06/28/21: FOX Sports’ David Neal rolls out his soccer strategy ahead of next year’s World Cup

 

Medias First Morning Read

 

Monday June 28, 2021

Offering a peak into its World Cup plans for 2022, FOX Sports’ Summer of Soccer is well underway, offering fans nearly 300 hours of key international competitions such as CONMEBOL Copa América 2021, 2021 WNT Send-Off Series, 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and the 2021 MLS All-Star Game. With the World Cup already being touted at upfront meetings, Cynopsis Sports caught up with David Neal, Executive Producer of FIFA World Cup on FOX and Vice President, Production to discuss the lineup of tournaments, the evolution of soccer at FOX Sports and, of course, the World Cup.

Neal on how the role of soccer has evolved at the company: In the 10 years since I joined FOX Sports, soccer has become one of the pillars of the company. Our world-class portfolio expanded this year with the signing of a long-term agreement with CONMEBOL. We are now home to the biggest international soccer competitions in the world with the FIFA World Cup, FIFA Women’s World Cup, CONMEBOL Copa America and Concacaf Gold Cup as well as top leagues such as MLS and Liga MX.
We’ve been working tirelessly to help grow the sport in the United States by delivering the best productions, assembling deep talent rosters of expert voices and showcasing our matches across FOX, FS1, FS2, FOX Deportes and across the FOX Sports App.

On new initiatives during FOX Sports’ ‘summer of soccer’: A: We couldn’t be more excited about FOX’s Summer of Soccer. Our extensive offerings include nearly 300 hours of soccer programming highlighted by Copa America, the 2021 USWNT Send-off Series, Gold Cup and the MLS All-Star Game. Another highlight for fans is seeing their favorite commentators work multiple productions because we are calling games remotely (due to the pandemic). Stu Holden is the perfect example. He’s our lead color commentator for men’s soccer and also fantastic in-studio, so now we don’t have to limit his role to just calling matches. We can have Stu in the studio for the first two or three blocks of the pregame show, then on the game call, and back on the set for postgame coverage.

On preparing for the World Cup: The set location has become part of a tradition with World Cups here at FOX Sports, wherever we are, whether it’s Paris with the Eiffel Tower or in Moscow’s Red Square, we try to find the perfect location for the main set that embodies the host nation. We’re in the process of identifying the set location for 2022. We’re also taking this time to evaluate talent and identify our needs for the tournament. Aly Wagner made history in 2018 by becoming the first woman to call a World Cup and we continue to deepen our roster with the best commentators.

On momentum since the upfronts: Well first of all, we’re all still thinking about Alexi’s (Lalas) performance – he deserves a nom in the best supporting category. Putting that aside, there’s been great momentum and enthusiasm for the World Cup. We’re getting ready for what we know will be a very busy cycle with the World Cup in November 2022, followed by the Women’s World Cup in the summer of 2023, so there’s a lot of work ahead and seeing the event featured so prominently just generated even more excitement.

On audience trends: We’ve learned that the American viewers have become more and more accustomed and familiar with brand names like Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar and the same is true for big time national teams – France, England, Germany, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil. These are teams that need no introduction to our viewers and draw interest even when they aren’t playing the USMNT. They are brand names that are quickly recognized and understood by American viewers. And soccer as a whole continues to grow. One of the biggest TV hits last year, “Ted Lasso,” was centered around a soccer team.

On the impact of COVID: Our plan in 2020 was to begin a slow build to the road to the World Cup and to start highlighting the U.S. Men’s National Team and the new young faces on the roster as they prepared for the qualifiers. But as we all know, the pandemic put that on the backburner. While it was less than ideal to have to put things on hold, we were fortunate because the World Cup won’t take place until November of 2022, so pausing things at that point didn’t cause too much disruption. Just like all the other networks, we had to quickly adapt to our new normal and to all the challenges caused by the pandemic. Our entire team worked countless hours to produce the matches remotely in a way that was seamless for the viewers. We were aggressive in rolling out new production enhancements such as introducing crowd noise – through Grammy Award-winner Frederick Vogler who works as a principal sound designer and FOH mixer for the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall – to our soccer productions to make the experience as normal as possible for the fans.

PROGRAMMING

The 2021 Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens begins tonight at 8p on NBCSN and Peacock with NBC Sports lining up Kenny Albert to handle play-by-play duties alongside Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst). Pre-game coverage on Monday will begin with NHL Live at 7p where Liam McHugh will anchor studio coverage alongside studio analysts Keith Jones, Anson Carter and Patrick Sharp. Kathryn Tappen and Pierre McGuire will provide on-site reports from Tampa. If the series goes the distance, Game 7 is set to take place on July 11 on NBC.

Meanwhile, the NHL will reveal the winners of its five remaining regular-season trophies during the 2021 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone, a 30-minute program running tomorrow night at 7:30p on NBCSN as well as Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. The special will be co-hosted by NBC Sports’ Kenny Albert and Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas and announce the winners of the 2020-21 Calder Memorial Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, James Norris Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Vezina Trophy.

ESPN boasted that the 36 UEFA EURO 2020 Group Stage matches that ran across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 through June 23 delivered an average audience of 869,000 viewers, up 23% compared to 707,000 viewers for the group stage matches of EURO 2016. Saturday’s Portugal-Germany on ESPN averaged 1.83 million viewers to rank as the largest audience for a UEFA EURO group stage match since 2012.

Michael Strahan will make his inaugural appearance with athletes and entertainers at the American Century Championship golf tournament in Lake Tahoe from July 9-11 and televised on NBC. He will be part of a field that includes Justin Timberlake, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Charles Barkley and a lineup that represents 16 Hall of Famers, 13 Most Valuable Players, and 15 Cy Young Award winners.

Discovery opened the doors to Discovery Sports, described as a new corporate brand designed to represent the dedicated group that operates its portfolio of sports brands, channels and platforms, which includes the growing discovery+, Eurosport, Global Cycling Network (GCN), Global Mountain Bike Network (GMBN), Golf Digest and GOLFTV, as well as its events management and promotion arm, Eurosport Events. While each of Discovery’s consumer facing sports brands will continue to be presented and operate as usual, Discovery Sports will support collaboration within all areas of the combined sports business that Discovery takes to market. Andrew Georgiou will lead the full portfolio.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

 

Just ahead of the Stanley Cup Final tonight, the NHL confirmed a partnership with Clubhouse that will allow fans to have conversations with teams and players, hosted by hosted by NBC’s Anson Carter and Sportsnet’s Kris Versteeg. The deal kicked off last night. “We are thrilled to work with Clubhouse to give our fans direct access to our players at the pinnacle of the season – the Stanley Cup Final,” said NHL CMO Heidi Browning. “We hope this is just the first of many opportunities to leverage Clubhouse’s platform to offer exclusive, live audio experiences to hockey fans year-round.”

Speaking of hockey, Seattle’s upcoming franchise and arena partnered with Washington’s oldest winery, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in a deal to showcase Chateau Ste. Michelle and 14 Hands wine. “So much of what inspires us is our history and the Pacific Northwest which is why Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the perfect partner for us,” said Tod Leiweke, Seattle Kraken CEO.A Chateau Ste. Michelle branded wine bar – “The Chateau” – in the Mount Baker Hall (for club-level season ticket members).

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Sports Illustrated is diving into the gaming game, locking in a deal with online betting company 888 for an exclusive partnership to develop Sports Illustrated online sports betting and iGaming products across the country, including the launch of SI Sportsbook later in 2021, beginning in Colorado. “We are thrilled to announce that Sports Illustrated is entering the online sports betting and iGaming space,” Authentic Brands Group founder, Chairman and CEO Jamie Salter said. “888 is one of the leaders in online betting and gaming globally and has outstanding technology, products and marketing capabilities, and we are excited to partner with them to offer an innovative product experience for sports fans.”

The New York Sports Hall of Fame relaunched with a slate of digital firsts, including bidding on a non-fungible token (NFT) of the the iconic 1939 “Luckiest Man” address by New York Yankees captain Lou Gehrig. The film is the longest single-source recording of the speech and the first known Gehrig speech NFT. Later this year, the Hall plans to release digital commemoratives of more of its 310 inductees to date and to open balloting for its next member class.

ESPORTS

Fnatic locked up a global partnership with global cybersecurity and digital privacy firm Kaspersky, that will deliver multi-channel digital content campaigns, digital event series’, and place the Kaspersky brand mark on the jersey of the Fnatic Rising League of Legends team. Content will be showcased across the team’s digital channels, including multiple content series’ produced by Fnatic, activations in digital events.

The Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League will reportedly expand to Brazil, marking a shift from its Southeast Asia roots, per Dot Esports. Currently, the MPL runs in four countries in the region: the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

Los Angeles Dodgers owners Mark Walter and Todd Boehly are picking up the minority stake of the Los Angeles Lakers from Philip Anschultz, according to Sportico. The transaction values the Lakers at about $5 billion, according to the report, with the stake representing 27% of the franchise.

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On this Day
1995: The Golden State Warriors select Maryland’s Joe Smith with the first pick in the NBA Draft.

IN THE KNOW
Straight, pike, tuck and free are all body positions used in which Olympic sport? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
Which teams were competing in the Super Bowl during the game’s infamous blackout in New Orleans? Answer: 49ers and Ravens. Kudos: Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Art Salisch-Nielsen/New Jersey; Sam Pittman-Juniper & Berkeley/Raleigh; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Matt Sautter-WideOrbit/Harrisburg; Willy Gibson-WTG Sports/Columbus; John Kukla-KDFW-KDF/Dallas; Lance Davis-Good Karma Brands ESPN Milwaukee/Milwaukee; Tom Doherty-T-Mobile Marketing Solutions/Chicago; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Brian Lee-Pro Sports MVP/Colorado Springs; David Hauptman/Denver; David Westberg-SAG•AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA

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SOLUTIONS SALES MANAGER
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Tailor campaigns for clients in the US market, develop in-video advertising solutions that drive new revenue. Develop and execute commercial partnerships and solutions and collaborate with the front-line sales team to drive growth. Demonstrable years of experience developing sales pitches required. Full info HERE (7/12)

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