11/12/18: Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shuken talks deals

CynopsisSports
Good morning. It’s Monday November 12, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

 
As the college football regular season winds down and the college basketball season gears up, the Pac-12 Conference continues to notch up its lineup of partnerships, unveiling a slate of expanded alliances (with Audi and Dr Pepper) as well as a new sponsor (Jack in the Box) for the Pac-12 Football Championship Game. Other partners of the 2018 contest also include Gatorade, GEICO, Maui Jim, Opus Bank, PrimeSport, Shoowin and Unifi.
 
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 Conference also announced that tech and telecommunications companies Comcast and Cox Communications, both of whom are distribution partners of the Pac-12 Networks, have agreed to expand their relationships as sponsors of the conference. Comcast’s residential services brand, Xfinity, will become the official multichannel video programming distributor sponsor of each of the Pac-12 universities in its footprint: Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Washington, Washington State University, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, University of Colorado and Utah University. Meanwhile, Cox will become the official MVPD partner of the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.
 
Cynopsis caught up with Mark Shuken, President of Pac-12 Networks, to discuss the state of the conference and its networks, as well as how they are working with sponsors.
 
Shuken on the appeal of the Pac-12: Strong interest from sponsor and advertiser partners in developing an association with the Pac-12 starts with the incredible strength of our member school brands and the power of the affinity and engagement of the fans of those schools for their universities.  Beyond that, the Pac-12 has a very strong brand positioning that encompasses excellence across academics and athletics, innovation and the best of the West Coast.  This is encapsulated in our Conference of Champions brand positioning as the winningest conference in college sports, and one that is a real thought leader on important issues such as student-athlete health and well-being, promotion of women’s sports, sustainability, globalization of sports and many others. Add to that the fact that we own our own media company and have the ability to deliver innovative multi-platform partnerships to sponsor and advertiser partners, including digital, social, linear and on-site assets, and you have a really impactful platform for sponsors.
 
On conversations with sponsors: We are pleased with how the market has been responding to our Pac-12 sponsor and advertiser opportunities, and the value that leading brands are seeing in the Pac-12.  In just the past week we announced renewals with Dr Pepper and Audi, a new deal with Jack in the Box, and sponsorship deals with Comcast and Cox, each of whom is expanding their existing distribution relationship with the Pac-12. And we anticipate announcing some further deals in the coming days and weeks.
 
On activating: With an evolved content strategy and multi-platform approach for Pac-12 Networks this season we have been able to further extend our ability to develop compelling branded content throughout our programming.  A great example of this is that as we have taken our show on the road to all 12 campuses with “The Pregame,” there was great interest from partners in being involved and branded content has found its way into this programming that spreads throughout our linear, digital and social media channels.
 
On the evolution of  Pac-12 Networks: I’m incredibly excited about the growth and future of our Pac-12 Networks, in particular because we own it and have the ability to experiment and innovate.  This year we unveiled a new multi-platform content strategy that will ensure that our fans are able to consume the very best of the Pac-12 wherever they are and whenever they want, on any and all devices.  This includes both our 850 live events along with a myriad of highlights, compelling storytelling, original programming and short form content of all kinds.  We are focused on delivering the best quality content to our fans, particularly younger fans who consume sports mostly on mobile and social platforms.  We are taking our Pac-12 Networks shows on the road to our campuses more than ever before to bring to life the energy and excitement of college sports.  And we are experimenting and partnering with leading technology companies such as Google, Facebook, and others on ways to create and deliver the very best and most relevant content, all in the name of better connecting our fans to the universities and sports they love.
 
On viewership: We have seen strong growth in viewership across all of our platforms.  I am continuously amazed by the “stickiness” of college sports content, and the levels of passion and engagement that our fans have for Pac-12 sports.  From a trend perspective, we are absolutely continuing to see the evolution of consumption towards non-linear platforms and we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet consumer needs.
 
 
ON THE AIR

FOX Sports’ coverage of Ohio State’s win over Michigan State led the day in college football Nielsen numbers, snagging a 3.8 score in metered markets to rank as the highest-rated college football game of the day. That contest was also FOX’s second highest-rated game of the season in the sport, up 36% over last year’s showdown between the teams.
 
In primetime, ABC and ESPN led the pack with college football’s two highest-rated games in the time period in week 11. ABC’s Saturday Night Football featuring Clemson/Boston College (2.6) was followed by ESPN’s telecast of Auburn/Georgia (2.3) as the top two games in the timeframe, Oklahoma State/Oklahoma’s annual Bedlam matchup at 3:30p on ABC saw 36% growth from the same game window last year.
 
On Thursday Night Football, the NFL reports that the Steelers win over the Panthers was seen by an average audience of 15.4 million viewers across all platforms, including FOX, NFL Network, FOX Deportes, NFL digital, FOX Sports digital, Amazon and Yahoo Sports for a rise of 15% over last year’s week 10 matchup. The Nielsen-measured audience hit 14.8 million viewers, 13% over the 2017 Week 10 game. Digital streaming across Amazon Prime Video, Twitch, NFL digital platforms, FOX Sports digital platforms and Yahoo Sports produced an average minute audience of 782K up 105% vs. last year’s Week 10 Thursday Night Football matchup.
 
MLB owners are poised to vote on a new television contract with FOX Sports as well as a bespoke agreement with the OTT streaming service DAZN, according to the AP. Meetings next week in Atlanta will also see the board vote on a new term of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, according to the news agency with Manfred reportedly set to be kept on until 2025. The DAZN deal would see the platform negotiating a $300 million, three-year deal with MLB for in-game cut-ins.
 
The sale of Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks is drawing interest not only from traditional TV broadcasters but also Amazon and private equity firms that include one that wants to bring Lakers superstar LeBron James into play, according to the LA Times. More than 40 firms, including Fox, have expressed preliminary interest in the regional sports networks. This week marked the deadline for the initial round of bids.
 
Telemundo Deportes’ Boxeo Telemundo returns to the network on Nov. 16 at 11:35p. The season premiere will feature Puerto Rican Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez and Mexican Juan “Pinky” Alejo battling for the WBO/NABO flyweight title. All fights will be broadcast live on Telemundo and live streamed on Telemundo Deportes En Vivo app with Rene Giraldo and Edgar Lopez returning as commentators alongside Abner Mares.
 
Tonight will see the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony with NHL Network poised to offer eight consecutive hours of live coverage, highlighted by NHL Tonight: 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Preview at 7p. Coverage begins at 4p with NHL Now. NHL Network’s E.J. Hradek will report from Toronto throughout the day while Jamison Coyle, Jamie Hersch, Tony Luftman and Jackie Redmond, along with analysts Brian Lawton, Mark Parrish in his debut on the network, Dave Reid, Kevin Weekes and Ryan Whitney will be featured throughout the day’s programming.
 
MSG Networks launches Food Week this week, serving up a full slate of food-themed programming that will highlight “the intersection between love of sports and passion for food.” Viewers will be provided with a look at their favorite players at some of the most popular restaurants throughout the city, including Kevin Knox at Benihana, Ron Baker at Jacob’s Pickles and Rangers teammates Neal Pionk, Adam McQuaid and Brett Howden at Lure Fish Bar. Islanders and Devils players and MSG Networks on-air personalities will also be interviewed during the week, including inside iconic food establishments such as Junior’s Cheesecake and Hobby’s Deli in Newark.
 
The Pac-12 announced that Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Boulder will meet in 2019 in the fifth edition of the Pac-12 China Game presented by Alibaba Group. Longtime Pac-12 partner Federation of University Sports of China will serve as the co-host for the game. The announcement was made before the tipoff of the 2018 California and Yale China Game at Baoshan Sports Center in Shanghai. The matchup between the Sun Devils and Buffaloes, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 9 and for national broadcast in both the U.S. and China, will not count as a conference contest.
 
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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Chinese payment platform Alipay inked an eight-year sponsorship deal with UEFA to serve as the men’s national team football sponsors from 2018 until 2026, including UEFA EURO 2020 and 2024 and the UEFA Nations League finals. Alipay’s first four-year cycle as a UEFA national team competitions sponsor will see take part in a total of eight competitions, spanning 420 matches.
 
 
DIGITAL & STREAMING

Discovery, the PGA TOUR and Jupiter Golf Network Co, Japan’s largest operator of cable television and program supply business, teamed up for a new partnership that will see live PGA TOUR coverage featured on Golf Network, as well as the ambition to develop a broader digital ecosystem leveraging GOLFTV’s digital content to engage even more golf fans throughout the country. Starting in January 2019, the agreement will allow golf fans there to watchlive action on the Golf Network linear channel and simulcast coverage via its Golf Network Plus App. Live coverage will include the PGA TOUR’s biggest tournaments, such as THE PLAYERS Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup. GOLFTV, the global live and on-demand video streaming service revealed last month by Discovery and the TOUR, will also be available to fans from January 2019.
 
 
ESPORTS

Electronic Arts and UEFA unveiled the birth of the eChampions League, described as a pivotal tournament expansion to the EA Sports FIFA 19 Global Series and serving as a new way for fans to connect to the UEFA Champions League through the competition.
The eChampions League will serve as another stop on a list of global events and competitions on the Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2019 next summer. Eligible competitors will compete on PlayStation 4 and participate in eChampions League Global Online Knockout tournaments from March 2-3, with the top 64 player advancing to a live qualifying event on April 26-27. Eight of the world’s elite will advance from the April live event to the eChampions League Final. Hosted in Madrid on May 31, the eChampions League Final will be played a day before the real-world UEFA Champions League Final on June 1, creating a two-day celebration of digital and traditional football.
 
Incoming Overwatch League teams continue to roll out the branding markers with the Nenking Group becoming the latest to unveil its moniker and colors. The Chinese team will be known as the Guangzhou Charge and the team’s brand can now be viewed on Weibo, Wechat and Twitter @GZCharge, and Facebook at fb.me/GZCharge. Team execs noted that the name was chosen “because it expresses our vision to lead the esports movement in China, and to be at the forefront of innovation. It also expresses our vision for a competitive team that plays aggressive and bold.”
 
 
ROSTER MOVES

Suzy Whaley was elected the first female president of the PGA of America on Friday. Whaley becomes the 41st PGA president. Succeeding Whaley as VP will be Jim Richerson, PGA of Scottsdale who served the previous two years as Secretary.
 
 
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