Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, May 31, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

NBC Sports and Versus have locked in plans for the companies’ first-ever Stanley Cup Finals together under the Comcast umbrella. The finals, featuring Vancouver and Boston, will begin Wednesday at 8p on NBC. Versus already saw game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Bruins and Lightning score an average of 2.55 million viewers, according to Nielsen, ranking the telecast as the most-watched Conference Final game in network history and the sixth-most watched game overall on the channel. Boston’s audiences drew an 18.89 household rating, to mark the highest local rating ever for an NHL game on Versus.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with NBC Sports Group Executive Producer Sam Flood about what to expect during the Stanley Cup telecasts.

On how the pre and post-shows will be affected during the Finals: After a Finals game is played, whether it’s on NBC or Versus, there will be a postgame show in Versus. We are looking to also add a pregame show on Versus as well for games five, six and seven. So essentially, there will be a pre-game on Versus prior to games five, six and seven, from 7:30 to 8p, then the game pops up on NBC at 8p.

On the advantages of working with both NBC and Versus teams: The beauty of being across the single company in NBC Sports Group is all the synergies we have that make it so special. We can utilize announcers and take advantage of all these platforms. It’s been a fabulous opportunity for everyone here and the NHL now has the NBC Sports Group family producing it. So this team works together, everyone is on the same page and doing what is best for this game. The talent loves it, I love it. Last night I’m watching NBC and see a promo for the game on Versus, how cool is that? That’s the kind of stuff this new NBC Universal can do, we can promote and we can build as one big family.

We were doing the conference finals and it used to be that the NBC Group would do the Saturday game and then they’d do the Sunday game. Well we’ve had two situations this year where the Saturday game was on the east coast and the Sunday game was on the west coast and I couldn’t get the people from here to there. So the Versus group just did the show. I love that we now have the ability and to be able to work across the platforms and interconnect facilities that way.

On the technology being used to produce the finals: As a producer, let’s just say I have more visuals to work with and more toys to work with than I’ll ever need.

On the Air

The 2011 NBA Finals, featuring two high profile teams in the Dallas Mavericks with Dirk Nowitzki facing the Miami Heat and LeBron James, will tip off tonight at 9p on ABC. Mike Breen is set to be the voice of The Finals on ABC, and will be joined by analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy for the fifth consecutive year in calling games. ABC’s Buick Regal NBA Countdown pregame show will preview the action, with host Stuart Scott, Magic Johnson and analysts Jon Barry and Michael Wilbon, at 8:30p. ABC’s programming lineup on game nights will also feature a special 30-minute edition of The Jimmy Kimmel Show that will air immediately before the pregame show.

With TNT’s NBA coverage wrapped up this season, the network finished its own playoff run by scoring record ratings and viewership for the sport on cable television. The network’s telecast of 40 games on the NBA Playoffs finished with 3.5 household rating, up 25% from 2010, with just over 5.5 million total viewers, up 29%. The network’s six weeks of coverage finished on Thursday with game five of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals which delivered 10.4 million total viewers and a 6.3 rating for the channel.

Ohio State Football Coach Jim Tressel’s resignation yesterday has already placed the spotlight on ESPN personalities as a potential successor. Former Florida coach and current ESPN analyst Urban Meyer is one candidate often mentioned, although he released a statement on Twitter stating that he won’t be pursuing any coaching opportunities this fall. Still, Bodog lists him as the 3/2 favorite. Another name that has surfaced is MNF analyst Jon Gruden, who has already turned down jobs to stay in the broadcast booth but has drawn 3/1 odds of landing the high-profile gig.

Canadian channel TSN has locked in a six-year multimedia rights extension with the French Tennis Federation to continue airing The French Open. The deal will allow TSN and TSN2 to serve as the exclusive home of the event for Canada, and feature more than 100 hours of coverage each year. The deal also includes French language rights for RDS. TSN has been televising the French Open since 1985.

While the weekend’s match between FC Barcelona and Manchester United was supposed to be a high point and draw record ratings for FIFA, recent scandals threatened to break the momentum. FIFA suspended senior executive committee members Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner over the weekend amid allegations they bribed voters in the presidential election campaign. Although the sport’s governing body cleared FIFA president Sepp Blatter of wrongdoing, charges continue to arise that Qatar bought the right to stage the 2022 World Cup. Blatter looks to be reelected unopposed to a fourth term on Wednesday.

After weeks of speculation, leaks and denials, media outlets have been told to have technical crews ready for an announcement that NHL team the Atlanta Thrashers have been sold and will officially be moving to Winnipeg. An official statement could come as early as this morning. True North Sports and Entertainment have been in negotiations to by the hockey team from Atlanta Spirit, and told outlets Monday to be ready. TSN reported that lawyers representing True North Sports have signed off on the deal and were waiting on the Atlanta group to put their names on the contract.

Nonprofit organization SportsFans.org has requested that the FCC change policy and end blackouts of sports broadcasts, which would include NFL and MLB games. The organization asked that the FCC waive blackout rules, network non-duplication rules and syndicated exclusivity rules that will make sure that when  a broadcast signal is shut down during a retransmission dispute, audiences will still be able to access games at home. The organization was originally established in 2009 with the mission of giving fans a voice on topics ranging from media blackouts to ticket prices to establishing a college football playoff system.

The Denver Broncos have returned to NBC, inking a two-year deal with KUSA to televise the team’s preseason games as well as a weekly show featuring the team’s former quarterback and current executive vice president of football relations. In addition, the affiliate will have increased access to game footage and allowed to use the Broncos’ logo. Veteran sportscaster Verne Lundquist is slated to handle play-by- play for the station’s preseason games. The Broncos had previously spent the past seven seasons with CBS affiliate KCNC.



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Sponsorship & Promotion

UFC has officially launched the UFC Octagon Nation Tour with an eye toward broadening its fanbase. The multi-stop, national tour will take place throughout the summer beginning with homebase Las Vegas and continue to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.. The tour will use an 18-wheeler truck with two Octagon-sized tents that will feature memorabilia, autograph signings, a UFC Xbox station, and a retail store. In addition, the tour will host fitness tests that provide each visitor with a card that can be instantly shared on their Facebook page.

ESPN Radio is using the official opening of its new studios tomorrow as an opportunity to host its O&O stations and key affiliates. The group’s O&Os from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas will join 13 affiliates broadcasting throughout the day from “Audio Ave.” outside on the quad of ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Activities will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a “Faces of Audio” luncheon that focuses on how radio has changed over the years and ESPN Radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic as well as Colin Cowherd will discuss their experiences with host Doug Gottlieb .

Digital Fields

NBA Digital, which saw record traffic through the playoffs, will now broaden its content for the 2011 Finals. Content will include more than 40 hours of live coverage on NBA TV, the launch of NBA GameTime on Microsoft Windows Phone, as well as five-minute “Mini-Movies presented by Kia,” which will examine each game on NBA.com. Other features available online will include:

  • T-Mobile Player of the Game: Beginning at halftime and through the conclusion of each game, fans will be able ability to vote online or by text for the Player of the Game. Once the votes are tallied, the winner will be announced on-air and online.
  • Finals Hub page: NBA.com will construct a hub page for The Finals, with video highlights, box scores, series stats, commentary, analysis, and game stories.
  • Live Streaming Video: The site will provide live streaming video from the Courtside Camera before every game as well as live streaming video for every postgame news conference.
  • NBA.com live chats: NBA.com’s reporters will conduct live chats during every game.
  • T-Mobile Playoff Pulse: The interactive application will allow users to track conversations, vote, and share content in real-time about NBA players and teams. Pulse will guide fans on popular trending topics.

ESPN officially unveiled its WatchESPN App for iPad, which gives audiences  live access of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.com.  The app gives Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS TV subscribers who receive ESPN’s linear networks as part of their cable subscription another platform to watch games and shows.

Off the Air

FOX Sports Media Group Co-President and Co-COO Eric Shanks on the growth of soccer in the US: “All of the pieces are there for continued growth. Both internationally and domestically, we as a broadcaster want to work with the leagues as much as we can to help continue to grow. We have two 24-hour soccer channels and an online business. As a company, we’re very much behind it and here in the U.S., we want to do everything possible to help the sport grow both bringing in the best international soccer and helping have a strong domestic product. International soccer is the spectacle and I think it has the widest appeal, but having a team in your hometown that you want to see, that you want to get behind, and create some rivalries domestically is important long-term.”

Bob Rauscher, ESPN VP of Production, on deciding when to show Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on camera:  “You know, I think that when appropriate, it’s always an editorial decision.  As the ebb and flow of the game warrants, you’re not going to be showing gratuitous shots, and you’re not going to ignore it, either.”

ESPN Senior VP and Executive Producer Jed Drake on the staying power of the Indianapolis 500: “That’s always the challenge for drawing a younger audience like this.  You want to keep it turning over and over as at the years go by.  But I do believe this event has staying power and it is on a growth curve. That is my prediction and I’ll just say it.  I’m not going to give you any ratings numbers specifically, but I think we are going to see that. And the reason I say that is say what you will about the other events that you mentioned, and the X Games fall under my watch as well, but there is truly something special about this race.” 

The Main Event

Game one of the NBA Finals with the Mavericks at the Heat at 9p on ABC.

ON THIS DAY in 1935 – Babe Ruth grounded out in his final at bat.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: In what year were the Mets founded?  1962. Kudos: Alvin Jackson – GSM, SCTV Toronto, Ontario; Jerry A. Kapner – Kapner Group/Montclair, NJ; Michael Novara – ESPN/New York; Scott Jenkins – Tribune Media Services/Queensbury, N.Y; Jared Casden – SPORTSEARCH/Phoenix, AZ; Chris Loprete – ABC/Hollywood

In The Know:  Which team has won the most Stanley Cups? (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
May 31, 2011

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In My Opinion …

With all the talk about Big East expansion this week, perhaps the most telling words come not from Commissioner John Marinatto, but from UConn Coach Jim Calhoun who CBS Sports, “”My own personal opinion – and I won’t probably see this – in the next couple of years, four or five years down the road, I think you’ll see a separation [of the football and non-football membership]. I think it’s inevitable.”
After reportedly turning down an offer from ESPN to extend media rights, there remains a clear divide between football and basketball within the conference. With 8 (soon to be 9) football playing members and 16 (soon to be 17) basketball teams, universities will have to soon decide which is more important, money or tradition. A quick survey of media executives and analysts showed that keeping the conference together would provide a bigger overall deal than if the football schools broke away. However, if the football teams formed their own conference, while adding three other football playing teams, the payout per school would be greater. Of course, that would mean the end of traditional rivalries with basketball brands such as Georgetown and Villanova (providing they don’t move up in time.)
Which road to travel? The answer will continue to reshape college athletics.


Professional sports has undergone significant league expansion over the past decades bringing more professional sports to more cities and communities. The College/NCAA approach could and should be ripe for similar expansion and consistent for basketball, football as well as other sports. The number of schools and the sports committed to participating in a given division is important and should have limits based on NCAA directives, but not as important as the geographic and regional parameters involved. Proximity of competing teams within the same division promotes greater competition and serves to support ongoing rivalries. Fans can “commute” from one school venue to the other with relative ease and teams will require shorter time and distance for travel, putting a lighter academic burden on student athletes and reduce overall expenses for the individual programs. If a school chooses to join and/or be accepted into a specific regional division (i.e.: Big East, ACC, SEC, MAC, etc.) the number of sports in which it may choose to participate should not be limited or required by that division’s policy. The school itself should determine if it believes it is competitive in a given sport and the choice to participate should be theirs and theirs alone and division acceptance must not be determined if that school competes in one sport and not another.

Expanding regional divisions is a positive step in many ways, and a division member school should be entitled to compete in any combination of sports it chooses with revenues being distributed and shared on a school-to-school, sport-to-sport basis. 

Jeff Gilbert

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