05/11/15: Anthem CEO breaks down his fantasy play; ESPN and Simmons break up; NFL’s Heroes deal irks congressmen



Nearly 88 million fans watched the 2014 NBA Finals.

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Good morning. It’s Monday May 11, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

As fantasy sports continues to swell in numbers, Anthem Media Group is hitting year two of FNTSY Sports Network with an eye to capitalize on the passion of the sports fan via increased distribution, content and sponsors. The network is getting nimble in programming delivery, shoring up content for syndication as well as for its cable channel and digital platforms.

Adding to the ranks of FNTSY and Fight Network, Anthem Media Group last week also announced that it would continue to expand its portfolio, locking in a deal with Lucas Oil Products to bring motorsports network MAVTV to Canada. MAVTV Canada will now feature automotive/motorsports programming such as The Dave Despain Show, Full Custom Garage, Stacey David’s GearZ and Speed Sport hosted by Ralph Sheheen in partnership with National Speed Sports News and more.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Leonard Asper, CEO of Anthem Media Group, about the challenges in play for new channels and the growth of fantasy sports

Asper on programming fantasy sports: People are realizing that we are like a Bloomberg for fantasy sports. If you think about it as being like a stock market, it is all day every day. It isn’t just a couple of programs put on a loop, we are doing six or seven hours live a day, or at least live to tape. The information has to be current and up-to-date with a news cycle going on every day that goes beyond just the NFL. You have the PGA, NASCAR, and daily fantasy sports. People are seeing how current the channel is, and from an MSO’s perspective, it can be a vehicle for them to send messages to their customers because we have tickets and screens that are both live and dynamic.

On the impact of daily fantasy: We picked the genre of fantasy sports because of how much it’s grown over the last five-ten years to 40 million players. I don’t really know when it’s going to stop because there is so much conversion going from season-long fantasy players who are now discovering daily so it is difficult to see any sort of apex any time soon. You have a lot of investment going into it from Wall Street and media companies; we are seeing the results of people advertising on our network as well. Our three or four biggest customers are daily fantasy sites and they are coming back because they are seeing results and conversion. It will continue to be a high-growth area for a long time.

On the state of the channel: We have signed a deal with a major casino group in Las Vegas to put the FNTSY Sports Network into their sports books. That is great distribution for us. You can see us on game consoles now. We have also gotten a studio in Las Vegas to start pumping content out of it. So that will be another source of programming for us. We are just getting into some deals with some national brands. We are also starting to distribute content with CineSport now as well and they are distributing our content to all of their publishing affiliates. What we’ve been successful at is being recognized as the experts in their field. So we are gaining traction through content syndication now as well as through our channel.

On modern difficulties of launching a network: It is very difficult right now. Five of the big eight of the big companies have been frozen in merger talks for the past year. There is a bit of a logjam on the major distributors right now. So we’ve been staying in touch and we feel we’ve made a lot of good progress with them. I would advise anybody getting into this business to first launch a video brand and make cable/satellite only one part of your strategy. You have to build something a lower cost that you can take to digital but will still allow you to one day become a traditional channel.


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ESPN’s divorce from Bill Simmons drew headlines last week, after the NY Times broke the story that the company would not renew Simmons’ contract when it expires in September. With John Skipper stating that the split was about “more than money,” pundits dissected every detail of Simmons’ breakup including Simmons’ suspension last year. However, it didn’t take long before Simmons started being wooed from rival companies, with Vice quickly offering him a role and FOX Sports posting a list of reasons why he should work there. One big contender, who has stayed silent on the subject, would be Turner Sports/Bleacher Report given their partnership with the NBA, while others have suggested NBC Sports or Yahoo. Meanwhile, Skipper noted that Simmons’ flagship site Grantland and docu-series 30 for 30 would continue without his participation.

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel notched a victory, with HBO winning a civil lawsuit over sports equipment manufacturer Mitre Sports, which claimed defamation from a 2008 telecast. That episode spotlighted child labor being used in India to make the company’s soccer balls. The jury ruled unanimously in favor of the program, finding that the show “did not broadcast in a grossly irresponsible manner false or defamatory statements portraying Mitre as using, or turning a blind eye to others using, child labor or child bonded labor in the manufacture of Mitre soccer balls,” according to Deadline.

Soccer club AS Roma is entering a new partnership with NBC Sports Regional Networks in a deal that will bring the club’s original programming stateside for the first time. Under the agreement, two-hour blocks of programming began running in late April across NBC Sports Regional Networks (in California, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Northwest and Philadelphia) and will continue to run through the end of the 2014-15 Italian Serie A football season and into early June. “When we look for partners we look for best-in-class, and NBC is undoubtedly that  especially when it comes to global football,” said AS Roma Chairman James Pallotta. “This is a new era for our fans in the U.S., and we invite them to watch the show during what we expect to be a compelling ending to the Serie A season.”

In case you missed it, the Cynopsis Sports Summit revealed about half of its speaker lineup last week, with a slate that includes some fantastic names from leagues, networks, tech, digital, brands and more. Stay tuned in the coming days for the other half of the executives, athletes and talent taking part. But to wet your whistle (and be sure to register your team now as the early bird rate ends on May 22), here is a taste of what is on tap on June 16.
·       Rob Manfred, Commissioner – MLB
·       John Lynch, VP, Marketing – Reebok
·       Lydia Murphy-Stephans, Network President – Pac-12 Networks
·       Tracy Dolgin, President & CEO – YES Network
·       Joie Chitwood, President – Daytona International Speedway
·       George Pyne, Founder & CEO – Bruin Sports Capital
·       Ken Solomon, CEO & Chairman – Tennis Channel
·       Matt Higgins, CEO – RSE Ventures
·       Ahmad Nassar, President – NFL Players Inc.
·       John Miller, CMO – NBC Sports
·       Steve Phelps, CMO – NASCAR
·       Mike Jacquet, CMO – USSA
·       Brad Allen, Executive Chairman – NEXTVR
·       Lisa Lee, EVP  WWE
·       Russell Silvers, SVP, Partnership Activation – AEG Global Partnerships
·       Will Funk, SVP, Sponsorship Integration & Bus. Development – Turner Sports Ad Sales
·       Frank A. Besteiro, VP, Business Development & Partnerships, Video – AOL
·       Jennifer Keene, Senior Director, NA Sales & Marketing – Octagon
·       Matt Lederer, Senior Director, Sports Marketing – Comcast

FOX Sports reports that over a million viewers watched the UEFA Champions League semifinals on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes, according to Nielsen. FOX Sports 1 saw its semifinals coverage notch 615,000 viewers for Barcelona’s win over Bayern Munich on May 6. A day earlier, Italian team Juventus bested Real Madrid, and reeled in 602,000 viewers. Meanwhile, FOX Deportes’ coverage of the Barcelona/Bayern Munich match pulled 502,000 viewers, making it the second most-watched UEFA Champions league match this season.  The match totaled 1.117 million viewers when English- and Spanish-language audiences are combined. The second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinals continues on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes starting tomorrow with Barcelona/Bayern Munich.

FOX Sports 1 debuts Fight Stories tomorrow, a new “comedic animated series” that will see UFC fighter Urijah Faber interview celebrities about their most memorable, heroic and entertaining fights. The debut ep features stories from comedian Josh Wolf, actor Skylar Astin and Mario Lopez. Fight Stories airs at 10:30p.

Speaking of UFC, Ronda Rousey will take part in an exclusive Q&A session at the SiriusXM Studios in New York City today as part of the company’s “Town Hall” series. SiriusXM’s Town Hall with Ronda Rousey will air live at 4p on SiriusXM Sports Zone and be hosted by Jason Ellis. 



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A Tuesday article from the Bergen Record swelled to national coverage over the weekend, with a report stating that the Department of Defense paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million from 2011 to 2014 to salute soldiers via promotions such as Hometown Heroes and other advertising at games. Congressmen were quick to swipe at the expenditure, as the Washington Post quoted U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as saying “Those of us go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes,” Flake said in an interview. “You get a good feeling in your heart. Then to find out they’re doing it because they’re compensated for it, it leaves you underwhelmed. It seems a little unseemly.” The agreements also include advertising and marketing services, including a kickoff video message from the Guard, digital advertising on stadium screens, online advertising and meeting space for a meeting or events.

ASICS is launching a new global tennis campaign with the mantra, “It’s a tough game. Go smash it.” The promotion stars tennis player Gael Monfils and was created by 180 Amsterdam. The approach is aligned with ASICS’ global advertising campaign, ‘It’s a big world. Go run it.’, which launched in early 2015.


Fandango turned to the NBA’s Dwight Howard to launch its new original video series, I Love Movies. The program showcases pop culture influencers outside the film industry “sharing meaningful movie memories throughout their lives.” Ep 1 features Howard with upcoming guests that also include athletes such as Tony Hawk and Evander Holyfield, as well as Reba McEntire, Slash, Darius Rucker, Al Roker, and Larry King.


NBC Sports Group’s live coverage of THE PLAYERS Championship over the weeks saw a new application to their use of the popular Protracer technology, which graphically tracts the flight of golf balls in the air. The new Protracer perspective featured a view of shots from behind the green and slightly to the side at the famous island green at the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass with the side view demonstrating how players decide on the trajectory of their shots.


ON THIS DAY in 1972 – Willie Mays returns to New York when the Giants trade Mays to the Mets.



Tuesday, June 16  I  New York City



ON THIS DAY in 1972 – Willie Mays returns to New York when the Giants trade Mays to the Mets.

In The Know: Since the ‘80s, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson hold 9 of the top 10 best scoring performances in a single NBA playoff game. What retired player holds the other slot? (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: Which MLB player is credited with hitting 60+ home runs in a season three different times? Answer: Sammy Sosa. Kudos: Jason Blake-MEC/NY; Andrew Feingold-Nielsen/NY; Luke Halpert-MLBAM/NY; Jon Latzer-CBS Digital Media/NY; Jay Goldstein-Admore/NY; Tim Buckman-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; David Leibowitz-CH Potomac/Maryland; Matt Deprey-Discovery Communications/Silver Spring; Jerehmy White-BusyBuddy Books/Glen Rock; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Joe Lyons-Back Nine Productions/Dallas; Kevin Micklo-Pinnacle Advertising/Chicago; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver;  Sean Perez-Core Media Group/LA; Warren Weideman-Producer/LA; Greg Dudsic/Venice; Jason King-Swing Away Inc./LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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