10/22/15: Universal Sports going dark; ESPN begins layoffs; NCAA benches daily fantasy


Good morning. It’s Thursday October 22, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

The Universal Sports brand is fading to black and will shut down next month with minority partner NBC Sports picking up the network’s portfolio of rights which include events such as the Boston Marathon and the Tour de France. SBJ broke the news that the channel will fold on Nov. 16, as majority owners InterMedia Partners announced the news at a meeting in LA after shopping the channel in recent months. The platform’s operations and production center in Colorado is, however, expected to remain open for the near future, according to sources, at least through next Summer’s Olympics.


Meanwhile, the hammer finally fell at ESPN as well, which is cutting around 300 jobs from its departments, amounting to about 4% of its overall staff. The company released a letter from ESPN topper John Skipper discussing the moves and noting that employees would receive a minimum of 60 days’ notice, along with severance packages and job search assistance. “Our 36 years of continuous growth and success has been driven by our consistent willingness to reimagine our future, to embrace change and make the right choices for our business, including hard decisions that affect people who have been integral parts of our efforts,” the statement read. Beginning today, we will be enacting a number of organizational changes at ESPN to better support our future goals  a process that will include the elimination of a number of positions, impacting friends and colleagues across the organization.”

Game 3 of the Mets/Cubs matchup in the 2015 National League Championship Series on TBS averaged 9.2 million total viewers and a 5.8 household rating to deliver the network’s most-viewed LCS Game 3 ever and its most-watched NLCS game of all time, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals. Subsequently, TBS won the night across all of cable television in prime time, based on metered market delivery, up 92% in total viewers and 87% in U.S. HH rating over the network’s comparable NLCS coverage in with increases of 53% among total viewers and U.S. HH rating over last year’s ALCS Game 3.

The IOC announced that CBC/Radio-Canada locked in Canadian broadcast rights for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and the 2024 Olympic Games, making them Canada’s Olympic Network and Official Broadcaster for the next five Olympic Games. CBC/Radio-Canada will also become a broadcast partner from 2016 until at least 2023 for the IOC’s new global digital Olympic Channel, offering Canadian sports content to support the channel’s focus on the Olympic Movement between Games. As lead broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada will be working again with its primary Olympic broadcast partner, Bell Media along with Rogers Media.

IMG renewed its international media rights deal with MMA promotion World Series of Fighting. Since its initial alliance in 2013, IMG has effectively placed the company in over 70 countries and territories around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Peru and Russia. In June, combat sports television channel, Fight Network, signed on to distribute World Series of Fighting events in Canada as well as in over 30 countries in Europe, Africa and The Middle East.

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Ahead of Major League Soccer’s #DecisionDay, FS1 and FOX Deportes announced its selection to run nationally on Sunday, the final day of the MLS regular season. The channels will turn east for a matchup between the Columbus Crew SC and D.C. United, currently the second- and third-place teams in the East, at 5p. Coverage plans include constant look-ins to the other matches that kickoff simultaneously during their window, FOX Sports also offers a dedicated “Coach Cam” to capture all the action of both teams.


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The NCAA is blocking daily fantasy operators DraftKings and FanDuel from advertising during championship events, according to ESPN, notifying the companies that the wall will include television broadcasts In a letter, addressed to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and FanDuel executives Christian Genetski and Matt King and dated Oct. 20, the organization also asked the daily fantasy companies to notify the NCAA if any referees or officials have participated in fantasy sports contests. A source within the daily fantasy industry told ESPN that both FanDuel nor DraftKings will continue offering contests on college athletics.

Monster Energy is coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, singing on to sponsor Kurt Busch at Stewart-Haas Racing in a multi-year deal. The brand will co-sponsor him and the No. 41 Chevrolet SS with Haas Automation. Busch will debut this new sponsorship during the Oct. 30-Nov. 1 Sprint Cup race weekend at Martinsville Speedway with the car becoming a fixture beginning with the 2016 season, slated to become whereupon Monster Energy will be the alpha sponsor (hood) for 17 races and the bravo sponsor (quarter panel) for 18 races with one full primary race sponsorship. “Kurt Busch has been a member of the Monster Energy team since 2012 and we’re very happy to take his involvement with us to a whole new level,” said Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing, Monster Energy. “The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the premiere form of stock-car racing in North America and it’s exactly where we want to be. Kurt and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing are racers. They walk the walk, just like Monster Energy.”

The Austin American-Statesman writes that Nike locked in the richest deal in the sector in college athletics with the University of Texas in a 15-year agreement. The deal will reportedly top the brand’s deal with Michigan for an estimated $169 million.

Mary Wittenberg, Global CEO of Virgin Sport, will become the first recipient of the AKTIV Against Cancer Award. The honor will be presented at a ceremony on October 27 at The Blue Water Grill in New York City as part of the Foundation’s first-ever North American fundraising luncheon. The award was created to honor the legacy of nine-time New York City Marathon Champion and Norwegian running superstar Grete Waitz.

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation is turning to the likes of sports figures Joe Girardi, Alex Rodriguez and Garry Gilliam. The top will take part in the launch of a public service campaign “Just Say Hi”  aimed at addressing the hesitation people often feel around those with disabilities. Other celebrities will include William H. Macy, Alex Rodriguez, Gayle King, Mario Batali, Satya Nadella, Rosanna Scotto and other notable public figures.

Topps, the official baseball card of Major League Baseball, is launching “Pride & Perseverance,” a special insert set in 2015 Topps Baseball Update Series that celebrates players who have triumphed in spite of disabilities. The set will be released on Wednesday, October 21 and feature current and former Major Leaguers, including: Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who are both cancer survivors; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy, who is legally blind without his corrective lenses; Houston Astros outfielder George Springer, who has overcome stuttering and New York Mets reliever Buddy Carlyle, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009.


247Sports.com reports that the site set a new record in September by capturing 7% of the US internet audience, pushing it into the top 10 list of the most popular sports sites in the country. The site registered 18.129 million unique users in September, besting its previous high of 14.399 million.

US Club Soccer unveiled Fit for 90, a player-monitoring platform delivering sports science to soccer coaches, players and teams, as its “Official Player Monitoring System.” Fit for 90 also joins as a partner of the recently launched Players First initiative. Fit for 90 serve up info based on player feedback to help coaches better understand each athlete’s readiness and stress to decrease risk of injury and increase player development and performance.


Seahawks/49ers on CBS/NFL Network at 8p.



From the e-sports explosion to the take-no-prisoners evolution of social media and more, Cynopsis Sports will reveal the tech and trends that are keeping fans tuned in. Join us for this one-day conference on December 2nd and get the lowdown that will keep your business growing.

ON THIS DAY in 2001: ESPN debuts Pardon the Interruption.

In The Know: Which Big Ten school is famous for its fans’ tendency to ‘Jump Around’? (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 the number one pick in the 2004 MLS soccer draft at the age of 14? Answer: Freddy Adu. Kudos: Derek Gamble-Major League Soccer/NY; Tim DeLaney-Showtime Networks/NY; Andreas Droste-NBC Sports Group/NY; Phyllis Starsia-Tangible Media/NY; G. David Brown-FOX Sports/Charlotte; Michael G. Hawkins-FrancIs Marion University/Florence; Liz Eng-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Farrah Segaloff-Comcast Spotlight/Quincy; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Chris Hartweg-Wunderman/Chicago; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; David Hauptman/Denver; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Jack Simmons-Fox Sports/LA; Adam Deverell-Cox Reps/LA; Willie Price-American Forces Network/Riverside.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
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