04/30/18: The NFL Draft got a boost from new networks to score big gains over last year

Good morning. It’s Monday April 30, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.


The addition of new outlets to the NFL Draft, anchored by FOX, pushed opening numbers of the NFL Draft to big gains over last year, as the combined coverage across NFL Network, FOX, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes delivered the second largest viewership in NFL Draft history for an opening night. The combined 11.2 million viewers and 7.0 household Nielsen score marked rises of 22% and 27% respectively, over round one in 2017, which was carried on NFL Network and ESPN. Digital viewership added another 200,000 viewers. Of the multiple networks carrying the NFL Draft on Thursday night, ESPN was the most-watched with an average audience of 5,336,000 viewers, and – across the  three days of the event –  averaged a 1.9 household rating and 2,906,000 viewers over the nearly 15 hours across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ABC, according to Nielsen.


Meanwhile, news broke at the NFL Draft that Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten would be retiring after 15 years of playing to join ESPN’s new Monday Night Football broadcast team as a lead analyst. The news was reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, as Witten met with owner and general manager Jerry Jones on Friday, although no official decision was announced.
NASCAR announced the acquisition of the Automobile Racing Club of America, which will continue to operate under its current structure through the 2019 season. “Our NASCAR family has long had a special connection with our friends at ARCA, and this is a logical step in demonstrating our commitment to the next generation of racers,” said Jim France, NASCAR vice chairman, executive vice president and member of the sport’s founding family. “This continues the legacy our sport was built upon and will deliver the great racing our fans expect.”
Back to ratings, ESPN scored its highest-rated 2018 NBA Playoffs telecast for Friday’s first round Game 6 telecast of the Pacers’ win over the Cavaliers. The telecast generated a 2.9 metered market rating, up 81% over last year’s Celtics/Bulls game, a 1.6, according to Nielsen. The 2018 NBA Playoffs on ESPN is averaging a 2.5 metered market rating, up 14 percent from 2017.
Telemundo Deportes announced that J Balvin and Michael Brun’s “Positivo” will serve as the official pop song for the network’s coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. The song debuted in a video tease during the 2018 Billboard Latin Music Awards on April 26.
The NBA Playoffs on TNT Conference Semifinal coverage presented by Hulu continues tonight with Game 1 of the 76ers/Celtics at 8p. Brian Anderson will call the action alongside analyst Kevin McHale, with reporter Ros Gold-Onwude. Tuesday sees doubleheader action with Game 1 of the Cavaliers/Raptors at 8p, followed by Game 2 of the Warriors and Pelicans at 10:30p.
Major League Wrestling is beIN SPORTS’ newest sports property, and MLW matches and events now air on beIN SPORTS on Fridays. Major League Wrestling announced the Tony Schiavone signed a multiyear agreement to remain its primary voice. He will continue to serve as the blow-by-blow announcer for all of MLW’s broadcasts and continue to host his MLW podcast, “What Happened When,” along with Conrad Thompson as well as his work with the Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network, the Gwinnett Stripers of the International League, co-host “PWW” and anchor Sports Flashes on Atlanta’s Sports Radio 92-9 The Game.
DIRECTV announced the launch of a 4K Ultra High Definition channel for Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. The channel, number 4000 on the programming guide, offers live and recorded content across a variety of genres including sports, series, documentaries, and lifestyle, among others. The sports content will be accompanied by programming from various distributors such as Discovery, Principal Media, K2, Vubiquity and Big Media.
Entercom, Mike Francesa and CAA Sports announced a partnership spanning broadcast radio, digital and live events that will include Francesa’s return to WFAN with the debut of the “Mike’s On” radio show, running weekdays from 3-6:30p Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on WFAN 101.9 FM/660 AM, beginning Tuesday.
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Zurich Insurance renewed its sponsorship of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans through 2026. The seven-year extension was announced during the final day of the 2018 tournament, by Zurich North America CEO Kathleen Savio, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan and CEO of the Fore!Kids Foundation Steve Worthy. Zurich became title sponsor of the tournament in 2005 and last signed an extension through 2019.
The Canadian Premier League, set to debut in Spring 2019, revealed the league’s first emblem, visual identity and brand positioning. The Canadian Premier League emblem “tells the story of the Canadian soccer journey from club to community to country” and is inspired by the North Star, surrounded by additional elements that make up Canada including the land, coasts, sky and a maple leaf. CPL worked with integrated marketing agency J. Walter Thompson Canada on all elements of the brand.


Whistle Sports signed famed extreme sports videographer and social media content producer Devin Graham, aka DevinSuperTramp, to serve as a creator to work on branded content as well as longer-form, original programming. Whistle Sports previously worked with Devin Graham on a 2016 Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi and Papa John’s Pizza, which featured Joe Montana throwing a pass out of an airplane to a team of sky diving football players. “We’ve worked with Devin on a few amazing projects over the past couple of years, now we are really thrilled to officially be partnered with him and his team to create even more,” says John West, founder and CEO of Whistle Sports. “Combining Devin’s remarkable creativity and production talent with our brand and content partners, really creates a unique and special product.”


The NBA 2K League unveiled its game schedule for “The Tipoff,” which will serve as the season’s first tournament, with competition running from May 1-5 and streamed live on Twitch. The event officially launched the 15-week regular season, which features both weekly games and tournaments, and concludes with the NBA 2K League Playoffs and Finals in August. All competition will take place at the NBA 2K League Studio Powered by Intel in New York City. The Tipoff will be the first of three tournaments that will be played throughout the season. Each team that wins a tournament will take home a coveted steel champion banner – with the goal of collecting all three banners that link together to form The Banner Chain. Group A begins play tomorrow starting at 5p.
Speaking of NBA 2K League, Monumental Sports & Entertainment locked in a deal with Giant Food, the leading DC regional grocery chain, to make Giant Food a sponsor of Wizards District Gaming beginning with the new season. Giant Food’s logo will be featured on in-game on-court signage, around player accounts and at the Wizards District Gaming Practice Facility. Additionally, Giant will be highlighted as a sponsor in various in-game virtual assets. Giant Food will retain exclusive ownership of a number of streamed practice sessions and games throughout the season.
76ers Gaming Club announced today that Jeff Terrell has been named the team’s first-ever head coach. Terrell will oversee the team’s player management, practice schedule and day-to-day performance.
The Utah Jazz partnered with SpaceStation Gaming, the multi-game esports team founded by Salt Lake City-based social media influencer Shaun “Shonduras” McBride, according to ESPN. The Jazz and SpaceStation will share marketing efforts and resources as they continue to push into the esports space.
Heritage footwear brand K-Swiss inked a new partnership with esports organization, Immortals, to launch the first signature sneaker for a professional gaming team. The first offering in the partnership with Immortals is based on the Kompass, K-Swiss’ latest style that melds cutting-edge technology with a sleek aesthetic. Incorporating engineered mesh with four-way stretch on the upper, the lace-up sneaker emulates a sock molding the foot like second skin. The lifestyle shoe for Immortals will launch to consumers in December for a suggested retail price of $110. Distribution will include select retailers and kswiss.com.
Speaking of gear, esports squad North locked in a global deal with Adidas that will see their players compete in Adidas merchandise for the remainder of 2018, according to Esports Insider.
The first Esport Superstars: Paladins tournament at Esports Arena Las Vegas has its platform locked and loaded. The event runs on May 5 and 6 and features six top professional teams battling for a $100,000 prize pool, running on Twitch starting at 12:30p PT.


UFC announced that Art Davie, UFC creator and co-founder, has been named to the UFC Hall of Fame class for 2018 as a Contributor. The 2018 UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on July 5, at The Pearl at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and be streamed live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.


Golden Knights/Sharks on NBCSN at 10p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1993: Monica Seles is stabbed in the back by an obsessed fan.
In the Know: Which movie features the fictional South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Name three active teams who have never had the very first pick of the NFL Draft. Answer: Seattle, Denver, Jacksonville & Baltimore. Kudos: Ken White-KWTV/Charlotte; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

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