SBD/6/Leagues Governing Bodies

IS FOX'S STANLEY CUP STRATEGY TO PRAY FOR CAPITAL GAINS?

          Despite a 26% drop in its NHL ratings this season, Fox
     is "expected to exercise its two-year option" after the '98-
     99 season, "albeit at a price lower than the current" $31M a
     year, according to USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke.  Fox Sports
     Exec Producer Ed Goren: "We're in internal discussions.  I
     regard this as an aberration year and still have a positive
     feeling about the NHL's future.  I was at CBS when it walked
     away from the NBA, something we shouldn't have let get
     away."  ABC Senior VP/GM Brian McAndrews said ABC would
     "discuss" the NHL if it became available (USA TODAY, 5/6).
          ICE CAPADES: In N.Y., Joe Lapointe writes that with its
     TV ratings "sagging" and a year remaining on its contracts
     with Fox and ESPN, the NHL "could face a worrisome marketing
     challenge for the Stanley Cup finals" if the Senators play
     the Oilers.  While such a final would be "good" for the two
     team, their "hockey-savvy cities" and Canadian pride, "what
     would Oilers-Senators do for the ratings" on Fox and ESPN?
     Fox Sports' Goren: "I don't even think you expect me to even
     answer that."  Lapointe writes that playoff ratings are down
     from '97 and the "trend could get worse as the tournament
     continues" and goes head-to-head with the NBA.  Individual
     stars in the playoffs are also "few and far between," but
     NHL Senior VP Steve Solomon said that the second-round
     "provides positive narrative elements."  Solomon, who called
     the ratings drop a "one-year blip," said that "there are
     smaller markets with big stories," pointing to goalie
     Dominik Hasek in Buffalo and the "storied" Canadiens 
     franchise (N.Y. TIMES, 5/6).  In Ottawa, Roy MacGregor:
     "Worse than this, it cannot get for Fox, which has just seen
     an entire winter of plummeting numbers.  Hockey Night in
     Canada, on the other hand, is about to see a ratings
     bonanza" (Roy MacGregor, OTTAWA CITIZEN, 5/6).  But in
     Toronto, William Houston reports that first-round ratings
     for "Hockey Night in Canada" were "mediocre."  "HNIC" drew
     920,000 and one million viewers for its first two games, but
     the audience dropped to an average of 910,000 for the next
     three games in prime time.  Meanwhile, TSN ratings were down
     5-10% from last year's playoffs (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/6).
          WISHING UPON A STAR: In Houston, Neil Hohlfeld writes,
     "Even in normal years, the NHL fights an uphill battle
     against the [NBA] for playoff coverage in most markets. 
     This year, it's really a David vs. Goliath story."  The NBA
     "still has nearly all of its megastars remaining in the
     playoffs," while the NHL's second-round began "without many
     of the league's marquee players."  Hohlfeld wonders if the
     public will "grow weary of the no-name" Senators, Oilers and
     Capitals "when Jordan and the Bulls are marching toward
     another, and possibly final, NBA championship?"  Hohlfeld:
     "On a national level among casual fans ... the NHL might be
     in for even less attention than it normally receives during
     playoff time" (Neil Hohlfeld, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/6).  
          MARKET-BY-MARKET: The following lists the U.S. media
     markets remaining in the NBA and NHL playoffs.  In the NHL,
     three of the eight teams remaining are in Canada and are not
     included in the ranking of market size (THE DAILY).
          
             NBA PLAYOFF TEAMS             NHL PLAYOFF TEAMS
          TEAM           MKT SIZE       TEAM           MKT SIZE
          New York          1           Washington        7
          Los Angeles       2           Dallas            8 
          Chicago           3           Detroit           9
          Seattle          12           St. Louis        21
          Indiana          25           Buffalo          39 
          Charlotte        28           Edmonton         na
          Utah             36           Montreal         na
          San Antonio      38           Ottawa           na

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