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NHL Has Seen "Modest Rebound" In
U.S. Ratings During Regular Season
A "modest rebound" in U.S. ratings during the regular season has the NHL "grooming Madison Avenue to help goose current TV deals with NBC and Versus, which are up for renegotiation next year," according to Etan Vlessing of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. NHL COO John Collins said that the league is "expanding its digital media strategy and big event programming lineup to make pro hockey more appealing to advertisers." The hope is that "off-ice buzz from fans will help the league's cause with NBC and Versus during TV contract talks" after June '11. NBC averaged a 0.9 rating for its NHL "Game of the Week" telecasts this season, up 13% from a 0.8 rating last year. Meanwhile, ratings on Versus "were a slow build this year until March when the sports channel returned to DirecTV programming packages after a long blackout due to a carriage dispute with the satellite provider." But Versus averaged 365,000 viewers for its NHL telecasts during the final four weeks of the NHL regular season, up 28% from the same period last year. NHL ratings in Canada "were more impressive" this season. The increases have "much to do with the quality of hockey play, and the game remains always in Canada's DNA." But Collins insisted that the "bigger jolt the league received this year came from corporate." Collins: "We're building an advertising marketplace that never existed before. If we're successful at doing that, that will affect the incremental revenue, plus all these other digital platforms, that will raise the tide of our national rights fees and make us a more valuable partner" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 4/20).
HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE: Versus President Jamie Davis was asked if he is confident the network can "keep the NHL around," to which he said the league "couldn't be happier with the way we super-serve fans." Davis: "There is no one else that willing to do that for the NHL. We do double, triple, maybe even quadruple what they had previously. For the next six weeks, we are going to have hockey basically every single night. Some nights we'll have three or four games on. ... We are delivering a good deal better than what anybody else can" (FANHOUSE.com, 4/19). Meanwhile, Blackhawks Owner Rocky Wirtz said he was glad to see DirecTV and Versus settle their carriage dispute before the start of the playoffs. Wirtz: "The bad news is they're on Versus. The good news is at least they made their bed with DirecTV, especially with so many bars (that) have DirecTV because of the football package." Wirtz said he hopes the league can leverage the success of the Vancouver Games "and make a better deal by having more games for more people to view on a much broader basis." Wirtz: "Would you ever think you'd talk about a Wirtz complaining about not enough games on TV?” (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 4/19).
LOCAL LOVE: FSN Pittsburgh Sunday drew its highest single-day viewership thanks to coverage of Reds-Pirates and Penguins-Senators Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Three. The Pirates swept the Reds in a three-game series, and Sunday's final game drew a 6.21 local rating and more than 178,500 viewers in Pittsburgh, marking the highest-rated Pirates afternoon game in six years on the network. Meanwhile, Sunday night's Penguins-Senators Game Three, which the Penguins won to take a 2-1 series lead, earned a 21.6 local rating and about 619,850 viewers in the market, marking the third highest-rated Penguins playoff game ever on the network (FSN Pittsburgh)....Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia earned a 6.8 local rating for Sunday's Devils-Flyers Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Three, marking the highest-rated Flyers playoff game since Flyers-Capitals Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Seven in April '08 (CSN).
The USGA formally announced that the June 17-20 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach will be broadcast in primetime on NBC and ESPN to the Eastern and Central time zones. ESPN will have 14 hours of broadcast coverage for the first two rounds with air times of 1:00pm-3:00pm ET and 5:00-10:00pm. NBC will offer 16 hours of coverage over all four rounds, with air times of 3:00-5:00pm on Thursday and Friday; 4:30-11:00pm on Saturday and from 3:00-9:00pm on Sunday (USGA). In N.Y., Michael Starr writes it "makes sense to move US Open coverage to prime time," since Tiger Woods' return to The Masters earlier this month "was a ratings bonanza for ESPN and CBS, both of which carried Masters coverage." The U.S. Open aired in primetime in '08 from Torrey Pines Golf Course outside San Diego, "when it was carried from 4-10 p.m. and 3-9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, earning its best ratings in six years" (N.Y. POST, 4/20). In Orlando, Jeff Shain wrote the formula "certainly worked two years ago, when Tiger Woods’ dramatic effort ... eventually won his third Open crown in a Monday playoff against Rocco Mediate." Shain: "Think NBC wasn’t salivating for the chance to try it at Pebble Beach?" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 4/19). The story was first reported by SportsBusiness Journal in November.
Fox Sports Chair & CEO David Hill yesterday said that Fox Cable has decided to keep Fuel TV, a channel the company had been looking to sell for at least a year. Hill in an e-mail to THE DAILY wrote, "While it's true Fox was in talks with Viacom earlier this year about the sale of Fuel TV, we have re-assessed its value and determined that there are exciting new technologies that provide long-term opportunities within the action sports space we now wish to develop. We're delighted with the performance of Fuel TV and remain committed to action sports. We look forward to its future growth and success as a Fox network." This comes after a report in Monday's SportsBusiness Journal that Viacom had pulled out of the talks because of distribution concerns. Hill called that report "inaccurate." The SBJ story cites sources who say it is "at least the second time advanced conversations with a potential buyer have ended without a sale." The channel will remain part of David Hill's group at Fox. Earlier this year, Hill was given responsibility for all Fox' sports operations, including broadcast, cable, online and radio.
Vikings Have Agreed To A Two-Year
TV Deal With NBC Affiliate KARE
The Vikings announced that they have agreed to a two-year TV deal with KARE-NBC in which the Twin Cities-area affiliate will air all available preseason games in HD. KARE also will air two 30-minute shows produced by the team, "Vikings Weekly" and "Vikings GamePlan." Both of these shows will be expanded from 17 to 27 weeks (Vikings). In Minneapolis, Judd Zulgad reports KARE replaces KSTP-ABC, the "home of the Vikings' preseason telecasts since 1999." Announcers Ari Wolfe and Mike Mayock "will continue to handle those telecasts." Meanwhile, the two shoulder programs previously aired on KMSP-Fox, but Vikings CMO Steve LaCroix said that having "one station carry the games and the weekly shows made the most sense." LaCroix: "KARE was very aggressive in its pursuit and, financially, it was a more lucrative offer for us." KARE President & GM John Remes said that "Vikings Game Plan" will air at 10:30am CT on Sundays "when the season starts, but that a day needs to be set for 'Vikings Weekly.'" LaCroix indicated that the KARE deal "does not mean Fox Sports North is out of the picture." Zulgad notes FS North's contract with the club expires this summer, but negotiations "will heat up soon as the Vikings look for the best fit for production of their preseason games and shows" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/20).
CBSSports.com Thursday night and Friday during the NFL Draft will run "Inside the Draft Live," an online video program covering the first three rounds that represents part of a growing wave of online programming around the much-celebrated annual event, now moving to a primetime start. Supported by presenting sponsors Samsung and Sprint, the CBSSports.com program will originate from CBS College Sports Network's N.Y. studios, but feature live segments from the draft site Radio City Music Hall and CBSSports.com's HQs in Florida. The live video coverage, simulcast on the CBS College Sports Network, will be joined online by news, analysis on each selection, pick-by-pick predictions, team Twitter feeds and RapidReports from each team's draft headquarters. ESPN.com, meanwhile, will supplement the net's extensive TV news coverage of the event with data on roughly 350 prospects from Scouts Inc., coverage from all eight NFL division bloggers, and a revamped DraftCast that integrates the basic draft data, integration with Facebook, SportsNation polling, live blogging and video breakdowns of each pick. FoxSports.com will have five writers and contributors on site in N.Y., including its insider Jay Glazer, and a battery of additional content including draft simulators from its WhatIfSports.com and a live blog from its Scout.com. NFL.com, meanwhile, will add to its live TV coverage of the Draft by aggregating tweets under the coordinated hashtag #nfldraft, and presenting them in a more graphical, interactive way, similar to what it did in February for the Super Bowl. NFL.com, working with new wireless partner Verizon as the presenting sponsor of its online draft coverage, will also offer "Fan War Rooms" for each club, an online area where fans can discuss each team's selections and draft needs. The site will additionally offer its draft tracker, online player databases and exclusive video content, and announce voting results for its 75 Most Valuable Draft Picks of all time campaign.
Padres Games Remain Available Only Through
Cox Communications And Time Warner Cable
In San Diego, Mike Freeman in a front-page piece reports Padres games are "not appearing yet on DirecTV or AT&T U-verse in the San Diego market" despite a FCC decision in January that "forbids cable companies from keeping local sports programming all to themselves." Padres games remain available only through Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable, and it "will probably stay that way all summer." Complicated federal procedures "for fully implementing the commission's January decision have yet to be completed," and it "isn't clear how long all this might take." Cox "has exclusive rights to show the Padres games through the 2011 season," and it "licenses its broadcasts to Time Warner Cable, which isn't a direct competitor." But Cox "refuses to license the games to rivals AT&T or satellite television providers." Cox and Time Warner "have 87[%] of the San Diego subscription TV market" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/20).
GOING THE DISTANCE: Fox earned a 3.0 overnight Nielsen rating for Saturday's MLB coverage, which featured the 20-inning Mets-Cardinals game. In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes the telecast was up 11% from the comparable week two game last season. Cardinals-Mets also "went up against three NBA playoff games on ESPN ... because of its length," and the NBA games averaged a 2.3 overnight rating. Meanwhile, Mets-Cardinals earned a 6.5 local rating in the N.Y. market and an 18.3 local rating in St. Louis. The game peaked at an 11.1 rating in N.Y. around 11:00pm ET, and peaked at a 29.3 rating in St. Louis at 10:30pm ET (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/20).
BLACK MARK: In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis wrote under the header, "Blackouts In Hawaii Black Eye For MLB." The Giants, A's, Dodgers and Angels "have claimed" Hawaii as part of their home markets for broadcast purposes, which comes with the "head-scratching restriction that home games not sold out 48 hours [in advance] are blacked out on many cable outlets and channels [in Hawaii], including MLB Extra Innings and MLB.com." The Mariners "a while ago lifted their blackout 'as a test' and have, so far, not reinstated it" (HONOLULU ADVERTISER, 4/18).
GAME STOP: In N.Y., Seth Schiesel reviews Sony's "MLB 10: The Show," which is "perhaps the most finely calibrated, lusciously animated, fanatically detailed team sports game yet made." Schiesel: "Every time I made a ridiculously boneheaded play ... the result felt like a proper organic response to my own mistakes rather than an arbitrary punishment by the software." But the game "takes so much for granted in terms of what the player understands not only about baseball but also about baseball video games that anyone who is not altogether steeped in both ... is bound to come away frustrated." Not even videogames "based on individual sports are as relentlessly technical as top team sports games like MLB 10." Still, "MLB 10" simply "oozes the pace and feel of real baseball" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/20).
WELCOME TO THE TEAM: Baseball Writers Association of America Secretary-Treasurer Jack O'Connell will become a live blogger on the Yankees Universe Web site for all Yankees games. His blog will be located in the "Homestand Blog" section of the site (Yankees).
Theater Operators Believe That Live Events,
Including 3D Broadcasts, Will Continue To Grow
In L.A., Richard Verrier notes although live events at movie theaters are "not yet a big money maker for the major chains," theater operators are betting that "they will be one day, and are booking more such events on slow weekday nights." An "eye-opening event for many theater operators was last year's live 3-D broadcast of the BCS national college football championship game, which was shown in 80 theaters, selling out in 19 of them, and generated four times the per-screen revenue than any film that night." But "there are hurdles," as box office revenue alone "isn't enough to cover costs, often requiring third-party sponsors to defray expenses." Securing rights from leagues such as the NBA and NHL is "difficult and expensive." Hence the focus on "niche sports, like the UFC" (L.A. TIMES, 4/20).
INSIDE ACCESS: In N.Y., Richard Perez-Pena reported a "new byline started appearing this month" in Gannett's New Jersey papers on articles about the Devils, "with a note under each piece stating that the author, Eric Marin, is employed by the Devils, not Gannett." While the arrangement between Gannett and the Devils "may be a promotional coup for the team, it puts the papers in the odd position of publishing news coverage supplied by the entity being covered." Gannett "does not pay for the articles, and there are no restrictions on how it may edit them." The Asbury Park Press Exec Editor Hollis Towns said that if the Devils "were involved in a serious controversy, the papers would not publish an article about it supplied by the team" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/19).
DIGITAL FEUD: THE BIG LEAD noted Houston Chronicle Rockets beat writer Jerome Solomon yesterday in a blog post "blasting" the team wrote, "See, in most cities, and with most other professional franchises, not winning anything significant for more than 10 years makes people angry. Not winning has just made most Rockets fans dream of how great it will be next year. You poor things." THE BIG LEAD noted in a "different era," Solomon's post "would have came and went without much fanfare." But Rockets GM Daryl Morey is "active on Twitter and decided to respond." Morey on his Twitter feed wrote to Solomon, "Chron circulation is down every year since you joined. Wow, 'analysis' w/o thought, context, or an alternative plan is easy!" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 4/19).
CHANNEL SURFING: CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd wrote while it "might be a stretch to mate Texas with the SEC at the moment, it is significant that the 'Longhorn Channel' is still a possibility." Univ. of Texas AD DeLoss Dodds said, "We're working on a channel, 'network' is not a good word. Texas ought to have our top games on a bigger entity (but) we need to keep some football and basketball and baseball and women's basketball and have our own state-of-Texas deal" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/19).