Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, December 7, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

At long last, the NBA revealed its shorted and revised schedule for the upcoming season, with broadcasters now able to lock in schedules for the new year.

ESPN’s multiplatform coverage of the regular season will include 90 games this year, highlighted by 15 exclusive broadcasts on ABC and 75 ESPN telecasts. Games airing on ABC and ESPN are subject to flexible scheduling but now feature 16 appearances by the Heat (the maximum allowed across both networks), 15 by the Bulls and Lakers, 14 by the Celtics and Knicks, 12 by the Mavericks, 11 by the Thunder and 10 by the Clippers and Magic. ABC gets an Eastern Conference Finals rematch between the Bulls and Heat on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 3:30p and Lakers/Heat on Sunday, March 4, at 3:30p.

ESPN features special holiday afternoon telecasts on Martin Luther King Day with Bulls/Grizzlies on Monday, Jan. 16, at 1p, as well as Presidents Day with Hawks/Bulls on Monday, Feb. 20, at 4p. In addition, the network spotlights Heat/Knicks on Friday Jan. 27 at 8p, and Lakers/Knicks on Feb 10 at 8p.

Over on Turner, TNT slated a total of45 games during the regular season, highlighted by 10 scheduled appearances each by the Celtics and Lakers, as well as nine by Heat. In addition, defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and the New York Knicks are scheduled for eight appearances. The network will feature 44 games in primetime, with 32 being part of TNT’s Thursday night doubleheaders. After a Christmas Day opening game, the network features an exclusive doubleheader featuring the Celtics/Heat at 8p followed by the Utah Jazz/Lakers at 10:30p on Tuesday, Dec. 27. Other scheduling highlights include a special MLK Day doubleheader featuring the Thunder/Celtics followed by the Lakers/Mavericks on Monday, Jan. 16, Lakers/Heat on Jan. 19 at 8p and Heat/Celtics on Tuesday, Apr. 24.

NBA TV’s schedule features 96 live regular-season games tipping off on Dec. 26,with a doubleheader of Rockets/Magic and Lakers/Kings. The 96-game schedule will be highlighted by 33 doubleheaders this season with appearances by the Celtics, Lakers, Knicks and Mavericks. Additional highlights include: Nuggets/Knicks on Jan. 21 and Spurs/Mavericks on March 17.

On the Air

The NHL officially realigned to the expected four conference format that will guarantee home and home series for all teams. The new look could be put in place as early as next and is expected to help the majority of teams, via lessened travel, more games in the local time zone and/or more games against the league’s top opponents. Under the plan, the 30 teams will be broken into two eight team conferences and two seven team conferences, with executives already stating that the holes could be filled by two expansion teams in the future. The grouping was designed fix some travel issues for teams but also helps broadcast partners, with more games for pacific coast teams that can now be set for primetime rather than 4p or 10p. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHLPA has expressed concerns about the realignment and that he will meet with with union chief Donald Fehr before implementing it.

CBS Sports Network inked a multi-year television agreement with Professional Bull Riders (PBR) that will begin in 2012. The agreement makes CBS Sports Network the primary television partner of PBR with 27 live events televised throughout the year, as well as the official sales agent for the sport and the sales representative to both official PBR sponsors and general advertisers, providing these partners with integrated sponsorship and media packages. CBS Sports Network will air over 55 hours of live event programming each year, beginning on Saturday, Jan. 7 with the Madison Square Garden Invitational from New York City. On Monday, Jan. 9, the Network debuts an exclusive weekly highlight program that will continue each Monday throughout the season. As part of the deal, CBS Sports expands its PBR coverage, broadcasting eight one-hour shows on the CBS Television Network.

FOX Sports received final numbers for the network’s Game of the Week, led by a Packers victory of the Giants that helped propel ratings to a 17.6/30 national rating/share with 29.8 million viewers on Sunday, according to Nielsen. That score marks the highest-rated regular season broadcast window on any network since Week 14 of 2007 and FOX’s highest-rated regular season telecast since Week 13 of 2006 (17.8/32 FOX National anchored by Cowboys/Giants).

ESPN formally announced its deal with former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona to join the crew as a baseball analyst. The role will include serving as a broadcaster for Sunday Night Baseball where he will join Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser in the booth, replacing current Red Sox manager and former ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine. Francona will also provide analysis for Baseball Tonight, among other news and information shows, and ESPN’s coverage of the Little League World Series.

MLB Network announced that the channel saw the largest universe growth of any cable network since January 2011, with distribution growing from approximately 55 million to over 67 million cable, satellite and telco homes, according to Nielsen estimates. The additions of Dish Network and AT&T U-verse in 2011 helped bolster numbers, as MLB Network launched with approximately 40 new affiliates in 2011.

MLB Network is also set to air The Baseball Writers’ Association of America award announcements, which will be televised of the first time in 2012. The BBWAA voted Tuesday at the winter meetings to have the results of voting for Most Valuable Players, Cy Young Awards, Rookies of the Year and Managers of the Year broadcast on the channel. Three finalists for each Cy Young, Rookie and Manager and five finalists for each MVP will be announced together, likely during the week following the World Series.

After months of speculation, news sources ranging from CBS Sports to ESPN to the AP state that the Big East Conference is finally ready to announce the league’s newest members, with an announcement potentially coming as early as today. New additions would include Boise St. and San Diego St. as football-only members while Houston, SMU and UCF would join for all sports. The reports state that the new additions would begin play in 2013.

NASCAR Media Group and SPEED are gearing up to release a new biography series featuring all five 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees that will air on SPEED beginning Friday, with back-to-back shows featuring Cale Yarborough at 8p  and Dale Inman at 9p. The remaining biographies, also produced by NASCAR Media Group, will air on SPEED throughout December and January 2012 at 8p: Richie Evans on Friday, Dec. 16; Darrell Waltrip on Jan. 6 and Glen Wood on Jan. 13.

MLS announced its first TV game of the 2012 season, slating FC Dallas to host the New York Red Bulls as the first league game to run on NBC Sports Network. The match will be played on March 11. Other nationally televised games for MLS First Kick include Houston Dynamo/Chivas USA on TSN on March 10 and the Portland Timbers/Philadelphia Union on ESPN2 on March 12.

The UFC’s next appearance on FOX on Jan. 28 is taking shape, and is set to be headlined by former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans facing the undefeated Phil Davis. In addition middleweight Chael Sonnen faces Mark Munoz in the second of seven fights on the card. UFC on FOX 2 will be live on the network while preliminary contests will likely be seen on FX or Fuel TV.

WWE Network, let to launch on April 1st, announced that the network is developing “Legends House” as a new series for the channel. The concept will feature WWE legends living together and the series was promoted on WWE RAW on USA Network. The company announced that other content will include classic matches from WCW, AWA, WCCW, as well as the original ECW.

Sponsorship & Promotion

Ben Franklin, a dog or a moose? That is the question being put to 76er fans who will decide the new mascot for the team. The new mascot that will debut early in the year after fans help determine whether the replacement to the Hip-Hop rabbit would be one of three characters: Big Ben, B. Franklin Dogg, or Phil E. Moose. The polls are now open for voting on the team website.

HRTV named television personality Carolyn Conley to the newly-created position of Director of Brand Management for the network where she will be responsible for promoting HRTV and its various services to members of the racing and equestrian communities. Conley will continue her on-air presence as a host for HRTV, while working to increase consumer demand for the network.  She will also focus on increasing subscriptions to HRTV’s on-line and affiliated RTN offerings. 

Digital Fields

Through the first quarter of the regular season, the NHL is reporting upticks for the league’s digital platforms., through the first two months of the season, saw unique visitors climb 17% over last season’s record numbers; while video starts grew 45% and page views rose 8%. Through November, NHL Mobile web saw page views rise 93% year-over-year with Canada up 73%, the U.S. up 39% and regions outside of North America up 357%.

Major League Gaming (MLG) announced that the 2011 Pro Circuit season scored as the largest season in e-sports history with more than 3.5 million unique stream viewers during combined Pro Circuit weekends. The recent 2011 Pro Circuit National Championships drew an all-time high of 241,000 peak concurrent online viewers as well as more than 3.6 million hours of video consumed over the weekend. Viewers from 175 countries tuned in to the final tournament, to mark the most countries to date. The National Championships delivered the fifth consecutive record breaking online broadcast of the season for the league.

The Main Event

Traditional basketball staples square off on ESPN at 7p pitting the Arizona Wildcats against the Florida Gators.


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ON THIS DAY in 1939: Lou Gehrig is elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: Who was the only defensive player in modern history to win the Heisman?  Answer: Charles Woodson. Kudos: John Rough – Dish Network Media Sales/NYC; David Danowski – Fox Sports Cable Networks/NY; Yussuf Khan – Big Lead Sports/NY; Jared Merrell – Optimum Sports/NY; Stuart Martin – Richards Sports + Entertainment/Dallas; Lance Williams – Fox Stations Sales/Chicago; Ron Salcedo – Zimmerman/Nashville; Tom Akers – Outdoor Channel/Chicago; Adam Deverell – Cox Reps/LA; Ramzi Bettendorf – Disney/ABC TV Digital Media Distribution/Burbank; Chris Loprete – ABC/Hollywood; Paul Barrere – Telerep/LA.

In The Know: What famed NCAA men’s basketball coach won 100+ games at each of four different universities? (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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