Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, January 17, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

With one of tennis’ crown jewels underway, Tennis Channel is looking to the Australian Open to open the year on a high note for the network. Following an FCC ruling citing channel discrimination against Comcast, Tennis Channel is poised to gain unprecedented access to new viewers. In addition, Tennis Channel executives state that a deal for carriage on Verizon is “imminent,” which will broaden exposure for the outlet even further.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Tennis Channel President Ken Solomon about the state of the channel, how the FCC ruling will affect the network, and what’s coming down the pike.

Solomon on nine years of Tennis Channel: It’s been a great ride. The momentum has thankfully been built in a number of ways. First of all, the number of hours of coverage will continue to grow. We are entering into the first year of our 12-year Wimbledon deal which is going to allow us to significantly increase coverage in terms of the hours and the total amount of days. We used to go off-air on Thursday and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were dark. Now we are able to go all the way through with our primetime coverage. So that is a big one for us. The French has huge upgrades going on as well, and we are actually flipping our daily time periods with ESPN, so instead of starting at five in the morning and going until noon, we are going to start the day at noon and go around the clock after that. Right after 5a, we will hand it back off to ESPN so now ESPN becomes our lead in when we return. There are huge growth opportunities with that and that is before the ruling (with Comcast).

On the on-air talent: That’s the other thing this year that is pretty significant. We have continued to solidify our lineup of announcers and editorial team which is sort of unparalleled in all of sports broadcasting. Other networks are lucky if they can get one or two legends or Hall of Famers who are both capable of doing the job and would want to do it. We’ve got them all.

On the Australian Open coverage: I’m getting on a plane to fly to Australia, where half of our team is already down there right now for the Open. We have already been on with live coverage doing great numbers for us. In all, we will have 175 hours of coverage from Australia this year with ten straight nights for the first time ever. This year we have Tracy Austin joining out already stellar lineup.

On the Comcast ruling: We have managed to succeed for the last nine years in spite of having the biggest foot in the media world squarely on our wind pipes. They were not just working against us, they were trying to limit our ability to grow and compete. It wasn’t personal, but that is just what they do and that is their model. Therefore to have the FCC make that ruling, it will be like going from drinking through a straw to drinking through a fire hose. We were already blowing people away with our coverage, so now imagine what we will be able to do with real resources available to us. With those new subs comes a fair payment, which is imperceptible to the consumer, but the cumulative revenue is significant and allows us to put the new money back into the game, back into the business. And that is what we intend to do. We can have more of the big names more often, more and deeper rights to tournaments, new technology, more cameras, etc. 

On pinning down an agreement with Verizon: We are still in conversations with Verizon and we hope to have everything resolved soon.

On the Air

Saturday’s NFL Playoff Games continue to deliver for the respective networks. FOX’s coverage of the Saints and 49ers, according to fast-national figures released by Nielsen Media Research, saw the down-to-the-wire contest deliver 35.6 million viewers, with a 20.5/38 rating/share for a 21% increase over last year’s Saturday night match-up on FOX.

CBS, which had the primetime game and a battle of Brady and Tebow, ended up being a blowout but still handed the channel with a huge 20.6/34 in fast nationals. Overall, the network is averaging 36.087 million viewers for its playoff coverage this year, the highest for the AFC package in 25 years and up 2% from last year’s tallies.

While we’re on the subject of Tebow, CBS is reportedly wooing the Denver quarterback to serve as a guest analyst for the network in its NFL studio on Sunday ahead of the AFC Championship. USA Today reported the story, stating that CBS is expecting an answer by mid-week.

In yet another shot at its former broadcast partner, Spike TV announced that they will run a marathon dedicated to UFC fighter Melvin Guillard this weekend, counter programming the first-ever UFC on FX: Guillard vs. Miller special, which airs live Jan. 20 on the FX. The Guillard marathon will run from 7p until midnight on Friday.

Meanwhile, the UFC officially responded to ESPN’s stinging Outside the Lines piece on how well fighters are paid in the promotion. UFC President Dana White called it a “piece of trash,” “typical stuff that I knew it would be” and promptly posted the uncut interview that ESPN did with Lorenzo Fertitta on YouTube. The link to the video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7neKshmjzI.
The Football Association inked a two-year deal with ITV that will hand the British broadcaster games from the FA Cup and England internationals, including home qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Under the terms of the new agreement, ITV1 will continue to get first pick of the FA Cup games throughout the season, from the first round through May’s final.

After 17 months on the job, NCAA President Mark Emmert is ready for the long haul. Emmert inked a 24-month extension with the organization to keep him in office through October 2017. Although the NCAA has recently been scarred by a slew of scandals, declining ratings for the bowl system and realignment that has ended some long-standing rivalries, Emmert’s proposed reforms at changing the student-athlete system provided enough of a launching pad to pen the deal. 

NBA TV announced that as a result of balloting for this week’s Fan Night presented by Sprint, the network will air the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat on Tuesday, Jan.17, at 7:30p.

With talks reportedly making headway between the IOC and the USOC, Salt Lake City is mulling a bid for the 2022 Olympic Games, according to the AP.

Sponsorship & Promotion

The USOC is looking to drum up interest in the Summer Games, launching the Road to London Tour, a five-stop interactive experience for fans designed to bring the spirit of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to people around the country. The tour will include autograph sessions with athletes, Team USA giveaways as well as sponsor engagement. The tour began on Jan. 12 in Houston, Texas featuring Team USA’s marathon runners. Next stops will include Salt Lake City on Feb. 18, New York City on April 18, San Jose on June 28 and Chicago on July 13.

While we’re on the subject of the Olympics, McDonald’s officially signed on the dotted line, as expected, to an eight-year deal that will make the chain an official sponsor of the Olympics through 2020. The sponsorship is estimated to be worth around $200 million.

ESPN’s fifth Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research managed to raise a record $1,301,530 in contributions for The V Foundation for Cancer Research in December, besting last year’s previous best of $1,238,799.

Digital Fields

CBS made a move on the digital front, announcing that the company was looking to strengthen its hold on the fantasy sports market by opening up the CBS Sports website to allow third-party developers to create apps geared toward fantasy players. The Wall Street Journal reports that the products would then live on CBSSports.com, offering both free and paid apps, with the website taking a 30% cut of the funds.

XFINITY is looking for help one person jump start their career in sports, launching “XFINITY Presents: The Ultimate Sports Social Media Job.” The contest will hunt for the next social media star, who will be employed by the company to go behind the scenes at some of the country’s biggest sporting events, and oversee the @XFINITYSports Twitter handle on a daily basis. Submissions are due on Feb. 6 with candidates needing to submit a short video showcasing their expertise and passion for sports with details available here… http://xfin.tv/yvNRlG .

The Main Event

In-state rivals and ranked teams square off with Michigan State visits Michigan on ESPN at 7p.

ON THIS DAY in 1995: The LA Rams announced that the team will move to St. Louis.

Answer to Friday’s Sports Trivia Question: Michael Jordan’s final NBA Championship came against which team in the Finals? The Utah Jazz. Kudos: Michael Brown – IMG Worldwide/NY; Alex D. Smith – ESPN/Bristol; David Koonin – MELT/Atlanta; David Mulhern – Sucherman Consulting Group/NY; John Kukla – KDFW/KDFI/Dallas; Shannon Myers -Intersport/Chicago; John Ward – NBC Sports/Chicago; Mike Patterson – Turner SI Digital/Chicago; David Hauptman – Katz Television Group/Denver; Tom Moore – Kalt Productions/LA; Adam Deverell – Cox Reps/LA.

In The Know: Name three players of Michigan’s famed “Fab Five.” (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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