12/14/20: Learfield IMG is turning its attention to the content business


Medias First Morning Read


Monday December 14, 2020

Last week saw Learfield IMG College continue to blaze new trails with the announcement that the company was announcing its first senior vice president and head of content, naming media executive Grant Jones to the role. Jones is the former vice president, head of content for OneTeam Partners, jointly owned by NFLPA and MLBPA. Prior to that, he was vice president, head of content and partnerships for ACE Media, NFLPA, with oversight of all content for NFL sponsors and licensees and content operations. As business models evolve quickly in a pandemic era, Cynopsis asked Jones about the job and how content will be leveraged moving forward.

Jones on taking the job: When you’re passionate about your alma mater, that never really goes away. Just check out my one-year-old son’s room, with its posters of Allen Fieldhouse on his wall and a closet full of Kansas Jayhawk gear. In what is, without question, a wildly uncertain time in media, particularly sports, Learfield IMG College has built a business around IP that are incredibly meaningful to people.
So what interested me about the company was how well they are positioned with its multi-media rights and diversified business. What interested me about the position was the fact that it hadn’t existed at the company before. The opportunity to build something new around these meaningful IP is incredibly exciting.
In terms of the responsibilities of the role, I expect that it will evolve as we build out the team. I think the simplest way to think about it is that I will be waking up every morning and asking two questions:
· How do we take what we’re already doing and make it better?
· What are we not doing that we should be doing?
From there, we’ll always make sure there is a business case for our content investments, whether that be in terms of infrastructure or the creation of IP.

On goals: Well, my primary goal is to build out the content business within Learfield IMG College. But obviously that’s broad. That content business will likely be integrated into several aspects of the company’s verticals, including multimedia rights, data infrastructure, licensing, ticketing and radio broadcast. The vision that Cole and Rob share for engaging the college sports fan 365 days a year is best illustrated by two recent content initiatives: the launch of the Esports property Level Next and the recent rollout of Fan Exam with Mike Golic. It’s pretty amazing what this team has pulled off in the last eight months. It’s a great example of how scarcity drives innovation. Though in this case, I think it probably just accelerated it.

On leveraging content: The most important thing to remember about the role of content at a company as large and diverse as Learfield IMG College – and most medium to large businesses– is that you have to be flexible. Flexible in what you’re making, how you’re making it and why you’re making it. As an example, if there is a national brand that wants to leverage 35 different school marks across the country, there might be an opportunity to create custom content and distribute it digitally across Learfield IMG College’s robust digital footprint. In that hypothetical, the role of content is foremost to satisfy the aforementioned national brand’s goals, then to align with the program’s KPIs.
On the other end of the spectrum, if we’re creating an original series around the explosion of esports in colleges across the country, with the intent to distribute it on our new Level Next Twitch channel, the role of content is primarily to entertain and engage the intended audience.
In both examples, the end goal is effective monetization of content, which would take longer to do in the second example. However, we believe in the long-term value of building an audience around intellectual property. Despite all the changes in distribution over the years, the value of intellectual property is one thing that won’t change. And Learfield IMG College is in a great position to take advantage of that.

On collegiate audiences: As things stand right now, I think professional sports are ahead of collegiate sports in terms of engaging with fans year-round. With trade deadlines, free agency, summer pro leagues, and so on, NBA and NFL fans have content to engage with anytime they want. I would imagine that disparity presents an opportunity for engaging the collegiate fans, especially the passionate ones. But again, week one. Ask me again in a month!

On lessons in content: Never stop trying to make something better. I remember back when I was editing videos for The Onion, our directors would literally spend months fine tuning the jokes, graphics and actor performances that went into a two-minute web video – always trying to make it better. And if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that The Onion is always right.


Sports Illustrated is partnering with ABG Entertainment and Medium Rare to launch The Sports Illustrated Awards (The SI Awards), with the inaugural show set to showcase five Sportsperson of The Year honorees in LeBron James, Naomi Osaka, Patrick Mahomes, Breanna Stewart, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Meanwhile, new awards will include the likes of Player of the Year, Team of The Year, Breakout of The Year, and more. The primetime event will broadcast live from Las Vegas on Dec. 19 at 7p and feature personalities that include Richard Jefferson, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Lindsey Vonn, and Cari Champion.

Longtime MLB Network staple Chris Rose is departing the network after a ten-year run. The host of Intentional Talk announced that the network did not extend his contract. The final episode of Intentional Talk will run on Dec. 23.

Turbulent weather caused the U.S. Women’s Open to scrap play for the final round on Sunday. All but 12 members of the original 65-player field teed off to begin their round before play was suspended around 10a. Play will resume at 9a today on Golf Channel with live coverage from 9a-3p.

beIN SPORTS began airing a new series, BYB Bare Knuckle Fighting, on Saturdays this past weekend. “If you’re looking for raw, powerful brawls, look no further than the BYB Bare Knuckle Fighting series,” said Antonio Briceño, beIN SPORTS managing director for North America. “These trained fighters do not back down and settle the matches in the ring. We can’t wait for combat sports fans to get their first taste of bare knuckle fighting on beIN SPORTS this Saturday.”

The 2020 season of The Spring League concludes this week when the Generals take on the Aviators from Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The action kicks off on Tuesday at 7p on FS1. The developmental football league initially suspended its four-week season in mid-November due to Covid-19 safety concerns.

WWE and IB SPORTS today inked a multi-year agreement to continue delivering WWE’s weekly flagship programming live and in Korean. In addition to airing Raw and SmackDown, IB SPORTS will now offer NXT as part of the expanded partnership, marking the first time it will be available in South Korea on broadcast television. “IB SPORTS is a valued partner that shares our vision and passion for engaging and entertaining our fans,” said Jay Li, WWE Vice President & General Manager, North Asia. “We are pleased to expand our partnership with the addition of NXT and look forward to continuing to provide WWE’s unique blend of action-packed, family-friendly entertainment throughout the country.”

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The ATP launched its new global marketing campaign, titled This Is Tennis, noting that “the campaign highlights stand-out moments in a way that builds emotional connection and provides unique insights into the sport.” “Our intention is to showcase tennis as more than a sport,” said Dan Ginger, SVP Marketing and Business Development for the ATP. “Yes, we have some of the world’s top athletes competing on Tour day-in, day-out, but it encompasses so much more than that – resilience, dedication, passion, spirit. Tennis is a non-stop lifestyle and a unique entertainment property.”

Colin Kaepernick is partnering for a new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, called “Colin Kaepernick’s Change the Whirled.” The non-dairy recipe features a caramel sunflower butter base with fudge chips, graham cracker and chocolate cookie swirls. Kaepernick’s portion of sales from the ice cream will be matched by Ben & Jerry’s to support Know Your Rights Camp.

Fan Controlled Football revealed a new sponsorship with Progressive Insurance to serve as the Official Insurance Sponsor of the FCF league. The Progressive sponsorship includes interactive ways that fans can participate in controlling the action on and off the field. Starting with the pre-season, fans can earn credit towards receiving a Progressive Snapshot Badge, which will provide perks, rewards, and access to exclusive badge holder content during the season.


The Walt Disney Company entered into a distribution deal with Comcast for ESPN+ to be incorporated into Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms. The Disney+ entertainment streaming service will also join ESPN+ on X1 and Flex in the first quarter of 2021. In addition, Disney announced that ESPN+ will be integrated within the Hulu over-the-top (OTT) platform.


Supercell rolled out 2021 plans for the Clash Royale League. The league is shifting away from team formats and will now return to individual play with a total prize pool of $1.6 million, earned via a global format that will see eight seasons of open-for-all tournaments. The CRL World Finals, meanwhile, will have 32 players competing for the Golden Crown Trophy.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation Executive Board approved the inclusion of esports as a discipline of baseball and softball. The decision opens the door to future official international competitions and World Cups/Championships for a virtual sport. WBSC President Riccardo FRACCARI said: “The welcoming of esports into the WBSC family comes at a critical time, considering the fast-evolving digital world in which we live and the ongoing global pandemic. The WBSC looks forward to more progressive innovation in the dynamic and youth-focused space of E-Sports, which will potentially expand the reach of our sport to millions of gamers and fans.”

Spectrum Industries signed on as an official partner of Bucks Gaming. As part of the partnership, Bucks Gaming and Spectrum Industries will work together to form a community esports initiative and will collaborate on esports furniture and product design. Bucks Gaming will also work with Spectrum Industries to collaborate on esports furniture and products that best suit professional and at-home gamers’ needs, from comfort to usage.

Leading esports tournament organizer BLAST inked an extension with Danish broadcaster TV2 for the upcoming BLAST Premier 2021 season. As part of the deal, TV2 Denmark will broadcast all seven BLAST Premier events in 2021 on TV2 ZULU and online platform TV2 PLAY.

Have you taken more days off, or fewer this year? Cynopsis wants to know.


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On this Day
1984: Howard Cosell retires from Monday Night Football.

Reggie Theus starred as high school basketball coach Bill Fuller in what sitcom? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
In sailing, what is “turtling”? Answer: When a boat flips and is inverted in the water. Kudos: Ken Nice-TeamPeople/Falls Church; Roger Furman-Sports Marketing Communications/Greentown; Michael Goodman-Radio One/Atlanta; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Lorrie Shilling/El Segundo; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank

Cynopsis Team

Chris Pursell
Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Roberta Caploe

Cynopsis Ad Sales
Albert Nassour
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Mike Farina

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