12/05/17: ESPN reports viewership upticks for its coverage of the MLS Cup Playoffs

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Good morning. It’s Tuesday December 5, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Ahead of Saturday’s game for all the marbles, ESPN announced that its audience for the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs is up 38% entering this weekend’s MLS Cup Final. The seven playoff matches on ESPN and ESPN2 to date have averaged 343,000 viewers, according to Nielsen, to rank as the company’s most-viewed MLS Cup Playoffs since 2014. Viewership in the men 18-34 demo is up 61% with men 18-49 up 44%. The top 10 markets for 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs on ESPN networks: Columbus (1.6), Seattle-Tacoma (1.6), Atlanta (0.7), Dayton (0.5), Portland (0.4).
Meanwhile, ESPN will showcase the 2017 MLS Cup on ESPN Presented by Audi – pitting Toronto FC/Seattle Sounders on Saturday at 4p with a 30-minute pregame show live from BMO Field in Toronto. Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman and Julie Stewart-Binks will handle microphone duties.
In other ratings news, NBC’S Eagles/Seahawks battle on Sunday Night Football posted a 13.1/22 in Nielsen overnight numbers to claim the night in primetime. That score is up 14% from last year’s equivalent, and now marks NBC’s third straight uptick for the franchise over 2016 numbers. Top markets for Eagles-Seahawks on NBC: Seattle 45.6/68; Philadelphia 35.3/53; Portland 21.6/38; Richmond 20.1/30; New Orleans 18.6/26.
Around the dial, Univision Deportes’ broadcast of Liga MX Liguilla semifinals saw the Tigres UANL/America battle draw 1.5 total viewers on Dec. 2, and 2 million viewers on Nov. 29. Meanwhile, the Monterrey/Monarcas Morelia contest drummed up 703,000 total viewers on Sunday with 687,000 on Nov. 30.
ESPN laid out its lineup of presenters for The Home Depot College Football Awards presented by GILDAN, which runs Thursday at 7p on the network. Among the names set to take part will be David Pollack, Desmond Howard, Kevin Butler, Drew Butler, Shawn Wooden, Brad Banks, Tracy Rocker, Bob Stoops, Herschel Walker, Ki-Jana Carter, Home Depot’s Giles Bowman, Disney Sports’ Faron Kelley and Dick Vermeil.
The Yankees announced that ESPN commentator Aaron Boone would take on the famed managerial position, ending Boone’s run at the company that began in 2010. Boone most recently had served as an analyst on Sunday Night Baseball. “Managing in the big leagues today is mostly about communication, people skills and having an open mind,” said MLB commentator Tim Kurkjian. “Aaron Boone qualifies for all of those. And, having spent a lifetime in the game, and at the ballpark, he will do equally well with the strategy of the game.” 
ESPN is also down talent on the football side, as Arizona State University confirmed that Herm Edwards would become the 24th head coach of Sun Devil Football, pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. Edwards served as an NFL analyst for ESPN since 2009 where he appeared primarily on NFL Live, SportsCenter, ESPN Radio, and the network’s coverage of Super Bowl week. 
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The PGA TOUR and Sony Corporation agreed to extend their partnership by another four years, through 2022, for the Sony Open. The new agreement will commence following the 2018 tournament in January. The upcoming Sony Open in Hawaii will mark the 20th year of Sony’s sponsorship, tying it for the third-longest tenured title sponsor on the PGA TOUR. “Twenty-eighteen will be the momentous 20th anniversary of the Sony Open in Hawaii,” said Kazuo Hirai, President and CEO, Representative Corporate Executive Officer, Sony Corporation. “I am proud to announce that Sony has decided to renew its sponsorship once again, through 2022. To us, the Sony Open is not just a golf tournament; it has allowed us to provide continuous support to the local Hawaiian community. Together with everyone involved in organizing the tournament and our charitable partners at The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, we hope to continue contributing to the people of Hawaii.”    
Major League Soccer locked in a multi-year sponsorship deal with headphone brand JLab Audio for a partnership designed to connect players and fans with JLab’s wireless products. Along with the national MLS partnership, JLab will also be the official partner of five-time MLS Cup champions the LA Galaxy. The company will also receive field-level signage in nationally-televised matches and curated custom athlete playlists, powered by JLab Audio, that will be hosted on MLS channels.
FOX Sports is partnering with the Association of National Advertisers to support its #SeeHer movement, an initiative to increase the accurate portrayal of women and girls in media by 20% t by 2020. Using its national sports platform, the FOX Sports #SeeHer partnership will “celebrate female accomplishments and encourage conversations between adults/parents (especially dads) and girls/daughters about pursuing career opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM).” In addition, FOX Sports and ANA will launch a co-branded “Celebrate Her” campaign, creating in-program ad spots that feature familiar sports moments that have been reimagined to celebrate women in STEM.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s The Undefeated will launch The Plug, a weekly podcast featuring “authentic conversations on the hottest topics in sports, race and culture.” The series will take on topical issues of interest to a younger audience with audio versions of the podcast posted on Wednesdays with hosts Chiney Ogwumike, Justin Tinsley and Kayla Johnson.
Whistle Sports detailed plans for the second season of its Dunk League series on Verizon go90, hosted by JC “Mouthpiece” The Voice of Venice Beach. Every Tuesday starting today, Dunk League will air regional competitions in Los Angeles and Miami and its main competition in New York City in search of the nation’s next great dunker. Winners from each regional competition will join season one’s defending champion Guy “The Frequent Flyer” Dupuy to battle for $50,000 and the Dunk League golden rim trophy.
Tumblr announced that three of the top five athletes on the platform in 2017 were members of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. In the company’s 2017 Year in Review, Ali Kreiger and Ashlyn Harris, took home the top two spots on the Top Athletes list. Rounding out the top ten are: Yuzuru Hanyu, Auston Matthews, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Sidney Crosby, Tyler Seguin, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer announced that fans of the league would be able to buy home team skins early next year with all 26 heroes in the game each having a jersey for each of the 12 Overwatch League teams. “Purchasing Overwatch League skins will provide monetary support for teams in the league,” Nanzer said in a YouTube post with Blizzard using a separate currency system specifically for the skins to ensure the correct amount of money goes to the teams. Overwatch League’s preseason exhibition matches start tomorrow.
MLG announced that John ‘Revan’ Boble will return to his commentator role for the upcoming Call of Duty World League Dallas Open event. The event marks the first major LAN of the CoD: WWII season.
Gfinity announced that season one of its new Australian Gfinity Elite Series will feature a prize pool of $340,000 spanning titles that include CS:GO, Street Fighter V and Rocket League with six city based teams taking part from around the country. The first season begins Jan. 7. “The Challenger Series is designed as an integrated, grassroots support platform, which is frequently seen in traditional sports, and is key to the development of Australian esports,” said incoming Gfinity Australia CEO, Dominic Remond, whose appointment was announced last week.

Sports broadcasting staple and pioneer (and Cynopsis Hall of Famer) Lesley Visser will release her memoir, “Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Say Don’t Walk” on Dec. 26 via BenBella Publishing. The book will showcase how she became a sportswriter and detail the struggles she faced as someone who became the “first” at multiple levels.
The Olympic Channel named Mary Byrne to the newly created role of Editor in Chief. Byrne will be charged with leading the Olympic Channel’s overall editorial strategy including the editorial planning and implementation for the platform’s digital, social media and news divisions. Most recently, she served as senior deputy editor for ESPN Digital & Print Media where she was responsible for the editorial operations for their Digital & Print’s daily coverage in additional to overseeing cross-platform collaboration and integration.
Excel Sports Management announced the hiring of Bryan Burney as Vice President of Business Development. Burney will play a leading sales role across many of Excel’s talent divisions including football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR and golf, as well as providing integrated sales support for Excel’s properties and brand consulting divisions.

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ON THIS DAY in 1974: The Seattle Seahawks are formed.
In the Know: The Seahawks retired #80 to honor what player? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 caused the Rose Bowl to temporarily change venues (and coasts) and play the game at which school’s stadium? Answer: Duke. Kudos: David Kalan-National Hockey League/NY; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports/NY; Michael Ritz-BucStar Consulting/NY; Ken White-KWTV/Charlotte; Michael G. Hawkins-Francis Marion University/Florence; Mike May-PHIT America/Wellington; Michael Goodman-Radio One/Atlanta; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; John Tingue-CBS/Chicago; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Jack Simmons-US Army Reserve/LA; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA
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Dvlp/manage company’s YouTube presence across its portfolio of networks. Self-motivated, extremely detail oriented & independent worker w/expertise of YouTube Platform. 5-7 yrs exp digital mktg or project mngmnt w/strong emphasis in social.

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JOB OPENING: EXECUTIVE RECRUITER/JAMES & CO LLC/NYC: Responsible for search execution to include but not limited to dvlpng target list, candidate identification and assessment as well as candidate interviews. Understanding of landscape for talent in our srch verticals a must. Full job info/apply HERE (12/12)

JOB OPENING: SALES PLANNER/MUSIC CHOICE TV/NYC: Resp for development/fulfillment of integrated media plans & proposals across all Music Choice television platforms for advertising clients. 1-2 yrs media or sales plan’g/assistant at an agency or ntwrk. Solid understanding of media math. Full info HERE (12/12)

JOB OPENING: PROJECT MGR OFF-AIR DESIGN/Paramount Network/NYC: Work close w/ & support Sr Project Dir. Receive clients requests & work w/them to get full scope of work, specs & expected due dates. Must possess great comm. skills, ability to work high paced environment & be able to effectively multi task. Resumes HERE (12/12)

CREATIVE DIRECTOR/A+E/NY: Lead & motivate an On-Air creative team in delivering best in class campaigns. 10+ yrs hands-on exp in cable/tv mktg and/or branded advertising. Exc tech skills with: Avid/Final Cut Promo; After Effects and Adobe Suite. Full info/Apply HERE (12/9)

JOB OPENING: SR MGR, YOUTUBE STRATEGY/A+E/NY: Dvlp/manage company’s YouTube presence across its portfolio of networks. Self-motivated, extremely detail oriented & independent worker w/expertise of YouTube Platform. 5-7 yrs exp digital mktg or project mngmnt w/strong emphasis in social. Full info/apply HERE (12/9)

JOB OPENING: DIR, PAID SOCIAL MEDIA/A+E Networks/NY: Dvlp/mng all paid social media campaigns to drive engagement & increase visibility of programs across the entire portfolio. 5+yrs of digital media plng exp. Extremely detail-oriented w/ clear &proven track record of cross funct collaboration. Full info/apply HERE (12/9)

JOB OPENING: DIGITAL MARKETING MGR/CSI SPORTS/JERSEY CITY: Plan digital mktg campaigns as we expand our social media presence across all digital properties inc. web, social, mobile, OTT and emerging platforms. Mng rsrch and analytics to maximize success. +5yrs Media req Sports bckgrnd a +. Res/cvr letter HERE (12/9)

JOB OPENING: PRODUCTION MGR/VICE LABS/NYC: Provide support to Supervising Prod (SP) in executing creative vision for short-form video shoots. Dvlp projected monthly filming sched; assign team members incl prod support & editors. Secure film permits. Knwlg of film permit rules a must. Full info/apply HERE (12/8)

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SITUATION WANTED: Unscripted Creative Exec adept at generating new ideas, producing tapes, writing, working with talent and delivering projects that sell. Available to elevate your development slate and bring your company’s ideas to the finish line. [email protected] (12/12)

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