05/24/18: ESPN picked up all UFC rights from FOX in a multi-year deal

Good morning. It’s Thursday May 24, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

ESPN is officially all-in on UFC, with The Walt Disney Company announcing that it had picked up all US rights to the MMA promotion in a multi-year agreement that makes ESPN-branded media platforms the exclusive digital and television home of the UFC in the United States, further expanding streaming rights to UFC on ESPN+ and building upon the agreement revealed earlier this month. In a move from FOX and starting in January 2019, ESPN+ and ESPN will become the exclusive digital and linear distributors in the United States for UFC, showcasing 42 live events. ESPN linear networks will broadcast 10 exclusive events as well as all UFC pay-per-view preliminary fights, while ESPN+ will offer 20 exclusive events and all preliminary fights for “UFC on ESPN Fight Night” programs.  Events broadcast on ESPN will be branded “UFC on ESPN Fight Night,” while events streamed live on ESPN+ will carry the “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night” moniker. 
“Every year for the last 18 years, we have taken this sport and brand to another level. We find innovative ways to promote our athletes and build stars,” said Dana White, President, UFC. “Today is another monumental day for UFC, our athletes, and our fans. We are now part of the ESPN family, recognized around the world as the pinnacle in sports broadcasting. I am very excited for this next chapter for UFC.”

The NFL announced that it is enact a national anthem policy for the league this season that requires players and league personnel on the sideline to stand but also gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they choose to not participate. If a player chooses to protest on the sideline, the NFL will fine the team. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the six changes under the policy were unanimously approved by team owners who voted.
Meanwhile, the NFL also locked in Super Bowl host sites through 2024 as league owners unanimously approved a proposal to award Super Bowl LVII to Arizona in 2023 and Super Bowl LVIII to New Orleans in 2024. Meanwhile, NFL team owners also approved the Tennessee Titans’ bid to host the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, taking place April 25-27, 2019.
Danica Patrick was tapped to host The 2018 ESPYS Presented by Capital One, becoming the first woman to host the ceremony. This year’s event takes place on ABC on July 18 at 8p from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. “My first ESPYS was 2005, and I have been a fan, coming back every year since,” said Patrick. “It is the biggest night of the year for sports. Every year I leave feeling so inspired! I am excited to be able to help celebrate, laugh and cry about the past year in sports with everyone. It’s going to be a great night and one full of more than a few surprises.”
TNT’s presentation of the 2018 NBA Western Conference Finals Game 4 delivered an average of 8.3 million viewers for the Rockets/Warriors telecast. That marks a rise of  43% over the 2017 WCF Game 4 and 18% vs. last year’s ECF Game 4, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals. Overall, TNT’s first four WCF telecasts have averaged 8.1 million viewers, up 27% over last year’s Eastern Conference Finals airing on the network (Cavaliers/Celtics) and a gain of 24% vs. the 2017 WCF (Warriors/Spurs).
Meanwhile, NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL’s Eastern and Western Conference Finals are averaging a combined Total Audience Delivery of 1.910 million viewers through Monday across NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app, making it the most-watched Conference Final round in three years and up 15% vs. last year. The Western Conference Final averaged a TAD of 1.766 million viewers, making it the best WCF in three years and the best such series not involving the Chicago Blackhawks in 16 years. In the East, the first six games averaged 2.032 million viewers, up 5% compared to last year.
Rounding out viewership numbers, NBC Sports also reports that its Sunday Night Football franchise finished the television season as primetime’s top TV show in all key metrics for a seventh consecutive year, based on live plus same day data provided by Nielsen. Sunday Night Football also ranked as the No. 1 show in the 18-49 demographic for the eighth consecutive TV season. SNF averaged 18.2 million TV viewers in 2017.
ESPN announced that its Sunday from the Seats series, a production initiative in which ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell commentator team calls the night’s marquee game from a unique location inside the ballpark, will return for three exclusive Sunday Night Baseball telecasts this season. Buster Olney will generally provide reports from the field. The special series will make its 2018 season debut May 27, on this weekend’s edition of Sunday Night Baseball from Wrigley Field. Play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian and analysts Alex Rodriguez and Jessica Mendoza will call the action amongst the Chicago Cubs faithful from the right field bleachers as the Cubs host the San Francisco Giants at 8p on ESPN.
Telemundo Deportes unveiled the theme song and music production package for this summer’s World Cup broadcast on Telemundo and Universo, “Sueno de Campeones” or “Champions Dream,” by Emmy Award winning composer and producer Yoav Goren. Recorded in Studio One at the Abbey Road Studios in London with an 80-piece orchestra consisting of strings, brass and percussion, “Sueno de Campeones” layers the orchestra to get a bigger sound with a 60-person choir, a guitar and a piano, providing enough range and versatility to be used across Telemundo Deportes’ live broadcasts, pre- and post-games and additional World Cup programming.
ESPN Events unveiled the teams for the 2018 Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic, lining up Florida, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and West Virginia with play tipping off on Dec. 4 on ESPN from Madison Square Garden.
ESPN Events also announced that the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl will now be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., beginning this year. The postseason game will continue to hold a presence in Pinellas County during bowl week, hosting multiple events and maintaining relationships with its beach hotel partners.
ESPN also announced that its final telecast of the Indianapolis 500 on ABC on Sunday will begin with a prerace show at 11a. Allen Bestwick calls the race and will be joined by Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. The telecast will utilize a record 110 cameras, covering on-track action from dozens of locations and providing unique viewpoints such as from the pace car, a crew member’s helmet, a parachutist and cameras on cars competing in the race. The camera count also will include the use of four Super So-Mo cameras placed in all four turns of the track to enhance replay coverage.
Finally, ESPN and Special Olympics USA Games will stage the first-ever ESPN | Special Olympics Unified Sports Challenge from July 1-6 at of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Seattle. The event will feature executives and their employees, celebrities and Special Olympics athletes all competing in multiple Unified Sports challenges with each executive part of a Unified team of five people. Companies who will have teams will include: Bank of America; Coca-Cola; DocuSign; Holland America Line; Kaiser Permanente; Microsoft; Seattle Mariners; Starbucks; the University of Washington and WWE.
NASCAR announced the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2019. The five-person group will consist of Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Jeff Gordon, Roger Penske and Jack Roush. In addition, NASCAR announced that Jim Hunter earned the 2019 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The distinguished group will be honored during the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Feb. 1, 2019.
The PGA TOUR announced an hour-long special, titled PGA TOUR 2018: The First Family of Golf presented by Nationwide that will run on Sunday at 2p on CBS.  Produced by PGA TOUR Entertainment, the show is narrated by Barbara Nicklaus, and will examine the many facets of Jack Nicklaus’ family-first life
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Herbalife Nutrition renewed its multi-year sponsorship with soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, extending their relationship to 2021. Through the sponsorship, Herbalife Nutrition will maintain the exclusive rights to promote Ronaldo in connection with the nutrition, wellness and sports performance products category.
DraftKings and Jagermeister announced “The Real Shot,” a bracket-style soccer competition that will let US soccer fans adopt a team to carry with them throughout the World Cup. “We are proud to offer sports fans in America an exciting way to be a part of the biggest soccer tournament in the world through this partnership with Jägermeister,” said Ezra Kucharz, Chief Business Officer of DraftKings. “Sports is one of the fastest growing forms of content, accelerated by fan engagement and participation, and we are committed to bringing top-tier content to our extremely engaged customer base.”

The NFL, Fanatics and Nike announced a 10-year partnership granting Fanatics exclusive consumer product licensing rights to manufacture and distribute all Nike NFL adult products (jerseys, sideline apparel and fan gear) that will be sold through the retail community, including NFLShop.com, NFL clubs and brick & mortar stores. The partnership, which begins with the 2020 season, showcases a new model for licensed sports merchandise. 
The Players’ Tribune and American Family Insurance announced a new year-long partnership and video series, Take Action, that will highlight athletes supporting local communities in need, as well as advocating for causes they are passionate about. As an extension of TPT’s ongoing partnership with American Family Insurance, Take Action will explore issues of community, equality and education, while also harnessing the athlete’s voice to help take meaningful action in these areas.    
Facebook announced that season three of Ball in the Family will premiere on Sunday, June 10. The 24-episode season will follow the family as it takes on new challenges and adventures.

In this week’s edition of Cynopsis Esports & Gaming…   
  • Fortnite’s $100 million bounty draws big guns
  • Team Dignitas’ new leader maps out future
  • ELEAGUE’s new faces for Street Fighter Invitational
  • Rainbow Six Siege shakes it up
  • Gears of War teams up with Halo
  • SMITE’s Summer Split
  • Immortals’ Otter option
  • MSI Grand Final gets historic viewership

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Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which team has won the most Champions League titles? Answer: Real Madrid. Kudos: John Ferlazzo/London; Luke Tarby-A+E Networks/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Brian Traynor-Endeavor/NY; James J. Pepe-American Cancer Society/Bethlehem; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner & Triathlete magazine/Houston; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

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