04/02/18: HTS’ Craig Sloan breaks down the marketplace for RSNs

Good morning. It’s Monday April 2, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

With baseball back and the NBA and NHL winding down their regular seasons, FOX Sports sales unit Home Team Sports hits the Spring armed with regional advertising opportunities around the country, repping a full house that includes FOX Sports Regional Networks (including YES Network), NBC SportsNets, AT&T SportsNets, MSG Networks, SNY, NESN, MASN, Altitude and more and offering digital media sponsorship of every MLB, NBA, and NHL home team in the country, reaching 90+ million homes with its platforms.
Cynopsis Sports asked Craig Sloan, EVP at Home Team Sports, about sales trends among RSNs, the baseball season and new brands entering the scene.
Sloan on ad trends: With declining ratings in many areas of primetime programming, advertisers were looking for additional reach vehicles to ensure they are finding new potential customers to increase revenues.  For 2018, we worked with Nielsen to better articulate our mass reach across our various professional products (MLB, NBA, and NHL) and collegiate programming (primarily Big Ten, Pac 12, and ACC).  We have found that in many cases, we’re able to reach a large unique audience that these advertisers were not able to get to through the top 15 or so broadcast and cable networks.
On brand partnerships: With time-shifted programming and long pod breaks in other parts of the TV landscape, brands are looking for the RSNs to deliver live, attentive audiences.  Our research through many various vendors (Nielsen, SmithGeiger, and Ipsos) reveals that our passionate fans are deeply engaged into not just our content, but the brands that support this content— being twice as likely to trust, to purchase, to advocate for, and to stay loyal to – because these brands are supporting their beloved teams.  Said differently, brands are looking to the RSNs for impact.
On the new MLB season: We are pacing slightly ahead of prior years from a strong early commitment by brands in last year’s broadcast upfront.  Advertisers have begun to heed our message of committing early to ensure stable pricing and the highly coveted, in-game integrations that bring brands front and center into the amazing story lines that unfold each night.  We have a few remaining positions available including our Statcast (new to our MLB coverage providing amazing player insights) and Replay Challenge enhancements.  From April through September, fans spend more minutes watching MLB in our home team coverage than the top ten programs on TV… combined!  With games on almost every night, MLB home team games are the driver of primetime audiences.
On new advertisers: We have a number of new partners this season on the MLB front.  With an average of about 145 broadcasts per team (for all 29 US based teams), we have brands that are along for the entire ride while others come in and pulse according to their business objectives or key selling periods.  We enjoy season long participation from MillerCoors, T-Mobile, Taco Bell, GEICO, and others who have taken integration positions inside of our coverage that enhance the fan experience by helping us provide deeper player insights and stronger statistical analysis.  New to our MLB coverage this season are Humana, who is the Presenting Sponsor of our Opening Week coverage, as well as many others like US Army, Applebee’s, Mazda, Google, Amazon Prime Video, Arby’s, CDW, Dell and Capital One.

Tonight sees Michigan and Villanova square off for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at 9:20p on TBS. Jim Nantz will call the game with analysts Grant Hill and Bill Raftery and reporter Tracy Wolfson for the fourth straight year.  Pregame coverage will begin at 7p. Meanwhile, TeamCasts will once again be in play and  include the Michigan TeamCast on TNT and the Villanova TeamCast on truTV starting at 9p. Meanwhile, CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ are touting that the 2018 NCAA Final Four National Semifinals, pitting Loyola/Michigan and Kansas/Villanova, generated an average minute audience of 13.4 million viewers across TBS, TNT, truTV and NCAA March Madness Live. That marks a rise of 15% over televised only coverage of the Final Four in 2016, which was the last time the games aired across Turner networks.
In other ratings notes, ESPN saw its MLB Opening Day telecast of the Giants’ win over the Dodgers score as its most-watched, regular-season weekday MLB game in six years, according to Nielsen, reeling in 1,966,000 viewers, the most for a weekday game since Opening Day in 2012.
NBA TV debuts a new Fans Only production for the Timberwolves/Lakers game telecast on April 6, at 10p, where a constant stream of fan-driven content will be integrated throughout the game on air and also displayed via a multi-box screen format featuring social conversation and instant polling. Along with fan involvement on-site at the STAPLES Center, viewers will have the opportunity to call in and be a part of the telecast as well as be engaged via social media. Dennis Scott and Nate Robinson will be at STAPLES interviewing celebrities and engaging with fans, while Casey Stern, Grant Hill, Brendan Haywood, The Starters and the teams’ “super fans” will contribute from the studio.
beIN Sports detailed its plans for the launch of Major League Wrestling to its lineup, starting April 20. The weekly professional wrestling series will feature Tony Schiavone calling the action. Major League Wrestling: FUSION will run on the channel throughout the 52-week-long season as an hour-long series on Fridays at 8p.
ESPNews and ESPNU carry NBA G League playoff games from the first two rounds, including tomorrow’s matchups on ESPNU beginning with the Westchester Knicks/Grand Rapids Drive or Raptors 905 at 7p with Bill Hazen and analyst Jaren Jackson on the call.
YES reports that Thursday’s Yankees/Blue Jays season opener ranked as the highest-rated Yankees season opener on YES Network in seven years, averaging a 5.34 TV Household rating on the channel in the New York DMA. YES’ Yankees pregame show on Thursday averaged a 1.55 TV Household rating, while the network’s postgame show averaged a 2.12.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced a 13-member class for the Hall of Fame, with the names set to be inducted in Sept. The class will include Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Maurice Cheeks, Tina Thompson, coach Lefty Driesell, Charlie Scott, executive Rick Welts, NBA executive Rod Thorn, Katie Smith, Ora Mae Washington and Dino Radja.
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Japan’s All Nippon Airways announced plans to continue the current title sponsorship of the LPGA’s first major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, for another three years, bringing the brand’s run through at least 2022. “This title sponsorship extension is excellent news for one of the game’s greatest championships, which has been elevated since ANA joined the LPGA family in 2015,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “ANA is a world-class company and world-class partner to the LPGA.  Because of ANA’s vision and commitment, a major LPGA tradition will continue to grow and reach new heights for MANY years to come!”
The same night that saw the Vegas Golden Knights snag the NHL’s Pacific Division title, the expansion team also retired the No. 58 jersey, paying tribute to the 58 people who were killed in the Oct. 1 concert shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. “It just really shows the community how dedicated we are and how involved the team is in the community,” said team own Bill Foley. “The 58 stars are going to be there forever. You can see there were people crying in the stands, a few tears in my eyes as that banner got raised.”

Saturday saw Google take on the Final Four in real-time, as the company leveraged data analytics techniques and machine learning during the semifinal games to project what would happen next in the games before utilizing its predictions about the game’s second half as a halftime TV ad. “This is likely the first time a company has used its own real-time predictive analytics to create ads during a live televised sporting event,” the company noted in a blog post.

G2 Esports made moves to establish its long-term future, announcing a move to Berlin as its central hub in addition to a partnership with Twitch. The team notes that “We are convinced that this is the right time for us to increase our focus in the Western World as a whole, especially considering the great efforts Riot Games are doing in elevating the LCS to become the ultimate league,” and that it would be ceasing operation with all its Spanish teams. The Twitch deal will see G2 Esports make it the only live-streaming platform that will cover all G2 Esports teams and players with unique G2 Esports content to be live premiered via Twitch Premieres.
Just ahead of the NBA 2K League Draft on Wednesday, Philadelphia 76ers Gaming Club named Michael Lai as General Manager and Ian Hillman as Assistant General Manager. Lai was a Data Scientist for the Philadelphia 76ers Analytics and Strategy Department while Hillman had been Director of Strategy within Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
Overwatch League’s London Spitfire named Susie “lilsusie” Kim as the team’s General Manager. She joins the team after an esports career that has seen her work as on-stage talent across Starcraft and League of Legends before moving to help Twitch establish presence in the South Korean market.
The High School Esports League announced today that RESPAWN Products, a gaming furniture maker, signed on as the official gaming furniture provider for affiliated high schools participating in the HSEL’s programs and tournaments across the United States.

Michigan/Villanova on TBS at 9p.

Celebrating Media’s Civic-Minded Professionals…
The Cynopsis Social Good Awards
May 22nd | 8:30am – 10:30am |The Yale Club | New York City
We will be honoring everything from sustainability partnerships and PSA’s, to diversity campaigns, environmental initiatives, and more. Be in the room as finalists are celebrated and winners announced! Register your team today .

ON THIS DAY in 1995: WrestleMania XI sees Lawrence Taylor beat Bam Bam Bigelow.

In the Know: Lefty Driesell took four schools to the NCAA Tournament: Davidson, Maryland, James Madison and…? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Who led MLB in stolen bases last season? Answer: Dee Gordon. Kudos: Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Andre Feingold-Fox News/NY; Ken White-KWTV/Charlotte; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

Later – Chris
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