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NFL: CNN/SI's Peter King reported that in its new NFL TV deal, CBS "needs to sell its 30-second spots for an average of about $300,000 to break even" this year. King reported it just sold a package of four spots per game to Honda for $125,000 per spot. King: "Bottom line -- the networks are going to get killed financially on this deal" ("Sports Tonight," 5/7)....Mark May will join CBS Sports as a game analyst for the net's NFL coverage (CBS). WTGO-TV (FL) Sports Dir Beasley Reece has also been hired by CBS as an NFL analyst for this season (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 5/8). NOTES: In Miami, Barry Jackson wrote, "The more I listen to NBC's No. 1 team -- Bob Costas, Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas -- the more I'm convinced this combination will never truly mesh." Jackson adds that TNT "wisely dropped painfully bland Bob Hill" and discovered "a promising studio analyst" in Kenny Smith, "who speaks with conviction." Jackson also reported that seeking to eliminate the five to ten instances when TNT and TBS carry games simultaneously, the NBA is planning to end next season on a Wednesday (rather than Sunday) and start the playoffs on a Saturday (rather than Thursday) (MIAMI HERALD, 5/8)....NBA.com said visits to the Web site increased 111% during the month of April compared to last year. The site set new traffic records on Monday, May 4, by generating 408,000 visits from 328,000 users (NBA)....PC Magazine's Don Willmott profiles ESPN SportsZone, calling it "remarkable," as it is "one of only a handful of nonpornographic sites that actually get people to pay for content" (PC MAGAZINE, 5/6 issue).
NBC said yesterday that it has reached a new four-year contract "to continue televising the Toyota Gator Bowl, outbidding CBS," according to Bob McClellan of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. But Gator Bowl Exec Dir Rick Catlett said he had faxed a reworded contract to NBC on Monday, asking for additional commercial spots and a couple of billboards for title sponsor Toyota and for two commercials for the Tourist Development Council, which the network hadn't gotten back to him on. Catlett: "On principle, they have come up with enough money, but getting commercial spots for our title sponsor and the Tourist Development Council is important. If they have that, we'll be fine." NBC said that "the deal was done." NBC has had the rights to the Gator Bowl since January '96. It is the only bowl game televised by the network. CBS declined to comment (FL TIMES-UNION, 5/8).
While Fox's NHL playoff ratings have dropped this season, ESPN's NHL playoff numbers are down 30% on the main network and off 29% on ESPN2, "as hockey continues to fight a losing battle" against the NBA "and other sports it must compete against on weekends," according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST. Shapiro writes that hockey "remains a tough sport to televise," and that the "influx of European stars hasn't made selling the game any easier to potential fans." In DC, the Capitals averaged a 0.4 rating this season on HTS, and have so far averaged a 1.3 for three playoff games aired on HTS. Meanwhile, the Wizards averaged a 1.6 on HTS during their regular season, while the Orioles are currently averaging a 2.2 (WASHINGTON POST, 5/8). FOX PLANS TO BE BACK: In Hartford, Dom Amore notes the sluggish ratings on Fox and writes that "not even the hippest of networks has been able to get people grooving to hockey" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/8). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes that Fox is battling the notion that "hockey, for all its speed and power, is a doomed sport, with little interest beyond the core of devoted fans in each NHL city" (SUN, 5/8). In Toronto, Rob Longley reports that the NHL will be back on Fox next season, but that the network "will tinker" with its production. Fox "is looking at producing fewer games each week -- down to three from six -- and possibly switching back to Sunday from its current home on Saturday" (TORONTO SUN,5/8). In a conference call, Fox Sports Exec Producer Ed Goren said he was not concerned about a possible all Canadian Ottawa-Edmonton Stanley Cup final. He said such a matchup "would only be awful if it went four games and out. ... Christmas in June would be a seven-game series that ends with an overtime" (Steve Zipay, NEWSDAY, 5/8).
The following lists ratings from last weekend's network sporting events. All times are ET. The numbers are from the networks (THE DAILY).
EVENT DATE NET TIME RAT/SHR PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open5/2ABC2:00-4:30pm1.7/6 Kentucky Derby5/2ABC4:30-6:00pm6.1/18 CBS Sports Spectacular: PBA Tour5/2CBS3:00-4:00pm1.3/4 LPGA Tour: Titleholders Champ.5/2CBS4:00-6:00pm1.0/3 "NBA on NBC": T-Wolves-Sonics5/2NBC3:30-6:00pm4.7/14 PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open5/3ABC3:00-6:00pm2.3/6 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Champ.5/3CBS2:00-4:00pm1.9/4 LPGA Tour: Mercury Championship5/3CBS4:00-6:00pm1.5/4 "NHL on Fox": WAS-BOS/DET-PHX5/3FOX2:00-5:00pm2.0/5 "NBA on NBC": Knicks-Heat5/3NBC12:30-3:00pm5.9/19 "NBA on NBC": Rockets-Jazz5/3NBC3:00-5:30pm6.6/18 "NBA on NBC": Hornets-Bulls5/3NBC5:30-8:00pm8.8/19
RATINGS NOTES: Through the first round of the NBA playoffs, NBC's nine telecasts have averaged a 5.9/16, up 2% from last year's 5.8/16....ABC's 6.1/18 for its Kentucky Derby broadcast was down 14% from the 7.1/19 it earned in '97 (THE DAILY)....The Hornets-Bulls Wednesday night game earned an 18.0 on Fox Sports Chicago, the net's highest Bulls rating of the season (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/8).
Sports Illustrated's cover-story last week on professional athletes fathering out-of-wedlock children featured a young Khalid Minor, the son of Celtics G/F Greg Minor, on its cover. In Orlando, Jerry Greene calls the cover shot "cruelly exploitative." Greene: "What it illustrated was not the report but the fact that we sensationalize things today, even when we believe we're acting on this side of righteousness" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/8). In K.C., Jason Whitlock, on the SI piece: "The complaints I've heard are that the issue was too personal and had nothing to do with sports, and many journalists thought SI exploited [Khalid Minor] by putting him on the cover with the headline, 'Where's Daddy?' I agree with the second complaint, but not with the first" (K.C. STAR, 5/8). CELTS RESPOND: Celtics President/coach Rick Pitino, on Minor's well-documented paternity problems: "As an organization, it is our job to counsel these players. In most of these situations, the organization has no say." On releasing Minor: "Waive him for what? For being a bad father? That's not a choice" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/8). OSCAR CALLS STORY "OUT OF LINE": Boxer Oscar De La Hoya, who was also mentioned in the SI story, called the piece "out of line," but said that he won't take any action against the magazine (Ursula Reel, N.Y. POST, 5/8).