06/11/16: NeuLion’s 4K play; Networks draw a Wild Card boost; Beyonce is back


Good morning. It’s Monday January 11, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Another year of CES is in the books, and amid the stories on wearables, VR, and streaming deals in the sports industry, NeuLion saw its own stay on show floor highlighted by a slate of deals anchored by the swelling adoption of 4K streaming. Among the news items making headlines were the company’s deal with Sony to bring live 4K content to Sony televisions by embedding  NeuLion’s DivX CE Technology to its products to enable live 4K streaming events and OTT services; a partnership with Samsung for live 4K OTT services on Samsung Ultra HD Smart TVs in 2016; and a new 4K mobile app designed to play any video from a mobile device to every every connected device that supports all video formats. In addition, the company announced a deal to help launch Univision NOW, an OTT service that will offer live video streams of Univision’s broadcast channels directly to consumers via a subscription service, complete with interactive features.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with NeuLion’s co-Chief Technical Officer Eric Grab about CES, the company’s evolution and what to expect next.

Grab on the company’s evolution at CES: There’s been a growth pattern and expansion that has gone deeper into electronics so we are able to have builder relationships to get to the most valuable content which is sports. The fact that we continue to grow live operations is a big piece of this as doing live Internet video can be a particular challenge for companies. So we are specializing in that and we have a great platform for it. It ties a lot of pieces together, so that if people want to view live Internet sports video that’s better than what you’ve got on current linear TV – because you’ve got the interface, you’ve got the context-aware features of the sport – it gets people engaged. Now we are pushing the limits with 4K, so now we can get higher resolution, so getting that to the consumer is something we are passionate about and that’s where we are building out from.

On the needs of sports partners: Our partners want deeper engagement with their fans, they want to explore VR and 360 video, as well as more details in analytics. It has to work on multiple levels of stats. They are expecting a better experience. The Internet should be differentiated from plain, old broadcast TV. How do we make it better? So they are expecting us to give those consumers a better experience.

On what’s next: We are betting on more live sports and international expansion. We are betting on 4K. I think we are going to see a continual shift to people expecting the kind of control they get in Internet video and once they see it, we don’t expect them to go backwards. For us, it’s expanding in the right markets of different sports. Univision is a great example of us diversifying and getting into different content types.

On biggest hurdles: You do have some technology adoption issues. 4K is hot but then you look at market penetration of 4K displays. You also have Internet bandwidth, and probably only 20% of US households can deal with 4K streaming. I think a challenge is that it is a business model change. Moving from these big carriage deals onto Internet video is a big shift, even though that’s where the momentum is going because it is hard to get off the current revenue streams. Whenever you have disruption at that level, there are always obstacles for them, so our pitch is that if they come with us, our platforms is evolving very quickly and that they will keep getting updates to bigger and better things and reduce their risk but managing that ourselves. We don’t just do little pieces, we do the whole thing.


Wild Card Weekend gave a boost to both CBS and ESPN/ABC as telecasts saw growth for both companies. The NFL on CBS’s Steelers/Bengals matchup on Saturday averaged 31.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast national ratings for a 12% markup over last year’s equitable telecast. That score marks the most-watched AFC Wild Card game on any network in four years. Overnight ratings delivered a 19.2/32, up 11%.

Around the dial, ESPN/ABC’s simulcast over the Chiefs romp over the Texans averaged a 14.7 household rating and 25,171,000 viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals. The combined rating on both ESPN and ABC marks a 15% spike in household rating with a 13% rise in viewership over year-ago numbers. In Kansas City, the game delivered a combined 52.1 rating in the market. In Houston, the game delivered a combined 32.6 rating. Numbers don’t include ESPN Deportes’ coverage which will be released later this week.

Tonight’s coverage of the College Football Playoff National Championship via the ESPN Megacast will now see more head coaches to ESPN2’s Film Room telecast. Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Will Muschamp (South Carolina), Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh), and Willie Taggart (South Florida) are also now on board to the presentation. Jim McElwain (Florida) was previously announced. ESPN analysts Brian Griese and Chris Spielman will also be with the coaches.

Speaking of ESPN, the company announced its slate of MLS games for the 2016 season, launching March 6 at 4:30p with a rematch of the 2015 MLS Cup as the Timbers host Columbus Crew SC on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN. Overall, 29 of the 33 MLS on ESPN telecast windows will take place on Sunday afternoon with 28 regular season game on ESPN and 5 on ESPN2. MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers will see an MLS-best 8 matches on ESPN this year while the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC each have 7.

Jordan Spieth’s quest to win the Hyundai Tournament of Champions over the weekend delivered Golf Channel with a hot start to the New Year through Saturday’s play. Round 3 delivered an overnight rating of .73 to NBC Sports Group overall to mark the highest overnight score for any of the first three rounds at the tournament since 2006. Golf Channel’s coverage of Round 3 generated a .52 overnight score. Previously, the tournament saw first round overage grow 27% on Golf Channel with a .33, and a 25% rise on Friday with a .40.

The NCAA is apparently opting for a look-in, and has reopened negotiations with CBS and Turner for the men’s basketball tournament television contract. The Indianapolis Business Journal writes that, while the organization’s current, 14-year deal with the two broadcasters stretches through 2024, it is opting to make the most of the first of two look-ins to renegotiate, with the parties discussing pushing the deal out as far as 2032.

Alibaba Group’s sports arm, Ali Sports, locked in a deal with the NFL to carry league games, highlights and weekly programming in mainland China, according to multiple reports. Streaming games would be available for NFL games on Youku Tudou, TV box Tianmao Mohe asl well as other Alibaba platforms with Super Bowl 50 carries on Ali Sports in China next month.

Elsewhere, UFC is forging new ground, announcing two events slated to take place in Europe in 2016; Croatia at the Zagreb Arena on April 10 and in The Netherlands at the Ahoy Rotterdam on May 8. Both locations mark new markets for the MMA promotion.


You need to be in it, to WIN it… Enter Today


Entry Deadline: January 21, 2016
Late Submission Deadline: January 28, 2016
Awards Event: April 21, 2016 (NYC)


Beyonce is back in. The artist will return to the Super Bowl halftime show, joining Coldplay, according to the AP, on Feb. 7 as part of the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. She previously headlined the performance show in New Orleans. Beyonce and Coldplay recently collaborated on the band’s new album, "A Head Full of Dreams."

Speaking of performers, the NFL announced that Rachel Platten will perform in the pregame show before the 2016 Pro Bowl president by USAA. The 2016 Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 31 and carried on ESPN at 7p.

Golden Boy Promotions is toasting a new partnership with beer company Tecate to serve as the main sponsor of its bi-monthly boxing series on Estrella TV. The partnership launches on Jan. 29 at the LA Fight Club headlined by Julian "El Camaron" Ramirez taking on Christopher "S.D. Kid" Martin and will see the brand featured in the center ring, around the mat and throughout the arena, complemented by an extensive marketing campaign taking over Las Vegas from April 6 to May 3 called #MyBoldOpinions.

Wienerschnitzel announced its newest Monster Energy Supercross partnership with Feld Motor Sports for select 2016 West Coast Supercross races. The brand will receive a large pit presence at the races as well as promotional mentions via a variety of media vehicles including television and radio broadcast. Attendees at select West Coast Supercross events will have the opportunity to cheer on local dachshunds competing on the track for the title of “Fastest Wiener in the West” during the Wienerschnitzel Wiener National race!


Tonight’s CFP National Championship will see Zebra Technologies’ Zebra Sports Solution utilized to implement its real-time, revolutionary player tracking system. The platform was used for the semi-finals, collaborating with the CFP and the four participating schools (Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State, Oklahoma). “We are expanding on our 2015 regular season college football initiatives and our work with the CFP along with each of the four Universities selected to participate in this year’s college football playoffs,” said Eric Petrosinelli, GM, Zebra Sports. “By bringing innovative player tracking technology to the games, we are providing schools with in-depth player tracking data.”


Alabama/Clemson on ESPN at 8:30p.

ON THIS DAY in 1995: The NHLPA and NHL owners agree to end months-long lockout.

In The Know: Who was the last center to lead the NBA in scoring for the season? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which NFL tight end claims the record for most career touchdowns in the league? Answer: Tony Gonzalez. Kudos: Aymon DeMauro-Discovery/NY; Marc Wollis-NBC Sports Group/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Mike Donato-ABC/NY; G. David Brown-FOX Sports/Charlotte; Ron Cioffi-USTA Southern/Peachtree Corners; Janis Logan-WideOrbit/Tampa; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Steve McNair-KUBE TV/Houston; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Gretchen Brady-KTVT/Dallas; David Hauptman/Denver; Brienne Chance-G/O Digital/Phoenix; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions/Santa Monica; Paul Gygli-NBCUniversal Television Distribution/Universal City.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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