Monday, July 11th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Monday, July 11, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

The saying goes that sports continues to drive technology, and clearly as the circles that bind sports media and leagues continue to get tighter, digital sports coverage continues to grow. The tribal passion inherent in this industry has clearly driven up prices, audiences as well as traffic for all the of media conglomerates. Where does the voice of independent media fit in to the equation?

Cynopsis Sports spoke Jason McIntyre, co-founder of Big Lead Sports, which ranked as the fifth most popular sports site in May with nearly 17 million unique visitors that month, about the future of digital properties, how sports news coverage has evolved, as well as the chances of the independent against well-funded rivals.

On the importance of breaking news to a digital site: It almost looks like a lot of people have abandoned breaking news, because they realize that the biggest outlets will gobble it up. So is there that much value in trying to break news? As a blogger I know I’m not going to break a transaction, such as a Matt Hasselbeck resigns with the Seahawks, that’s just not going to happen. So as a blogger, I need to go for unique angle and write instead about something that happened at the stadium, or a wacky fan video of a player flicking off the fans, something that the mainstream media isn’t going to pick up until after I find it.

On the role of Social Media in sports news: I don’t know how many casual sports fans are on Twitter. I tend to think that maybe it’s a little bit overstated because while I may be at my computer all day and see everything, the casual sports fan doesn’t have Twitter up on their desk all day. For media types, however, it has a lot of value. I can follow a writer in Boise who covers the Boise St. football team. It’s much easier that having to go to his website all the time or having to read his paper. If he’s got anything, he’s going to put it on Twitter with a link. That’s made the sports world much smaller, because if you follow the right people you can get just about everything.

On the significance of an independent voice: The independent voice is very critical online. ESPN does a great job, but if something happens (and it happens to everyone) and they need to be called out, it is difficult for their own bloggers to do that. That’s where independents are needed, who aren’t affiliated with any of the major media conglomerates, because they don’t have any conflicts of interest in their writing. We can go after college football for not having a playoff system, but it’s harder for someone who writes for a company that is partnered with the NCAA to have that freedom.

On the air

Shaq may be back. The longtime NBA star is in final discussions to join the team at TNT as he begins the next phase of his career. The news was reported by CNBC, who tweeted over that weekend that, “Sources have confirmed that Shaq has agreed in principle to join Turner.” The newly-retired athlete had been reportedly courted by a number of outlets, including ESPN in recent weeks, but the hiring would likely pair him up with the likes of Charles Barkley, Chris Webber, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith as part of the channel’s Inside the NBA team.

Derek Jeter scored big time on Saturday, not only for the Yankees and crossing the 3,000 hit benchmark, but also for YES, which drew its highest rating of the season with its coverage of Jeter’s hit. The network’s July 9 telecast of the New York Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays scored a 6.6 household rating in the overnight’s within the New York DMA, for a draw of 634,257 viewers, according to Nielsen. The channel’s Jeter 3,000 special, which ran after the game, averaged a 3.3 rating.

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau ruled on the Comcast/Tennis Channel grudge match, deciding that Tennis Channel, like Gold Channel and Versus, should be carried on Comcast’s widely viewed tier, and recommended that the cable operator be fined $375,000 for blocking access by favoring its own channels over outside networks. The Bureau did, however, also decide that Tennis Channel’s bid to be put on the most-accessible analog tier was excessive but recommended that Comcast carry the channel on its systems around the country within the next 30 days. The recommendation is not enforceable, but will now be considered by the Commission which will make the final decision.

Will Vin Scully call one last World Series? The idea seems to be gathering momentum, with what was once an online petition not growing into mainstream media. Scully has not worked a World Series since 1988, and support for his inclusion now includes Fox’s own Joe Buck, who told the LA Daily News that he loves the idea and would gladly step aside for the legendary sportscaster. As for Fox Sports itself, which is carrying the game, company representatives told Awful Announcing that they were open to the idea of “having Vin join Joe and Tim (McCarver) for a few innings during the World Series” if it was something Vin was open to doing.

It didn’t take Comcast long to find a buyer for the Philadelphia 76ers, with reports stating that the team will likely be sold to a group led by Joshua Harris, who now serves as a director at Apollo Global Management, sometime this week. Bloomberg reports that the team will cost $280 million.

ESPNU has found a new host for its studio desk, tapping Dari Nowkhah as the new face of the channel. Nowkhah moves over from ESPNEWS where he hosted College Football Overdrive, College Football Live and SEC Network studio shows, as well as anchoring SportsCenter on a regular basis. Nowkhah replaces Lowell Galindo, who will anchor studio shows for the upcoming Longhorn Network.

ESPNU is also gearing up for a series that goes behind the scenes of the videogame world with its upcoming special The Making of EA Sports NCAA Football 12. The four-part miniseries explores the process that went into making the game, beginning this Thursday at 7p.

The Western Athletic Conference is once again expecting a new arrival, and will likely add Texas-Arlington to its reconfigured conference. Since losing the likes of Boise St., Nevada, Fresno St. and Hawaii last year, the conference has since raided the Southland Conference for members, adding two teams in Texas to its roster, with Arlington becoming the third. The university will likely sign off to make it official via the Board of Regents this week.

ESPN Regional Television, Inc., the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Major League Soccer have locked down the four teams who will take part in the Hawaiian Islands Invitational, an international soccer event. Yokohama FC (Japan), Incheon United FC (Korea), Melbourne Heart FC (Australia) and the Colorado Rapids (MLS) will all participate on Feb. 23 & 25, 2012, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hilton Hawaiian Village will serve as a presenting sponsor and the exclusive hotel partner of the Hawaiian Islands Invitational, with Hawaiian Airlines on board as the official airline.

Deon Taylor of Ether Sports Marketing & Consultancy and Jay Erving of 6Sports are teaming for a new entertainment venture, ABA Classics Films, a new division of the iconic American Basketball Association. The division will look to reality programming, documentary film making, remakes of classic basketball properties, as well as music and web projects.

After a brutal crash on the Tour de France, race organizers have banned a Euro Media television vehicle from the race for hitting two riders on Sunday during the event’s ninth stage. The car reportedly ignored orders to let team vehicles pass and hit riders Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha in an ugly accident.

Sponsorship & Promotion

Johnson & Johnson is onboard for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, inking a deal for the final global sponsorship slot for the tournament.

Three of the NCAA’s most storied universities have inked a sponsorship deal with LeBron James’ Nike brand. Under terms of the deal, players at the University of Miami, Kentucky and Ohio St. will all wear the brand beginning this season. 

Digital Fields

Prepare for a bevy of social media during tonight’s State Farm Home Run Derby, with MLB, MLB Advanced Media and the Major League Baseball Players Association announcing that for the first time ever, players will be interacting the fans through social media during the contest. In addition, video and picture content that is shot by the players during the event will be also distributed across social media and posted to, which will make the first time ever that players will be able to communicate directly with fans via social media platforms while on the field during an MLB event. Among the players set to participate will include Jose Bautista, David Ortiz, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and others, all utilizing their Twitter handle to communicate with fans. ESPN will show the Twitter handles of the Derby participants and some of the All-Stars who are engaging in social media during the telecast.

British sports fans are about to have a lot more to cheer for, with the just announced launch of, which will stream 1,400 hours of live sporting events every year. The online channel is the collaboration of Input Media, Kameleon, Telegraph Media Group and Convers Sports Initiatives and goes online in September

The Main Event

Everyone loves dingers. The State Farm Home Run Derby on ESPN at 8p

Off the Air

Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Club on opting to give all Wimbledon rights to ESPN: I think we definitely felt that we wanted very positively to bring it together into one arena. And I think for the points you mentioned. I think if you have two separate organizations telling the story, inevitably there is a danger of it being confused. You want some consistency to it.

Jerry Jones Jr., Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for the Dallas Cowboys on teaming with Marvel: We are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to energize our fans, and what better way than to combine our brand with some of the all-time great Super Heroes that everyone has grown up with.

Chris Tully, Major League Baseball Senior Vice President, Broadcasting on the interest in Derek Jeter’s chase for 3,000 hits: The buzz we’ve all seen during the buildup to this milestone is a clear indication of how Derek transcends the game on the field, and this is an ideal occasion for us to document what he’s going through on a day-to-day basis.

ESPN VP of Production Mike McQuade on challenges of televising the Open Championship: I think our biggest challenge that’s been well documented is trying to present the event to an American audience in a way in which our viewers are used to seeing golf covered. Throughout the years we’ve become less and less reliant on the world feed from the BBC and certainly last year at St. Andrews we pretty much had control of 75 to 80% of all the cameras out on the golf course, and that number has gone up to about 85% this year.

in  1914 – Babe Ruth debuts as a pitcher for the Boston red Sox and beats Cleveland 4-3.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:    Who was the last team to beat Virginia Tech in a regular season football game? The James Madison Dukes. Kudos: Pete Gautieri – AETN/Stamford; Marc Huberfeld – CBS Network Sales/NY; Nick Violette – ZGroup Advertising/Ft. Lauderdale; Steve Gleason – Media General; Richmond; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA

In The Know:    Which former 76er was the last to win the NBA Finals 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.)

In My Opinion …

A story that struck me earlier this week was the lockdown on any companies looking to congratulate Derek Jeter in ads. In the story, Jeter’s agent said that organizations may not run ads with Jeter’s image, name, the number 3,000 or the word “captain” in them to commemorate the landmark, save for the sponsors he has a partnership with. I admit, this one has me scratching my head. Obviously, other than using a player’s image and name, mandating that certain words are forbidden in advertisements could make for an interesting free speech case. Anyone out there care to enlighten me on this? Is this over the top or simply necessary in today’s marketplace?

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

I hope you get some good responses to your ‘In My Opinion’ question. I would like to hear some real answers. I know enough to recognize the issue as you framed it.  It’s either 1-part legit warning, 1-part scare tactic, or perhaps there is some case law where a plaintiff successfully sued over rights to publicity based on context alone (here there being no other well publicized 3,000-anything going on = so it could only be a use of Derek Jeter). I think the latter would create what lawyers like to call a chilling effect; while anyone can sue for anything, someone shouldn’t be able to win based on indirect contextual references.

James De Francisco

It’s a simple reminder to those companies with affiliations to the NY Yankees that unless you are one the companies he endorses, with a binding personal services agreement whereas he has authorized those companies, with his permission (and that of his agent) to use his image and likeness, they can’t create an ad that gives off the implied impression there is a relationship between the two entities.  What is turning people’s heads is the proactive nature of the agent’s message but I see nothing wrong with it.

Michael A. Neuman

Later — Chris
 Chris Pursell for Cyn opsis | Sports
July 8, 2011

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