08/31/15: ESPN braces for Serena Slam; ESPN College Extra ready for kickoff; Scully wants one more run


Good morning. It’s Monday August 31, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

As Serena Williams looks to complete her quest for achieve the sport’s first calendar year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 at the US Open, ESPN today launches its first exclusive telecast of the tournament as part of its new 11-year agreement with the USTA. The action will include over 130 hours of television as well as 1,100 on ESPN3 from up to 11 courts at once. Production goodies include the likes of “freeD,” the Railcam, the SpiderCam and more with the action starting today at 10:45a with first round action that include a primetime doubleheader on ESPN2 at 7p featuring Williams and Rafael Nadal in their contests.

Cynopsis Sports asked ESPN’s Scott Guglielmino, Senior Vice President, Programming & Global X, about the task ahead and how the company will look to showcase the action.

Guglielmino on changing the experience: We are very excited to bring our successful Australian Open and Wimbledon coverage model to the US Open, and we believe fans will enjoy the single narrative, the consistent schedule and all the ways to consume the tournament across all the ESPN platforms, all day, every day, for two weeks. Exclusivity gives our production team – led by Jamie Reynolds (vice president, production) – the time and space they need to document the competition and telling the stories of 256 athletes and personalities. Further, with ESPN3  whether on your TV, as is increasingly the case – or on the go wherever you are -fans will be able to choose from up to 11 matches at once. 

On technology: The “freeD” technology – where the replay freezes, then spins for a different angle to continue  will knock people’s socks off in tennis. It will only accentuate the players’ athleticism and better present the angles and close line calls for the fans. We are constantly looking for ways to bring the viewer closer to the action, as well as ways to better analyze and explain what they’re seeing. “freeD” does both.

On Serena: Be assured Serena has been discussed in every US Open meeting at ESPN  Jamie’s production group, marketing, SportsCenter, ESPN.com, espnW, PR and more. It’s the biggest US Open angle in a generation. And there are so many ways to approach the topic…her game, her career arc, her struggles and controversies, her off-court endeavors and of course her legacy. She’s the defending champion, competing for a natural calendar year Grand Slam, seeking to tie Steffi Graf with 22 Major championships, and to surpass our Chrissie Evert for the most US Open titles in the Open Era. There’s no shortage of material and this is just one storyline.

On growing the sport: We strive for “access and discovery.” We want to take fans where they’ve never been  and where they can’t go beyond the action on the court and behind the velvet rope, as it were. Just as we want to take fans closer to the action, with features and bumps in out of commercials we seek to get them closer to the athletes. The One on one nature of tennis and at this level provides and intense and sometimes personal dimension to competition.

On talent: Our family has been together for a while now, led by Cliff Drysdale who was on the first ESPN tennis telecast in 1979!  What that chemistry and camaraderie creates is cohesive and organic conversations. And from a variety of perspectives  Hall of Famers, other tour veterans and coaches, with different eras represented.  But there is one very familiar face who has been learning a new role the last couple years  Tom Rinaldi. Everyone knows him from his Emmy-winning work on features for SportsCenter, Outside the Lines and other shows, plus as a reporter on golf and college football. He still contributes that sort of content to our tennis productions.  But lately he’s been stretching his wings and doing play-by-play too. It’s a very different discipline, but it’s no surprise that with dedication and professionalism, Tom has taken to it and done well.


Speaking of ESPN, the company is launching ESPN College Extra, a new college sports platform designed to offer hundreds of ESPN3 exclusive live college sports events on TV including football, basketball, baseball, softball and more. Contests will be accessible to customers of AT&T U-verse and DIRECTV as well as Bright House Networks, Cox, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and select NCTC members at launch beginning Sept. 5 with the start of the football season. Games include FBS conferences such as the ACC, The American, Big 12, MAC and Sun Belt as well as FCS teams and will be showcased on up to eight channels through a sports tier or other affiliated TV package. “ESPN is at the forefront of media innovation with a long history of working closely with distributors to better serve customers,” said Sean Breen, Senior Vice President, Affiliate Sales, Disney and ESPN Media Networks. “ESPN College Extra is the latest example of that ongoing collaboration and we are pleased that AT&T U-verse and DIRECTV, Bright House Networks, Cox, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and several NCTC members have recognized the value it adds to the multichannel video subscription.”

Good news broke over the weekend for baseball fans when Vin Scully announced Friday that he will be returning for one more season next year, although 2016 would likely mark the end of his 67-year run calling games for the team. He currently calls all nine innings of home games and road games in California and Arizona for Dodgers’ telecasts on SportsNet LA, while the first three innings of his games are simulcast on the radio.

Speaking of LA, the city is set to vote on Tuesday on its proposal to host the 2024 Olympic Games, with the AP writing that organizers and the USOC struck a deal that will make the city America’s potential host for the event. If the council approves the deal, the USOC will announce Los Angeles as its candidate, according to the article. The IOC has set a Sept. 15 deadline for cities to enter the race.

American Pharoah’s return to TV in Travers boosted NBC to a 1.33 overnight score, according to Nielsen, for the best Travers on record since ’04 and up 102% over last year’s numbers for the race. Top markets: Louisville 3.4/7; Ft. Meyers 2.6/6; Nashville 2.4/5; Cincy 2.2/5; and Richmond 2.2/5.

The UFC opted to zag on Ronda Rousey’s next fight, announcing that the UFC women’s bantamweight champion will now fight Holly Holm on Nov. 14 in Australia (Nov. 15 local date). The shift from UFC 195 on January 2 will now take place at the 70,000 seat Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. "Ronda Rousey was huge for us in Brazil," UFC President Dana White said of the swap. "She was well received there and it was just a phenomenal event. It did very well on Pay-Per-View here in the United States, and she’s obviously a huge superstar for us. Australia’s an important market for us, so we’re gonna bring her out there in our first real big stadium show, and we know she’ll break the (all-time MMA attendance) record out there."

The Mountain West Conference released its slate of televised college basketball games, which include partnerships with ESPN, CBS, Root Sports and Campus Insiders. The slate includes thirteen games streaming on ESPN3 and another 15 will appear on an alternative ESPN platform. The entire schedule can be found here.

Outdoor Channel locked in a new, long-term carriage deal with DISH Network.  “As a result of this new, long-term carriage deal, DISH customers who passionately love the outdoors have greater access to Outdoor Channel programs on television,” said Jim Liberatore, CEO and President of Outdoor Sportsman Group  Networks. “With the acquisitions made over the past two years, our highest priority was, and remains, developing compelling, interesting and exciting programming that appeals to the 130 million Americans in the outdoor lifestyle space. This partnership allows us to stay focused on that goal.”



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The NFL and NBC are partnering up to launch a new season of Together We Make Football, a campaign designed to encourage fans to showcase how football has inspired them, with the chance to win a trip to Super Bowl 50. The campaign will unfold weekly throughout the NFL season with segments airing Fridays on Today and culminating in a nationally televised NFL Films special on NBC on Divisional Playoffs Weekend. Fans can visit today.com/twmf to enter by sharing a video or photo. Stories submitted through Monday, November 2 will be entered into the contest.

Dove Men+Care Deodorant launched its Caring Coach campaign, “celebrating the ways in which the care youth and high school coaches show on and off the field impacts their teams, their communities and themselves.” The campaign include  “Caring Coach” will last throughout the duration of the upcoming football season and includes new proprietary research that shows how coaching helps coaches, a partnership with Bob Stoops and sponsorship of Atlanta’s College Football Hall of Fame, including the return of the “Caring Coach of the Year” award, which honors four youth or high school football coaches.

Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s new campaign featuring Ronda Rousey is off and running as of today. The company unveiled its spot featuring the UFC star, advertising the Cinnamon Swirl French Toast Breakfast Sandwich. Agency 72andSunny created the campaign, dubbed “Winning Combination,” featuring the uber popular UFC champion and Judo Olympian, Ronda Rousey. “Ronda Rousey is impressive in so many ways and we’re huge fans,” said Brad Haley, CMO for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. “While she’s best known for her ultimate fighting ability, she also has a sweet side, which made her the perfect choice to star in the new Cinnamon Swirl French Toast Breakfast Sandwich ad.”


The Clippers are reportedly spurning a new TV deal to launch a new OTT network dedicated to carrying the team’s games. The New York Post writes that owner Steve Ballmer turned down a $60 million/year deal with Prime Ticket’s exclusive negotiating window closing in June. A Clippers spokesperson told the Post that “Steve Ballmer is exploring any and all options, including a new deal with Fox.”


Yesterday saw DraftKings debut a new campaign with the tagline, “Welcome to the Big Time.” The initiative comes from newly-selected marketing and advertising agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners and coincides with the start of the NFL season. Spots “differentiate and explain the DraftKings experience in the DFS category by celebrating its fans and the fact that, just like the guys on the field, they are competing to win” with Edward Norton offering voiceover for the series of five initial spots. “’Welcome to the Big Time’ is the perfect anthem for the DraftKings brand on multiple levels,” said Anthony Pitts, DraftKings VP of Marketing. “The ‘big time’ speaks to a level of fan interaction that is engaging and exhilarating, in addition to prizes and money-can’t-buy experiences that only DraftKings can deliver.”


Serena Williams begins her quest for the Grand Slam at the US Open on ESPN2 at 7p.



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ON THIS DAY in 1990: Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. become the first father and son to play on the same team at the same time.

In The Know: WWE’s Hawk and Animal were collectively known as what tag team? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: RIP to NBA legend Darryl Dawkins. What famed singer crowned Dawkins with the nickname “Chocolate Thunder”? Answer: Stevie Wonder. Kudos: Teddy Coleman-Teddy Coleman Media/NY; Mario Prosperino-AP Images/NY; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY: Synda Kollman/Boca Raton; Richard Sanders-Visit Panama City Beach/Panama City Beach; Mike Furman-GMMB/DC; Melissa Pattillo-Turner Sports/Atlanta; Les Stipp-GSD&M/Chicago; Ron Salcedo-Zimmerman/Nashville; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Marc Abel-Weber Shandwick/St. Louis; Harry S. Vested Jr.-GCSN/Denver; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions/Santa Monica; Brian Sullivan-KHQ-TV/Spokane; Jim Seifert/San Francisco.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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