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ABC Sees Double-Digit Ratings Gain For
Sunday's Celtics-Lakers Game Two
ABC earned a 9.2 final Nielsen rating and 15.718 million viewers for Sunday night's Celtics-Lakers Game Two of the NBA Finals from 8:04-11:04pm ET. Those figures are up 12.2% and 11.8%, respectively, from an 8.2 rating and 14.061 million viewers for last year's Lakers-Magic Game Two. Sunday's game marked the highest-rated and most-viewed program on all of TV for the week ending June 6. Outside of the home markets, Las Vegas topped all U.S. metered markets with a 14.7 local rating. ABC through two NBA Finals telecasts is averaging an 8.9 rating and 14.912 million viewers, marking the best two-game NBA Finals average since Pistons-Lakers in '04. ABC is also up 11.3% and 9.7%, respectively, from an 8.0 rating and 13.593 million viewers for the first two games of Lakers-Magic last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Boston's WCVB-ABC averaged 894,000 viewers for Game Two, peaking with 1.118 million viewers during the last 15 minutes of the game (BOSTON HERALD, 6/8).
COMPARE & CONTRAST: In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes both the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final, "because of the markets involved," are experiencing "some of their best ratings in years." But it is all "relative." The ratings for Celtics-Lakers when compared to NBC's coverage of the Blackhawks-Flyers series are "bordering on a 3-to-1 advantage." Smallwood: "For all of those complaints about NBA players being thugs and poor role models and about the quality of play in the NBA having drastically declined, sports fans in the United States, as a whole, still prefer the NBA over the NHL" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/8).
TIME FOR A FORMAT CHANGE? In Boston, Gary Washburn writes the NBA "seems married" to the 2-3-2 format for the NBA Finals, which is "annoying more than anything else." If the Celtics win two of three games in Boston this week, they "still will have to win at Los Angeles to win the series," while "all the Lakers have to do is steal one of the next three games, then they have the comfort of playing at home the final two games." It also is "unfair for both teams to have to play tonight when they finished Game 2 at nearly" 11:00pm ET Sunday. A former NBA player "questioned why the NBA doesn't push Game 3 to Wednesday, then play Game 4 Friday and Game 5 Sunday." Washburn writes, "A grand idea, except television wants to avoid Friday night because of ratings." NBA Commissioner David Stern is "listening to his masters and if ABC wants two weekday games and then a Sunday game for ratings, that's what Stern will do." However, adhering to television requests "as well as making for a fair series forces the league into some difficult decisions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/8).
GLOBAL CONSUMPTION: DAILY VARIETY's David Cohen noted the NBA's world TV market "comprises 215 countries and 41 languages," and NBA Entertainment Exec VP/Operations & Technology Steve Hellmuth said the league's broadband distribution globally is up "more than two times from last year." China is a "hotbed of NBA fandom -- so much so that the NBA is using technology not even ABC has to feed China's hoop cravings." China's CCTV roams the arena with a "LiveU" mobile unit, a "standard-def TV camera attached to a backpack that sends video via a cellular connection," which "gives them the freedom to shoot from pretty much anywhere there's a cell connection" (DAILY VARIETY, 6/7).
INTO THE WEB: NBA.com drew 2.1 million unique visitors Sunday for its coverage of Game Two, up 20% from last year's coverage of Lakers-Magic Game Two. The site also drew over 25.1 million page views and 4.7 million video streams, up 24% and 82%, respectively (Turner).
NBC earned a 3.3 final Nielsen rating and 5.848 million viewers for Sunday night's Flyers-Blackhawks NHL Stanley Cup Final Game Five from 8:00-11:00pm ET, which is up 37.5% and 31.5%, respectively, from a 2.4 rating and 4.446 million viewers for last year's Penguins-Red Wings Game Five, which aired on a Saturday night. NBC is now averaging a 3.0 rating and 5.390 million viewers, marking the best three-game Stanley Cup Final average on broadcast TV since Red Wings-Hurricanes on ABC in '02. Meanwhile, Versus averaged a 1.8 U.S. rating and 3.369 million viewers for its coverage of Games Three and Four, marking the most-viewed NHL Final on cable since ESPN aired Games One and Two in '02. Versus was flat in ratings from last year's two games, but saw a 4.9% increase in viewership from Games Three and Four of last year's Penguins-Red Wings matchup. Versus Friday night earned a 1.7 U.S. rating for Game Four from 8:00-11:07pm, which down 5.6% from Game Four last year on a Thursday night. Game Four also went up against ABC's coverage of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which earned a 2.6 rating (4.0 million viewers) from 8:00-9:34pm (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).STANLEY CUP FINALS RATINGS/VIEWERSHIP ON NBC/VERSUS:
'10 FLYERS/BLACKHAWKS VS. '09 PENGUINS/RED WINGSDATENETGAMERATING% +/-VIEWERS (000)% +/-5/29NBC12.30.0%4,4281.6%5/31NBC23.36.5%5,8929.4%6/2VS32.017.6%3,60021.8%6/4VS41.7-5.6%3,126-9.3%6/6NBC53.337.5%5,84831.5%FIVE-GAME AVERAGE2.58.7%4,5519.9%
CHI-TOWN FEVER: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare reports WMAQ-NBC averaged a series-high 26.0 local overnight rating in the market for Sunday's Game Five, besting a 25.1 rating for last Monday's Game Two. WLS-ABC averaged a 7.3 local rating in the market for Sunday's Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals Game Two, which aired at the same time as Game Five (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/8). Also in Chicago, Phil Rosenthal noted the 7.3 NBA Finals rating "surpassed what was the highest-rated Blackhawks game in recent memory until this postseason, a testimonial to the strength of that sport's fan base." Meanwhile, the 26.0 local NHL rating is an "indication of growing interest in the Blackhawks," who in the past were an "afterthought among most Chicagoans." But Rosenthal wrote there is "considerable room for growth still before they approach the TV popularity" of the Bears (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 6/7). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes NBC and Versus' ratings for the Stanley Cup Final "suggest the NHL might be heading for a breakthrough victory at the viewer ballot box -- or they could prove to be a one-year wonder propelled by big local ratings in Chicago and Philadelphia" (USA TODAY, 6/8).
Bettman Says Numbers Are Up Across All
Of NHL's Platforms During Stanley Cup Playoffs
HOCKEY DAY IN AMERICA: In L.A., Diane Pucin writes it has been an "upward trending of numbers for the NHL all through the playoffs, both on Versus and NBC," and it "seems hockey is having its day." More viewers "seem to be watching live sporting events," which also "means nearly everybody in Chicago and Philadelphia is watching hockey." Through the first four games of the Final, 51% of "potential viewers in Chicago and Philadelphia watched," and Nielsen VP/Sports Steve Master said the "markets involved really drive ratings." Master: "The fact that fans in Chicago and Philadelphia are so incredibly engaged really matters. Those are just huge numbers coming out of those two markets." Meanwhile, NHL COO John Collins said that the league "would have preferred not to have gone head-to-head" against Celtics-Lakers on Sunday. Collins: "We clearly lost some viewers in Boston, which has been a historically strong hockey market. But what is pleasing so far is that it seems like the casual fan who has tuned in has returned. They are seeing the quality of hockey at least as good as in that Olympic gold-medal game, if not better" (L.A. TIMES, 6/8). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were "tense, exciting, well played and unpredictable, and I think we're seeing terrific hockey" in the Final. Bettman noted ratings are "up across the board, all of our platforms, NHL.com, and licensed product sales are all extremely strong" (N.Y. POST, 6/8).
POISED TO CASH IN? BROADCASTING & CABLE's Jon Lafayette writes it "could be a very good time" for Bettman "to be negotiating a new round of TV rights agreements." SportsCorp President Marc Ganis: "Gary is in a much better position today than he was a year ago or even two years ago. As I say that, the NHL is not one of the great broadcasting properties available." Lafayette writes "even with its recent gains, the NHL is no NBA," though NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer said that the fact NBC is not paying a rights fee "shouldn't reflect on the NHL." Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson said that he "expects the league to stick with its current TV outlets, unless someone shows up with a big rights fee and a schedule similar to NBC's" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 6/7 issue). Meanwhile, FANHOUSE.com's A.J. Perez wrote one should count Maple Leafs Exec VP & GM Brian Burke "among a growing number of those in the NHL who are fine" with Versus. Burke: "ESPN dumped us. Everybody talks about getting back on ESPN, but I think Versus has been a great broadcast partner. I think their product is excellent and their distribution has increased." Perez noted Versus "has one season left on its contract with the NHL, which sunsets at the same time the NHL's broadcasting deal with NBC ends," and NBC's rights "could be in more doubt than a renewal with Versus." Versus President Jamie Davis said that he "expects to sit down with NHL officials following the conclusion" of the Final (FANHOUSE.com, 6/7).
SportsNet N.Y., the Mets' cable channel, is "in talks with local stations about providing sports reports for their newscasts," according to Michael Starr of the N.Y. POST. Sources indicated that SNY is talking with WPIX-CW and WNBC-TV "about eventually doing away with their own sportscasters and replacing them with SNY reporters." WPIX airs around 25 Mets games each season and "already has a substantial relationship with SNY." SNY President Steve Raab "declined to confirm which stations he'd been talking with," but he said, "We've had what I would consider fairly in-depth conversations with two stations, and both have different questions and would potentially go about using (SNY) in different ways." He said of SNY's role with the two networks, "We'd be creating their sports content. It's not really why we went into this business, but we've invested in an area where others are pulling back -- and we're focused on nothing but the sports news and information that New York sports fans are focused on." Raab added that he is "not sure how the SNY reports would be branded if used by local stations." Raab: "My response would be that we see the SNY brand as an attribute in the equation -- not a deterrent" (N.Y. POST, 6/8).
ESPN To Have About 300 People
In South Africa For FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup kicks off Friday morning, and ESPN will have roughly "300 people on the ground" to broadcast all 64 matches on its family of networks, according to Mike Reynolds of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. ESPN will air each game in HD, and its "broadband, mobile, online and Spanish-language outlets and other vehicles will also be similarly engaged with the monthlong tournament." In addition, Friday's Mexico-South Africa opener will launch ESPN 3D, "which will feature 25 matches in the format" throughout the Cup. ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Scott Guglielmino said the expansive effort surrounding the tournament stems from ESPN being "bullish on the sport." Reynolds notes the commitment "also is reflective of the lead role it took to gain the rights for FIFA events" from '07-14 for about $100M. Previously, ESPN's bids "came in conjunction with broadcast sibling ABC, while it secured the rights" to the '06 World Cup through SUM. Guglielmino said that the network is "not only looking at ratings, but the tournament's cumulative reach: ESPN will gauge multiplatform usage and advertiser activity through the launch of research initiative, ESPN XP." He said, "Our attention is not just centered on TV. ... There also are so many more matches and other content available on ESPN3.com and on mobile devices than there were from the 2006 World Cup" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 6/7 issue). In L.A., Dawn Chmielewski noted ESPN "has been tinkering" with the 3D technology "for more than two years before deciding it was ready." ESPN Senior VP/Technology Kevin Stolworthy said that the net is "still learning how best to take advantage of 3-D in a way that enhances the experience -- and avoids projectiles-into-the-eyes gimmickry." Stolworthy: "The goal will be to immerse you in the sport, to give you a seat at the stadium. We're not going to do as much reaching out of the screen to you." He added, "You're going to see more changes as we evolve over the year" (L.A. TIMES, 6/6).
CATALYST FOR UNIVISION TO EXPAND HD: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Reynolds notes with Spanish-language rights in the U.S. to the World Cup, Univision has "significantly built up its base of high-definition carriage and is adding video-on-demand and interactive applications with cable, satellite and telco affiliates." Univision Exec VP/Distribution Sales & Marketing Tonia O'Connor said that "all of Univision's owned-and-operated stations and 90% of TeleFutura's will now be carried" in HD by Friday, and both networks will "present all 64 matches in the enhanced format." DirecTV and Cablevision are "among the carriers that have added the HD versions of Univision and TeleFutura to their lineups." In addition, Univision On Demand during the tournament will "feature hundreds of hours of World Cup content -- on top of its normal 50-hour offering -- that distributors can customize" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 6/7 issue).
ROGERS THAT: Rogers Communications Television Services VP & GM David Purdy said that the CBC has inked a deal with Rogers to "stream the mobile version" of its World Cup coverage to iPhones, BlackBerries and Android-based phones. Purdy: "For a special one-time charge for this event of $10 plus a $5 Video on Demand registration, Rogers customers can stream live games to their mobile phones for the duration of the competition." The GLOBE & MAIL's Ian Harvey notes it is a "massive coup for Rogers since it all but blocks customers of Bell, Telus and other carriers from accessing the games" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/8).
NOW READ THIS: ESPN The Magazine's World Cup Preview issue, which is currently on newsstands, is the magazine's largest issue in three years. The issue is also 110% larger than the comparable June 15 issue last year due to an increase of 42 ad pages. The World Cup Preview issue is ESPN The Magazine's 15th-highest revenue-generating issue in the magazine's 12-year history (ESPN).