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Volume 20 No. 42

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Charles Coplin has resigned as the NHL’s executive vice president of content, leaving the league less than three years after being hired away from the NFL, according to multiple sources.

As part of an agreement that was still being negotiated at press time, Coplin is expected to remain with the league as a consultant on major events, including the Winter Classic and All-Star games.

It’s not known why the executive resigned, but sources said he’s already made plans to launch his own media consulting firm.

Coplin did not return a call seeking comment. The NHL declined to comment.

In the wake of the resignation, NHL COO John Collins is considering reorganizing the content division at the league, sources said. The division includes NHL Network executive producer Mark Preisler and vice president of programming Bob Chesterman, both of whom reported to Coplin. Coplin reported to Collins, with whom he had previously worked at the NFL.

Coplin joined the NHL in 2010 after a nine-year stint at the NFL, where he was a television programmer and special events producer. He programmed the NFL Network from the time of its launch in 2003 and shared an Emmy Award for his work on the documentary series “America’s Game.” He won plaudits for producing the Super Bowl halftime show, including the show featuring the Rolling Stones at Super Bowl XL in Detroit in 2006.

In his position with the NHL, Coplin oversaw league media and content, which included NHL Network, and NHL Digital Studios. But NHL Network, in particular, has been cast as underwhelming. The league-owned network has been criticized for a lack of compelling programming and for not approaching the standards of the NFL Network, MLB Network and NBA TV.

The network has not telecast any live programming since July 7 and has no plans to do so until training camps for next season open in September.

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The WTA has tabbed a longtime IMG executive to become its first head of global sponsorship sales, and charged him with finding a top sponsor for the international tour.

Steve Tseng, a 20-year veteran of IMG, will take over the role and report directly to WTA CEO Stacey Allaster. Previously, the sales role fell under the marketing department.

Tseng, who most recently was senior vice president in the IMG US Business Development Group, starts next week.

“We need to find an international company hitting the geographics where our tournaments are,” Tseng said of the characteristics he would seek in a lead sponsor for the tour. “It’s a small universe, but I am 100 percent sure that company does exist out there.”

IMG remains the outside sales agency for the WTA, meaning Tseng will work with his former employer jointly in the search for a lead sponsor. Tseng is relocating from the west coast with his wife and three kids to St. Petersburg, Fla., where the WTA is headquartered.

Previously, the WTA’s sales function operated under the tour’s chief marketing officer, Andrew Walker.

While the tour has been unable to find a replacement for its previous top sponsor Sony, it has had a nice run with other deals in recent years, including adding Xerox, BNP Paribas and Rolex.

Sony Ericsson became title sponsor in 2004, but in 2010 it downsized its role from title to lead sponsor. That deal expired in 2012.

The WTA, now through Tseng, is seeking a major top sponsor, but it would not include a title sponsor of the tour.

The WTA also hired Rory Renwick as senior director of business development for Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He will report to Tseng.

Renwick has been head of sponsorship, Asia, for Phar Partnerships, based in Singapore, where he represented a number of brands and rights holders within travel, sports and entertainment.

As the WNBA hits its All-Star break this weekend, the league’s “3 to See” promotion featuring its trio of high-profile rookies is bringing returns both on TV and at the gate.

Through its first seven games on ESPN2 this season, the WNBA was averaging 252,000 viewers, up 34 percent from last year’s average across seven games. The second game of a season-opening Memorial Day weekend doubleheader this year (featuring Chicago and Phoenix) was the most-viewed WNBA game on ESPN2 in nine years, delivering 455,000 viewers.

Chicago and Phoenix boast two of the league’s touted rookies in Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner, respectively. Joined by Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins, the rookies became the focal point for the WNBA’s 2013 marketing efforts dubbed “3 to See” even before they’d played their first games.

P&G returning
as sponsor

    The WNBA this week plans to unveil Procter & Gamble as a returning league sponsor.
    Previously a WNBA sponsor from 2003-05, P&G returns with a deal for the rest of the 2013 season and a focus on its Cover Girl, Tampax and Secret brands along with its “My Black is Beautiful” initiative. The “Beautiful” effort will include a program called “Imagine a Future” geared toward building self-esteem in young women at league and team events. In addition, the brands will be featured on and will have courtside signage during nationally televised games. There is no national media buy.
   “Imagine a Future” will be activated in six WNBA markets, as well, but the league has not finalized those locations. Terms of the deal were not available.
                             — John Lombardo

Fans in their home markets have taken note: Each of the rookie’s teams has seen an increase in attendance this year, with double-digit gains in Phoenix and Chicago (see chart below).

Leaguewide, attendance comparisons to 2012 are difficult. The WNBA last year started its season earlier than usual and took a monthlong midseason break so players could compete in the Olympics. The league this year was averaging 7,461 fans per game across 84 games through July 15. That compares to 7,752 fans per game through July 15 last year, when the league had already played 111 games. Through 84 games last year, the league was averaging 7,437 fans per game.

The league ended 2012 with a 7,457 per-game average, a record low. “We have a slight increase in attendance, and a lot has to do with when teams have school and camp days,” said WNBA President Laurel Richie of this year’s numbers. “They have a big impact.”

On NBA TV, the WNBA was averaging 65,000 viewers over 11 broadcasts through July 11. That’s up 86 percent compared to last season’s average through the same date, but that was for only a three-game average last season. The eleventh game on NBA TV last season did not occur until Aug. 24 because of the Olympics break.

This year’s All-Star Game is scheduled for Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, with the game on ABC.