Good morning. It’s Tuesday, May 20, 2014, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

As more news of AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV comes to light, the NFL finds itself right at the center of the dealings. According to multiple reports, if DirecTV is not able to renew its NFL Sunday Ticket football package, the telephone company can pull out of the merger. According to Bloomberg, a regulatory filing related to the merger states that "the parties also have agreed that in the unlikely event that the Company’s agreement for the ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ service is not renewed on substantially the terms discussed between the parties, AT&T may elect not to consummate the merger." In a conference call with analysts on Monday, DirecTV CEO Mike White noted that the company continued to be in "positive and constructive" discussions with the league.


Game One of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on ABC generated a 5.8 overnight rating for the network, according to Nielsen. That ranks as the third-highest rated Conference Finals Game One rating ever on the ESPN family of networks and is up 49% from last season’s Western Conference Finals Game One a year ago.

ESPN and Tennis Channel laid out plans for the French Open. Tennis Channel announced that Jim Courier would become the newest member of the on-air team for the event, with 12 days of coverage starting Opening Day on Sunday, May 25, through the men’s semifinal round Friday, June 6. In all, Tennis Channel will dedicate more than 250 round-the-clock hours to this year’s Roland Garros with a daily schedule that will consist of nine-hour match blocks starting at 10a followed by French Open Tonight at 7p with live coverage running from 10a-3:30p. Other talent includes Bill Macatee, Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Rennae Stubbs and Justin Gimelstob.

ESPN’s coverage of the French Open begins Sunday, May 25, on ESPN2 and ESPN3, with more than 50 hours on television and 330 via ESPN3′s presentation of up to seven courts on the days ESPN2 is on the air. ESPN2 and ESPN3 will begin programming at 5a most days on weekdays through Thursday, June 5, culminating with the women’s semifinals. Talent includes Darren Cahill, Chrissie Evert, Mary Joe Fernandez, Chris Fowler, Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe, and Pam Shriver.

The NBA officially initiated proceedings yesterday to officially strip Donald Sterling of LA Clippers ownership. In a statement, the league wrote that "The charge asserts that Mr. Sterling engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams," the league wrote in a statement that his actions undermined the league’s diversity efforts and damaged its relationship with fans, owners, players and marketing partners. "Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and ‘minorities’; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities."

The Indianapolis 500 hits ABC for the 50th consecutive year on Sunday. Pre-race airs at 11a with Mark Cuban waving the green flag at 12:12p. Lindsay Czarniak hosts coverage with Allen Bestwick serving as announcer with analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. ESPN Classic will air a marathon of Indianapolis 500-related programming in the week leading up to the race, including airings of highlights of many past races from the 1960s through 2013.

The NFL is looking to shake up the draft. TheMMQB.com’s Peter King reports that the league was unhappy at being bumped out of Radio City Music Hall and that the draft is "likely" to head elsewhere, potentially even out of NY, next season. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reports that the league is looking at April 30 as a potential start date for next year’s draft.

Universal Sports Network unveiled TV and digital coverage of all three of USA Rugby’s upcoming summer test matches. The Eagles will face Tier 1 nation Scotland on June 7 at 8p in Houston, followed by matches with Japan on June 14 at 10p in Carson, CA, and Canada on June 14 at 5:30p in Sacramento. Bill Seward calls the action beside analyst Brian Hightower.

The San Francisco Bowl Game Association revealed the day and date for the organization’s first game at its new home, Levi’s Stadium. The game will be played Tuesday, December 30 at 7p and will be carried by ESPN. The contest pits the 4thPac-12 selection against an upper echelon Big Ten team and marks the first year of a six-year agreement between the Bowl and the Pac-12/Big Ten Conferences.

Chivas USA locked in a broadcast deal with KDOC-TV, naming the channel as the official English-language local TV partner of the team. The station will carry 10 regular season games, while the Univision family has lined up six games in Spanish that will run on UniMas.



Cynopsis Digital BIG Monetization Summit

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8:30am-4:00pm | June 19 | 10 on the Park, NYC | Early Bird Ends May 30

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Corbis Entertainment, a division of Corbis, a Bill Gates company, has acquired global sports marketing and communications agency WSM Communications. Over its 15-year history, WSM has aided companies like Unilever, British Airways and Aberdeen Asset Management enhance their brands with integrated strategies in the world of sports  with a focus on golf, soccer, sailing and tennis. "Sports are another high-profile form of entertainment populated with its own celebrities and A-list events," Mark Owens, Executive Vice President, Corbis Entertainment. "WSM’s long track record, and unique depth in fast-growing worldwide sports like golf, tennis and soccer makes them a natural fit, with assets that we can leverage across all Corbis Entertainment Global Brands."

Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg takes center stage in ESPN’s newest This is SportsCenter spot. Released yesterday, the commercial features Strasburg alongside SportsCenter host Bram Weinstein in "Frozen Lunch" and a quest to find a Lean Cuisine meal.


The latest Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings Weekly Top Ten for Sports Events is all about the NBA. For the week spanning May 12-18, each of the top five events with the highest unique audience highlighting playoff action. Taking the top spot was nets/Heat on May 14 on TNT with a unique audience of 6,794,000 via 874,000 Tweets. Rounding out the list were Heat/Pacers on May 18 on ABC, TNT’s Heat/Nets from May 12, Clippers/Thunder on TNT on May 13 and Thunder/Clippers on ESPN from May 15.


NBA Digital is redesigning all 30 team websites in a move that will make the NBA the first professional sports league to feature league-wide responsive team sites. The sites will seek to offer fans a "seamless and consistent experience to access team news, extensive video highlights, player features and more," across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. "As our fans and industry increasingly place more emphasis on mobile consumption, our redesigned sites will best position us to serve our content across all platforms," said Christina Miller, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NBA Digital. "We’re proud to be the first league to offer team sites with fully responsive design. These sites offer each team the flexibility to customize and engage their individual fan bases in a dynamic way."

Sports technology company PlaySight Interactive announced the completion of a $3.5 million investment round from investors that include the likes of Novak Djokovic, Billie-Jean King, Bill Ackman, Mark Ein, Dr. Jim Loehr and others. The new capital will fund a global roll-out of the company’s SmartCourt technology for recreational and elite tennis, as well as research and development on applications in other popular sports beyond tennis.

The San Jose Earthquakes are slated to become the first professional sports team to accept bitcoin payments in stadium when they host the Houston Dynamo on Sunday. The club revealed a partnership with San Francisco’s Coinbase to bring bitcoin processing to Buck Shaw Stadium for tickets, merchandise and concessions.


ESPN promoted Jeffrey Gonyo to Vice President of Marketing, Brand Strategy and Expressions and Executive Creative Director where he will oversee marketing’s creative services group as well as work with the sports and brand marketing teams on the campaigns and communications supporting all ESPN properties and products.


Heat/Pacers at 8:30p on ESPN.


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ON THIS DAY in 1984: Roger Clemens notches his first win as the red Sox beat the Twins 5-4.

In The Know:

Which team did the 49ers beat twice in the Super Bowl? (Email Chris-Sports@cynopsis.com 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.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Al the Octopus is the mascot of which NHL team? Answer: Detroit Red Wings. Kudos: Jim Maloney-CBS Sports Net/NY; Chris Halpin-NFL/NY; Dan Weber-MLB Network/NY; Corey Schneid-Carat/NY; David Schaefer-Golf Channel/Orlando; Tony Ferranti-MMSI/Warwick; Allison Wright-Viacom Media Networks/Detroit; Kirk Agius-620 WDAE Tampa Bay Sports Radio/Tampa; Mandi Shulman-Continental Television Sales/Chicago; Joe Haack-Time Warner/Lincoln; Lucie Prann-The Richards Group/Dallas; Derrick Stasica-KHOU/Houston; Matt Sautter-OpenTV/Golden; David Hauptman/Denver; Amy Joanides-The Nielsen Company/Santa Cruz; Adam Deverell-Cox Reps/LA; Don Surath-KPIX-TV/San Francisco; Jim Bernard-FOX Sports/LA.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for

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