08/23/17: ESPN gets ready to Open; Marriott books longer NBA stay; Twitter celebrates 10 years of hashtags

Good morning. It’s Wednesday August 23, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

ESPN is ready for the US Open, serving up over 130 hours of TV coverage, along with 1300 more from a dozen courts via ESPN3 and the ESPN app starting Saturday and ending with the Women’s Championship on Sept. 9, and the Men’s Championship on Sept. 10, both at 4p. ESPN2’s live coverage of the opening Monday night will include a performance from Arthur Ashe Stadium by Shania Twain. Programming highlights open with coverage on ESPN at 1p each weekday the first week (except Thursday, on ESPN2), and will continue nonstop – transitioning at 6p to ESPN2 (except Tuesday).
The talent lineup includes the company’s traditional heavyweights such as Darren Cahill, Cliff Drysdale, Chrissie Evert, Mary Joe Fernandez, Chris Fowler, Brad Gilbert, Jason Goodall, John and Patrick McEnroe, Chris McKendry, Patrick Mouratoglou, Tom Rinaldi, Pam Shriver, and Trey Wingo.

NBC Sports Group is touting growth for its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series coverage, reporting that – through eight races this season – its programming is averaging more than 4 million viewers and a 2.40 household score, up 11% in both metrics over the same eight races a year ago. Meanwhile, the company says that the two months of racing ranked as the most-watched sporting event on six of eight weekends, up from two of eight last year, and one of eight in 2015. Meanwhile, NASCAR America, NBCSN’s daily motorsports show, is averaging 103,000 viewers, up 14% vs. 2016.
FS1’s First Things First with Cris Carter and Nick Wright will see Jenna Wolfe join the cast as host of the show, where she will debut on Sept.5 at 6:30a. Wolfe served as a correspondent on NBC’s Today show and an anchor on Weekend Today from 2007 to 2015. “We’re thrilled to have Jenna join the FOX Sports family,” said Whit Albohm, Vice President, Daily Studio Production for FS1. “Her chemistry with Nick and Cris is unmistakable, and her extensive broadcast experience makes her an obvious choice for the role.”
NBC Sports puts the spotlight on Falcons and Atlanta United FC owner Arthur Blank with a one-hour profile titled On a Mission: Atlanta Rising on Sept. 2 at 2p. The special will examine Blank’s personal and professional life from his childhood through February’s dramatic Super Bowl defeat and beyond. “The story of Arthur Blank extends far beyond the playing fields of his Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC,” said Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports Group. “Viewers will enjoy this look at Arthur’s life from boyhood through his building of The Home Depot to the present day, as he plays vital business and philanthropic roles in the downtown revitalization of Atlanta. He is an exceptional example of a true leader and visionary.”
Intersport is launching the 3-on-3 College Hoops Invitational, a first-ever event that will pit all-star teams from college basketball’s top conferences against each other in a three day tournament from March 30-April 1, 2018 in San Antonio.  Teams will be competing for a $100,000 prize pool. “The game of 3-on-3 basketball continues to gain momentum thanks to its recent addition to the Olympics in 2020 and further development at the professional and grassroots levels,” said Intersport’s Vice President of Sports Properties Drew Russell. “Based on our storied and successful history of creating and producing live college events for more than 30 years, Intersport is perfectly positioned to bring 3-on-3 basketball to the college game. We’ve been in the planning stages for months and are excited to bring this new and exciting opportunity to market for the very first time.”
Elsewhere in the world of college sports, the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, and presenting sponsor USAA laid out plans for the annual Army – Navy Game presented by USAA for the next five years. Philadelphia will play host in 2018-20 and 2022, while East Rutherford, NJ will do 2021, in remembrance of 20 years since the attacks on 9/11. Meanwhile, USAA will remain the presenting sponsor of the annual Army – Navy game thru at least 2025.
With the Mayweather/McGregor battle set for Saturday, ESPN announced that First Take will head to Las Vegas on Thursday and Friday for three shows in two days leading up to the much-hyped fight. The show will run live from the MGM Grand’s Talent Pool from 10a-noon on both days with a special, one-hour edition of the show airing live from the same location on Thursday at 8p.
SHOWTIME Sports announced that singer-songwriter Demi Lovato has signed on to sing the National Anthem during the main event of Mayweather/McGregor on Saturday. The event runs at 9p at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and is produced and distributed live by SHOWTIME PPV and promoted by Mayweather Promotions.
Elsewhere in boxing, Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions and beIN SPORTS locked in a one-year deal that will kick off on Sept. 29 in Dallas, TX. The partnership will see three fights in 2017 and 10 fights in 2018. “This is a partnership Roy and I are excited about,” stated Keith Veltre, Co-Founder & CEO of Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions.  “Partnering up with the fastest growing network puts Roy Jones Jr. Boxing in a great position for growth.  Putting fights on live and on prime-time is exactly what will bring great exposure to our upcoming stars in boxing.  Starting in September, you will see championship boxing at its best.”
Meanwhile, Pac-12 Networks fleshed out its programming slate for Football Kickoff Week, running Aug. 26 to Sept. 2. Elements of the event will include the return of Inside Pac-12 Football with four season preview shows as well as the return of “Pac-12 Pregame Show, Pac-12 Postgame Report and Pac-12 Final Score, in addition to live broadcasts of seven Pac-12 football games and the premiere of The 12 Greatest.
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Marriott International booked another round with the NBA to serve as the league’s official sponsor of several marquee events, including the NBA China Games 2017, the NBA Mexico City Games 2017, the NBA London Game 2018, and the NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles. “The global popularity of basketball makes the NBA an ideal partner to provide members of our loyalty programs once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said Karin Timpone, Global Marketing Officer at Marriott International. “We know that consumers – more so than ever before – travel for experiences and this one unlocks truly memorable moments for our guests around the world.”
ESPN announced that its 2017 college football programming will be complemented by an array of music from artists that will be highlighted by Thirty Seconds to Mars’ “Walk on Water,” which will be used for ESPN’s season-long college football marketing campaign. “As we continue to grow the College Football Playoff into a must-see, cultural event, music plays a big role,” said ESPN vice president of sports marketing Emeka Ofodile. “‘Walk on Water’ is a perfect fit for this year’s campaign because it embodies the spirit of each team’s journey and the incredible lengths they go to throughout the season in order to make the College Football Playoff.”
A new FanDuel fantasy football ad campaign is touting that it is “the fully loaded nachos your daily fantasy football game has been waiting for.” Produced by The Vault NYC, the campaign will feature three different 30-second spots, all of which liken top notch game day food dishes with the daily fantasy sports provider. The spots will air on national platforms on both broadcasting and digital outlets, including ESPN, NFL Network, NBC, and Viacom channels.
Global sports marketing agency Lagardere Sports announced plans to increase its operations in Shanghai. The company bolstered its capabilities and resources at its office in Jing’An and will provide rights management, brand consulting and market development advice to both domestic clients looking to increase their brand profile internationally, and to international brands and rights holders seeking to expand their businesses in China.
PGA TOUR Champions and Ally Financial are partnering for a new event that will be contested in Grand Blanc starting next year. The Ally Challenge will debut the week of September 10-16, 2018 at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club and feature a $2 million purse, with a three-year agreement in place through 2020.
Cricket Wireless has already notched over a million views on YouTube after releasing a five-minute video of WWE’s John Cena being surprised by some of his fans after he reads thank you notes they have sent him about how he’s helped inspire their lives. The fans were listening from another room as John read the thank you notes and then entered the room to surprise John and thank their hero. The spot is also running across WWE’s and Cricket Wireless’ global digital and social platforms.

Twitter is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the hashtag on its platform today, and now boasts an average of 125 million hashtags shared every day on Twitter. From a sports POV, the most Tweeted global sporting event hashtag is #Euro2016, with the most Tweeted sporting event hashtag in the US being #SuperBowl. The most Tweeted about league hashtag is #NFL while the most Tweeted team hashtag is #MUFC.
Meanwhile, SkyCam is expanding its reach with the launch of new in-venue, video technology for the Ravens on each end of M&T Bank Stadium’s lower seating bowl. The team partnered with SkyCam to provide their cable suspended camera systems to fans as they watch the new video boards. “SkyCam WildCat systems usually follow a network package – Sunday or Monday Night Football –  temporarily installed week-to-week just for those network games,” said SkyCam Chief Technical Officer Stephen Wharton. “With the Ravens, we’ve been able to develop and leverage technology that allows us to keep our systems in place and lower operating costs. This proprietary technology makes it affordable to teams whose fans are demanding an in-venue experience that’s better than watching at home.”
NeuLion announced that it would propel the live stream the Mayweather/McGregor fight for several global rights holders, worldwide, including UFC, Sky Sports, Sky New Zealand and Eleven Sports Network. Each of these global rights holders will be using the NeuLion Digital Platform for the live streaming of the four-fight PPV event, which handles the authentication and purchasing of the PPV as fans visit each of the four services.
In addition, Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor will see Topps chronicle the event, producing a limited edition trading card set featuring the road to the fight on Topps.com. The sets are available for one week and Topps will print only the number of sets purchased. Meanwhile, a Topps collectible trading card of the winner will be released on Monday.
Atlantic Broadband announced the launch of the MLB.TV app on TiVo, allowing customers to access the app directly from their TiVo interface. To view the games through the on-screen TiVo app on supported devices, customers must subscribe directly to MLB.TV Premium.

CD PROJEKT RED, creators of The Witcher series of games, is now training for Thronebreaker, a single player story campaign for GWENT, as well as the GWENT Masters — the official esports series for The Witcher Card Game. The esports series invites players to compete across a brand new season-based mode and a variety of official and licensed tournaments for a spot in the grand finale of the series and the title of first ever GWENT World Champion with prize pools ranging from $25,000 to $250,000.
German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 signed a partnership with ESL to bring esports content to its platforms. Next week, the ProSieben Maxx channel will run a new magazine series titled Ran eSports, marking the first German free-to-air channel dedicated to esports, according to the company. ProSieben Maxx will also air the final of the FIFA Interactive World Cup starting today. ProSiebenSat.1 also renewed its ties with ELEAGUE.

Glenn Lovett was promoted to Global Managing Director of Nielsen Sports where he will lead all aspects of the global sports business. This promotion comes as Danny Townsend, formerly Global Co-Managing Director alongside Lovett, takes on a new challenge as CEO of Sydney FC.
CSE Talent recruited Richmond Flowers III to serve as VP of Coaching for the company. Flowers currently represents over 40 NFL coaches.

Rangers/Angels on ESPN at 10p.
Friday, September 15 | Barclays Center | BKLYN
Nielsen  is launching a new unit focused on esports, offering global research and consulting services for the exploding industry – in 2017, revenue is projected to increase 41% to $696 million, with a 50% growth in global audience, to 191 million. To learn more about how to get in the game, register for the information-packed event with experts in the esports space AND a VIP/behind-the-scenes tour of ESL One.

ON THIS DAY in 1982: Mariners’ pitcher Gaylord Perry ejected for throwing a spitter.
In the Know: In 1990, the NCAA rusher set the FBS’ all-time best for yards per game, averaging 474.6 for Louisville. Who was he? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question From what school did the Rams draft Eric Dickerson?  Answer: SMU. Kudos: Rick Ramage-United Talent Agency/NY; Jonathan Lipson-Active International/Pearl River; Bruce Jackson-Disney and ESPN Media Networks/NY; Bob Dudelson-Leverage Agency/NY; Kevin McIntyre-Amayse Inc./Boston; Jonny Codalata-CSM Sport & Entertainment/Zionsville; Jim Sweeney-MIKE on Sports!/Clearwater; Marc “Blue” Bluestein-Aquarius Sports and Entertainment/DC; Beth Leverett-Ray-40/29 TV/Rogers; Jordan Barton-True Media/St. Louis; Kristin Staskowski-Spectrum Reach/Birmingham; Gretchen Brady-KTVT/KTXA/Dallas; David Hauptman/Denver; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; John Sutton-Charter Digital Media/LA; Andy Babb-Super League Gaming/Santa Monica; Steve Morrow-Eclipse Television/Mill Valley
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