Good morning. It’s Friday, March 16, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
With tournament action underway, ESPN reports that fans submitted a record of nearly 6.45 million brackets to ESPN.com’s annual Men’s Tournament Challenge presented by State Farm and Infiniti USA. That number bests last year’s record of nearly 5.9 million brackets by 8.9%, according to the company. Among the brackets, more fans picked Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio State and North Carolina to reach the Final Four than any of the other teams. At the end of the Tournament, all Men’s Tournament Challenge entries that finish in the top 1% will then be entered in a random drawing for the $10,000 Best Buy Gift Card prize.
The NBC Sports Group announced that it will broadcast seven Notre Dame Football games on NBC this season, including two in primetime, as well as the 83rd annual Blue-Gold Spring Football Game on the NBC Sports Network in April. The schedule will be highlighted by the Fighting Irish’s primetime game against Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 7:30p, which marks the first primetime game featuring the Wolverines in South Bend since 1990. In addition, Notre Dame will host the Miami Hurricanes at Soldier Field on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 7:30p. Coverage on NBC begins Saturday, Sept. 8, at 3:30p against Purdue.
The first episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Live on FX delivered an average audience of 1.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The series kicked off its 15th season in high fashion with 16 fights that were all aired live on the channel. Although down from its average on Spike TV, the return of the series handed the network with a Friday night victory among Adults 18-49.
NBC Sports Network locked in a deal with JetBlue Airways to run on the airline’s seatback televisions, allowing passengers to watch the channel’s coverage of the Olympic Games and Trials; as well as the NHL, MLS, IZOD IndyCar and more.
The ex-COO of the Fiesta Bowl plead guilty yesterday to a felony federal conspiracy charge for her role in a fraudulent campaign-contribution scheme, according to the AP. Natalie Wisneski entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and could face up to a year in prison when she is sentenced. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss eight other felony counts as part of the agreement. Former Fiesta Bowl honcho John Junker also pleaded guilty to federal charges earlier this week.
Time Warner Cable Sports has added WNBA team the Los Angeles Sparks to its roster, inking a multiyear agreement for local rights to the team’s games. The contract will begin on May 18 with the team’s 2012 WNBA season opener versus the Seattle Storm. Overall, more than a dozen games will air run on Time Warner Cable’s SoCal 101 this year, while another 10 will appear on KDOC.
Canada’s Sportsnet reached a three-year partnership extension with UEFA that runs through the 2014-15 season and features multimedia rights for television, online and mobile. Overall, the pact will allow 146 matches to run on Sportsnet and includes expanded French-language coverage across the same platforms on TVA with a minimum of 34 matches set to be broadcast. In addition to the UEFA Champions League package, Sportsnet will also host the UEFA Super Cup.
As Brazil prepares for the 2014 World cup, FIFA head Sepp Blatter is meeting with Brazil’s president to settle differences over preparations for the games. According to the AP, Blatter will meet Dilma Rousseff on Friday two weeks after FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke slammed the country’s slow preparations.
Sirius XM Radio will broadcast every 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship race live, announcing programming plans that begin with this week’s season-opening event, the 2012 Formula 1 Qantas Australian Grand Prix from Melbourne, which will air on Sunday at 2a. In addition to live coverage of each race, SiriusXM will offer listeners multiple replays.
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The NHL debuted its 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs campaign during last night’s broadcast of the Penguins/Rangers on NBC Sports Network. The campaign features the tagline “Because It’s The Cup” and the first two spots to run from the campaign “Two Halftimes” and “Where It’s Been” emphasized the social aspect of watching the Playoffs with friends. The strategy and creative were developed collaboratively by the NHL, NBC Sports Group, CBC, TSN and RDS, in consultation with the Chicago office of the global advertising agency, Draftfcb.
Darlington Raceway locked in a long-term title sponsorship for NASCAR’s oldest major speedway, with an agreement with the Bojangles chicken franchise. The deal will span five years and replaces the track’s previous title sponsorship with Showtime.
DEADLINE TODAY: Cynopsis Sports Awards honoring the industry’s top shows, campaigns and people.
With Opening Day in sight, ESPN announced the return of ESPN Fantasy Baseball, with coverage across online, television, podcasts and mobile devices. To kick off the season, the company launched a new marketing campaign titled “Every Fan Should Play” that showcases the diversity of fans – ranging from Lucha Libre players to professional clowns – and how they draft, trade and more within their fantasy baseball leagues. Last year saw registration rise 9% over 2010 numbers.
Comcast’s XfinityTV has developed a microsite that will offer live streaming of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship where subscribers can stream games live off of TBS, TNT, TruTV and CBS. The site, March to Glory ’12, will also offer features allowing bracket-following fans to monitor scores, toggle live games and change the channels on the TV.
The Main Event
Texas/Cincinnati kicks off the back half of the second round. The game starts at 12:15 on CBS.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Cynopsis: Sports Media Awards
ON THIS DAY in 1996: Mike Tyson TKOs Frank Bruno in the third round for the heavyweight title.
Whoops! Yesterday’s edition should have read 1869 of course.
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What number does Sidney Crosby wear for the Penguins? 87. Kudos: Amanda Rykoff-espnW.com/NY; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Doug Drotman-Drotman Communications/Commack; Phyllis McQuillan-MSG Media/NY; Chris Faulds-Bell Digital Media/Toronto; Christopher Doyle-CBC Sports/Toronto; Molly Vitt-LiquidThread/Chicago; Eric Jackson-Richardson Bike Mart/Dallas; Adam Deverell-Cox Reps/LA; Roman Saienni-FOX Sports/LA.
In The Know: What basketball coaching legend gave UCLA 10 national titles in 12 seasons? (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 Cynopsis | Sports
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