Monday, January 9th, 2012

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Monday, January 9, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

With playoffs in full swing, NFL Network announced last week that the channel wrapped up its sixth season of Thursday Night Football with a record average of 6.2 million cable viewers. In addition, as one of the few sports channels to show year-to-year growth, NFL Network’s average weekday primetime viewership jumped 18% over last year while Sunday shows, which featured the NFL GameDay lineup, were up 15%.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Eric Weinberger, NFL Network Executive Producer, about the reasons behind the ratings spikes, how the channel managed to turn the lockout to its advantage, and what lies ahead for the network after the Super Bowl.

Weinberger on the ratings boosts: We are seeing strong increases across the board. This goes back to the vision we had last summer that once the CBA was signed, we then spent three weeks – until the preseason games started – staying on the air every day for 24 hours a day so we could be there for the viewer. It also helped that it was a condensed free agency period that we were all over. It helped that Total Access was able to cover all these huge names in free agency that were signing. But we think it was really our connection with the fan at that time when other networks had to focus on other sports, where we were able 100% on America’s game.

On surprising achievements: The way we were able to stay fair and balanced with CBA coverage down to the end. We were all amazed how even-keeled we were able to be all the way up to the point where we were the first to announce that the lockout was over. Our biggest gains right now, other than the game nights, are Sunday morning and Sunday evening, where we are seeing more and more viewers come in from other networks start to flip over to us. These achievements on Sundays and how hard everyone is working on a four-hour show with new talent. We are seeing huge gains on our highlights show on Sunday nights. It shows us that viewers love what we are doing, and they are relying on us to be there when they want us to be there.

On the talent: We’ve established on Sundays and Thursdays a roster of Hall of Famers and potentially future Hall of Famers, we know that resonates with the fan. Adding Kurt Warner was a big deal for us. We questioned at the beginning of the year whether six guys was too much for a show, but this sport is so specialized in its analysis that adding a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Kurt Warner is huge. Adding Michael Irvin to our Thursday night show brings a recognizable megastar that the fan wants to hear from.

On the off season: There is no off season. The goal is to grow off of what we did last year. We are all very excited to be doing a combine and a draft that does not take place during a lockout. We are looking forward to some gains this year. The goal for 2012 is to continue event ties and make them even bigger. The combine and the draft are life changers for people obviously. This is when their lives change and we want to maximize that. We want to give the combine more context. For the avid fan, the combine is easy to understand. For the millions and millions and millions of casual fans we want to make this a more attractive event to watch. That means personalizing the players, helping the fan understand what goes on, how big this event is and carry that to the draft. These get bigger every year, we are going to get bigger every year. That’s the great thing about this sport, just when you think it couldn’t get any bigger, it does and it gets accepted.

On the Air

Two relatively runaway games on Saturday handed NBC with dips for its Wild Card coverage of NFL games over the weekend. In early action, Houston’s 31-10 blowout of the Bengals saw a 15.3 overnight rating, according to Nielsen, for a 16% drop over 2010. In the afternoon, the network drew a 19.3 score for the Saints 45-28 win over the Lions, for a 7% drop. Still the numbers are good enough to rank as the third-best overnights for a Wild Card Saturday game since the 1999 playoff season and easily handed the network with a primetime win, more than five times the second place network for the evening.

The NHL announced over the weekend that the league’s proposed realignment and playoffs proposal would not take place as scheduled next season. The league announced that the NHLPA announced that they were against the proposal, prompting the league to consider filing a grievance as a violation of the CBA. The planned move from six divisions into four conferences had previously been approved by the board of governors. 

Multiple reports over the weekend state that Jim Rome will depart ESPN this month, opting to take his show Rome is Burning with him over to CBS Sports Network. The Big Lead first broke the story. Rome has been with ESPN for the past eight years. Recently, his show has shifted off of ESPN to ESPN2.

TNT reports that overnight ratings for the network’s NBA Thursday doubleheader averaged a 2.2 household rating in metered markets, for a 120% jump over 2011’s 1.0 rating. The first game, which went into overtime, pitted the Heat and Hawks for a 2.1 (up 75%). The broadcast then jumped to the Lakers and Trail Blazers game for a 2.5 rating, up 178%.

Online voting for NBA TV’s Fan Night presented by Sprint selected the Suns/Lakers as the game to be televised, airing on Tuesday at 10:30p. The network also announced that NBA TV will broadcast the NBA Development League Showcase from Reno, Nev., when play tipsoff on Mon., Jan. 9,with eight games total throughout the showcase. Play-by-play announcer Chad Andrus and analyst Kenyon Murray will provide match-up coverage, highlights, and postgame recaps.

UFC President Dana White announced that following UFC 142 next week, Vitor Belfort will join Wanderlei Silva to start taping The Ultimate Fighter Brazil which will be carried by Fuel TV. Dana White confirmed that American fans can watch Belfort, Silva and the show on Fuel TV. “All this unique content that we’re doing in these other parts of the world, Fuel TV is going to take,” White told ESPN1100/98.9 FM in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, with new UFC content off the schedule at Spike TV, reports that boxing promotion Top Rank is in discussions with the channel on a deal to produce a weekly boxing series, with 36 episodes set to be produced. Spike also has a deal with MMA promotion Bellator.

I apparently had my hometown in Virginia on my mind when I wrote about the Orange Bowl in Friday’s issue. The paragraph should have listed Clemson instead of Tech as one of the teams playing the game.

Sponsorship & Promotion

Northwestern Mutual announced that the company has signed on to become the newest corporate partner of the NCAA via a new deal with CBS Sports and Turner Sports. The agreement will give Northwestern Mutual marketing and promotional rights in the life insurance, wealth management and retirement planning services categories, as well as usage of the NCAA approved trademarks and logos for 89 championships across 23 sports.

As part of an executive realignment at Turner’s Broadcasting Ad Sales Division, Greg D’Alba has been appointed to the newly created position of president, News and Turner Digital Ad Sales, where he will oversee ad sales for Turner’s sports, digital news, entertainment, and animation properties, as well as Turner’s Direct Response business and CNN’s networks. Meanwhile, as part of the realignment, Lenny Daniels assumes oversight of Turner Sports Ad Sales to go along with his other responsibilities overseeing programming, scheduling, production, marketing, strategy, and operations. Jon Diament, executive vice president of Turner Sports Ad Sales, will now report directly to Daniels.

The Professional Bull Riders and Pabst Brewing Company entered a multi-year relationship that will make Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer the exclusive beer partner of Professional Bull Riding. Activation includes signage at all Built Ford Tough Series events, and PBR will also introduce the first “Pabst Blue Ribbon Bull Award,” which will recognize the outstanding bull performance at each event based on athleticism, strength and speed. Pabst Blue Ribbon will host the “Pabst Party Zone,” in eight cities, as an exclusive fan experience that will give attendees the opportunity to go behind the scenes with PBR.

Digital Fields

London Olympic volunteers will be under a mandate to clamp down on their social media sharing, with event organizers warning them not to post any news about athletes or disclose the location of politicians and celebrities online. Approximately 70,000 volunteers are expected to help the games next summer.

Top Social Programs in Sports for the month of December (games only), according to’s Social 100:
1.      NBA                Heat/Mavericks         ABC               12/25
2.      NFL                Bears/Broncos           FOX               12/11
3.      NBA                Celtics/Knicks           TNT               12/25
4.      NBA                Celtics/Heat             TNT               12/27
5.      NFL                Patriots/Broncos        CBS               12/18

The Main Event

Easy decision or BCS chaos? BCS Championship Alabama/LSU on ESPN at 8:30p.


Cynopsis Media presents:

Headlines & Highlights

Available on Monday mornings and located on our homepage, Headlines & Highlights wraps up last week’s important and ongoing topics to jumpstart your week… along with a little fun commentary for good measure.

Monday’s pre-roll and video advertising space is available.

Contact Mike Farina (203.218.6480) for additional information and to schedule your spot

ON THIS DAY in 1975: The first NFL game in Louisiana Superdome is played as Houston beats the Saints, 13-7.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: What NFL great has the record for most cumulative total points scored in the Super Bowl?  Answer: Jerry Rice. Kudos: David Mulhern – Sucherman Consulting Group/NY; Peter SP Gimber –; Synda Kollman – Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Alex Petrilli, Jr. – TiVo/Alviso; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA.

In The Know: What team beat the Bengals in their last Super Bowl appearance? (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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Mike Farina – VP/Sales and Marketing – 203-218-6480 / [email protected]
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INTERNSHIPS – These positions are for credit only – nobody gets paid here. These ads are always posted for free, and students work for school credit only. For more information on the specs for posting an Internship ad, email Trish at [email protected] .

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