06/20/16: Rasmussen talks media, critics and the crisis that could have derailed ESPN; ABC’s NBA Finals spike; NY’s Fantasy play


Good morning. It’s Monday June 20, 2016, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

As we head into June 23, aka the date of the Cynopsis Sports Business Summit and our eSports Conference, one element we are always proud to offer is our Hall of Fame. Honoring people who have taken an opportunity in sports and transformed it into something that changed pop culture, our class of 2016 this year is set to include International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, MLB’s groundbreaking Billy Bean as well as ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen.

Ahead of his induction on Thursday, Cynopsis Sports spoke with Rasmussen about the state of today’s media, his biggest crisis moment during ESPN’s early days, and his imprint on sports today.

Rasmussen on the state of sports media: Looking at it from a long horizon, when we started we thought there were a lot of fans who were thirsty for sports. Since we did that, first they said it would never work. Then, they said it might work for a little while but no one knew if fans would stay with us. As things began to evolve, and technology changed, people would ask how ESPN is going to compete. Well, the answer to that is that ESPN will do what they have always done, change with the technology. We always thought it would become this big and today everything is the same except for the technology. The following of fans remain the same. I look back over the broad range and think that ESPN is still serving the same information and the fans can’t get enough.

On ESPN’s biggest crisis moment at launch: We had transponder we used, but it was preemptible. Not a lot of people knew that. There were 23 overall with the military having 12, but the remaining 11 were all preemptible if necessary. That was pretty scary until we were able to get a second up. I remember one time, I was walking through Logan International Airport in Boston, and I heard my name paged. It turned out to that we had just been notified that they were going to preempt our transponder and that we would be off the air for an indeterminate about of time. That was when we were only two or three weeks old. We had made a big splash around the country for going around the clock and those type of things, and finally they called back and said that they had fixed it so we were only off the air for a very short time in the middle of the night. That was heart-stopping. We didn’t know if was going to be for an hour, a day or months.

On critics of ESPN: I think everybody should be tested. Some are potshots because of whatever their personal relationships are with the company. But I think that anybody who is a leader should always be questioned. If somebody has legitimate questions about why ESPN is doing this or that, I think they should ask that question. If it is troublesome for ESPN, then I think they have a problem. But they’ve handled it all pretty well over the years, there have been some incidents that come up that I think they would handle differently today, but that’s business.

Join us on Thursday for the 2016 Hall of Fame and get access to 19 sessions with multiple panels on marketing, technology, and more. Don’t miss out, get your tickets now and we’ll see you then.


As we wait for ratings from Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Game 6 on ABC averaged 20,702,000 average viewers, according to Nielsen, with the series remaining the second-most watched on the network, averaging 18,515,000 viewers. The matchup also scores as the most-watched NBA game ever on WatchESPN across metrics, generating 1.3 million unique viewers, an average minute audience of 391,800 viewers and approximately 68.6 million total minutes streamed.

The US’ victory over Ecuador in the Copa America averaged 2.132 million viewers on FS1 on Thursday, according to Nielsen. That once again marks the most-watched men’s soccer match in the network history, becoming the third consecutive Copa America match to set that record. The match was also the most-viewed U.S. men’s soccer match ever on FOX Sports GO and the seventh most-watched authenticated event ever on the platform, tallying 150,235 unique streamers and an average audience per minute of 70,089.

Last week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Golf Channel and NBC generated more than 6 million unique viewers, according to the company, to rank as the second-largest total audience for a women’s golf event since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. Spanning June 9-12, 6.087 million unique viewers tuned in to NBC and Golf Channel’s live and replay coverage, up 2% from the tournament’s inaugural year in 2015. NBC’s final round coverage delivered 829,000 average viewers, the most-watched final round of an LPGA major championship since the final round of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open in 2015 on FOX/FS1.

Dish Network pulled the plug on NFL Network and NFL Redzone, with the channels going dark in seven million homes on Thursday night after talks broke down for a new distribution deal. According to the league, that represents the first time in NFL Network’s 13 year history that one of its service providers has not continued to offer the network to its subscribers. Subsequently, the league announced that “NFL content has never been more popular across the media landscape. According to the Nielsen Company, 199 million people tuned into the 2015 NFL regular season representing 78 percent of all television homes and 67 percent of potential viewers in the U.S. NFL games accounted for the top 25 and 46 of the 50 most-watched TV shows among all programming in 2015.”

The IOC’s sided with the IAAF Council to ban Russia’s track and field team from competing in Rio following a World Anti-Doping Agency report that detailed state-sponsored and cover-ups at Russian drug testing bodies. According to the organization, “The IOC will initiate further far-reaching measures in order to ensure a level playing field for all the athletes taking part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The upcoming Olympic Summit on Tuesday will address the situation of the countries in which the National Anti-Doping Organisation has been declared non-compliant by WADA for reasons of the non-efficient functioning of the national anti-doping system.”

Meanwhile, Olympic organizers stated that the Games will not be affected by the Rio de Janeiro state government’s decision to declare a financial emergency. Interim governor Francisco Dornelles on Friday issued a statement that public services were looking at "total collapse" and warned that commitments for the Games might not be honored.

Eurosport locked in Wimbledon rights and will now become the only UK broadcaster to show live coverage of all four of tennis’ Grand Slams. The five-year deal with the AELTC will showcase live simulcast coverage in the UK of the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Singles finals as well as daily 90 minute highlights shows for the duration of The Championships, Wimbledon. The BBC will continue to broadcast continuous daily live coverage across BBC 1, BBC 2 and online.

The AVP scored a Northeast attendance record with just over 25,000 attending its Manhattan even for four days over the weekend. The previous mark was just over 18,000 in Brooklyn in 2008. It was the second year the AVP ran an event in Manhattan with last year’s event drawing just over 17,000.

The Portland Trail Blazers named Kevin Calabro as its new television play-by-play voice starting with the 2016-17 season. The broadcast veteran takes over for play-by-play host Mike Barrett, who departed the team with color analyst Mike Rice after 13 years calling Portland’s games. 


Cynopsis eSports Conference 
June 23 | NYC | Register

FEATURED SESSION: How Competitive Gaming is Changing Media

ESL North America, Twitch & Sportradar will detail the factors that caused the eSports explosion, how the leagues are preparing to take advantage of the growth & why brands should invest now and get in the game. You’ll learn how companies can position themselves to prepare for the change in viewing patterns, why this will impact the future of content, and lessons learned along the way.

Sponsored by: Magid Sports + rEvXP


MLB tapped Gwen Stefani, OneRepublic and Tori Kelly to headline the Budweiser MLB All-Star Concerts during All-Star Week as part of the Pepsi Music Series. Performances will take place on July 8-9 at San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park South. The event will mark the first time in history that MLB will host three major concerts for fans as part of the week. A special fireworks show will be conducted immediately following each of the two evening concerts.

Meanwhile, MLB and the MLBPA unveiled new initiatives in their joint effort to grow youth baseball and softball throughout the US and Canada. Advancements include: the appointment of Hall of Fame electee Ken Griffey Jr. as a youth ambassador; financial contributions to youth baseball projects supported by New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson and former All-StarsMarquis Grissom and John Franco; and the creation of a partnership with Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) for the training of coaches and administrators from the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.


New York passed daily fantasy sports legislation that will allow residents to once again resume playing the games pending Governor Cuomo’s signature into law. The bill includes clarification about fantasy sports’ definition of skill, consumer protections, as well as taxes and fees for the state. In a statement, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association said, “Behind the leadership of Sen. John Bonacic and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, New York legislators listened to industry concerns. They crafted legislation with important consumer protections and took into consideration the needs of the many different type of businesses in our industry.  New York has set the tone for legislation nationwide.  We’re confident that other states will follow the Empire State’s lead and pass common-sense legislation that protects consumers and supports business.”


The International e-Sports Federation continued plans in a move be recognized by International Olympic Committee with the establishment of an Athletes Commission, one of the core criteria in the IOC recognition process. The IeSF will “work together with e-Sports athletes and implement necessary procedures one-by-one for the Athletes Commission to function in the proper manner” with the commission voicing the eSports athlete’s rights, interests, and welfare starting the 45 member nations of IeSF, encouraging athletes to register for all game titles.

Gameloft is launching an international advertising campaign with YouTube stars to push smartphone brand, Honor. YouTubers from the USA, Russia, France and Germany will compete as part of #TeamHonor or #TeamGameloft in the Gameloft racing app game, Asphalt 8 with YouTubers inviting audiences to download and play the game to have a chance at winning a Honor 5X of their own. “We’re thrilled to collaborate once again with Honor, a pioneering brand in terms of technology and community involvement,” states Ludovic Blondel, Vice President Business Development at Gameloft. “Thanks to this partnership, we’ve been able to offer Honor and both our communities a fun and unique experience in a successful game that has been downloaded over 200 million times.”


Venus Williams’ fashion brand EleVen hired Marlon LeWinter to serve as Senior Director of Marketing and Public Relations. LeWinter will oversee establishment and coordination all the PR and marketing functions to drive awareness for the brand.


Nationals/Dodgers on ESPN at 10p.


2016 Hall of Fame Inductee: Lesa France Kennedy!

Lesa is the CEO & Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors for International Speedway Corporation & Vice Chairperson of NASCAR. Her award will be presented by Chairman of NBC Sports, Mark Lazarus.

Join Lesa and the other honorees such as Bill Rasmussen (Founder of ESPN), Billy Bean (MLB) & Peter King (Sports Illustrated), at the Sports Business Summit on June 23 in NYC.

For more information or to register to attend, please click here.

ON THIS DAY in 1936: Jesse Owens sets the 100 meter record at 10.2 seconds.

In The Know: What must an athlete do with a ball to perform a nutmeg? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Who was known as The Splendid Splinter? Answer: Ted Williams. Kudos: Frank Brown-NHL/NY; Nick Gaetano-MLB Advanced Media/NY; Joe Sikorski-Tennis Channel/NY; Ged Young-GC Marketing/NY; John Miller-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Joe Guarnieri-ESPN/Bristol; Jon Miller-NBC Sports/Stamford; Larry Kahn-Golf Channel/Orlando; Gretchen Brady-KTVT/Dallas; Brad Brown- Nevco/St. Louis; Bill Robertson-WCHA/Edina; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver; Jack Neumann-University of Calgary 5th Quarter Alumni Development/Calgary; Dave Sikula-Toovia/Sunnyvale; Drew Moser-San Diego Hall of Champions/San Diego; Scott Brofman-Critical Content/LA; Steve Morrow-Eclipse TV/Mill Valley.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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