|The 75th edition of the U.S. Women’s Open tees off across NBC, GOLF Channel and Peacock starting Dec. 10, with NBCUniversal set to present more than 25 hours of live coverage across the platforms with more than 50 hours of U.S. Women’s Open-related programming airing across NBCUniversal during the course of the week. The network’s coverage will be anchored by Dan Hicks and Grant Boone (play by play), along with Paige Mackenzie and Judy Rankin (lead analyst), as well as Tom Abbott (holes). Kay Cockerill, Jim “Bones” Mackay, Karen Stupples and Billy Ray Brown will serve as on-course reporters, while Cara Banks will conduct interviews with those in the field. Peacock will exclusively stream a portion of live U.S. Women’s Open coverage for free across the first three rounds of the championship.
The NBA revealed the league’s national television schedule for the first three game days of the 2020-21 season, beginning with an opening-night doubleheader on TNT on Dec. 22, and followed by one game each on TNT and ESPN on Dec. 23, and five Christmas Day games across ESPN and ABC on Dec. 25. Kia NBA Tip-Off 2020 will begin on Tuesday, Dec. 22 with a TNT doubleheader as the Golden State Warriors visit the Brooklyn Nets at 7p while the Lakers take on the Clippers at 10p. Dec. 23 will see the Bucks/Celtics at 7:30p on TNT with the Mavericks/Suns at 0:30p on ESPN. The 73rd edition of the NBA on Christmas Day will begin on ESPN with the Heat hosting the Pelicans at noon, followed by Warriors/Bucks on ABC at 2:30p and the Nets/Celtics at 5p. ABC and ESPN will both televise a matchup between the Lakers and Mavericks in Los Angeles at 8p before concluding with the Clippers/Nuggets at 10:30p.
On the ratings front, The NFL on CBS landed CBS’ two most-watched programs since the AFC Championship Game on Thanksgiving Day with the Texans/Lions game as well as on Sunday with the Chiefs/Bucs. Viewership of the Texans/Lions game averaged 23.389 million viewers, with the Chiefs/Bucs averaged 23.115 million viewers.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Monday Night Football telecast featuring the Seahawks and the Eagles drove ESPN to year-over-year audience gains, as 11,376,000 viewers watched the Seahawks’ victory. The audience was up 4% from last year’s MNF Week 12 matchup. For the year, the weekly franchise is averaging 11.256 million viewers based on day after reporting (13 games), with that number growing to 11,726,000 once full streaming is reported.
ESPN also dished out big college football viewership over Thanksgiving weekend, with six of the top seven games and eight of the top 10 matchups airing on ESPN networks over the holiday weekend. ABC and ESPN aired their most-viewed Thanksgiving Weekend slate of games since 2017 and 2015, respectively. Friday’s ABC doubleheader (Iowa State/Texas and Notre Dame/UNC) averaged 4,806,000 viewers, the most-viewed Thanksgiving Friday doubleheader on ABC since 2005. ABC’s five Thanksgiving games averaged 3,730,000 viewers, up 23% year-over-year and registering the network’s most-viewed Thanksgiving slate since 2017. On ESPN, an average of 2,587,000 viewers tuned in for its five Thanksgiving Weekend matchups, up 56%.
Around the dial, Univision’s TUDN saw its telecast of the Liga MX leg between Club América and Chivas on Univision draw 2.5 million viewers and 1.4 million Adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, to rank as the highest-rated soccer match on any network in 2020, regardless of language. Cruz Azul vs. Tigres averaged 1.6 million while Univision’s telecast of Pachuca vs. UNAM scored 1.5 million Total Viewers 2+ and 841,000 Adults 18-49 at 10p.
FOX Sports saw its coverage of the battle between FC Dallas/Seattle Sounders in the MLB Western Conference Semifinal score a 131% uptick over last year’s semifinal contest on FS1. Scoring an average audience of 321,000, the contest ranked as the most-watched on the channel since last year’s conference final.
ESPN and Dan Le Batard announced that the long-time ESPN personality will be leaving ESPN early next year to pursue a new opportunity. The ESPN Radio finale of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz will be Jan. 4, the same day Le Batard will host his last episode of Highly Questionable – which will remain on ESPN. With the departure, on Jan. 5, Greeny, with Mike Greenberg, will move to the 10a-noon timeslot, followed by Bart & Hahn which will join the national ESPN Radio lineup from 12-2p every weekday.
NBC Sports announced that long-time PGA Tour caddie John Wood will join its golf coverage as an on-course reporter beginning in 2021. Wood will be featured on Golf Channel telecasts and will also contribute to select golf broadcasts on NBC. He will make his NBC Sports debut at the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions the weekend of Jan. 7-10 on Golf Channel.
The American Cornhole League inked a multi-year deal with CBS Sports to televise the ACL Pro Shootout, starting in the summer of 2021. The ACL Pro Shootout Series is a new competition that features eight singles and doubles qualifying events hosted across the United States. The ACL Pro Shootout Championship event will take place in September 2021 at a location to be announced soon.
Due to the ongoing health pandemic, the Las Vegas Bowl has been cancelled for the 2020 season. December’s game was slated to be the first bowl game played in Allegiant Stadium. “Unfortunately we will have to wait another year to present the Las Vegas Bowl in its new home,” said John Saccenti, Las Vegas Bowl executive director. “This was a difficult decision but the right one considering that our game was founded nearly three decades ago to help drive tourism to the Entertainment Capital of the World during the month of December. We are looking forward to making our bowl week bigger and better than ever in 2021.
All-American Dream presented by GEICO, a one-hour special which “shares the story of how a high school all-star game has become the most watched high school sporting event for 20 consecutive years and highlights the stories of the football stars of tomorrow,” is set to debut on Sunday at noon on NBC. In addition, NBC Sports will release a new YouTube series that shares the stories of five 2021 All-American Bowl athletes from across the country. The series follows them within their communities, showing how the stars of tomorrow are making a difference on and off the field.
SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION
The WTA unveiled a new corporate identity in addition to a new “WTA For The Game” campaign that highlights the driving forces of the sport, aimed at creating deeper fan connections. The rebranding, which includes the WTA’s first logo redesign in 10 years, coincides with the announcement of a simplified numerical naming system for WTA tournaments. “The WTA is built on the grit, passion and determination of generations of athletes and tournament promoters,” said Micky Lawler, President of the WTA and head of marketing initiatives. “Our new logo embraces the visual language of tennis ad celebrates heroic women who come together ‘For The Game.’ We will wear it as a badge of pride and a reminder of the power of unity among strong individuals – by joining forces, we build something bigger than ourselves.”
ESPN Events named RoofClaim.com as the title sponsor for the Boca Raton Bowl. Beginning with this year’s game, the bowl will now be known as the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl. RoofClaim.com will serve as the title sponsor through the 2023 season. The event will take place on Dec. 22 at 7p.
New Balance and FC Tokyo announced a sponsorship deal that spans multiple years. New Balance will work alongside the capital city Tokyo based team to “deliver world-class designs, including a bespoke offering for all technical kits and training apparel, as well as limited edition retail product.” “New Balance is thrilled to announce our sponsorship of FC Tokyo. The Club has a fantastic story to tell and we’re excited to be a vital part of that. FC Tokyo is the number one team in an iconic city and one of the most promising sides in Asia. We’re looking forward to creating a range of innovative and high-performance on pitch products that will capture the true spirit of the team and its supporters.”
VegasWINNERS, Inc. announced today that Pete Rose will serve as spokesperson for VegasWINNERS national marketing campaign. Television spots will begin airing in select markets across the U.S. on December 5. As part of the agreement, Rose will also make personal appearances on behalf of the website.
DIGITAL, DATA & TECH
FanDuel Group, Bud Light and the Denver Broncos announced a “first-of-its-kind” branded mobile sportsbook partnership. FanDuel Group and Bud Light (both official partners of the Denver Broncos) will give Colorado sports fans more ways to win via the “Bud Light Pick & Kick Bonus” for the December 19 game between the Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills. Fans in Colorado who place a Money Line wager on either side of the game in the special “Pick & Kick Bonus” market of the Broncos vs. Bills game will get $3 for every extra point and field goal scored by Broncos’ kicker, Brandon McManus.
Zytara, a FinTech company, is launching a digital banking platform designed for gamers and esports enthusiasts. The initiative will include a checking and savings account, a virtual and physical debit card, and access to investing tools while the mobile app serves up tolls such as branded cards and automated payments for online gaming tournaments, player-to-player transfers and parental controls if necessary. Dedicated partnerships with esports organizations or integrations with third-party platforms that gamers use and love are coming to fans worldwide in 2021.
BLAST Premier landed partnerships with HyperX, Power, OMEN and KPMG for next week’s Fall Final Counter-Strike tournament. BLAST will be working towards creating campaigns, activations and activities to ‘engage, reward and excite fans tuning in around the world.”
Super League Gaming announced the Super League Arena monthly esports tournament series. Game titles already planned include Fortnite, CS:GO, Apex Legends, Rocket League, Madden and more. “Super League stands for something special within esports – a platform where players can be celebrated as competitors, even if they have not made it to the varsity or pro level…yet,” says Matt Edelman, Chief Commercial Officer of Super League Gaming. “The Super League Arena tournament series will highlight this unique aspect of Super League’s DNA, which has been challenging for tournament organizers to showcase in a COVID world. We’re excited to launch this program, both for our existing community of more than 2.5mm registered players, and for the tens of millions who continue to pursue their personal esports path.”
Panda Global unveiled a rebrand that includes a new logo and brand identity. As part of its rebranding, the team will now be known as Panda and has launched its e-commerce website featuring newly branded apparel.
The Call of Duty Endowment announced that the Second Annual C.O.D.E. Bowl will take place on Dec. 11. Presented by USAA, the competition looks to drive awareness and funds for veteran employment and will feature esports teams from all five U.S. Department of Defense military branches as well as the UK military’s British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. This year will include new teams from the US Marine Corps, US Air Force, and the US Space Force.
BIG EAST esports teams will square off with teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference on Dec. 13. Participating teams for the BIG EAST include Butler, DePaul, Creighton, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Xavier. Participating teams from the MAAC are Fairfield, Marist, Niagara, Quinnipiac and Siena with the Electronic Gaming Federation set to operate the event.
Industry stalwart Zorine Te is launching Boss Battles on YouTube. The series will span five episodes and feature Te interviewing women executives throughout esports, beginning with former ESL North America CEO Yvette Martinez-Rea.
INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES
The WNBA named Phil Cook as the league’s first Chief Marketing Officer. An industry veteran with over 20 years of experience at Nike, Cook most recently led Nike’s Global Basketball Brand through identifying and serving new consumers, driving new revenue, and introducing female athletes into marketing campaigns. He will report directly to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
Allison Baver Entertainment, the film and television production company led by the American Olympic medalist, three-time Olympian Allison Baver, announced the producing and financing of a female empowerment slate alongside a lineup of unscripted series and films. Projects include America’s Angels, a reality competition and lifestyle series that features “diverse creators with promising, new product ideas competing against each other, judged by a panel of celebrity Angels selecting one resilient winner per episode.” Separate from the show, Baver has started an “angel round” and early stage investment capital fund investing in female-led businesses and the winners of America’s Angels. ABE is also producing “Epic Comebacks” a docu-series that highlights inspirational, true stories of athletes who overcame setbacks, obstacles, tragedy and defeat.
SPORTS BROADCAST JOURNAL w/ David J. Halberstam
The great Vin Scully turns 93. Viewed by most everyone as the best broadcaster of our generation, Vin now posts on Twitter and his commentary and videos are always inspiring!
Vin Scully turned 93 yesterday; Icon inspires anyone who reads his tweets or spends time with him
The NFL and a bubble during the playoffs made news this week. Will the Super Bowl be pushed back? It’s scheduled for February 7th on CBS. The media responds:
The 2020 season has been a journey: Media Weighs in on the NFL’s Reluctance for a Playoff Bubble
Another unusual NFL weekend, FOX runs only four games on Sunday. The network has a Monday game at 5p Washington at Pittsburgh before ESPN airs Monday Night Football, Buffalo vs. San Francisco in Arizona. FOX comes back Tuesday at 8p with Dallas at Baltimore. See regional breakout, market-by-market for Sunday’s CBS and Fox telecasts. Also, all talent. Beth Mowins assigned CBS’ Jacksonville at Minnesota.
NFL Week #13, Schedule: No Thursday game: 12 Sunday, 2 Monday, one Tuesday and a bye
The college schedule gets pared each week as game day approaches. Covid unfortunately takes the spotlight. Here’s what we have for this week; talent, networks and notes. It’s a fluid situation.
College Football, Week #14: #1 Alabama, #2 ND, #3 Clemson and #4 Ohio State all play, all favored
Skip Bayless, 12/4—Fox Sports host
Joe Davis, 12/6—Fox Sports, LA Dodgers TV
Roy Firestone, 12/8—Ex-ESPN, famed sports interviewer
Tim Kurkjian, 12/10—ESPN, baseball analyst and reporter
Sports Broadcast Journal