Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports
11/23/11

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, November 23, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

In a move to create a clear line of continuity, ESPN’s George Bodenheimer is dropping his day-to-day operation responsibilities and has been made ESPN Executive Chairman. John Skipper will now take on the role as ESPN President and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks beginning with the new year. As Executive Chairman of ESPN, Bodenheimer will continue to chair ESPN’s Board of Directors, as well as provide “strategic direction and support a seamless transition” to Skipper according to the press release. Skipper, meanwhile, has served as ESPN’s Executive Vice President, Content, since October 2005.

On the Air

MLB players and owners officially announced the new five-year deal for the league’s labor contract yesterday, with tweaks to the current makeup that seek to increase competitive balance in the sport. As part of the agreement, the contract is designed to pressure large-market teams to pull back on spending on amateur draft picks and international signings. The deal marks 21 straight years of labor peace for the league since the strike in 1994-95. The deal must still be ratified by the players and owners before becoming official. Other changes include HGH testing, the addition of two teams in the playoffs and shifting the Astros from the NL Central to the AL West.

Numbers for the final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup delivered ESPN with the largest viewership ever for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race telecast on the network. The tight race averaged about 6.8 million viewers and drew a 4.0 rating, according to Nielsen. That viewership average broke ESPN’s previous record of 6,668,000 viewers for the 2008 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. (Note: final numbers do not include the race’s rain delay from 4:45-6p). Viewership rose 21% for the race, and the network reports that ratings for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on ESPN and ABC grew 14.8%over 2010, with an average 3.1 U.S. rating compared to 2.7 for last year (not including the rain-delayed Chicagoland Speedway event, which was run on a Monday).

NBC Sports Group is forming NBC Sports Network Fight Night, a boxing series that showcases talent around the sport. Fight Night will debut on Saturday, Jan. 21 on the newly-minted NBC Sports Network from Asylum Arena in Philadelphia with cards scheduled in cities that are served by a Comcast Sports Group regional network. Regional networks will have the ability to re-air the channel’s fights. To make the show happen, the company will work with J Russell Peltz on a multi-promoter strategy for NBC Sports Network Fight Night in order to select the bouts.

Feld Motor Sports unveiled the new television package for the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross which will, for the first time, include 11 live broadcasts on SPEED and nine hours on CBS Sports. SPEED is on deck to for live coverage from the following 11 races: Anaheim Race 1, Phoenix, San Diego, Arlington, Atlanta, St. Louis, Daytona, Indianapolis, Toronto, Seattle and Las Vegas. CBS Sports, meanwhile, will provide next day coverage at Los Angeles, Oakland, Anaheim Race 2, Houston, New Orleans and Salt Lake City. In 2011, television ratings for the sport on SPEED increased 24%, which included eight live broadcasts, up two from 2010, and CBS Sports provided nine hours of network coverage that yielded a 21% increase in ratings.

Saturday’s UFC 139 Prelims broadcast on Spike handed the channel with an audience of 1.2 million, dropping below the series average of 1.4 million viewers per episode.

The silence on Big East realignment may be due to, what else, television. Multiple reports, including The Salt Lake Tribune and CBS Sports, state that BYU’s TV rights are causing issues that may threaten the conference’s interest in the school. Although talks remain ongoing, the reports state that BYU wants to keep its home television rights as a condition of membership, and continue the university’s eight-year arrangement with ESPN to televise all but one home game a year, with BYUtv airing the remaining game and able to reair the ESPN broadcasts. The Big East, in turn, is looking to maximize the value of its upcoming TV deal and wants access to boost inventory and as a financial incentive.

A Patriots rout on Monday Night Football still propelled ESPN to a win among all networks in all key male and adult demos this week. The telecast averaged a 7.8 household rating, with over 12.3 million viewers for the telecast, according to Nielsen. That is down, however, from the network’s 8.4 season average.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Peter King at SI.com that he is looking to expand the number of games that run on NFL Network, potentially starting “as early as next year.” The network currently hosts seven of the eight Thursday night games as well as one Saturday night game. “It (the NFL Network package) has certainly been everything we expected,” he told King, “and we do look to expand it and maybe expand our NFL Network package as early as next year.”

Thanksgiving Football:

  • FOX Sports gets the Packers/Lions game for the holiday, with coverage beginning at 11:30a. FOX NFL Sunday will feature the usual crew as well as Jay Glazer and Jeff Hammond joining the show via satellite from Korea where they will be honoring military service men and women this Thanksgiving. At 12:30p Kid Rock performs before American Idol Season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina sings the National Anthem. At halftime, Nickleback will takes the stage for the 2011 United Thanksgiving Halftime Show.
  • CBS Sports is hitting the Thanksgiving NFL telecast with the Miami/Dallas game at 4p, with Enrique Iglesias performing at halftime while Nickelodeon group Big Time Rush will sing the national anthem.
  • NFL Network will offer the first-ever Thanksgiving edition of NFL GameDay Morning live from Baltimore before showcasing the Ravens/49ers on Thursday Night Football at 8p.

Rivals Golf Channel Japan and Japan’s Golf Network, who have fought over the Japanese television market for the past 15 years, are now entering a long-term partnership that will combine assets from both networks to create one, co-branded channel for audiences. The combined network will launch on April 1, 2012 with triple the homes (7.2 million) now with access to Golf Channel programming. When launched, the combined network will have additional rights to televise coverage of all the world’s major golf tours, including the PGA TOUR, LPGA Tour and European Tour, as well as men’s and women’s Major Championships, including the U.S. Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship, U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open.

Universal Sports Network and NBC Sports Group have released plans for multi-platform coverage of the 2011-12 HSBC Sevens World Series. Universal Sports Network’s coverage begins Saturday, November 26 at 6p from Australia, and will also include events in Dubai and South Africa. Universal Sports Network and NBC Sports Network will provide joint coverage from New Zealand, USA (Las Vegas), Hong Kong, Japan, Scotland and England.

Tracy Austin is returning to host of the fourth season of Tennis Channel Academy, with new episodes of the weekly, half-hour series beginning Sunday at noon on Tennis Channel. New editions will premiere on Sundays throughout December, with encore airings throughout the month.

MSG Network announced that for the first time it will telecast the famed “Red Hot Hockey” game between Boston University and Cornell University live from Madison Square Garden on Saturday, November 26 at 8p. The matchup marks the third installment of the rivalry in New York City following games in 2007 and 2009. Bill Pidto will call play-by-play and Billy Jaffe serves as color analyst.

The University of Arizona has tabbed CBS Sports Network analyst Rich Rodriguez as the university’s next head football coach. Meanwhile, ESPN may be about to lose one as well. The network has pulled rumored Ohio St. coaching candidate Urban Meyer from covering a Big Ten broadcast on Saturday citing that the network wanted him in the studio for the weekend, although media pundits are suspecting otherwise.

The 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season on SPEED became the most-watched in network history, according to Nielsen, with an average of 636,000 household impressions and 838,000 total viewers per race. The season also tied the 2009 season as the series’ highest-rated in SPEED history with a .81 household rating.

HBO Sports and NFL Films are teaming up to explore the life and career of New York Jets icon Joe Namath. Namath will debut on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 8p.

Sponsorship & Promotion

The NHL has decided to accept the mission, and will promote Paramount Pictures’ Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol on Friday’s Thanksgiving Showdown telecast on NBC. The partnership will find the league stumping for the movie across its platforms, including NBC and Versus in the U.S., TSN and TSN2 in Canada as well as on the NHL Network. Promotion is set to include co-branded 30 and 60 second spots that include both game footage and movie clips that will run during the game broadcast as well as pre-game and post-game shows.

Digital Fields

The Horizon League is launching a new app for the conference, teaming with WebStream Productions for Horizon League Network Live. The conference is the only one in NCAA Division I athletics to offers its entire live video collection through a mobile app The app will allow fans to watch any game carried live on the Horizon League Network with additional on-demand features. Eighteen of the 20 basketball programs in the conference will make non-conference home games available to the platform.

The Main Event

A nice slate of games during the holidays, beginning with a trio of (surprisingly) key games on Thursday with Packers/Lions starting on FOX at 12:30p, Miami/Dallas on CBS at 4:15p and 49ers/Ravens on NFL Network at 8:20p.

Friday will feature NBC beginning its NHL season with the Thanksgiving Showdown pitting the Red Wings against the Bruins at 1p. CBS counters with a pivotal LSU/Arkansas game at 2:30p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1988: Wayne Gretzky scores his 600th NHL goal

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: What Big Ten school (other than newcomer Nebraska) has won the fewest conference championships in football? Answer: Indiana, with only two. Kudos: Tony Ferranti – MMSI/Warwick; Chris Connaughton – Big Lead Sports/NY; Anthony Watters – Outdoor Channel/NY; Marc Rosenberg – HRP/NY; Ron Salcedo – Zimmerman/Nashville; Greg Moloznik – GLM Media/Scottsdale; DavidHauptman – Katz Television Group/Denver; Anne Wettig – FX Network/LA.

In The Know:  Only three NFL teams have never played a Thanksgiving Day game. Name one.  (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
11.23.11

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