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NHL RATINGS CONTINUE SLOW BURN, BUT FOX REMAINS COMMITTED
Published May 8, 1998
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).