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NBC earned a 2.3 overnight Nielsen rating for its coverage yesterday of the Flyers' 8-4 win over the Penguins in Game Three of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff series. The game, which was played from 3:00-6:00pm ET, was the highest-rated of three games on NBC over the weekend. Red Wings-Predators Game Three earned a 1.5 rating from 12:00-3:00pm yesterday. Saturday's coverage of Capitals-Bruins Game Two also earned a 1.5 overnight despite the fact the game went into double OT. The ratings are up from the first weekend of the playoffs last year. A Capitals-Rangers game on Sunday afternoon earned a 1.3 rating, while a Coyotes-Red Wings game on Saturday drew a 1.1 rating (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes all NHL playoff games, "for the first time, are on national TV via NBC and its cable channels NBCSN and CNBC as well as the NHL Network." That means "total playoff viewing will likely increase, although individual game ratings might drop because audiences will be pulled in more directions." But "early box office looks good" (USA TODAY, 4/16).
COVERAGE PRAISED: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick notes MSG's Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti "presented an alert, balanced treatment of Saturday’s ugly hassle" during Game 2 of the Senators-Rangers series. Rosen and Micheletti quickly noted Senators D Matt Carkner's "seemingly unprovoked assault on [Rangers C] Brian Boyle was provoked," as Boyle had given Senators D Erik Karlsson a "couple of bullying shots to the head in Game 1." After the hassle, MSG then "alertly cut to Karlsson on the Ottawa bench, who appeared to be getting a wink and a nod from the backup goalie." MSG later "showed the tape of the Boyle-Karlsson Game 1 episode." Mushnick: "Good show and tell" (N.Y. POST, 4/16). In Tampa, Tom Jones notes NBC's Pierre McGuire "deserves major kudos for blaming the officials for a brawl that broke out with five minutes left" in Penguins-Flyers yesterday. McGuire "pointed out that officials should have kicked out Penguins star James Neal for a hit he made, which would have eliminated the spark that started a major wildfire." Jones: "I hate to say it, but NBC probably didn't mind all the fighting. People likely stuck around to watch the end of a game that had turned into a Flyers blowout" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/16).
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: In Ottawa, Mark Sutcliffe noted there is a chance neither the Canucks nor the Senators "could make it past the first round of the post-season," and CBC programming officials have "already begun to fear" that this could become only the second year since '74 that no Canadian team makes it past the first round. The Canucks are down 3-0 in their series against the Kings, while the Senators and Rangers have split the first two games. The last time no Canadian teams made the second round was '96. All of this "couldn’t happen at a worse time for the CBC, which is nearing the end of its contract with the NHL and facing a government wielding an axe." The CBC’s primetime schedule is "completely turned over to hockey for two months every year, a ratings and revenue gamble unlike any other in North American television." Without a Canadian team "for three rounds of spring hockey, television ratings will suffer, advertising revenues will decline, and the CBC will face even more budget pressure" than the 10% cut "imposed by the finance minister" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 4/15).
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Jones writes it is time for NBC "to make a decision about NHL studio analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury." They are "knowledgeable hockey guys, but aside from their work with NBC, they also serve as analysts for teams" -- Keith Jones for the Flyers and Milbury for the Bruins." NBC analyst Ed Olczyk also "does color on Blackhawks games." Jones writes it is "true that the Penguins were completely to blame for all the nastiness Sunday, but I find it hard to believe that Jones would be critical of the Flyers." If analysts "don't want to give up their jobs with their teams, then NBC should go out and find analysts who don’t have ties to any teams" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/16).
Showtime is "taking advantage of the recent controversy surrounding manager Ozzie Guillen by adding" a 30-minute preview episode of its upcoming series, "The Franchise: A Season With The Miami Marlins," according to Tom D'Angelo of the PALM BEACH POST. The preview episode will air Saturday at 9:00pm ET. The series is "still set to premier" with a one-hour episode July 11 at 10:00pm. Thirty-minute episodes "will follow each week" for seven weeks (PALM BEACH POST, 4/14). In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted with an "embarrassed and contrite Guillen in hot water, industry sources speculated MLB might pull the plug on the show, which is in its second season after featuring" the Giants last year. But even with Guillen "neck-deep in controversy, it’s full steam ahead." An MLB source said, "They’ve already got some good behind-the-scenes footage of the situation (Guillen reacting to the Castro controversy) and they expect that footage will make air." Raissman noted from an image standpoint, MLB "may be risking plenty by giving Showtime subscribers an all-access look at Guillen." Still, "that’s the essence of reality TV." Expectation of the "unexpected brings maximum eyeballs to these often bizarre shows." MLB/Showtime’s "initial move to cast Guillen and the Marlins was smart." Sticking with Guillen now, when he is "even more controversial, is as close to brilliant as it gets" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/15). MLB VP/Business PR Matt Bourne said yesterday that the league "never considered halting production on the show or switching teams" (USA TODAY, 4/16).
The Univ. of Southern California is the “second university to cut a national radio deal around its football program, as ESPN picked up the rights” to the school’s home football games, according to John Ourand in this week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that the multiyear deal is “worth mid-six figures total” and marks the “first time that ESPN has become a national radio partner for a college football team.” Notre Dame is the “only other school” with a national radio deal, with IMG College. ESPN execs “hinted that they will try to cut similar deals with individual schools and college conferences.” The net will “sell the games to local stations, giving first priority to ESPN affiliates.” If the affiliates “decide not to take it, they will try to sell it to non-ESPN radio stations in the market.” Per the deal, ESPN “will produce as many as three telecasts.” ESPN has “not decided” who will staff the national broadcasts, but Pete Arbogast and Paul McDonald “have done USC games locally in Los Angeles and are expected to stay.” Ourand notes as part of the deal, USC will “use some of the radio inventory in its corporate packages” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/16 issue).
ESPN.com's Page 2 is "closing its doors after nearly a dozen years of service" and the website will offer "new features in a new section" beginning today, according to Kevin Jackson of ESPN.com (4/13). DEADSPIN.com's Jack Dickey noted the new name of the section will be ESPN Playbook. In the pre-sports-blog era, Page 2 "was funny and fresh and cool and a welcome upgrade to the jokes the local sports columnist would run alongside his Sunday column." Then Bill Simmons "became bigger than Page 2, and ESPN.com grew still," with the addition of Rick Reilly and “an army of sportswriters to work independent of the broadcast presence." Dickey added, "The Page 2 conceit no longer made sense, not because its style was outdated but because so much of ESPN's internet presence had adopted its style." Dickey: "What is Grantland, really, but a resuscitation of Page 2 with one contributor, rather than several, as its star?" (DEADSPIN.com, 4/13).
In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote Dodgers announcer Vin Scully returned to the broadcast booth yesterday “after being out all week with a cold so severe he was told it was ‘one click from pneumonia.’” Scully had missed “five consecutive games.” He might have returned “earlier, but said with the cold weather doctors were concerned he could have a relapse, or in a weakened condition, pick up something else” (LATIMES.com, 4/15). In L.A., J.P. Hoornstra notes per “his pre-determined schedule, Scully will not accompany the team on its six-game road trip to Milwaukee and Houston this week” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/16).
ON HIS SOAP BOX: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy yesterday “went on another classic rant" during yesterday's Heat-Knicks game, ripping the league for "allowing players to flop to draw fouls.” Van Gundy: "It just ruins the game. I can’t believe with all the brilliance we have in the NBA office that we can't find a way to eliminate this part of the game. … I'm just sick of it, and I can't believe the NBA office isn't sick of it, too. They're obviously condoning it.'' ESPN’s Mike Breen “tried to stop Van Gundy, but the former coach plowed ahead and went on to rant for another two minutes.” Jones writes Van Gundy's best line was, "We're paying the commissioner like $25 million; he can come up with a solution" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/16).
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Carolyn Giardina reported the London Games’ Opening and Closing Ceremony as well as “portions of events including track and field, swimming and basketball will be captured in 8K resolution, which is 16 times that of HD.” Japan’s NHK has been “developing an Ultra-HDTV system called Super High Vision (SHV), and through a joint project between NHK, BBC, and Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS), this system will be tested” at the Olympics this summer (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/15).
PLAY BALL: AT&T U-Verse has signed a deal with Fox Sports Midwest to carry 18 MLB Cardinals games “that were initially slated to be blacked out,” including yesterday's game against the Cubs (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/16).