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ABC saw gains in overnight ratings for both of its NBA Playoff telecasts this weekend. The net earned a 6.5 overnight Nielsen rating for the Mavericks' 122-86 win over the Lakers yesterday that sent the Mavs into the Western Conference Finals. That is up 28% from the comparable Celtics-Cavaliers Game Four Eastern Conference Semifinal last year. Lakers-Mavericks also earned a 16.9 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth, marking the ABC's best non-NBA Finals telecast ever in the market. Meanwhile, ABC also saw gains for Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Semifinal Game Three in primetime on Saturday. The game earned a 5.7 overnight rating, up 29.5% from a 4.4 overnight for the comparable Lakers-Jazz Western Conference Semifinal Game Three last year. ESPN also saw gains for its Friday night doubleheader. Bulls-Hawks Game Three in the early window was flat at a 2.9 overnight compared to Celtics-Cavaliers Game Three last year. In the late window, Mavericks-Lakers Game Three earned a 5.5 overnight, up 67% from Spurs-Suns Game Three last year. ESPN also earned a 2.9 overnight for Thunder-Grizzlies Game Three on Saturday afternoon, up 71% from a 1.7 overnight for the comparable Magic-Hawks Game Three last year. TNT earned a 4.6 overnight for Bulls-Hawks Game Four last night from 8:08-10:51pm, up 31.4% from a 3.5 overnight for Spurs-Suns last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). ADWEEK.com’s Marc Berman writes of Heat-Celtics, “For a Saturday consider this a ‘winning’ performance” (ADWEEK.com, 5/9).
WILL RATINGS SPUTTER WITHOUT LAKERS? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes with the Lakers' loss, NBA ratings, "on a roll all season, might have just hit a big speed bump" during the playoffs (USA TODAY, 5/9). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds wrote the Lakers' early exit "didn't do David Stern, the NBA and broadcast partners ABC, ESPN ... and TNT ... any favors with the Nielsens for the balance of the playoffs." Reynolds: "If the league's ratings can absorb this early loss of the Lakers, then the NBA is truly fantastic" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/8). In Ohio, B.J. Bethel writes a Lakers-Heat Finals "would have been epic television, but in the long run, it's much better for the NBA that Dallas, a resident fly-over franchise, found its way into the conference finals." Bethel: "The NBA has to regrow its country roots. A run by Dallas to the title could help that" (DAYTON DAILY NEWS, 5/9).
NBC earned a 9.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the race segment of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday from 6:00-6:45pm ET, which saw Animal Kingdom win in his first race on a dirt surface. The 9.7 overnight is down 5.8% from a 10.3 overnight last year for Super Saver's victory, which was the best Derby overnight rating since '92. NBC's complete coverage of the Derby from 5:00-6:45pm earned a 7.4 overnight, down from an 8.0 rating last year. The net also lacked an NHL Stanley Cup Playoff game lead-in this year, with last year's race benefitting from Game One of the Flyers-Bruins Eastern Conference Semifinal (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In St. Petersburg, Rodney Page writes coverage of the Kentucky Derby "seems to follow the same formula every year," and this year's broadcast "was good, but not great." Larry Collmus replaced Tom Durkin as the race's announcer this year, and it "was a little hard to hear his call." Jones: "Maybe it was just my TV, but Collmus seemed drowned out by the in-house track announcer." Still, NBC's Donna Brothers "has to be the best horse-riding interviewer on TV," and Gary Stevens "was the most credible of the analysts" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/9). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes NBC's "lavish Kentucky Derby coverage Saturday pretty much tested the outer limits of trying to attract viewers who wouldn't otherwise watch racing -- especially in showing the Village People sing their pick" to win the race, Mucho Macho Man (USA TODAY, 5/9).
HONEST APPROACH: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "No post-game, post-match, post-race interview produced what NBC presented when Bob Neumeier tracked down 68-year-old winning owner Barry Irwin, who was en route to the winner's stage." Neumeier asked why Irwin "had only recently brought in Graham Motion to train Animal Kingdom," and Irwin said, "I was just tired of the other trainers lying to me. I wanted a guy who'd tell me the truth." Neumeier, "with a fabulous, satanic smile," then asked, "How many trainers have lied to you?" Irwin responded, "Plenty. Gotta go." Mushnick: "If the Kentucky Derby's the greatest two minutes in sports, this was the wildest short-form, post-race -- or anything else -- interview" (N.Y. POST, 5/9).
ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO: N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said of the Triple Crown, "Now the only thing that matters is if Animal Kingdom wins The Preakness. The only reason to continue to watch this or care about it will be at Baltimore. ... The only thing that carries these five weeks ... is the chance at a Triple Crown horse" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/8). Churchill Downs Inc. President & CEO Robert Evans said of a possible Triple Crown winner, "When you get to the Belmont Stakes, that third race, the entire country pays attention, so I think it can help in a general sense. Clearly it will help drive up greater interest in the Triple Crown" ("Street Signs," CNBC, 5/6).
Broadcaster Gus Johnson said reports of his departure from CBS after 16 years are "premature," according to Bob Raissman of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Johnson has an opportunity to join Fox to "work college and pro football." CBS officials, however, "can rise, and make a counter offer, or fire and say adios to Johnson." If Johnson does leave CBS, he would be "without a vehicle, March Madness, that turned him into one of the most recognizable voices in television sports." He said, "It's not just basketball, it's the NCAA Tournament. It's something I have to weigh. It's something that's on my mind. Basketball is my thing. If this does happen, and I do leave CBS, within a span of one year I would have left two places that have provided me the greatest opportunity, the greatest platform for basketball -- the Knicks and CBS. But to borrow an old Latrell Sprewell line, 'I've got to feed my family.'" But Raissman noted that "doesn't mean there won't be sadness if he winds up leaving CBS." Johnson said, "If there's change I'll have to accept that change." He suggested that this "might be the right time in his life to just work football." Johnson: "It seems I've been on the road every weekend for the last 20 years. Yes, maybe there is the potential for a new beginning" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/8). In Illinois, Jim Benson wrote under the header, "Johnson's Enthusiasm Would Be Missed At NCAA Tourney." Benson: "Some of the madness will go away from March without Johnson. CBS should make sure it doesn’t" (BLOOMINGTON PANTAGRAPH, 5/7).
Saturday's Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight on Showtime PPV was considered by some to be a "transformative event, perhaps boxing’s first step back toward terrestrial television," and the "most immediate gauge will be the buy rate," according to Greg Bishop of the N.Y. TIMES. Such impact from Pacquiao's victory, airing on Showtime after heavy network TV promotion on CBS, "remains possible, but unlikely," and will take "weeks, even months, to sort through.” Whether promotion on CBS, including the "Fight Camp 360" series, "will attract more casual viewers, at $54.99 a pop, will be examined closely.” Promoters and networks execs said that the “magic number” is “roughly one million buys.” The consensus is that “slightly above one million would leave room for interpretation; below that would be considered failure; at 1.4 or 1.5 million, boxing’s landscape, the way major fights are promoted and distributed, could change for good.” But Bishop wrote boxing is “unlikely to return to terrestrial television any time soon” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted some believe that Saturday's fight was to be a "transformative mechanism to return boxing to the networks,” and although broadcast exposure “would certainly help the sweet science, the move seems unlikely.” What is “important in the short-term is to assess whether all of the marketing muscle, the digital simulcasts and the expanded VOD offerings contributed to an increase” in the fight’s buy rates and revenues (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/8).
DOING SOME HEAVY LIFTING: On Long Island, Greg Logan noted HBO has “gotten back in the heavyweight business with the Klitschko brothers.” HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg “recently denied any direct linkage" between Pacquiao electing to partner with Showtime for Saturday's bout and HBO's "decision to televise Wladimir Klitschko’s heavyweight unification match with WBA champion David Haye on July 2, but the timing is impossible to ignore.” Pacquiao’s move to Showtime “is a one-fight deal, and HBO continues to do business with other” Top Rank fighters. Top Rank Chair Bob Arum said that the “opportunity to partner with CBS in the Showtime deal and receive pre-fight exposure on regular broadcast TV was something he couldn’t pass up.” Logan noted it has been “three years since Wladimir Klitschko appeared on HBO and slightly less than two years since Vitali Klitschko pounded American Chris Arreola on HBO in a sad exhibition” (NEWSDAY, 5/8).
GREENBURG STAYING PUT: HBO Sports Friday afternoon denied a report that it has hired Yahoo Exec VP/Americas Ross Levinsohn as its next President, replacing Greenburg. HBO Sports VP/Sports Publicity & Media Relations Ray Stallone called the BoxingScene.com report "totally untrue" (THE DAILY). The report was updated earlier Friday to include a comment from Yahoo VP/Corporate Communications May Petry, who said, "Ross Levinsohn is not leaving Yahoo! to join HBO Sports and is very happy at the company" (BOXINGSCENE.com, 5/6).
In St. Petersburg, Rodney Page notes CBS did not conduct a post-round interview with Rory Sabbatini yesterday because the golfer wanted to "dictate the questions." Sabbatini, who finished third in the PGA Tour Wells Fargo Championship, "faces a suspension after getting into a shouting match with playing partner Sean O'Hair a few weeks ago." CBS' Peter Kostis "wanted to interview Sabbatini, but he would only do it if they didn't talk about the suspension." Page: "Good for CBS for not airing a watered-down interview" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/9).
STORM FRONT: In Seattle, Jayda Evans reported the WNBA Storm will have all 34 regular-season games air on KPTK-AM after the radio station and team "signed a multiyear deal." The Storm's games previously aired on KKNW-AM. Announcers Dick Fain and Adia Barnes "will remain." Meanwhile, KONG-Ind. is returning as the team's TV partner, and the Storm announced "five broadcast dates, with more being negotiated" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/7).
PAPA DON'T PREACH: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote former NFL Network game announcer Bob Papa, a "steady and highly credible pro, was rewarded with a kick to the groin" this offseason when he was "told he had to re-audition for his job" after three seasons. NFL Network last week announced Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock will call the net's Thursday night game package this year, and Papa "should have known" when he had to audition for his job that it "was mere prelude to a shove, that NFLN needed some prefabricated excuse to dump him and 'not working well with Mayock,' if needed, would make a handy one" (N.Y. POST, 5/8).