03/15/16: Tennis Channel makes a play at Roland Garros; ESPN lays out Tournament plans; Pac-12 seeks unity


Good morning. It’s Tuesday March 15, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

With new owner Sinclair now aboard, Tennis Channel announced that it secured all pay-TV rights to the upcoming French Open. After sublicensing the Roland Garros tournament to ESPN for the first nine years of its agreement, the channel will now keep it in-house to boast 80% of all live, televised competition, which begins May 22 for 110 hours of match coverage. Overall, Tennis Channel will devote around 315 hours of “mostly round-the-clock airtime” to the tournament not including preview shows and additional match encores in the respective weeks before and after the tournament.
"Tennis Channel’s partnership with Roland Garros, our first major, has evolved to the point where this year we’ll be the streamlined on-air and online place to find the bulk of the competition," said Ken Solomon, President, Tennis Channel in a statement. "This is a significant initiative for our network: this year’s Paris coverage will offer more live hours, outer-court encores, nightly replays and a schedule with complete 24-hour coverage on majority of the fortnight. Roland Garros is in the process of expanding, with new facilities, widened tournament grounds, increased TV-court access and other updated amenities. We’re in this for the long term and are scaling our coverage right there with them."


The NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship pairings were revealed yesterday and will open with a quartet of games on ESPN2 that include James Madison University/DePaul, Belmont/Michigan State, Princeton/West Virginia and Albany/Florida at noon on Friday. Top seeds hit the screens on Friday with Baylor/Idaho on the network at 5p and South Carolina/Jacksonville at 7:30p. On Saturday Notre Dame/North Carolina A&T tip off at 6:30p while the undefeated UConn faces Robert Morris at 11a. ESPN and ESPN2’s regionalized telecasts will feature home market protection through the first two rounds while ESPN3 and ESPN FULL COURT deliver first- and second-round games in their entirety as a supplement to ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage. The final 15 games, beginning with the Regional Semifinals, will have national telecast windows on ESPN or ESPN2.

Cynopsis Sports revealed its final luminaries for the upcoming Cynopsis Sports Awards, announcing that FOX Sports President, COO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks will receive the prestigious Legacy Award, after a year that included outstanding success for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and viewership gains on multiple fronts. Meanwhile, Hyundai will receive the GEM Award as the Consumer Brand of the Year. Congratulations for both and be sure to check out our list of finalists and reserve your seats for this year’s ceremony here.

ESPN’s coverage of the National Invitation Tournament this year will once again include exclusive coverage of all 31 games with the first round set to tip off tomorrow and running through the championship on March 31 from Madison Square Garden. Opening the tournament will be Akron/Ohio State on ESPN, Davidson/Florida State on ESPN2 and High Point/South Carolina on ESPNU all at 7p.

Meanwhile, the newborn Vegas 16 post-season college basketball tournament opted for halftime, announcing that its inaugural lineup will feature 8 teams instead of the expected 16. Set to be carried on CBS Sports Network, the slate will tip off on March 28 as a three-day event featuring: Tennessee Tech/Old Dominion at noon, Northern Illinois/UCSB at 2:30p, Oakland/Towson at 6p and Louisiana Tech/ETSU at 8:30p. “We had originally hoped to launch this new tournament with 16 teams, but only if we could secure top-quality programs,” said Brooks Downing, President of tournament organizer bd Global. “With highly unusual results in many of the conference tournaments, we were hesitant to just fill out the bracket with ‘available teams.’ So by choosing quality over quantity, we settled on eight teams, many of which were considered for an NIT berth, and all of which have had outstanding seasons they want to celebrate in our event.”

Golf Channel unveiled production plans for the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, which begins April 3 at 8a. 80 junior golfers from across the country and Canada will gather at Augusta National Golf Club to officially kick off Masters week with the event, with Golf Channel’s third year covering the action. The pre-game show will introduce viewers to the stories behind each of the 80 national finalists. The finals will then see Rich Lerner handle play by play duties, with Peter Jacobsen joining him in the booth as lead analyst.

NBCSN offers Haas F1: America’s Return To The Grid tomorrow night at 11:30p. The one-hour documentary chronicles the launch and development of Haas F1, the first American-led Formula One team in 30 years and features interviews with crew members and drivers. NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the 2016 F1 season begins Sunday at midnight on the network.

CSN Mid-Atlantic lined up plans to honor Craig Laughlin for his 25 seasons of service as its Washington Capitals game analyst during live coverage of the team’s matchup against the Nashville Predators on March 18. The milestone will be marked beginning with Capitals Postgame Live at 6:30p and feature special features, including a video tribute, interviews with current and former colleagues, and special through Capitals Postgame Live.


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Reese’s lined up its advertising, social media content and in-store promotions ahead of the NCAA Tournament. In addition to sponsoring the Reese’s NABC College All-Star Game, the brand is hosting a “Fan Up” online promotion allowing fans to play at ReesesFanUp.com for a chance to score NCAA team gear, Fanatics Cash, and a grand prize trip for two to the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four. The brand will also return for its fourth year as sponsor of Reese’s Final Four Friday, a free event featuring practices from NCAA Final Four teams along with activities and events. “Reese’s is thrilled to once again be a part of March Madness® and the NCAA Tournament,” said Kristen Riggs, senior director Reese’s Brand. “Reese’s wants to inspire fans to put more living into life – and what better time than March Madness – the most emotional and invigorating tournament in the college athletic arena. We can’t wait to tip-off the NCAA Tournament season and we are confident that Reese’s and college basketball fans nationwide will enjoy everything that we have planned for them.”

Meanwhile, WingStreet by Pizza Hut is targeting March Madness with “No Pants Required,” a new campaign that will see the brand partner with the largest dry cleaner in the country to offer free mobile dry cleaning to select fans in select markets across the country on the first day of the tournament so “fans won’t have to leave the comforts of their own homes to get wing joint quality wings.” WingStreet estimates that it will sell more than 68 million wings during the three weeks of the college basketball tournament  more than any other national restaurant. “We know fans are devoted to watching every second of every game during the first day of the men’s college basketball tournament. We don’t want them to miss any of the action by having to leave the house for wings,” said Jared Drinkwater, Vice President of Marketing, Pizza Hut. “That’s why we’re serving up wing joint quality wings delivered right to your front door. Oh, and what other wing joint will clean your pants while you watch hoops? We think it’s a first.”

Ahead of the Olympics, NBC is set to debut a new spot designed to bring the country together amid the election season. Team USA gold medalists that include Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Kerri Walsh Jennings are featured and will run across news networks during today’s election results. “The Olympics have a unique ability to unify communities, nations, and the world. For 17 days in August, our country will come together to support Team USA," NBC Olympics CMO John Miller told THR. "This spot captures the Games’ ability to evoke patriotism by pinpointing one of the most poignant moments in an Olympic athlete’s life, the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner following a gold medal performance. In an election year, we think this message of unity around Team USA could not be more timely.”

WWE and The V Foundation for Cancer Research are uniting to help fight pediatric cancer, via a multi-year partnership using funds raised by Connor’s Cure. The new partnership will expand Connor’s Cure outside of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and support other top research centers and hospitals nationwide and see funds raised by WWE support Connor’s Cure through The V Foundation’s grant-making process.

UFC and GuardLab locked in a global licensing agreement to provide UFC athletes with custom mouthguards while GuardLab will also offer UFC branded mouthguards for fight fans to purchase. UFC and GuardLab will work in conjunction to consistently educate athletes on general awareness and the overall benefits of wearing protective guards


Pac-12 Networks and SIDEARM Sports struck a multi-year partnership to create a unified platform to power the Conference member universities’ official athletic sites. The deal will see Pac-12 Networks package all digital video inventory of the official athletic sites and a share of display inventory. Ownership and control of this inventory provides Pac-12 Networks more flexibility to package digital assets with media and Conference assets for sponsors and advertisers.

Bill Simmons’ The Ringer continues to staff up, announcing hired that include staff writers Katie Baker, Jason Concepcion, Allison P. Davis, Sam Donsky, Alison Herman, Jonathan Tjarks and Lindsay Zoladz; articles editor Molly McHugh; associate editor Sam Schube; researcher Megan Schuster; and Jason Gallagher, who will head up social media and video.

CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ joint coverage of the 2016 NCAA Tournament will see the return of NCAA March Madness Confidential, offering exclusive, behind-the-scenes access of NCAA Tournament teams that include Oregon, Oklahoma, Miami, Texas AM and Purdue. Features will air during studio coverage across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV, throughout the Tournament, as well as on NCAA.com, chronicling their NCAA Tournament journeys.
Meanwhile, Campus Insiders released its 68 in 60 Presented by Bass Pro Shops ahead of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament featuring basketball analyst Jordan Cornette breaking down each of the 68 tournament teams in 60 seconds or less.  Each video comes equipped with full editorial content featuring key players, key matchups, and invaluable predictions for brackets.
The Washington Capitals and Wizards unveiled the Virtual Reality Experiential Zone presented by Pepsi and Mountain Dew at Verizon Center. The VREZ will be open to fans attending games for the rest of the season and feature customized content with various visual simulations with Capitals and Wizards players. Users will also experience a 360-degree view of what players see as they pass through fan tunnels, get in on the action, view thousands of fans and hear crowd noise.


The International e-Sports Federation locked in an all-round strategic cooperation agreement with the World Cyber Arena to offer specialized training focusing the e-sports industry chain, including referees, commentary, program production, coaches, teams and competition management in a move to build a complete e-sports education system in a move to push an eSports Olympics.

The Open Gaming Alliance will be presenting new research during this week’s Game Developer’s Conference projecting the global game software market to pass $100 billion in 2019. “A major driver of industry growth is not just software but hardware," said DFC analyst David Cole. "The emergence of eSports and virtual reality is driving consumers to buy high end PC systems to not only play games, but watch others playing games."


Vanderbilt/Wichita State on truTV at 9:10p.



Join Cynopsis Digital on March 24 at the Top Women in Digital Awards Breakfast from 8:15  10:30AM to celebrate this year’s talented honorees from companies such as DigitasLBi, Dunkin’ Brands, Google, Hasbro, Horizon Media, Hulu, Maker Studios and more. The awards presentation will be followed by a mimosa networking session with your top industry peers.

Register now to attend this can’t-miss event.

ON THIS DAY in 1988: The St. Louis Cardinals move to Arizona.

In The Know: Which of this year NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament teams was once the lowest seed to ever make the Sweet Sixteen? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which team in this year’s Men’s Basketball Tournament is nicknamed the Seahawks? Answer: UNC Wilmington. Kudos: Bill Hirsh-Learfield/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Kevin Doyle-IMG Original Content/NY; Rich Dubroff-CSNmidatlantic.com/Baltimore; Mike Antolini-Tiger Woods Foundation/Boston; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Mark Darnell-Golf Services/Augusta; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Greg Alm-Intersport/Chicago; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions/Santa Monica; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Mike Bridges-New West Broadcasting/Hilo.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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