Friday, May 20th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports


Good morning. It’s Friday, May 20, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Dick Ebersol, Chairman of NBC Sports Group, resigned from the company after a career that spanned more than four decades in the industry, with the last 22 as the top dog at NBC Sports. NBC Sports Cable Group President Mark Lazerus has been tapped to replace him as Chairman. Ebersol’s announcement sent ripples around the world of sports, with many executives assuming that Ebersol’s new title following the Comcast merger, as well as his involvement in rights deals and interaction with the press (including his role in NBC’s upfront presentation this week), meant that his run would continue into the next Olympics broadcasts and beyond. However, reports are saying the two sides were unable to come to terms on a new contract.

“What I have enjoyed most is working so closely with so many truly outstanding and incredibly talented people over decades of producing some of the greatest events in the world,” said Ebersol. “Those relationships are what I cherish most. I have always said this business is about relationships and I have been fortunate enough to have more deep and meaningful friendships than any man could imagine.”

Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal and Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation said: “Dick Ebersol is an incredible talent whose contributions to the company over the last four decades in sports, news and entertainment are unsurpassed. Dick has masterfully produced everything from the Olympics and Sunday Night Football, to the Triple Crown, NHL games and major golf and tennis events. In the entertainment world, he helped create Saturday Night Live, one of the most significant programs in television. We will miss his intellect, experience, and passion for the television business.”

NBC executives said they will continue plans to bid on rights to the 2014 Winter and 2016 Summer Olympic Games, which had been under Ebersol’s watch since the 1992 event in Barcelona.

On the Air

ESPN has locked in matchups for the first annual Big East/SEC Challenge, set to take place from Dec. 1-3, matching up 12 teams from each conference (the Big East currently has 16 teams total in basketball), with games set to air on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.  The 24 team field boasts 13 teams for the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

On Dec. 11, the matches will feature St. Johns at Kentucky, Georgetown at Alabama, Providence at South Carolina and Mississippi at DePaul. Friday’s contests will see Venderbilt at Louisville, Florida at Syracuse, Cincinnati at Georgia, and Auburn at Seton Hall. Finally, on Saturday, Arkansas faces UConn, Pitt visits Tennessee, UWV plays Mississippi St. and LSU plays at Rutgers.

France will take hosting honors for The Ryder Cup for the first time in 2018, beating Germany, Holland, Portugal and Spain for the rights to the matches. The announcement will bring the prestigious golf team event back to the European continent for the first time in 21 years. The event will be held at Le Golf National, located on the outskirts of Versailles near Paris. The next Ryder Cup will take place at Medinah Country Club, in Illinois, next year before moving to Gleneagles, Scotland in 2014 and Hazeltine, Minnesota, in 2016.

Univision confirmed plans this week to launch a cable channel dedicated to sports. The announcement, made at the company’s upfront presentation to advertisers, will launch the channel in 2012, joining two other channels that will be dedicated to novelas and news. The channel will be dubbed Univision Deportes and features sports such as soccer in its lineup.

The Big Ten has announced its slate of primetime games for the upcoming college football season. Overall, the network will televise more than 40 games this fall. Primetime games are now set to include:

Sept. 2, 7:30p  Youngstown State at Michigan State
Sept. 10, 7p Virginia at Indiana
Sept. 17, 7p Arizona State at Illinois
Sept. 24, 7p North Dakota State at Minnesota
Oct. 8, 7p Michigan at Northwestern
Oct. 15, 7p Northwestern at Iowa
Oct. 22, 7p  Penn State at Northwestern

ESPN has locked in its plans to cover this year’s NCAA Division 1 Softball Championship, adding 14 more games to the lineup and covering 69 games from May 20-June 8. The lineup will feature all games from four Regional sites, two more sites than last year with the addition of’s exclusive coverage; every game from each of the eight Super Regional sites and every NCAA Women’s College World Series contest. For the first time all of the games televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will be in high definition and simulcast on ESPN Mobile TV will also offer select games throughout the championship.

MLB Network completes its countdown of the MLB’s 20 Greatest Games tonight, with game six of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds taking the ranking’s top spot as the best game in the last 50 seasons. The broadcast will feature former Reds catcher Johnny Bench and 1975 MVP and Rookie of the Year Fred Lynn in studio with Bob Costas and Tom Verducci to discuss the game.

SPORT1+ has partnered with the NBA to deliver live NBA Playoff and Finals games to fans in Germany through the end of the current season. As part of the deal, games include the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, as well as the Championship Finals. Coverage tipped off last night with Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, featuring the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder.


TNT’s airing of game two of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls delivered 10 million viewers and a 6.1 household rating for the channel. Meanwhile, Tuesday night’s game one telecast of the Western Conference Finals on ESPN posted a 4.3/7 with 7.0 million viewers. So far this season, the NBA Playoffs are averaging a 3.2/6 (5.1 million viewers) across both broadcast and cable channels, with a 23% increase over last year’s scores of 2.6/5.

Fox’s broadcast of NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing averaged a 4.4/10  with 7.4 million viewers on Sunday, up 19% over last year’s 3.7/10 for the Dover race. The contest ranked as the most-watched event of the weekend among the broadcast networks, with ratings growing 63% among men 18-34, and 23% among men 18-49.

The NHL Conference Finals saw Saturday’s game one telecast of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins rate an 0.8/2 with 1.5 million viewers on Versus. Sunday’s game one telecast of the Western Conference Finals between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks averaged a 0.6/1 (1.0 million viewers). Versus numbers are even with last year’s household rating of 0.5/1.

Sponsorship & Promotion

CBS Sports Network will be partnering with adidas to air live three adidas grassroots basketball championship games on the channel. As part of the agreement, the partnership will include telecasts of the adidas Invitational from Indianapolis, Ind. On July 10 at 8p, adidas Super 64 from Las Vegas, Nev. On July 26 at 8p and adidas Nations championship games from Los Angeles, Calif. On Aug 8 at 7pas well as a one-hour highlight show on CBS Sports on Aug. 7. In addition, will provide full coverage of the adidas grassroots summer circuit.

Celebrate Positive has named ESPN’s “Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research” as the winner of the inaugural 2010 NGO Positive Peace Awards in the Entertainment Broadcast Event category for a multimedia event. This award is designed to recognize individuals, businesses, athletes, sports teams, entertainment mediums and schools around the world for their positive contributions.Since 1993, The Foundation has raised more than $100 million to fund cancer research grants nationwide.

Bass Pro Shops is teaming with The NASCAR Foundation to support NASCAR Unites, a campaign designed to raise funds and encourage volunteerism to help children lead happier, healthier lives. As part of the deal, Bass Pro Shops will offer its customers the opportunity to get their NASCAR Unites wristband for a $5 donation to show their passion for children’s causes. The program is scheduled to conclude on August 20. In addition the chain’s Rancho Cucamonga location will give supporters the opportunity to be involved in the nationwide NASCAR Day Car Wash for Kids.

Digital Fields

The 2012 Ryder Cup has launched the Official Ryder Cup Team USA social networking sites, debuting pages on Facebook and accounts on Twitter to deliver Ryder Cup and team news as well as ticket announcements, volunteer opportunities and giveaways.

The Main Event

Great NBA and NHL games on deck, but I’m a sucker for longshots so the second leg of the Triple Crown on NBC on Saturday at 4:30 to see if Animal Kingdon can pull off another win.

In My Opinion

It will be strange to picture the Olympics next year without Dick Ebersol, who has left a legacy as the driving force behind NBC Sports, broadcasting all of the five major sports as well as the Olympics, golf, tennis, and horse racing on the channel during his tenure (we will forget the XFL for now). But between his departure and Comcast’s designs to expand its presence in the sports world, the company’s appointment of Mark Lazarus is the ideal selection to take the reins. As President of NBC Sports Cable, where he oversees Golf Channel and Versus as well as the regional sports channels, and with his roles at CSE and Turner, Lazarus brings experience in marketing, branding, ad sales, digital opportunities and programming to the table and has the background to take the NBC Sports Group to a whole new level in the digital age of programming. Branding is about content as well as marketing, and Lazarus is perfect for the role. (Agree or disagree?  Email your comments to chris [email protected] for inclusion under Emails to the Editor on Monday)

ON THIS DAY in 1985 – Larry Holmes beat Carl Williams in 15 rounds to claim the Heavyweight boxing title.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: In what year did the San Francisco Giants first play a World Series? In 1962, the Giants lost the World Series to the Yankees, 4-3. Kudos: David Stern – BARD Entertainment/New York; Joe Brucia – NBC Universal/New York; Mark Altabe – Citibank/New York; Barry Abrams – ESPN/New York; Jim Himmel – American Saver/San Clemente; Roman Saienni – Fox Sports/Los Angeles

In The Know:  How many teams did Johnny Bench play for? (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
May 20, 2011

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