Cynopsis Sports 05/28/24: The WBNA is on a roll

Tuesday May 28, 2024

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, and this is the new, monthly Cynopsis sports newsletter.


This summer, all eyes are on the WNBA as it gets fully underway in what many are calling the league’s most transformative season. While there’s plenty of hype around Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever, ESPN is looking to make sure the entire story of this year’s rookie class is told, including production enhancements, an increase in cameras at games and an enlarged programming strategy.

“Looking at past seasons on ESPN, some of our big numbers were around the debuts of biggest names in the league,” said ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson on a call with media. “It’s often very exciting when you have a new class coming in. I remember ‘three to see’ with Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne. People were excited about that. This class is unlike anything we’ve seen before in the level of popularity. There’s a lot of different things you can point to absolutely starting with their play on the court.”

The spark that’s led to heightened interest in the league comes on the court, but movement off the hardwood has also contributed to the rise in popularity. Robinson thinks the emergence of name, image and likeness in collegiate athletics has been a catalyst in building the brands of players who once weren’t afforded such an opportunity.

“I believe that the brand building through NIL has been helpful in making them household names, extending their reach. And so, it’s awesome to see what they’re bringing from the college game into the W in terms of the eyeballs, the anticipation, the excitement, the resources that are being poured to support this awesome class,” said Robinson. “I can’t wait to see what they do in terms of boosting our ratings and our viewership.”

The success has already led to the league’s growth—literally. The WNBA awarded Toronto an expansion team, marking the league’s first franchise outside of the U.S. and its 14th team overall. Toronto will begin playing in the 2026 season and be owned and operated by Kilmer Sports Ventures. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous city to galvanize around the WNBA and really just an outstanding place for us to expand this league into,” said ESPN VP, Production Sara Gaiero.


The broadcast future of the NBA is starting to shape up. A Sports Business Journal report indicates the NBA is finalizing contracts with Disney, NBC and Amazon, with SBJ’s sources labeling it as “the final stage of media rights negotiations,” though Warner Bros. Discovery/TNT Sports is not out of the picture yet. SBJ reports ESPN could ultimately pay between $2.6-2.8 billion per year for the league’s primary package. NBC’s package is suspected to be around the $2.5-2.6 billion range, while Amazon is more in the $1.8-2 billion ballpark. How might WBD keep its hat in the ring? Match the deal or overpay to reclaim the rights (and take it from NBC), pass on the rights or take it to the courtroom.

In the midst of the NBA media rights rumor mill, TNT Sports set its sights on college football, and will sublicense select College Football Playoff games from ESPN in a five-year deal. It’ll start this upcoming season, with TNT Sports presenting two first-round CFP. It’ll add two quarterfinal games each year starting in 2026.

NBC Sports acquired an additional NFL regular-season game to air across NBC, Peacock and Telemundo. The game will be Dec. 21’s contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. It’s the first time since 1997 that NBCUniversal will air NFL games on both Saturday and Sunday in Week 16.

Next year’s peculiar Pac-12 has a broadcast home. The CW Network will air 11 Pac-12 football games featuring Oregon State and Washington State this upcoming season, beginning with a double-header Aug. 21 with Portland State vs Washington State (3pm) and Idaho State vs Oregon State (6:30pm). It continues The CW’s venture into sports, the network having acquired rights to LIV Golf, ACC football and men’s basketball, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and WWE NXT.

FloSports and the minor hockey league ECHL extended their media partnership. FloSports will continue to air over 1,000 games each season as part of a new multi-year agreement. FloSports also agreed to a multi-year, seven-figure media rights agreement with the Division-II conference the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), and will carry the CCAA’s 13 sports, totaling more than 1,200 regular-season and postseason games from 12 member institutions. Games will be available for live and on-demand viewing in addition to content from original programming and social media. FloSports noted that 100% of the revenue gained from the partnership will be reinvested into CCAA member institutions. The new deal kicks in this fall.

Professional Bull Riders inked a deal with CBS Sports and Merit Street Media. Every event day in the PBR Unleash the Beast individual tour and PBR Teams league will broadcast during dedicated windows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. PBR will have over 325 hours of total programming each year. CBS Sports, which has partnered with PBR since 2012, extended their agreement through 2030 to carry events on the CBS TV network and Paramount+. Merit Street Media, which was founded recently by Dr. Phil McGraw, will carry live PBR events and associated programming while also producing over 300 hours of original content per year. RidePass, PBR’s western sports and lifestyle channel on PlutoTV, will move to Merit+. Merit Street’s deal also includes women’s rodeo events.

D.C.-based RSN Monumental Sports Network isn’t just airing the major leagues. This summer, the network will air six Annapolis Blues matches on its streaming platform. It started in mid-May with the Blues’ match against Maryland Bobcats FC, and Monumental has five more games left for the 2024 season, starting June 1 when the Blues take on DMV Elite FC at 7pm. “We have always been about Opportunity and Community at Annapolis Blues FC, and this relationship with Monumental represents a great Opportunity for both our players to be seen in more places and more of our large Community of fans to be able to watch as well,” said Blues GM Fred Matthes.

Xtreme One Entertainment solidified a 12-month global agreement with Triller TV to stream XFC live MMA events. The platform—which currently has more than 8 million registered users—will air its first event May 31 for the XFC Grand Prix II from Detroit.


After a video on X went viral showing Knicks guard Josh Hart eating Mike and Ike candy during a post-game press conference, Hart posted on the social media platform, “Hopefully one day I’ll get a deal with Mike and Ike and get my face on a box lol.” Mike and Ike delivered, sending Hart custom-made, one-of-a-kind candy boxes with his face on the front and back – and next thing you know, the two were in business. “I’m excited we are finally teaming up, can’t wait to see what we can do!” posted Hart. The player with a sweet tooth talked to Cynopsis Sports about his new “teammate.”

How does it feel to have a personal connection to the brand you’re partnering with?
It’s cool to partner with a brand I genuinely love. When there’s a personal connection, everything is more fun and it feels like I’m just sharing something I enjoy with my friends and fans!

Can you recall the first time you had Mike and Ike? What was that like?
I first tried Mike and Ike back in high school, so almost 15 years ago! Right away I loved the fruit flavors and chewy texture. I’m a big fruit candy guy and instantly knew this was my new favorite. They’re not too tart, not too sweet, they’re just right.

Has anyone noticed your pre- and post-game ritual with the candy before?
Definitely, especially my teammates and fans! It’s fun when fans take the time to share their favorite Mike and Ike flavors and experiences with me. At one game, a young fan even brought a box to exchange for an autograph—it was such a genuine moment. It’s such a simple thing but creates a real connection.

Top Women in Gaming, Esports & Sports


It’s your final opportunity to join the ranks of top women in gaming, sports and esports! Don’t miss out on celebrating your achievements – entries close 5/31 at 11:59 PM EST…



Fanatics Collectibles nabbed another high-profile league. The organization struck a multi-year trading-card partnership with the Premier League for Fanatics Collectibles to become the providers of cards, card games and stickers starting June 2025. Fanatics Collectibles has the rights to other soccer leagues, including Germany’s Bundesliga and Major League Soccer, along with Major League Baseball, UFC and Formula 1.

Elsewhere in Fanatics’ world, Fanatics announced a long-term omnichannel retail and merchandising partnership with the R&A, the governing body of golf outside of the U.S. and Mexico. Fanatics will offer an array of Open and AIG Women’s Open merchandise. The sports platform also has the rights to manufacture, market and sell official Open supporter apparel and accessories.

NBCUniversal is tuning in to iHeartRadio for the Paris Olympic Games this Summer. iHeartMedia was selected as the audio partner for the event, and will provide 24/7 play-by-play audio channels of select NBCU linear coverage in addition to creating an Olympic-centered podcast hosted by actors/comedians Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers. “This partnership allows iHeart’s large audio audience to hear NBCU’s Olympic coverage away from their televisions and digital devices, as well as engage with the Games through iHeart’s celebrated and entertaining podcasts,” said Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics.

The endorsements keep coming for Caitlin Clark, latest being Wilson Sporting Goods. Wilson will introduce signature basketball collections highlighting Clark’s legacy and her work to innovate products across the WNBA, NBA and basketball overall. Clark’s role will include testing, advising and providing feedback on products.

KEH, a purchaser and re-seller of pre-owned camera gear, is the new preferred provider of camera gear for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons will use KEH’s trade-in program to replace current cameras and related digital equipment with new gear.

The NWSL is capitalizing on increased interest in the league with the AI video content provider WSC Sports in a partnership that’ll use WSC Sport’s technology enhancements across NWSL’s digital platforms. The league uses WSC Sports’ cloud-based AI solution to analyst live matches and automatically create and distribute video content directly to NWSL digital platforms.

The Coca-Cola Company and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences inked a new sponsorship that’ll last through 2027. The two companies awarded a $40,000 HBCU Sports Production grant at the 45th Annual Sports Emmy Awards on May 21, which was given to students from Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication.

USA Fencing unveiled a multi-year partnership with Hilton for the hospitality company to become the official hotel partner of USA Fencing. Hilton will be the preferred hotel for USA Fencing’s national events series including the North American Cup, Super Junior/Cadet Circuit, Junior Olympics, D1 and Para Nationals and the Summer Nationals and July Challenge.

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Noteefy is trying to speed up the pace of play at golf courses, and it’s getting a big boost after wrapping up a seed capital round that’ll help it grow its technology platform. Noteefy will use the investment to expand its existing product offerings through AI integration across hospitality categories that hold similar demand dynamics to golf. Golf courses that already use Noteefy’s technology include Cabot Citrus Farms (Brooksville, FL), Whistling Straits (Sheboygan, WI) and TPC Scottsdale (AZ).

Dynavisual AG, an IoT platform technology startup, successfully tested its technology during an in-game proof of concept that occurred during a Quickline Handball League Playoff quarterfinal matchup in Switzerland. Dynavisual’s technology gives fans a visualization of data on smart textiles, used through what it calls “Dynavisual Caps.”

Cast Iron Media is cooking up a new dynamic live sports advertising platform with the introduction of “The Foundry.” It uses proprietary technology to enable precise ad delivery within live games. Key features include the Live Game Scheduler which ensures ads are placed during live game content, and Ad Server, which blends automation and personalized optionality.

Upon its deal with the NWSL, WSC Sports created a generative artificial intelligence group. “Our team is actively developing new Gen AI products that include various features with text, audio, and video in coordination with design partners at some of the most recognized sports brands in the world,” said CEO/Co-Founder Daniel Shichman said. “We believe Gen AI will unlock even more opportunities for teams, leagues and broadcasters to create new fan experiences and have released our first product in AI generated audio commentary.” WSC Sports tapped Itai Epstein to be the Director of Gen AI.

The Portland-based indoor sports organization Rose City Futsal is using Pixellot’s AI-automated sports cameras and white label OTT platform to provide livestreaming and VOD services for facility members. Pixellot’s cameras and platform enable fans, coaches and players to access live and on-demand futsal matches from anywhere, increasing awareness of indoor soccer and allowing teams to utilize it for strategic reasons.


Bob Does Sports, the golf brand with over 5.5 million followers, is getting into the drink business, releasing its first line of ready-to-drink tequila beverages. Dubbed “Have A Day” and part of a joint venture with Chido Premium Tequila Cocktails, the cocktails are scattered in retail stores throughout the U.S. and online.


FOX Sports and Common Goal are teaming to promote knowledge, skills and resources to understand and deal with mental health matters. FOX Sports parent company Fox Corp. and Common Goal USA will host a series of mental health trainings for youth soccer coaches as well as young athletes across the U.S. in select Copa América host locations.

NASCAR’s All-Star Race winner Joey Logano is bringing awareness to National Mobility Awareness Month. He teamed up with Torsten Gross, the founder of the Just Hands Foundation, as well as Pennzoil to create new original content that sees Logano drive a Ford Dark Horse Mustang that’s retrofitted with hand controls. It’s meant to showcase the challenges and triumphs of adaptive driving, while promoting accessibility among motorsports.


Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers averaged 2 million total viewers and 804,000 P18-49 on ESPN nets. Game 2 on ESPN averaged 2.1 million total viewers and 850,000 A18-49, up 30% and 44% versus last year’s WCF game 2 on ABC and up 28% and 43% against TNT’s ECF game 2.

PGA Championship organizers weren’t expecting, on the tournament’s second day, that Scottie Scheffler would get arrested in the early morning, then make it to his tee time. However, viewers tuned in to see how the day would unfold. ESPN’s live telecast of the PGA Championship second round averaged 1.6 million viewers, an 18% increase compared to second round coverage in 2023. The telecast peaked with 2 million viewers during the 6-6:15pm window on May 17.

The Premier League’s 2023-24 season is done and dusted as Manchester City claimed the league title (again), making it four straight PL titles for the cub. That didn’t impact ratings, though, with NBC Sports recording the largest average PL audience in U.S. media history across NBC, Peacock and USA Network. NBC Sports averaged a total audience delivery of 546,000 viewers per TV match window, surpassing the previous record made in 2015-16 of 541,000.

Caitlin Clark’s highly anticipated WNBA debut was the most-watched WNBA game on ESPN platforms ever. While Clark and the Indiana Fever fell to the Connecticut Sun 92-71, the game averaged 2.1 million viewers across ESPN2, ESPN+ and Disney+ and peaked with 2.3 million viewers in the 7:45-7:59pm window. The following Phoenix Mercury vs Las Vegas Aces game—which the Aces won 89-80—averaged 464,000 viewers. The pregame show “WNBA Countdown” came in at 680,000 viewers across ESPN2, ESPN+ and Disney, which is a 126% improvement compared to last year’s average across ESPN and ABC. Viewership was reported by Nielsen and included streaming viewership from connected TVs only.


It’s no secret how big of a success this year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament was, and DirecTV benefited. Ratings across DirecTV’s satellite and streaming platforms jumped 158% over the prior year’s tournament, which paid off for advertisers as well. Approximately 96% of DirecTV viewers remembered ads they saw during the tournament, and 86% said that ads that appeared during the tournament were relevant to them. Of those advertisers, the business organizations and consumer services category led with 27% of the pie, followed by “other” (22%), entertainment/movies/TV (18%) and auto (10%). Among the elusive A18-34s, which tripled in viewership YOY, 85% said they’ll watch next year’s tournament.

GE HealthCare and MedStar Health are finished with the data collection phase for a pilot study of NBA G League Players, which assesses training and game load on athletic performance across a full professional basketball season. Results are still pending, but the study aims to improve the knowledge of and help inform best practices for playing, training and recovery, specifically in regard to the structure and function of the knee joint and patellar tendon.


The New York Red Bulls kicked off construction of a new training complex located in Morris Township, New Jersey. The privately funded site was made in collaboration with the architecture design and planning firm Gensler and will feature a cruciform-shaped building with locker rooms, a gym, dining hall, academic spaces, physiotherapy areas and offices. The facility will also serve as the Red Bulls’ sporting department HQ and be home to the first team, Red Bulls II as well as academy and youth training.


Kyle Larson is getting ready to attempt one of the hardest challenges in racing Sunday as he’ll try to race in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. He’s on quite the hot streak, so Larson, FloRacing and High Limit Racing are partnering with NASCAR to offer fans the chance to win a signed dirt racing fire suit. It’s available to all NASCAR Rewards members after they redeem 50 points.


Scripps Sports is continuing to increase its WNBA programming, adding weekly studio shows to coincide with the WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on ION. The crew will consist of host Larry Smith, Autumn Johnson and Meghan McKeown as analysts and Nicole Denne as an executive producer. ION is the first broadcast network to have a weekly studio show for the league, and it’ll carry 43 regular-season games this year—the most of any of the W’s broadcast partners.

ESPN will have five new “30 for 30” documentaries this Summer. First up: “I’m Just Here for the Riot” on June 4 at 7:30pm, chronicling the aftermath of the Vancouver Canucks’ Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Boston Bruins. “False Positive,” which looks at the career of track and field star Butch Reynolds and how a false positive drug test upended his career, will air June 11 at 7pm. “No Scope: The Story of FaZe Clan” will spotlight one of the largest gaming brands July 1 at 7pm, and “American Son” tells the story of a young tennis prodigy Michael Chang and his rise to fame. “Dude Perfect: A Very Long Shot” will cap the Summer slate Aug. 3 at 9:30pm with details on the global sports-comedy group. All docs can be streamed on ESPN+.


The Athletic made a pair of executive moves. Laura Williamson was appointed as editor-in-chief for the U.K. and Europe, becoming the first woman editor-in-chief of a daily sports publication in the U.K. Her responsibilities include oversight of Premier League, La Liga, MLS, NWSL and global soccer coverage, while also searching for opportunities in other sports. David Jordan was named Head of Global Soccer, a role that’ll have him guide coverage and set strategy for the soccer department’s short- and long-term vision.

Adam Harter is LIV Golf’s new Chief Marketing Officer, a role will have him overseeing all marketing activities. That includes creating the league and team brands, increasing the size and engagement of LIV’s worldwide fan base, marketing initiatives for the league and The International Series and golf partnerships. Harter previously spent over 22 years at PepsiCo, where he worked across brand management, consumer promotions, strategy, media and entertainment. He’ll report to LIV Golf Commissioner/CEO Greg Norman.

Cumulus Media is giving Mike Eaby a promotion to VP/Executive Producer of Westwood One Sports. He replaced Howard Deneroff, who left the position after more than 35 years with the company. Eaby will manage all of Westwood One Sports’ multi-platform content and live event production, reporting to Bruce Gilbert, SVP, Sports Content & Audience for Cumulus and Westwood One. Eaby has spent his entire career at Westwood One Sports, first joining as an editor after graduating from Shippensburg University in 1997.

Excel Sports Management picked Michael Bernstein as SVP, Data and Analytics. Bernstein was previously VP, Insights and Analytics at LA28, a shared service that provides consumer insights, commercial partnership support and analytics for the LA28 Organizing Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. He’ll be based in Los Angeles.

Alex Kerman and Chandler Hoffman were given promotions by the Sports & fitness Industry Association. Kerman will step in as Senior Director, Research and Business Operations after previously being the Director. Kerman will head up SFIA’s research efforts as well as the publication of over 100 syndicated and custom research reports annually and business development efforts. Hoffman will oversee SFIA membership acquisition and retention, event registrations, SFIA’s database, website creation and management

On This Day
1956: Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Dale Long became the first MLB player to hit a home run in eight consecutive games. Since then, only Don Mattingly (New York Yankees) and Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle Mariners) have matched the feat in 1987 and 1993, respectively.

2022: Carlo Ancelotti became the first manager to win four UEFA Champions League titles after Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 1-0. He had a prior Champions League win with Real Madrid in the 2013-14 season, and his first two triumphs came at AC Milan in 2002-03 and 2006-07.

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THE LEDE COMPANY/NYC: Full-service communication, strategy, and social impact consulting firm, specializing in corporate, brand, entertainment, and nonprofit sectors, is seeking a Brand Assistant to join the Brand team in our New York office. The Assistant will play an integral role in supporting accounts for a wide variety of Fashion, Beauty, CPG and Lifestyle clients. Full info HERE

THE LEDE COMPANY/LA: Full-service strategy, communications and social impact consulting firm, specializing in corporate, entertainment and nonprofit sectors. We are looking for a Talent Assistant to a Talent Publicist in Los Angeles. We are seeking enthusiastic candidates who can work in a fast-paced environment, are driven & have strong communication and writing skills. Full info HERE

BAHAKEL COMMUNICATIONS/CHARLOTTE NC: Develop and oversee the production of a daily or weekly national political show that covers the most important political news and events of the day. Develop and execute strategies to increase the show’s audience and engagement. At least 5 years of experience as an executive producer for a political show or similar program. Full info HERE

Oversee all editorial and entertainment content, news production and presentation. Responsible for day-to-day operations of the show: producing, writing, and guiding creative. Develop content for the News @ TEN, plan, assign and create production schedules. 7 years of experience as executive producer or show producer. Network experience preferred. Full info HERE


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