SBD/8/Sports Media

NHL RATINGS CONTINUE SLOW BURN, BUT FOX REMAINS COMMITTED

          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).

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