew Feingold-Fox News/NY; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports Network/NY; Lewis Blaustein-GreenSportsBlogger/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Willy Gibson-WTG Consulting/Columbus; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Mark Lehman-Atlanta Braves/Atlanta; Greg Hughes-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank.

Later — Chris
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