07/17/17: Olympic Channel is off to the races; AT&T Sportsnet takes root; Ohio State faces marketing Spiel

Good morning. It’s Monday July 17, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Saturday marked the launch of NBC Sports’ latest endeavor, the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA in partnership with the IOC and the USOC. The linear TV network will offer fans year-round programming of Olympic sports from around the world, with a spotlight on top American athletes and teams and a programming lineup that will emphasize live events from a portfolio of summer and winter Olympic Sports, as well as original series and archival footage from the IOC and NBCU’s libraries of Olympic features and documentaries.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics and Business, NBC Sports Group about the launch, expectations and who benefits from the network.
Zenkel on the launch of Olympic Channel: We knew we would achieve the IOC and USOC’s objectives in the United States by utilizing our platforms and our strength in production, marketing and distribution. Subsequently, we received terrific reception as we prepared to launch and will be launching into 35 million homes. We have agreements with virtually every one of the MVPDs. There are a couple we don’t have agreements with yet, but we are quite confident they will join us in the coming months. Overall, the distribution community has widely embraced this channel and interestingly at a time when launching a linear cable channel is not necessarily something one would be encouraged to do.
On opportunities for sponsors: Among Olympic sponsors, we’ve had great interest and great feedback from initial discussions with them on this opportunity. We, of course, are in the middle of a sales cycle with the PyeongChang Olympics approaching in February so some sponsors you will see immediately on the channel this month while others will emerge over time as we get closer to the games and beyond. But we are confident the Olympic sponsor community will embrace this opportunity as a chance to broaden their activation and the message that will deliver in and around an Olympics onto these platforms and in connection with this content. That’s something they haven’t been given historically.
On how it helps NBC Olympics: At the end of the day, there are several reasons why the world gathers around the Olympics. For the US audience, it’s a tradition that is simply embedded in our culture. But there are clearly other factors and one big one is a connection to these incredible athletes who also happen to be incredibly relatable. By having this distribution system in our linear channels as well as content to deliver digitally, it is giving us the ability to continue on the backside of an Olympics to tell those stories, which our audience has so readily embraced throughout the course of history. In addition to that the IOC – as part of this partnership – is investing significantly in the creation of original content designed around telling these stories and revisiting the great rivalries and more, and we will have the ability to access all of that content.
On the sports that will benefit from the network: Sports that are conducting a lot of international events, volleyball for one, beach volleyball, the World Cup ski tour, etc. will also benefit. We look forward to showcasing most of those events. We just acquired rights to the archery world championship, which is something that we haven’t had before. So there are some sports where we haven’t necessarily had the room for, that we can now feature.

AT&T formally pulled the plug on its Root Sports brand in the Pittsburgh, Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions, converting the RSNs to the AT&T SportsNet brand, “We have always brought an authentic and personal level of coverage to all of our teams, because as fans, we also know the history and feel the rivalries,” said Bill Roberts, head of content for AT&T Sports Networks. “And while we have that same undying commitment to quality, this rebrand will help us heighten the experience as we transform our visual effects capabilities further.”
FOX Sports saw the North American Darts Championship double FS1’s typical Thursday time period rating the last two weeks. Baltimore ranked as the event’s top-rated market, posting a .37, followed by Norfolk (.34), Seattle (.33), Richmond (.28), San Diego (.26), Albuquerque (.25), Washington, DC (.24), West Palm Beach (.22), OKC (.18) & NYC (.17).
ESPN and its family of platforms are set to present the 2017 International Champions Cup from July 18-30. The slate of 19 international club soccer matches will be played in the United States, Singapore and China over a two-week period beginning with AC Milan/Borussia Dortmund at 7:15a. Play-by-play voices Jon Champion (English) and Fernando Palomo (Spanish) lead the ESPN commentator teams.
Golf Channel Films’ newest offering Summer of 76 debuts tomorrow at 9p following Golf Central Live From The Open. The film showcases the duel at the tournament between Johnny Miller and a 19-year-old old Seve Ballesteros. Tim Matheson narrates.
Former Today correspondent/anchor Jenna Wolfe could soon be a part of the Fox Sports 1 family. The Sporting News reports that Wolfe is a finalist for the network after she “killed” her audition to join Cris Carter and Nick Wright on First Things First, which would serve as a lead-in for Undisputed on the channel.
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Ohio State football alumni Chris Spielman is reportedly suing the school “over a marketing program he says used athletes’ images without permission and robbed them of compensation,” according to the AP. The linebacker filed the antitrust lawsuit in federal court in Columbus on behalf of current and former Ohio State football players, stating that university marketing programs and contracts that promote the university are using likenesses of athletes such as him, including a Honda-sponsored program of 64 banners hung around Ohio Stadium featuring photos of former players. The lawsuit names Ohio State and talent management giant IMG as defendants and names Honda and Nike as co-conspirators.

SportsManias announced a partnership with MLS for animated player emojis. Features include customized emojis of top MLS players who recreate their victory goal celebrations and signature moves, including Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard’s goal saving powers, and Alberth Elis. “These player emoji animations enhance the MLS viewing experience and enable friends and family to show off their team pride,” said MLS SVP Maribeth Towers. “During every match, fans have a cool new way to celebrate their victories and share their passion.”
Tomorrow will see the Paley Media Council host the Commissioners of the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB for its session, “GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports.” The summit will explore the shifts – from the rapid growth of international audiences, ever expanding network, cable and over-the-top distribution deals, to technological innovations including multi-platform livestreaming, to social media integrations, mobile interactivity and VR—that are altering the ways audiences consume sports. David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications will moderate. To request a livestream of the event please contact Teresa Brady at 212-621-6697.

NBC Sports Group, in partnership with FACEIT and Psyonix, has opened US registration for the Universal Open on Faceit.com. The 2v2 tournament featuring Rocket League will see the Qualifier stage played on FACEIT from July 19-20 and July 25-27. Meanwhile, the NBC Sports Regional Networks will each hold online Qualifiers organized geographically with the tournament then moving on to the Regionals stage where top performers in the Qualifiers will compete live at select NBC Sports Regional Networks studios on the weekends of August 5-6 and August 12-13.
Red Bull will host this year’s Capcom Pro Tour North American regional finals at its Red Bull Battle Grounds event for Street Fighter V players. The action runs Nov. 18-19 at The Castle in Boston and marks the second year in a row that Red Bull Battle Grounds will serve as the North American final host.

Travis Howe joined ESPN as Senior Vice President, Digital Ad Product Sales and Strategy. Howe will be charged with establishing the go-to-market strategy for ESPN’s digital advertising business moving forward to enhance the overall ESPN Platform. He joins ESPN from Mediaocean.
Outdoor Sportsman Group named Sean Luxton as Senior Vice President and General Manager – MOTV and World Fishing Network. Luxton has served as the Vice President and General Manager – World Fishing Network U.S. since 2015.

Blue Jays/Red Sox at 7p on ESPN.

Here they are! The Finalists for the Model D Awards: Honoring the Best in Online Video Content, Advertising & Talent.
Click to see who made the cut. Then come join us on November 4th at the Apella NY for this luncheon celebration!

ON THIS DAY in 1990: Yankee Deion Sanders hits an inside-the-park HR.
In the Know: Bo Jackson was originally drafted by which NFL team? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Who holds the MLB record for most HRs as a member of the Dodgers? Answer: Duke Snider. Kudos: Carl W. Schellenberger-VCA/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Ken White-KWTV/Charlotte; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; David Hauptman/Denver; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver; Rick Pike-InterMedia Advertising/Woodland Hills; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Miriam Aardahl-OMD/LA; Don Surath-KPIX-TV/KBCW-TV/San Francisco

Later — Chris

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