04/21/17: Pac-12’s Murphy-Stephans takes on new game; Broadcasters lock in NFL slate; NBA broadens programmatic plans

Good morning. It’s Friday April 21, 2017 and this is your your first early morning Sports briefing!

Pac-12 Networks President Lydia Murphy-Stephans is stepping down from her role this June where she will launch a media advisory company later in the year and act as a consultant to the channels. “As Pac-12 Networks’ first general manager, Lydia’s energy and leadership were critical in turning our ambitious vision into a reality,” said Commissioner Larry Scott. “Then, upon becoming Networks president, she made history by becoming the first woman to head a national sports network. Under Lydia’s leadership, Pac-12 Networks grew dramatically both in programming and distribution reach, serving millions of our fans, helping to support our member universities, and providing unprecedented exposure to our women and Olympic student-athletes.”


The NFL and its broadcast partners announced the 17-week, 256-game regular-season line for 2017, which kicks off Sept. 7 on NBC as the Patriots host the Chiefs Thanksgiving will feature a tripleheader on Nov. 23. Opening with the Vikings/Lions at 12:30p on FOX, followed by Chargers/Cowboys at 4:30p on CBS and concluding with Giants/Redskins on NBC at 8:30p. Of course, the league will partner with Amazon Prime this season for a “Tri-Cast” distribution model for 10 Thursday Night Football games as well as a Christmas Day contest. NFL Network will also exclusively televise a seven-game schedule comprised of three Thursday Night Football games, three late-season Saturday contests and a Sunday morning London matchup.

In addition to opening the season, NBC will also close it as home of Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4. Overall the network will showcase a combined 28 regular season and postseason games on the network through TNF and Sunday Night Football. The Sept. 10 opener of SNF will see Giants/Cowboys while the network begins its TNF slate on Nov. 9 with the Seahawks/Cardinals. Every 2016 playoff team makes an appearance on SNY this year with 23 of NBC’s 24 scheduled regular-season games (with Week 17 TBD) set to involve at least one playoff team from last season.
CBS once again serves up two packages in The NFL on CBS and Thursday Night Football. The action will include nine doubleheader weekends on Sundays with play beginning Sept. 10, while the Thursday night primetime package kicks in on Sept. 28 with Bears/Packers. Beginning this season, the opportunity for CBS All Access and eligible pay TV subscribers to stream NFL ON CBS content on NFL digital properties also is provided.
The FOX Sports package includes 100 regular-season games, including nine editions of America’s Game of the Week. The series kicks off Week 1 as Seahawks/Packers at 4:25p and include Packers/Cowboys in Week 5; Cowboys/Redskins on Week 8, Cowboys/Falcons in Week 10, Giants/Raiders in Week 13 and Cowboys/Giants in Week 14. 
ESPN’s Monday Night Football package will now see nine of the 17 MNF games feature divisional matchups with appearances be each of last year’s Super Bowl teams as well as all of last season’s playoff squads. Eight teams have two appearances each – Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Lions, Redskins and Vikings, with play beginning with a doubleheader on Sept. 11 that will see the Saints/Vikings at 6:55p and Chargers/Broncos at 10:15p. ESPN Deportes will again offer a Spanish-language production of MNF games in 2017.

More viewership spikes for NBA Playoff coverage. TNT’s Blazers/Warriors telecast on Tuesday on NT averaged 3.9 million viewers, up 49% over 2016 with its doubleheader generating an average of 3.8 million viewers to win night across cable; up 26%. The tallies helped push the network to its most-viewed NBA Playoff coverage since 2011, averaging 3.7 million viewers thru Wednesday; up 17% vs. 2016. Meanwhile, NBA TV’s Wednesday night Hawks/Wizards telecast averaged 468,000 viewers, up 14% over last year’s comparable coverage.

ESPN announced that its presentation of the 2017 NFL Draft on April 27 will once again see limited commercial interruption for Round 1. Production highlight for the three day affair will see close to 500 player highlight packages, over 30 player live shots and 22 cameras used for coverage. There will also be select draft room cameras from team sites as well as a camera at Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State campus parties, plus a camera with Raiders fans at Legends Sports Bar & Grill in Las Vegas.
NBCSN announced plans to carry the 2017 Notre Dame Football Blue-Gold Game this Saturday at 12:30p. Coverage of the Blue-Gold Game will once again feature “enhanced production elements to give viewers access to additional sights, sounds and aspects of the scrimmage, including in-game audio from head coach Brian Kelly.” Paul Burmeister will handle play-by-play duties for the game alongside analyst Doug Flutie.
Eleven Sports announced plans to showcase 19 live and 35 past events from MMA Bushido, King of Kings, Kickboxing and WGP Kickboxing as part of the network’s new programming overhaul. “Fight sports are growing in popularity in the U.S. and all over the world and we are thrilled to add new and exciting MMA and Kickboxing events to our growing portfolio,” said Danny Menken, Group Managing Director of the network. “We are committed to delivering thrilling action that is not readily available giving fans the opportunity to watch, enjoy and engage with their favorite sports”
MGM Television locked in a deal with Women of Wrestling to produce a range of unscripted programming, according to Variety. “By challenging the status quo in transforming women’s wrestling for the past two years, we feel WOW is now positioned for tremendous growth,” said WOW Owner Jeanie Buss. “We are very excited to have MGM’s incredible management team, headed by Chairman and CEO Gary Barber and Mark Burnett, in place to grow our business model.”
CBS Radio announced that Terry Foster, co-host of the “Valenti and Foster” show on WXYT-FM/97.1 The Ticket, has retired from the station, effective immediately. Foster suffered a stroke and was on medical leave for much of the second half of 2016 but will now refocus his time on his health and his family.

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The NBA is tapping Breaking Data Corp.’s GiveMeSport for a programmatic advertising deal that spans 18 territories. The deal includes the UK, Spain, France and the Netherlands to Singapore, Sweden and Qatar, and will see GiveMeSport sell the Programmatic Advertising Inventory on behalf of the NBA, including all standard IAB ad units as well as some custom expandable formats, delivering campaigns via Google DFP, encompassing open auctions, private and preferred deals.
The Cincinnati Bengals are going big for the launch of its 50th season, complete with a commemorative logo and plans to honor the team’s history. One component will be the reveal of the Bengals First 50, which will recognize the top 50 retired Bengals players as voted on by the fans and media. The Bengals First 50 and other Bengals Legends will be recognized during halftime ceremonies at every regular season home game, which will include video highlights and an on-field presentation. In addition, the Bengals.com launched “This Day in Bengals History,” a new, daily feature that takes a look back at key events, moments and memories that happened on that day along with the Top 50 Moments, memories from Bengals Legends and other content.
SAP appointed WTA World No. 1 Angelique Kerber to serve as a Global Brand Ambassador for the software company. Kerber had already been an early adopter of SAP’s tennis technology, SAP Tennis Analytics for Coaches, to help analyze performance leading into and during WTA matches.
Major League Baseball is set to celebrate Earth Day on Saturday through a lineup of league-wide sustainability efforts activated by the Commissioner’s Office, MLB Network, MLB Advanced Media and MLB Clubs. Initiatives are set to include ‘Green Team’ activations during MLB All-Star Week in Miami, front office volunteer efforts, a partnership with ‘FOX Sports University’ and DePaul University. During All-Star Week (July 6-11), MLB will partner with the University of Miami to activate the fifth annual ‘Green Teams’ effort, which features a group of students that encourages environmental awareness during MLB All-Star events.
Jim Beam and Hornitos are teaming up with the LA Galaxy to host in-stadium tailgates at StubHub Center for the majority of remaining LA Galaxy home games in the 2017 season, Experiences will include early entry, live music, food trucks and drink specials. As part of the tailgates, California pop band Will Makar and The Red Line will serve as tailgates’ house band and take place in StubHub Center’s Pitch & Pale, located in the southeast corner of the stadium.
DICK’S Sporting Goods enlisted over 200 athletes to serve as ambassadors for its new line of technology-rich compression apparel, including Hunter McIntyre, Christmas Abbott and Ryan Hall. “More and more high intensity athletes are looking for an athletic brand that truly understands our mentality,” said Abbott. “We think, train and perform differently, and want to connect with a brand that values functionality and performance above all, just like we do.”

SIDEARM Sports and Libris by PhotoShelter and partnering up to help universities leverage their photos and videos via “a seamless, efficient sharing process between the two platforms, enabling the fastest possible workflow to move content from point of capture to a school’s website.” “Visual storytelling is a huge driver in how collegiate athletic departments communicate with their fans. Teams are constantly innovating with photos and videos to catch their fans’ attention. We are well aware of the tremendous need for these departments to move fast and deliver eye-popping creative, and are always looking for ways to make this easier for our clients,” said PhotoShelter CEO Andrew Fingerman.

Vision Venture Partners announced the formation of Vision Entertainment, an original content creator and production studio “delivering innovative scripted and unscripted TV, Film, Live Event and Online projects” with an eye to expand upon the company’s current lineup of seven original content esports shows currently airing on Facebook Live. Additionally, VE is collaborating with Facebook Live to stream esports performances featuring many of the professional athletes competing for VVP’s Echo Fox esports organization with the goal of expanding the esports audience beyond the hardcore gamers. The newly-launched VE operates from a nearly 30,000 square-foot Beverly Hills office featuring 75 private office suites, three production studios and an esports training facility.
Psyonix, creators of Rocket League, locked in a deal with Tencent Holdings Limited to bring the titles to China. The Chinese version of the game will feature core Rocket League gameplay with localization for the Chinese market.
Updates for the weekend:
Tonight’s ELeague Street Fighter V Invitational Celebrity Showdown pitting Shaquille O’Neal, Lupe Fiasco, Reggie Bush and Natalie Eva Marie will see the foursome compete on TBS at 10p. The celebrities will compete to raise money for the charities of their choice. O’Neal will support the Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund, Fiasco will support his foundation M.U.R.A.L., Bush will support the 619 Charitable Fund and Marie will support the American Cancer Society. Richard Lewis hosts, along with analysts Steve “Tasty Steve” Scott,Zhi “Zhieeep” Liang Chew, Stephen “Sajam” Lyon, Reepal “Rip” Parbhoo and reporter Malik Forte will serve as game coaches for the celebrities.
The first-ever Call of Duty World League Global Pro League starts today as teams face off across two stages of competition, each offering $700,000 in prize purses. “The competition across the CWL this year has been incredible,” said Rob Kostich, EVP and general manager of Call of Duty, Activision. “The Global Pro League is bringing together the top teams to battle head-to-head not only for some serious prize money at each stage, but also to claim their spot for the biggest competition of the year, the CWL Champs. The stakes only go up from here.”
The FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series returns for season 2 from Vancouver starting today. The action will run on BT Sport and stream on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and FUTChampions.com.

WWE named Sheetesh Srivastava as Vice President and General Manager, WWE India where he will lead the company’s strategic business initiatives and day-to-day operations in the country and work with partners across all of WWE’s lines of business, including television, live events, marketing, sponsorship, new media, licensing and merchandising. Srivastava joins WWE from The Walt Disney Company in India, where he most recently led business development for Disney Media Networks.
Skyy Digital Media launched a Mexico City operation and named Victor Vergara to oversee the operation and serve as Chief Content Officer for Skyy Media Latin America. The office will support SPORTTU’s regional partnerships, which includes an upcoming launch of the SPORTTU-powered app for 50+ million customers of its global telecom and media partners operating within the Americas.

Rockets/Thunder tonight at 9:30p on ESPN.


The Cynopsis Kids! Imagination Awards
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Enter NOW and you’ll be in good company – Last year’s finalists included:
7ate9 Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorksTV, Food Network, FOX, Hasbro, Litton Entertainment, National Geographic, Netflix, Nickelodeon, PBS KIDS, Saban Brands, Sesame Workshop, Steve Rotfeld Productions, The Jim Henson Company, WNET, YouTube and more!

ON THIS DAY in 1996: Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder dies at age 76.
In The Know: What is the name of the Bengals mascot? (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 remains the sole franchise to beat the Spurs in the NBA Finals, winning the series 4-3? Answer: The Miami Heat. Kudos: Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Traci Liner-WME/IMG/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Lewis Blaustein-GreenSportsBlogger/NY; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Scott Leslie-UPS/Atlanta; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; John Kukla-KDFW/KDFI/Dallas; Tom Doherty-Starcom Media/Chicago; Gretchen Brady-KTVT/KTXA/Dallas; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

Later — Chris

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