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Game Two of the Heat-Thunder NBA Finals Thursday night posted an 11.8 overnight Nielsen rating on ABC Thursday, up 12% from last year's Game Two overnight for the Mavericks-Heat series (10.5). Thursday night's rating were the second-highest Game Two overnight since ABC started televising the Finals in '03. Only the '04 Pistons-Lakers series had a higher Game Two overnight (12.3). The two-game Heat-Thunder overnight average of 11.8 marks an 11% increase from last year. Last night's game peaked with a 15.1 rating in the last quarter-hour (11:30-11:45), when the Thunder tried to complete another come-from-behind win. Ratings were highest in Oklahoma City (44.4 rating) and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (30.3). ABC's "Kia NBA Countdown" pregame show posted a 3.8 overnight rating, up 9% from last year (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
HAVING A BALL: DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell reported the NBA Playoffs "dominated the primetime ratings race last week, with ESPN emerging as television's top-rated network among young adults for a second-straight week." ESPN's coverage of Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals Game Seven on June 9 "was easily the week's top-rated program in both adults 18-49 (5.6/20) and total viewers (13.35 million)." TNT's coverage of Thunder-Spurs Western Conference Finals Game Six on June 6 "ranked fourth for the week in the demo" with a 4.1 rating and 9.5 million viewers (VARIETY.com, 6/13). SI.com's Ian Thomsen noted ratings of Heat games following the acquisition of LeBron James in '10 "went up last year, and they kept rising this year." Ratings for the '07 Spurs-Cavaliers NBA Finals "were far lower than they are five years later," now that James is "universally vilified as the opponent to the beloved Kevin Durant" (SI.com, 6/14).
SHOW BUSINESS: In Boston, Chad Finn writes the NBA Finals pre- and postgame shows "belong to ESPN's chemistry-challenged and host-free crew" of Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Jon Barry and Chris Broussard. The "fundamental issues begin with Johnson's inability to articulate anything of much substance, and Wilbon's deference to him only exacerbates the problem." Johnson's "extraordinary charisma just does not translate to this format, and it never has." However, it "doesn't sound as though ESPN is planning changes to the format after this year." ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Mark Gross said, "We're really pleased with how it went all season, steamrolling into the Finals. So I think it's just basically exceeded our expectations." Finn writes it "makes one wonder where exactly the bar was set on those expectations, and whether his actions support his words once the season is over" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/15). Meanwhile, in California, Jim Carlisle writes ABC/ESPN's "NBA Countdown" show "actually worked better than I thought it would; it certainly seemed to have the recipe for a disastrous, cacophonous free-for-all." Carlisle: "That often seems to be what TNT offers, even with a host" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 6/15).
FS San Diego has launched a marketing campaign aimed at Time Warner Cable, one of the area's biggest cable operators. TWC has not yet reached an agreement with Fox to carry the channel, which carries Padres games and launched at the beginning of the MLB season. Using the campaign theme of "Our Home. Our City.," Fox Sports bought ad time in print (the San Diego Union-Tribune and the North County Times), radio and mobile digital billboards. Fox also is employing street teams and staging public events. "We want to remind Padres fans that they have choices if they are being blacked out and can't see the games," said FS San Diego Senior VP & GM Henry Ford. "At the end of the day, we're hoping Time Warner Cable values San Diego sports as they clearly seem to value sports in other markets, including Los Angeles" (John Ourand, THE DAILY). In California, John Maffei notes the "sticking point from Day 1 has been cost." Sources said that TWC "got the Padres on the cheap last season from Cox Communications -- about $1.50 a customer." They added that Fox is "asking about $5.50 a customer for its network" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 6/15). Fox is refuting the amount it is asking per customer, saying in a statement, "The $5.50 sub fee is definitely not accurate and wildly inflated" (THE DAILY).
Syndicated radio host Jim Rome said he “really was stunned” by NBA Commissioner David Stern’s comments in a recent interview because he and Stern “have a long history,” according to Pete Dougherty of the Albany TIMES UNION. Rome said, “I've interviewed him dozens of times probably, on radio and TV over the years. Sometimes the interviews are a little more contentious than others, depending on the line of questioning and what mood he's in.” Rome said of asking Stern if the NBA Draft Lottery was fixed, “When I asked that question, I did not in any way expect that response. To be honest, I thought it was a softball question.” Rome said of Stern's response, “A lot of people don't know that phrase, so they thought it was extremely out of line. I understood it, I knew where he was going with it. I thought it was inappropriate because, what it is, it's a rhetorical device to insinuate that I asked him a loaded question. I don't think my question to him was loaded. I thought it was a very simple and very direct question” (Albany TIMES UNION, 6/15).
WAR OF WORDS: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes, "If you think media interviewing is a blood sport, then Rome definitely was gored in the exchange with Stern.” Making Rome a “sympathetic figure takes some doing.” If Rome “wanted to (respectfully) ask the question, he could have asked Stern about the optics of the Hornets being owned by the league with all that implies in the wake” of the NBA's gambling scandal involving former referee Tim Donaghy. But a “careless question drew a careless answer from a man who probably feels he’s above suffering fools at this stage in his career.” Dowbiggin: “Which doesn’t forgive Stern. Were he not a legend in the business, he might have committed a fireable offence." While Rome’s “act was par for the course, Stern did himself and his league no favours with his uncharacteristic sulk” (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/15).
CLASS DISMISSED? FORBES.com’s Patrick Rishe wrote Stern’s response “showed an air of classlessness and hypocrisy that is not befitting a man who has largely been a respected sports executive and administrator for years.” Rishe: “Classless in that he chose a much more aggressive tact than was necessary under the circumstances in my judgment. Hypocritical because the league’s office is quick to penalize its players and coaches who choose similarly aggressive tactics when talking about matters such as NBA officiating, or who have made comments or gestures that reflect violence” (FORBES.com, 6/14).
STERN WARNING: YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote under the header, “David Stern’s Tantrum To Jim Rome Another Reason Why It’s Getting Time For Him To Leave.” Wojnarowski: "For all the young diva stars in the sport, no one has an entourage of yes men as deep as the NBA's commissioner. ... No one dares tell Stern the ultimate truth that his ego, his vindictiveness, is an embarrassment to the league." The controversial response "wasn’t about Stern’s honor, his reputation or defending his good name on Rome’s radio show." If Stern "can’t handle a line of questioning on the draft lottery without resorting to personal insults, he shouldn’t sit for the interviews.” For the “good of the legacy that Stern so cherishes and, more importantly, for the good of the NBA, there needs to be a succession of power soon.” Wojnarowski: "The longer Stern stays, the worse for his legacy. It’s sad to watch, and his accomplishments do deserve a graceful ending" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/14).
ESPN's Sean McDonough has been "diagnosed with superior canal dehiscence syndrome and will have surgery Aug. 7 to fix a small hole in the bone separating his left inner ear from his brain," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. McDonough decided to wait until then for the surgery "so he could work" this week's U.S. Open and next month's British Open and U.S. Senior Open. The discovery of his condition all began after "accidentally bonking himself on the head with a putter while playing golf in Arizona in February." McDonough said, "I immediately heard loud squealing in my ears. My own footsteps sounded so loud -- like bang, bang, bang -- and my voice sounded louder in my head." Hiestand notes SCDS is caused when a "hole is created in the bone separating the inner ear from the brain." For McDonough, symptoms "include decreased hearing, especially in his left ear -- he now has increased volume for that ear in his TV headset -- and wildly increased hearing at other times." He said that he "has been told he could skip surgery, but that might lead to his symptoms getting worse and even vertigo, loss of balance and increased dizziness." McDonough: "I want surgery because this is impacting how I feel on-air. I love what I do, I'm blessed to be able to do it and want to do it the right way." McDonough hopes to "return on-air early in the college football season," and also "hopes to raise public awareness" about the condition (USA TODAY, 6/15).
NHL Kings G Jonathan Quick dropped two expletives during FS West's live coverage of the team's Stanley Cup victory rally at Staples Center Thursday, the second time in four days he had cursed on live television, according to Erik Pedersen of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Near the conclusion of the celebration, Quick "riled up the room when he fairly sauntered to the mic" and said, "How 'bout this f---in' team right here?" After a brief pause, he added, "Look at these f---in' guys." A voice then broke into FS West's coverage, saying, "Yeah, hey, this is, uh, Patrick O'Neal out here on our set. To our entire audience, I just want to apologize for the foul language" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 6/14). Quick during an on-ice interview with NBC's Pierre McGuire after winning the Stanley Cup Monday night said the same word, prompting an apology from NBC's Mike Emrick. A similar apology was issued Monday when Kings RW Dustin Brown also said the "f-word" during an interview with McGuire (THE DAILY). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits noted the day "had some great moments," including Kings TV analyst Jim Fox, who played with the team for nine years, "nearly breaking down on the TV set, overcome with emotion" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/14).
IT'S MILLER TIME: Brown during Thursday's celebration referenced Kings TV play-by-play announcer Bob Miller and said, "The only bad thing about (winning the Cup) was not having this guy calling the games" (FS West, 6/14). Miller in a special to the L.A. TIMES wrote, "It was frustrating that Jim Fox and I couldn't call the games in the Final, but I knew that would happen because NBC had the rights and that's what happens not only in hockey but also the NBA and the NFL and the World Series." Miller: "My greatest fear was always that I would retire and the Kings would win the Stanley Cup the next year. Now I don't have to worry about that. But I'm not going to retire next year. I want to go around the league as Stanley Cup champions at least one time" (LATIMES.com, 6/13).
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RATING French Open: Men's Semifinal6/8NBC11:00am-2:00pm0.8 "ESPN Sports Saturday"6/9ABC4:00-6:00pm0.4 High School Slam Dunk, 3-Point Championship (taped)6/9CBS1:30-3:00pm0.4 PGA Tour: FedEx St. Jude Classic: Third Round6/9CBS3:00-6:00pm1.2 MLB: (regional)6/9Fox7:15-10:30pm2.0 French Open: Women's Final:Maria Sharapova-Sara Errani6/9NBC9:00am-12:00pm1.4 Gymnastics: Visa Championships6/9NBC1:00-3:00pm0.9 Track & Field: adidas Grand Prix6/9NBC3:00-4:30pm1.3 Belmont Stakes Special (pre-race)6/9NBC4:30-5:00pm1.8 Belmont Stakes (pre-race)6/9NBC5:00-6:15pm2.9 Belmont Stakes (race segment)6/9NBC6:15-7:00pm4.8 Belmont Stakes (total telecast)6/9NBC5:00-7:00pm3.6 NHL Stanley Cup Final: Kings-Devils: Game Five6/9NBC8:00-11:00pm2.0 "Kings of the Court" (taped)6/10CBS1:00-2:00pm0.4 Lucas Oil Off Road Pro 2 (taped)6/10CBS2:00-3:00pm0.5 PGA Tour: FedEx St. Jude Classic: Final Round6/10CBS3:00-6:00pm1.7 F1: Grand Prix of Canada6/10Fox2:00-4:00pm0.7 French Open: Men's Final: Nadal-Djokovic*6/10NBC9:00am-2:15pm1.7 Gymnastics: Visa Championships : Ladies' Final6/10NBC4:00-6:00pm1.5
NBC pulled a 2.1 overnight Nielsen rating for its two-hour coverage of the US Open's first round on Thursday from 3:00-5:00pm ET. The rating is up 50% from last year's mark of 1.4 and represents the best overnight since '06, which also pulled a 2.1. US Open coverage peaked at a 2.4 between 4:30-5:00pm. ESPN posted a 1.5 overnight rating for its U.S. Open coverage from 12:00-3:00pm Thursday. The mark is up from last year's first-round coverage (0.8 rating), which was on the East Coast from 10am-3pm. The mark is also up from a 1.2 for the first-round overnight for the '10 event, which was held in a West Coast venue. ESPN's coverage from 5-10pm yesterday drew a 1.5 overnight rating. That mark is up from last year (5-7pm), which posted a 1.1, but down from two years ago (2.0) (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
TRADING PLACES: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports Fox Sports Midwest over the next week "plans to swap" MLB Cardinals analysts "with those from the opposing team's telecast for several innings once per series." Cardinals analyst Al Hrabosky "is to go to the Royals' TV booth" Friday to "work alongside Ryan Lefebvre for innings 3-6, with Rex Hudler coming from the Fox Sports Kansas City side to join" Cardinals play-by-play man Rick Horton on FSM. Hudler "was a fan favorite when he was a Cardinal in the early '90s." Hrabosky on Wednesday "will trade places with" Fox Sports Detroit's Rod Allen (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 6/15).
GETTING THEIR KICKS: ESPN reported that the number of viewers for UEFA Euro 2012 "has tripled compared to the same tournament four years ago." ESPN analyst and former U.S. soccer player Alexi Lalas said, "The attention that is paid to it has grown exponentially. The soccer folks are going to watch it regardless, but the interest has grown because of the drama, the theatre, the stars. Americans like spectacles. We love shows and that's what these tournaments are about, and that's why we produce it that way for television" (N.Y. POST, 6/15).
SWEET SUMMERTIME: In Albany, Dennis Yusko reports the NYRA and NBC on Thursday “agreed on the network's '12 ‘Summer at Saratoga’ broadcast schedule.” The roster includes “five telecasts and six total hours of racing coverage from Saratoga Race Course compared to the eight hours it dedicated last year.” NBC Sports will televise Travers Stakes on Aug. 25 (Albany TIMES UNION, 6/15).
FINE TUNING: In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis reports former KHTK-AM radio personality Dave Weiglein "will launch an Internet radio station" Monday and co-host two weekday shows. Weiglein said that he "will host a 10 a.m. show with" former NFLer and ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury. He will then "have a show at 7 p.m. with" his former co-host Sean Thomas. The shows, which Weiglein said would be "unfiltered and uncensored," will stream on www.thecdnetworks.com (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/15).