Good morning. It’s Monday, January 13, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
With the year’s first major now underway, Tennis Channel continues to serve up a buffet of coverage with more than 180 hours of programming on deck covering the Australian Open, including 30 hours of live match play. Last week, the network announced a deal to expand Hall of Famer Jim Courier’s tournament assignments and, combined with a new studio and its TV Everywhere service, the network is now looking to continue its pattern of growth.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Tennis Channel Chairman and CEO Ken Solomon about the company’s recent moves, the year ahead and its ongoing battle with Comcast.
Solomon on 2013: We just came out of a watershed year and yet we’ve proven that our eyes are on the dashboard as opposed to the rearview mirror. A lot happened last year and it’s preparing us to be able to consolidate for an audience of an entire sport better than ever before. First of all, we’ve had pretty significant gains in our base of distribution and we’re up to about 36 million homes now. The continued evolution off of sports tiers and on to digital basic has shown that we are delivering such tremendous value to the distributor and ultimately to the subscriber.
On ratings: The ratings have been successful as well, both in quality of the audience as well as the ability to generate majorly competitive audience against all cable networks, and not just during the majors. At the French Open for example, for nine of the 11 days of coverage, we were in the top five of all cable networks. The thesis from this is that people want to see tennis and sets us up nicely for 2014 and there’s no reason outside of the majors that we shouldn’t be able to put up similar numbers because it is the same people playing all year long.
On TV Everywhere: There was a need a full-time presence to cover this sport and frankly, that wasn’t nearly enough to cover everything they have going on. This is what multi-platform and authentication is all about and technology is finally catching up with our sport, culminating in 2013 of consolidating 90% of all the tennis hours on air onto one platform so we launched Tennis Channel Everywhere that debuted to strong success. We are now already in over 50% of our footprint in homes activated for this and for the first time in history, people have a chance to follow tennis the way it was meant to be seen, delivering as much as they want. It is the original binge viewing and there is always another match. For us, mobile is the only way and active professional can follow it.
On 2014: What we are continuing to do is make new franchises. It’s really almost like a movie slate philosophy in that you need to get the best talent you can and the best materials. We continue to add talent such as Jim Courier. We’ll be expanding out our Davis Cup coverage and developing signature franchises. But the biggest paradigm shift is the launch of having a very huge, sophisticated studio. Now we can give the same kind of treatment that we give to a major, because we have a studio that will elevate the presentation and the sport.
On Comcast: We do have this ongoing question mark with Comcast and we have always said that this is a business disagreement between partners. Now this is a larger issue on whether this is right or wrong. We are sure that the judges got it wrong and that they redefined the definition of discrimination when they went to the appeal. That’s not what they are supposed to do in our estimation. Here’s the punch line, which has gotten lost in the last few years, we are in business with Comcast. We are partnered with Comcast. We are doing a lot of things with them, in fact our business has grown very dramatically with them and they have succeeded with us as well. They have done previews with us; they are interested in our TV Everywhere product. We work the French Open with them; we help them with their Olympic coverage. We have a great relationship with those guys over there and we are looking to do more.
It was another big weekend for the NFL and its broadcast partners, as the Divisional Playoff games continue to provide huge returns. On FOX, the NFC Divisional Playoff game pitting the Saints against the Seahawks pulled a 19.5 overnight Nielsen score, up 4% from last year’s equitable matchup, which was played in primetime. That marks the second-best Divisional Playoff rating for FOX since 1997. The network reports that in Seattle, the game drew a 48.4/82 while New Orleans earned a 51.1/74.
CBS, with its primetime matchup between the Colts and Patriots, drew an estimated 27.88 million viewers for its telecast, and nabbed an 8.9 among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen fast affiliate results. Among households, it delivered a 19.4, slipping 10% from last year’s comparable Saturday AFC matchup featuring the Ravens and Broncos (and went into double overtime).
On NBC, Saturday’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which helped determine this year’s U.S. Olympic team, earned a 3.0 in overnight numbers, up 20% over 2013.
With TCA in full swing, ESPN Films announced a new series slated to debut in April that will surround the 2014 FIFA World Cup on ESPN. The show, 30 for 30: Soccer Stories, will showcase a mix of two standalone feature-length and six 30-minute-long documentary films from filmmakers such as Brett Ratner looking to tell compelling narratives from around the international soccer landscape. In addition, a collection of 10 vignettes about Brazil’s culture will be featured throughout ESPN’s FIFA World Cup programming. Full length films will include Hillsborough, directed by Daniel Gordon, and White, Blue and White, directed by Camilo Antolini.
ESPN also announced the additions of Gilberto Silva and Ruud van Nistelrooy to its World Cup roster where they will serve as studio analysts for the company. Silva and van Nistelrooy will appear on pre-match, halftime and post-match shows that include SportsCenter ESPN FC, and FIFA World Cup-themed news and information programs throughout the quadrennial tournament.
The NFL announced that this year’s Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show star Bruno Mars has invited the Red Hot Chili Peppers to join him for the broadcast. The halftime show ranks as the most-watched musical event of the year with more than 110.5 million viewers tuning in to last year’s performance.
Back to ratings. The NBA on TNT’s Thursday night doubleheader on January 10 featuring Miami/New York and Oklahoma City/Denver averaged 2,415,000 total viewers. That’s good enough for a 71% spike over the comparable doubleheader last season. The Heat/Knicks telecasts averaged 3,144,000 total viewers, up 117% over the corresponding game last year.
ESPN revealed takeaways from its 2013-14 college football season, which included 367 exclusive regular-season games and 33 bowl game telecasts. Highlights included ESPN posting a 9% increase in overall BCS viewership over last season. On the local front, Birmingham continued to tune in college football in a big way, ranking as the highest-rated market for both the regular season as well as ESPN’s 29 bowl telecasts, averaging a 9.2 and 11.9 rating respectively. For the season, Greenville was number two at a 4.9, followed by Knoxville, New Orleans and Nashville.
Don’t miss this one. Join us on Jan. 30 for the Cynopsis Sports Breakfast of Champions event in NY for a New Year’s lesson on branding 2014. Speakers are set to include keynote from IMG’s George Pyne and Anheuser-Busch’s Blaise D’Sylva, a special presentation from Nielsen’s Stephen Masters, as well as a panel with NFL Players Inc. President Keith Gordon, NFL athletes Pierre Garcon and Keith Rivers, Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo and ESPN’s Jay Williams. Click here to register.
Mark Burnett is now out to conquer wrestling, announcing a deal with the El Rey Network to create a weekly hour-long series featuring a new lucha libre league. The Mexican wrestling series is slated to debut in the latter half of this year and partnering with Lucha Libre AAA — Mexico’s most popular league — and FactoryMade Ventures. As part of the new deal, the group will reportedly develop monthly and quarterly specials, as well as PPV events.
According to multiple local reports, Marlins President David Samson will look to outplay in the newest edition of Survivor this season. The show’s 27th cycle wrapped up last month, with CBS revealing that season 28 was filmed last summer in the Philippines. Tribes will reportedly be divided in three tribes: brains, brawn and beauty.
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HONORING TOP SPORTS PROGRAMS, CAMPAIGNS, AND PEOPLE Our awards show continues to spotlight the groundbreaking work created by sports media, don’t let your 2013 efforts go unnoticed! Entry Deadline:January 17, 2014 | Late Submissions: January 24, 2014
Awards Event: April 17, 2014 (NYC) Learn about the awards program & how to enter:http://www.cynopsis.com/events/sports-awards.
The Super Bowl’s best and brightest will once again be on full display. No, not the player, but the commercials. CBS will carry Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials 2014 on Jan. 29 at 8p. The special will be hosted by Boomer Esiason and Sarah Shahl, and come from MetLife Stadium, with a look at advertising’s pop culture breakouts. Voters will be able to vote for their favorites form 10 categories including Office, User Generated, Sexy, Beer, Crazy, Kids, Celebrity, Car, Animal and Soft Drink at cbs.com.
The clock is ticking so what are you waiting for? Time is running out! Submissions are being accepted now for the Cynopsis Sports Media Awards to show the world your best work. Click here to enter.
NBC News’ educational arm, NBC Learn, is teaming up with the National Science Foundation to release the Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, marking the newest edition of the Emmy Award-winning “Science of Sports” series. The 10-part video collection, narrated by NBC Olympics’ hockey host Liam McHugh, is available cost-free to the public at NBCLearn.com/2014Olympics and NSF websites (NSF.gov, Science360.gov). Topics include Science of Ice, Alpine Skiing and Vibration Damping, Olympic Movement and Robotic Design as well as Engineering the Half Pipe.
Kansas/Iowa State on ESPN at 9p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1999: Michael Jordan retires for a second time.
In The Know: In 1992, FOX decided to broadcast their own Super Bowl halftime show, even though the game was being carried by CBS. What series was shown during the event?(Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: The Houston Astros franchise has appeared in one World Series, what team did they play? Answer: The Chicago White Sox. Kudos: Lewis Blaustein-Lewis Brand Solutions, Inc./NY; Eric Newman-Bleacher Report/NY; Brian Traynor-Home Team Sports/NY; Matthew Willence ITN Networks/NY; Bob Rathbun-FOX Sports South/Raycom Play-by-Play/Atlanta; Randy Ingram–WBTW-TV/Myrtle Beach; Jack Madison-WWE/Stamford; Janis Logan-WideOrbit Inc/Tampa; John Kukla-KDFW/Dallas; Isaac Zea-Silver Chalice/Chicago; Robert Teinowitz-Live Action Media/Chicago; Jason F. Brist-Outdoor Channel/Chicago; Greg Molonik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles local/LA; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Neal Stevens-Stevens & Associates/Beverly Hills.
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