11/02/20: Konstantin Grigorishin weighs in on the ISL


Medias First Morning Read
Monday November 2, 2020

Last year, billionaire businessman Konstantin Grigorishin unveiled his startup sports vision, the International Swimming League, a platform designed to showcase the talents of most of the world’s elite swimmers. The ISL went through year one with its team-based format in cities around the globe, and was planning on a similar season in 2020, incorporating many of the lessons learned into season two. Then COVID hit, and the ISL pivoted.

They moved all their events into one “Budapest Bubble,” starting last month and continuing into mid-November, the largest gathering of international athletes in one place since the Pandemic started. The results have been solid through the first three weeks of competition, with advancements including bringing the ISL to CBS for the first of a multiyear agreement. Leading the North American business progress is longtime sports business executive Mark Noonan, who has gone through similar successful runs with the MLS and the World Surf League, and was the person who brought CBS, and ESPN in other parts of the world, to ISL season two.

We asked Noonan how swimmingly the business side is going.

On ISL value: Until ISL was created in 2019, swimming was one of the most popular sports on the planet, in both viewership and participation, without a professional league. ISL has re-imagined this paradigm giving world-class athletes like Caeleb Dressel and Lilly King, the opportunity to be professionals and support themselves no different than their peers in pro sports. For fans, ISL is offering a fast paced, high stakes, visually compelling team competition showcasing both men and women for an audience that is two-fold…a core group of millions who follow the sport and its personalities and a casual group of global fans who crave action, engagement and storytelling reimagined on any screen they choose.

On the Importance of adding CBS: CBS puts us on the front porch of millions of consumers every week, which is essential to a new property in terms of building awareness, credibility and telling the unique story that is ISL. The fact that CBS was willing to commit to a multi-year partnership in the middle of a pandemic shows their belief in what ISL is doing and the potential of the property. In addition to CBS, ISL programming is globally distributed in over 140 countries (almost double from year one) on the likes of the BBC (UK), CBC (Canada), Globo (Brazil), Channel 7 (Australia), TV Asahi (Japan), ESPN (Caribbean, New Zealand), etc.

On the value proposition for brands: The value proposition starts by having a brand being associated with the absolute best in the world at what they do which is something that cannot be faked. Three world records were broken in the inaugural year of ISL and we expect more as this season unfolds. Another really unique element of the ISL structure is the commitment to 100% gender equality. The 10 ISL teams are each comprised of 12 women and 12 men who compete as equals for the exact same number of points and prize money. ISL controls all the sponsorship assets there are virtually no barriers to entry and we can work with brands to craft bespoke programs that serve their specific objectives.

On connecting to Olympians in non-Olympic years: We are building a professional league that is going to provide swimmers and their fans an opportunity to far more regularly engage their audiences with very few traditional barriers getting in the way. ISL will showcase these elite athletes for what they really are…talented, telegenic, highly competitive and fascinating personalities. Their stories, their training and the ability for them to be active brand ambassadors with a global audience should not, and will not with the ISL, be tied to a few weeks every fortnight.

On tech innovation: ISL has created the most innovative and compelling competitive format in swimming history, where “every race is a final.” This format is broken into two-hour action-packed windows, perfect for today’s broadcasters and audiences. To bring the action to life, ISL is utilizing several unique camera angles (underwater, birds-eye, inside the starting blocks looking directly into the eyes of the competitors, holding room etc.) ISL has also developed an extensive graphics package helping viewers identify the competitors during races as well as educate them on ISL scoring.

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ESPN unveiled its 35-game college football bowl season schedule in 2020-2021. It features 13 ESPN Events owned and operated games, the College Football Playoff Semifinals (Friday, January 1) and the entire New Year’s Six, culminating with the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (Monday, January 11) from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. The Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl kicks things off on Saturday, December 19 at 7p on ESPN. The new Montgomery Bowl will be broadcast on Wednesday, December 23 at 7p on ESPN or ESPN2, while the Camellia Bowl airs Friday, December 25 at 2:30p on ESPN. The busiest day of the bowl campaign will be Saturday, December 26, which features six games across ESPN and ABC, beginning at 12p with the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa and the Cure Bowl in Orlando. This season’s College Football Playoff Semifinals return to its traditional New Year’s Day date on ESPN. The Rose Bowl Game (5p) and Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:45p) will host this year’s CFP Semifinals, while the New Year’s Six’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (12p, ESPN) is also scheduled for January 1. The New Year’s Six also features the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on December 30 at 7:15p, as well as the Play Station Fiesta Bowl and Capitol One Orange Bowl on January 2 at 4p and 8p, respectively, on ESPN.

In other ESPN news, the network announced its exclusive plans to televise the KBO League postseason, which began on Sunday November 1 on ESPNEWS. Games will air live across ESPN2 and ESPNEWS, culminating with regular season champion NC Dinos facing the winner of the four-team playoff in the Korean Series on ESPN2, which begins on November 17 at 4:30a.

HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted, a new special edition featuring a conversation between LeBron James, Maverick Carter and President Barack Obama, is now available to all viewers. Non-HBO subscribers can access the episode through Saturday, November 28 at www.HBO.com, www.YouTube.com/HBO, www.HBOMax.com and www.YouTube.com/HBOMax.

ACC Network will exclusively televise the ACC’s annual preseason basketball media days – ACC Women’s Basketball Tipoff and ACC Operation Basketball, on Wednesday, November 11 and Thursday, November 12. There will be more than eight hours of dedicated coverage of these virtual events with ACC’s women’s head coaches and student athletes feature from 5-7p and men’s head coaches and student athletes feature from 7-9p, each night of the two-day event. In addition, Packer and Durham will unveil both men and women’s preseason All-ACC teams and the predicted order of finish, leading into Tipoff and Operation Basketball.

The Ultimate Fighter is heading back to ESPN+ in March 2021. The longstanding reality series will feature athletes from the men’s bantamweight (135 lbs.) and middleweight (185 lbs.) divisions. Casting is open through Friday, November 13 with applications available for download at utc.com/TUF.


NASCAR and Wynn Resorts struck a national multi-year sports betting partnership. As an authorized gaming partner, WynnBET will collaborate with NASCAR to create and promote engaging sports experiences for racing fans across the U.S. WynnBET is launching a nationally scaled sports betting business that is built upon the strength of its brand offering with an innovative approach to sports betting products. “We’re excited to partner with such a deeply experienced and innovative team to drive engagement and expand our sports betting offerings,” said Tim Clark, SVP and Chief Digital Officer, NASCAR. “Wynn is a trusted and iconic brand, and our new relationship advances NASCAR’s position in the rapidly evolving gaming space while delivering fans with yet another live-in race engagement too.”

Eiger Marketing Group signed SERVPRO as presenting sponsor of the Chubb Classic – the PGA Tour Champions event in Naples. The annual PGA Tour Champions event will once again feature the legends of the game competing over 54 holes for a share of $1.6 million in prize money. In addition, EMG inked a deal with Konica Minolta as presenting sponsor of the Pelican Women’s Championship, the inaugural LPGA event in Tampa, which will be held November 16-20. It will feature the world’s best female golfers competing over 72 holes for a share of the $1.5 million purse.

Toyota confirmed its partnership with 23XI Racing starting next season in the NASCAR Cup Series, that will have Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. behind the wheel of the No. 23 Toyota Camry. Toyota Racing Development will build the team’s engines and provide technology, data and technical assistance for the team co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin.

Logitech G inked a multi-year exclusive agreement with Riot Games to create a line of officially licensed League of Legends products. First up will be a line of products inspired by the look and feel surrounding K/DA, the virtual girl musical performance group created by Riot. The initial product launch will feature a K/DA line of gaming peripherals including the Logitech G733 gaming headset, the Logitech G304/G305 gaming mouse, the G840 gaming mousepad and the exclusive Logitech G333 League of Legends gaming in-ear headset.


DraftKings expanded its footprint by officially launching its mobile sportsbook app in Tennessee on November 1, ahead of Sunday’s full slate of football games. Tennessee becomes the ninth state to offer DraftKings’ mobile and online sports betting product, more than any other legal sports betting operator in the United States. “Judging by the rabid fanbases following the local pro teams and the powerhouse college sports teams, we’re certain that Tennesseans will be among the most engaged skin-in-the-game sports fans we’ve seen,” said Matt Kalish, co-founder and president, DraftKings North America.


Call of Duty Challengers unveiled the new Scouting Series and Challengers Elite program on Friday. It helps to expose top amateur talent, providing more ways for them to get noticed. The Scouting Series allows top unsigned players from Call of Duty Challengers to compete with unsigned professional form the 2020 season. A total of 128 players (64 from NA and EU) will be invited based on points collected during the 2020 sea son. The Scouting Series will take place December 15 to 18.

PUBG Esports kicks off PCS3 North America Grand Final on November 7. PCS3 items are now on sale with 25% revenue distributed back to global pro teams and added to the $800,000 USD total prize pool.

A written statement from the IOC’s Esports and Gaming Liaison Group to all summer and winter federations states that they do not plan to recognize any group or organization as “the world governing body of esports.” That includes Tencent’s Global Esports Federation. According to the report by insidethegames, sports have been “warned” by the IOC not to join the GEF.


Billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen was approved as the new owner of the New York Mets on Friday, after receiving the requisite 75% of the vote from MLB owners. The owners’ approval, along with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio signing off on the sale, enables Cohen to complete his $2.4 billion transaction to acquire majority ownership (85%) of the franchise. The Mets’ ownership group had been headed by Fred Wilpon, his brother-in-law Saul Katz and Wilpon’s son Jeff, the team’s chief operating officer. The Wilpon and Katz families will retain 5% of the team after the sale, which is expected to finalize in the next 10 days.

There will be no USL Championship title this year. The United Soccer League called off the game between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Phoenix Rising FC on Sunday, when multiple members of the Rowdies organization tested positive for COVID-19. According to reports, the possibility of playing in three to four weeks was considered, but with both teams having players called up to international duty and some contracts expiring the end of November, it was not feasible. So the two squads won’t play each other at all. USL President Jake Edwards announced that the league shares in everyone’s disappointment as the season ends with just two conference winners.

The NBA and National Basketball League Players Association BPA agreed to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement opt-out deadline to November 6. The deadline for which either party could notify the other of an intention to terminate the current CBS had been October 30. If either party provides notice by November 6, the CBA will terminate by December 14, unless the parties agree otherwise.

ESPN is among the NFL partners scaling back their Super Bowl plans in Tampa, after executives were told not to plan for travel or hospitality for the February game, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations. The sports network becomes the latest major NFL partner to reduce its presence at America’s biggest sporting event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although ESPN isn’t in the rotation for televising the Super Bowl, it generally sends a large contingent to the event for both hospitality and coverage. On-air talent and production plans remain in place, but executives were told that travel and client entertainment will be heavily reduced, if not eliminated.

WWE beat expectations posting a 19% year-over-year quarterly revenue increase, despite the absence of ticketed events. An increase in content rights and decrease of event-related production costs drove income to grow nearly 900%. E-commerce revenue was up 60% to $9.1 million in the quarter, while WWE Network subscribers grew 6% and digital video views and hours consumed were both up 3%.

The World Games 2022 will be the most accessible in the event’s 40-year history, courtesy of a partnership between Birmingham Organizing Committee and Lake Shore Foundation. The deal will focus on making the games more inclusive of adapted sports, athletes, fans and experiences for people with disabilities. “Our goal for this program is to make the World Games 2020 a welcoming, accessible and inclusive event for all,” said World Games CEO Nick Sellers. “But beyond that, we also want to create a legacy for accessibility and disability inclusivity for Birmingham and future editions of World Games – one that will last far beyond 2022.”

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Prince Amukamara gave back to his community ahead of NFL training camp by becoming a Dasher on the DoorDash platform. Completing over 300 deliveries to date, Prince donated his earnings to his own Others Foundation, which provides aid, service and support to those in need.

Thursday, Nov. 12 / 2PM ET / Sponsored by New York Interconnect

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On this Day
1996: Miami Heat’s Pat Riley became the eighth coach to win 800 games in a 97-95 victory at Indiana.

What Chicago Bears running back was known as “The Galloping Ghost?” (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
What MLB player retired with the same number of home runs as his father? Answer: Prince Fielder with 319, just like his dad Cecil Fielder. Kudos to: Denis Barry-CBS Television Stations/NYC; Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NYC; Roger Furman-Sports Marketing Communications/Greentown, PA; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton, FL; John Lyons-ESPN/Dallas, TX; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank, CA; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale, AZ; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/Los Angeles, CA; John Ferlazzo/London, UK

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A+E NETWORKS/REMOTE: Skilled/detailed oriented Curation and/or Operations professional who is passionate and knowledgeable about digital media curation, metadata and dist of content to 3rd Party aggregators. You will Curate A+E owned media content using internal media asset management tool. Quick learner with a min 2 yrs’ exp in video media operations. Full info HERE (11/9)

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ION MEDIA NETWORKS/NY, NY, CLEARWATER OR W PALM BEACH, FL: Resp for the assessment, design, implementation, and interconnectedness of key business applications. Must be technically proficient, and disciplined in project mgmt. and be able to work with multiple clients/users/stakeholders to meet their requirements. 10 yrs exp in Systems Ops, Process Diagnostics and Implementation. Full info HERE (11/4)

JUKIN MEDIA/NEW YORK, NY:Seeking an individual who can combine creativity and strategy with a deep understanding of the digital media sales process. Must be able to work with clients, with a min of 2 yrs in advertising/media and a proven track record of building strong client relationships. Full info HERE (11/3)

BBC STUDIOS/LA, CA: Resp for managing sales/co-prod activity in the fiction genres, with clients across both TV/digital. Need to deliver against a stretching bus plan and budget, maximizing the BBC Studios Catalogue through licensing and co-producing programme rights in the US for TV/VOD. 5yrs exp in programme dist, with an understanding of the UK TV industry. Full info HERE (11/3)

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