12/18/18: Major League Soccer is tweaking its playoff formats

Good morning. It’s Tuesday December 18, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Major League Soccer is the Audi MLS Cup playoffs an overhaul, announcing Monday that next season will expand the postseason and now offer a fixed-bracket, single-elimination format with the higher seed hosting every match. 2019 will see 14 of the league’s 24 teams qualify for the postseason, with one team per conference now getting a first-round bye, while the higher-seeded clubs will host all matches. In addition, there will be no reseeding after upsets. The postseason will kick off in 2019, on Oct. 19 with MLS Cup taking place on Nov. 10 with the regular season launching March 2.

CBS Sports landed the highest-rated NFL game of the season on any network with a 16.5/32 average household rating/share in metered markets for the Patriots/Steelers matchup. The doubleheader average on Sunday was up 6% over last year, to hit a 12.5/25.
The Eagles/Rams on NBC’s Sunday Night Football notched a 12.5/21 overnight (not including digital), for a markup of 2% over last year’s Week 15 SNF game. Top markets for Eagles-Rams on NBC SNF: Philadelphia 32.7/48; New Orleans 24.0/33; Norfolk 16.1/26; Richmond 16.1/27; Los Angeles 16.0/29.
FOX’s NFL coverage hit a 12.4/26 for its singleheader coverage, up 7% over last year’s overnight score. Meanwhile, FOX NFL Sunday drew a 3.8/10, up 9%.
Rounding out ratings news, ESPN announced that the recently-completed 2018 season for the FIA Formula One World Championship saw year-over-year viewership growth in the US, with the 21-race season averaging 547,722 viewers for race windows airing on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, up 2% over last season. Highlights of the season included ESPN’s live telecast of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix averaging 820,000 viewers, the largest audience for an F1 telecast on cable since 1995.
NBC Sports announced that Mike Tirico will host coverage of the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic from Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend on Jan. 1 at 1p on the broadcast network as well as for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game from SAP Center in San Jose on Jan. 26, at 8p on the network. At both events, Tirico joins the NHL Live studio team of host Kathryn Tappen and analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick. Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk(analyst) and Pierre McGuire (Inside-the-Glass analyst) will call both games.
NBA TV debuts its latest Players Only on Dec. 26 at 10:30p with the special Splash Brothers & Bad Boys, an hour-long conversation featuring Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with Detroit’s Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
The Los Angeles Dodgers announced the addition of Tim Neverett to their broadcast team where he will call a select number of Dodger games on both television and radio, handling play-by-play duties on SportsNet LA during Joe Davis’s national assignments and on AM 570 in place of Charley Steiner, who requested to cut back on his broadcast schedule.The Dodgers also agreed to a contract extension through the 2021 season with Steiner.
JUST ANNOUNCED: The 2019 Cynopsis TV Awards Finalists!
Awards Event: FEB 6 in NYC
The Cynopsis TV Awards salute excellence in national TV programming and we’re thrilled to announce this year’s finalists! Joining us will be a range of companies, including: 7ATE9 Entertainment, A+E Networks, Animal Planet, Beck Media, BET Network, CNBC, Cooking Channel, Crown Media, Discovery, E! Entertainment, Food Network, and MANY more (click here to view full list).
The awards gala will take place on February 6th at the Yale Club in NYC.


NHL Network is gearing up promotion for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game with the launch of a sweepstakes that gives fans a chance to win a trip for two to the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend in San Jose, including hotel, travel, tickets and a meet-and-greet with NHL Network on-air personalities. Every day through Jan. 7, NHL Network will reveal a code word on the air that fans can enter online for a chance to win.
ASICS launched an expanded activation in their partnership with the charity Right To Play, looking to help change the lives of refugee children in Lebanon. Every $10 donation made to Right To Play supports a child’s play for 10 weeks. This year, to mark the 100th anniversary of Kihachiro Onitsuka, ASICS’ founder, the brand donated $100,000 to Right To Play with the aim to “support refugee children and youth in engaging in play and sport, making for a healthier and stronger generation that can develop life skills and build peaceful communities.”

PGA TOUR LIVE is rolling to NBC Sports Gold, with the PGA TOUR’s direct-to-consumer subscription video service poised for upgrades and offering its most robust service so far, now with four days of live coverage from 27 PGA TOUR events, new 10-minute “Speed Round” recaps for Featured Groups players, expansive VOD content, and integrated scoring and statistics. It is also available on double the number of supported platforms vs. 2018. Overall, the platform will offer 870 hours of live featured groups coverage in 2019, more than doubling last year’s tally.
Intel and Turner Sports announced plans to bring back exclusive virtual reality broadcasts this season via the NBA on TNT VR app. The app takes fans onto the virtual set of Turner Sports’ Inside the NBA, where they can access live game action, full-game replays, highlights and more with coverage that includes a weekly marquee game, NBA All-Star Weekend, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup, TNT’s extensive 2019 NBA Playoffs coverage, and TNT’s exclusive presentation of the 2019 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Stephanie Ready and Richard “Rip” Hamilton will serve as commentators throughout the season, and begins Dec. 27 with the Celtics/Rockets matchup.
Speaking of the NBA, NBA All-Star Voting 2019 presented by Google will tip off on Christmas Day ahead of five Christmas Day matchups across ABC and ESPN before wrapping up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 21. Fans will be able to vote by searching on Google, through the Google Assistant and via the NBA App and NBA.com. TNT will reveal the NBA All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Jan. 24.
The Professional Fighters League is partnering with SportsMEDIA Technology for an exclusive, long-term technology alliance that will see SMT provide the league with proprietary technology that will measure real-time MMA fighter performance analytics along with biometric and positional data for fans. Starting in 2019, SMT will help power the PFL’s vision of the first-ever SmartCage, tracking measurements including: speed (mph) of punches and kicks, power ratings, heart rate tracking, energy exerted and more.

Allied Esports continues to think global, announcing the formation of the world’s first esports venue affiliate program, titled the Allied Esports Property Network and designed for global partners interested in participating in Allied Esports’ global event programming, and licensing Allied Esports’ design, development and operations knowledge for their own esports venues. The network will look to offer members access to Allied Esports’ global platform of events and content production, providing participants and viewers with integrated experiences both in-person and online. Allied Esports also announced a multi-year agreement with Fortress Esports Pty Ltd, a new gaming, esports and entertainment venue enterprise in Australia that will include exclusive rights to esports venue development in Australia and New Zealand. The first Fortress Esports venue to be part of the Allied Esports Property Network is expected to open in Melbourne in 2019.
NASCAR and iRacing celebrate season ten of the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series in 2019 with a prize pool boost of $100,000, up more than a 500% increase from the previous year. The 2019 season kicks off on February 12 at Daytona International Speedway and runs through October with the series champion receiving his or her championship trophy and check on stage during pre-race ceremonies at the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. All 18 rounds of the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series will be broadcast live on the iRacing eSports Network as well as on www.iRacing.com and www.nascar.com.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment and the Washington Capitals ae set to host to an official NHL Esports Activation, the Chel Classic – a 3v3, best-of-five showcase series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 19 at Capital One Arena. Players will be selected to represent the Caps in the Capitals Esports Faceoff – qualifying online tournaments slated for Jan. 12, 19, 26 and Feb. 2. The final eight participants will then challenge each other at an in-person, double-elimination tournament Feb. 22 for a shot at one of the coveted final three roster spots and a chance to take home part of a $10,000 prize purse.

Buffalo/Syracuse on ESPN2 at 8p.
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ON THIS DAY in 1956: Phil Rizzuto becomes the Yankees’ announcer.
In the Know: What was Phil Rizzuto’s nickname? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What is the full name of the character that pulls the football away from Charlie Brown before he kicks? Answer: Lucille (Lucy) Van Pelt. Kudos: John Ferlazzo/London; Pete Gautieri-A&E Networks/NY; George L. Sauli-USIM/NY; Mark Lehman-Atlanta Braves/Atlanta; Rick Wiener-Allebach Communications/Philadelphia; Daniel Rioux-PUSH 22/Bingham Farms; Matt Sautter-WideOrbit/Harrisburg; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Brad Stern/Carbondale; John Kukla-KDFW/KDFI/Dallas; Dory Petsrillo-CoxReps/Dallas; Dave Sikula-San Francisco State University/San Francisco; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Andy Babb-Super League Gaming/Santa Monica
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