03/12/18: FOX Sports breaks down its World Cup production plans and what happened after the US whiffed

Good morning. It’s Monday March 12, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

With the countdown clock officially under 100 days and promotion now turning up the volume, FOX Sports went full throttle with its World Cup campaign last week, not only unveiling its original theme song “Where Angels Fear to Tread,” but also camped at SXSW throughout the weekend, launched a “100 Most Memorable FIFA World Cup Moments” countdown and launched World Cup promo, tickets, bugs/watermarks and snipes across its properties.
Despite the lack of a US team at the tournament, FOX Sports will feature all 64 matches live, including an unprecedented 38 matches on broadcast television and 26 on FS1 starting June 14. Cynopsis Sports spokes with David Neal, Executive Producer of FIFA World Cup on FOX and Vice President of Production for FOX Sports, about the company’s strategy and what fans can expect this summer.
Neal on the record amount World Cup programming on FOX: This is something that was decided years ago and that is indicative of the company-wide support we have for the World Cup. It is the biggest event in the history of FOX Sports and when rights were acquired, the mandate is to make this a world-class event, pull out all the stops and give it every resource and platform possible.
On FOX’s approach to soccer: When we first started doing soccer, I had a lengthy discussion with David Hill and Eric Shanks about the fact that this is a global event, and something unique in the FOX Sports portfolio and we wanted to make sure it has a FOX characteristic to it. That starts with storytelling and having commentators who have informed opinions. If there is a great show to emulate for us, it is FOX NFL Sunday as I think that crew does a great job and the ratings reflect it every year. To me that is the prototypical FOX studio show: great information with larger-than-life personalities who entertainment and inform you.
On the US not qualifying: It was certainly disappointing and there is no question that we would rather have the US there. But after that happened, we gave ourselves about 24 hours to mourn and the very next day, Eric Shanks called a staff meeting and told us that life goes on, our plans are unabated, and that this would represent the kind of challenge that our producers were more than ready for. It gives more life to the premise that there are 32 teams, with stories full of protagonists and antagonists, with the 33rd team being the host nation itself. There is not lack of interest these days in Russia and the fact that we can go there and bring the enormity of that country to life is a great opportunity. We can now focus equally on all 32 teams and the draw could not have been better.
On digital strategy: I think this could be a game-changer. We will be contributing daily material to them. While linear is still the flagship, we want to create touchpoints and make sure that FOX Sports GO is robust, help out partners in Twitter and Snapchat, and get out there and get into as many consumable venues as possible because we want people to easily access what’s going on because we have some great stories to tell.
On talent plans: The on-air talent that we’ve assembled and will be announcing fairly soon, I think, is an unbelievable collection of soccer players from around the world that will really impress fans. The names we are pulling together is unparalleled ever in television history. For all the great work that others have done, when you see the lineup that we’ve put together and their pedigree, I can’t wait to get on the air with these guys.

Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Xavier landed the four top seeds in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament with play locked in to begin tomorrow as the First Four tip off out of Dayton on truTV. Radford/LIU Brooklyn open play at 6:40p, followed by UCLA/St. Bonaventure at 9:10p. We’ll dive deeper in tomorrow’s edition.
MNF voice Sean McDonough is heading back to college football, with ESPN announced that he inked a new multi-year extension with the company to rejoin ESPN’s college football team this fall. His assignments will include high-profile national games each week, as well as a College Football Playoff Semifinal. McDonough will continue to call the CFP National Championship on ESPN Radio, marquee college basketball, The Masters Par 3 contest, and more. The move means that the MNF franchise will see a completely new talent team when it returns this fall.
Speaking of talent, Michael Smith anchored his final SC6 broadcast on Friday, according to the network. The departure shortly after his former co-anchor, Jemele Hill, also left the program. “Michael is a talented commentator and we greatly appreciate and value his contributions and creativity,” Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president and the executive editor of studio production, said in a statement, per CNN. “We are in the process of discussing with him potential next ESPN assignments.”
In ratings news, heading into today’s final round of the Valspar Championship, Golf Channel and NBC Sports report record ratings over the first three days of coverage of the tournament with Tiger Woods contending, highlighted by the best PGA TOUR round 3 overnight rating in nearly 12 years on any broadcast network, nabbing a 3.26 overnight score, up 181% over 2017 numbers on NBC, while Golf Channel programming drew a a 1.07 Nielsen overnight, highest-rated Golf Channel telecast at this event on-record and in over 4 years since the 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship.
ESPN also saw some good Nielsen numbers, reporting that Saturday night’s Top Rank on ESPN saw the Valdez win over Quigg notchs a 0.7 metered market rating, while the co-main event between Vences/De Leon average a 0.8 score to ranks as the highest-rated boxing fight on cable so far this year. The overall telecast also ranked as the highest-rated of the three Top Rank on ESPN telecasts in 2018
ESPN added Monday’s Serena Williams/Venus Williams third-round match from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells to tonight’s lineup, likely to be played at 10p and aired on ESPNEWS.
The International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee presidents, Thomas Bach and Andrew Parsons, respectively, inked a long-term agreement on Saturday to establish a partnership of the two organizations until at least 2032. As a result of the new partnership, IOC will continue to require that any country that hosts the Olympic Games also to organize the Paralympic Games. The deal will also see the IOC and IPC work together to increase the visibility of the Paralympic Games and enhance the Paralympic brand as well as deepen cooperation.
Thursday, March 22nd  | 9am – 3pm| SVA Theatre, NYC
In addition to the awards program and winner screenings, hear from Attn:, CDW, Crowd Tangle, The Dodo, eshapTV, Facebook, Limbik, Lyft, NBCUniversal, State Farm, Time, Viacom Velocity and Volvo in these thought-provoking panels:
The Brands Speak
Building your Blueprint for Revenue Success
Short Form Behind the Scenes


The PGA TOUR announced that Hoag signed on for title sponsorship of the 2019 tournament formerly called the Toshiba Classic. Hoag Charity Sports, a supporting organization of Hoag Hospital Foundation, The Classic brings players with more than 400 worldwide professional victories and over 50 major championships to Southern California annually.

Big news for MLB, which locked in a deal with Facebook for an expanded partnership for the 2018 MLB season that will see Facebook carry one game every week to a global audience on Facebook in a 25-game package. This 25-game package of weekly broadcasts will be distributed exclusively on Facebook Watch in the US via the MLB Live show Page – marking MLB’s first digital-only national broadcasts. Every game also will be available globally on the show Page, excluding select international markets. Games will be produced by MLB Network specifically for Facebook Watch across its supported devices, including mobile phones and connected televisions.
Meanwhile, Major League Soccer announced a comprehensive three-year deal with Twitter to provide MLS fans with weekly programming including live matches, highlights and features. MLS will provide Twitter with a package of live, on-demand content each week allowing MLS fans nationwide to follow their favorite teams and players via MLS’ Twitter handles. Matches are now be available in English in the US on Twitter.

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club named ESPN as the club’s exclusive media rights holder, executing a three-year rights agreement. ESPN+ will serve as the home for live local coverage of Fire matches in both English and Spanish beginning this season with exclusive coverage of 27 Fire matches in 2018.

The NHL opened the doors to its esports plans with the announcement of a 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship with $100,000 on the line for the best of EA SPORTS NHL 18. Players will be able to register on the FACEIT platform, the Official Tournament Platform of the tournament, with play beginning March 24. In addition, NBC Sports, Sportsnet, and Viasat will each host a Regional event in their respective markets and produce event content . The winner and runner-up from each Regional Final will advance to the 2018 NHL Gaming Championship hosted at the new Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor Hotel on June 19.
The NBA 2K League will hold the inaugural NBA 2K League on April 4 at 1p in The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden’s Lobby in New York. The first-ever NBA 2K League Draft Lottery, which determines the draft order for the 17 teams, will be held on March 13 at 1p. The draft will consist of six rounds with each team selecting six players and will be snake order, with the order of picks reversing after each round for the 102 players available.
Dreamhack is going big on Rainbow Six, announcing the addition of four global DreamHack events that will feature the title and competing for a collective prize pool of $50,000 per event. Events will include: DreamHack Austin (June 1-3rd,); DreamHack Valencia (July 12-15th); DreamHack Winter – Jonkoping (Nov. 30th – Dec. 3rd); and another one in early 2019 in a city TBD.
A new poll from the Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell reveals that almost three-quarters of Americans ages 14-to-21 either played or watched multiplayer online games or competitions in the previous year while half of adults under 30 have played or watched online games. Nearly as many Americans ages 14-21 are fans of esports (38%) as are fans of professional football (40%), with teen and young adult gamers significantly more likely to be fans of football than non-gamers.


NCAA Women’s Selection Special on ESPN at 7p.

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ON THIS DAY in 1972: Gordie Howe has his #9 jersey retired by the Detroit Red Wings.
In the Know: Which school in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has Stephen Curry as an alumnus? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: For which brand did Larry Johnson portray Grandmama? Answer: Converse. Kudos: Keith Marder-Halstead Real Estate/NY; Joel Maxwell/NY; Luke Tarby-A+E Networks/NY; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Tony Ferranti-MMSI/Warwick; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Wayne World B. Otto-Pro-Am Sports/Boone; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank
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