Monday, November 7th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning! It’s Monday, November 7, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

The countdown to UFC on FOX, featuring heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez facing top contender Junior dos Santos, is officially under a week. The much-hyped showdown kicks off the company’s massive investment in the brand with a seven-year media rights deal signed over the summer, and now FOX outposts including FOX Sports, FUEL TV, FOX Deportes and FOX Sports Radio are all being utilized to drive interest in the fight.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with FOX Sports Media Group President & Co-COO Eric Shanks about the company’s new foray into the sport, the company’s recent settlement with DIRECTV, the acquisition of the World Cup and how college football realignment might affect recent TV deals.

Shanks on the decision to pin down UFC broadcast rights: UFC is the right thing at the right time. The opportunity came up and we jumped at it. We think that it’s very much a Fox thing to do as we are always looking for the next thing and this is it. Frankly, if (UFC President) Dana White and (Zuffa CEO) Lorenzo Fertitta weren’t running UFC, they could be working at FOX Sports because they are that close in our approach and in our attitude to things.

On UFC advertisers: The reaction from advertisers is good. Obviously, we literally haven’t reached day one of a seven-year deal yet, but companies such as Anheuser Busch, which have supported the sport for a long time, are continuing their support with us. We’ve got movies and video games. Unilever has shown a lot of support as well.

On the amount of UFC programming that will eventually hit FOX channels: If you look at the high point, when Ultimate Fighter starts and on a week when we have PPV prelims, it’s probably more than 10 hours a week across the three channels.

On the star power expected at UFC on FOX: The big red carpet will be much like the Super Bowl. There will be Fox talent, FX talent, Fox Sports talent and then a slew of other celebrities that will be at the fight on November 12th.

On FOX’s resolution with DIRECTV: Everybody is relieved and it just kind of shows that common sense can prevail. It would have just been a very silly thing for our channel to go dark.

On acquiring the World Cup: We like to think of ourselves as a big event sports division. When the World Cup is on, the country stops. It is the same thing for the women’s World Cup. Those are the kinds of events that are increasing in value, coupled with the fact that we are the only company dedicated to two 24 hour soccer networks here in the country. So not only does it fit with the big event strategy, it is also strategic for our soccer channels and our cable properties.

On how college realignment is affecting the TV deals: I think that some details are still up in the air on what happens looking forward. We have a deal with Conference USA and common sense would probably tell you that they are going to try and add two or three teams back into their conference. Their alliance with the Mountain West Conference, as it’s been explained to me, is basically a scheduling deal. Of course things can change, but from our standpoint it’s not necessarily a combining of their rights or a merging of the conference.

On the state of FOX Sports: Starting over the summer, we’ve had a pretty good run. We got a couple of college football and basketball deals done. We did the UFC deal and World Cup deal. The World Series hit really well and now we are going to be going into a heavyweight championship fight. NFL numbers our great. Our pregame is performing really well. So, you are always scared that something is going to happen when things are going really well as they are right now.

On the Air

CBS’ investment in the SEC conference continues to deliver. Saturday’s prime time airing of top-ranked LSU over #2 Alabama drew an overnight TV rating of 11.9 to the network. The score ranks as the highest rating for a regular season college football game in metered markets since 1989, and the second-highest since the network began logging ratings for the sport in 1987. The game drew 18.03 million viewers as well as a 6.4 rating/19 share among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Against the tough competition, ABC’s Saturday Night Football game gave the network 2.98 million viewers and a 0.7/ 2 in the demo according to early results.

With the big game officially in the books, the SEC formally announced Missouri as the newest member of the conference on Sunday morning, rounding out the conference at 14 teams.  The move had been expected for weeks, and the press release stated that a departure from the Big 12 to the SEC would be immediate with the university expected to play, at least initially, in the East division. “Missouri is an outstanding academic institution with a strong athletic program,” conference Commissioner Mike Slive said in the release. “We look forward to having the Tigers compete in our league starting in 2012.”

In other realignment news, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd tweeted that following the defections of three of its members, more troubles may lay ahead for the Big East conference. He wrote, “ESPN contract states that if ANY Big East member leaves during term of contract it can negotiate reduction of rights fees.”

On to the NBA, Commissioner David Stern told representatives of the Players Association that the owners’ latest proposals will get worse if the union doesn’t accept the deal by Wednesday, according to reports. So far, player representatives have gone as record that the offer was unacceptable.

WWE is apparently well on its way to locking down plans for a wholly-owned network, with company CFO George Barrios stating in a conference call that the new channel is on track to launch next year. “Looking ahead; we’ve made important progress on our strategic content related initiatives,” he said. “Specifically, the 2012 launch of the WWE Network. That progress comprises continued discussions with potential partners, through the development of our creative plans, and in depth organizational staff, system and process planning.” He later added, “The anticipated launch of WWE Network in 2012 is expected to impact our near-term results.”

MLB Network is set to premiere “Clubhouse Confidential” tonight at 5:30 pm ET. Brian Kenny hosts, and will welcome Yankees GM Brian Cashman as the show’s first guest. SB Nation’s Rob Neyer as well as MLB Network’s Peter Gammons and Larry Bowa will also contribute to the first episode of the new series.

Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami’s recent fan struggles have prompted a Florida state senator to seek a permanent end to television blackouts for any and all NFL games played in the state. According to the AP, Republican State Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, filed a bill that would require the state’s three NFL teams to televise all home games whether they’re sold out or not. The teams currently rank 26th, 28th and 31st in NFL attendance. The NFL blackout policy mandates that stations within a 75-mile radius the game are not allowed to air the contest if all tickets are not sold 72 hours in advance of kickoff. The bill seeks to fine teams $125,000 for each game that is blacked out locally.

Sponsorship & Promotion

Go Daddy Girl Danica Patrick has officially lined up her schedule, paint scheme and number looking toward her debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year. Team co-owner Tony Stewart announced that the driver’s transition into the entire NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports as well as a 10-race Sprint Cup schedule would begin in the 54th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 26 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Other Sprint Cup races include Darlington in May, Bristol in Aug., Atlanta, Chicagoland and Dover in Sept.; and Texas and Phoenix in Nov. Patrick’s bright green car will sport the No. 10 for the driver.

Digital Fields

As if terrific ratings weren’t enough, live stream of the LSU/Alabama game was viewed by a record audience of 214,560 college football fans, believed, according to the network, to be the largest audience ever to watch a football game through a digital platform.

THQ is pushing back the release of UFC Undisputed to Feb. 14th next year. The video game was initially announced to hit retailers in January.

The Main Event

College hoops season is finally underway, when William & Mary faces St. John’s on ESPNU at 7p.


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Entry Deadline: January 11, 2012
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in 1991: Magic Johnson announces that he has the HIV virus and retires from the LA Lakers.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question:  What Grambling St. player won the Super Bowl MVP? Answer: Doug Williams. Kudos: Matthew A. Deprey  Velocity, Discovery Communications/Silver Spring; Brian Lozynski  Fuse/NY; Douglas Boyd  Time Warner Cable/NY; Chris O’Hara; Tom Akers -Outdoor Channel/Chicago; Mary Ryan – Raycom Media/Dallas; Frank Forgey – Missouri Broadcasters Association/Jefferson City; Kevin Micklo – Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago; Greg Moloznik  GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Hauptman – Katz Television Group/Denver; Shane Igoe – ESPN Page 2/LA; Ron Kobata – UCLA IMG Sports Marketing/LA; Roman Saienni  FOX Sports/LA; Joe Pedri – KLAS-TV/Las Vegas

In The Know: Who is the NCAA men’s basketball all-time points leader? (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

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