05/10/21: The founder of The Spring League talks about the org’s future

 

Medias First Morning Read

 

Monday May 10, 2021

FOX Sports gave The Spring League its first taste of broadcast television over the weekend, with the sport hitting season five this year. The league, while saw rival football leagues grab headlines in recent years, only to struggle out of season one, was founded by Brian Woods in 2017. Since that time, the org has seen over 200 players signed by NFL and CFL teams. Cynopsis Sports caught up with Woods to talk about the league’s partnership with FOX, laying a long-term foundation and what lies ahead.

Woods on positioning the league: From our initial launch in 2017, our model has been predicated on centralizing our operations and eliminating travel between multiple cities. In essence, we’ve conducted business since day one with a structure equipped to operate in a pandemic. For our 2021 season, we’ve added two additional teams, bringing our membership to eight, and added a second hub market, playing games in both Indianapolis and Houston. With other leagues having some struggles, there is an abundance of talented football players looking for a place to showcase their ability, and we expect to put a high-quality product on the field each game.

On keys to sustainability: We operate with a disciplined business model that has eliminated several of the significant costs associated with traditional sports leagues. In essence, by centralizing our operations, we’ve eliminated the need for multiple venues and travel between those markets. We also assess a “development fee” to players who have not been with an NFL team in some capacity within the last three years. These are just a few of the measures we’ve taken to mitigate potential losses. All of these things have helped The Spring League continue operating and allowing players to participate in our league and potentially get seen where they may not have otherwise.

On FOX Sports: The partnership with FOX has been nothing short of unbelievable for us. The entire team at FOX has been incredibly supportive. We are innovators, and Eric Shanks and I are aligned in our vision for TSL. Our fans will see the use of unique camera angles, more audio from the huddle, and even an on-field cameraman to put our fans right next to the action. We’re keen to push the envelope and create a unique viewing experience for our audience.

On a source of pride: I believe our most significant success is the number of players we’ve created opportunities for. To date, over 100 TSL players have been signed by NFL clubs. It’s also noteworthy that we’re the only outdoor professional football league that has lasted more than three seasons since the USFL.

On sponsors: There’s definitely been interest from major brands, and in categories you’d expect for a pro sports league. We need to prove the skeptics, who’ve seen two other attempts at spring pro football fail within the last 18 months, that we’re not going away. Ultimately, the activation we’re receiving from FOX should be a catalyst to procure worthwhile partnerships for TSL down the road.

PROGRAMMING

The National Women’s Soccer League revealed its full broadcast schedule for the 2021 season, with play kicking off on Saturday. CBS will carry three regular season matches, as well as the 2021 NWSL Championship. CBS Sports Network will then offer 11 regular season games as well as three playoff contests, including one quarterfinal and both semifinals. Paramount+ will exclusively stream 82 additional regular season matches in the U.S. as well as the postseason. All matches will be streamed live internationally on Twitch, and Twitch will exclusively stream 24 matches globally, including in the U.S. “We are excited to build on the momentum of another successful NWSL Challenge Cup and bring fans all of the action from the 2021 season,” said Dan Weinberg, Executive Vice President, Programming, CBS Sports. “Our multiplatform coverage will highlight some of the world’s top soccer talent across the CBS Television Network, CBS Sports Network and Paramount+. We look forward to a thrilling stretch of high-quality soccer, capped off by the 2021 NWSL Championship match on CBS.”

Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, jeopardizing the horse’s win in the famed race as well as the horse’s run for the Triple Crown, according to reports. Trainer Bob Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs as a result, and denied knowledge of any wrongdoing. “To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner,” Churchill Downs officials said in a statement. This would mark the fifth Baffert horse to have failed a drug test in over a year, according to the NY Post.

Chael Sonnen, a former UFC Middleweight and Light Heavyweight title contender and longtime MMA studio and on-site analyst, inked a new multi-year extension with ESPN. Per his new agreement, Sonnen will continue to cover UFC fight weekends and, along with MMA Insider Ariel Helwani, continue to co-host the ESPN+ exclusive series Ariel & the Bad Guy.

Univision TUDN’s telecast of this year’s UEFA Champions League Semi-Final round set new highs for the property stateside as TUDN delivered the top-rated performance ever for the round. Featuring Real Madrid vs. Chelsea and Man. City vs. Paris Saint-Germain, the Semi-Finals averaged 1.01 million Total Viewers P2+ and 518,000 Adults 18-49 on Univision and TUDN, becoming the first time the round delivered more than 1 million viewers on average, according to Nielsen.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

With five states set to allow student-athletes to make endorsement deals beginning this summer and more on the way, NCAA President Mark Emmert stated that he would recommend college sports’ governing bodies approve new rules extending similar rights to players across the country “before, or as close to, July 1,” according to The New York Times. The new state-level laws empowering student-athletes to sign endorsement deals are slated to go into effect in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico on July 1.

Formula E and the FIA announced a six-year extension surrounding their collaboration of the FIA Girls on Track program, with ABB, Formula E’s title partner, joining the initiative as its first global partner. This new collaboration seeks to boost outreach in key markets and grow the program across new territories, benefitting countless young women and providing them access to new learning materials and opportunities. FIA Girls on Track will feature at four events during each ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season and stage ancillary events to promote the role of women in motorsport by educating and inspiring the next generation.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Genius Sports entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Second Spectrum, a leading provider of data tracking and visualization solutions. With the pickup, Genius Sports will look to offer new levels of rich data-driven insights to its partners around the world, benefiting leagues, federations, teams, fans, coaches, sportsbooks, broadcasters and sponsors. Second Spectrum will also bring a highly complementary client base, building on Genius Sports’ official data partnerships with over 400 sports organizations, including the NFL, MLB, EPL and NCAA.

ESPORTS

After 15 months of remote matches, including a vast majority of its inaugural season, the Call of Duty League has made the call to have each of its 12 in the same location playing LAN matches for its Major IV tournament weekend from June 17-20. The matches will run at Esports Stadium Arlington. Only the teams and limited league staff will be in attendance for the weekend’s tournament, which will be streamed as normal on YouTube and will have rapid-response COVID testing for the participants.

e.l.f. Cosmetics became the first major beauty brand to launch a branded channel on Twitch, according to the company, launching the platform on Sunday. Programming will feature new streams every week, focused on the concept of “Game-Up” – the intersection of gaming and makeup. “Launching a Twitch channel is another demonstration that anything is e.l.f.ing possible,” says Kory Marchisotto, Chief Marketing Officer at e.l.f. Beauty. “We are always looking to blaze new trails when it comes to connecting with our current and new fans and believe Twitch is our next frontier—it’s interactive, engaging, authentic and live.”

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

ESPN promoted two executives to the title of Senior Vice President. Brian Lockhart was upped to Senior Vice President, ESPN+ Original Content and ESPN Films, overseeing strategy, development, production and integration of all original programming initiatives under the ESPN Films & 30 for 30 umbrella, as well as original series and studio shows on ESPN+. Additionally, ESPN promoted Mike Shiffman to Senior Vice President, Production and he will continue to oversee all production aspects of ESPN’s basketball categories, including event and studio for the NBA, WNBA and men’s and women’s college basketball.

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