12/11/20: ESPN and SEC cemented a 10-year deal


Medias First Morning Read


Friday December 11, 2020

One key piece of some big sports deals on the docket fell into place with the news ESPN and the Southeastern Conference reached a new 10-year agreement beginning in 2024-25, which will add up to 15 premier football games as well as the SEC Football Championship, in addition to approximately eight men’s basketball matchups each year across ESPN or ABC. With the new deal, every SEC football and men’s basketball game will now be carried on an ESPN network, including ABC. ABC will carry an SEC-controlled football game each week beginning in 2024, including a regular late-afternoon kickoff. In addition, ESPN will have the ability to feature marquee SEC games on ABC’s Saturday Night Football for the first time while the SEC Football Championship will now air on ABC in the late afternoon each season. The week prior to the SEC Football Championship, ESPN or ABC will feature an annual late afternoon Thanksgiving Friday SEC game.

ESPN+ also picks up rights to stream one non-conference football game and two non-conference men’s basketball games per SEC school each season. In total, ESPN+ will carry up to 14 non-conference football games and up to 20 non-conference men’s basketball games annually.

“This new agreement was born from a strong foundation which began almost 25 years ago and now reflects a shared vision of the future with the SEC, Commissioner Sankey and their member institutions” said Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “With all the conference’s games under the ESPN umbrella and adding ABC and ESPN+ to our distribution channels, ESPN will have complete scheduling flexibility, resulting in maximum exposure and adding significant benefits for SEC schools and fans.”


NASCAR, in collaboration with FOX Sports and NBC Sports, announced the 2021 race start times and networks for the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series seasons. When the season begins, 23 total races will air on FOX and NBC this year, to mark a two-race increase over 2020. Eleven of those will air on FOX, including the first seven NASCAR Cup Series races of the season beginning with the DAYTONA 500 on Feb. 14. Another 12 races will air on NBC, including the debut of the NASCAR Cup Series at Road America on July 4. Five NASCAR Xfinity Series tilts will air live on broadcast television in 2021, highlighted by the series’ first visit of the season to Talladega Superspeedway on April 24 on FOX. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be primetime viewing 13 times in 2021, highlighted by the first-ever NASCAR race on the dirt at Knoxville Raceway on July 9 on FS1.

Saturday’s battle on ESPNU between BYU and Coastal Carolina saw a total live audience of 1,425,000 viewers tuning in across all TV and digital platforms, including ESPNU, ESPN2 bonus coverage and streaming. On ESPNU, the game averaged 1,212,000 viewers to ranks as the most-viewed game on ESPNU since 2015 and the fifth-most viewed on ESPNU all time. The live streaming audience also contributed an average minute audience of 103,000 viewers, second best for any game on ESPN networks in Week 14. On Friday evening, Louisiana/App State registered 1,014,500 viewers on ESPN, ranking as the third-most viewed intra-conference Sun Belt game in ESPN history.

Meanwhile, NBC Sports’ presentation of the 2020 Notre Dame Football season notched the network’s most-watched season in 15 years, according to data provided by Nielsen and Adobe Analytics. For five games on NBC, the 2020 Notre Dame on NBC season averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 4.802 million viewers, marking the most-watched season on NBC since 2005 and up 121% vs. 2019.

Univision saw Tuesday’s telecast of Barcelona vs. Juventus shatter rating records for the UEFA Champions League Group Stage as the match delivered 1.07 million Total Viewers and 554,000 Adults 18-49 to rank as the most-watched UEFA Champions League Group Stage match ever, regardless of language, according to Nielsen.

NBC Sports serves up over 30 Atlantic 10 Conference basketball games starting Saturday, including 25 regular-season men’s matchups and exclusive coverage of the second round and quarterfinals of the 2021 Atlantic 10 Men’s Championship across NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app. Play begins this weekend at 3p on NBCSN with the Evansville Purple Aces/ Saint Louis Billikens. Three A-10 women’s basketball conference games will be presented on NBCSN over the course of the season. Matchups and dates will be announced in the future.

The Arizona Bowl will see CBS Sports carry the 2020 contest on its broadcast channel, with kickoff for the sixth Arizona Bowl set for Dec. 31 at 2p. The game will feature a participant from the Mountain West Championship game matched against a team from the MAC Championship contest. This will mark the fourth year of the partnership between the Arizona Bowl and CBS Sports.

PokerGO announced the return of poker program, “High Stakes Poker”, produced by Mori Eskandani – the original producer of the series. Season 8 of the series will premiere on PokerGO on Dec. 16 at 8p with new episodes every subsequent Wednesday The season will be filmed at the PokerGO Studio at ARIA Resort & Casino and will bring back AJ Benza and Gabe Kaplan, the original hosts of the series, to co-host the newest season.

PBR unveiled plans to stage its top Unleash The Beast tour in outdoor venues in rodeo communities across the Southern United States. PBR Unleash The Beast: American Roots Edition will travel to markets in Arizona, Texas, Florida and Louisiana, starting Jan.9 n Phoenix. At each iconic outdoor venue, a limited number of tickets will be made available per open-air performance.

For the first time ever, baseball fans will be able to take part in a digital, interactive lesson from MLB Network analysts, courtesy of a #SandlotToTheShow stream running live across MLB Network’s social platforms and MLB.com on Dec. 15 at 7p. Hosted by Robert Flores, the stream will feature MLB Network analysts Sean Casey, Ron Darling, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Dempster, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Peña, Bill Ripken and Dave Valle providing youth players individualized feedback and instruction on videos featuring them hitting, fielding, pitching and catching.

NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson is reportedly launching his own production company. Variety reports that his first project will be a six-part docuseries titled One Final Time that showcases his final season as a competitor.

Action sports company Thrill One Sports & Entertainment locked in two new television events to be broadcast on ESPN as part of its World of X Content Series. The first features Nitro Circus with the Sipes’ Pit Bike Championship, which is being shown on ESPN2 on Dec. 13, while the other is Street League Skateboarding Unsanctioned, featuring a lineup of top talent facing off in an underground competition and running on Dec. 27 on ESPN2.

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The NBA opened the doors to its new 2020-21 season tip-off campaign spot, “Only Here,” starring Anthony Davis of the Lakers. The campaign is inspired by and featuring real fans “sharing what is unique and exciting about the NBA this season,” and includes game highlights of rivalries, game play, drama and swagger found only throughout the league. The campaign will feature two spots that will run across TV, digital and social platforms. The spot will air globally in 10 languages, including French, Spanish, Italian and Serbian, and will be modified to feature locally-relevant players.

The National Football League and Intuit Inc, makers of TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint announced a renewal of their official partnership through 2022. As a part of the sponsorship, TurboTax Live will serve as the presenting sponsor of both the AFC and NFC Divisional games and continue their presenting sponsorship of the Championship Games for the 2020 NFL season. “We’re ecstatic to not only welcome Intuit TurboTax Live back as presenting sponsor for both AFC and NFC Championship games, but also expand the relationship to encompass our Divisional round,” said Nana-Yaw Asamoah, Vice President of Partnership Business Development for the NFL. “As a leader in financial and tax preparation products, Intuit provides platforms that NFL fans recognize and need more than ever this time of year.”

The Brooklyn Nets and Motorola inked a new partnership for the 2020-21 NBA regular season that will see the Motorola “batwing” logo woven into the front left shoulder of all Nets jerseys. In addition to becoming the Nets official jersey patch partner, Motorola will have prominent placement on the lower abdomen area of the team’s practice jerseys. Motorola will also have a branding presence on the Nets home court and the opportunity to market the alliance internationally as part of the NBA’s International Team Marketing Program. Motorola will also serve as the Official Smartphone Partner of the Brooklyn Nets.

ESPN Events announced a three-year sponsorship agreement with Cricket Wireless to serve as the new title sponsor for the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Celebration Bowl. “We are delighted to have Cricket Wireless as the title sponsor of both our football kickoff and bowl games,” said John Grant, executive director for the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Celebration Bowl. “These events provide valuable diversity to the sports offerings in the city of Atlanta. This relationship reflects our mutual passion for and appreciation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the valuable contributions they make to our nation. We look forward to working together and building world-class events in a world-class city.”

Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Riley Herbst will drive its No. 98 Ford Mustang during the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season with primary sponsorship from Monster Energy. “Being on a team with such a strong run of success is the kind of opportunity every driver wants,” Herbst said. “Expectations are definitely high, but the highest expectations are the ones I’ve set for myself. I’m proud to be a part of Stewart-Haas Racing and I can’t wait to climb into that No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang next year.”

This year’s Cheez-It Bowl will see the snack brand offer “Wheel Live Fans.” On game day, Cheez-It will pay tribute to fans via “hundreds of jumping, dancing and cheering cheese wheel avatars in the end zones at Camping World Stadium.” Fans can build their own Cheez-It ‘Wheel Live Fan’ avatar on CheezIt.com with the game set for Dec. 29.

The American 7s Football League hired sports and entertainment marketing agency, Precision Sports Entertainment, to oversee its corporate partnership sales. “As the A7FL has taken off in the last several years, we’ve made a number of important moves, but I can think of none more crucial than partnering with Armand and PSE,” said A7FL Co-Founder and CEO Sener Korkusuz. “As we expand across the country, we look forward to introducing cutting edge brands to our younger, social media-savvy fans, and finding innovative ways to integrate their products and services into our brand of football.”


Major League Baseball made over 700,000 new videos available on MLB Film Room powered by Google Cloud for fans and media to “search through, watch, create their own highlight reels and easily share with their personal communities by embedding on their websites, posting to Twitter, Reddit and Facebook or sending via email and text.” With MLB Film Room’s launch on Sept. 8, traffic to MLB’s video search page has seen a year over year uptick of 100% in visits and a 300% increase in unique visitors.

FanDuel and G.O.A.T. Fuel, a lifestyle brand created by Jerry Rice and his daughter Jaqui Rice, announced an exclusive partnership that will see the partnership give fans the opportunity to win a new, custom fantasy experience called the G.O.A.T. Gauntlet Contest Series. The series gives fans the opportunity to compete against and virtually meet NFL G.O.A.T.s Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Warren Moon. The G.O.A.T. Gauntlet Series features three daily fantasy qualifying contests that highlight a specific position.

The Nashville Predators and DraftKings struck a new multi-year deal, which will make DraftKings the Official Daily Fantasy Sports Provider and an Official Sports Betting Operator of the team. “As soon as the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act was passed in April, we immediately began our search for an experienced sports betting partner,” said Chris Junghans, EVP & Chief Revenue Officer, Nashville Predators. “With legal sports betting now live in Tennessee, we are thrilled to announce our formal relationship with industry-leading DraftKings. Through this multi-year agreement, Predators fans across the state will have access to the gold standard of sports betting information technology, which provides a competitive, reliable and responsible platform.”


The NBA 2K League is launching the 2020 Gen.G Shanghai Invitational in China. Running Dec. 12-13, Gen.G hosts the event, consisting of top 2K players and NBA 2K League hopefuls from the country. The double-elimination tournament will include four teams with a select number of high performing players identified at the end of the tournament who will be made eligible for the 2021 NBA 2K League Draft.


Learfield IMG College appointed media executive Grant Jones to serve as the company’s first senior vice president, head of content. He will office in New York, and is the former vice president, head of content for OneTeam Partners, jointly owned by NFLPA and MLBPA.

DDSports Inc. announced company executive restructuring in advance of a host of upcoming strategic business partnership announcements. The Board of Directors has brought on Bill Moses as Chief Executive Officer, while company founder Davyeon Ross will continue with the company as the COO and President. The company’s co-founder, Bruce Ianni, has chosen to depart to pursue other opportunities. In addition, two other sports business and tech veterans, Tom Masterman and Jason Tilton, have joined the company as VP of Sales and VP of Corporate Development, respectively

Veteran motorsports producer Pam Miller joined CBS Sports as Producer of the brand new Superstar Racing Experience series. In her role, Miller will lead all production efforts surrounding the new racing series, which starts next summer on Saturday nights in primetime on CBS Television Network and CBS All Access.


Al Michaels, baseball? Yes, this week he won the Ford Frick Award for his outstanding seasons as an MLB play-by-play announcer. Known best of course for his 25-year ongoing run as Voice of NFL prime-time, Michaels broke into the Big Leagues as Voice of the Reds, then did the Giants before calling ABC’s baseball package. He did eight World Series on network TV.
Al Michaels wins HOF’s Ford Frick Award; Did 8 World Series on network TV, Also Voice of Reds and Giants

Marv Albert, Paul Hornung, Losing young fans, DeAngelo Hall and other quick-read notes.
Halby’s Morsels: Is the sports world losing young fans? NFL’s Christmas Tree Game; Marv Albert

NFL schedule for Week #14. The league is trudging through this season’s schedule for good reason. Fox has the network doubleheader this week. Complete schedule, talent, notes and regional distribution game-by-game.
NFL Week #14: CBS features Kansas City-Miami; NBC has Pittsburgh-Buffalo; Fox goes with Minn-Bucs

The college schedule is fluid. It has been that way every week this season as colleges fight their way through the Covid dangers. We’re already at Week #15.
College Football Week #15: ESPN features #17 UNC vs #10 Miami; FOX loses cancelled Michigan-Ohio State

Happy Birthdays:

Allie LaForce 12/11 Turner NBA reporter
Mike Golic, Sr. 12/12 ESPN reporter/analyst
Mike Tirico 12/13 NBC host and play-by-play
Rece Davis 12/14 ESPN host
Eli Gold 12/15 Voice of Alabama football
Dan Le Batard, 12/16 ESPN host
Michele Tafoya 12/17 NBC Sports reporter

Sports Broadcast Journal

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On this Day
1866: First yacht race across the Atlantic Ocean.

In sailing, what is “turtling”? (Note, it does not mean “the hunting of turtles.”) (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
Who holds the career record for most overtime goals in the NHL? Answer: Alex Ovechkin. Kudos: Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NY; Traci Liner-MediaCom/NY; Chris Long-DraftKings/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Greg Maltzman-Up Down Digital/NY; Mike May-R2 Innovative Technologies/Wellington; Kathi Gillin-JamLoop/Philadelphia; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Jordan Gudaitis-Good Karma Brands/Cleveland; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA

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