08/03/15: The UFC sets up another powerhouse; The IOC tunes in to China’s vision; NBCU sets the clock


Good morning. It’s Monday August 3, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

With Ronda Rousey continuing to blow up social media, the UFC is preparing its own assault on the digital world as it looks to beef up UFC Fight Pass. The company announced last week that it was bringing in Yahoo Sports streaming guru Eric Winter as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the OTT platform, and he will now determine how the UFC will reach fans in the years ahead, programming for audiences that are literally around the world, accessing its content 24 hours a day.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Winter and Marshall Zelaznik, Chief Content Officer at the UFC, about the hire, the viewing habits of UFC fans and what we can expect from the platform in the years ahead.

Zelaznik on launching Fight Pass: First of all, Fight Pass was really built as a way to distribute our out-of-market sports package. We had objectives to drive new primetime content in markets like Asia and we were looking for a distribution outlet for those outside of those regions. That is because all the live product we sell is primarily from the US, so events delivered to Asia took place either early Sunday morning or very late Saturday night for those markets. Our commitment with FOX Sports had already been secured so it was a matter of figuring out how we distribute these events.

On growth: We also knew that we were sitting on a massive library and so the idea was to try to build this OTT platform on top of the existing platform we were using for our linear, a la carte PPV offering. So at the end of 2013, we literally launched in about a four-month window. The strategy was about making a complimentary product to our TV offering. We are still a PPV company, we are still in the business of distributing content through our linear networks and this was a way to compliment all of those products by offering a product for hardcore fans. It ended up blowing away any of the modeling we did and the growth continues to be beyond our expectations.

On hiring Winter: This concept has been proven and we literally built it on an existing structure and an existing staff base, and Eric is now coming in with really the goal and objective to take this to the next level. What are we missing? We can we do better? We are really looking forward to Eric living and breathing Fight Pass so that we can make this a major revenue driven and growth area for our business. All of the information we have about our customers and their usage and what they like about UFC and other MMA product that we have and offer. We know what they are watching, and we’ve seen the increase in viewership around live events so when we have a Fight Pass event or when we have an exclusive Fight Pass prelim, we can see an increase in subscribers and an increased usage. But there is so much more to understand about this product that someone with Eric’s background will be able to come in and get us smarter about the product so we can mold it to the customers’ needs.

Winter on taking the job: I started my corporate career at DIRECTV and DIRECTV Sports in 1997, and I ultimately took over the PPV events marketing team where it was our job to get the best content in front of the audience. I remember a young woman walking into my office with a tape who asked me to take a look at something called the UFC. I had never head of the acronym. My first UFC event in person was actually in 2003 for the Liddell/Couture fight. So I learned about the UFC early on, and later got recruited to Yahoo as they were launching Yahoo Sports. I came in to sign deals and manage existing relationships for Yahoo and the first deal I did was actually with Dana White. Nobody at Yahoo understood what the UFC was at that time. Yahoo has since been a long-term partner with the UFC and it has been very successful.

Marshall on next steps: While there is still some legacy business such as live events that we will continue to offer our audiences, we have literally given him a blank slate to look at the business, figure it out and become an entrepreneur. We want him to have the independence to make those decisions so that was the promise.

Winter on his strategy: I’ve been a subscriber of UFC.tv and Fight Pass since the beginning days of both. The way users are consuming content is rapidly changing. We don’t get to sit on the couch as much as we want to. My vision is that we are a mobile-first company and we need to think about the needs of the consumers wherever they are and deliver them with great content. Our responsibility is to deliver content live and on-demand to users wherever they are. Usage habits will tell them what they want and why they want it. Until then, live events rule.


The IOC voted to hand Beijing another Olympics, selecting the city to serve as host for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Despite not being a traditional city for winter sports, along with protests from human rights organizations, the IOC said that “Beijing’s vision for the Games seeks to incorporate winter sports into people’s lives, with the ultimate goal of improving overall fitness and health. Beijing 2022 has offered a regional concept intended to develop a winter sports market for more than 300 million people in northern China.” Overall, China proposed a three-zone event venue plan that relies on six existing and six new competition venues. The three zones will be linked by high-speed rail.

Meanwhile, prepare for a clash potential clash of heavyweights. FOX Sports notes that the 2022 Winter Olympics are currently on a trajectory to go head-to-head with Super Bowl 56 that year, if current scheduling traditions are maintained. This would mark the first time the two key events would have faced off, with the opening ceremony for the Olympics that year not slated for Feb. 4. Meanwhile, should the NFL hold to its tradition of hosting the game on the first-Sunday-in-February, 2022’s game would fall on Feb. 6, up against the third day of the Olympics.

ESPN locked in SportsCenter co-anchors Neil Everett and Stan Verrett to new, multi-year agreements that will keep them with the company. Everett and Verrett joined ESPN two months apart in 2000, and will continue to host the 1a edition of SportsCenter from the LA studio.  “The on-air chemistry Neil and Stan have can’t be manufactured,” said Rob King, ESPN senior vice president, SportsCenter and News. “It’s as authentic as it gets, and we look forward to having them as part of our team for years to come.”

A San Francisco federal appeals decided to put a hold on an order to pay collegiate athletes as the NCAA continues to fight the ruling that it had violated antitrust laws by blocking schools from sharing broadcast and licensing revenues with their athletes. “We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit today granted the NCAA’s motion for stay,” said NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy in a statement. “As a result, the NCAA will not be implementing any changes to its rules in response to the district court’s injunction at this time. We continue to await the Ninth Circuit’s final ruling.”

ESPN serves up four-week preseason series Hey Rookie, Welcome to the NFL starting tomorrow at 9p, following ESPN’s SportsCenter Special: Cowboys Training Camp. The 30-minute episodes follow eight rookies  including five first-round draft selections  from the NFL Draft through training camp as they prepare for their first season in the NFL. Participating players include: Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White (West Virginia); San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin); Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray (Missouri); Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (Connecticut); Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (Miami); San Diego Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman (Miami); Baltimore Ravens tight end Maxx Williams (Minnesota); Chicago Bears safety Adrian Amos (Penn State).

Speaking of the NFL, Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer will once again team up to call the channel’s Week One MNF late game as part of its doubleheader. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will, as usual, call the early game pitting Eagles/Falcons, before Berman and Dilfer serve up Vikings/49ers.

FOX Deportes’ coverage of the Copa Libertadores firstleg final pitting Tigres from Mexico and River Plate from Argentina ranked as the top program in its category for the day on July 29, reeling in701,000 total viewers and 470,000 in the P18-49 demo. That makes it the highest-rated Copa Libertadores match of the season and the channel’s most-watched first leg final since 2010.

For the second straight night, YES scored its most-watched and highest-rated Yankees telecast of the 2015 season with Thursday night’s Yankees/Rangers telecast drawing an average of  315,000 Total TV Households and a 4.24 TV Household rating. The beats Wednesday night’s previous season-high of 302,000 average TV Households with a 4.06 average TV Household rating.


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With the one-year clock about to begin for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, NBCUniversal will launch its marketing campaign to begin the hype for the event. The WSJ writes that the company will showcase a 60-second spot across all of its 18 networks at 8p on Wednesday and will serve up banner ads to all of its various websites and tackle social media using the hashtag #RoadToRio.


Continuing what seems to be an Olympics theme today, the IOC saw Martin Sorrell, CEO of the world’s largest marketing communications group WPP address the challenges facing the organization’s upcoming Olympic Channel. “You need to evolve to new consumption behaviors in both younger demographics and in fast-growth markets, more online and more mobile,” he said in the keynote. “The challenge will be to deliver a solution that reaches this new audience, linking to platforms they are already engaged with and extending the window of the Games outside the two- or four-year period. You have to get more continuity into the offer. The world is ready for a mobile first social content platform united under a powerful purpose that resonates with people around the world. And the IOC has the potential to create just that.”

NBC Sports Live Extra saw the 102nd Tour de France rank as the most consumed on record. Overall, the Tour delivered 151,000 uniques and 61 million live minutes through all 21 stages, up 3% and 45%, respectively, over 2014 numbers. Stage 12 on Thursday, July 16, from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille, delivered the highest metrics of all 21 stages, with 48,000 uniques and 5.7 million live minutes.
Golf Channel Digital Reaches Monthly Records for July


DraftKings is partnering with 27 MLB clubs in the latest deal for the daily fantasy sports site, according to multiple reports. The deal will now allow users to get exclusive content on the DraftKings iPhone app and integration with MLB’s At Bat app. All MLB franchises are part of the deal with the exception of the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks, who play in states that block daily fantasy games as a form of gambling, as well as the Toronto Blue Jays.


Cubs/Pirates on ESPN at 7p.


Don’t know what to do? Check out Watcheroo!

Cynopsis Digital’s Programming Guide

Organized by show name, date, and platform, we have everything you’ll need to be caught up on digital premieres, ongoing programs, live-streamed events and integrated series.

ON THIS DAY in 1949: The NBA is formed.

In The Know: In the movie Kingpin, Bill Murray’s character Big Ern had a bowling ball featuring what item at its core? (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 Notre Dame player to win the Heisman? Answer: Tim Brown. Kudos: Mitch Burg-Impact Communications/Israel; Jason Newman-Univision Deportes/NY; Marc Wollis-NBC Sports Group/NY; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports Network/NY; Dan Weber-MLB Network/NY; John Miller-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Chris Schwartz-International Speedway Corporation/Charlotte; Alex D. Smith-ESPN/Bristol; Joe Schreiber-3 Penny Films/Bethesda; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Gretchen Brady-KDAF/Dallas; Derek Crownover-Dickinson Wright-Music Row/Nashville; David Hauptman/Denver; Jack Simmons-Fox Sports/LA; John Baghdassarian-Olympusat/LA; Anne Wettig-Fox Cable Networks/LA; Alan Perris/Beverly Hills.

Later — Chris
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