09/09/19: New NLL exec Jessica Berman breaks down the league’s plans


Good morning. It’s Monday September 9, 2019 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

While the NFL completes the first week of their historic 100th season, history of a little different kind begins in Philadelphia, as longtime NHL exec Jessica Berman begins her first official day as Deputy Commissioner of the National Lacrosse League, making the Brooklyn native and Michigan and Fordham Law grad the highest-ranking woman at a men’s professional sports league.  She joins the NLL in advance of a season that should also see historic growth under Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, with a growing media deal with Turner and new franchises in New York and Halifax, Nova Scotia. We asked Berman about the similarities, challenges and opportunities in her new job.
Berman on the similarities between the business of the NHL and NLL: Yes, there are a lot of similarities and synergies between the NHL and the NLL. Absolutely, the fact that digital strategy is a top priority transcends both properties as well as our common ownership and the cities in which we play. Not to mention the crossover that exists for many hockey players who played lacrosse and vice versa — players like Wayne Gretzky and Brendan Shanahan to name a few.  Digital storytelling today has to be a priority for anyone looking to grow a brand, a property, a team or a league. We need to be prepared to engage fans wherever and whenever they want. The next generation of fans in particular expect that. Nick and the team here at the NLL saw that early on and we will continue to do so, especially with our partnership with Turner and B/R Live.
On the growth of social responsibility and cause marketing: In order for social responsibility to be authentic it needs to be embedded into every area of the business. It will fit into everything I do. It’s a way of thinking that will influence our partnerships, our community engagements, our marketing and branding, our hiring, our identity. It’s a way of being, not only a program or a campaign.  For the NLL in particular, I am looking forward to continuing to expand the focus on the indigenous community. With the history of the sport being tied to the indigenous community, there’s an opportunity to celebrate that and ensure that community continues to have access to the game. I know that has been a focus for Nick already, particularly because we have Players, fans, along with two of our owners, being Indigenous.
On the role and responsibility: First of all the chance that Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and others at the NHL gave me to grow in various roles at the NHL prepared me for this opportunity — and I am really grateful to feel ready for this. On the NLL side, I really appreciate Nick’s confidence in me and my skill set, and I look forward to learning every day. As a woman in this position I realize the significance of this opportunity and will approach this with the same diligence and commitment that I have every other opportunity in my career. Of course there are so many women who are in senior positions at leagues, teams, agencies, conferences and brands, many of whom I have looked up to, and some of whom have mentored me, in my career — people like Val Ackerman, Kim Davis, Kim Ng, Michelle Kydd Lee and Kathy Carter, to name a few. I do hope that some day soon there are even more senior women working in sports, at all levels, influencing business decisions because diverse perspectives will make the result better. Regarding the next generation of leaders, I love mentoring and want to set the best example possible as a professional; that should be everyone’s goal regardless of gender. If the NLL is successful then I am successful, and I welcome the challenge and can’t wait to get to work.
On the potential of lacrosse growth as a property: Growth across all platforms, from sponsorship to media, to the growth of the game at the youth level, to the storytelling of our athletes, teams and coaches. I also think our collaborative effort to work with the NHL teams and owners where we share a commonality in business is very important and I’m hoping that my relationships with the league and the teams can help enhance those objectives for the NLL. This is a league under Nick’s leadership that has seen amazing growth; we are expanding to places like New York and Halifax this year, have great athletes from diverse backgrounds and keep adding more partners. It’s a great time to make the transition for me and I’m excited about where we will go as an innovative and inclusive league.

While we wait for Sunday’s NFL numbers, NBC’s scores for NFL Kickoff opened the season hot, as the Packers/Bears game notched a 15.3/28 overnight (not including digital) for a rise of 14% over last year, according to Nielsen, and the best since 2016, ranking as the best for any sporting event since Super Bowl LIII. Milwaukee topped all markets for NFL Kickoff with 48.1/69 overnight; while Chicago ranked #2 with 35.3/56. Among out-of-home viewers, per Tunity Analytics, the game averaged 9,028,670 out-of-home viewers, with an audience that was 62.5% A25-54 and 54.2% A18-49 and up 4.4% over last year’s regular season opener OOH average.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s college football action saw ABC carry the two highest-rated games of the day (LSU at Texas and Texas A&M at Clemson) to claim its highest-rated tripleheader in more than two years. LSU/Texas earned a 5.8 overnight, easily becoming the highest-rated game of the season on any network and earning a 190% year-over-year rating increase in the timeslot. Texas A&M/Clemson (generated a 4.7 overnight, up 124% year-over-year from the same timeslot last season. Cincinnati/Ohio State drew a 2.6 overnight and delivered a 37% increase year-over-year.
Around the dial, Michigan’s double-overtime win over Army drew a 3.4 metered market rating to FOX, where the channel had the highest-rated college football game at the Noon window for the second consecutive week. That marks a 43% rise over last year’s equitable game on the channel.
Saturday’s women’s championship at the US Open, which saw Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu top Serena Williams, earned a 2.7 overnight rating for the three-hour telecast on ESPN, which stands as the best ever for the event and up 13% from last year’s 2.4 score. The two-hour match portion earned a 3.0, and the rating peaked at a 3.9 rating from 5:45-6:00 p.m. ET, during the closing moments of the second set. For the tournament to date, ESPN is averaging a 1.0 overnight score across ESPN and ESPN2, up 25% from a 0.8 at this point a year ago.

NBC Sports and NASCAR have their contenders locked in for the 2019 Playoffs which begin next Sunday night in Las Vegas on NBCSN. Drivers are set to include: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, William Byron, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Newman.


The WNBA released its playoff schedule with play beginning Sept. 11 on ESPN2, with Phoenix/Chicago at 8p and Minnesota/Seattle at 10p. Los Angeles and Las Vegas enter the second round to play first round winners at Sept. 15 starting at noon, while the semifinals bring in Washington and Connecticut for a best of five series against second round winners starting Sept. 17. The WNBA Finals begin Sept. 29 on ESPN.

The Canadian Football League has reportedly agreed to a deal with The Sports Network for a six-year contract extension, per Postmedia. The site reports that the deal between the CFL and TSN is valued around $50 million to the CFL, with incentives, ratings-based and otherwise, written into the contract.
The Cynopsis Best Of The Best Awards Featuring The Rising Stars   will spotlight performers, innovators and emerging leaders in the TV Media industry. These young professionals’ experience spans research, digital, content and marketing and this awards program is designed to encourage and reward their exceptional accomplishments.  Check out last year’s honorees.
Honorees will be celebrated alongside Best Of The Best Award finalists, at an awards gala this February in NYC.


Saturday saw ESPN open the doors to twelve new commercials from the famed This is SportsCenter franchise, marking the first time ESPN has debuted this many new TISC spots at once as the network celebrates its 40th anniversary. Several spots will debut across TV, digital and social while others will be seen primarily on digital and social channels. Participants in the slate include the likes of Saquon Barkley, Neil Everett, Jared Goff, Linda Cohn, Brooks Koepka, Wally the Green Monster, Rutgers Scarlet Knight, Becky Lynch, Manny Machado, Kenny Mayne, Scott Van Pelt, Hannah Storm, Mr. Met, and more. “We’ve been working to develop terrific new SportsCenter scripts for a while now, and when we realized the timing worked out perfectly with our anniversary, we pressed GO!,” said Laura Gentile, SVP of Marketing. “This campaign has always been iconic, and made to delight fans. We hope they love these new spots.”
UEFA and Coca-Cola are continuing their long partnership, announcing a deal that will see the brand become the official non-alcoholic beverage sponsor for UEFA EURO 2020. Next year’s competition will be hosted in 12 cities across the continent to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the UEFA EURO with the deal giving the company the opportunity to showcase several brands, including sparkling beverages, sports drinks, water, ready-to-drink coffee and fruit-based drinks.
NFL ad pricing is back up, according to Ad Age, bouncing back after dipping a year ago as buyers reported that the average unit cost of a 30-second in-game spot purchased in the 2019-20 upfront was up between 5-10% over year-ago numbers. The report also stated that dollar volume also has improved.
The PGA TOUR and IMG ARENA expanded their multi-year agreement to allow for the distribution of TOUR’s official scoring data to betting operators within North America. The expanded relationship includes betting sector exclusivity for the delivery of live, shot-by-shot match and event data to global operators. “As the sports betting market in the United States evolves, extending our relationship with the PGA TOUR is an important next step for IMG ARENA,” said Freddie Longe, senior vice-president and managing director at IMG ARENA. “For the first time, sports fans will have access to shot-by-shot action, from tournaments all-year-round using official PGA TOUR ShotLink data.  We continue to feel that golf has the audience, interest and following to become one of the leading in-play betting sports globally.
Roar Digital, the 50/50 venture created by MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings – announced the launch of BetMGM in the state of New Jersey, a rebranding of the online gaming app, PlayMGM, introduced by MGM in 2017. The product incorporates the new GVC Sportsbook platform will be the core mobile platform utilized for future state rollouts with features that include: early cash out, one wallet system, track your bet, boosted offers, and smoother transactions.
SeventySix Capital announced an investment in U.S. Integrity, a Las Vegas-based company that provides tailored integrity, fraud prevention and consulting services to organizations of all sizes, from major professional sports leagues and collegiate conferences to sportsbooks and operators throughout the country.” Leveraging various data feeds from third parties, unique expertise, a proprietary dashboard, and reporting, USI offers clients insights into wagering information and identifies abnormalities within the US betting environment. U.S. Integrity has already clients that include the National Basketball Association (NBA), PAC-12, and SEC, among others.
FOX Sports launched FOX Sports Super 6, a free-to-play sports prediction game that offers players the chance to win hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash each week. The national launch allows users to choose who they think the winning team will be and the corresponding margin of victory within predefined ranges or answer six multiple-choice questions, giving them a chance to split thousands in guaranteed cash prizes via Super 6 NFL Sunday, TNF Super 6, and College Football Saturday Super 6. FOX Sports Super 6 anticipates adding more sports, with basketball slated to start in October.
GumGum Sports unveiled its quarterly rankings of the social reach for esports teams, with FaZe Clan leading the pack despite the departure of Tfue. TSM came in second, while Immortals Gaming Club jumped three spots to #3, boosted by the acquisition of legacy esports team OpTic Gaming. Rounding out the rankings for overall esports organizations were 100 Thieves, NRG, Cloud9, Team Liquid, Team Vitality, Fnatic and Rogue. The company tallied follower count for every pro player, influencer and team account across all social platforms, taking into account the top esports teams in North America and Europe. “Social reach in esports shifts rapidly and we’re seeing the overall influence of teams growing a lot,” said GumGum Sports GM Brian Kim. “Look at this and last quarter’s top organization, FaZe Clan––they didn’t even finish in the top 10 of GumGum’s first esports rankings in 2018.”
G2 Esports and Red Bull cemented a 360-degree global, multi-year partnership that will see the pair collaborate across all teams, players, and content creators to” enhance individual player and team performance, produce high-end entertainment formats and create dynamic and unique event activations.” The deal sees G2 teams don Red Bull-branded jerseys along with event activations across the League of Legends, CS:GO, Rainbow Six Siege, Rocket League, and PUBG squads. On-site activations will occur at the LEC finals in Athens and the StarLadder Berlin Major to showcase the new G2 and Red Bull jersey, host fan 1V1s, and have team meet-and-greets. “Red Bull and G2 have a shared vision of bringing more entertainment and adventure to the esports industry through interactive content and event activations, so a partnership was an obvious and important move for us,” said G2 Esports CEO Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez. “This holistic partnership is a big step for G2 and the content that we have coming down the pipeline is going to set this collaboration apart from all others in the space.”

Monday Night Football gives us a double dose with Texans/Saints at 7:10p, followed by Broncos/Raiders at 10:20p on ESPN.
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ON THIS DAY in 1990: Pete Sampras wins the US Open.
In the Know: What is Pete Sampras’ nickname? (Email cpursell@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your company and city).
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which team did Cal Ripken Jr.’s Orioles beat to claim his World Series ring? Answer: The Phillies. Kudos: David Henry-Henimo Group/Bangkok; Michael Ritz-Northwestern Mutual/NY; Matt Sautter-WideOrbit/Harrisburg; Jon Miller-NBC Sports/Stamford; Mike Furman-GMMB/DC; Joe Cassidy-Rowan University/Glassboro; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Rich Wolfe-Lone Wolfe Press/Scottsdale; Lorrie Shilling/El Segundo; Anne Wettig-Fox/Fox Sports S&P/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA

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9 Story Media Group/NYC
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