08/26/20: NBC Sports tees up U.S. Open plans; Networks bet big on gambling upgrades; Ben Simmons’ next FaZe

Medias First Morning Read
Wednesday August 26, 2020

NBC Sports detailed plans for the return of the U.S. Open to its schedule next month, as Winged Foot Golf Club hosts the 120th edition of the Championship from Sept. 17-20, with coverage across NBC, GOLF Channel and Peacock. NBCUniversal will present nearly 45 hours of live primary coverage of the event and, in continuation of the USGA’s extensive partnership with Rolex, the final hour of Sunday’s coverage on NBC will air uninterrupted (commercial-free) during the closing stretch of the championship. Across each of the four rounds, Peacock will exclusively stream two hours of live U.S. Open coverage for free. U.S. Open content on Peacock also will include featured groups and featured holes coverage across all four rounds, with additional content elements being announced in the coming weeks. NBCUniversal’s coverage of the U.S. Women’s Open later this year (Dec. 10-13) also will feature live programming on Peacock.

PROGRAMMING

Big news at Turner Sports as the company landed a multiyear extension with Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq’s expanded role gains the Hall of Famer more airtime, including on TNT’s Inside the NBA and NBA on TNT, as well as contributions to NBA.com. He also will develop projects throughout the WarnerMedia portfolio including the series The Business of Basketball. Additionally, O’Neal will expand his Shaqtin-a-Fool franchise to include new genres and platforms, will step into the DJ booth as part of CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live and serve as exec producer for several Bleacher Report products. “Shaq is so critical to our success, and such a huge part of the heart and soul of our coverage,” said Jeff Zucker, Chairman, WarnerMedia News and Sports. “We are lucky to be able to have him as part of our family every single day, and I am personally so thrilled to see that continue for a long time to come.”

With football season on the front porch, networks continue to shore up their gambling content. ESPN and Caesars Entertainment debuted a new studio at The LINQ Hotel + Experience in Las Vegas, which will initially serve up produced segments for SportsCenter and digital platforms.With the new studio, ESPN will expand its content with Caesars to bring “more robust, Vegas-exclusive sports betting and entertainment news” to fans around the world, including moving ESPN’s Daily Wager to the new LINQ studio Sept. 8 and launching a sports betting-themed digital show this fall. The new, 6,000 square foot facility includes three studios and features 12 cameras, including two exterior robotic cameras.

In addition, ESPN signed sports betting analyst Doug Kezirian, host of Daily Wager, to a new, multiyear contract. As part of the new deal, Kezirian will relocate to Las Vegas for when the program returns to the air on Sept. 8, at 6p on ESPN2. In addition, ESPN has boosted its sports betting roster with the fulltime additions of analysts/hosts Joe Fortenbaugh and Tyler Fulghum, both of whom also will work from Las Vegas.

Around the dial, FOX Bet added Howie Long to the mobile sportsbook roster as a brand ambassador. Long will contribute sports wagering content and expert insights to the FOX Bet brand and digital platforms. “Whether its on FOX NFL SUNDAY or elsewhere, I always look for ways to entertain, educate and enhance the sports experience for fans,” said Long. “The guys over at FOX Bet share in my commitment to that approach. They’re amping up the sports fan experience, and having a little fun along the way.” Long teams up with Terry Bradshaw on the FOX Bet Super 6 app.

Meanwhile, VSiN is teaming up with BetMGM in a collaboration that includes the launch of the sports betting show Betting Across America, in a multi-year partnership that includes a major cross-platform BetMGM marketing investment. VSiN will broadcast Betting Across America live from BetMGM Sportsbooks and studios in large sports betting markets across the country, pending regulatory approval, on weekdays from 3-5p starting August 31 and weekends from 1-3p beginning September 5th. “The mission of VSiN has always been to deliver the most credible information and odds on sporting events and to allow sports bettors to make more informed wagering decisions,” said Brian Musburger, VSiN founder and CEO. “We’re thrilled to partner with this industry giant to provide unprecedented insight into BetMGM Sportsbooks across the country and deliver access to new levels of data to our audience.”

VSiN also revealed an expanded lineup, new shows and additional talent heading into the most anticipated sports betting season in years, offering nearly 100 live linear hours each week, adding several new shows and top industry talent. The network is adding Tim Murray, former host of NBC Sports’ The Daily Line, former professional football player and sports broadcaster, Mike Pritchard, journalist and $1Million Super Contest winner, James Salinas, and Danielle Alvari, from the NFL Network. Pritchard and Salinas will team up to co-host Betting Across America, while Murray will help anchor weekend coverage by joining the Betting Across America broadcast team and co-hosting VSiN’s new THE Pre-game Show, and Alvari joins the My Guys in the Desert broadcast team. Additionally, the network is bolstering its entire team with key additions to its content and production teams.

On the ratings front, Univision’s TUDN drew the highest-rated UEFA Champions League final in five years as 2.05 million Total Viewers 2+ and 1.13 million Adults 18-49 tuned in to see German side Bayern München walk away the 2019/2020 champion. “This historic streak reaffirms for us that our big bet on European soccer has paid off as we strengthen our position as the undisputed Home of Soccer. We know our audience and their passion and fervor for world-class soccer is unmatched,” said Juan Carlos Rodriguez, president of Sports, Univision. “We would like to thank UEFA for its leadership in safely resuming the season and commend them for adjusting the format under these unusual circumstances. We are excited to build on these latest milestones and continue to take the UEFA Champions League to all-new heights in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, NBC Sports’ presentation of the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 3.737 million viewers, according to Fast National Data from Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics. The race marked the first-ever Indy 500 to take place in August, following 103 runnings in May.

Year four of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Channel proved fruitful as the global platform reports that it has produced more than 25,000 pieces of video content representing all Olympic sports disciplines and 206 countries, including 76 original series and films, resulting in more than 3.3 billion video views across all platforms. Average watch time on the platform is 8:05 minutes per video watched and drew a 65% uptick over the previous 12 months in monthly returning users. On social media, the Olympic Channel community has grown to more than 10.4 million, with 74.9% of those engaging with content on social media under the age of 35.

Formula 1 finalized the addition of four more races for the evolving 2020 calendar, expanding its slate to 17. New events will include the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul on the weekend of November 13-15, before the gulf nation of Bahrain hosts two races on two consecutive weekends, Nov. 27-29 for the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the Sakhir Grand Prix on Dec. 4-6. Abu Dhabi will again host the season-ending Grand Prix, which will this year take place on the weekend of December 11-13.

As for tennis’ US Open, this year’s tournament gets underway in New York next week, with Tennis Channel set to dedicate a live daily show and more than 115 hours of encore matches starting Aug. 31. Hosted by announcer Brett Haber, Tennis Channel Live at the US Open features Hall of Famers and network analysts Martina Navratilova and Jim Courier along with tennis reporter Jon Wertheim.

The National Women’s Soccer League announced that its 2020 season will resume on Sept. 5, 2020. Following the success of the Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret, there will now be a televised NWSL Game of the Week on the CBS Television Network every Saturday in September, and on CBS Sports Network three Saturdays in October. CBS All Access will exclusively stream four games as well as the CBS broadcast coverage in September.

CBS Sports reports its best viewership average and highest-rated PGA Tour season in five years. Overall, CBS Sports’ coverage of the PGA TOUR season grew 17% in viewership and 21% in national household rating/share vs. last year, averaging 2.495 million viewers and a 1.7/5 rating/share for the 14 events, respectively. Since the return to live golf in June, which began at the Charles Schwab Challenge and concluded with THE NORTHERN TRUST, CBS Sports’ PGA TOUR viewership was up 22% over the comparable events last year, averaging 2.381 million viewers. The national household rating/share was up 23%, averaging a 1.6/5 rating/share.

Former NFL veteran and All-Pro offensive lineman Kyle Long was named studio analyst for CBS Sports Network’s That Other Pregame Show where he joins panelists Adam Schein, Amy Trask and London Fletcher to form the cable Network’s Sunday pregame show team. “I am very excited to begin my broadcasting career by joining the CBS Sports family and the TOPS team,” says Long. “I look forward to bringing my experience and perspective as a recent player coming right off the field to the show each and every Sunday of the NFL season.”

In other talent news, three-time Manager of the Year Buck Showalter joined MLB Network’s lineup of on-air personalities as an analyst appearing across its programming. He will be part of todays MLB Network Showcase game telecast featuring the Angels/Astros at 1p. He will also be part of Friday’s MLB Tonight, and Sunday’s MLB Network Showcase game telecast.

Quest For The Stanley Cup, the behind-the-scenes documentary series chronicling the remaining eight teams – Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights – in the midst of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will return Sept. 2 on ESPN+ in the US. Through six episodes, the series will take viewers inside the secure zones in Edmonton and Toronto, from the action on the ice and on the benches to the creative ways players, coaches and team personnel are spending their down time, to give viewers an all-access pass during the high-stakes Stanley Cup Playoffs and the pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

The NBA is teaming up with Audible to present Beyond The Last Dance, a 10-part podcast that will explore additional storylines from The Last Dance, the Emmy nominated documentary series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ quest for a sixth NBA championship in eight years that aired on ESPN earlier this year. The series will be hosted by J.A. Adande.

The Kansas City Royals and Sinclair Broadcast Group entered into a new multi-year media rights agreement for FOX Sports Kansas City to continue as the television home of the Royals. The agreement begins with the 2020 season. “On behalf of our organization, I’m excited to announce we have reached this agreement with the Sinclair Broadcast Group to continue to bring Royals baseball to our fan base on FOX Sports Kansas City,” said John Sherman, Royals Chairman and CEO. “FSKC has been an outstanding partner since the 2008 season, not only in bringing our fans the action on the field but working with us in our community and in countless charity endeavors. We currently are ranked fourth in Major League Baseball in television ratings thanks to our fans who are among the most knowledgeable and loyal in all of baseball.”

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Darlington Raceway and Cook Out expanded their existing partnership to include the entitlement of the Southern 500 on Sept. 6. The 2020 opening NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at the track Too Tough to Tame will officially be named the Cook Out Southern 500. Cook Out is the Official Quick Service Restaurant of Darlington and holds exclusive promotional rights to the track Too Tough To Tame.

On the activation front, Pepsi created the Pepsi Homegate, paving over 1500 square feet of the yard of a Jets fan to create the “ultimate Homegate experience” that include stadium lighting, a parking booth, a brand new grill, an inflatable Jet, a painted endzone, ice cold Pepsi and more features that now make up front yard in their small New Jersey neighborhood. The brand is launching “Tailgate in a Box,” a national sweepstakes that will award 20 lucky fans the chance to win a customized 16 square foot tailgating box, valued at nearly $5,000, that includes an outdoor projector, custom corn hole sets, Pepsi product and much more. For the chance to win, fans should visit MadeForFootballWatching.com/Homegate for more.

Athletes Unlimited’s 30-game inaugural softball season unveiled partners for its debut season. Brands will include GEICO (Insurance), Carvana (Auto Retailer), Mariner Wealth Advisors (Wealth Management), NIKE (Uniform), Aspiration (Social Impact Neobank) and Sparta Science (Innovation and Movement Diagnostics Software). The season spans from August 29 to September 28, taking place in Rosemont, Illinois and carried on ESPN and CBS Sports Network.

Aqua Sphere, the swimming and triathlon equipment brand, named World Champion triathlete Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae as a global brand ambassador. As part of the Aqua Sphere team of athletes, Carfrae will train and compete utilizing the industry-leading Aqua Sphere range of products from training equipment to performance swimsuits and goggles.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH
The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced the expansion and launch of Legends Media & Entertainment, a multifaceted storytelling platform that will produce, distribute and quantify “the wide reaching stories of many of the NBA and WNBA’s biggest stars” with content spanning the history of both leagues. “With the creation of LME, we are building a multimedia platform for some of the most compelling men and women connected to basketball’s history and culture under one umbrella, something which has been asked for, and needed for some time,” said NBRPA President and CEO Scott Rochelle. “LME will be a vibrant stop for fans, businesses and others who want to enjoy, learn and explore the amazing stories of our Legends both on and off the court. These stories are some of the best in the global business of sport, and now we can house them under one impactful roof.”

ESPORTS

FaZe Clan saw Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons buy in as the organization’s newest investor. Simmons, also now officially known as FaZe Simmo, will be an ambassador to the organization for content as well as an advocate for gaming and esports and the expansion of FaZe Clan globally. “Gaming is an important part of my life, and so it was a natural progression to personally invest in this industry,” said Simmons. “FaZe Clan represents the pinnacle of the gaming culture, and I am really looking forward to connecting with new fans around the globe.”

Riot Games continues to crank up the volume on the audio portion of the business this time cementing a partnership with Spotify to make the platform the exclusive audio streaming partner of League of Legends Esports in a multi-year partnership. The deal will focus on three of League of Legends’ biggest events, the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event, and the World Championship. With the deal, Spotify will launch a new music hub focused on LoL Esports that includes playlist and helps develop podcast series that cover its leagues in addition to producing a behind-the-scenes look at developing this year’s Worlds Anthem.

Riot also tied up a deal with theScore esports to produce an exclusive documentary chronicling the League of Legends’ European Championships. The 35-minute video, The Story of the LEC, explores the evolution of one of the largest international competitions in esports. “Riot has built the LEC into a global leader of competitive gaming,” said Aubrey Levy, VP of Content and Marketing at theScore. “We were thrilled to partner with them and apply our acclaimed esports storytelling to bring this exclusive look at the evolution of the LEC to both longtime League fans and new viewers alike.”

EA SPORTS and the NFL mapped out a new Madden NFL 21 Championship Series competitive ecosystem, delivering “first-of-its-kind” tournament offerings, weekly sports entertainment programming, and a mix of celebrity, athlete and professional Madden NFL player involvement. MCS21 will see competitive action and entertainment every Tuesday night on Madden NFL Twitch and YouTube channels throughout the NFL season. Formats will see King of the Hill (Sept 15 – Oct 27) as two NFL athletes and two elite Madden NFL competitive gamers face off, and Derwin v. The World (Sept 15 – Dec 22) in which Derwin James (Chargers’ Safety who also doubles as one of the best Madden NFL gamers in the NFL) challenges a different celebrity or NFL athlete in a competitive match. Pizza Hut returns as an MCS sponsor. In addition, Madden NFL 21 Club Championship (Nov 10 – Feb 5) is back with competitive players representing the 32 NFL teams.

Collegiate Rocket League returns this fall, as 32 teams from Eastern and Western Conferences (16 teams in each conference) compete for $100,000 in scholastic awards and a chance to head to the CRL National Championship in January 2021. The league is partnering with PlayVS and the National Association of Collegiate Esports in introducing two CRL partner leagues and a new CRL Wildcard event taking place in December. Open Qualifiers will begin on September 20 and the official CRL broadcast begins on October 6.

Upgrade your outreach! Join speakers from ESL, The Story Mob and Sugar Gamers to learn about Digital Content Strategies for 2021 in the latest free event from the Nevada Esports Alliance at 1:30p ET on Thursday. Click here to register.

Pro Football Retired Players Association entered into a strategic partnership with Thunder Studios where the two orgs will collaborate to expand PFRPA’s Gridiron Gaming initiative by creating tournaments and produced content for the esports community. Thunder Studios plans to establish a Gridiron Gaming tournament series, featuring online and physical events that will be broadcast live on Twitch to a global audience.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

Major League Baseball announced the promotions of Noah Garden to Chief Revenue Officer and Chris Marinak to Chief Operations and Strategy Officer. Garden and Marinak will have oversight of additional departments that previously reported to the former Deputy Commissioner of Business and Media. Both executives will continue to report directly to Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr.

VIS (Voice in Sport) opened its doors as a community for young, female athletes with a mission to “support and inspire each other to change more than just the game.” The org was founded by former Nike executive Stef Strack, and features a team of 150 successful women, including numerous WNBA, NWSL, and Olympic standouts.

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Strong content leader with a mix of linear & digital experience to create & produce original programming for Magnolia alongside Chip & Joanna Gaines. Guide creative & editorial decisions across varying platforms. Min 10yrs exp req’d. Full info HERE.

ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER >>
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DIRECTOR, CONTENT
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