05/31/16: Cordella talks NBC’s Playmaker plot; NHL’s June 22 decision; ELeague’s round one



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Good morning. It’s Tuesday May 31, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

After years of setting records with its streaming coverage of the Olympic Games and the NFL, last week’s news that NBC Sports Digital would be taking on the likes of MLBAM with its new Playmaker Media service marked the latest evolutionary step for the company and comes as NBC Sports Digital prepares for the production goliath of the Rio Olympics. The new service will see the company launch live streaming and VOD solutions for clients, leveraging its 10-plus years of live streaming that includes more than 10,000 events this year. Its first client, naturally, will be the IOC, with Playmaker to provide live streaming video support for the IOC’s Olympic Channel.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Rick Cordella, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Digital Media, NBC Sports Group about the launch, the Olympics and how sports are driving technological change.

Cordella on launching Playmaker Media: We’ve streamed for a long while. We started streaming back in 2008 and we were the first ones to start streaming the NFL. Now, we have the technology, the team, the know-how, and expertise to really stream live events at scale. As we do, we look around for other business opportunities and more and more of our league partners are taking rights that they have either retained or are creating and we are seeing broadcasters put out more and more content out on the Internet. People are more comfortable than ever streaming content with the proliferation of devices. We felt it was the right time to extend ourselves since we’ve got a great product, and there are probably others who could use this technology, particularly our partners.

On sports driving change: I think what’s happened is because of the difference between VOD and live. Live is really trying to, as I like to say, bake the pie and get it out there at the same time, instead of baking the pie two days earlier and bringing it out at the time of your choosing. It’s hard. We’ve been through it with the Olympics and the Super Bowl to stream at that scale with monetization. The Internet is not really made for this.

On clients: We are now partnering with the IOC, which has been one of our closest partners and we’re helping them launch the IOC’s international Olympic channel which launches later this year. When we sign up a big project like that, we will staff up, but the people who are working on it, most of the time, are already based here.

On NBC’s digital plans at the Olympics: We will be streaming every event live, with about 4500 hours of content. So there will be 40+ concurrent feeds at any one time. It is enormous and stretches us. But it make it better for everything else that we do. It is hair-raising at time during the Olympics but we are a better technological company for it. We have a great staff here and we have a pretty good baseline of digital employees here to begin with. But for Rio, we will be growing to about 300-350 digital employees.

Hear more from Rick Cordella at the Cynopsis Sports Business Summit on June 22. Tomorrow is the last day for early registration discounts, so get your tickets now and catch the best minds in the business looking forward, learn about how upcoming trends will impact your business, honor our 2016 Hall of Fame class and network with peers.


Speaking of June 22, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that a decision on league expansion will likely be made on that day when the board of governors meet, noting that the decision would come down to “no expansion,” a deferred decision or “whether it will be a one-team or a two-team expansion.” Meanwhile, Bettman also sounded pessimistic on the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Olympic Games, noting that the costs are "significant.”

Game 6 between the Thunder and Warriors pushed TNT on Saturday to an average of 10.8 million total viewers and a 6.2 U.S. HH rating, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals, to rank as the network’s most-viewed and highest-rated Conference Finals Game 6 of all time. The matchup is up 33% in total viewers and 27% in rating when compared with 2014, the last time TNT televised the WCF. Additionally, TNT’s Inside the NBA garnered a 4.1 HH rating, marking its highest overnight rating of the season.

In other ratings news, NBC Universo’s Liga MX final match, pitting Pachuca/Monterrey on Thursday ranked as the highest-rated telecast in the network’s history with an average of 808,000 total viewers. The match also delivered 507,000 adults 18-49, tied for highest historical performance in this demo.

With the Stanley Cup Final now underway, NBC Sports announced that Game 3’s broadcast home is still up in the air on June 4 at 8p. If the series is tied 1-1 at that point, Game 3 will run on NBC, while Game 4 will air on NBCSN. If the series is 2-0, Game 3 will instead air on NBCSN, and Game 4 will air on NBC.

Chris Berman’s agent was quick to shoot down Thursday’s report that the ESPN stalwart would be retiring in February after wrapping up his NFL assignments. The Big Lead broke the news of Berman’s plans, however “Boomer’s” agent subsequently told the New York Times that “Chris is not retiring,” adding, “(He) loves what he’s doing too much and is too young to hang ’em up.”

Speaking of ESPN, the company unveiled its coverage plans for the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, lining up ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network and ESPN3 to carry all of the possible 153 championship contests from the Regionals, Super Regionals and College World Series (spanning  June 18-29). The Regionals will include the return of ESPN’s four-day Bases Loaded platform that provides unlimited live cut-ins and highlights from numerous games, plus up-to-the-minute commentary from ESPN analysts. ESPNU and the Goal Line/Buzzer Beater remain the home for Bases Loaded coverage, with ESPN and ESPN2 scheduled to carry daily simulcasts. Matt Schick and Brendan Fitzgerald will anchor alongside analyst Kyle Peterson.

We Need to Talk returns to CBS Sports Network lineup tonight at 7p, with a run that spans through June 28. This evening’s ep will include Tracy Wolfson, Allie LaForce, Lisa Leslie and Dara Torres and feature Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi in studio, while Grant Hill also joins to break down Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
Fight Network is adding professional wrestling series British Wrestling Weekly to its lineup. The weekly show showcases U.K.-based New Generation Wrestling as a one-hour series on Friday’s at 2a in Canada. “The roots of professional wrestling in Britain trace all the way back to the start of the 20th century,” said Chad Midgley, VP of Fight Network. “Over 100 years later, the U.K. continues to produce some of the best performers in the business. We’re excited to bolster our international pro wrestling lineup with the addition of British Wrestling Weekly.”


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The Detroit Pistons took home the NBA’s first-ever Team Marketing Campaign of the Year Award at the league’s Sponsorship, Marketing and Digital Workshop in Austin. The winning Pistons’ campaign, dubbed Detroit Basketball took home the honors after the league invited each team to submit its best season-long team marketing campaign from the 2015-16 season. “The Pistons created a campaign that was highly successful because it created unity between the team and the people of Detroit,” said Amy Brooks, NBA Executive Vice President, Team Marketing & Business Operations. “The blue collar, grassroots approach that the team took resonated with its fans because it was authentic and expressed the Pistons’ aspirations for the team.”

The PGA of America locked in a deal with PrimeSport for a multi-year partnership that will see the company become the “Official Travel Package Provider of the PGA Championship and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship,” as well as the “Official Ticket Exchange Provider of the 2016 Ryder Cup.” “The PGA of America is delighted to enter into this exciting partnership with PrimeSport that offers new ways to experience the PGA Championship, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and Ryder Cup,” said PGA of America Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Price. “As the spectator experience continues to evolve, PrimeSport allows us to reach a new consumer base and, together, we’re able to provide additional opportunities for people to attend our premier championship events.”


Google announced that the newest batch of upgrades for its iOS app will feature sports highlights within Now cards. “When you get a card with sports highlights, just tap the play button and watch it right from the app,” said Google’s VP of Product Management, Tamar Yehoshua on the Inside Search blog.


Friday’s debut of ELeague drummed up an overnight Nielsen score of a 0.2 for the entire telecast, according to SBJ, with Turner Sports reporting that the TBS primetime window from 10-11p averaged 509,000 total viewers on the channel, which is on par with average broadcasts of NHL and MLS games this season (at least for the portion announced). Viewership dropped from the channel’s off-network runs of The Big Bang Theory the previous week, although its rating easily bested its reported guarantee of a .1 rating to advertisers. Overall, the league notched more than 150 million gross minutes of video consumption on Twitch during its premiere week, generating 4.3 million video streams and saw a peak of 92K concurrent streams on the platform. ELeague tackles week two of Group Play featuring G2 Esports, Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP), OpTic and Selfless in action.

Leagues, platforms, publishers, sponsors, venues, team owners and players: they will all be at the Cynopsis eSports Conference on June 23. Go behind-the-scenes of this exploding industry and discover how competitive gaming will impact your business and consumers. Click here for tickets.


Learfield added Jon Heidtke to serve as Senior Vice President of Learfield and relocate to College Station, where he will oversee all aspects of the Texas A&M’s new business partnership program. Heidtke spent the past two decades as SVP and GM for FOX Sports Southwest.


Dodgers/Cubs on ESPN at 8p.


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ON THIS DAY in 2008: Usain Bolt sets a new world record in the men’s 100 meter race, winning in 9.72 seconds.

In The Know: What is the name of Texas A&M’s canine mascot? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: In what venue did the Los Angeles Rams play right before moving to St. Louis? Answer: Anaheim Stadium. Kudos: Jay Goldstein-AdMore/NY; Lewis Blaustein-GreenSportsBlogger/NY; Joe Sikorski-Tennis Channel/NY; Bob Eisenstaedt-Granite Springs Productions/Tampa; Joe Schreiber-3 Penny Films/Bethesda; Dan Shugart-WEAR/Pensacola; Michael May-PHIT America/Wellington; John Ward-Tennis Channel/Chicago; Bill Robertson-WCHA/Edina; Michael Jaquet-U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association/Park City; Rick Pike-InterMedia Advertising/Woodland Hills; Miriam Aardahl-OMD/LA; John Baghdassarian-Olympusat/LA; Steven Gold-Nielsen Sports/Las Vegas.

Later — Chris
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