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Lakers-Suns Game Three On TNT Is
Weekend's Most-Watched Sports Telecast
TNT earned a 6.1 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Lakers-Suns NBA Western Conference Finals Game Three from 8:30-11:34pm ET, marking the weekend's highest-rated sports telecasts on broadcast or cable TV. Last night's game, which aired up against the series finale of ABC's "Lost," is down 7.6% from a 6.6 overnight for Magic-Cavaliers Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals on the same weekend last year. TNT's coverage of Lakers-Spurs Western Conference Finals Game Three in '08 earned a 4.4 overnight. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 4.4 overnight Nielsen rating for Saturday night's Magic-Celtics NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game Three. On the comparable weekend the past two years, ABC had aired the Saturday night Conference Final game (THE DAILY). FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent wondered why ABC is "not airing any more" of the Celtics-Magic series "beyond last Sunday's opener." The "easy answer is that May sweeps don't end until Wednesday," but the potential Games Six and Seven of Celtics-Magic "would take place outside of sweeps, and ought to air on ABC" (FANHOUSE.com, 5/21).
NOT-SO-FANTASTIC VOYAGE: The Suns beat the Lakers 118-109 last night to cut their deficit in the Western Conference Finals to 2-1, but in Austin, Cedric Golden wrote, "Only L.A. and Boston can save this creeping postseason." Golden: "These NBA playoffs have stunk to high hoopdom. ... A league billed as fantastic has given us a fantastically boring playoffs" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 5/22). ESPN's Hannah Storm said, "This could be the worst conference finals to set-up one of the best finals that we've ever seen" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/23). Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Mike Woods wonders if the NBA playoffs "can ever match the excitement of the impending NBA Free Agency playoffs" (Appleton POST CRESCENT, 5/24).
NBC Earns 2.0 Overnight Nielsen
Rating For Blackhawks-Sharks Game Four
NBC earned a 2.0 overnight Nielsen rating for yesterday afternoon's Game Four of the NHL Western Conference Finals, which saw the Blackhawks finish off a sweep of the Sharks. The overnight was up 33% from a 1.5 overnight last year for the comparable Red Wings-Blackhawks Game Four, which aired on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Yesterday's game earned a 14.1 local rating in Chicago. Meanwhile, Game Four of the Flyers-Canadiens Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday afternoon earned a 1.6 rating. There was no comparison during the same weekend in '09 (THE DAILY). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal reported Versus averaged an 11.52 local rating in the market for its telecast of Friday's Game Three of the Blackhawks-Sharks series. The 11.52 "marks a new cable ratings high for the Hawks" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 5/23).
HOCKEY DAY: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin noted the 3:00pm ET start times for this past weekend's Flyers-Canadiens and Blackhawks-Sharks games were "requested by NBC." The start times prompted the "usual skirmishes about hockey not working in the U.S.," so Dowbiggin wondered, "Why pander to the indifferent American sports fan?" It costs the CBC "about a million viewers to go in the afternoon," and NBC's "insistence on daylight hockey is costly to CBC, annoying to fans." But Dowbiggin wrote the start times are "hardly fatal to the spirit of the sport" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 5/23).
PRIME REAL ESTATE: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts noted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman resolved a "spat" between NBC and the CBC involving their coverage of Flyers-Canadiens Game Four. NBC had "struck a deal" with French-language broadcaster RDS to "take over its spot between the benches for Game 4." Sources said that Bettman "was willing to allow the deal," but the CBC "objected and Bettman had to make a ruling." Bettman ruled that RDS' Joel Bouchard "got the coveted spot between the benches." As a result, the CBC's Glenn Healy broadcasted "from the Zamboni entrance at the Bell Centre on Saturday afternoon instead of his usual perch between the players' benches," and NBC's Pierre McGuire "had to cross the ice during breaks to conduct his in-game interviews" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 5/22).
PARTY IN THE U.S.A.: The Flyers sit one win away from joining the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom said he hopes an all-American matchup "sparks more interest … in hockey here in the States." Albom: "You have that Olympic year where the U.S. team couldn't have done anything more except win a Gold Medal to try to spark that kind of interest in this country, and now you got ... a possible American Final." However, he said until fans "can talk about in hockey a Kobe and a Garnett and a Rondo the way you can in basketball, I still seeing the NHL having great games … and everyone goes, 'By the way, who won the Stanley Cup?'" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/23).
Writer Believes Fox' Soccer Debut With
Champions League Final Mostly A Success
Fox earned a 1.1 overnight Nielsen rating for Saturday's UEFA Champions League final, which saw Italian Serie A club Inter Milan defeat German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich in the network's first-ever soccer broadcast. ESPN last year aired the FC Barcelona-Manchester United final, which earned a 1.0 overnight rating on a Wednesday afternoon (THE DAILY). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Ben Grossman wrote Fox' soccer debut with Saturday's Champions League final "came off well," despite some "pregame rough spots." The success of the broadcast is due in part to a "couple of borrowed broadcasters," as in deciding to take the international feed "featuring the fantastic pairing of Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, the broadcast was mostly worthy of the massive affair it is." But taking the feed "did leave one major aspect of the broadcast disappointing," as Fox Sports likely "would have known that at the final whistle, the shot viewers should have seen was the reaction of Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho, by far the most dynamic character involved in these proceedings." The feed "didn't find the outspoken coach until too late." Grossman wrote studio host Curt Menefee was "strong as usual," while Galaxy GM & coach Bruce Arena "brought intelligent tactical analysis and depth" as a guest in the studio. Fellow studio analyst Eric Wynalda "left a bit more to be desired." He opened the pregame by "calling this match the 'Super Bowl' of the sport, after which Arena thankfully quickly reminded him of that small affair called the World Cup." The pregame show overall was "woefully below the level of what was deserved for this massive affair, and below the usual standards of Fox Sports, thanks to two noticeable mistakes off the top." The "worst was when the announcers went to talk through the Bayern Munich starting lineup, and the graphic failed to show up on screen" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 5/23).
THREE'S A CROWD: YAHOO SPORTS' Brian Phillips wrote Menefee, Arena and Wynalda "had no chemistry" and had "nothing to say about the match." The trio often "struggled to fill the gaps between commercial breaks." The three also "all endorsed the proposition that the Champions League is bigger than the World Cup." Fox got some "relatively minor things" wrong, but at the same time "got some overwhelmingly more important things right" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/23).
ESPN's Outdoor Programs Have
Been Saturday Staple For Years
ESPN will "dump" the majority of its outdoor programming at the end of this year, creating a "shock to the entire outdoors industry," according to BASSFAN.com. ESPN2’s weekend morning outdoor block has been a “long and storied cornerstone” of outdoor programming for 30 years, and the net had even “formed a separate ESPN Outdoors division to focus on the market.” The weekend morning block on ESPN2 will now be “filled by other properties,” such as EPL matches, NASCAR programming and “SportsCenter.” The “only show in the current outdoor block that will continue to air on ESPN2” is the ESPN-owned event The Bassmasters. The ESPN-owned Saltwater Series “will not air on ESPN2.” The news “does revive rumors that ESPN is actively engaged in an effort to sell BASS.” If ESPN is “divesting itself of outdoor programming, that would seem to indicate that its interest in BASS lies only within a potential to broadcast BASS events.” ESPN’s “decision to dump its outdoor programming parallels decisions being made across media as a whole.” The trend is “toward niche production and delivery -- channels, magazines and digital properties narrowly tailored to fit a specific fan or enthusiast base” (BASSFAN.com, 5/21). ESPN Senior Dir of PR Rob Tobias said in a statement, “This is a business decision and affords ESPN increased opportunities to provide sports fans with live-event or studio-based programs” (THE DAILY).
The N.Y. OBSERVER's Koblin & Aleksander noted recent Columbia School of Journalism graduate Vinnie Rotondaro, who writes for Columbia's blog Brooklyn Ink and has only "five bylines" on the site, received one of two "one-on-one interviews" last week with Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Rotondaro said that he "received an email about three weeks ago" that was "light on details." Rotondaro in the e-mail was "asked if he would be interested in an exclusive interview with someone really important," though it "didn't say who." When he called the number that was in the e-mail, a handler said that Prokhorov "wanted a Brooklyn blogger to interview him." Rotondaro before the interview "was told there would be no restrictions" and that he "could ask anything he wanted, and write anything he wanted." He met with Prokhorov on Wednesday, and they "chatted for 40 minutes." A Prokhorov spokesperson in an e-mail said Prokhorov "believes in supporting young journalists and Vinnie just graduated this week from one of country's most prestigious programs, the Columbia School of Journalism." Prokhorov also was interviewed by WFAN-AM's Mike Francesca (OBSERVER.com, 5/21).
I'M DYNAMITE: TNT will use AC/DC's song "TNT" as the network's theme for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage this year. The song will serve as the primary musical bed for all six TNT Sprint Cup races, as well as for the net's multiplatform marketing campaign surrounding the coverage. The net's full-length NASCAR video featuring "TNT" will debut tomorrow during TNT's postgame "Inside the NBA" coverage following Game Four of the Lakers-Suns Western Conference Finals (TNT).
NO PUNCHES PULLED: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir wrote SportsNet N.Y.'s Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez and Bob Ojeda, who were all members of the Mets' '86 World Series-winning team, are "providing daily, widely heard commentary on a club that is hardly as inspiring." Ojeda serves as a studio analyst on the net's postgame coverage, and the show's "burden is to be candid without turning off core viewers." The postgame shows are "maintaining about 40 percent of the game's audience, showing that Mets fans have an appetite for prolonged suffering." Ojeda: "What they want is honest answers from a guy who's played. They want someone to tell them what the players are doing wrong and what they're doing right" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/22).
OTL GOES SPANISH: CABLEFAX DAILY reports ESPN Deportes has announced plans for "ESPN-Investiga." The net said that the show is the "1st prime news-magazine sports program on Spanish-language TV dedicated to long-form investigative journalism" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 5/24).