03/26/15: MLS follows the North Star; NCAA Tournament hits the Bleachers; Production Thursday: VR and NAB


Good morning. It’s Thursday March 26, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Major League Soccer officially kicked off its ties with Minnesota, awarding an expansion team for the state that will begin play in 2018. The new club, as expected, will be owned by a Minnesota ownership group led by Dr. Bill McGuire, and the team will play in a new soccer-specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis. With the addition of Minnesota in 2018, MLS will have 23 clubs under its banner, with a goal of reaching 24 clubs by 2020.

“We are proud to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a league statement. “The ownership group’s commitment to soccer and the community, the area’s growing millennial population and the region’s rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels in Minnesota were key indicators that this was the right market. The passionate soccer fans in Minnesota will soon have a world-class, downtown soccer stadium that will serve as the home for the new MLS team and become a destination for marquee international sports events.”


Bleacher Report is getting the spotlight for Turner Sports and CBS Sports’ coverage of the 2015 NCAA Final Four National Semifinals, which take place on April 4, starting at 6p. With three different viewing options available to fans across TBS, TNT and truTV, the four team-specific telecasts on TNT and truTV will go under the moniker of “Team Stream Presented by Bleacher Report.” Jim Nantz will provide commentary for TBS’ coverage with analysts Grant Hill and Bill Raftery and reporter Tracy Wolfson. This year’s coverage will also include an increased amount of integrated elements between the on-air presentation and Bleacher Report to further enhance the fan experience across all platforms. “Associating our team-specific coverage of the NCAA Final Four on TNT and truTV with Bleacher Report is a natural evolution given the popularity of Bleacher Report and its industry-leading ability to connect with fans at the teams and topics level,” said Lenny Daniels, President of Turner Sports.  “We believe combining our on-air treatment with our leading digital assets will offer fans an even better experience across all platforms.”

Universal Sports Network is racing to the 2015 Boston Marathon, set to take place on April 20 starting at 8:30a. Coverage will include pre- and post-race shows followed by a wrap-up show at 4p as well as a preview show on Sunday, April 19. In addition, the network also launched its month-long campaign “Let’s Do This, Boston!” nationwide. The campaign looks to celebrate the sport of running while “solidifying Universal Sports as the home to Olympic and endurance sports by speaking directly to the personal interests of its viewers.” The campaign features a :60 spot showcasing the sacrifice runners make in their efforts to train for competition, and features defending Boston Marathon champions Meb Keflezighi and Tatyana McFadden, and hometown favorite Shalane Flanagan.

FOX Sports is tapping the services of Sky Sports journalist Kate Abdo to serve as a studio host for the network’s coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada later this year. Abdo now anchors Sky Sports News in the UK and has also hosted Sky Sports’ coverage of the Premier League’s Deadline Day and European soccer coverage including the UEFA European Qualifiers and Coppa Italia. “Kate is a highly respected journalist and media personality with years of experience in soccer,” said David Neal, executive producer for FOX Sports’ FIFA Women’s World Cup coverage. “Kate brings her expertise, presence, and passion for the game to our coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. We are delighted to have her join our team.”

Meanwhile, MLB Network announced that Pedro Martinez is joining its team to serve as a studio analyst for its cast of on-air talent. He will make his debut on MLB Tonight during Opening Week and appear across MLB Network’s studio programming. Martinez will also be part of MLB Network’s pre-game coverage of the Red Sox/Yankees game on April 10 on MLB Network Showcase. He will continue his work with Turner Sports as well, where he is a Postseason analyst.

ESPN reports that the 2015 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships Finals on Saturday averaged 694,000 viewers on the network, while an additional 1.6 million minutes were consumed on WatchESPN. Both numbers are up sharply, with a 10% bump in viewership and a 148% spike in WatchESPN consumption over 2014 numbers. Oklahoma City was the highest-rated market, followed by Tulsa, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, Baltimore, Norfolk, and St. Louis. 

NFL Network brings back Caught in the Draft starting April 2, and running on Thursdays at 9p. The second season of the show will spotlight five previous drafts that helped transform the league: 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2005. Actor Oliver Platt narrates the series.

ESPN Radio is debuting a rejiggered weekday evening lineup beginning March 30, with shows hosted by Jorge Sedano, Bomani Jones and Freddie Coleman. The new lineup will kick off at 7p with The Sedano Show, followed by an evocative new program The Right Time with Bomani Jones at 9p and continuing with the three-hour The Freddie Coleman Show at 11p. “The new weeknight lineup underscores our commitment to serve sports fans by offering the most compelling, interesting, informative and entertaining content from an on-air team that is dynamic, distinctive and diverse all week long,” said David Roberts, VP, ESPN Audio network content.


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WWE is teaming with Authentic Brands Group to launch a joint venture for fitness brand Tapout. Tapout now serves as the official fitness and training partner of WWE, and will be integrated across WWE’s global platforms including TV programming, WWE Network, pay-per-view broadcasts, live events, digital, and social media. WWE will create new content featuring its Superstars and Divas in Tapout apparel and market the brand across all platforms.

Liberty Mutual Insurance signed up to serve as a gold medal sponsor and the official insurance partner of USRowing. The multi-year agreement will see Liberty Mutual feature U.S. National Team athletes in a series of speaking engagements and Row to Rio promotional appearances as they gear up for the 2016 Olympic Games and 2016 Paralympic Games.

888 Poker inked a new sponsorship and content deal with the World Series of Poker to become a leading sponsor of the 2015 WSOP in Las Vegas and the 2015 WSOP Europe. The deal will see 888 Poker get rights to run official online satellite qualifiers and online WSOP-themed promotions in select outside territories.


Facebook reports that the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament has seen 14 million people generate more than 32 million posts, comments and likes about the event from Selection Sunday through the Round of 32. Overall, Kentucky dominates the conversation coast-to-coast, “while Duke is generating a lot of talk up and down the eastern seaboard.” 


FOX Sports is getting into the VR game, announcing that the company is teaming with NextVR, a technology company that captures and delivers live and on-demand virtual reality experiences for NASCAR events. The VR test was set up at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., with NextVR’s encoding technology enabling the live streaming of the race in virtual reality and enabling viewers to experience the event as if they were there. The footage was streamed to FOX Sports executives and producers in the FOX Sports at-track television compound with two cameras capturing 180-degree and 360-degree views from positions never before enjoyed by most NASCAR fans — one on pit road and the other in between the track and the pits. "NextVR has spent the last six years perfecting their VR technology, which made them the logical first choice for FOX Sports to partner with for this test,” said Mike Davies, FOX Sports SVP Field Operations. “NextVR currently is one of the only companies with the ability to transmit live in VR, and their technology is built on a broadcast platform, making it infinitely scalable.”

The 2015 NAB Show has booked Peter Guber, founder, Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, to deliver opening remarks at this year’s event. The keynote session takes place Monday, April 13, following NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith’s "State of the Broadcast Industry" address.

Speaking of which, the 2015 NAB Show will see Reality Check Systems feature the newest iteration of LaunchPad, its production-proven interactive touchscreen solution designed to simplify advanced soccer analysis for live broadcasts. The release will feature real-time predictive analysis, social media integration, headlines, enhancements to the tablet controller, integration with Vizrt’s Viz Libero 3D sports analysis software and more.

The show will also see Fast Forward Video introduce Studio Pro Replay, a compact JPEG2000 (J2K) digital video recorder for replay and time-shift applications and designed for broadcast time delay, slow-motion sports replay, and event staging applications. The half-rack Studio Pro Replay enables simultaneous recording and slow-motion replay of both SD and HD signals and offers professional video and audio connections and VTR-style front panel controls.

iSportconnect, a global private network of sports business executives, has announced an exclusive partnership with Fluendo to promote its video analysis software product, LongoMatch. The deal will see LongoMatch become the official Sports Video Analysis Partner of iSportconnect and an exclusive partner at a wide range of iSportconnect events throughout the year.


Bleacher Report is teaming with Creative Action Network, a worldwide community of artists and designers, to present a new exhibition of original artwork titled Transcend: Moments in Sports that Changed the Game. The project features original works from 20 individual artists that highlight famous moments in sports history that “sparked significant social, cultural and political change.” Transcend is available to view online at Bleacher Report’s Media Lab, and prints are available for sale at Creative Action Network. Proceeds from sales of “Transcend” artwork benefit The Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

SendtoNews renewed and extended its partnership with Sports News Television (SNTV), a joint venture between IMG and The Associated Press. The three-year agreement includes  North American rights to highlight clips for major sporting events such as the Asian and European Tour,  IAAF World Championships, ATP World Tour and WTA, as well as extensive news coverage of Euros 2016, Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, and FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. 


Sweet Sixteen tips off tonight, North Carolina/Wisconsin could be a good one at 7:47p on TBS.


Check out Cynopsis Digital’s tune-in guide, categorized by platform and network. Programming includes digital premieres, ongoing shows, live-streamed events and linear TV digital integrated series.

 Click here to view our digital programming guide:

ON THIS DAY in 1979: Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game.

In The Know: Pedro Martinez made his MLB debut with which club? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Only two players have appeared in both the NCAA Final Four and the World Series. Name one. Answer: Kenny Lofton and Tim Stoddard. Kudos: Jordan Goldberg-Disney and ESPN Media Networks/NY; Noah Coslov-CineSport/NY; Jon Noah-Bienstock/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; David Stern-BARD Entertainment/NY; Howie Schwab-Sports Jeopardy/West Hartford; Jon Miller-NBC Sports/Stamford; Matt Marini-MLB Network/NJ; Scott Beams-ESPN/Bristol; Jeremy Bowman-ESPN/Chicago; Kevin Wicker-Chiefs Radio Network/Mission; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; Steve Scheer-FOX Sports/LA; Miguel Velasco-FOX Sports/LA; Brian Robin-Brener Zwikel & Associates. Inc./Reseda; Adam Deverell-Cox Reps/LA.



You don’t have to be a bracketologist to enter our March Madness Contest. Which school will win it all? You could score a $50 Foot Locker gift card by answering our reader poll. Winner announced Tuesday, April 7th.

||| DEADLINE: Monday, April 6th ||| CLICK HERE TO ENTER |||

Later — Chris
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