07/22/15: The Open gets a bump; FOX doubles down on NFL pregame; ESPN likes Southern hospitality


Good morning. It’s Wednesday July 22, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Jordan Spieth’s quest for a majors sweep helped propel ESPN’s coverage of The Open to double-digit increases this year. Overall, the tournament scored a 1.4 household rating, according to Nielsen, up 27% over 2014 with 1,940,000 viewers, up 29%. Monday’s final round coverage peaked from 1:30-1:45p with a 3.7 rating and 5,294,000 viewers as Zach Johnson captured his second career major. Top metered markets: West Palm Beach (2.9 rating), Louisville (2.7), Oklahoma City (2.6), Tampa-St. Petersburg (2.4), Greensboro, N.C. (2.4). Meanwhile, ESPN’s digital platforms notched record-breaking viewership this year as live coverage of Monday’s final round finished as the top golf event and one of the top 10 events all-time in minutes viewed for WatchESPN with over 1.1 million unique viewers and more than 94 million total minutes viewed.


FOX Sports went public with its plans to double down on its NFL pregame programming this season, announcing that FOX NFL Kickoff will now jump to the broadcast channel after two seasons on FOX Sports 1. The series will air at 11a and lead in to FOX NFL Sunday. "With interest and demand for NFL programming at an all-time high among both consumers and advertisers, the time is right to move FOX NFL Kickoff to the network, making it more widely available than before," said Bill Wanger, FOX Sports’ Executive Vice President Programming, Research and Content Strategy. "Partnering FOX NFL Kockoff with the incomparable FOX NFL Sunday certainly enhances our coverage and provides football fans with an additional offering that makes FOX their pregame destination at an even earlier time."

ESPN is ordering another round of southern comfort, locking in a multi-year deal with the Southern Conference that will beef up coverage of conference event content across numerous ESPN platforms through the 2020-21 academic year. The deal will see ESPN and the conference work jointly to develop in-house production capabilities at each member institution by 2017 in a move to have ESPN3 showcase nearly 2,000 live events over the six years. In the final four years of the contract, a minimum of 45 Southern Conference football games and 200 men’s basketball games will appear on ESPN3 each season.

The NHL drew a deuce in its expansion process, confirming reports that only Las Vegas and Quebec had submitted applications for a potential new franchise. “Our purpose, in initiating the expansion process in the manner we did, was not only to explore the possibility of admitting new members to the NHL but also, at the outset, to set realistic guideposts to distinguish between bona fide expressions of interest (i.e., those which have at least substantial ownership capabilities and an arena or the realistic possibility of an arena) from those indications of potential interest which were, at best, merely hopes or aspirations,” the league said in a statement. “Apparently, only Mr. Foley and Quebecor have the confidence in their ability to secure an arena and suitable ownership capability to move forward with this process.”

NBCSN’s second live NASCAR Sprint Cup race helped double its total-day viewership over last year’s numbers, according to the company. NBCSN notched a total day average of 593,000 viewers over the weekend for a markup of 186% from the same weekend last year. Sunday’s coverage ranked as the most-watched cable program of the weekend. NBCSN’s Sunday afternoon race averaged 3.7 million viewers and scored the highest non-Olympic HH rating in NBCSN history with a 2.37. The channel’s Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 telecast averaged 541,000 viewers, marking the first time that the channel saw three consecutive IndyCar races on the cable network beat 500,000 viewers.

Meanwhile, NBCSN’s Tour de France coverage continues to climb, with the network delivering its best viewership numbers since 2010, with five stages left. Coverage is averaging 336,000 viewers, up 18% versus the same time frame in 2014. Through the first 15 stages, cycling fans have streamed more than 38 million minutes of live Tour de France action on NBC Sports Live Extra, for a spike of 42% over 2014.

Following the news that Joel Klatt would join Gus Johnson as FOX Sports’ lead college football broadcast team, the company filled in some of the gaps caused by the move. Matt Leinart now takes a seat at the studio desk in place of Klatt for FOX College Football Pregame, joining Dave Wannstedt and host Rob Stone. Meanwhile, this season will also see Brady Quinn get a full slate of college assignments this season, joining Joe Davis, and will then shift to the NFL booth once the collegiate season is complete.

ESPN unveiled plans for The Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game 2015 which will run live on ABC on Saturday at 3:30p. Ryan Ruocco calls that game beside Rebecca Lobo and reporter Holly Rowe. Production will see four players wear live microphones during the game, along with the head coach. Meanwhile, a two-location edition of SportsCenter will originate from the WNBA All-Star Game from 9a-noon.

ESPN Radio revealed its slate of games for the upcoming college football season, beginning Sept. 5, with three of its 24 regular-season games on deck, and continuing every Saturday, along with four select Thursday night games and culminating with the Pac-12 and ACC Championships on December 5. Opening the action will be Louisville/Auburn at 2:30p followed by Alabama/Wisconsin. Bill Rosinski, David Norrie and Joe Schad return as the primary ESPN Radio commentator team.

Kenny Albert makes his network TV boxing debut this weekend when Premier Boxing Champions hits NBCSN on Saturday at 9p. Albert will serve as blow-by-blow announcer, joining analysts “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Steve Cunningham, with Kenny Rice reporting from ring-side. The card features a cruiserweight bout between former world titleholder Beibut Shumenov and B.J. Flores, a boxing analyst for NBC Sports Group.

Pac-12 Networks tackles Pac-12 Football Media Day on July 30-31, slating that ‘Pac-12 Football Media Day Special’ from 9a-1:30p PT both days. Mike Yam hosts with a rotation of analysts that includes Nick Aliotti, Curtis Conway, Matt Leinart and Yogi Roth. will appear, providing insight into what fans should expect this season from their favorite teams. Meanwhile, Pac-12.com hosts a Centennial Kick-Off Party adjacent to the Pac-12 Networks’ linear set in honor of the conference’s anniversary. Student-athletes and coaches will participate in festivities including pinatas, a photo booth station and mini-golf.


Join us on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 1:30PM to 3:00PM (ET) and discover the best strategies to achieve your professional goals!


Questions? Contact Trish Pihonak.


Under Armour locked in a deal with USA Boxing and is now an official performance partner of the organization. The deal will see Under Armour provide athletes at all levels of competition  Youth, Junior Olympic and Elite  with head-to-toe apparel and footwear. In addition, Under Armour will outfit the entire team with training and competition gear for the next six years, including the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, respectively. “This partnership reflects the multitude of core values that Under Armour shares with USA Boxing, including Passion, Integrity and Will.  Both our organizations exist to make all athletes better,” said Peter Murray, Vice President, Global Brand & Sports Marketing at Under Armour. “We are honored to support USA Boxing’s incredible legacy of building champions on the Olympic stage and beyond, as we work together to help strengthen the sport in the U.S. grassroots to elite levels.”

ESPN’s second annual ESPY Day to benefit The V Foundation for Cancer Research and its new Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund scored more than $3.85 million for cancer research on Wednesday. To date, ESPY-related fundraising efforts have raised more than $26 million for cancer research. “On behalf of everyone at ESPN, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to all who contributed to another successful ESPY Day,” said ESPN President John Skipper.  “The creation of The Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund made the fight against cancer even more personal for many at ESPN, and the generous support is a concrete demonstration of how together, we can make a difference in ending the battle.”


Bounce TV announced that the debut of its upcoming Premier Boxing Champions series on Aug. 2 at 9p will also be stremed live on BounceTV.com. Payano vs. Warren: PBC – The Next Round will feature a 12-round World Bantamweight Championship fight between Juan Carlos “Baby Pacquiao” Payano (16-0, 8 KOs) and Rau’shee “Nuke” Warren (13-0, 4 KOs).

The USA Today Sports Media Group announced the launch of USA Today Sports Active Alliance, its first-ever platform designed to promote the endurance running market. The platform will tap a slate of independent marathons and half marathons under one roof, “allowing marketers to efficiently navigate media, marketing and sponsorship opportunities through one centralized source.” So far, seven road races have signed on: Eversource Hartford Marathon; Portland (OR) Marathon; California International Marathon; Rite-Aid Cleveland Marathon; Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Detroit Marathon[ GO! St. Louis Marathon; and Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.


Electronic Arts penned a deal with Real Madrid C.F. for a three year partnership that will see EA Sports become the exclusive and official videogame partner of the club. The deal will now see EA Sports FIFA 16 include updated 3D head scans of fourteen of Real Madrid’s most popular players including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, and James Rodriguez. “We’re honored to welcome Real Madrid as an official partner club and the opportunity to bring fans even closer to the team through unique experiences and authentic player likeness in the game,” said Jamie McKinlay, Vice President of Marketing, EA SPORTS. “Real Madrid is one of the most popular clubs in the world and that’s also true within our game; we are looking forward to building a deeper connection with the club in the coming years.”


Gold Cup: United States/Jamaica at 5:30 on FOX Sports 1.


Judging is in, and we have announced the finalist for the
Cynopsis Kids !magination Awards

The complete list of finalists can be found here. They include: 7ate9 Entertainment, Amazon Studios, Cartoon Network, Cupcake Digital, Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Food Network, JetBlue, Litton Entertainment, National Geographic Kids, Nickelodeon, PBS KIDS, Random House, Saban Brands, Steve Rotfeld Productions, The Jim Henson Company, Thirteen/WNET, Time Inc. and more.


ON THIS DAY in 2005: The NHL Board of Governors unanimously ratifies the new collective bargaining agreement, bringing an end to the longest labor stoppage in North American sports history.

In The Know: What school has the all-time record for most weeks (overall, not consecutive) as the top team in the AP college football poll? (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 the last team owner to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Answer: Ralph Wilson, Jr.. Kudos: Matt Meachem-Gracenote/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Jon Show-Show Sports Media/Charlotte; Chris Schwartz-International Speedway Corporation/Charlotte; Tim Overmyer-20th TV/Atlanta; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Joe Lyons-Back Nine Productions, Inc./Dallas; Kevin Wicker-Chiefs Radio Network/Mission; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
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