Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, January 22, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

With the puck finally dropping last weekend, the NHL was quick to reach out to fans to offer its latest digital assets. This season, the NHL GameCenter app has undergone a facelift while the NHL GameCenter LIVE product has been updated with a special price of $49.99 for the season. The league’s digital offerings also continue to swell, with NHL GameCenter is now available to Xbox Live members with a Gold subscription.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with the NHL’s Steve McArdle, Senior VP Business Development & Strategic Planning, and Nili Doft, Senior Director Direct & Digital Marketing about the newest tweaks to their services, reaching out to fans post-lockout as well as the keys to a thriving social media community.

McArdle on the league’s digital strategy: We are continuing our philosophy of providing our fans with access to our content wherever they are on whatever device they are on. Similar to our strategy last year, one subscription to GameCenter Live provides them with authentication across smartphones, tablets, connected devices and broadband. There is also a brand new Xbox app that we are very excited about this year for live game streaming, which probably has the best picture quality. There will also be new one later this year will be on the Blackberry 10 when they launch later this winter, early spring.

On the app side, not just our premium GameCenter Live app, but our basic free GameCenter app has been completely redesigned this year. So we are very excited about the look and feel of that app. We have streamlined it, made it easier to navigate and improved the in-game experience in that app so the live game simulation is more real-time. Fans will for the first time have access to post-game highlights and post-game video that used to reside behind the paywall.

Doft on insights from 2012: We saw triple digit growth on a product that is five-years old, which is pretty outstanding. With all the devices, phones and tablets that we’ve developed for, we really saw a lot of adoption on those platforms last year. So as GameCenter Live subscribers get access on all those devices we really did see high adoption and authentication rates of the users watching the games on the additional devices they had access to.

McArdle on bringing in the fans after the lockout: We’ve been ready to launch whenever the lockout was resolved, we’ve actually been able to provide a couple of additional tweaks and improvements over the course of our time away from the game that otherwise would not have been in the game if we launched when we originally planned. We’ve been very proactive and we are monitoring on social media the fans’ interest, the fans’ questions and the fans’ excitement about the product being back in the marketplace. Social media has been an incredible tool, obviously with providing insights into their opinions that wasn’t available when we first launched this. We’ll also have in-game advertising, traditional advertising of the products. We’ve been active with our email database, letting them know the products are out there.

On keys to engagement in social media: For us, it’s about using social media as a two-way street. You don’t want to use it as simply a pipe to make announcements to fans or to push information to fans. You have to be willing to engage back and forth with the fans, otherwise they will lose interest in your feed and your communication. We are always trying to strike that balance between feeding them information-be it tune-in, data about the games or interesting news- with the back-and-forth and let the fans know we are listening.

On the Air

While both of last weekend’s NFL’s conference championship games saw preliminary viewership dips from last season, both contests still rank as TV’s most-watched programs since Super Bowl XLVI, according to Nielsen fast nationals. The Ravens/Patriots AFC Championship Game on CBS drew 47.7 million viewers, according to fast nationals while FOX drew 42.0 million viewers for its 49ers win over the Falcons.

NFL Network is on deck to carry 140 hours of Super Bowl coverage from New Orleans, per USA Today. The programming plans marks a 41% boost over last year and will include 425 people and 11 sets, up from nine on-site sets last year. Coverage will include a 10 1/2-hour pregame show as well as a 3 1/2-hour postgame show.

The return of the NHL fed NBC with a strong start to a shortened season, as the network drew a 2.0 overnight rating, according to Nielsen, to mark the highest overnight rating for regular-season coverage in over a decade (not counting the Winter Classic) and an 82% spike over last year’s coverage during the comparable weekend. The overnight ratings for Pittsburgh (19.4), Philadelphia (7.8) and Chicago (6.6) marked NBC’s best-ever in those markets for the NHL regular season, excluding Winter Classics.

Also on the local front, NESN’s coverage of Saturday’s Bruins season opening win over the Rangers set a new regular season game ratings record with a 9.4 average household rating in the Boston DMA. The channel’s previous best was an 8.9 HH rating on January 7, 2012.

Up north, the 60th season of CBC’S Hockey Night in Canada! on Saturday saw more than 3.3 million viewers watched the Maple Leafs/Canadiens matchup to rank as the most-watched regular season Prime East game ever on CBC, according to BBM.

FOX Sports execs are mulling an end to sports coverage on FX, according to SBJ, and will shift its sports products to one of its new sports outlets in FOX Sports 1 or FOX Sports 2, formerly known as SPEED and FUEL respectively, in August. FX had generally focused on college football and UFC programming.

ESPN opened the books on its X-Games Aspen 2013 content plans, which will take place from January 24-27 live from Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen. This year’s coverage will feature the return of live coverage on ABC, as well as 20 hours of live X Games Aspen content on ESPN. WatchESPN will stream all 20 hours of coverage as well as three hours of original content and ESPN 3D will telecast all 21.5 hours of live X Games coverage. New host, Ramona Bruland, will host all 20 hours of the X Games coverage on ESPN and ABC.

The Sacramento Kings are officially sold, providing NBA owners approve the deal. The Maloof family agreed to sell the franchise to a Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen. Reports state that the group will acquire 65% of the team, which is valued at $525 million and is now looking to move the team to Seattle ahead of the next season if possible.

While we are on the subject… Now that we’re halfway into the NBA season, iN DEMAND announced that digital cable will offer fans a week-long preview of NBA League Pass through Sunday, Jan. 27.

The LA Times writes that Time Warner Cable could have another sports channel to sell Angelinos. The company is reportedly in advance talks with the Dodgers and would pay upward of $7 billion for television rights for a potential new channel featuring the club. News Corps.’s deal with the team for Prime Ticket will expire at the end of the coming season.

Katie Couric landed the first on-camera interview with Manti Te’o on her nationally syndicated daytime talk show, Katie. The episode will air on Thursday and feature Couric sitting down with Te’o and his parents to discuss the “deceased” girlfriend that turned out to be a hoax.

With the Harbaugh brothers set to duke it out in the Super Bowl, HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel will reair its segment on the Harbaugh family tonight at 10p.

ESPN’s Chris Evert and Tennis Channel analysts Lindsay Davenport and Justin Gimelstob will appear in a tennis-themed episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on CBS tomorrow night at 10p.

Your work deserves recognition! Now is the time to submit for our 2013 Cynopsis Sports Media Awards. The deadline is February 1 and we want to see your best work from the past year. Don’t let someone else take your trophy! Click here for entry information.


Cynopsis Sports Special eReport: Sports Streaming
Whether fans utilize streaming as an alternative viewing option or a second screen experience, we’ll examine the rise and implications of connecting with today’s on-the-go sports fan (who is transforming the experience), the international implications & new revenue opportunities that have opened up. Whether it’s by smartphone, PC or tablet, watching sports will never be the same.

Push Date: January 28

For advertising information, please contact:
Mike Farina // 203.218.6480

Sponsorship & Promotion

NASCAR and ExxonMobil renewed their vows, inking a multi-year partnership extension to keep Mobile 1 synthetic motor oil as the ‘Official Oil’ of NASCAR through 2017. As part of the deal, Mobil 1 will continue to be a contingency partner across all NASCAR national and touring series, the presenting sponsor of the Mobil 1 Driver of the Race Award and the presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. In addition, the partnership will expand into the digital space, as the two organizations launch a new branded content environment that explores NASCAR’s automotive technology via the NASCAR Automotive Technology Center Engineered by Mobil 1 online experience housed on the newly launched NASCAR.com.

ESPN locked in four global sponsors for its X-Games global expansion, which includes a six-event schedule in 2013. GoPro, Red Bull, Jeep and Ford will all have a presence across X Games events in Aspen, Colorado; Tignes, France; Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil; Munich, Germany; Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, California. Jeep and Ford will share the automotive category, with Jeep having a presence in the winter events and Ford participating in summer events. America’s Navy is also an official X Games partner and will have a presence in Aspen and Los Angeles as well as within the Global X Games telecasts in the US.

MMA outfit Bellator announced an alliance with Everlast,the world’s leading manufacturer, marketer and licensor of fight sports equipment, through 2014. Under the deal, Everlast will stay the exclusive equipment provider for Bellator, including fight gloves, cages and training equipment. Everlast will also be a category-exclusive promotional sponsor of all Bellator events and the two companies will strategically market, promote, publicize and advertise their partnership through a wide variety of channels.

Digital Fields

The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, which featured the NBA’s best rookies and sophomores during NBA All-Star, is bringing in several new elements this year, including fans serving as honorary captains for the game as well as online voting to determine the game’s starting lineups. In addition, the fan vote to decide the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Most Valuable Player will include Twitter voting for the first time.

Tonight will see Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) tweeting about his performance when NBA TV reairs his infamous 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors at 4p.

NASCAR and Sprint are handing the power to the fans, revealing that fan voting will have a direct impact on several competition elements of the newly titled The Sprint Unlimited At Daytona, the 75-lap non-points race that opens the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Fan voting will help determine such aspects as the number of laps per segment, types of pitstops and how many cars will be eliminated after the second segment. Votes can be cast on NASCAR’s new official mobile app or at NASCAR.com/SprintUnlimited.

ESPN nabbed the U.S. media rights for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, the premier championship for national soccer teams in the continent of Africa. ESPN3 will serve as the primary home for live presentation of the three-week tournament in South Africa from Saturday, Jan. 19 through Sunday, Feb. 10.

The Main Event

NBA TV has a big game pitting the Thunder/Clippers at 10:30p.

ON THIS DAY in 1989: The 49ers best the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: In 1998, the Celtics retired Robert Parrish’s number. What was it? Answer: 00. Kudos: Peter King Hunsinger-Golf Digest/NY; Jordan Goldberg-Disney and ESPN Media Networks/NY; Chris Connaughton-SEASOn Sports/NY; Roger Furman-Voodoovox/NY; Doug Drotman-Drotman Communications/Commack; Larry Kahn-Golf Channel/Orlando; Juan Delgado-Telemundo/Hialeah; G. David Brown-Fox Sports/Charlotte; Ron Salcedo-Zimmerman/Nashville; Bill Adusei-Comcast Sportsnet/Houston; Dacia Smith-Continental Television Sales/Chicago; Greg Moloznik-GLM Meda/Scottsdale; David Hauptman/Denver; Douglas Hall-Reelz Channel/Albuquerque; Steve Morrow-Eclipse TV/Mill Valley; Anne Wettig-MundoFox/LA; Alan Perris-Academy of TV Arts & Sciences/North Hollywood; Andy Wasif-Yahoo! Sports-Santa Monica.

In The Know: Although Stan Musial was successful at first base, for what position was he honored in the Major League Baseball All-Century Team? ( 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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