Friday, July 1st, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Friday, July 1, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

A post-merger NBC Sports is setting out to do to the Tour de France what the company has done to the Sunday Night Football, the NHL, the Kentucky Derby, and others in beefing up the sport’s digital presence in an iPad world. Taking up Versus’ digital “Tour Tracker” and renaming it “Tour de France All Access” in line with the NBC brand’s other All Access sites, audiences can now view all 21 stages of the race via their laptops and mobile devices at with a few toys to play with as well. Tour de France All Access is sponsored by Radio Shack, and with the wider distribution on its new home, will offer fans some new extras such as content partnerships with and, more detailed GPS mapping during each stage and the ability to share content via Facebook.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Coordinating Producer Tom Seeley about the impact of the merger on digital properties, traffic patterns under the NBC umbrella and how the Tour de France fits in with the company’s online strategies.

On how the merger impacted digital operations: In first quarter we merged into, and shuttered the old Versus site. But the team that was working on in Philadelphia on things like the NHL, MMA or cycling, are still the same folks doing it now, only they happen to be doing it for a much larger audience. From our perspective, the greatest thing about the merger is that it has given the NBC Sports site a lot more assets to have at its disposal that make our content deeper and richer.

On the impact on online audiences: Traffic has gone up. comScore ratings are the highest that they’ve ever been.  We obviously had a lot of content around the NHL when it was just NBC, but now to have that constant presence has been tremendous.

On renaming the Tour Tracker: Because this is the first year it’s been on instead of Versus, it was rebranded because we’ve think we’ve successfully established the All Access brand and wanted to extend that. We’ve used it for Sunday Night Football and for the Kentucky Derby, where it’s a one stop destination for everything about that one event and we wanted to apply it to the Tour de France and extend that brand.

On the site’s new features: Two things for me are really exciting, the first is the improved GPS tracking where you can follow riders on different points of the course and see that functionality. We are working with a company called Map My Fitness and they are extending that mapping functionality. The richness they are bringing to it is one of the great improvements this year. We did have some mapping in years past but nothing to this degree. The other one that is maybe even bigger is the different mobile platforms that Tour de France All Access is now available on. Last year, it was only available on the iPhone and this year it is available on the iPad in addition to Android. To be able to reach that audience, as opposed to segmenting it to an Apple audience or a non-Apple audience allows us to be the stop for as many people as possible.

On the Air

Well, day one of the NBA lockout is officially underway, with Thursday talks between the owners and players unable to bridge the divide. A three-hour meeting that featured a final proposal from the players was rebuked, which means the CBA expired at midnight last night putting all league business on hold. Stay tuned, one NBA executive said this one could be a doozy.

Fresh from a successful Gold Cup, Univision announced its broadcast schedule for its exclusive Spanish-language coverage of Copa America 2011. Games begin today with host country Argentina taking on Bolivia on TeleFutura, while Univision opens Saturday with Colombia/Costa Rica with Hugo Sanchez and Fernando Fiore handling microphone duties along with Pablo Ramirez and Jorge Perez Navarro, with Jesus “El Prof” Bracamontes and Diego Balado serving as color commentators. Live online streaming of all the matches will also be available online and will feature a Facebook plug-in with real-time commentary from fans.

TBS is set to announce the 2011 MLB All-Star Game Rosters on Sunday at noon, with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell. Matt Winer will host and joined by analysts Dennis Eckersley, Cal Ripken and David Wells to make the announcements and provide analysis on the selections. The show also will feature interviews with All-Star Game managers Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers and Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants. Following the show, “Sunday MLB on TBS” will continue at 1p with a Yankees/Mets game with Ernie Johnson handling play-by-play and John Smoltz serving as analyst.

ESPN is reporting that coverage of the College World Series on ESPN and ESPN2 generated audience spikes compared to 2010, bolstered by nice bumps for both telecasts of the championship finals. The best-of-three championship, which was won in two games by South Carolina, averaged 2,233,000 total viewers, 1,618,000 households and a 1.6 rating, which was good enough for jumps of 43% (vs. 1,558,000), 33% (vs. 1,220,000) and 33% (vs. 1.2), respectively, over last year. For all 11 of its telecasts of the baseball championship, ESPN averaged 1,310,000 viewers (up 9%), 994,000 households (up 28%) and a 1.0 (up 7%). ESPN2 also saw the ripple effect, with 999,000 viewers, 771,000 households and a 0.8 rating for its four games, for increases of 26%, 28% and 33%.

CBS Sports has added the Oct. 1 football game pitting Air Force against Navy to its fall telecast schedule, where it will be played at noon. The game will take place at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, and was previously slated to run on CBS Sports Network at 3:30p. The game will be followed by College Football Today at 3p, then the SEC Game of the Week at 3:30, and another SEC Game of the Week set for primetime at 8p.

ESPN 3D has added the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Novak Djokovic Gentlemen’s semifinal at Wimbledon on this morning to its schedule, marking the network’s first tennis programming. Later in the day, the channel will reair that semifinal and then televise the other Gentlemen’s semifinal on a delayed basis. The network will also feature the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Finals twice each on a delayed basis on Monday, July 4.

MSG Sports and StarGames are set to bring the series World of Tennis Presented by BNP Paribas back for a second season. This year, Tennis Channel will first air each episode on Wednesday nights throughout the summer at 10:00p while repeats will run on MSG Plus every Saturday at noon.

Count Entravision as another victor from the Gold Cup. The company announced the finals pitting the US and Mexico scored record ratings in Nielsen metered markets where Entravision operates. Among TV Households, KINC-TV Las Vegas hit drew a 7.4 rating, up 57% over 2009, while DC stations WFDC-TV recorded a 3.9 rating for a 129% increase over 2009. Other markets with bumps included San Diego (KBNT-TV) with a 4.7, Denver (KCEC-TV) with a 3.3 rating, and Tampa (WVEA-TV) with a 3.0.

Formula 1 is now cleared to return to the US, with the Austin City Council voting 5-2 to approve a new track in Austin, Texas. Construction of the new $250 million Circuit of the Americas has been underway since January, and promoters agreed to pay $4 million in annual funding. F1, hasn’t been driven on American soil in 2007 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Austin race is now tentatively slated to be held on June 17, 2012.

Stats for the Week Ending June 26

TNT’s coverage of the NASCAR SPRINT CUP race from SONOMA averaged a 3.2/8 with 5.2 million viewers according to final Nielsen ratings, to score a 19% boost over the 2.7/7 for last year’s race. Through a trio of races, the Sprint Cup Series is averaging a 3.2/8 for the channel, up +7% over last year. Among Men 18-34, TNT is up +13% and up +6% for Men 18-49.

Saturday night’s CONCACAF Gold Cup between the US and Mexico averaged a combined 3.6/7 (9.1 million viewers) for both Univision and Fox Soccer, which is up a 44% over 2009’s 2.5/7 with 5.8 million viewers, and featured the same two teams.

Formula One racing on Fox averaged a 0.8/2 with 1.1 million viewers for Sundays’ airing of the European Grand Prix, which is up 14% over last year’s score for the race.

Sponsorship & Promotion

July 1 not only marks the first day of the lockout, it also marks the end of the Pac-10, which will be now known as the Pac-12 (ok, the Pacific-12 Conference) with Colorado and Utah now officially in the house.

Say goodbye to Hope. The PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic will now be known as the Humana Challenge thanks to a new title sponsor and a new format. Humana agreed to an eight-year deal with the tournament as title sponsor, along with the William J. Clinton Foundation, with the next outing set for Jan. 16-22. The event had been without a title sponsor since 2008 and will now drop from five days to four.
Digital Fields

EA Sports is adding Sky Sports commentator Alan Smith the main commentary team for EA Sports FIFA 12, where he will team with Martin Tyler to call the video game. Smith will replace Andy Gray, who has been a commentator for EA for 14 years but was dropped by Sky for making comments about Sian Massey. The game will hit stores on Sept. 27. 

The Main Event

Wimbledon Semi-Finals and Finals on ESPN2 and NBC throughout the weekend. With Should be some great action with some favorites out of the mix!

In My Opinion …

With the official birth of the Pac-12, and the tip of my hat to Larry Scott for propelling that conference to new highs, I’m still curious how, exactly, they play to launch the Pac-12 Network. As the Big Ten found out, it’s not easy out there and after spurning Comcast in TV negotiations (Comcast is prominent is a slew of Pac-12 markets) but where now does the Pac-12 turn? Reports this week suggested that instead of Fox or Comcast, the conference may instead look to Apple or Google as a de facto MSO for a branded channel. That, of course, could be subscription-based and spawns questions on whether that the best way to for an organization with millions of dollars worth of content at its disposal to reach new highs. Commissioner Larry Scott has quickly surprised people before, so I wouldn’t bet against him

Agree or disagree?  Send in your views for posting here to chris [email protected] under Emails to the Editor …

ON THIS DAY in 1982 – Cal Ripken plays his first MLB game

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:   Where did Jim Valvano coach before moving to NC State?  Iona. Kudos: Mitch Burg – Syndicated Network Television Association/NY; Michael O. Brown – IMG Worldwide/NY; Barry Abrams – ESPN/Bristol; Rich Dubroff – C-Span/Washington, D.C.; Bryan Pringle – CBS Sports Network/Carlsbad; David Chill – DIRECTV/LA; Richard Levine – AT&T Operations, Inc./LA

In The Know:  Who was the last pitcher to win the MLB All-Star Game MVP?  (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.)

Later — Chris
 Chris Pursell for Cyn opsis | Sports
July 1, 2011

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