03/18/16: First Four is Second-Highest; ESPN’s Cuba expedition; FOX Sports’ eSports kicker


Good morning. It’s Friday March 18, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

truTV saw 5.3 million total viewers tune in for the NCAA First Four, according to Nielsen, which marks the second most-viewed of all time. The quartet for games also generated a 3.4 rating, also #2 in the rankings, for a 3% rise over last year’s numbers. Wednesday night’s Michigan/Tulsa matchup handed the channel with an average of 2.2 million total viewers and a 1.4 score to rank as the highest-rated sports program of the night, per metered market rankings. Wednesday’s matchups averaged 1.5 million with a 1.0 mark, for a rise of 12% and 11% over 2015.


MLB’s historic trip to Cuba on March 22 will see an ESPN invasion for the exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team. Both ESPN and ESPN Deportes will carry the matchup as Eduardo Perez joins Doug Glanville and play-by-play commentator Karl Ravech take on microphone duties for the flagship channel. The game will be preceded by a special 90-minute, on-site edition of SportsCenter, hosted by Hannah Storm, at noon. Meanwhile, on Sunday, a one-hour edition of Outside The Lines: Major League Baseball Returns to Cuba, hosted by Bob Ley, will run live from Havana,

Elsewhere in international waters, NBC Sports Group is celebrating the Manchester Derby between Manchester City/Manchester United on Sunday at noon on NBC. The game marks the first-ever Manchester Derby on US broadcast television and will see Arlo White on the call with analyst Graeme Le Saux. Rebecca Lowe hosts Premier League Live, joined by Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe.

TSN locked in a new partnership with Sky Sports to offer Canadian viewers the company’s broadcast coverage of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The deal will see TSN serve up expanded pre-race and post-race coverage for all 21 races on the F1 calendar. Broadcasts will be handled by commentators Martin Brundle and David Croft, with analysis from Damon Hill alongside Anthony Davidson and Johnny Herbert.

CBS Sports Network’s college hockey action begins today with the 2016 National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff. The puck drops at 5p with a semifinal matchup between top-ranked North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth. Ben Holden, analyst Dave Starman and reporter Shireen Saski announce the weekend’s action.

David Feherty welcomes former U.S. President George W. Bush for an interview that runs on Monday at 9p on Golf Channel. The Feherty episode comes from the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.


April 21  | New York Athletic Club  | 8:15-10:30am | REGISTER NOW

CYNOPSIS SPORTS will honor 4 executives who changed the way their sports entities connected with fans around the country:

LEGACY AWARD — Eric Shanks, President, COO & EP – Fox Sports
VISION AWARD — Don Garber, Commissioner – MLS
NAVIGATOR AWARD – Rob McGlarry, President – MLB Network
GEM AWARD – Mike O’Brien, VP, Corp. & Prod. Planning – Hyundai


MLB is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and other baseball and softball organizations to add some more youth to All-star festivities. The league will feature a Junior Home Run Derby offered for players under 14 and under 12. The final will take place at San Diego’s Petco Park on July 9, three days before the All-Star Game and two days before the heavyweights take their spots for Home Run derby. The event will be sponsored by T-Mobile.

The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach locked in a deal with BUBBA burger to become the new entitlement sponsor of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The race takes place on Saturday, April 16 as part of the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The brand will be featured prominently in signage around the Grand Prix circuit including a pedestrian bridge over Turn 2. BUBBA burgers will also be available for purchase throughout the race weekend at their vending location at the circuit.

UFC Gym continues to explore new countries, announcing its expansion into the United Arab Emirates as well as the planned opening of a new signature gym in Dubai. The Dubai location will serve as the first of several gyms scheduled to open throughout the Middle East and considerably expand the geographical reach of the franchise. “


Facebook is feeding into March Madness. Facebook Live will see teams such as Oregon, Virginia and Duke hit the platform from the Road to the Final Four, while tournament staples such as Grant Hill will take part in Live Q&As. Facebook’s product team also worked with the NCAA Social Media and Digital Team and the various schools to give fans custom team Facebook Profile Pictures. Meanwhile, Facebook Messenger will allow fans to hold customized group chats and more.


ATP Media is partnering with LiveLike VR to enable the delivery of a live streaming virtual reality experience at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open. ATP Media will offer an exclusive virtual reality lounge at the tournament to showcase every serve, rally and point to be watched from the POV of a courtside seat as wide lens cameras will live stream the action to VR headsets from multiple camera positions, enabling different views of the action to be selected in order to bring the thrill of being courtside viewing to viewers.

ESPN saw its Men’s Tournament Challenge drum up 13.0 million brackets this year to set a new all-time with fans – at one time  submitting 18,503 brackets per minute. The most popular “National Bracket” Final Four picks: Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.


FOX Sports is kicking the tires on the eSports game, announcing broadcast plans for the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2016, an annual international eSports competition that will crown the world champion of EA Sports’ FIFA 16 franchise. Thirty-two Grand Finalists are set to gather in New York City from March 20-22. FOX Sports’ digital platforms FOXSportsGO and FOXSoccer2Go carry the full competition live, while FS1 provides exclusive live television coverage of the Grand Final on March 22. FOX Sports is using its extensive global reach to make this year’s FIFA Interactive World Cup available to numerous affiliates around the world, including Sky UK, FOX Sports Australia, Sky New Zealand and FOX Sports’ platforms throughout Latin America, Brazil, Asia, Africa and Europe. “EA Sports’ FIFA game has had an enormous impact on the popularity of soccer in the U.S., resulting in a growing audience that knows the teams, players and tactics that make soccer the most popular sport in the world,” said FOX Sports Head of Business Operations, David Nathanson. "We’re excited to make the FIFA Interactive World Cup accessible to viewers in America through our multiple platforms and around the world through our international affiliates.”

Nintendo announced its Olympic plans for Mario, Sonic & friends, unveiling details for Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for the 3DS and launches today. Overall, the game features 14 events like Soccer, BMX, Beach Volleyball and Archery. “Mario and Sonic are two of the most recognizable characters in video game history,” said Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America’s Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing. “Once again they join forces to let players compete in fun sporting events on a world stage.”


Dayton/Syracuse opens the day for NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on CBS at 12:15p.


Social Good Awards Breakfast
Celebrating social responsibility in the TV & entertainment industry.

Thursday, April 7 – 8:15-10:30 a.m. | Yale Club NYC

Space is limited and tables are selling out quickly. Register yourself and your team today!

ON THIS DAY in 1995: Michael Jordan announced he would be returning to the NBA following a brief retirement.

In The Know: Which school was the last to win back-to-back NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which school was the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship three years in a row, but never won a game? Answer: DePaul. (Note to naysayers: top seeds didn’t open against a 16 seed at that time.) Kudos: Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Thom Hering-PSP Sports/NY; Jerehmy White-BusyBuddy Books/Glen Rock; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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