Monday, August 8th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports
08/08/11

Good morning. It’s Monday, August 8, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

We are just eight weeks until the end of the MLB regular season and with tight races in all but one division (NL East), broadcasters are anticipating viewers to tune in as the season goes down to the wire.

Over at MLB Network, the season has delivered new benchmarks since pitchers and catchers first reported back in February, with the channel boasting 24 consecutive weeks of viewership growth. Cyn opsis Sports asked Tony Petitti, President and CEO of MLB Network, about the channel’s streak, the Costas/Michaels game, and how MLB Network is positioning itself heading into the post-season.

Petitti on MLB Network’s ratings growth this season: Our focus continues to remain on the quality of our programming and being live as much as possible, and we’re happy fans have responded to the new studio shows and extended live hours we’ve added this season. In two and a half years, baseball fans have learned that we are a destination for breaking baseball news and last week’s Trade Deadline was an example of that. We’ve seen a strong response to our new weekday afternoon programming, featuring The Rundown with Hazel Mae and Matt Yallof from 3-5p and  Intentional Talk with Kevin Millar and Chris Rose from 5-6p. Going on the air live earlier in the day only helps to boost the awareness and success of our primetime games and MLB Tonight, which continues to take fans around the league with look-ins, highlights and live discussion every night of the week.”

On the Costas/Michaels pairing last month and the role of sportscasters: Being able to pair Bob and Al together for the game call last month was a thrill for us and a chance to do something a little bit different for fans across the country. We’ve talked about doing something similar with other broadcasters down the road as well. The on-air talent are obviously a huge aspect of our production. The first thing we look for in any host, analyst, insider or announcer is passion for the game. We want to make sure the on-air talent are having fun and enjoying their roles. At the same time, it’s equally important to bring in talent who have experience in baseball, can relate to any situation on the field and explain it to our audience. We have 17 former players, two former managers and one former GM on our staff, in addition to our insiders and hosts. We feel that gives us an advantage in approaching the game from all angles.

On leveraging digital platforms: Social media has been part of our daily effort to connect with viewers since we launched in 2009. Through Facebook and Twitter, we reach out to fans to ultimately promote our programming and on-air talent. It’s where we go to alert fans about breaking news, post behind-the-scenes photos and videos from our studios and interviews with players, and we also use it to gather feedback from our fans. We regularly post poll questions and ask for comments that are highlighted across all of our programming and help us understand what matters most to our viewers. Just this past week we saw a tremendous response to an on-air debate between Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams about pitchers using pine tar, and we’ve also seen videos from our studio shows go viral, like with Harold and Eric Byrnes last month.

On preparing for the postseason: As we’ve seen across several of the divisions this season, there don’t seem to be as many sure things in terms of who will make the Postseason, so that makes things exciting for us. We’ll be following the pennant races very closely starting at the end of this month, and we’ll plan our game schedule to include the most important matchups. We want to give viewers an insider’s look at the postseason, so we will have live coverage from all the ballparks and hope to once again bring in current players to serve as guest analysts on MLB Tonight.

On the Air

Manny Pacquiao is returning to HBO. After shifting to Showtime for his last boxing match, the fighter’s promotion company Top Rank inked the distribution deal for his upcoming PPV bout against Juan Manuel Marquez. HBO will be utilizing Time Warner’s assets to drive awareness of the contest via cross-platform promotion. His previous bout on Showtime drew nearly 1.4 million pay-per-view buys.

Golf Channel is set to tee off with nearly 50 hours of coverage of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga., this week, with live news reports, analysis, player interviews, guest appearances and features. The coverage will be top lined by network series Live From the PGA Championship on Tuesday and Wednesday, airing news conference shows in the afternoon, as well as two-hour prime time shows at 6p from Thursday-Sunday, Morning Drive, will expand its Tuesday and Wednesday shows to feature pre-event news conferences. Actor Don Cheadle will voice a number of “PGA Championship Moments” that will air throughout the week.

After 12 seasons in the NFL, former Pro Bowl Lineman Damien Woody is moving to ESPN’s team where he will serve as NFL Studio Analyst for the company. Woody will appear on studio programs including SportsCenter, NFL Live, ESPN2’s First Take and ESPNEWS and is set to debut in September.

Friday night’s Yankees/Red Sox game scored as the highest-rated and most-watched program on YES since the 2010 Yankees season-opener, which was also against the Red Sox.  The telecast pulled a 6.85 average TV household rating in the New York DMA, peaking with a 9.34 score during the 10:30-10:45p quarter hour. This season’s previous high was the July 9 game Rays-Yankees telecast in which Jeter scored his 3,000th hit, and earned a 6.61 rating, with 497,000 households.

The Atlanta Hawks and venue Philips Arena are off the market, with California developer and pizza chain owner Alex Meruelo set to buy the team. Unlike the recent sale of NHL franchise the Atlanta Thrashers, the team will remain in Atlanta, according to multiple reports. Meruelo, who founded La Pizza Loca, will become the first Hispanic owner of an NBA team, with controlling interest in over half the franchise.

ESPN’s College GameDay is returning for its 25th season on Sept. 3, and has announced the first three sites set to be visited by the crew. The newest season will bow from Cowboys Stadium, which is hosting the Oregon/LSU game, beginning at 9a on ESPNU and from 10-noon on ESPN. Host Chris Fowler and analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard return for the ESPN portion of the telecast, with Eric Andrews anchoring on ESPNU. In addition, ESPN analyst David Pollack will join the team in a contributing role. Other venues set to host the show will include the campuses of Michigan and Florida State.

During a conference call to review second quarter results with WWE investors late last week, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon told shareholders that the company was continuing to explore the creation of a WWE Network and that the company was moving forward with plans for a new show to air Mondays at 8p, just before USA’s Raw.

Last week, Turner Sports Executive Producer Jeff Behnke’s son Luke won the Semi-Pro Division season championship in the Legends of Georgia Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Congrats!

Sponsorship & Promotion

Pepsi has announced that the winner of Fox’s upcoming singing competition The X-Factor will be featured in a Pepsi commercial scheduled to air on NBC during Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012, joining a long line of musicians in Super Bowl commercial lore such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Justin Timberlake.

Global chemical giant Dow has won the rights to produce a wrap that will hug the Olympic Stadium for the upcoming London Summer Games and will incorporate the company’s red diamond logo on certain sections of the Olympic Stadium for a short time before the event. The wrap will consist of 336 ginormous fabric panels and are expected to be finished around Easter. The IOC has demanded that all Olympic venues remain free of advertising once the Games officially begin.

Digital Fields

Newly-inducted Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Ed Sabol did what he did best during last weekend’s ceremonies, producing one last video that he played after his speech. The founder of NFL Films’ video can now be seen on NFL.com and is worth watching for anyone who missed the ceremony.

The Main Event

Not too many great matchups today. Best bet is Red Sox at Twins on ESPN at 7p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1900: The first-ever David Cup competition begins play at Longwood Cricket Club and is won by the US two days later.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: Who holds the all-time record for most wins in a year on the PGA Tour? Byron Nelson with 18 wins in 1945. Kudos: Michael Brown – IMG/NY; Doug Drotman – Drotman Communications/Commack; Kevin Byrnes – NBC Sports Golf Channel/Orlando; Celia Converse – Central Talent Booking/NY; Les Stipp – GSD&M/Chicago, Warren Weideman – Producer/LA; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA

In The Know:  Who is the only undefeated/untied heavyweight champion in pro boxing history with a 49-0 record? (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
08/08/11

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