SBD/Issue 150/Sports Media

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  • CBC NHL Playoffs Viewership Down Due To One Less Canadian Team

    TSN Playoff Viewership Up 19% Thanks In 
    Large Part To Flames-Blackhawks Series
    Viewership for the opening round of the NHL playoffs on the CBC is down 7% from last year, while TSN's audience has increased 19% as of Monday, and TSN is up "mainly because it has a Canadian playoff team for the first time" while the CBC is down "because instead of having three Canadian teams as it did last year, it has only two now," according to Chris Zelkovich of the TORONTO STAR. Still, the CBC last week owned eight of the 10 most-viewed sports events on Canadian TV, with TSN posting the other two, and the net's high viewership is "thanks mainly" to airing the Canucks-Blues series, and "to a lesser degree" the Bruins-Canadiens series. Meanwhile, TSN's viewership gains are "thanks mainly" to airing the Flames-Blackhawks series. But while the Flames are "producing some of the highest NHL ratings ever at TSN," the team has not yet reached the 1 million viewer mark that is a "given when Canadian teams are featured on CBC." Zelkovich wrote TSN also is "continuing to go the cheap route and pick up U.S. broadcasts of NHL series, which really isn't what Canadian viewers should be getting" (THESTAR.com, 4/22).

    FULL STEAM AHEAD: Versus President Jamie Davis Tuesday noted the network this season posted its highest-ever NHL regular-season ratings, and the net's playoff ratings are "blowing away" the regular-season figures. Davis: "People might say there’s a recession out there, but there's not in television ratings for hockey because our first week in the playoffs right now, our total viewership is up 50% over last year, the household rating up over 33% and in the key male demos -- men 18-49 -- are up 40% and men 25-54 up over 50%." Meanwhile, Davis said the net's pre-, intermission and post-game programming seeks to build enthusiasm for hockey and "promote it heavily," but he added, "Having the key markets and the teams playing well is also helping" ("NHL Live!" NHL Network, 4/21).

    RATINGS NOTES: The Bruins' four game sweep of the Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs earned a 9.2 average local rating (221,000 HHs), making it the highest-rated playoff series in NESN’s 25 year history. NESN’s previous record rating for a Bruins playoff series was an 8.4 local rating for the '04 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Canadiens, which went seven games (NESN)....FS Detroit earned a 12.0 local rating for Tuesday's Red Wings-Blue Jackets Western Conference Quarterfinal Game Three, marking the highest-rated Red Wings telecast on the net since the '04 playoffs. The net is averaging a 10.4 rating for the series (FSN)....CSN Philadelphia posted a 5.2 local rating for Tuesday's Penguins-Flyers Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Four, up 13% over the net's coverage of Game Two (CSN)....MSG Network earned a 2.72 local rating for Monday's Capitals-Rangers Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Three, the net's highest-rated Rangers game since April '97 (NEWSDAY.com, 4/21).

    Tonight's Sharks-Ducks Game Four Blacked Out
    For Many San Diego Hockey Fans
    CALIFORNIA BLACKOUT: In San Diego, Jay Posner reports most San Diego County hockey fans "will be unable to watch" tonight's Sharks-Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal Game Four, the "third time a game in the NHL first-round playoff series has been blacked out." FSN Prime Ticket will air the game, and the net is "not available to Cox Cable subscribers and most Time Warner Cable Customers." The national telecast of the game on Versus also "will be blacked out in San Diego" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/23). Meanwhile, the S.F. Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins said of the MLB Giants getting better TV ratings in the Bay Area than the Sharks, “What’s in the blood? That’s what matters. People have been waiting for the Giants for months now.” The San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami responded, “Until they get to the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s just not going to be baked into the DNA of the Bay Area” (“Chronicle Live,” CSN Bay Area, 4/22).

    STREAMING EFFECT: PAID CONTENT's Staci Kramer reported the NHL, using a "mix of database and contextual marketing," has been able to "boost playoff orders of NHL GameCenter Live" by 50%, including a revenue increase of 120%. The NHL through the first five days of the playoffs earned $100,000 for the service, compared to $40,000 during the same period last year (PAIDCONTENT.org, 4/22).

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  • ABC, ESPN, TNT All Post Gains For Regular-Season NBA Coverage

    ESPN's coverage of the '08-09 NBA regular season on ABC saw a 16% increase in viewers, as an average of 3,684,000 watched the net's 18 broadcasts this season, up from 3,175,000 for 19 broadcasts last year. The total makes the '08-09 regular season the most-viewed on ABC in six years. The NBA on ESPN averaged 1,680,000 viewers for 71 regular-season telecasts, which marks the net's most-viewed NBA regular-season ever and a 14% increase from 1,468,000 viewers for 70 telecasts in '07-08 (ESPN). TNT for its regular-season telecasts averaged a 1.1 cable rating, up 4% from '07-08, and also posted a 14% increase in total viewers (1,711,000 from 1,496,000 in '07-08) and a 5% increase in HHs (1,296,000 from 1,230,000 in '07-08) (TNT). Meanwhile, in Portland, John Canzano reported Tuesday's Rockets-Trail Blazers game earned a 27.5 local rating on KGW-NBC. But "more impressive" is that the game "had a 21.4 to 10.8 advantage locally over 'American Idol'" while both were on the air (OREGONLIVE.com, 4/22).

    Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy Says He
    Never Complains About NBA Schedule
    REMOTE CONTROL: In Philadelphia, Marcus Hayes notes Magic coach Stan Van Gundy "indulged in a rare spate of candor when asked about the 2-day lapse between Game 1 and Game 2, which followed a 3-day gap between the season's end and Game 1" of the 76ers-Magic series. Van Gundy: "I never complain about the schedule. Not in the regular season, not in the playoffs. The schedule is made for TV. TV is what funds the league. I'm not going to be foolish enough to say TV shouldn't influence the schedule. Because TV has put a lot of money in my pocket, as well as everyone else's" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/23). 

    COACHSPEAK: ESPN.com's Bill Simmons wrote in a "noble effort to give viewers more inside access than ever before, the NBA began allowing sideline reporters to interview each coach before the start of the second and fourth quarters." But with the exception of Lakers coach Phil Jackson, "who uses these moments as veiled psychological warfare, coaches greet these interludes with the enthusiasm of someone being frisked by an off-duty police officer." Simmons listed three issues he has with the interviews: coaches "getting pulled away during crucial times when ... they're supposed to be dispensing advice to their players;" sideline reporters dealing with the NBA's "unspoken ground rules," which means "every question inevitably revolves around the same three themes;" and that "as they tape these interviews, the coaches know employees from the opposing team will be watching the finished product, so they aren't exactly dying to spill secrets" (ESPN.com, 4/22).

    Writer Feels Doug Collins Breaks
    Game Down Better Than Any Analyst
    BEST OF THE BEST: In Cleveland, Bill Livingston writes TNT NBA analyst Doug Collins "breaks a game down better than any analyst I have ever heard," and Collins' comparison in Game 2 of the Pistons-Cavaliers series of Cavaliers F LeBron James' "willingness to pass to his own play was priceless." Livingston adds TNT NBA analyst Mike Fratello also is "on my short list of guys I love to hear." Livingston writes his "favorite sports show on TV -- in any sport - is 'Inside the NBA' on TNT," as host Ernie Johnson "keeps the talkers more or less on point, Kenny Smith plays beautifully off Charles Barkley and knows the X's and O's, and Barkley does irreverence and contrarian opinions convincingly" (CLEVELAND.com, 4/23).

    STICK TO THE GAME: In Utah, Doug Robinson wrote, "Memo to networks: Please don't turn ballgames into 'Entertainment Tonight.' If we want to listen to talking heads fawning over celebs, we'll watch Fox News. Does any real sports fan enjoy the blurring of the line between Hollywood and professional sports?" Robinson wrote the NBA "not only goes along with this, it encourages it," as the NBA Web site "features a list of the Lakers' celebrity fans" (DESERET NEWS, 4/22).

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  • BET Next Year To Air New NASCAR Reality Show "Changing Lanes"

    Siegel (r) Wants To See More Opportunities
    Created In NASCAR For Minorities
    BET next season will air a show called "Changing Lanes," a "docu-reality series" that will spotlight drivers in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, according to Richard Huff of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The 909 Group Founder Max Siegel, whose company manages the Drive for Diversity program, took the idea for the show to NASCAR Media Group COO Jay Abraham, and "together they shopped it to networks." BET has "bought 10 episodes of the hour-long show" which is "expected to launch in 2010." Siegel said that some Drive for Diversity drivers "will participate in the reality show." Siegel: "I wanted to see more opportunities created in NASCAR for people of color, especially on the competition side." Siegel said, "Every week, there's a lot of competition, on-track performance, a lot of back story, and getting to know the participants. We want the audience to get to know what it takes to participate at this level." Huff notes the show is "far from the first reality series to delve into the sport," as FX aired "NASCAR Drivers 360," a show that "followed drivers on and off the track." ABC also "tried a celebrity series pairing stars with drivers in a race competition," while TLC aired "NASCAR Wives" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/23).

    BREAKING BARRIERS: In a cover story for HISPANIC magazine, Marissa Rodriguez profiles NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya and writes Montoya is "one of the few Latinos behind the wheel at NASCAR races, but his successes paired with the organization's push for attention among Latinos have caused interest in the sport to grow." A study reveals that 38% of Latinos "call themselves NASCAR fans, at least casually." In '05, NASCAR released data stating that 8.9% of their fan base was Latino, a "small growth from 2001's rate of 8.1[%]." Although Montoya "admits to thinking about the fact that there aren't many Hispanics within the NASCAR family, Montoya says that leaving his imprint as a Latino in NASCAR is not his driving force." Montoya: "I am one of the first Latinos to be able to make it to the top leagues. (But) I don't do it for the legacy, I do it because I love it. It's more of a personal thing" (HISPANIC, 4/ '09 issue).

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  • Taking Flight: SNY Signs Multi-Year Extension With Jets

    SportsNet N.Y. has signed a multi-year deal to extend its exclusive partnership with the Jets that goes into effect Saturday during the NFL Draft, when the RSN will have draft-room access and live contributions from Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan on "Jets Nation: Draft Day 09." The deal will see SNY continue to telecast "Jets Post Game Live," as the team is affording the RSN priority locker-room access, including Ryan's closed-door address to the team. The deal also gives SNY the right to distribute content via SNY.tv, subject to NFL guidelines. "The Jets have been a cornerstone of SNY's programming since the network's launch, and we're excited that together, we continue to find new ways to take our viewers further behind-the-scenes and closer to the action," said SNY President Steve Raab.

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  • Hawks Launch Playoff-Specific Microsite And Online Video Series

    Hawks Playoff Site Part Of Overall Strategy
    To Emphasize New Media
    The Hawks, as part of an overall strategy to place greater emphasis on new media, earlier this month launched a micro-site to promote their ’09 playoff run at www.hawks.com/playoffs. The site is anchored by a series of videos titled, “Now You Know: An All-Access Look at the Atlanta Hawks in the 2009 NBA Playoffs.” The videos, shot internally by Hawks Interactive Content Producer Kyle Payne, are roughly two minutes long, with new episodes added once or twice a day. They feature game highlights, player interviews, footage of media sessions and practices, and other behind-the-scenes content. The format resembles other all-access shows like HBO’s “24/7,” but Payne said that the Hawks’ approach was “not as much about counting down” to an event as highlighting specific storylines within the playoffs. Payne: “We didn’t want to make it completely guerilla style.” The impetus for the series, said Payne, was to create a video equivalent to the kind of instant updates fans can get from teams and athletes through Twitter.com and other social networking sites. Team VP/Marketing, Advertising & Branding Jim Pfeifer said there is a plan to sign sponsors for the content, “but we don’t have anything in place right now.” Rather, the team’s strategy has been to “add as much content as we can this year,” according to Pfeifer, before actively seeking sponsors. The micro-site includes links to the home pages of playoff partners MetroPCS, Budweiser, Gas South and The Home Depot. The team has seen a 433% increase in video views on Hawks.com from March to April, when the series was introduced. Payne said if “Now You Know” is a success, it may become “more of a weekly thing” during the regular season, with episodes possibly focusing on individual players.

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  • ESPN Could Lose Millions If State Tax Exemptions Are Repealed

    ESPN "could lose millions of dollars each year" if Connecticut tax exemptions are "repealed and the state imposes a tax surcharge on corporations and limits tax credits," according to Amanda Falcone of the Meriden RECORD-JOURNAL. ESPN's "greatest worry is that Connecticut could decide to repeal tax exemptions on broadcast equipment." ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said that the company "needs to keep its equipment current and taxing the equipment will make that more difficult." Soltys also said that the company is "worried about the future of other tax exemptions, including the exemption on media payroll services and the exemption on non-cable services." Soltys indicated that the company "would lose millions of dollars if some of the proposals are enacted, [but] he would not compare what ESPN would lose" to Disney's overall budget. Soltys said that he is "confident that ESPN would not abandon its birthplace in Bristol," but he added that the "budget decisions state lawmakers make this legislative session could affect the company's future." Soltys: "We would prefer to grow in Central Connecticut." But Soltys added that if lawmakers "make it harder to do business in Connecticut," ESPN "might choose to explore other options." ESPN "owns property and has studios and offices in several states" (Meriden RECORD-JOURNAL, 4/19).

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  • Chirp Away: Sports Media Ventures Launches AthleteTweets.com

    AthleteTweets.com Will Follow More
    Than 130 Athletes' Tweeting
    L.A.-based Sports Media Ventures, the outfit behind startup site SportsFan Live, this week has launched AthleteTweets.com, a real-time aggregation of more than 130 athlete-penned Twitter feeds, including those written by cyclist Lance Armstrong, Magic C Dwight Howard, Cavaliers F LeBron James, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and tennis player Serena Williams. The site has begun to generate revenue through direct display ad sales, in part through buys in combination with SportsFan Live, with some ads serving to complement the venture in the short run. SportsFan Live Founder David Katz said, “I like to call this the best reality show not being televised. Twitter obviously has made a huge run-up in popularity in the last couple of months, but this is something we’ve been working on since last year. But we’re now at a point where Twitter has become very compelling, and we’re able to pair up this content with some really unique opportunities with regard to sponsorship.” The outfit joins a fast-growing collection of sites performing some type of sports-related Twitter aggregation, including Octagon’s Twackle.com and AthletesWhoTweet.com. Katz said a key part of the effort around AthleteTweets.com is authenticating the individual feeds. “There’s definitely a process there, and it can get very intensive, but that’s obviously critical to what this is about,” he said.

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