04/09/18: The Players’ Tribune CEO breaks down the company’s growth trajectory

Good morning. It’s Monday April 9, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

At three-years old, The Players’ Tribune, owned by Derek Jeter, continues to make waves, announcing its expansion into Europe in recent weeks, as company officials look to lock in deals with networks, online streaming services and other content distributors. With offices in Barcelona and London opening this month, the company has now raised $58 million in funding, according to Reuters, and launched branded content last year. Overall, more than 1,800 athletes have contributed to the platform through long and short form stories, video series and audio. Cynopsis spoke with Jeff Levick, CEO of The Players’ Tribune, about the company’s recent deals, its three-year run, and what we can expect moving forward.
Levick on audiences: For one, we know our audience is incredibly diverse. Our audience is over 30% female, which is high for a sports outlet – and that is largely because we go beyond stats and scores. Our stories have a strong human interest component that transcends sport. Our audience is also educated, affluent and highly millennial audience, with nearly half our users aged 18-34.  
We’ve also learned how hungry fans of underserved sports and markets are. For example, we’ve tapped into a passionate audience with our hockey content. It’s one of our best performing sports and two of our five highest performing pieces of all time are from hockey contributors that aren’t huge household names in sports.  
On content strategy: We aim to tell powerful and authentic stories by athletes in as many formats and on as many platforms as possible, all over the world. It’s as simple and complicated as that. We are in a media age where premium storytelling doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all model, and publishers must have strong capabilities and experiences across multiple content formats.  We have a carefully crafted programming strategy and a distribution model to drive our engaged audience and best serve our brand partners, while utilizing data to help inform these content decisions.
On engagement: With an average time of more than 8 mins on page, our audience is deeply engaged by our content. While stories about retirement or free-agent decisions break news and get a lot of media attention, fans are also engaging with moving personal narratives that focus on topics and issues away from the playing field – personal issues like mental health and transition as well as important social issues. Sports is just a prism for us to tell human stories.
On going global: We heard from athletes all over the world that there is a need for a trusted sports platform, not just in the US, but around the world.  We saw great success with some of our stories from global contributors like Dani Alves and Cristiano Ronaldo, so we knew we were reaching new markets and there was a healthy appetite for this content among fans. It was clear through conversations with our global athlete launch partners over the past year that the relationship between the media and athletes in EMEA is just as fractured as it is in the U.S. and the opportunity exists to bring the athletes closer to their fans by providing them a platform to share their perspectives and authentic voices, in their own words.
This expansion is something we’ve been working towards over the past year. With the world’s largest sporting event, WC18, happening this summer in Russia, it was a good goal to work towards. We’ve been building the platform and team to make sure we can execute at the same high-level as we have demonstrated in the U.S.

With a bevy of stars in contention, the Masters surged for its broadcast partners last week, heading into Sunday’s final round. Saturday saw CBS Sports lay claim to a 24% spike over the same day in 2017, with an average Nielsen household metered market rating/share of 5.7/13. Top markets were led by Ft Myers-Naples at a 10.1/22, followed by Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville (10.0/18), Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem (9.7/17), Dayton (9.6/18), and Louisville (9.3/18).
Meanwhile, ESPN saw gains on both Thursday and Friday for Masters play. Friday’s round drew an average of 3.9 million people, marking the most-viewed Friday at the Masters since 2013 and an increase of 50% over last year’s audience of 2.6 million, according to Nielsen Fast National data. Meanwhile, Thursday action scored nearly three million viewers for the first round, up 40%  over the Thursday audience of last year with an average of 2,971,287 viewers.
Formula One owner Liberty Media laid out its vision for the sport for 2021, laying out proposals that focus on engines, revenue, governance, regulations, and cost-cutting that would serve as the five key pillars of the future. With the proposals, F1 is looking to enter a new era that will feature a new car with a new engine that competes in a championship where the revenue distribution will be fairer and the costs controlled. Friday in Bahrain marked the first meaningful step to defining that future. Amid the ideas were the introduction of a cost cap, a “fair and equitable revenue system,” and a simpler, cheaper and noisier engine.
The United Soccer League announced the expansion of its broadcast agreement with ESPN for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, bringing more regular-season games to linear channels and making ESPN+ the league’s streaming subscription service in the US. The deal will now see six USL regular season games and the 2018 USL Cup aired on linear networks. Games will be produced by USL Productions.
Thursday! Eight seats left! Join us for the seventh annual Cynopsis Sports Media Awards Breakfast at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan! In addition to our categories, we will be honoring Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer of SiriusXM; Katrina Adams, Chairman of the Board & President for the United States Tennis Association; Showtime Network’s President of Sports & Event Programming, Stephen Espinoza; and Intel Sports as this year’s luminaries. Tickets will sell out so get them now!
UFC announced that pioneering television producer Bruce Connal has been named to the UFC Hall of Fame class for 2018 as a Contributor. With his selection, Connal becomes the fifth inductee of the UFC Hall of Fame’s ‘Contributor Wing’ and third welcomed posthumously. The 2018 UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on July 5 in Las Vegas. Over his 19 year run with the company, Connal led the production of more than 300 UFC televised events, including the largest and most successful in UFC history.
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Cricket Wireless and WWE are renewing vows, announcing a multi-year renewal of their partnership. The report states that activation saw over 2,000 fans show up to meet WWE Superstar Sasha Banks during her store appearance in last year while her livestream in January helped the brand reach its highest social share to date: over 500,000 views and 18,000 engagements.
The Chicago Cubs inked a landmark multi-year Legacy Partnership with global insurance brokerage Gallagher that makes the company the official insurance brokerage, benefits and risk management services partner of the team. In addition, naming rights to the entertainment plaza will now be named Gallagher Way.

FloSports unveiled an exclusive partnership with the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League to air the 2018 seasons for both the 17U and E16 EYBL (boys) and 17U Girls EYBL. The partnership will air every session exclusively on FloHoops.com. FloHoops will provide live coverage of 900 EYBL games throughout the 2018 boys and girls seasons, as well as offer original films and in-depth stories on players, teams, and the EYBL and Girls EYBL.
NBC Sports Philadelphia, which saw the Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies playing at the same time on Tuesday, April 3, announced a new single day streaming record across all NBC Sports Regional Networks. More than 3.4 million minutes were streamed on 56,000 unique devices, across the Flyers, Phillies and 76ers games. Also, 15,000 devices streamed multiple games that night.

The NBA 2K League laid out its competition format for its inaugural season, which will run for 17 weeks from May to August. Play begins on May 1, comprising 12 weeks of matchups and three weeks of tournaments and all 17 teams will compete in a minimum of 19 games, including 14 regular-season games and three additional tournaments. Tournament results will not count toward a team’s 14-game regular-season record, but will serve as a tiebreaker for the postseason. Playoff seeding will be determined by regular-season standings. Weekly matchups will take place on Fridays and Saturdays. The tip-off tournament will feature pool play, with four groups competing over five days. The top two teams in each group will advance to the single-elimination playoff rounds with a prize pool of $100,000. Seeding for the other two in-season tournaments will be determined by a team’s record during the four weeks of regular-season games that precede each tournament and include a play-in game between the 16 and 17 seeds. The playoffs will begin on Aug. 17 and run for two weeks with the seven teams with the best regular-season records and the winner of the final tournament guaranteed playoff spots.
ELEAGUE staple Richard Lewis announced his departure from the organization following a two-year run as desk host. He posted that he had decided to pursue additional opportunities in the esports industry that extend beyond full-time hosting. “I’m proud of what we achieved at ELEAGUE and I’ve really enjoyed working with the dedicated people at Turner and IMG,” he wrote. “I hope I get to come back and work with them in future. For now though, it’s time for a change. I will elaborate more on what comes next in the not too distant future but for now I hope everyone will join me in continuing to support Eleague as it helps propel esports into the mainstream. See you all soon.”
Logitech G inked a deal to become the official partner of Super League Gaming. The deal will include sponsorship of SLG’s Minecraft City Champs, League of Legends City Champs, and after school programs across the country. “We’ve been so impressed with Super League’s work to create respectful gaming environments,” said Ujesh Desai, VP and GM of Logitech Gaming. “It’s vital to the industry, and we couldn’t be happier with this partnership.  We both have a common goal of supporting creativity and inclusion among gamers and esports pros, and we’re dedicated to turning the tide and removing toxicity from gaming.”
Kings Guard Gaming, the Sacramento Kings first esports franchise announced that UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber will join the team as its Director of Mental Performance and Human Optimization. Urijah’s role will be to help Kings Guard players mentally and physically prepare for competition.

Golf Channel debuts Shotmakers at 9p from Topgolf in Las Vegas at 9p, as nine co-ed teams of two “pair up in head-to-head competitions that test precision, distance and control, all while facing intense pressure and strategic decision-making.”
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ON THIS DAY in 2006: Phil Mickelson wins the Masters.
In the Know: The defunct team Shreveport Steamer played what sport? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: In 1988, The Orioles opened the season with a record of how many losses in a row? Answer: 21. Kudos: Anthony Graziano-BEN/NY; Art Salisch- Hearst Television/NY; Matthew Willence-ITN Networks/NY; Ken White-KWTV/Charlotte; Tom Wetzel-MMSI/Warwick; Willy Gibson-WTG Sports/Columbus; James Stuart-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; John Ward-Tennis Channel/Chicago; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Don Surath-KPIX-TV KBCW-TV/San Francisco

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