04/25/14: NBC Sports plans record hours for Kentucky Derby coverage; ESPN gears up for the draft; Comcast RSN staple gets a refresh


Good morning. It’s Friday, April 25, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

The Run for the Roses is nearly a week away, and NBC Sports laid out plans for 15.5 hours of coverage of the Kentucky Derby with programming beginning next Wednesday leading up to Derby Day on May 3. The 15.5 hours will stand as a record for the event, with highlights that include live coverage of 12 races on Friday and Saturday, and Bob Costas teaming with Tom Hammond; analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey; analysts/handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier; NBCSN host/NBC reporter Laffit Pincay, III; reporters Kenny Rice, Donna Brothers, and Jay Privman, and race caller Larry Collmus for the big race. NBC Sports Live Extra will live stream the Derby with exclusive camera angles and analysts. Live coverage begins with the Kentucky Derby Draw on April 30 at 5p on NBCSN to determine the post positions.


ESPN revealed plans for its 2014 NFL Draft coverage this year, with Round 1 set to begin Thursday, May 8 at 8p from Radio City Music Hall. Chris Berman once again hosts, and will be joined by Jon Gruden, Mel Kiper Jr. and Ray Lewis, who will make his NFL Draft debut. Of course, the crew will be joined by Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter and reporter Suzy Kolber. Later rounds on Friday and Saturday, will see Kiper remain on ESPN’s main set and joined by host Trey Wingo and analysts Trent Dilfer and Todd McShay.

NBA TV is getting some love from the NBA Playoffs. The channel reports that it is averaging 507,000 total viewers through its first two games, up 6% to date over year ago numbers. The channel will feature Game 5 between the Hawks and Pacers on Monday at 8p.

For the first time in NCAA history, teams and individuals that will participate in the 2014 Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships will be announced live on national television via Golf Channel. The women’s selections will take place on Monday during Golf Central with dedicated segments airing that evening from 6-7p, while the men’s will be held the following week on May 5 starting at 10a on Morning Drive. Golf Channel is set to carry tournament action from both the women’s (May 22-27) and men’s championships (May 29-June 3) from Florida.

Speaking of the NCAA, the organizations board of directors gave their stamp of approval to give schools at the "Big 5" conferences greater autonomy and more voting power to make rules. The proposal would assist the 65 schools in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. A formal vote is expected to take place in August.

TNA Entertainment has signed with UTA with the goal to "extend its television broadcast reach as well as to expand its licensing programs and slate of live event programming. TNA will also leverage UTA’s expertise in digital and social media to build monetization strategies for its digital media operations." The wrestling company’s contract with Spike TV is reportedly set to expire in October.

ESPNU is slated to feature Myles Turner, ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 100, as he announces his pick of universities during ESPNU’s Recruiting Nation: Announcement Special on April 30, at 4p. The 7’0" center expected to choose between Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Southern Methodist, Texas and Texas A&M.

Golf Channel brings back Playing Lessons on Tuesday, hosted by Holly Sonders. This season, episodes will be expanded to an hour with the debut episode featuring Greg Norman. Other guests this season will PGA TOUR stars Jonas Blixt, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker and Lee Westwood, as well as LPGA Tour stars Sandra Gal and Jessica Korda, among others. A new element debuting this season will showcase Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offering in-depth evaluations of each pro’s swing, incorporating graphics and animation to give the viewer comprehensive analysis.

CBS Sports previews the 2014 Draft on CBS, CBS Sports Network and CBSSports.com with previews, analysis and discussion during a one-hour special on CBS on Saturday at 2p with NFL Draft: On the Clock Presented by Mercedes Benz, hosted by Adam Schein. Meanwhile, CBS Sports Network airs 12 hours of coverage beginning on Monday, April 28 at 9:30p with a slate of seven shows including the two-hour show Inside College Football Draft Special: The Quarterback Show on May 1 at 10p.

Mighty Oak Entertainment, creator of syndicated clip-show series such as Whacked Out Sports, announced a lineup of five new series that will include: Goofball Sports – a clip-show comedy showcasing new sports spills and bloopers; as well as Athlete Interrupted – documenting the rise and fall of athletes as viewers witness their last chance at redemption. In addition, Mighty Oak Entertainment recently sold 52 episodes of Monster Knockout and 52 episodes of Sports Crash to MAVTV.


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A staple for NBC Sports Group is getting a makeover with Comcast SportsNet RSNs rebranding signature news and highlights program: SportsNet Central. The new look will come via Troika, which looked to re-introduce the program to local sports fans while region-specific colors and iconography are incorporated into the graphics package. The identity was designed from the creative concept "Grand Central," and includes a new SportsNet Central logo, show open, show packaging elements, and promotional system.

NFL Players Inc. will serve as the headline sponsor of the 2014 Licensing Expo All-Industry Opening Night Party at the world’s largest licensing trade show. The 2014 All-Industry Opening Night Party is also sponsored by the International Licensing Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), and will be held on June 17 at Mandalay Bay Beach Club in Las Vegas.

The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games inked a deal with athletic specialty retailer The Finish Line to serve as a Bronze Partner and Presenting Sponsor of the Games’ Basketball Competition. The 2014 USA Games, being held June 14-21.


comScore’s March numbers are out and saw ESPN Digital Media reach 68.5 million unique users during the month, bolstered by a record-setting 11 million brackets entered in ESPN’s men’s basketball Tournament Challenge. In addition, ESPN’s 49 million unique users on smartphones and tablets set a category record for mobile reach, while ESPN’s unique visitor count was up 25% over last year.

In addition, comScore’s Multi-platform Metrix saw FOX Sports’ mobile audience in March reach an all-time high with 20 million mobile unique visitors, up 113% year-to-year. Mobile now comprises 47% of FOX Sports’ 42.3 million unique multi-platform visitors, up from 25% in March 2013.

Clearleap has broken down the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year with a look at which mobile phones consumers accessed the tournament moments and which devices were most frequently used for second screen viewing. Stats showed that iOS dominated as the most-used operating system at 40.84%, ahead of Android at 27.23%, despite Android’s larger market share. In addition, mobile devices showed the greatest usage for second screen usage, representing 43.66% of viewers using Clearleap’s authentication services. Desktops represented 31.83%, edging out a growing tablet market that boasted 24.51% of viewers.

NBC Sports reports that Gave 4 of the Blues and Blackhawks continued to draw audiences, delivering the second-best authentication-required first-round game in all key metrics of the first-round games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The contest drew 128,000 live starts, 2.31 million minutes watched, 50,000 visits, 45,000 uniques and 46.6 minutes per visit.

Major League Gaming is partnering with Lai Fung Holdings Limited an eSun Holdings Limited to construct (the first-ever MLG Gaming Arena in the "V-Zone," the first-in-the-world video game destination planned as a centerpiece of Lai Fung’s Renminbi 18 billion "Creative Culture City" development on Hengqin Island off the coast of Macau. The trio will work with gaming companies around the world to develop the V-Zone with plans to open the space and the MLG Arena in 2017.

WWE announced that NXT Takeover, a two-hour special, will air exclusively on WWE Network on Thursday, May 29 at 8p to spotlight "the best and brightest" from WWE’s Performance Center. At 7:30p, the NXT Takeover pre-show will air and include interviews and appearances by NXT Superstars, WWE Superstars and Legends. On February 27, NXT ArRIVAL on WWE Network scored 21 worldwide Twitter trends and was No. 3 in overall social mentions for primetime programs on both cable and broadcast.


Heading into launch, 120 Sports has picked up a trio of executives. Andre Mika has been named SVP, Programming & Production and will serve as the lead executive in charge of daily programming, overseeing format, content, brand and integrated marketing. Mika previously spent 3.5 years heading all production creative, digital programming and content for the NHL. Rich Kopilnick will be the company’s VP, League Relations, managing all relationships with league partners and college conferences related to overall programming and footage deals for 120 Sports. Meanwhile, Emigdio Gamboa has been named Director of Marketing at 120 Sports, overseeing the planning and execution of all marketing and communications initiatives.


Blackhawks/Blues on NBCSN tonight at 8p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1964: The Maple Leafs won their third straight Stanley Cup.

In The Know: (Technical issue snipped this from yesterday’s edition.) From what school did the Nets draft Kenyon Martin? (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: WWE star Ricky Steamboat was known by what moniker? Answer: The Dragon. Kudos: Wayne Edwards-Freelance Sports Producer/NY; Nick Gaetano-MLB Network/NY; Heath Price-Khan-WWE/NY; Matt Charchan-Time Warner Inc./NY; Matt Lederer-Comcast/Philadelphia; Roger Metzger-The Times-Reporter/New Philadelphia; Scott R. Beams-ESPN/Bristol; Mike Wexler-Moroch/Atlanta; Victor Cates-UT Martin/Martin; Bill Robertson-Tunheim Partners/Minneapolis; Curtis Nettles-CBS TV Stations/LA; Evan Wecksell-comedian/LA; Sean Boardman-KQ13 FOX/Seattle; Paul Barrere-FOX Sports/Playa Vista.

Later — Chris
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