12/21/17: NCAA adds Google Cloud as partner to migrate 80 years of data

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

The NCAA has tabbed Google Cloud as its official cloud provider. Through the partnership, which also involves Turner Sports and CBS Sports, more than 80 years worth of statistical game and competition data – across NCAA 90 championships and 24 sports – will be migrated to Google Cloud.

As a result, fans and NCAA members will be able to search, compare and analyze team and player performance. Additionally, the NCAA will use the data to build predictive and diagnostic outputs that will help determine and analyze the selection and seeding process across men’s and women’s sports. NCAA fans, players and commentators will be able to experience some of these advancements in data analytics and insights during and after this season’s NCAA college basketball tournament.

The New England Patriots’ dramatic win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in last Sunday’s matchup of the two top teams in the AFC was the most-watched game of the NFL season. CBS Sports said the Patriots’ 27-24 win delivered 26.9 million viewers for the national 4:25 p telecast, up 8 percent from last year’s comparable game.

Kobe Bryant helped deliver NBA TV’s most-watched telecast of the season, as the Dec. 18 game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors – which included Bryant’s jersey retirement ceremony – averaged 622,000 viewers. NBA TV’s game telecasts are up 28% overall compared to last year.

The NBA will feature five games on Christmas Day for the 10th straight season, with the league’s Dec. 25 schedule seen in more than 200 countries and territories. Three of the games will be rematches from last season’s playoffs, including the NBA Finals rematch between the reigning champion Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Three games will be televised on ABC and one each on ESPN and TNT.

Looking further ahead in the sports schedule, ESPN rolled out its Sunday Night Baseball lineup for April and May, with the defending World Series champion Houston Astros among five teams that will play multiple games. The Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants also play two Sunday night ESPN games over the first two months of the season; the Giants and Dodgers start things off on April 1. ESPN also announced select Sunday Night Baseball games for July and August, including two each for the New York Yankees and New York Mets.

FOX Sports unveiled its broadcast schedule for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will see Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya join the series on a full-time basis. FOX will broadcast the first three hours of the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, while FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 will have a combined 14 ½ hours of live coverage of the Jan. 27-28 race. FOX Sports will offer coverage of all 12 championship races in 2018, either on FOX, FS1, FS2 or through its live streaming app.

FOX Sports also announced its television schedule for the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, which begins Saturday, Jan. 6 with the season-opening event in Anaheim shown live on FS1. The highest-profile off-road motorcycle racing championship in the world this year had its most-watched season ever, averaging 343,000 viewers on FS1.

ESPN is offering a second screen experience for this Friday’s NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. Both the ESPN App and ESPNEWS will air the game with a non-traditional camera view of the action while including insight and analysis from various network commentators, among them analyst Jalen Rose, NBA insider and reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, front office expert Bobby Marks, sneaker expert Nick DePaula and draft expert Mike Schmitz.

NBC Sports will air an hour-long special on Sunday, Dec. 24 titled PGA TOUR 2017: Must-See Moments. The special, sponsored by Myrbetriq, will look back on the top shots, stories and champions from the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season, including a focus on the most fiercely contested finishes and the tour’s crop of emerging young stars.  

Wrestling Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Ross and former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett are returning as AXS TV’s broadcast team for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). The duo will start the New Year with the Wrestle Kingdom 12 special, which will be televised Jan. 6 on AXS TV, the network launched in 2012 by Mark Cuban.

The Philadelphia Union announced a continuing broadcast deal with the MLS club’s founding broadcast partner, 6abc, as well as a new partnership with PHL17, which will serve as the team’s flagship home. PHL17 will broadcast a majority of the Union’s games and all local telecasts, which will be handled by 6abc, will be available to 32% more residents in the Philadelphia region.   
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Coca-Cola, which is celebrating its 90th year of Olympic involvement, introduced new Olympic-themed packaging ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Beginning next month, the specially-made Share a Coke bottles will feature a “4-pack” of U.S. Olympic athletes and hopefuls. The company began its Olympic involvement in 1928, providing more than 1,000 boxes of product to U.S. athletes in Amsterdam, and since has partnered with all 204 national Olympic committees and their teams.

WWE is having its first-ever women’s Royal Rumble. The event is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 28, when WWE superstars will go head-to-head with the winner getting a championship opportunity at Wrestlemania 34 in April. The women’s Royal Rumble is the latest evolution at WWE, which has placed more of a spotlight on its female performers and involved them in more prominent storylines – with deeper character development and longer matches. Earlier this year, WWE had its first-ever women’s tournament, which featured 32 competitors from 16 countries.

Kendrick Lamar is set to be the first-ever halftime performer at college football’s national championship game. The seven-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist will perform a medley of hit songs during a free, non-ticketed performance in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park just outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday, Jan. 8. The special halftime performance will be integrated into ESPN’s telecast.

Major League Rugby secured a multiyear sponsorship with XBlades, an Australian-based company that will outfit all seven of the teams for the inaugural season of the U.S. league. XBlades has custom-designed uniforms in advance of the MLR season, which kicks off in April, and the seven affiliated teams will also open online shops to sell merchandise including jerseys, shorts, socks, and warm-up and practice wear.

Groupon will place an ad in the 2018 Super Bowl. The online deals company is returning to the NFL’s title game for the first time since a disastrous debut as a Super Bowl advertiser in 2011, the Chicago Business Journal reported.

Swannies, which created a clothing line targeted at millennial golfers, has selected Buffalo.Agency to provide public relations and marketing support for events in more than 10 U.S. cities. Buffalo will help Swannies market its team golf tournaments in major metropolitan areas that include a traditional 9-hole scramble as well as party games such as cornhole, flip cup and others.
Pizza Hut is offering 20 lucky football fans the chance to win free pizza for a year through its Squares Pick’em contest that’s affiliated with the Super Bowl. The box-pool style game, which is run on the Yahoo Sports fantasy app or desktop experience, made its debut last year without the free pizza offer. 

NFL fans will be able to watch Monday Night Football on their mobile phones starting next season. ESPN reached an agreement with the league through the 2021 season that expands its live streaming, which currently includes devices including computers, tablets, connected TVs and OTT devices such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Since August, an average of 10.6 million fans per day have consumed NFL content on ESPN digital media. 

The Mountain West has partnered with FloSports to bring live and on-demand coverage of three conference championships in 2018 – women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s indoor track and men’s & women’s outdoor track and field – to fans via FloSports’ sport-specific subscription channels.
Esports Arena in Las Vegas is set to debut a one-of-a-kind gaming-inspired menu when it opens at MGM Resorts International’s Luxor Hotel and Casino in early 2018. The food and beverage program was developed by ThinkFoodEntertainment, a division of chef Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup, and Allied ESports, the world’s leading network of esports properties. Esports Arena Las Vegas is the first dedicated Esports venue on the Las Vegas Strip and its menu will include items catered to gamers and feature portions crafted with efficiency in mind.

Turner and IMG’s ELEAGUE will cap 2017 with consecutive weeks of feature programs on TBS, starting with the finale of The ELEAGUE Cup: Rocket League on Friday, Dec. 22 at midnight ET. After taking fans inside the Grand Final of the $150,000 tournament, TBS on Dec. 29 will revisit a collection of the ELEAGUE’s fan-favorite moments of 2017 with ELEAGUE: Year In Review.

The Topps Company Inc. has promoted David Leiner to oversee its newly-formed Global Sports & Entertainment division, which is a merger of its North American and International teams. Leiner had been General Manager of the North American division and now takes over as Global GM of the new combined group.

Sports and media industry veteran John Rollins has transitioned to a new role, taking over as the ECAC Network’s first Chief Financial Officer to oversee and develop the over-the-top streaming platform. Rollins has been with the ECAC since 2015 and was previously responsible for the conference’s strategic plan and financial well-being. The new ECAC Network was launched last month.

The University of Connecticut at Arizona, at 9 p on ESPN2

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The more millennials turn away from traditional advertising, the smarter it is for marketers to create experiential events that create powerful connections with consumers. Our panel will focus on how to use social most effectively, the latest metrics for measuring success, and more. Among the speakers are Scott Lachut, President, Research & Strategy for PSFK and Damon Haley, Head of Sports Marketing for Troika.

ON THIS DAY in 1891: The first game of basketball, based on rules created by James Naismith, was played by 18 students in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In the Know: What was the most overtime periods played in a single Division I college basketball game? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question:  Who was the last running back to lead the NFL in rushing yardage two years in a row? Answer: LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006-07. Andrew Feingold-FOX News NY/New York; David Westberg-SAG AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank, CA  
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