4/20/15: Universal Sports Network goes the distance for Boston Marathon; PGA European Tour shakes up leaderboard; New section! eSports & Fantasy


Good morning. It’s Monday, April 20, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

With today marking the 119th running of the Boston Marathon, home channel Universal Sports Network is at the starting line for live national coverage of the event starting at 8:30a. Calling the race will be Al Trautwig and Larry Rawson along with Frank Shorter, Josh Cox, Juli Benson and Nick Gismondi along with host Paul Sunderland for pre and post-race coverage.

Cynopsis Sports asked Dean Walker, SVP, Production at Universal Sports Network about the network’s approach to the famed event, its legacy following the tragedy two years ago, as well as how it has evolved to become a darling of the digital world.

Walker on Boston marathon coverage: The 2015 Boston Marathon will be special in that we’ve turned the page on the tragedy of the 2013 bombings, and are now returning focus to the elite competition that the Boston Marathon is widely recognized for. From our Preview Show on Boylston Street the day before the marathon to our live race-day coverage including a one-hour pre-race show, the elite competition which includes the elite wheelchair starts and our one-hour wrap up show from atop the finish line, no other network provides the extensive coverage that Universal Sports offers for this type of race.
On lessons learned: We’ve found that recreational runners are very dedicated to engaging with marathon coverage, and they incorporate what they see in the elite competition into their own training. So we aim to provide ancillary content including nutrition and training features into our broadcast and on our digital platforms as much as possible. In addition, the Boston Marathon is one of the highest traffic days of the year on UniversalSports.com we are bringing back the Finish Line Web Cam which provides an opportunity for runners to see themselves and for family members to watch them cross the finish line.
On activation: Sponsors have the unique opportunity to integrate their products and brands directly into our broadcast not only with traditional product placement on set, but also with sponsored athletes. For example, we have a great relationship with Meb Keflezighi and his primary sponsor Skechers Performance which allows us to bring viewers closer to Meb and provide them with an intimate look at his training and race preparation.  Also, in order to not break away from the race, we run continuous action which offers our sponsors who integrate onsite to be incorporated into the broadcast. CLIF Bar sponsors Mile 17 so we will be able to organically integrate their fuel station activation within our race coverage.
On growth: 2015 is an incredibly busy year for our network! On top of the Boston Marathon, we are set to broadcast more than 25 world championships including track & field and aquatics in addition to the Rugby World Cup, which is one of the largest sporting events in the world. With a wide variety of sports and world-class events not available on other networks, Universal Sports fills a void for consumers. We will continue to deepen our relationship with our viewers and provide additional value to our partners by delivering more coverage of the sports our fans care about.


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The PGA European Tour has a new face atop its leaderboard, announcing that Keith Pelley, President of Rogers Media, would be taking on the role of Commissioner and CEO at the organization. While at Rogers, Keith helped land the largest sports rights deal in Canadian history, with the acquisition of a $5.2 billion National Hockey League rights deal for 12 years to include all media platforms. “Throughout the interview process, it was clear that Keith has an unwavering passion for golf as well as a strong grasp of the challenges and opportunities facing not only The European Tour, but the wider game of golf as a whole,” said David Williams, Chairman of The European Tour. “He knows the game, respects its history and I have no doubt he will bring an innovative approach to the development of The European Tour on the global stage.”

ESPN is reportedly unhappy with Verizon FiOS’ plans to split up its TV bundles, allowing customers to sign on for a trimmed-down package of channels along with at least two channel packs of their choice. However, ESPN and ESPN2 are not in the basic package, and are instead offered in a separate sports tier.  According to the WSJ, ESPN said in a statement that this move “would not be authorized by our existing agreements,” and that Verizon does not have the right to place either channel into separate sports tiers.

Pete Rose made headlines over the weekend after FOX Sports announced that the 17-time Major League Baseball All-Star and three-time World Series champion would serve as a guest studio analyst for the company. The role would see Rose offer analysis and insight for FOX Sports’ pregame and postgame shows as part of its presentation of regular-season MLB games on both FOX and FOX Sports 1 in addition to multiple FOX Sports 1 shows.

NBC Sports reports that its coverage of Chelsea/Manchester United on NBC over the weekend nabbed a .81 in overnight Nielsen numbers. That would mark a 19% jump over NBC’s 12:30p time period average from last spring.

HBO Sports lined up a special designed to offer “historical perspective and offers a spirited roundtable discussion” ahead of the May 2 welterweight unification title showdown between Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao. Commentators Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman host with a discussion from prizefighters who have gone toe-to-toe with both Mayweather and Pacquiao including Oscar de la Hoya and Shane Mosley. Mayweather/Pacquiao: The Legends Speak debuts on Saturday at 12:15a.

FOX Sports reports that a combo of linear and digital pushed its series Garbage Time with Katie Nolan to more than 756,000 viewers, which marks the third time in five weeks the show has attracted total viewership that broke 735,000. Digital exposure for the full episode and clips drew over 225,000, marking a 49% uptick over the previous week.

ESPN and ABC launched the NBA Playoffs with a healthy serving of The Black Eyed Peas, who collaborated for a special 2015 NBA Playoffs broadcast open that debuted on Saturday. The broadcast open features will.i.am, Taboo and apl.de.ap and features their single Awesome, which they wrote for the NBA Playoffs. The video also features the likes of Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), James Harden(Houston Rockets), Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs), Kyrie Irving(Cleveland Cavaliers), Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks), John Wall (Washington Wizards), Klay Thompson(Warriors) and more.

Speaking of music, the NFL Draft will see ESPN’s production music offer a Chicago twist during the three-day telecast (April 30-May 2). Move on Up, the soul classic from Chicago artist Curtis Mayfield, will serve as the soundtrack for ESPN’s draft coverage, and feature Lion Babe, the duo of singer Jillian Hervey and producer Lucas Goodman, covering the song. ESPN conducted a shoot with Lion Babe on April 12 on the Chicago subway system and at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

The NY Rangers’ win delivered MSG Network with a 3.64 HH Nielsen rating in the first game of the series, to mark the highest rated Game One of a first round Rangers Playoff Series in 25 years. The matchup against the Penguins was also simulcast on MSG+, to offer a combined rating of 4.54 in households.

The Basketball Tournament, the single-elimination, open-application tournament launched in 2014, will see Fordham University’s Rose Hill Gymnasium host the 2015 Semifinals and Championship Game. ESPN will carry the Semifinals starting at 2p on August 1 with the $1 million championship game saw for Aug. 2 at 3p.



Honoring the best in kids programming & marketing

Like the market it serves, the kids content business emanates creativity. From the most outstanding achievements in programming to the marketing and promotion that supports it, Cynopsis Kids !magination Awards honor the best in kids & tweens media. Review the list of categories, read the eligibility rules and enter today.



Unlike NFL teams at this year’s draft, Nike is landing both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, according to ESPN.com. The shoe and apparel company signed both quarterbacks to deals, along with Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, and Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

Kaiser Permanente launched two new television spots as part of its partnership with the NBA with commercials running over the weekend as part of the NBA Playoffs. The series is dubbed Offense Is the Best Defense, and blends Stephen Curry’s athletic performance with individuals and community members taking small steps to be more proactive about their health. The partnership also aligns the NBA FIT campaign, which encourages fans to Be Active, Eat Healthy, Play Together, with Kaiser Permanente’s Thrive campaign.

Toys “R” Us revealed that its recent campaign hosted in its stores to benefit Special Olympics raised more than $2 million. The eight-week awareness and fundraising program will see funds applied towards the upcoming 2015 World Games, as well as the expansion of the Young Athletes Program around the world. In conjunction with this campaign, the Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund made a $1.25 million commitment to serve as a Games Sponsor of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

JBL named Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard as a “brand ambassador” for the Harman International-owned audio brand as part of a new deal, according to Ad Age. Lillard becomes the first player signed by Harman since the company inked a multiyear sponsorship with the NBA last year that made it the league’s official headphone, speaker and audio partner.


Gannett Digital
is launching its biggest virtual reality program to date. Using Oculus Rift VR technology, Gannett will help Cincinnati Reds fans get a view of the Reds locker room, step in the batter’s box, see how fast an MLB fastball really is, look back at Spring Training, and more with the service. The app, dubbed “VR Stories,” will be presented by Cincinnati.com, and launched through the App Store and Google Play. Gannett will update the content on a weekly basis throughout the season and offer special content based on the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
FC Bayern Munich locked in a media partnership with MSN to syndicate FC Bayern’s premium and exclusive content directly to MSN. The deal will see the club’s editorial and video content served to MSN’s US audience across all platforms and connected devices. The deal also makes FC Bayern the first soccer club to have a direct presence on MSN’s US platforms.  The club also announced that ambassador Franz Beckenbauer will lend his voice to FC Bayern’s dedicated US media property with a regular featured column.


reveal production plans for its broadcast of the Women’s World Cup, with production set to include up to 22 state-of-the-art cameras and ultra-high definition visuals. A selection of the “best European football directors” will spearhead “Dream Team” production teams at every match. Contests will include a standard minimum set-up of 20 cameras per match while an enhanced camera plan of 22 cameras are lined up for the Opening Match, Semi-Finals and the Final Match. In addition, FIFA and Japanese broadcaster NHK will also work together to produce ten matches in ultra-high definition 8K visuals, including the Final Match on July 5th.


EA Sports
quietly announced that Madden 16 is being slated to hit stores on Aug. 25. The news was revealed on its official website while more details about the game are set to be revealed in May, with news, features and more.

Meanwhile, 2K Sports is launching the first simulation-based WWE video game for mobile platforms in WWE 2K. The game is now up for download on iOS and Android devices for $7.99, offering “authentic WWE gameplay in a mobile format through inspiration from several popular gameplay elements and modes from the WWE 2K flagship WWE video game franchise available on consoles.”

Last week saw Louisiana Representative Joe Lopinto propose a new bill that would legalize fantasy sports gaming activities in the state, according to local reports. The bill will reportedly make sure that fantasy sports games were treated differently than gambling. Louisiana is one of only five states that denies players access to real-money games on daily fantasy sports websites.

MLG announced Season 2 of the joinDOTA MLG Pro League. The season begins today with best of 3 double elimination brackets in Europe and the Americas, and a best of 3 single elimination bracket in Southeast Asia through Wednesday, May 6. Finalists will compete in the Season 2 Championship at X Games Austin from June 5-7. This season will see a guaranteed prize pool of $475,000 with an additional $90,000 in travel support.


Boston Marathon coverage begins on Universal Sports Network at 8:30p.

ON THIS DAY in 2008: Danica Patrick becomes the first female winner in IndyCar history, claiming the Indy Japan 300 on her 50th career start.

In The Know: Which racing great voiced The King in the Disney movie Cars? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which ESPN personality was once “The Bachelor” on ABC? Answer: Jesse Palmer. Kudos: Keith Marder-Halstead Property/NY; Alex Gleitman-247Sports/NY; Paul Tso-ION Media Networks/NY; Scott Jenkins-Gracenote/NY; Jon Miller-NBC Sports/Stamford; Michael G. Hawkins-Francis Marion University/Florence; Farrah Segaloff-Comcast Spotlight/Quincy; Allison Wright-Viacom Media Networks/Detroit; Steve McNair-KUBE 57/Houston; John Kukla-KDFW-KDFI/Dallas; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; Michael Jaquet-U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assoc./Park City; Steve Scheer-FOX Sports/LA; Adam Deverell-Cox Reps/LA; Tim Davidson-hyfn/LA;Paul Gygli-NBCUniversal Television Distribution/Universal City

Later — Chris
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