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Senators-Devils Ratings On The Slide
ABC's coverage of Senators-Devils Game Four Saturday from 3:00pm-5:45pm ET earned a 1.3/3 overnight Nielsen rating, down 41% from a 2.2/6 for the comparable Avalanche-Red Wings Game Four last year (THE DAILY). In Toronto, William Houston noted Senators-Devils Game Three Thursday on CBC "drew the smallest audience of the series: 1.017 million viewers." With Games One and Two posting 1.465 million and 1.478 million viewers, respectively, the Senators' three-game average is 1.32 million, "the poorest draw ever among Canadian teams for a conference final." Combining with the Mighty Ducks-Wild series, CBC's average conference final audience this year is 1.21 million, "a whopping decline of 46.5[%]" from last year's 2.26 million per game for Maple Leafs-Hurricanes and Avalanche-Red Wings. A "mistake in [Friday's] column incorrectly reported the audience decline as 80 percent" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/17).
WHERE'S THE BUZZ? In Chicago, Jennifer Jones wrote, "Even in Chicago, supposedly a big hockey market, there is little buzz about the playoffs. Sports-radio updates often ignore them completely, and there also are times when the games are not mentioned in sports segments on the local news. Many of my fellow sportswriters, who are willing to spend hours watching almost any sport, do not follow the NHL" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/18).
TV MONITOR: Last night's 11:00pm ET 90-minute edition of ESPN's "SportsCenter" led with Nets-Pistons Game One, followed by Vijay Singh winning the EDS Byron Nelson Classic and announcing his withdrawal from this week's Bank of America Colonial, and Rangers-Yankees, highlighted by the Rangers first ever sweep of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
ON THE AIR: Braves manager Bobby Cox appeared in a taped message on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning to present lifelong fan Paul "Huck" Akers and his family with tickets to a Braves game. Akers, named an honorary captain by Cox, also received a Braves cap and jersey courtesy of the club. Delta Airlines will provide transportation (CBS, 5/19). Cowboys coach Bill Parcells sat in the CBS booth during Saturday's coverage of the EDS Byron Nelson as a guest of announcer Jim Nantz (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/19). U.S. Gold Medalist Tara Lipinski will be on "The Wayne Brady Show." The Golf Channel tonight will begin its nightly "Annika Tracker" during "Golf Central" this week. FSN's "54321" will profile surfer Taylor Knox. IRL driver and two-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves is scheduled to appear on FSN's "BDSSP" and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Have a submission for On The Air? If so, please contact Mark Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MLB RATING: Fox' regional MLB coverage Saturday from 1:30-4:15pm ET earned a 3.0/8 overnight Nielsen rating, up 30% from a 2.3/6 for the comparable September 14 date last year. Fox elected to air two MLB games in May instead of in September this season, in order to avoid having to compete against college football. Saturday's 3.0/8 marks a 14.3% decline from a 3.5/10 for Fox' opening MLB telecast last season on June 1 (THE DAILY).
LET'S BE UPFRONT: ESPN/ABC Sports President of Customer Sales & Marketing Ed Erhardt said that both nets "will again stage an upfront-like sales pitch to advertisers" this fall. Erhardt: "We like being out there on our own (in the fall), rather than competing against all the noise (now)." Erhardt added there is "a significant number of integrated sales deals already in play" (MULTICHANNELNEWS.com, 5/16). Meanwhile, L.A.-based Adlink later this month or early next month "will begin to aggressively promote its many cable-sports ad avails via a sports-only sales presentation to the ad community" (MULTICHANNELNEWS.com, 5/16).
Mets Ratings On MSG & FSNY Down 21%
Will Roberts Battle ESPN?
Comcast President & CEO Brian Roberts declined to comment Friday after Liberty Media Chair John Malone called on him "to support a drive to let consumers drop sports and other high-priced basic cable channels," according to USA TODAY's David Lieberman. Malone said that "the only ones who have enough power to stop ESPN and others from steeply raising prices each year are 'Congress, or a courageous Brian Roberts.'" But Roberts "took a dovish position in response to a broad question about operators' relationship with programmers." Roberts: "We need to have a partnership with the programming community. We don't need new laws. We should be able to work (differences) out in the marketplace. We need each other" (USA TODAY, 5/19). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Farrell reported while Roberts was "preaching unity, he also hinted that new technologies on the horizon could be more of a threat to programmers than a decline in affiliate fees." Roberts said that he "saw the video-on-demand platform serving as the launching pad for personalized television, and he used ESPN ... as an example." Roberts said that in the "not-too-distant future, technology would allow a cable operator to take a show like ESPN's 'SportsCenter' and split it into 10 segments, each of which viewers could choose depending on their preferences" (MULTICHANNELNEWS.com, 5/16).
DO UNTO OTHERS: The SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Andy Bernstein reports Cox Communications, which "primarily is a cable system operator but also owns regional channels in some markets," is offering its New Orleans RSN "to other cable operators on a tiered basis." Cox spokesperson Bobby Amirshahi: "In order for us to be consistent with what we're saying across the company, we're certainly going to allow it to be carried on digital." Bernstein notes Cox was unable to reach carriage deals for the RSN on Time Warner and Charter this season, meaning Hornets games "reached only about 600,000 homes, almost all on Cox systems and representing barely one-third of the cable homes" in the New Orleans market (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/19 issue).
Costas-Santos Interview Helps Part
Of NBC's Preakness Coverage
NBC's coverage of the Preakness Stakes Saturday from 5:30-6:45pm ET earned a 6.4/14 overnight Nielsen rating, down 14% from last year's 7.4/16. The pre-race show from 5:00-5:30pm earned a 3.9/9, down 11% from a 4.4/10 last year. Total coverage from 5:00-6:45pm was a 5.6/13 (THE DAILY).
FUNNY CIDE UP: USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke gives NBC's Preakness coverage his "most improved" mention, as Bob Costas' "probing interview" of Funny Cide jockey Jose Santos and commentaries by Tom Hammond and Charlsie Cantey on the Miami Herald's "debunked story suggesting Santos used an electrical device in the Kentucky Derby, rose several rungs above its Derby show." NBC's segment on the movie "Seabiscuit" "was done well," but it "also was a trade-off for commercials for the summer movie." NBC Sports Communications Manager Kathy Connors said NBC "approached the producers two months ago about doing a feature on the movie and asked them if they would be interested in buying some advertising" (USA TODAY, 5/19). In Richmond, Jerry Lindquist writes that after Funny Cide's victory, NBC "let the pictures, first of Santos then of his wife and son, tell the story — with a minimum of commentary from the network's talking heads. That's how it should be, of course." Lindquist adds "if only someone could have yanked the microphone away from" Magna Chair & Pimlico Owner Frank Stronach, "whose postrace filibuster made even Bob Costas appear uncomfortable" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 5/19). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes that as soon as Funny Cide crossed the finish line, "Instead of sticking with the stretch to show which horses finished second and third — three horses were in a tight race and who knows how many tens of thousand viewers had investments in that outcome — NBC quickly cut to a closeup of ... Santos, then to a shot of Santos' son, then to a shot of Funny Cide's ownership and management team." Mushnick: "Hadn't NBC, in the 72 minutes before the race, spent most of its time tracking the Preakness as a wagering enterprise?" (N.Y. POST, 5/19). Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, on NBC's coverage: "Children are not props. Don't keep showing children crying and screaming on (TV). NBC spent a lot of time decrying the terrible treatment that (Santos) got by the media and then spent 20 minutes milking [it]" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/18).
SADDLED: There was no live broadcast of the race in N.Y., as WFAN-AM, which owns the local rights to the Triple Crown, carried Mets-Giants at 4:00pm ET. WFAN Program Dir Mark Chernoff said that the Mets "take precedence, but the station" planned to air a tape of the race after the game (NEWSDAY, 5/17).
With Funny Cide’s victory in The Preakness, are you more likely to watch The Belmont on NBC? Vote in THE DAILY POLL
ABC's coverage of Nets-Pistons Game One of the Eastern Conference finals yesterday from 1:30pm-4:15pm ET earned a 4.8/12 overnight Nielsen rating, a 269% increase when compared to ABC programming last year. ABC earned a 6.5/11 final rating for Thursday's Spurs-Lakers Game Six, marking the net's highest-rated NBA telecast of the season and a 67% increase when compared to ABC programming in the same time period a year ago. ABC is averaging a 5.2/12 for its five playoff games, a 158% increase from ABC programming in the same time periods in '02 (THE DAILY). Seven of the top 10 cable programs the week of May 5-11 were NBA playoff games (N.Y. TIMES, 5/19).
VIEW IT AND THEY'LL COME? As TNT has exclusive rights to the Mavericks-Spurs Western Conference final, and ESPN/ABC will televise the Nets-Pistons Eastern Conference final, USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke notes San Antonio's 4.0 playoff cable rating "nearly doubles" the 2.1 average of Nets' and Pistons' games on ESPN. Meanwhile, with ABC moving the NBA Finals tip-off time up nearly an hour to 8:30pm ET, Turner Sports President David Levy said that he would "look into earlier start times for the Western Finals than about 9:40pm ET for tonight's" Mavericks-Spurs Game One (USA TODAY, 5/19). While ratings for the Mavs-Spurs series "should be high" in TX, Mavs Owner Mark Cuban "has his doubts about how the rest of the nation will respond." Cuban: "It will be really interesting from an NBA perspective to see the impact in terms of ratings and what the league does to market it, considering there are issues there" (EXPRESS-NEWS, 5/19).
LACK OF STAR POWER: In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote the conference finals and NBA Finals "will be contested without its eight biggest stars." Wilbon: "When is the last time you saw somebody wearing a Tim Duncan jersey?" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/17). Also in DC, Tony Kornheiser: "All the charismatic players are gone. ... There are many more hardcore NBA fans who will watch the playoffs no matter which teams are in them. But the point of televising the playoffs is to grow new fans for the NBA." Duncan "has no particular sizzle. [Nets G Jason Kidd] has sizzle. But forgive me, it's impossible for him to overcome the fact that his uniform says `New Jersey' across the chest" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/19). In N.Y., William Rhoden: "For a viewing public used to an NBA with so many stars vying to be The Man, The One, The Answer, the transition to embracing faceless teams like the Pistons will be difficult" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/19).
PICK AND ROLL: In Sacramento, J. Freedom du Lac noted that with about six minutes left in last Thursday's Spurs-Lakers game, KXTV-ABC "cut away from the network broadcast ... to show the pregame portion of the local Kings telecast." The move "enraged local Lakers loyalists and also upset more than a few Kings fans who badly wanted to watch their archrivals' championship run come to an official close." From 7:15-7:30pm PT, Spurs-Lakers earned a 19.9 rating, and the start of Kings-Mavs from 7:30-7:45pm PT drew a 21.5 (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/17).