05/18/15: The PGA TOUR sees 2015 star power; Mountain West changes channels on championship; Anheuser-Busch experiences IMG


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Good morning. It’s Monday May 18, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Following Rory McIlroy’s victory over the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship, along with headline-grabbing wins in recent weeks by Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, the PGA TOUR has hit 2015 looking to shake up audience growth with its stars continuing to cement their places in pop culture. With Golf Channel on NBC’s coverage of THE PLAYERS Championship reeling in 19.3 million viewers and CBS posting its best numbers for The Masters since 2011, the organization is lining up new initiatives, including an OTT service, to cultivate fans for the future.

Cynopsis Sports asked Jay Monahan, PGA TOUR Deputy Commissioner about the year so far, how the organization is planning to grow audiences and its relationships with sponsors.

Monahan on 2015: The timing of your question is impeccable, considering we just witnessed one of the great finishes in memory, on one of golf’s great stages, won by one of golf’s brightest young stars. Rickie Fowler’s playoff victory at THE PLAYERS Championship was captivating  playing the last four holes in five under par, baptizing the three-hole aggregate playoff format with Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner, birdieing the island 17th hole for the third time on Sunday to finally win on the first hole of sudden death  all happening in front of record crowds at TPC Sawgrass and a strong global television audience.

But this was just a continuation of the great play by the game’s great young stars stepping up this season. The week prior, it was World No. 1 Rory McIlroy winning the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play. Several weeks before that, it was Jordan Spieth’s record performance at the Masters and not to mention other 20-something winners Patrick Reed and Jason Day. And then you throw in names like Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker … we’ve had a tremendous balance of young stars and established veterans taking turns, giving us a tremendous first half of the 2014-15 season. Plus, THE PLAYERS was the 11th playoff we’ve had, already four more than all of last season. It makes you wonder what will come next as we continue through the season toward the FedExCup Playoffs. This sort of competitive excellence featuring the best and brightest can only help draw interest to the PGA TOUR.

On the new-look WGC-Cadillac Match Play: Overall, we are very pleased with the first year of the new group format, as it eliminated the “one-and-done” aspect as each player plays at least three matches, and ensured that our fans see everyone for the first three days of competition. We had a great week and a remarkable finish. We also learned a lot this first time around and will certainly evaluate it, talk to the players and see how we can make it better.

With that said, we are very excited about the future of the Match Play, particularly as we welcome Dell as the new title sponsor and move the event to Austin, where Dell is headquartered, beginning in 2016.

On sponsors: We have been consistent over the years about the value of affiliating with the PGA TOUR, which begins with the positive image and values of our athletes, playing golf at the highest levels in the world. Corporate partners keep coming back because we offer an unmatched brand-building platform, outstanding media value, hospitality opportunities and global exposure for sponsors. Our tournaments are telecast to more than 225 countries and territories, and we have an unmatched quality of audience when it comes to reaching decision-makers and influencers. Our partners are also excited by the opportunity to work with a sports organization and athletes who have an unmatched history of charitable giving.

We can point to a number of sponsors who have been with us for many years, as well as new sponsors who represent entirely new categories for the TOUR. Moreover, we have had an increasing number of sponsors signing longer-term deals, including Charles Schwab for 20 years, Rolex for 11 years and PGA TOUR tournament title sponsors AT&T, Travelers, Waste Management and Wyndham for 10 years. We believe that is a very powerful message regarding the value our corporate partners realize through an affiliation with the TOUR.

On PGA TOUR Live: We have always felt there was a missed opportunity to bring great action early on Thursday and Friday to our fans. At last year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, for instance, Phil Mickelson had a chance to shoot 59 and everyone missed most of his round. Our relationship and new venture with Major League Baseball Advanced Media gives us an opportunity to bring this to our fans through exclusive live early-round coverage of featured groups across all Internet-connected devices. PGA TOUR LIVE, which will launch this summer, will feature two marquee morning groups on Thursdays and Fridays of our tournaments leading up to the start of Golf Channel’s television broadcasts. This will be available at over 30 tournaments during the season. We have seen the success of these types of initiatives in other sports, including MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, MLS Live, as well as WWE Network. We thought this was the right time for us to enter this space and we have a great partner in MLBAM.

Earlier this year, we also launched complete, over-the-top live coverage of the PGA TOUR in New Zealand. So we do see a real benefit to OTT service and will continue to explore opportunities.

On the role of athletes: Our athletes are very savvy when it comes to realizing the importance of the PGA TOUR brand and their own brand, the value of interacting with fans and sponsors. So that is very important to the continued health of the TOUR. Then, as long as they continue to perform like they have, as I noted from the outset, I have no doubt that the positive momentum will continue.  Our players have continued to embrace social media and grow one-on-one connections with our fans. As they continue to do that, we see great opportunities for the overall fan base to grow.


ESPN locked in a deal with the Mountain West to bring the conference’s annual football championship game to its channels through the 2019-20 season. The addition supplements current ties between the conference and ESPN which includes exclusive worldwide rights to televise up to 16 Mountain West football games, plus every Boise State home game, as well as up to 31 conference-controlled men’s basketball games annually. The MW Championship Game will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2 every season, beginning with the 2015 matchup on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30p on ESPN2. “With the addition of the Mountain West football title game, fans can follow the conference’s games and developing storylines from the opening week to the crowing of the champion on ESPN,” said Kurt Dargis, director, ESPN programming. “We look forward to building on our relationship with the conference that has already delivered many memorable moments on our platforms.”

Speaking of ESPN, a week after news broke about the breakup between Bill Simmons and ESPN, SI reported that Simmons will no longer participate on any ESPN platforms despite several months remaining on his contract. The article states that ESPN and Simmons reached an agreement that will keep Simmons off the air as well as away from his site Grantland and podcasts. Last week’s upfront presentation saw ESPN President John Skipper state that he hopes to keep a “cordial” relationship with Simmons despite the fallout.

NBC Sports’ saw American Pharoah’s win in the Preakness Stakes score as the highest-rated sports event of the day, pulling a 5.8 HH in overnight ratings with a 14 share. On the local front, top markets included: Baltimore 16.8/35; Louisville 11.9/22; Ft. Myers 10.9/21; Tampa 9.6/20; and Indy 9.2/19. The final race will take place on June 6 at 4:30p on the network.

Univision Deportes’ saw its coverage of the Liga Mexicana Futbol Clausura 2015 regular season rank as UniMas’ most-viewed Liga MX regular season since 2008. Meanwhile, Univision Deportes Network marked new ratings highs with its coverage. On Univision Network, viewership for Liga MX increased by 12% for both Total Viewers 2+ and young Adults 18-34, and +9% for Adults 18-49 vs. prior year, averaging 982,000 Total Viewers 2+, 525,000 UniMas saw viewership grow +3% for Total Viewers, with an average of 812,000. UDN’s coverage spiked 22% in the category, averaging 314,000.

The merger of technology and sports will continue to have a profound impact on media, leagues, athletes, sponsors and, of course, fans. Are you prepared? Do NOT miss our pair of sessions at the Cynopsis Sports Summit on June 16 about the marriage between the two industries, beginning with a Q&A with Peko Hosoi, MIT Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the founder and director of STE@M (Sports Technology and Education @ MIT). The in-depth Q&A will be moderated by CSE President Adam Zimmerman. Then, hear from industry leaders about “How Technology is Launching yet Another Evolution of Sports” with panelists Brad Allen, Executive Chairman of NEXTVR; Joie Chitwood III, President of Daytona International Speedway; Matt Higgins, Co-Founder and CEO of RSE Ventures; Russell Silvers, SVP, Partnership Activation at AEG Global Partnerships; and Bryce Townsend, CEO, NA at Group M ESP. The discussion will be moderated by OneTwoSee CEO Chris Reynolds. Register here today!

U.S. District Court judge Shira Scheindlin ruled to certify class action status in an antitrust lawsuit against MLB and the NHL, in a move that could lead to the end of TV blackouts. The decision found that members of the class of consumers in the market for MLB or NHL content have the same alleged injury due to the blackout system that denies fans a la carte access to teams outside their league-mandated local market.

Anita Marks joined ESPN New York 98.7FM as a weekend host starting yesterday at 11a and will now co-host Ruocco & Rothenberg with host Ryan Ruocco from May 18 – 21 from noon  1p each day. In addition, Marks is slated to provide SportsCenter updates regularly on weekdays and host or co-host multiple shows as needed.

The Dan Patrick Show hits the West Coast this week for NBCSN and DIRECTV, traveling to Marina Del Rey for five days of shows this week. The Dan Patrick Show will originate from a specially designed set located at the DIRECTV Los Angeles Broadcasting Center in Marina Del Rey starting today, with guests that include Jerry West, comedians Frank Caliendo and Jim Breuer, actor Jerry Ferrara, and regular guests Reggie Miller and Rich Eisen.



Speakers Include:

Joie Chitwood III  I  President  I  Daytona International Speedway
 Matt Higgins  I  Co-Founder & CEO  I  RSE Ventures
Russell Silvers  I  SVP Partnership Activation  I  AEG Global Partnerships
Brad Allen  I  Executive Chairman  I  NextVR
Bryce Townsend  I  CEO  I  GroupM Entertainment & Sports Partnerships 


Anheuser-Busch InBev inked a deal with WME’s IMG to serve as its new sports experiential marketing agency of record, according to Ad Age. "WME|IMG is the right partner to help us optimize our entire sports portfolio, develop new, innovative and disruptive activation programs, and write a new chapter in the way Anheuser-Busch activates its sports and entertainment properties," Lucas Herscovici, the company’s VP of Consumer Connections, said in a statement to the publication.

A quarter of the way through the NASCAR season, Repucom reports that Kevin Harvick is generating a cushion for his partners, with the driver’s sponsors generating the most time-on-screen during 2015 race broadcasts. With nearly 7 1/2 hours of television time in the first quarter of the season, Harvick’s sponsors combined to receive 10% more exposure time than the next closest competitor. That means that Harvick’s primary car sponsor, Jimmy John’s, has acquired the most media value among primary car sponsors through the first quarter of the season, followed by Lowe’s, Shell-Pennzoil, Nationwide, Haas Automation, Target, FedEx, Dollar General, Furniture Row and Miller Lite. The top overall brands in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during live-race broadcasts are Sprint, Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford and Nationwide, according to the report.

FedEx Corp. penned a three-year deal with UEFA to serve as the Main Sponsor position in the UEFA Europa League. The sponsorship begins with the start of the 2015/2016 season and will extend for three seasons through to 2017/2018. “As one of the most important European football Cup competitions, the UEFA Europa League is a perfect sponsorship for FedEx, which has a strong commitment to doing business across borders throughout the European region,” said Andrew Self, vice president, Marketing and Communications, FedEx Express Europe. “The UEFA Europa League is an elite competition based on a foundation of grassroots football. It has a great mix of famous clubs and local teams, and reflects the genuine passion of fans across Europe. It is a great way for us to reinforce the commitment and passion that our employees demonstrate every day in all our markets across the region.”

Today will see Oberto Beef Jerky unleash “Heroes of Summer,” a new digital campaign spotlighting four “incredible individuals whose personal achievements and sheer determination can inspire us all.” The campaign will include Richard Sherman as well as blind marathoner/mountain climber Randy Pierce, Boston Marathon bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis and leukemia-stricken youngster Brady Wein. The campaign sees Oberto working with the each individual to chronicle their efforts on film with content showcased at the official Oberto “Heroes of Summer” microsite: Heroes.Oberto.com.


NBC Sports reports that the combo of NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and Premier League pushed the Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network digital alliance to 57.3 million uniques in April. That is good enough to rank second among all sports digital sites, according to comScore, with 2.7 billion minutes, up 22% over the prior year’s numbers.


Sportradar US named Steve Byrd as Chief Commercial Officer where he will be responsible for leading relationships with large media and technology clients for Sportradar’s global sports data and content in North America. Byrd was most recently Co-Chief Operating Officer at STATS, LLC, and is a founding board member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.


Lightning/Rangers on NBCSN at 8p.


Don’t know what to do? Check out Watcheroo!

Cynopsis Digital’s Programming Guide

Organized by show name, date, and platform, we have everything you’ll need to be caught up on digital premieres, ongoing programs, live-streamed events and integrated series.

ON THIS DAY in 1956: Mickey Mantle knocks one out of the park from both sides of plate for a record 3rd time.

In The Know: Which NBA player was known as “The Human Highlight Film”? (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: What was the name of the WWE tag team featuring B. Brian Blair and “Jumping” Jim Brunzell? Answer: The Killer Bees. Kudos: Marc Wollis-NBC Sports Group/NY; Michael Dittelman/NY; Joe Giovengo-Game Show Network/NY; Zach Linder-Glow/NY; Christian Matthews-Washington Redskins/Washington DC; Bill Pearce-The Record-Argus/Greenville; Tim McNamara-WXIA/Atlanta; Tom Wetzel-MMSI/Warwick; Bill Robertson-WCHA/Edina; Joey Olson/San Diego; Jacob Ullman-FOX Sports/LA; Aditya Putcha-NBC/Universal City; Doug Kelly-Foster Farms Bowl/South San Francisco.

Later — Chris
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