10/02/20: ESPN laid out its programming plans for the WNBA Finals

 

Medias First Morning Read
Friday October 2, 2020

With Las Vegas and Seattle the last two standing, ESPN’s coverage of the WNBA Finals Presented by YouTube TV begins tonight at 7p on ESPN2, for Game 1 of the best-of-five series. Ryan Ruocco and Rebecca Lobo will be on the call from ESPN’s Bristol campus, while Holly Rowe continues her reporting from inside the Wubble in Bradenton, Fla. LaChina Robinson reprises her role as studio host, leading the Halftime Report Presented by State Farm for each game of the series. Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee Swin Cash will join Robinson as a guest analyst for Games 1 and 2. ESPN will continue to provide unique angles during in-game coverage with its camera offerings, including the addition of Above the Rim cameras. Expanded access provided throughout the WNBA Finals will include player interviews after the first and third quarters, a walk-off interview with the leading head coach going into halftime, referee audio on major calls throughout each game and mic’d coaches and players for every game.

PROGRAMMING

Take three for the XFL, which will reportedly now return to the playing field in the spring of 2022, according to new league co-owner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. “As owners, we’re proud to champion our XFL players, coaches, cities and fans into an electrifying 2022 season! It’s an uphill battle – but we’re hungry, humble and no one will outwork us,” the actor posted on Twitter, and releasing a video to promote its return. In August, the league was acquired for $15 million by an investment group which includes Johnson as well as investment company RedBird Capital Partners.

Anchored by the delayed NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBCSN is reporting its best third-quarter primetime viewership ever, according to live plus same day data for the quarter (running June 29-Sept. 27) from Nielsen, averaging a record 506,000 third-quarter primetime viewers – more than doubling last year’s audience in the quarter. NBCSN also notched its best Total Day (6 a.m.-6 a.m.) viewership in any quarter, claiming 200,000 and up 37% increase over last year’s third quarter (146,000).

NASCAR is making some big changes to its Cup Series schedule, announcing Wednesday the addition of three new tracks, and expansion to six road courses as well as a dirt-track race on the calendar for the first time in more than 50 years. Next year’s Cup Series remains at 36 point-paying races, starting as it did this year with the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 14) and ending with the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 7). Changed include: May 23: Circuit of The Americas; June 20: Nashville Superspeedway; July 4: Road America; and Aug. 15 on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile road course. The Cup Series will also diversify its calendar with a temporary conversion of Bristol Motor Speedway to a dirt-track surface for its March 28 event. In addition, the NASCAR All-Star Race will move to Texas Motor Speedway for the first time, with the annual invitational set for June 13.

Meanwhile, the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series schedule is confirmed, with NBC Sports announcing that it will feature a record nine races on broadcast network NBC, including the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, and the season opener, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, on March 7. The 17-race season, which will be exclusively presented across NBC Sports, also features the inaugural presentation of the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville on Aug. 8, on NBCSN. “The INDYCAR and NBC Sports partnership continues to be mutually beneficial, growing in viewership and providing adrenaline-packed entertainment to a national sports audience,” said Michael Perman, vice president, programming, NBC Sports. “We’re looking forward to providing increased exposure to the Series in 2021, including network coverage of the season opener in St. Pete and the finale in Laguna Seca. Additionally, as a marquee event of our Championship Season, we’ll also provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Indy 500 on NBC, an international sporting spectacle filled with speed and exceptional drama.”

Tempest Award finalists are out! Congratulations to all of the contenders as well as this year’s special luminaries, including: Twitch’s Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham winning the Sentinel Award; Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere winning this year’s Ambassador Award; and our 2020 Hall of Fame class in Steve Arhancet, Co-CEO, Team Liquid; Victor Goossens, Founder and Co-CEO, Team Liquid; Marcus Lindmark, CEO & President, DreamHack. A fantastic lineup of Watch List selections were also unveiled. Be sure to check out our winners as part of the Esports Business Summit on Oct. 28. Click HERE to secure your virtual seat and be sure to join us at EBS.

truTV is adding Blake Griffin to the family, greenlighting Double Cross with Blake Griffin, an unscripted comedy prank show that will run on the network in 2021. truTV is producing this series in consultation with local authorities, the unions and medical experts.

CBS Sports Network celebrates “Armed Services Saturday” this weekend, with Air Force, Army and Navy all playing on the network. CBS Sports Network showcases the first of three games in quest of the Commander-in-Chief trophy, as Air Force hosts Navy at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs at 6p, while Army faces Abilene Christian at 1:30p. Additionally, the network will show live shots of military personnel watching the games from various military bases throughout the world, with spirit messages from notable members from each branch supporting its football program.

FloSports locked in an exclusive multi-year global distribution partnership with the ECHL and will exclusively carry all ECHL games on ECHL.TV, including every regular matchup, along with the annual Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic, and Kelly Cup Playoffs on its FloHockey platform starting with the 2020-2021 season.

CBS Sports will broadcast the matchup between Baylor and Gonzaga, two of college basketball’s top teams, to open the season for the network’s college basketball coverage, running on CBS at 1p out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports presents the 145th Preakness Stakes tomorrow at 4:30p on NBC. This Saturday’s coverage also includes the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for three-year-old fillies. Saturday’s coverage will include two jockey cams to provide unique on-track perspective, along with enhanced audio through a mic’d up trainer and jockey. The show will also contain a feature on Baffert’s 2020 Kentucky Derby experience, including a half-hour span in which Thousand Words was scratched prior to the race after flipping in the paddock and Authentic knocking down Baffert down post-race in the winner’s circle.

All Sports Television Network entered into an agreement to broadcast National Pro Fastpitch softball league games. Under the deal, ALL SPORTS will air NPF’s prior season league games, which serves as a prelude to the upcoming summer Olympic games. “We are thrilled to be bringing professional fast pitch softball to American television viewers,” stated ALL SPORTS President Roger Neal Smith. “Our decision to air the games actually addresses two issues that I believe to be very important. First, since some of these athletes will be representing the U.S. in the upcoming summer Olympics, they should get the recognition that they deserve, even prior to the games.

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Utz Brand, the Official Salty Snack of Major League Baseball, announced that the brand would serve as the presenting sponsor of the 2020 American League Division Series (ALDS), beginning Oct. 5. “Utz is extremely proud and excited to sponsor the American League Division Series this year,” said Mark Schreiber, EVP and Chief Customer Officer, Utz Brands, Inc. “Even with this year’s abbreviated season, the MLB Postseason promises to be a time of great competition and celebration. And as America’s pastime, we’re excited to share in this time-honored tradition, baseball and Utz, a classic combination.”

With the NBA Finals underway, ESPN, in collaboration with ABC, the NBA and The Undefeated, unveiled the #ChampionBlackBusinesses initiative as part of ESPN’s “Rise Together” campaign unveiled earlier in the NBA season. As part of the initiative, ESPN will spotlight two specific Black-owned businesses from the two NBA Finals team markets through custom features. The two chosen businesses will be revealed later this week via two unique films highlighting each business’ impact on their respective community. The films will debut and live on ESPN’s digital and social media channels as well as The Undefeated. Additionally, through a collaboration with ABC, Sharks Mark Cuban and Daymond John from ABC’s Shark Tank will mentor both businesses on ESPN platforms. Ultimately, the 2020 NBA Champion will unlock the opportunity to run their city’s respective feature across ESPN linear networks.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Meganews on the betting front as Caesars Entertainment formally announced its purchase of William Hill for a reported $3.7 billion. “The opportunity to combine our land based-casinos, sports betting and online gaming in the U.S. is a truly exciting prospect,” said Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg. “William Hill’s sports betting expertise will complement Caesars’ current offering, enabling the combined group to serve our customers in the fast-growing U.S. sports betting and online market. We look forward to working with William Hill to support future growth in the U.S. by providing our customers with a superior and comprehensive experience across all areas of gaming, sports betting, and entertainment.”

NBA Restart saw league players get a boost in popularity on social media, with the league releasing a list of the Top 15 players who have gained the most social media followers across Instagram and Twitter among those who participated in the restart. Easily topping the list is LeBron James, who adding 4,186,928 to his tally, while Tyler Herro took second with 792,955. Rounding out the top five were Damial Lillard, Luka Don?i? and Jamal Murray.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium implemented drone technology as part of the stadium’s “holistic cleaning protocol.” MBS partnered with Lucid Drone Technologies for D1 disinfecting drones in order to sanitize key areas in a more efficient and effective manner. This technology has been tested as part of the sanitization process and will be implemented as the stadium team welcomes fans back for the Falcons home game against the Carolina Panthers on October 11.

The Philadelphia Eagles locked in a multiyear partnership with DraftKings, which will serve as the official daily fantasy sports partner and official sports betting partner of the team. DraftKings gets exclusive naming rights to a premium lounge at Lincoln Financial Field, which will be called “The DraftKings Field Club.” DraftKings’ branding will also be integrated throughout a number of the Eagles’ social media channels and digital assets, including practice livestreams, in-game branding, videoboards, and signage at Lincoln Financial Field.

ESPORTS

The BIG EAST Conference and the Electronic Gaming Federation are launching a three-year agreement that will allow all 11 member schools to compete in a year-long multigame season for the first time as official EGF Collegiate league members. The EGFC Season begins October 5 and features nationwide intercollegiate competition in two eight-week splits as well as conference championships, regional playoffs and the EGFC National Championship to be held April 24-25, 2021. Expanded titles include: Rocket League, Overwatch, SSBU and FIFA. Broadcasts of all matches will be streamed on EGF’s 5 Twitch channels, the BIG EAST YouTube channel and various institutional platforms.

Former Turner President David Levy is returning to the esports scene, joining Andbox as an investor and Chairman of the company’s advisory board. His investment came as a part of Andbox’s Series B funding round that included parties with broad expertise in sports, entertainment, consumer brands and digital media.

Two big reports from TEO. First, Overwatch League commissioner Pete Vlastelica is reportedly stepping away from the role, although he will remain CEO of Activision Blizzard’s esports division Vlastelica has served as the Overwatch League’s commissioner since 2019.

NRG Esports co-CEO Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez reclaimed the org he founded, acquiring OpTic Gaming, according to the site, with Rodriguez snatching up intellectual property in its entirety back from Immortals Gaming Club.

Enthusiast Gaming Holdings will be hosting its Rising Stars reality competition, to discover the next gaming superstar. The grand prize winner will receive a $100,000 sponsorship with Luminosity Gaming and will be added to its roster which includes top gaming influencers such as Anomaly, Muselk, Fresh, RockyNoHands, and most recently, xQc. The public can tune in to watch these live shows, every Tuesday and Thursday night between October 13 and November 5 at 9pm ET on twitch.tv/lgloyal. The top two performers will have a guaranteed spot in the finals–while the third final spot will be given to the fan favorite of the remaining top six.

SPORTS BROADCAST JOURNAL w/David J. Halberstam

Some legendary voices or their fans wear their emotions on the tombstone. A look at the gravesites of renowned broadcasters. From Curt Gowdy to Johnny Most and Chick Hearn.
The final resting places of heavenly and beloved sports voices: Allen, Gowdy, Harwell, Caray and others

Mary Carillo opens up. Once ranked 33d in the world on the tennis circuit, she’s made her mark on network TV for decades, reporting on a variety of sports. Mary’s covering the French Open this weekend on NBC. Columnist Dan Mason got into great depth with Mary in this interview.
NBC’s Mary Carillo opens up; Popular on the tennis circuit, she brings smarts, wit and insight to the mic

In San Diego, Leitner is a legend. He was once the target of a pie-throwing promotion when the Clippers were in San Diego. There was such a mess, the second half was delayed for 40 minutes. Leitner has been the voice of the Padres for 41 years. Quite a character, originally from the Bronx.
Ted Leitner: One of a kind; Loved or hated, the longtime Padres’ voice is a legend in San Diego

NFL and college television schedules for the weekend. Full listings, announcers, notes and schedules. For the NFL, all market clearances for each regional telecast:
NFL Week #4: CBS takes Sunday spotlight, New England at Kansas City; Steelers-Titans postponed
College Football Week #5: CBS has #12 Texas A&M at #2 Alabama, ESPN #7 Auburn at #4 Georgia in primetime

Happy Birthdays:

Laura Rutledge 10/2 ESPN reporter
Neil Best 10/3 Newsday, media critic
Nick Wright 10/3 Fox Sports
Marney Gellner 10/4 Minnesota Twins TV
Paul Severino 10/5 Miami Marlins TV
Jimmy Cefalo 10/6 Miami Dolphins radio
Rebecca Lobo 10/6 ESPN analyst
Jackie MacMullan 10/7 ESPN reporter

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