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NBC earned a 5.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the Bruins' 4-0 win over the Canucks in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final, which is tied with the Devils-Ducks '03 finale as the best Game Seven overnight ever. Bruins-Canucks is also behind only last year's Blackhawks-Flyers series-clinching Game Six (5.8 overnight) as the highest-rated Cup telecast in 37 years, dating back to Flyers-Bruins Game Six in '74 which earned a 7.6 overnight. The 5.7 overnight is up 14% from Penguins-Red Wings Game Seven in '09. Last night's game earned a 43.4 local rating in Boston, marking the best NHL overnight in the market on record, as well as the best overnight in Boston for any major sports championship since the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl XLII telecast in '08. The Boston market averaged a 28.1 local rating for the seven games across NBC and Versus, up 12% from a 25.0 rating in the market last year for the seven games of the Lakers-Celtics series on ABC (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Boston, Jessica Heslam notes WHDH-NBC has been "drawing an average of more than a million viewers" in the market for Bruins playoff games, and "throngs of listeners" have tuned into games on WBZ-FM. WHDH averaged "more than a million viewers" for Game One of Bruins-Canucks,"while Game 2 had nearly 890,000 and Game 5 fetched 1.1 million." WHDH averaged "nearly 1.4 million viewers" for Monday's Game Six, the most viewers before last night's game (BOSTON HERALD, 6/16).
WORTH THE INVESTMENT: Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts said the company is "delighted to have just extended for 10 years" its deal for the NHL. Roberts: "I think we have momentum with the league, with the sport, with the channel Versus -- there’s been some discussion on whether that will change the brand which we're really looking at -- and building upon our Olympics of last week renewal for a decade. We think we've got some compelling content as you pointed out that is ultimately what the consumer wants on whatever device and from whatever provider” ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 6/16).
DEVELOPING A ROOTING INTEREST: In N.Y., David Hinckley writes he was "delighted" by the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final, as both were "wins for the good guys." The Heat "came into the finals swaggering ... all but declaring they were the smartest, baddest kids on the block." So when the team "had already won the first game of this year's championship finals and was ahead up by 15 points toward the end of the second game," Heat F LeBron James and G Dwyane Wade "started trading signals that this check was written." That is a big part of the reason "so much of America smiled when Miami managed to blow that game and three of the next four." Meanwhile, Hinckley noted the Canucks won the first two games of the Cup Final over the Bruins and were "looking, honestly, like the better team." But then a "disposable, mediocre Vancouver player named Aaron Rome took a blindside cheap shot at Boston's best wing, Nathan Horton," in Game Three. Hinckley: "That one unnecessary hit turned the Canucks' image from young, likeable and talented into arrogant bully" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 6/16).
NBCUniversal has "entered into a venture with Guardian Media Entertainment, parent of the Guardian Project, a new franchise of superheroes created by Stan Lee and done in partnership" with the NHL, according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. As part of the agreement, NBCU "will promote the Guardian Project on its various media platforms." In return, the Comcast-owned entity is "getting an equity stake in Guardian Media Entertainment." Content that "could emerge from the venture include graphic novels, television series and movies." Flint noted the deal "deepens the relationship between NBCUniversal and the NHL," which recently extended their TV rights deal for the next 10 years (LATIMES.com, 6/15). DAILY VARIETY's Marc Graser notes "while the Guardians' wranglers are eyeing various spinoffs to appeal to different age groups, the NHL sees the comicbook characters as a way to reach out to younger audiences and turn them into new hockey fans." NHL Exec VP/Marketing Brian Jennings: "We're starting a conversation with the next generation of NHL fans and NBCUniversal's strength as a global media company, its commitment to hockey and its proven track record of leveraging sports and entertainment will elevate 'The Guardian Project' within the NHL fan base and beyond." AHL Connecticut Whale President & COO Howard Baldwin, a longtime film producer, "brokered the deal with NBCU" (DAILY VARIETY, 6/16).
KING OF THIS SATELLITE CASTLE: Universal Sports Network and DirecTV yesterday announced a multiyear distribution agreement, the first between the two companies. Universal Sports will launch on a free preview basis to all DirecTV customers in August, before moving to DirecTV's Sports Pack and other select packages on October 1 (THE DAILY). DirecTV also "acquires full digital rights to Universal Sports content, meaning DirecTV will be able to distribute the net's programming across all its Web and mobile services, including those still in development" (VARIETY.com, 6/15).
Fox Networks President of Affiliate Sales & Marketing Mike Hopkins yesterday at The Cable Show in Chicago said sports content is "a good place to be" because it "busts the DVR," according to CABLEFAX DAILY. Turner Network Sales COO Coleman Breland "lauded the genre's promotion of multi-screen engagement by viewers, with immediacy the catalyst." But Time Warner Cable Exec VP & Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer said sports "doesn't have an afterlife." That means "limited monetization windows." And with sports pricing on a "hefty upswing it could become tricky for programmers to juggle the genre with original [entertainment] content, which also attracts viewers but could cut into the dollars reaped by sports." Less than 32-33% of cable subs "watch sports," and Charter Senior VP/Programming Allan Singer "wonders how long it will take before industry economics demand a la carte sports offerings." Still, NBCU TV Networks Distribution President Bridget Baker predicts the "cost of good content will not go down." Meanwhile, ESPN VP/Strategic Business Planning & Development Bryan Burns said, "The percentage of screens that will be on the shelves that are going to be 3D is going to go up quickly, very dramatically over the next 6, 7, 8 months. ... 14 months ago there were 19 3D sets out there; in March '11 the number was 68." He added, "Nearly 40% of consumers say they are confused by 3D technology ... so all is not totally well. But that was true at this stage with HD" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 6/16).
FUTURE SHOCK: Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts today said The Cable Show in Chicago has given a “glimpse of the future" that appears to have a "lot of consistent themes." Viewers are going to have "a lot more choices," and it is "going to be more fun to make those choices." Roberts: "There are great navigational tools, which are some of things that we're unveiling today, and at the same time you're going to want it on every device that you have. So one subscription, hopefully, gets you lots and lots of content.” He noted one of the reasons Comcast is involved with NBC and Universal "is to have the position to both innovate and at the same time benefit from the changes that happen as new forms of distribution come along that can be sometimes complimentary and sometimes competitive." Roberts: "In this case right now, it appears to be a lot of complimentary additions. Not too many people have changed the way they’re getting their television but they are adding to it with all the new ways you can consume other devices and we want to be relevant in that space as well” (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 6/16).
ALL ALONG THE WATCH TOWER: ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer for the second straight day was promoting the "Watch ESPN" app at The Cable Show, and he said the network has a "great relationship with Apple for a variety of reasons, and (Apple Founder Steve Jobs) and his people are extremely supportive of what we’re doing.” Bloomberg TV's Jon Erlichman said this is “about getting those new products out to stay ahead of the competition.” Bodenheimer was asked if there is a point where users reach “app overload” with the amount of apps available. He replied, "I think you’ll see a bit of a shakeout there. I think you’ll see a little bit of a ‘less is more’ strategy going forward. You want to have the utmost in quality ... so we’re focused on quality and quantity” (“Inside Track,” Bloomberg TV, 6/16).
ESPN yesterday at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association Cable Show announced several daily and weekly shows slated for the forthcoming Longhorn Network, which now has an official launch date of Aug. 26. “Longhorn Extra,” a news and information show dedicated to Univ. of Texas athletics, will air every Monday through Friday night. In addition, Longhorn Network will feature two shows with UT football coach Mack Brown during the season, on Monday and Tuesday nights. A complete schedule of programs will be released later this summer (ESPN). In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch wrote viewers of the "Texas All Access" show should “expect a lot more internal editing of the final product than what goes into the presentation of HBO’s Hard Knocks when those camera crews visit NFL training camps.” Burch noted the rest of the shows detailed yesterday “sound like basic, must-have, highlight/feature fodder” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 6/15). In San Antonio, Mike Finger notes the Longhorn Network “does not have any official cable or satellite carriers yet.” UT AD DeLoss Dodds earlier this month said that those agreements “aren’t expected to be completed until August” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 6/16).
A GIANT AMONG MEN: SI.com’s Frank Deford wrote, "One name in sport still stands above the rest: ESPN.” The network "always bestrides the athletic world like a colossus, but in the astrology of sport, this June has even more so been under the sign of the behemoth.” Deford: “First, and most revealing, is what ESPN didn’t do. It didn’t buy the U.S. rights to the four Olympics beginning in 2014. … The fact that ESPN didn’t buy a ticket to ride the Olympics tells me the Olympics are now a silver medal in the United States.” In addition, the “monster new tell-all history of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales promptly hit No. 1” on the N.Y. Times bestseller list. June also saw the introduction of Grantland.com, the ESPN-owned website operated by Bill Simmons (SI.com, 6/15).
The U.S. Open is underway outside DC, and the tournament "will be a venture into the unknown" for NBC with Tiger Woods absent from the event for the first time since '94, according to Caulton Tudor of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. Raleigh's WNCN-NBC Station Manager Brad Moses "will watch the ratings results closely." He said, "I don't think anyone in the industry really knows what to expect, because Woods has been a big part of U.S. Opens for so long." Tudor wrote interest in the sport "will be as much of a talking point as the leaderboards" during the event due to Woods' absence. ESPN is televising the tournament today and tomorrow, and analyst Curtis Strange said that Woods "will not dominate the conversation once the tournament starts." However, NBC analyst Johnny Miller said that Woods' absence "will probably be a part of the dialogue" on his net, "although on-course developments should carry the on-air focus" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/14). Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Andy Vasquez writes the "most intriguing angle" during NBC's coverage of the event "will come from a camera suspended on a 300-yard-long wire above the pond between the 18th and 10th greens." The blimp "has been given clearance to fly in the restricted airspace above Congressional Country Club," but it "won't be allowed to venture closer to Washington's landmarks" (Bergen RECORD, 6/16).
ON COURSE FOR GREATNESS: GOLF WORLD's Jim Moriarty profiled NBC on-course reporter Roger Maltbie, and writes if he "isn't the only member of the NBC cast who can second-guess the unfettered Miller on air ... Maltbie was the first to have a passport to cross that particular border." Fellow on-course reporter Mark Rolfing said, "He's not afraid to say what he thinks to anybody." Moriarty noted Maltbie "has a couple of nicknames among his NBC co-workers," and "one is Captain Morale." NBC announcer Dan Hicks: "I've always called Rog the heart and soul of our broadcast team. We all have our roles. Johnny's the clear star of the show. It's my job to be the traffic cop, tell some stories and personalize players, but (Maltbie's) really the heartbeat of the team." Moriarty also wrote Maltbie is "underrated as an analyst." CBS on-course reporter Peter Kostis: "Roger has a great understanding of the game and a great understanding of a lot of the younger players" (GOLF WORLD, 6/13 issue).
SNEAK PREVIEW: PGATOUR.com's Helen Ross noted CBS on-course reporter and analyst David Feherty "debuted several elements of his new Golf Channel show" Tuesday at a DC theater. The show, entitled "Feherty," debuts Tuesday at 9:00pm ET, and Ross wrote, "Judging from Tuesday's performance, you can expect 'Feherty' to be, well, Feherty -- at times irreverent, strikingly funny and surprisingly touching" (PGATOUR.com, 6/15). GOLF.com's Alan Bastable noted golfers Fred Funk and Rickie Fowler were "special guests" for the Tuesday event, and they "looked like a couple of deer caught in the scope of one of Feherty's hunting rifles." They were "either stumped by his questions or fearful that their responses wouldn't be funny enough." Bastable wrote, "Which raises the question: As 'Feherty' finds its footing, can its producers land guests who are nimble and interesting and quick-witted enough to keep up with Feherty's manic style?" (GOLF.com, 6/15). But in Boston, Michael Whitmer writes, "If you enjoy listening to or reading David Feherty, you'll enjoy his new show on the Golf Channel. ... Funny, funny stuff" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/16).
Big Lead Sports has formed a partnership with the Football Writers Association of America and its exclusive marketing agency, Sports & Sponsorships Inc., that will make BLS the official digital home for the FWAA awards during the '11 college football season. As part of the partnership, BLS will market and promote the FWAA Players of the Week Awards, the FWAA All America Team and the Outland Trophy. The FWAA Player of the Week award will be announced exclusively on BigLeadSports.com, and the site will unveil the FWAA All America Team in December and feature a weekly Outland Trophy report (BLS).
SKY'S THE LIMIT: The event directors of the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp for the first time will select a top performer to serve as a studio analyst on Sky Sports in the U.K. during one regular-season Sunday. The camp, which runs from June 20-23 at the NFL Films HQs in Mt. Laurel, N.J., is directed by the NFL Player Engagement and NFL Broadcasting departments. Sky Sports is the primary NFL broadcaster in the U.K. (NFL).
NETTING AWARDS: ESPN has received four '11 National Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, including the first for a sports entry in the Investigative Reporting category. ESPN's other awards were for Audio Feature Reporting and Audio Sports Reporting in the Radio Network grouping, and for Writing in the Television Network grouping (ESPN).
SAYING GOODBYE: Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Ashley Fox has left the paper after 11 years, and wrote her last column on Tuesday. She will "become the NFL columnist for ESPN.com" next month (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/14).