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Fox Sports has promised to present a new approach when it debuts the "NHL on Fox" on April 2, but there's nothing new about the hockey promos Fox has been running, according to a senior exec at ESPN. Judy Fearing, ESPN's Senior VP of Marketing, says the spots are a merely a copy of ESPN's two-year-old NHL marketing campaign. Fearing told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, "When you look at it there's absolutely nothing new there. That to me is where we get a little concerned. ... We really feel that we've set the standard, and that we've made a significant investment in establishing a fresh and unique personality. And now we're being copied." Fearing doubts that ESPN would consider any legal action, and added that -- in the long run -- what's good for hockey is good for ESPN. Fearing: "I guess if I step back and try to look at the bigger picture I really hope that they're successful. Because if they are, more people are going to be tuning into the sport of hockey -- and once they really understand the game, they will all come over and watch it on ESPN." In response, Fox Sports spokesperson Lou Dermilio said: "We think that ESPN does a fabulous job with their promos." Fox debuted their NHL promos during their prime-time programming in recent months, while ESPN's spots, produced by Portland, OR-based ad agency Wieden & Kennedy, have been running on the network since in 1993, soon after ESPN regained rights to the NHL (THE DAILY). AND NOW, BACK TO THE GAMES: In Toronto, Rob Longley profiles what to expect from Fox's game telecasts. Besides the score/clock box that the network debuted in its NFL telecast, Longley notes that Fox "apparently lobbied the NHL" to increase the length of intermissions from 15 to 18 minutes, and to allow 90-second ad timeouts during play, instead of 60-second timeouts (TORONTO SUN, 3/24).
Sunday's record rating for NBC's coverage of Michael Jordan's return raised the network's season-to-date NBA average to a 5.4 rating and a 13 share -- an 8% increase from last year (NBC). At one poiunt this season, NBC's regular-season NBA rating was off 23% (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 3/24)....The MSG Network will not air Yankee exhibition games today and tomorrow "to protest the team's demand that MSG pay full price for replacement games" (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 3/24)....Dantia Gould of Gould Media Services is publishing a report on Women's Television Sports, due out March 31. "Women's Television Sports" assesses the state of women's sports and analyzes which sports get TV coverage (Gould Media).