11/18/16: Honda sees Stars w/NHL; ESPN gets opening day lineup; WWE groups up


Good morning. It’s Friday November 18, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Honda stepped up its ties to the NHL, locking in a deal that makes that automaker the title sponsor of the 2017 NHL All-Star Game LA. Honda will present a new 2017 Ridgeline truck to the most valuable player of the contest on Jan. 29. Honda will also serve as a sponsor of one of the skills in the 2017 NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 28.

“Honda shares a love for the game of hockey with millions of fans around the world, and we are pleased to support the effort to host this ultimate showcase of the NHL and its incredibly talented players in our backyard,” said Jeff Conrad, Honda’s Senior Vice President & General Manager. “We look forward to working with the NHL to create some fun for fans throughout the 2017 All-Star Weekend including the intersection of Hockey and Hollywood that will be arriving at LA Live the last weekend of January.”


ESPN will see the 2017 MLB season open with seven season-opening games across two days next year on ESPN and ESPN2 from April 2-3. The lineup will begin with Yankees/Rays on ESPN at 1p, followed by Giants/Diamondbacks on ESPN2 at 4p and Cubs/Cardinals on ESPN at 8:30p. April 3 will see Braves/Mets on ESPN at 1p, Padres/Dodgers on ESPN at 4p, Indians/Rangers on ESPN at 7p and Angels/Athletics on ESPN2 at 10p.

WWE unveiled plans to launch a new business model surrounding its four biggest annual events. Starting with WrestleMania 33 in April, the organization will now “bring all their other franchises into that same city, with shows from those brands surrounding the main event.” For example, NXT, Raw and Smackdown Live will bookend WrestleMania in Orlando. Fans will be able to purchase a complete package. In addition, WWE also announced that Toyota Center in Houston will host the 30th anniversary of WWE Survivor Series on Nov. 19, 2017.
UFC announced that its much-hyped return to New York paid dividends, setting multiple records for UFC 205: ALVAREZ vs. MCGREGOR. In addition to the card scoring as one  of the most viewed PPV events in UFC history, its FS1 prelims showcase ranked as the most-viewed PPV prelims in channel history among M18-49 and P18-49, while FOX’s preview show scored 2.4 million viewers. The company also saw its Closed Circuit PPV become the highest performing in UFC history and set a domestic UFC record in attendance with 20,427.

A new study from Leger, The Research Intelligence Group, suggests that player protests are indeed having an effect on NFL viewership this year. The study found that 16% are watching less, or a net decline of -3% compared to 2015 season overall with nearly two in five (39%) of those watching less citing the protests  such as kneeling during the national anthem  as a primary reason for tuning out. Among adults 65+, 54% cited the protests. “Months later, this contentious issue continues to impact viewership,” said Lance Henik, Senior Account Manager at Leger. “According to our October poll, the protesting by NFL players during the national anthem was the top reason cited for not watching NFL games as much as last year. These protests really struck a nerve, especially among older, perhaps life-long, fans.”

BTN sweetens the pot in the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry on Monday, announcing plans to honor the 10-year anniversary of the historic matchup between unbeaten top-ranked Ohio State and unbeaten No. 2 Michigan that took place on Nov. 18, 2006. The special documentary, The Game: 2006…Remembered, runs at 9p and goes in-depth for the full story and reaction to the death of Bo Schembechler, the legendary head coach of the Wolverines who died on the eve of the game.

A Missouri ownership group unveiled plans to pursue a Major League Soccer expansion team that would play its matches in a new soccer-specific stadium to be built in Downtown St. Louis. The ownership group is known as SC STL with Paul Edgerley serving as lead owner and Chairman. “With its rich soccer heritage, St. Louis has always been a market of great interest to Major League Soccer and SC STL is the ideal ownership group that will provide St. Louis the best opportunity for a future expansion team,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.  “We have had very productive meetings with lead investor Paul Edgerley and his partners and will continue to do so as they work to bring an expansion team to St.Louis.  Their downtown site is the ideal location for a new stadium and we look forward to helping them make it a reality.”

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who wraps up his driving career this weekend, will host a special edition of his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show, Tony Stewart Live on Nov. 29 to look back on his 18-year career.


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Continental Tire is tapping the talents of Dan Patrick in its newest campaign to tip off the college basketball season. The spots debuted this week and will run nationally during games on FOX, ESPN and the CBS Sports Network with distribution on five regional sports networks. Continental Tire also becomes the exclusive official sponsor of season-long, overtime broadcast segments on ESPN. Additionally, Continental Tire will activate in-arena during 34 college basketball games this season with branded student section giveaways. rEvolution negotiated all property partnerships, media buying and planning and execution of all partnership assets and activations for Continental Tire.

Pizza Hut’s first-ever Pizza Hut All-American  handing a winner with a real, paid opportunity to travel to as many NCAA championships as possible throughout the 2016-17 season  has a winner. After 1,000+ submissions, the company named Jason Zone Fisher, from Cleveland, Ohio, as the winner. Overall, the brand received submissions from 42 states. Fisher will begin his official NCAA national championship tour in Terre Haute.

Grubhub announced a partnership with University of California, Berkeley that will include activations such as the chance to win free football tickets as well as food delivery by Cal’s mascot, OKSI.


Cloud-based Artificial Intelligence media technology company Veritone expanded its presence into sports media, signing Speedway Motorsports to its client list. Veritone’s Cognitive Media Platform enables sports organizations to analyze radio and television broadcasts, in near real-time, “providing them with a 360-degree understanding of sponsorship impact and value.” “Veritone’s first-of-its-kind technology provides sports leaders like ESPN Radio, Westwood One and our newest partner, Speedway Motorsports, a unique view into current and prospective sponsorships by analyzing spoken and visual broadcast integrations within minutes of airing. This level of media intelligence allows teams and advertisers to work together more closely to further their respective brands,” said Ryan Steelberg, President, Veritone Media.

ESPN Digital reports that it reached 99.3 million unique visitors in the US in October, marking the second-largest total ever for ESPN and up 8% over the same month a year ago. Fans spent 11.4 billion minutes using ESPN digital properties with an average minute audience of 256,000.


Game-centric platform Machinima is officially part of the Warner Bros. family, which locked in a deal to acquire the digital company. The agreement makes Machinima part of the recently formed Warner Bros. Digital Networks division. "Machinima is a strong gamer and fandom content and social brand with enormous reach and high engagement with audiences that play our games and are big fans of DC films and television shows," said Warner Bros. Digital Networks president Craig Hunegs in a statement. "Machinima also produces great, high quality content for their community, and together we can create an even more compelling experience and do some really exciting things involving our key franchises. This acquisition is another meaningful move forward as Warner Bros. develops more direct relationships with our consumers."

Riot Games is on the cusp of a deal with MLBAM’s BAM Tech to stream League of Legends competitions as well as back Riot’s product development. The story was broken by Richard Lewis, with sources confirming the talks to bring BAM Tech into the esports industry, where  among other actionables – they will develop a standalone mobile application to stream events, according to the report.

Sportradar’s Betradar entered into an exclusive partnership with esports big data startup, DOJO Madness, to serve up live-odds across a whole range of online and offline esports competitions. “We were always clear that esports live betting provided a great opportunity to invigorate the market, but we weren’t prepared to rush in at the cost of our, and our clients’, reputation,” said James Watson, Betradar’s Head of Esports. “Across all esports, the complexity of the games and the huge volume of data that needs to be captured and processed makes it much more challenging to model than traditional sports.”


NASCAR crowns a new Sprint Cup Champion on NBC on Sunday at 2p.




ON THIS DAY in 1987: The Cubs’ Andre Dawson becomes the first player from a last-place club to win MVP for MLB.

In The Know: What was Bo Schembechler’s actual first name? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which NHL franchise was the last to beat the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals? Answer: The Penguins. Kudos: Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; David Kalan-MLB Advanced Media/NY; Traci Liner-WME/IMG/NY; Jeff Day-NHL/NY; Joe Guarnieri-ESPN/Bristol; Randy Ingram0WBTW-TV/Myrtle Beach; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Kevin Micklo-Pinnacle Advertising/Chicago; Tom Doherty-Starcom Media/Chicago; Lisa Fikeys-Zimmerman/Chicago; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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