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After seeing gains during the early rounds of the NBA Playoffs, all three NBA TV partners are now seeing declines for their respective postseason telecasts. ABC's ratings through nine telecasts are down 3% compared to '09, when the net had aired 10 playoff telecasts. ESPN's 2.8 U.S. rating is off 7% through 18 games, and its average of 4.4 million viewers is down 6% from last year's record-setting postseason numbers. Meanwhile, TNT's ratings for the NBA Playoffs are seeing a double-digit percentage drop through the same period as last year. Viewership for those games is also down 9%. However, NBA Playoff games accounted for cable TV's five most-viewed telecasts for the week ending May 23. TNT's coverage of the NBA Playoffs led the net to a No. 1 ranking among ad-supported cable nets last week in primetime delivery of viewers among adults 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54. The net's telecast of Game Three of the Lakers-Suns Western Conference Finals last Sunday also was the week's No. 1 broadcast in all demos on ad-supported cable. ESPN for the week also saw a 17.4% year-over-year gain in primetime viewership compared to the same period last year. Additionally, based on viewership, nine of the top 10 programs on cable during this year's playoffs were NBA games, and eight of the top 25 programs since the start of year have been NBA Playoff telecasts (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).NBA PLAYOFFS RATINGS, VIEWERSHIP THROUGH MAY 26NETGMSRATINGPREV.% +/-VIEWERS (000)PREV.% +/-GMS ('09)ABC93.43.5-2.9%5,2585,349-1.7%10ESPN182.83.0-6.7%4,4284,700-5.8%18TNT372.62.9-10.3%4,0604,478-9.3%41
SLIP SLIDING AWAY? In San Diego, Jay Posner writes ABC/ESPN execs "must be a whole lot more nervous about their dream Lakers-Celtics matchup" in the NBA Finals than they were "a few days ago." Posner: "And the NBA needs help -- ratings for the conference finals are down from last year" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/28).
IMS President & CEO Says Lifting Indy 500's
Local Blackout Seems Unlikely In Near Future
It is a "year of change at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but one tradition remains constant: The Indianapolis 500 is the only major one-day national sporting event in the country that isn't televised live in the local market," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. This year's tape-delayed local telecast of the race is scheduled to air on WRTV-ABC at 7:00pm ET Sunday, a "couple of hours after the checkered flag is expected to fall." IMS officials "have more than 250,000 tickets to sell every year" for the Indy 500, and IMS President & CEO Jeff Belskus said that "for that reason and others, lifting the local television blackout of the 500 seems unlikely 'in the foreseeable future.'" Belskus: "I see some scenarios where we could (lift it). Unfortunately, I don't like how most of them play out." IRL CEO Randy Bernard "doesn't think the 500 should trade that revenue for a few more TV viewers." Bernard: "We've done it this way for so long that I think a lot of people come to the race and go home to watch it. In the universe of 120 million (TV viewers), that's a pretty small segment. I don't think (adding them) will have any type of impact on the rating, maybe a tenth of a point." ESPN/ABC is in the middle of a four-year deal to broadcast the Indy 500, running through '12, and ESPN/ABC Sports Senior Dir of Communications George McNeilly said that blacking out the race is IMS officials' call. McNeilly: "It's part of our contractual agreement." Meanwhile, Cavin notes the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at IMS is "shown live locally," as IMS officials "have no authority to black out the 400 because the TV rights are controlled by NASCAR" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/28).
WHAT ABOUT DANICA? In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes driver Danica Patrick's career is "becoming more checkered than the finish flag," leaving ABC with a "bit of a dilemma Sunday with its telecast of the Indianapolis 500." Patrick "may be the biggest star on the Indy Racing League circuit," but she sits 16th in the season standings and qualified 23rd for Sunday's race. ESPN VP/Motorsports Rich Feinberg said, "We feel confident there is a large amount of our viewing audience that this may be the only IndyCar race they watch this year. We bring to the production a sense of explanation and broader-based storytelling." Feinberg added, "Our job is to balance that story with all the others but make sure we feed that curiosity factor in hope of building a larger fan base and bringing people to other IndyCar telecasts down the road" (Albany TIMES-UNION, 5/28). ESPN/ABC announcer Marty Reid, who will call Sunday's race, said of the impact of Patrick's "dabbling in NASCAR" on her popularity in the Izod IndyCar Series, "I would have thought that she's bringing attention back to IndyCar after being over there. Some stock car people I've talked to when I've covered the Nationwide Series are actually saying, 'I'm following IndyCar more because I want to see how she does so when she comes back again. ... I know more about her.' It's really an interesting dichotomy." Feinberg said that Patrick "will have the on-board, high-def camera in her ride, and she's done a 'lengthy sit-down' with" ABC's "GMA" co-host Robin Roberts "that will run during the prerace coverage" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/28).
SWEET SPOTS: The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) during ABC's telecast of the Indy 500 Sunday will break two 30-second ads featuring sequences of short phrases with facts about sugarcane ethanol delivered by drivers including Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ana Beatriz, Takuma Sato, Davey Hamilton and E.J. Viso (UNICA).
Astros Reportedly Are Close To
TV Rights Deal With Comcast
The Rockets and Astros "are again trying to put the screws" to FS Southwest with reports the teams are close to signing a TV rights deal with Comcast, according to Richard Justice of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The teams are in essence saying, “Look, we want more money. We want to reopen the deal. We're worth more than we're getting paid, and if you don't do it, we're going to start our own regional sports network.” Justice: “I mean, can you imagine what must be going through Drayton McLane's mind. This guy has done as bad a job as any owner in professional sports and he's now going back to his TV network, the network that does a great job, and saying, 'By the way, we want more money.'” McLane indicated that the Red Sox and Yankees are “rolling in money” with NESN and YES Network, respectively. But Justice said, “Guess what? The Red Sox and Yankees are great franchises and they're winning." He added, "I know that we're supposed to understand that increasing revenues is what Drayton McLane is about as an owner, but to go and ask for more money when you're surrounded by empty seats, when every night people are telling you 'You stink,' takes a lot of nerve" (CHRON.com, 5/27).
Van Gundy Lauded For Chemistry
With Partners Breen, Jackson
In Boston, Chad Finn writes ESPN/ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is "arguably the premier in-game NBA analyst, deftly mixing a basketball lifer's insight with a quick and quirky sense of humor." When a foul by Magic C Dwight Howard was "changed to a flagrant-1" during Monday's Eastern Conference Finals Game Four, Van Gundy "offered his own take on the league's ubiquitous slogan, muttering, 'The NBA ... where soft happens,' a pitch-perfect piece of snark that surely thrilled commissioner David Stern." Van Gundy said that he has been told by ESPN that he "needs to 'celebrate the game' more, which seems like a misguided notion given the appeal of his usual approach and his genuine chemistry with play-by-play man Mike Breen and fellow analyst Mark Jackson." Meanwhile, when asked about his "objectivity" given that his brother Stan Van Gundy coaches the Magic, Jeff "counters by admitting that while he always wants his brother to win, he doesn't believe that clouds his analysis." Van Gundy noted that he has received "considerably more negative feedback from Orlando fans than Celtics fans" during the conference finals (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/28).
CONFLICTING JOBS? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes Fox NFL reporter Jay Glazer is an MMA trainer for some players, an arrangement that is "unusual, at best, and raises questions about how he balances his competing interests." Glazer "reports on some of the same players and teams who pay him for his training expertise." Fox, "which is pleased with his reporting and trusts him to stay objective, asked him to develop and co-host a weekly series on FoxSports.com that features" MMAthletics, which Glazer runs with fighter Randy Couture. Fox Sports Media Group Vice Chair Ed Goren said that he was "not concerned about potential conflicts of interest arising from Glazer's overlapping careers." Goren: "Jay knows what his primary business is, and it's the business of journalism. If there's an issue, he's going to report it, whether it's about a friend or someone he doesn't know." Goren added that Glazer's MMA business is a "'part-time job' that does not impede his reporting" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/28).
FUTURE IN QUESTION: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes the "early odds" favor ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews, whose contract expires in July, "having a better future in the entertainment-reporting field" than at the net. Hoffarth: "In no time, she'll be going from Bristol, Conn., to tracking down Bristol Palin." N.Y. Daily News gossip columnist Joanna Molloy said Andrews "wants it both ways." Molloy: "She wants to be considered a journalist. She wants to be the observer, not the observed. But a journalist uncovers the facts, not her navel. Let's face it: Andrews is a sports sidelines reporter" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/28).
NOTES: ESPN announcer Ron Franklin "has signed a two-year deal" with the net that "includes a full round of football broadcasts and a slightly less extensive basketball schedule" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/28)....Sabres G Ryan Miller will serve as a guest analyst for NBC's broadcast of Saturday's Game One of the Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Final. NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick will join analysts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury for the remainder of the net's broadcasts of the series, beginning with Monday's Game Two (NBC).
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent telecasts on broadcast and cable TV. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).TELECASTDATENETTIMERAT.MLB: (regional)5/22Fox7:08-10:30pm2.7NHL Western Conference Finals:
Blackhawks-Sharks: Game Four5/23NBC3:00-6:00pm1.5PGA Tour: HP Byron Nelson Championship: Final Round5/23CBS3:00-6:05pm1.5NHL Eastern Conference Finals:
Flyers-Canadiens: Game Four5/22NBC3:00-6:00pm1.3UEFA Champions League Final:
Inter Milan-Bayern Munich5/22Fox2:46-4:38pm1.0
National Heads Up Poker Championship (taped)5/23NBC12:00-3:00pm0.9 PGA Tour: HP Byron Nelson Championship:
Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships (taped)5/22NBC1:30-3:00pm0.7 "ESPN Sports Saturday"5/22ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5TELECASTDATENETTIMERAT.VIEWERS (000)NBA Western Conference Finals:
Lakers-Suns: Game Three5/23TNT8:34-11:21pm5.08,460NBA Eastern Conference Finals:
Celtics-Magic: Game Two5/18ESPN8:29-11:39pm4.67,156
NBA Western Conference Finals:
Suns-Lakers: Game One5/17TNT9:00-11:40pm4.47,112
NBA Western Conference Finals:
Suns-Lakers: Game Two5/19TNT9:00-11:46pm4.47,004
NBA Eastern Conference Finals:
Magic-Celtics: Game Three5/22ESPN8:29-11:11pm3.76,023
NASCAR Sprint Cup: All-Star Race5/22Speed7:00-11:28pm2.33,802 MLB: Yankees-Mets5/23ESPN8:00-11:26pm2.13,171 NBA Draft Lottery5/18ESPN8:02-8:29pm2.03,089 NHL Western Conference Finals:
Blackhawks-Sharks: Game Three5/21VS8:00-11:15pm0.91,571
MLB: Red Sox-Yankees5/17ESPN7:00-11:00pm1.01,523
SLOWING DOWN: Speed averaged a 2.3 U.S. rating for last Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race, down from a 2.4 rating for last year's race. During the race from 7:00-11:28pm ET, Speed was the highest-rated cable net and highest among men 35-54 and 55+ . The net ranked second among men 18-34. Speed also averaged a 0.6 U.S. and 737,000 viewers for its coverage of last Sunday's NASCAR HOF Induction Ceremony from 1:00-4:07pm (THE DAILY).
INTER SANDMAN: Fox earned a 1.0 rating and 1.627 million viewers for last Saturday's Inter Milan-Bayern Munich UEFA Champions League final from 2:46-4:38pm ET. Last year, ESPN earned a 0.9 U.S. rating and 1.428 million viewers for the FC Barcelona-Manchester United final, which aired on a Wednesday afternoon from 2:30-5:00pm (THE DAILY).
GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted MASN Monday broadcast Nationals prospect P Stephen Strasburg's start with the Triple-A Int'l League Syracuse Chiefs, and the telecast peaked at a 0.9 local rating and more than 21,000 HHs in the DC market. That peak number is "considerably better" than the 0.66 rating MASN and MASN2 averaged for their Nationals telecasts last season (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/25).
Cardinals May Drop KSDK-NBC Next Season
And Move All Local Telecasts To FS Midwest
In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports the MLB Cardinals "might drop" KSDK-NBC entirely next season and move all local telecasts to FS Midwest. KSDK this season has just 19 games in the "final year of its four-year contract," while FS Midwest "has increased its schedule and now offers 130 games." Caesar notes it also is a possibility that KSDK "could have a shorter schedule next year, say 10 games, with the others" airing on FS Midwest. While 88% of the St. Louis market "wouldn't be affected" by the move, the ratings "show a greater disparity in viewership between cable and over-the-air broadcasts." KSDK ratings were 34% "better than FSM's games in the past decade" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/28).
FEELING GOOD: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he feels ESPN has been "doing a good job increasingly of covering us in ‘SportsCenter.’" Bettman: "People have been commenting to me, and it may be a function of how good the playoffs have been, that even though they don't have us, they feel compelled to cover us because the stories are that good and that important." He noted when ESPN had the TV rights to the league, "I always felt we should have gotten more coverage than we did." Bettman: "But I have no complaints with ESPN” ("Mike Francesa," WFAN-AM, 5/27).
SELECTION SHOW OVERKILL: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes NFL Network's coverage of Tuesday's vote on the host for Super Bowl XLVIII "made for so much silliness it all seemed like a spoof." The network's live, in-room coverage of the secret balloting "looked like the caucus to determine who selects the barbecue sauce for the Annual Rib Bash down at the Flintstone-Kramden Lodge" (N.Y. POST, 5/28). NFL Network's coverage of the vote earned 66,000 viewers, up 50% from the same period a week earlier (SI.com, 5/27).
GIVE THEM A CHOICE: TSN2 will air live national coverage of one NFL early-window game each Sunday throughout the regular season, beginning next season. TSN2's schedule of NFL games will complement CTV's package of NFL regular-season Sunday early-window games. CTV will customize its schedule depending on local markets, while TSN2 will broadcast a national game, giving viewers in most Canadian markets a choice between two different NFL games at 1:00pm ET (CTV).
LOCAL LOVE: In Ft. Lauderdale, Tom Jicha reported WSFL-CW "has landed the local TV rights to a couple of Dolphins prime-time games" this season -- the Oct. 4 Patriots-Dolphins "MNF" game and the Nov. 18 Bears-Dolphins "Thursday Night Football" game. Both games also will be on cable, but a Congressional stipulation mandates that "all games of the home team must be available on 'free' over-the-air TV." As a result, games "scheduled only for cable nationwide must be put up for bids among TV stations in the home market" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 5/27).