04/25/17: ESPN’s postseason blaze; NHL/NBC gear up for round two; NASCAR’s Green machine

Good morning. It’s Tuesday April 25, 2017 and this is your your first early morning Sports briefing!

Sunday’s Cavaliers/Pacers Game 4 matchup on ABC continued to bolster NBA Playoff numbers for the ESPN family, with the broadcast scoring a 3.6 metered market rating, up 33% over last year. With Sunday in the books, the run of games on ESPN and ABC over the weekend drummed up a 2.7 average metered market rating, up 13% overall from last season’s second playoff weekend, according to Nielsen. ESPN’s five games averaged a 2.2 metered market rating, for the network, up 22%, while ABC’s pair of contests averaged a 4.1 metered market rating, up 1% from 2016 numbers.

Meanwhile, the NHL unveiled dates and networks for the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals/Penguins series will begin Thursday at 7:30p on NBCSN, while the Rangers/Senators start play that evening at 7p on CNBC in the Eastern Conference. Out west, both contests begin on Wednesday, with Predators/Blues slated for NBCSN at 8p, while the Ducks/Oilers start at 10:30p on the channel.
ESPN updated its Monday Night Baseball slate, adding the Orioles/Red Sox battle to the lineup on May 1 at 7p. The telecast replaces the previously announced selection of the Indians/Tigers for the date.
Golf Channel carries the 2017 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships selections announcement on Thursday at 11a, with streaming live on the Golf Channel website. Seventy-two teams and 24 individuals will be selected to compete at one of four regional championships, each featuring 18 teams and six individuals, with play running May 8-10 and the national championships spanning May 19-24. This year’s women’s championships will be broadcast for the third consecutive year by Golf Channel with more than 100 news and tournament hours planned again for the men’s and women’s golf championships overall.
SiriusXM tackles the 2017 NFL Draft this year with live coverage of every selection from every round, as well as four days of special programming from Philadelphia. SiriusXM NFL Radio carries the selection process starting Thursday at 6p, featuring on-air talent that will include Gil Brandt, Pat Kirwan, Jim Miller, and Phil Savage with Jason Horowitz serving as lead host.
RIP to USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus, who led the federation to 156 Olympic medals during his two decades atop the organization. He passed Sunday at the age of 67.

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NASCAR is thick into the fifth annual NASCAR Race to Green initiative which will run through Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway to drive awareness around the programs NASCAR, the industry and multiple partners have developed to help reduce its carbon footprint. As part of this year’s initiative, NASCAR fans visiting NASCAR.com/green will see a newly designed digital destination, complete with easy-to-access information, news, an interactive carbon calculator and more. The Race To Green initiative allows us to highlight the foundational partners that help reduce our impact on the environment all year long,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR COO. “As an example of the wide range of initiatives taking place across the industry, American Ethanol has helped us eclipse 10 million miles on Sunoco Green E15, Safety-Kleen recycles all oil and lubricants at more than 200 race events a year, and collectively as an industry more than 400,000 trees have been planted to date. We are proud to continue those efforts under the Race to Green umbrella.”
PGA TOUR Champions and Bass Pro Shops locked in a four-year title sponsorship extension of the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge through 2021. “We are excited to extend this partnership between the PGA TOUR and Bass Pro Shops. Johnny Morris’ commitment to making this event a premier stop on our annual schedule has allowed this tournament to achieve immeasurable stature since moving to Big Cedar Lodge in 2014,” said PGA TOUR Champions President Greg McLaughlin. “Our players continue to be amazed by the outdoor experiences provided during tournament week, and today’s announcement allows us to build on the great success this event has enjoyed through the years.”
Mastercard is dangling a trip for two to the 2017 MLB All-Star Game in Miami when they use a Mastercard at BJ’s Wholesale Club. “The MLB All-Star Game is an incredible opportunity for baseball fans to see today’s best players in action,” said Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard. “That’s why we are so thrilled that our cardholders and BJ’s customers will have an exclusive chance to experience one of the most exciting events in sports – the Midsummer Classic.”
Oberto Beef Jerky is set to kick-off the brand’s new national marketing/advertising campaign featuring New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski in a move to connect “the brand with active lifestyle and the benefits of its high protein products.” The spot features both Gronk as well as Stephen A. Smith and was directed by Oberto ambassador Richard Sherman.
Speaking of campaigns, MET-Rx unveiled its latest digital ad campaign featuring the company’s newest spokesperson, former LSU star running back and current top NFL Draft prospect Leonard Fournette. The ad was created in partnership with Droga5 and focuses on what drives athletes forward is what they’ll conquer next. On Draft Day, Leonard will be taking over the MET-Rx social channels to offer a behind-the-scenes look as he prepares for his night.
Golf Channel and Golf Now are teaming for this year’s Let’s Play Golf initiative, which runs May 1-5, with nearly 1,000 golf courses participating in the themed week’s events. Golf Channel’s Morning Drive will serve as the event’s on-air hub, with special guests and in-show content featured on each of the themed days throughout the week. Each of the five days of the initiative will have a theme, beginning with “Bring a Beginner” on May 2, followed by Women’s Wednesday, “Test Drive Thursday” and “Family Golf” on Friday.  

NBC Sports Gold is offering a Pro Motocross Pass to allow fans to access the entire 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season. The pass is powered by Playmaker Media and features every race in the 2017 season, which begins with the Hangtown Motocross Classic on May 20, including Qualifiers, Moto 1s and Moto 2s. In addition to the 2017 season, fans can access full event replays of the 2016 and 2015 seasons.
The WTA is giving WTAtennis.com an overhaul, with the site relaunching today. According to the organization, the platform will offer users a “cleaner, crisper layout, an improved data service and a significantly upgraded video player.” The site will also continue to house exclusive WTA Insider content – including articles, podcasts, interviews and videos.
CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports app are hitting the NFL Draft with live video analysis throughout all three days of the event. The CBS Sports Live Draft Special will start at 7p on Thursday, delivering real-time draft reactions and commentary from a team of pro football insiders, including grades for every pick and fantasy football analysis. Pete Prisco, Jason La Canfora, Brady Quinn and Nick Kostos will be on set from Fort Lauderdale.
15 Seconds of Fame’s next partner in a growing roster is the Cleveland Indians, which announced a deal that will deliver scoreboard video clips to fans from Progressive Field. Fans can already receive their clips if they appear on any Major League Baseball broadcast feed. The deal kicks in with today Indians/Astros game. “We are proud to partner with the defending American League Champions to deliver their fans moments that have never before been available to share and save forever,” said Brett Joshpe, CEO of 15 Seconds of Fame. “The Indians have long been a fan-first organization and we are excited that they recognize the value in bringing fans memories that will last a lifetime.”

The Collegiate StarLeague laid out the roster for qualifying teams for the upcoming 2017 North American Collegiate Grand Finals, slated for Toronto from May 12-14. In addition, the event will see a lineup of speaker panels and keynotes covering the esports industry. The qualifying teams for each of the Grand Finals are:
**Counter Strike: Global Offensive: University of California Irvine, University of British Columbia, University of California Los Angeles and CUNY Baruch
**DotA2: University of Connecticut, California State University Long Beach, University of California Davis and University of British Columbia
**Starcraft II: University of Waterloo, University of Montreal, University of Connecticut, and Temple University
**League of Legends Invitational: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, McMaster University and the University of Toronto
Another team is heading to Lagardere Sports. SK Gaming announced plans to join the global sports marketing and entertainment agency, which is also partnering with Team ROCCATT and Unicorns of Love. “Lagardere understand the rich history we have in eSports and acknowledge the unique position of our teams,” said Alexander T. Müller, Managing Director of SK Gaming. “We are proud to have such a strong partner on our side and are very much looking forward to push our vision of SK Gaming forward together.”
Millennial Esports Corp. entered into a letter of intent to acquire data analytics company Stream Hatchet. The Transaction is expected to close within two weeks. “We are excited to soon welcome the Stream Hatchet team to the Millennial Esports family” said Alex Igelman, CEO of Millennial Esports Corp. “We continue to expand our offerings to focus on Esports technology and business solutions in addition to operating our state of the art downtown Arena, tournament platform, game related apps and functioning as a tournament organizer. Our motto is ‘All things Esports’ and we will continue to explore other business opportunities in Esports in order to be able to capitalize on this emerging but still nascent space.”
ESL has reportedly partnered with Oculus, Microsoft, Insomniac Games, Intel, and ASUS to host in-store tournaments at Microsoft Stores across North America. The Unspoken VR Tournament will begin at select stores on May 13 with the national finals slated for the flagship Microsoft Store in NYC on June 3.
Speaking of ESL, the league formally locked in a rule that blocks academy teams from competing in its tournaments. The rule mandates that an organization is only allowed to field a single team at each tournament, including qualifiers.

Aerial camera systems company SkyCam is looking to change up how viewers experience sports with the introduction of SkyCommand during NAB. According to the announcement, SkyCommand “leverages secure, real-time, venue-based private networks, allowing the SkyCam WildCat system to be controlled safely and reliably in a stadium or arena for an event from a centrally-located remote SkyCam studio center away from where the action is taking place.”
At the company’s annual NAB Keynote on Sunday night, Ross Video CEO David Ross unveiled a jointly developed replay server specifically geared for the regional-sports and collegiate markets, dubbed the Mira Express. The tech will look to fill a gap between high-end replay servers and lower-end systems, serving as a fully integrated replay system that records video and audio from up to four cameras to removable SSD media, with slow-motion replay from two PGM channels.
ChyronHego introduced Click Effects PRIME, described as a “highly integrated, turnkey graphics authoring solution for live arena- and stadium-based A/V presentations.” The tech will blend s the advanced authoring, rendering, and data binding power of ChyronHego’s PRIME graphics ecosystem with the industry-leading arena graphics generation and custom digital display control of the Click Effects CrossFire and Blaze solutions.

Thunder/Rockets on TNT at 8p.


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HIS DAY in 1978: Phillie Phanatic makes 1st appearance.

In The Know: NFL Draft Week – In 2005, the University of Utah produced the top overall pick for both the NFL and NBA drafts (selected by the 49ers and Bucks respectively). Who were those players? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: 1986 and 1987 saw the Buccaneers host the top overall pick in both NFL Drafts, selecting a QB and RB. Who were they? Answer: Bo Jackson, Vinny Testaverde. Kudos: Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Eric Wright-DS Simon/NY; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Scott Leslie-UPS/Atlanta; Ken White/Charlotte; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Matt Fumagalli-NBC Sports/Chicago; Kevin Micklo-Pinnacle Marketing Group/Chicago; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank.

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