05/18/16: ESPN looks to Connect at Upfronts; NBC Sports prepares to Open; NBA seeks Playmakers



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Good morning. It’s Wednesday May 18, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

ESPN’s turn at this year’s upfronts, anchored by the tagline “ESPN @ The Speed of Live,” saw the company play up the live-event elements and announce that its channels will begin counting out of home viewers to it ratings. “We’re excited about the idea we’re going to measure our whole audience,” ESPN President John Skipper told reporters, adding that its WatchESPN platform added between 6-7% to its audiences, with launch set for 2017.

In addition, ESPN introduced LiveConnect, described as “a new product offering for advertisers that considers the emotional state of fans to determine which advertising will resonate best in the moment.” The service will leverage data and connect it with the live sports environment, with the company working with clients to create a variety of messages and then deliver a different execution, based upon the outcomes in live games and highlights and a fan’s anticipated emotional state. “At its core, this is about building on our live content advantage and the emotion of sports fans to create better advertising and better results for our clients,” said Ed Erhardt, president, Global Sales and Marketing. “Targeting is one piece of the puzzle  but targeting alone does not result in effective advertising. We’re building out a key pillar that utilizes data to help us get to a place where fans see the right message at the right time, in our live environment.”


With the 145th Open now under its banner, NBC Sports announced that nearly 140 hours of coverage will run across Golf Channel and NBC this year. The company will dedicate 49.5 live hours of tournament coverage to the famed tournament from July 14-17, including 14.5 live hours on Golf Channel over each of the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday; 10.5 across Golf Channel and NBC during the third round on Saturday; and 10 live hours across Golf Channel and NBC during the final round on Sunday. In addition, two highlight specials will run on NBC from 4-6p that weekend. Meanwhile, Golf Channel’s Morning Drive and Golf Central Live From The Open will offer 31.5 live hours of comprehensive news coverage the week of The Open.

FOX Sports will team up with National Geographic to cover the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia in a move to “create unparalleled, comprehensive multi-platform visual coverage, with FOX’s state of the art game telecast enriched by National Geographic’s globally recognized photographers, videographers, journalists, mapmakers and graphic artists.” “National Geographic is unmatched in its devotion to our planet, with photographers, videographers and writers all over the world, and that’s particularly so in Russia,” said Eric Shanks, FOX Sports President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our goal is to take advantage of the substantial editorial access our colleagues at National Geographic have already established in Russia, which will clearly add a depth and texture to our storytelling, especially the features, vignettes and bumpers intended to capture the country’s beauty, diversity and culture.”
Elsewhere at FOX Sports, the company is reeling in Chris Spielman to return to the network as an NFL and college football analyst. Spielman began his broadcasting career with FOX Sports Net in 1999. At ESPN, Spielman primarily worked on ESPN College Football Saturday beside play-by-play partner Sean McDonough and sideline reporter Todd McShay.

For the second straight year, ESPN and ABC will showcase a NFL Wild Card playoff game during the 2016-17 season during the NFL Wild Card Weekend (January 7-8, 2017). ESPN’s new MNF team of Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden and sideline reporter Lisa Salters will call the matchup.

ESPN kicks off the 2016 college football season with DICK’s Sporting Goods Kickoff Week on Sept. 3 with a tripleheader on ESPN and ABC. The action begins with Oklahoma/Houston on ABC and Hawaii/Michigan at noon, followed at 3:30p by LSU/Wisconsin on ABC, Georgia/North Carolina at 5:30p on ESPN, USC/Alabama at 8p on ABC and Clemson/Auburn at 9p on ESPN. ESPN2 will begin the day with Georgia Tech/Boston College at 7:30p from Ireland. Sunday serves up Notre Dame/Texas at 7:30p on ABC with the weekend concluding on Sept. 5 with Ole Miss/Florida State.

The company also announced that Connecticut/Texas will square off in the 2016 Jimmy V Women’s Classic presented by Corona on Dec. 4 at 4p as part of ESPN’s Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research.

TNT’s coverage of Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Western Conference Finals on Monday averaged 8.7 million total viewers and a 5.3 U.S. HH rating, per Nielsen Fast Nationals, for a markup of 37% in viewers and 33% in rating when compared with 2014, the last time the network televised the Western Conference Finals. The matchup was also up 27% in viewers and 20% in rating over last year’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Turner’s TV Everywhere platforms generated an all-time best 766,000 uniques for last night’s WCF Game 1, up 677% over last year. Live streams for the game were up 597%, with minutes consumed up 235% when compared to the comparable coverage in 2015.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Southern Nationals from Atlanta Dragway scored an average audience of 1,367,000 viewers on FS1, making it the most-watched NHRA event since at least 2002 and more than doubling last year’s event. The series has seen year-to-year viewership increases in five of its seven events in 2016, averaging 377,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo, for a 390% markup over 2015

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MP & Silva renewed its long-term media partnership with the Italian Basketball League to distribute their worldwide media rights during the next two seasons. The agency serves as the exclusive distributor of Lega Basket rights for all territories outside Italy, across cable, satellite, betting, terrestrial, IPTV and mobile platforms.

Conference USA is reportedly heading back to ESPN, according to The Herald-Dispatch. The league inked an agreement with ESPN to carry five C-USA football games during the 2016 season, ending its relationship with FOX Sports. The league will also run on CBS Sports Network and American Sports Network and has a new relationship with beIN Sports that was announced on Monday.

Time Inc. announced the debut of its new Sports Illustrated/Sports Illustrated 2 broadcasting and digital networks licensed in partnership with ASN Ltd. The platforms will feature live, and in some cases exclusive, broadcasts of global sporting events and original video programming from SI Group brands Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Kids, Golf and FanSided with broadcasts across 20 pay-TV operators in 12 countries.

The WCHA unveiled plans to host a new on-campus playoff format for men’s hockey next season. The WCHA Playoffs will consist of four (4) best-of-three, quarterfinal round series hosted by the league’s top four regular-season finishers on the first weekend of March, followed by two (2) best-of-three semifinal round series hosted by the highest remaining seeds on the second weekend of the month. The “WCHA Championship” will be a single game, hosted by the highest remaining seed, on the third Saturday of March.


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Esurance pushed out a new round of spots as part of its multi-year partnership with MLB, featuring Buster Posey. This season will see Posey appear in two television commercials, social media videos, and digital display advertising for the brand as part of the company’s “Smart People Get Esurance” campaign. On May 23, a 30-second and two 15-second commercials will be rolling out on television nationwide. As title sponsor of the all-digital Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot when fans vote on their favorite #ASGWorthy players, they’ll be entered for a chance to win a VIP All-Star Week experience in San Diego. In addition, during MLB All-Star Week, Esurance will activate at FanFest and the Pepsi All-Star Week Block Party.


The NBA is partnering with BroadbandTV to launch NBA Playmakers, described as “a groundbreaking community for video creators focused on basketball and basketball culture.” The millennial video network will allow the creator community and NBA fans the chance to produce basketball-related content and share it across the NBA Playmakers network, spanning YouTube, the NBA’s digital assets, and other platforms. Creators will also be offered a variety of benefits, including special access to select NBA footage, NBA games and special events, access to NBA production facilities and new merchandise.

The Undefeated is officially up and running for ESPN, launching with three narratives  The Waco Horror, 36 Hours in Beast Mode, and The man who put Marvel in the black. The Undefeated will showcase content under four primary verticals  Sports, Culture, The Uplift and HBCUs.

Football media platform 90min has reorganized with the creation of a new parent holding company called Minute Media. Minute Media will serve as the corporate brand for 90min, as well as for the soon-to-be-launched brands in the United States, India and Germany. “With the formation of Minute Media, we can focus our growth on new markets and into new sports where we can continue to bring the best content, in the most scalable platform, to users around the world,” said Asaf Peled, Founder and CEO of Minute Media. 


Endemol Shine Beyond USA is launching the first-ever Legends of Gaming fantasy league, with fans able to visit the Smasher website and authenticate via Facebook to enter the contest for the chance to prizes. The league will see contestants given the opportunity to choose the winner for 8 games, including episodes 17  24 as player legends battle it out in Rocket League, CS:GO, Towerfall Ascension, Black Ops 3 and more.  Entries must be complete by May 23.

Take-Two Interactive unveiled a new streaming service that will showcase The Road to the Finals via 2K StreamCast on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The platform will allow audiences to watch the top 2K Pro-Am teams compete for the winner’s share of the $250,000 top prize.

The new Forza Motorsport 6 NASCAR Expansion Pack is out, offering an all-new NASCAR World Tour mode which features 10 hours of play and allows gamers to race on circuits across the globe, as well as compete against other racing series. The pack offers 24 2016-season cars and 16 drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Hass Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Team Penske.
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Thunder/Warriors on TNT at 9p.


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ON THIS DAY in 2004: Randy Johnson becomes the 17th player in MLB history to pitch a perfect game.

In The Know: The last time the Warriors had the very first pick in the NBA draft, who did they select? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What was David Well’s nickname? Answer: Boomer. Kudos: Rob Casalaina -ITN/NY; Denis Barry-CBS /NY; Scott Jenkins-Gracenote/NY; Joe Sikorski-Tennis Channel/NY; Steve Sloan-BIZBUZ Entertainment/Toronto; Ken Nice-TeamPeople/DC; Joe Guarnieri-ESPN/Bristol; Michael Narracci-NESN/Watertown; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Carly Dasso-Saatchi & Saatchi/Oakbrook Terrace; Jack Neuman-University of Calgary 5th Quarter football alumni/Calgary; Steve Scheer-FOX Sports/LA; Mark Wolfson-PAC-12 Networks/San Francisco; Steve Morrow-Eclipse TV/Mill Valley; Jim Himmel-TCB Media/San Clemente.

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