12/20/21: MLF CEO breaks down the company’s initiatives for 2022

 

Medias First Morning Read

 

Monday December 20, 2021

Last week saw Major League Fishing reel in a deal with Bally’s Corporation in a move to shake up the interactive experience for fishing fans. The agreement makes Bally’s MLF’s exclusive Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), and Free-to-Play (F2P) Partner for MLF’s tournament circuits, with all designations becoming firsts for the professional fishing industry. The partnership includes Bally’s online sportsbook, Bally Bet, becoming the title sponsor of MLF’s coveted Angler of the Year (AOY) Award for the Bass Pro Tour. Cynopsis Sports asked Jim Wilburn, President and CEO for Major League Fishing about the deal and what fans can expect from the agreement.

Wilburn on 2021 trends: With the end of 2020 trends showing a growth in outdoors and fishing industries, we anticipated a solid digital audience and fan growth in 2021. From a data forecasting perspective, we were expecting a solid 20- to 30-percent growth. The actuality of our 2021 was nearly a 70-percent unique growth, year over year, and over 100-percent growth in our live-streamed content consumption. We’ve had so many new fans come into the sport. And they aren’t just passively watching – they are engaging with us and want more interaction with our brand, our anglers, and the sport of pro bass fishing.
We commissioned a third-party research study by one of the most respected sports marketing agencies in the country, rEvolution, that confirmed that our fans are truly THE most sponsor friendly fans in all of sports. They are extremely loyal to our sponsors and really support them with their pocketbooks.

On 2022: At the last event of our 2021 Bass Pro Tour season, we pilot tested a small Predictor game with Bally’s and that, too, blew past our expectations. Our fans sent us a clear message – the engagement and gamification is something we needed, and Bally’s was the right company to partner with. We’ve expanded our Predictor game for the full season, and a new MLF Fantasy Fishing game will also debut in 2022. The free-to-play games, powered by Bally’s, will allow fans to select their team of anglers, create leagues with their family and friends, and win thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.

On the Bally’s deal: This deal came together from a simple email from Adi Dhandhania, Chief Operating Officer for Bally Interactive, in March seeking ways that our two brands could collaborate. We signed a NDA in less than a week, and the rest is history. Our first project was to test the Predictor game, which Bally’s had a lot of experience within other sports. We were also at the same time working on developing the first ever “LIVE” fantasy experience for our fans and learned that Bally’s had a division in Ireland that were experts on fantasy sports and gamification. We have worked over the past four or five months on Fantasy Fishing for both the Bass Pro Tour and the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit – our two major pro circuits – and will launch both early next year at the start of our seasons. As we watched what other sports-betting companies were doing in the sponsorship area, I approached Adi about expanding our relationship even further by sponsoring our most important award, the Bass Pro Tour Angler of the Year.

On what fans can expect: This partnership will have a massive impact on how fans can engage with our sport. For years, MLF fans have been clamoring for engagement opportunities like Fantasy Fishing, betting, etc. and due to Bally’s integrated media and gaming ecosystem, they are the perfect partner for us to build this platform alongside. Bally’s free-to-play division, SportCaller is helping to build out our Fantasy Fishing and Predictor games, and Monkey Knife Fight, the fastest-growing Daily Fantasy Sports company in the world, will have the ability to host daily fantasy contests featuring MLF anglers and livestream Bass Pro Tour events.

On partnering with Major League Fishing: A great partnership with MLF is simple – it’s about recognizing and supporting the enormous value of our unique, avid and engaged fanbase of tens of millions of consumers and anglers in the fishing community. We’ve seen first-hand when a great partner like General Tire, Toyota, and others create an authentic connection with our fans and immerse themselves into the bass-fishing lifestyle, across all sponsorship, media, and promotional touchpoints. The fishing community rewards them with loyalty and purchases, and it is truly a win-win partnership.

PROGRAMMING

Disney and YouTube TV are once again reunited, with the two companies inking a deal to bring more than a dozen Disney-owned channels, including ESPN, back to Google’s internet TV streaming service. Friday saw the announcement that the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. “We are pleased to announce that after a brief disruption, we have reached a new distribution agreement with Google’s YouTube TV for continued carriage of our portfolio of networks,” Disney said in a statement. “We appreciate Google’s collaboration to reach fair terms that are consistent with the market, and we’re thrilled that our robust lineup of live sports and news plus kids, family and general entertainment programming is in the process of being restored to YouTube TV subscribers across the country.”

As leagues scramble to deal with a resurgence in COVID-19 outbreaks, the NFL moved three games that were set to be played over the weekend. Games include: Las Vegas/Cleveland shifting from Saturday to Monday where it will run on NFL Network at 5p; while Seattle/Los Angeles Rams and Washington/Philadelphia pivoted from Sunday to Tuesday, carried on FOX. Meanwhile, the NBA and NHL also postponed games.

Last week’s edition of Thursday Night Football, which saw a Chiefs’ 34-28 overtime win over the Chargers was seen by an average audience of 18.0 million across all platforms, including FOX and NFL Network. That is up 33% over last year’s Week 15 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders and up 27% vs. the 2020 11-game average. Season-to-date, Thursday Night Football tri-cast games on FOX, NFL Network and Prime Video are averaging 15.1 million viewers across all platforms – up 13%.

The National Women’s Soccer League rolled out the preliminary competition framework for its 10th anniversary campaign, with a 132-game schedule on deck as well as the return of the NWSL Challenge Cup. The season begins on March 19, with group play for the NWSL Challenge Cup. The Cup will feature three groups of four teams, playing double round-robin matches, semifinals and the NWSL Challenge Cup Final on May 7, broadcast on CBS and Paramount+. The season will continue with each of the 12 teams then playing home and away matches against every other team in the league for the first balanced schedule in league history. Six teams will qualify for the NWSL playoffs set to take place beginning in October 2022, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye.

The 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic,, pitting the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field on Jan. 1, will see the unveiling of the final 2022 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team, special appearances by current and former Minnesota sports stars, a musical performance by country music superstar Thomas Rhett, and a showcase of Minnesota hockey on frozen ponds. The event will be televised nationally on TNT in the U.S. and on Sportsnet, CBC and TVA Sports in Canada at 7p. During the second intermission, the final 23-player roster of the 2022 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team will be revealed. The entire team will be in attendance for the NHL Winter Classic for the on-field salute.

ESPN Events has reached a new six-year agreement for the Cricket Celebration Bowl to continue at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The annual college football bowl game featuring champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and will continue to be contested at the home of the Atlanta Falcons thru 2026. “We are delighted to extend our agreement with AMB Sports and Entertainment. Opening the college football bowl season in Atlanta at one of the world’s premier sports and events venues, Mercedes- Benz Stadium, is something our teams and fans really enjoy,” said John Grant, executive director of the Cricket Celebration Bowl.

ESPN and American Kennel Club will celebrate the awesomeness of dogs on Christmas Day from noon till 6:30p on ESPN2, showcasing sporting dog competitions during the block. The day kicks off with AKC Fastest Dogs USA at noon showing the USA’s speediest canines. That will be followed by the AKC National Championship Preview Show at 2p reviewing best in show for the coveted title of America’s National Champion. Then at 2:30p, the AKC Agility Premier Cup while 4:30p sees the AKC Flyball CanAm Classic, showcasing the the world’s largest flyball tournament.

2022 CYNOPSIS EVENTS

 

Stay tuned as Cynopsis releases its 2022 events calendar! Here’s what’s already been confirmed for next year: OTT Virtual Conference – March 8th, Sports Media Awards, April 19th, Big TV Conference – Sept 20-21st, Esports Business Summit – Nov 1-3rd

 

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

 

As the NHL prepares to hit Las Vegas for the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend festivities in February, the league announced that the city will also host the 2022 Truly Hard Seltzer NHL Fan Fair – a four-day, 300,000 square-foot family-friendly fan festival at Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall from Feb. 3-6. Tickets for the event are now available, with the fair set to offer fans interactive hockey games; a kids zone designed for hockey’s youngest fans; special appearances by NHL alumni and NHL Mascots; NHL memorabilia and trophy displays including the iconic Stanley Cup; live television and radio broadcasts; and dozens of other dynamic activities, all included with the price of admission.

Delta Air Lines revealed its custom Team USA aircraft livery as the official airline of Team USA ahead of the Winter Games. The custom paint design, which started flying Dec. 18, is assigned primarily to trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes. To further its commitment to Team USA, Delta has also partnered with six inspiring athletes on their journey to the Beijing Winter Games. “Delta and Team USA share a deep belief that connecting the world makes us all better,” said Tim Mapes, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Delta. “This one-of-a-kind livery celebrates our partnership which has been built on shared values and the inspiring athletes of Team USA, whose indomitable spirit lies at the heart of both our ‘Keep Climbing’ message and the Olympic and Paralympic Movement.”

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Former NBA star Baron Davis and Crypto.com dropped the Black Santa Holiday NFT collection, centered on Black Santa- Davis’ intellectual property and the lead character from his multimedia content company, UWish. Davis will donate a portion of the proceeds from primary NFT sales to the Los Angeles Urban League. “My vision for Black Santa was to give children a magical world of untold possibilities filled with enchantment, adventure and positive characters of color while imparting the importance of giving year-round,” said Davis. “NFTs offer a modern technology-driven platform for expanded Black Santa experiences for collectors and fans. With Crypto.com NFT, the Black Santa collectibles are not just possible — they truly capture the integrity and soul of the character.”

ESPORTS

The Call of Duty League mapped out plans to kick off their Vanguard circuit, with play set to include the introduction of Pro-Am and Warzone events as well as four regular-season Majors in 2022. OpTic Texas will play host to the first Major in early 2022. The eight-team Majors will consist of a new knockout bracket in which every squad will start in the winners bracket. The company will launch a Pro-Am midseason tournament with will run with Call of Duty: Warzone events throughout the season. The 2022 Call of Duty League regular season kicks off on Feb. 4.

The Global Esports Federation unveiled the host nation for three additional iterations of the Global Esports Games with the lineup now locked in through 2026. Previously announced were Istanbul for 2022 and Riyadh for 2023. Now joining the lineup will be China in 2024, UAE in 2025, and the US in 2026.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

Mohamed Ben Sulayem was elected President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile following the FIA Annual General Assembly in Paris. He succeeds Jean Todt.

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ON THIS DAY in
1966: The NBA awards Seattle Supersonics a franchise for 1967-68 season.

IN THE KNOW
What is considered to be the fastest Winter Olympic sport? (Email cpursell@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
Which team was on the losing end in the most lopsided Super Bowl, defeated 55-10? Answer: The Broncos. Kudos: Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NY; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Kathi Gillin-MM Media/Philadelphia; Art Salisch-Nielsen/NJ; Mark Lehman-Braves/Atlanta; Willy Gibson-WTG Sports/Columbus; John Ward-VideoAmp/Chicago; Joe Lyons-ESPN/Dallas; Jason Brist-Outdoor Sportsman Group/Chicago; David Hauptman/Denver; Greg Molozni-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Westberg-SAG•AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Andy Babb-Super League Gaming/Santa Monica; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Bill Rasmussen-ESPN Founder/Seattle

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