12/19/17: John Skipper steps down as ESPN president

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Good morning. It’s Tuesday December 19, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. The week of December 18, Cynopsis Sports will publish on Tuesday, December 19 and Thursday, December 21. We will not publish the week of December 25, and will be back bright and early Tuesday, January 2.

John Skipper has stepped down as president of ESPN to seek help for a substance addiction problem that he said he’s struggled with for many years. “I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem,” said Skipper, adding that his public disclosure comes with “embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down.”

After Skipper disclosed his decision to ESPN, the two sides mutually agreed that it was appropriate that he resign. Former ESPN President and Executive Chairman George Bodenheimer (who was with the company from 1981-2014) will serve as acting chairman for the next 90 days and oversee the transition process.

The New England Patriots’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 4:25 p.m. window on Sunday afternoon scored the highest rating of the 2017 NFL season on any network. The game drew a rating/share of 17/32 on CBS, up 8 percent over last year’s comparable game. It was the highest-rated regular season game telecast on CBS since 2015.
The Sunday night NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders helped NBC easily lead the way in primetime viewership, posting a 12.3/21 overnight rating. With the Cowboys’ 20-17 victory coming down to the final seconds, ratings peaked to 13.4/27 for the game’s conclusion just before midnight.
The Pac-12 will soon have a radio channel dedicated to coverage of the conference, pairing up with SiriusXM to create the SiriusXM Pac-12 Radio channel. The channel will provide 24-7 programming for fans across the country that delivers news with a Pac-12 focus, live conference games, college coaches’ shows and original talk programming that includes live call-in shows. SiriusXM Pac-12 Radio will launch in early 2018 and will be available to SiriusXM subscribers.

Similarly, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and SiriusXM are partnering to launch SiriusXM ACC Radio, an exclusive audio channel dedicated to that league, in 2018.

Eleven Sports has teamed with Univision Communications to showcase the next generation of soccer talent at a global youth tournament (boys 12-and-under) called the Prospect Cup, which involves eight U.S. teams playing eight international teams. Eleven Sports is airing 22 of 28 games at the Prospect Cup, which is being played at the ChampionsGate Sports Field Complex at the Omni Orlando Resort in Kissimmee, Florida.

NBCSN started its second year of KFC Big Bash League cricket coverage today with a game between Sydney rivals, the first of 10 BBL matches that will receive live coverage during the 2017-18 season. NBCSN will also air encore presentations of all regular-season matches and live streaming will be provided via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
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The NBA next year will introduce a first-of-its-kind youth basketball tournament for the top boys and girls teams, ages 14 and under, from around the world. The Jr. NBA World Championship will be played Aug. 7-12, 2018 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. A total of 16 regional champions (eight U.S. teams and eight international squads) will receive all-expenses-paid trips to the event, which NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said represents “another significant step” in the league’s effort to promote youth basketball globally.
WWE owner Vince McMahon is looking into starting another professional football league. McMahon, who in 2001 started the short-lived XFL, is personally funding a separate entity from WWE – Alpha Entertainment – to explore investment opportunities in sports and entertainment, including football. A joint venture between the WWE and NBC, the XFL lasted just one season before NBC canceled its TV contract.

LL Cool J has been confirmed as host of the CBS special ‘MVP: Most Valuable Performer,’ which will air Jan. 25 and feature NFL players whose teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. Jonathan Stewart, AJ Green and Ameer Abdullah are among those who have submitted their talent auditions that include skills and passions such as singing, juggling, magic, archery and more. A fan vote will determine which players will compete in the live one-hour special.
Speedskater J.R. Celski, a three-time Olympic medalist, has signed an endorsement deal to promote Core Power’s high protein milkshakes in concert with the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
The NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights have started a program, VGK University, which allows hockey fans to experience five film sessions with vice president Murray Craven and director of hockey operations Misha Donskov. The Golden Knights quickly sold out the first 50 spots for the fan-engagement program, which was designed to provide a deeper appreciation for the game, the Las Vegas Sun reported.


NBC will stream Sunday Night Football games on all mobile devices starting next season, most notably acquiring the rights from the National Football League to stream to mobile phones for the first time. The agreement also allows NBCUniversal to extend those authenticated streaming rights to its cable, satellite and telco partners, as well as virtual multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). NBC also broadcasts and streams Thursday Night Football.
Professional poker player Fedor Holz has invested in Envy Gaming, Inc., the parent company of TeamEnvyUs and their Overwatch League brand, the Dallas Fuel, according to esportsinsider.com. Holz, 24, is the highest-earning German poker player in history, with almost $27 million in winnings over the past five years.
Minkonet, a Seoul-based gaming technology company, has partnered with PUBG Corp. to deliver 3D replay functionality in the online game, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.” A 360-degree data capture technology powers the 3D replay and Killcam features that will enhance gameplay and discourage cheating in PUBG’s upcoming PC 1.0 release.  
Competitive gaming is coming to movie theaters around the U.S. thanks to a partnership between Coke ESports and Hi-Rez Studios. The SMITE World Championship finals will be held Sunday, Jan. 7, and those experiencing the esports action live at a participating theater location will also get exclusive SMITE prizes from Hi-Rez Studios.
Andrew Lustgarten has been promoted to president of The Madison Square Garden Company and will oversee MSG’s entertainment and sports bookings and productions businesses, as well as all aspects of the business operators of the company’s professional sports franchises (including the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty). Lustgarten joined MSG in 2014 as executive vice president of corporate development and strategy, helping to drive MSG’s growth initiatives and expand the portfolio of live experiences.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks, at 8:00p on NBA TV

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ON THIS DAY in 1988: The Seattle Seahawks won their first ever division title with a 9-7 record.

In the Know: Who was the last running back to lead the NFL in rushing yardage two years in a row? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: When was the last time Army won college football’s Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy before this year? Answer: 1996. Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Deerfield Beach, FL  
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