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IS FOX'S STANLEY CUP STRATEGY TO PRAY FOR CAPITAL GAINS?
Published May 6, 1998
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