09/06/16: Varsity Brands talks good cheer; Notre Dame/Texas brings a ratings thriller; ESPN hits the Crossroads


Good morning. It’s Tuesday September 6, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

With college and high school football officially back in the books and teams look for new ways to engage with the community, one company, Varsity Brands, is pushing one of sports’ most traditional rallying points cheerleading – into new spaces. With cheerleaders at the forefront of community events, brand activations, and the athletic departments at the school, company founder/Chairman Jeff Webb has guided the company’s three business units: Herff Jones, BSN Sports, and Varsity Spirit to combined sales of over $1.2 billion with Varsity Spirit generating revenues of $350 million and employing over 850 employees.

Cynopsis Sports asked Webb about changes in the cheerleading industry, speedbumps with sponsor activations and its potential as an Olympic event.

Webb on the growing utilization of cheer: At the college level, athletic departments are utilizing their spirit teams to make many appearances to generate visibility and enthusiasm for the school. This includes television as well as live events like alumni gatherings, tailgating, etc. This means that many of the larger programs are sponsoring even larger cheer teams, and in some cases multiple teams to be able to handle the additional time requirements.

On working with school sponsors: The increased role of sponsors can be a double-edged sword.  While the cheerleaders often help execute the sponsor activations at games, it means less time for them to lead the crowd in support of the athletic teams.  On the other hand, the sponsors help promote the school and generate additional revenue for the athletic department, which in turn can mean additional budget dollars for the cheerleaders, dance team and mascots.

On Varsity-branded media channels: Varsity currently has a media channel for our spirit division and we are in late stage discussions to partner with traditional media to extend our presence in this area. We are also exploring how to expand our media activity to include our two other divisions, BSN Sports and Herff Jones.
On the Olympics: Together with 107 other countries, we are working with the International Cheer Union for recognition by the IOC. We believe Cheer fits the bill perfectly for what many say the IOC is seeking. The sport of cheerleading is young, includes both men and women, is telegenic and exciting to watch. It is especially appealing to young audiences. The recognition process can be long and arduous, but we are committed to doing whatever we can to help the millions of young people who participate have the global forum to compete and showcase their skills.


Sunday’s clash between Notre Dame and Texas delivered a mammoth 11.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals, as the two-overtime thriller scored as the most-watched college football kickoff weekend game on record across all networks for ESPN/ABC. The game saw a 3% rise over last season’s Labor Day Night game (Ohio State/Virginia Tech) while audiences streaming the game drew an average minute audience of 194,000 and a total of 786,000 unique viewers viewing 49,900,000 minutes overall. Locally, Austin had a 25.4 overnight rating to rank as the top market for the game and Austin’s best overnight for an opening weekend game ever on ESPN’s networks.

Other ESPN games also clicked, as Alabama’s blowout of USC and Wisconsin’s upset of LSU both notched a 4.9 in overnight scores for ABC. Houston’s takedown of Oklahoma on the network generated a 4.0 overnight and had a streaming average minute audience of 131,000 and 547,000 unique viewers. Meanwhile, the Clemson/Auburn on Saturday earned a 2.8 overnight for the company to rank as ESPN’s highest overnight of the day, up 87% increase over last season’s kickoff Saturday primetime game. 

With its tied to DISH severed, ONE World Sports locked in a deal with DIRECTV for an HD slot, residing on channel 623 in the lineup. Dish and its Net TV service, Sling TV both dropped One World Sports on August 30 due to a disagreement over fees and carriage exclusivity issues.

FOX Sports announced a deal with rapped Lil Wayne to record to theme song for FS1’s new debate series Skip and Shannon Undisputed, which debuted this morning at 9:30a.  The track, titled No Mercy, was composed for Lil Wayne by President and Chief Creative Officer of Jingle Punks, Jared Gutstadt. “Music as marketing is the future of the entertainment business, and at Jingle Punks we focus on creating and pairing the perfect music with celebrity talent to match,” said Gutstadt. “Being able to work with my hip hop hero, Lil Wayne, was the cherry on top of this awesome partnership with FOX Sports.”

CBS Sports Network series We Need to Talk returns tonight to the channel at 8p. The weekly show will see Lesley Visser sit down with Rams great Jackie Slater and head coach Jeff Fisher to discuss the team’s return to LA while Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin joins the show in studio to discuss the Olympics and winning two gold medals this summer.

Liberty Media is expected to take over Formula 1 this week, according to a BBC report. The article states that talks with CVC Partners, which owns a 35% stake in the racing organization with Auto Motor stating that the deal would be worth $8.5 billion.

As expected, ESPN announced a new multi-year deal with Keyshawn Johnson for TV and radio that will see him work as an LA-based NFL analyst and serve as a regular daily host for ESPNLA 710 AM. Johnson will make regular appearances on SportsCenter and ESPN’s NFL shows.

Charter agreed to broadcast six Dodger games on KTLA5, with the slate set to include Vin Scully Appreciation Day and the final series of the 2016 regular season against the San Francisco Giants. Programming begins Sept. 23 at 6:15p with the simulcast of the first of six Los Angeles Dodgers games featuring Scully, on SportsNet LA and KTLA5.


Join us for a swanky awards reception in NYC this Fall!
Thursday, September 15
4:15 – 6:30 PM
Celebrate with your industry peers & help us applaud the talented young pros that made the cut for our Rising Star Awards
& the unsung heroes who have demonstrated
excellence in our HR Awards.

Hear their thoughts on the future of the industry + toast to their achievements over the past year.


The college football season saw ESPN debut its new campaign detailing the maze of punching a ticket to the College Football Playoff with the first spot, Crossroads, spotlighting fans and mascots “intersecting at a roadside gas station as they begin their journey to the Playoff. The campaign marks the third year of the “Who’s In?” thematic, which was launched in year one of the new College Football Playoff era. “If we’ve learned anything these last two years, there isn’t only one road to the Playoff.  Ask Ohio State year one.  Ask Alabama year two.  There are many roads to the Playoff and each season, it’s all about finding the right one,” said Emeka Ofodile, Senior Director of Marketing for ESPN. “Who’s In?” was created in collaboration with Wieden + Kennedy New York. Full creative credits follow.
Ahead of the World Cup of Hockey this month, the NHL announced a pair of music acts to anchor the festivities. The Killer will headline thePepsi World Cup of Hockey Premiere Party on Sept. 16 at 4:30p while the Scotiabank World Cup of Hockey Fan Village will offer a live performance from Green Day on Sept. 23 at 6:30p. 

Local sports platform ScoreStream will syndicate its crowd-sourced high school sports content to 600 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants throughout the country in a new deal. Friday nights will see the restaurants display ScoreStream’s real-time, hyper-local scores, photos and video highlights on its screens. “High school sports are woven into the fabric of our communities, but for fans who can’t make it to the games, finding scores and highlights in real-time has been next to impossible, until now,” said Derrick Oien, Founder and CEO of ScoreStream. “The ScoreStream mobile app crowd-sources real-time sports content from thousands of local games each week, and this fall at B-Dubs, high school sports fans can follow their local teams and stay up to date on every touchdown, no matter where they are.”

The Los Angeles Rams penned in a deal with Banc of California to serve as the "Official Banking Partner of the Los Angeles Rams Foundation." Today, Steven Sugarman, Banc of California’s Chairman and CEO, will address Rams players, coaches and season ticketholders during the team’s seventh annual "Kickoff for Charity" luncheon.


120 Sports named Michael Kim and Alexa Datt as its leading talent team for the newly relocated sports series Morning Run. The pair will co-host the daily show from 8-11a from its new location at the MLBAM studios in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market. Kim moves with The Morning Run from Chicago to New York.

FOX Sports GO is now up and running with Chromecast support. In addition, the FOX Sports GO app is now also available on Roku devices and can be found in the Sports category of the Roku Channel Store.


The Collegiate StarLeague opened its doors for the 2016-17 season of its eSports run. Players are now able to enter college-level tournaments for titles that include StarCraft 2, League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Vainglory throughout September with competing teams and players able to win cash and scholarship prizes with pools hitting as much as $50,000. Play begins the second week of October with playoffs spanning March 18-April 8. Last week, CSL released a statement saying that the Hearthstone and Overwatch tournaments had been canceled at Blizzard’s requests.

Speaking of Overwatch, MSI MGA laid out plans for an annual international tournament for the Blizzard title with a prize pool of $75,000 offered to the four best teams from America, Europe and Asia before competing in London for the grand final, which will be offered live on MSI Twitch channels.


Blue Jays/Yankees on MLB Network at 7p.



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ON THIS DAY in 1975: Martina Navratilova is granted political asylum during the US Open.

In The Know: Who owns the record for playing the most NFL seasons (including the AFL), clocking in 26? (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 Reggie Jackson “programmed” to assassinate in the movie The Naked Gun? Answer: The Queen of England. Kudos: Catherine Philbin-Olympic Channel/Madrid; Rob Thompson-North American Sports Group/NY; Ged Young-GC Marketing/NY; Scott Jenkins-Gracenote/NY; Stephen Walsh-Viacom/NY; Brianne Maciejowski-Miles/Sarasota; James J. Pepe-Kwik Goal/Quakertown; Robert Twilley-Jupiter Entertainment/Knoxville; Jim Tunison-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders/Moosic; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; zjohn Kukla-KDFW-KDFI/Dallas; Will Allmendinger-Clear Channel Outdoor/Chicago; Matt Sautter-Imagine Communications/Denver; Miriam Aardahl-OMD/LA; Anne Wettig-Fox Cable Networks/LA; Andy Bab-Super League Gaming/Santa Monica; Steven Gold-The Nielsen Company/Las Vegas.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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