SBD/31/Sports Media

CAN FOX BUILD UP HOCKEY JUST BY COVERING IT?

     The ratings gap between the NBA on NBC and the NHL on Fox
(last weekend's NBA games drew four times more viewers than the
NHL) "proved again that hockey remains a regional sport, in spite
of the optimism and clever promotion on the part of Fox,"
according to Jack Craig in this morning's BOSTON GLOBE.  Craig
writes that Fox is "up against a longtime theory, which holds
that television can enhance interest everywhere but not originate
it anywhere. ... For all of its legendary influence, TV has never
taken up a mainline sport and lit a fire in regions in which
there previously had been little or no interest."  Based on Fox's
first year with the NHL, Craig calls the net's $155M deal over
five years a "bad bet" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/31).
     ELECTION NIGHT:  Because of the Ontario provincial election
on June 8, the CBC cannot broadcast Game 4 of the NHL Western
Conference finals.  TSN has offered to carry the game in Ontario
(Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/31).  Sources say CBC is trying to find
other ways to keep the Ontario market, including appealing to
local community cable channels to carry the game (Rob Longley,
TORONTO SUN, 5/31).
     BY-THE-NUMBERS:  The NBA's games this weekend averaged an
8.6 rating, up 16% from last year -- including a 9.5 for Indiana-
Orlando on Memorial Day.  According to Richard Sandomir, NBC
enters its prime time telecasts knowing that having lost teams
from the top media markets "is not a death knell for ratings"
(N.Y. TIMES, 5/31).  In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes, "Let's
finally put to rest any notion that the uptick in NBA ratings is
solely Michael Jordan-driven (Baltimore SUN, 5/31).  Overnights
for Fox's Devils-Penguins game on Sunday slipped to "a low" of
1.9.  While ESPN's NHL ratings are down 10% from '94, ESPN's Tom
Mees believes they will go up now that local blackouts are lifted
for the conference finals (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/31).  The
Indy 500 averaged an 8.6/26 in overnights -- a 1% gain over the
8.5/26 it got in '94 (AD AGE ONLINE, 5/31).
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