07/31/17: FOX prepares for MLS’ Star trek; Discovery has another Olympic moment; Target leaves the track

Good morning. It’s Monday July 31, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Following a successful run with the CONCACAF Gold Cup, FOX Sports now turns its attention to the 2017 MLS All-Star Game with hopes to continue the uptick trend as the MLS All-Stars square off against Real Madrid. The Gold Cup Final saw the US Men’s National Team reel in 1,772,000 viewers to FS1 for its win over Jamaica. That marks a rise of 117% over the previous 2015 championship match while digital auds saw an average minute audience of 71,742 tuning in on FOX Sports GO. Meanwhile, the MLS All-Star Game takes place on Aug. 2 at 8:30p on FS1 and Univision.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Jonty Whitehead, Executive Producer of Soccer for FOX Sports, about the role of soccer at the company, differentiating soccer brands and the recent reports about MLS being offered a deal to stat relegation.
Whitehead on soccer at FOX Sports: We’ve taken a stance, we truly believe in it and – as you’ve seen from the results from the Gold Cup final – we are definitely having success in that way. Finding a voice for each brand is all about fine-tuning. When we do a Champions League show, we keep that American presence but mix it with a voice from Europe. When we include people like Brad Friedel, who will be calling MLS All-Star Game, he is a record-holder for Premier League consecutive appearances and has a terrific understanding of European football and translating it to an American audience. Those type of personalities showcase the importance of taking experience and present it to American viewers so they can relate to it.
On the MLS All-Star Game: We view the game as a celebration of all that’s good in this great league. We are obviously long-term partners with the MLS and we work really well with them. The MLS will bend over backwards to help you and I appreciate everything we are able to do with those guys. Major league Soccer is very American and different from the European leagues, and there is nothing wrong in that. It is important to celebrate those differences. There is a tendency out there to tailor a show into a European-style program to pander to a European audience, when we should look further up-field than that.
On recent headlines about MLS declining relegation: I don’t agree that they should go to promotion/relegation. I think that the MLS is different and that is a good thing. The MLs already has its own red line, if you will, and if you finish above it, you get to go to the playoffs. That is a unique element that makes it so unique. They don’t need to look to Europe for solutions and I’m glad they turned down that offer.
On the epiphany moment for soccer and US audiences: For me, it would be the Women’s World Cup in Vancouver where we absolutely realized that we were on a rocket ship. The way the viewing figures grew throughout that tournament to produce the highest-ever soccer audience for men or women by the final just showed that we were getting things right. We now know that those sports fans are out there and they will turn to soccer when everything resonates.

Meanwhile, Univision Deportes reports that the CONCACAF Gold Cup –through the 25 matches – averaged 1.4 million Total Viewers 2+ and 766,000 Adults 18-49 with the culminating match between US/Jamaica delivering 2.5 million Total Viewers 2+ and 1.3 million Adults 18-49 on Univision. “The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup marks another successful tournament for us and further cements Univision Deportes as the official home of soccer,” said Univision Deportes President, Juan Carlos Rodriguez. “Univision Deportes continues to win across the scoreboard thanks to our talented and passionate team, and most importantly, our viewers who make us the go-to destination for soccer in the U.S.”
The Olympic Channel and Discovery Communications unveiled a new partnership in Europe that covers 50 markets and – starting Aug. 2 – will see Olympic Channel-branded programming hours and content launch on Eurosport and Eurosport Player; as well as feature a Eurosport presence on the Olympic Channel; an Olympic Channel digital portal on Eurosport.com; and digital amplification of content through dedicated presence on Eurosport’s local Facebook pages and Twitter handles. “The IOC has been an extremely strong partner during the preparations for our first Games as Home of the Olympics at PyeongChang 2018,” said Peter Hutton, CEO Eurosport. “We are pleased this new collaboration will deepen our relationship and extend our Olympic storytelling even further.”
ESPN has signed new deals with a lineup of its college football voices ahead of the new season, locking in Dusty Dvoracek, Rod Gilmore, Brock Huard, Tom Luginbill and Greg McElroy as game analysts who will contribute to ESPN’s college football coverage.
The NHL announced that The Dallas Stars will host the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center, marking the first time the Stars and city will host the event. The 2018 NHL Draft will be held over two days with Round 1 on June 22. “Players born in 2000 will be the focus of the first Draft of our second century,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Tomorrow’s NHL stars will skate into the spotlight when the 2018 NHL Draft brings the NHL family together at American Airlines Center, providing another highlight for the Dallas Stars’ 25th anniversary celebration.”
Speaking of firsts, UFC announced its inaugural live event slated to take place at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai on Nov. 25. “We are always asked when the UFC will be making its debut in mainland China,” UFC Senior Vice President of International and Content, Joe Carr said. “We are honored to confirm that Shanghai will be the home of the very first live UFC event in mainland China and to say that we are excited is an understatement. The entire organization is looking forward to making history this year.”
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Target is hitting the brakes on its racing sponsorships, and will end its 16-year NASCAR sponsorship of Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2017 season, leaving Kyle Larson without a primary sponsor for the majority of the 2018 season. “As we looked to evolve our sports marketing program, soccer provided Target with a unique opportunity to reach our guests in new places, and at all levels of the sport,” Target said in a statement, per ESPN. “Through partnerships with Major League Soccer, Minnesota United FC, US Youth Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Target has been able to create meaningful connections with players, fans and families, no matter how they participate in the sport.”

FanDuel is reportedly pulling out of the UK. Legal Sports Report writes that the daily fantasy site announced on Friday that it would discontinue service to the British market, “We will not be operating our UK product this upcoming EPL  season to focus on our product in the US,” a company spokesperson told the site. “As we approach the NFL season, we are allocating all of our resources towards ramping up a US product that consumers love and building out complementary fantasy sports products. There are over 53 million people playing fantasy sports in the United States and we are investing all of our resources on that market.”

The Madison Square Garden Company is deepening its tie to esports, finalizing a deal to invest in the Counter Logic Gaming franchise, according to ESPN. The partnership also marks the first time Counter Logic Gaming has taken on formal investment, which was brokered by Catalyst Sports & Media.
Gfinity continues to pile out broadcast deals, inking a deal with BBC that will see esports hit BBC Three, with Gfinity’s Elite Series carried on the platform every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next six weeks. “Esports has become hugely popular in the last few years with young audiences so it’s great that BBC Three can bring this to a mainstream audience and create new habits with younger audiences as we stream three of the most popular games on BBC Three across the weekend,” said Damian Kavanagh, Controller, BBC Three.

Indians/Red Sox on ESPN at 7p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1990: Nolan Ryan reached 300 wins.
In the Know: Olympic gold medals are primarily made up of what metal? (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 RB great is the all-time leader for most yards per game in their career? Answer: Jim Brown. Kudos: John Ferlazzo/London; Phyllis McQuillan-MSG Media/NY; Scott Leslie-UPS/Atlanta; Randy Ingram-WISH-TV/WNDY-TV/Indianapolis; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Deerfield Beach; Rick Pike-InterMedia Advertising/Woodland Hills; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA

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