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The Spurs’ 91-79 defeat of the Lakers yesterday in the opening game of their first-round NBA Playoff series earned ABC a 4.6 overnight Nielsen rating, the largest mark for an opening weekend playoff game on the net in 10 years. The game was up 18% from the comparable Lakers-Nuggets game last year. The only opening weekend game to rate higher in network history was an ’03 Lakers-T’Wolves matchup, which drew a 5.1 overnight. ABC’s lone game on Saturday, the Knicks’ seven-point win over the Celtics, earned a 3.7 overnight. That is down 3% from a Heat-Knicks matchup last year, but up 3% from Heat-76ers in ’11. On ESPN, both the Bulls-Nets and Grizzlies-Clippers games Saturday night earned a 2.6 overnight. Bulls-Nets is up 24% from the comparable Pacers-Magic game in ’12, though Grizzlies-Clippers is down 16% from Thunder-Mavericks last year. The Warriors-Nuggets game earned a 2.4 overnight Saturday afternoon; there is no comparable game from last season (THE DAILY).
BROADCAST REVIEWS: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes the "best thing" about ESPN's Mike Breen calling a game on ABC/ESPN is that fans "don't feel as if you're listening to or watching ESPN." Breen, who called both Celtics-Knicks and Lakers-Spurs, "works shtick-less, with no self-promotional 'signature' gimmickry, and manages to avoid the transparent, repetitive hard-sells of everything Disney, ESPN and ABC." Meanwhile, ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy at times was "tough to take on Saturday, be it his silly bit on traveling violations" or his "late-game description that the Knicks defense has Boston, ugh, 'absolutely in complete lockdown'" (N.Y. POST, 4/22). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes Altitude Sports' coverage of Warriors-Nuggets on Saturday "competed well against ESPN's national telecast, particularly in camera coverage." Announcers Chris Marlowe and Scott Hastings were "on target describing the tense ebb and flow" of the game. Altitude will "compete with TNT during Tuesday and Sunday coverage and with ESPN2 on Friday" (DENVER POST, 4/22).
TOO HOT TO HANDLE: ABC aired Lakers-Spurs yesterday instead of the opening game of the Heat-Bucks series, and in Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman noted with "only two ABC slots on opening weekend, an argument could be made that the chance of a blowout was too risky." The fact that Bucks-Heat Game 2 is on NBA TV "says that the NBA networks' current approach is anyone but the Bucks" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/20).
NOTES: In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted when the Nets play at the same time as the Mets during the playoffs, they will be "booted off" WFAN-AM to WBBR-AM. There also is a "chance, depending on the sked, select games could be heard" on ESPN Radio N.Y. 98.7 (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/21)....In N.Y., Marc Berman notes MSG Network recently "restarted using its court-side microphones to pick up the players’ oncourt utterances, and it’s been a boon for the viewer late this season" (N.Y. POST, 4/22).
Both ESPN and NFL Network will tell staffers for this week's NFL Draft "not to report pick-by-pick selections on their Twitter feeds" prior to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the picks on the podium, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. The nets also have “pledged not to show images of players on the phone in the green room at Radio City Music Hall.” The Twitter edict “will extend into the second round of the draft.” ESPN NFL Senior Coordinating Producer Seth Markman said, "Our fans have told us they would rather hear from the Commissioner and I think it is a better TV show when we speculate and let the Commissioner do it." He added, "It goes against a lot of our instincts as journalists and it's totally different than anything I deal with, but we feel like it is a win for the fans and our viewers." Markman and NFL Network Exec Producer Eric Weinberger “ironed out the agreement via emails and phone calls this month, and through discussions with the NFL broadcasting department.” Deitsch notes on-air talent for both nets will "still speculate on who will be drafted." However, Markman and Weinberger “insist that no on-air talent is ever tipped of the pick prior to the announcement.” Both execs “reiterated they are given the team selections from the league 30 to 60 seconds before the pick happens so they can align graphics and be ready for the show production.” CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora said that he “can't understand why fans are bothered by picks being revealed on Twitter.” He wrote in an e-mail, "Seems to me the entire point of Twitter is real-time, in-this-second news and updates, and yet people get up in arms about seeing a pick revealed on Twitter before the Commissioner announces it on TV. I'll never figure this one out" (SI.com, 4/22).
STAR POWER SHORTAGE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen reports analysts expect TV ratings for the draft "to take a hit." Last year, 8.1 million people watched to see Colts QB Andrew Luck and Redskins QB Robert Griffin III "taken No. 1 and No. 2 overall in prime time on ESPN and the NFL Network." But football talent experts said that there are "no quarterbacks of the caliber of Luck or Griffin in this year’s draft and that the first overall pick, as well as the composition of the entire first round, is up in the air." Sports television consultant and former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson wrote in an e-mail, “All our data and research tells us major sports names and personalities engage our audience, create interest and ... drive up ratings. Uncertainty over unknowns is not a recipe for strong ratings” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/22 issue).
Al Jazeera is "eyeing the Tennis Channel as it looks to become a player in the US sports market," according to Claire Atkinson of the N.Y. POST. Tennis Channel would "add to Al Jazeera’s growing collection of niche cable channels." A group of private equity firms, "including Apollo, Bain, Battery Ventures, CCMP Capital and Columbia Capital, owns the Tennis Channel." While the channel "reaped about $100 million in revenue" last year, its value is "hard to peg, but sports programming is considered valuable to a lot of media players" (N.Y. POST, 4/19).
NESN's Bruins play-by-play commentator Jack Edwards "issued an apology for comments that he made regarding" Penguins LW Matt Cooke during the Penguins-Bruins broadcast on Saturday, according to TSN. Edwards during the game discussed Pittsburgh-area writers nominating Cooke for the Masterton Award, which is given annually to a player that shows dedication and perseverance to the game, and he said, "The justification being that Cooke had changed his ways after basically assassinating [Bruins C] Marc Savard. Nominating Cooke for the Masterton is about the equivalent of nominating Sirhan Sirhan as the prisoner of the year." Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy in '68 and is "serving life in prison." Edwards following the game "posted an apology message" on his Twitter account. He wrote, "I made a mistake. My fault all the way. This is my apology. Bad week, bad emotional reaction by me. Not fun to make a mistake. I made a mistake. I am sorry for it. I can move forward if you can." Cooke "escaped suspension for a blind-side hit on Savard in March of 2010" (TSN.ca, 4/20). Penguins GM Ray Shero was "visibly enraged when he learned of Edwards' comments and confronted him in the first intermission" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/21).
USA TODAY's Gary Mihoces cites police as saying that NBC's Al Michaels "was arrested Friday on DUI charges after allegedly making a U-turn in Santa Monica, Calif., ... and spent several hours in jail." Police Sgt. Richard Lewis "declined to specify Michaels' blood alcohol level." He said that Michaels was "booked and released six to eight hours later" (USA TODAY, 4/22).
MANIC MONDAYS: SI.com's Peter King writes ESPN "got treated well" with its slate of "MNF" games for the '13 NFL season. The Sunday night NBC schedule is "always excellent, and this year's no different," but ESPN's "isn't always this good." King: "In fact, I wonder if it ever has been this good on Monday night." Of ESPN's 17 games, "only three don't feature at least one 2012 playoff team." The Saints, a "good draw, are in one of the others; another one, Dallas-Chicago, is not a shabby game" (SI.com, 4/22).
NORTHERN LIGHTS: The Maple Leafs have qualified for the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and SI.com's Allan Muir noted nothing "outside of the lockout has damaged the pot of hockey-related revenue that helps determine salaries more than the ineptitude of the Leafs" during that time. While the NHL "surely loves all 30 member teams equally," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman likely is "doing a happy dance at the thought of the ratings spike 'Hockey Night In Canada' will see with both" the Maple Leafs and Canadiens back in the postseason. This comes "just ahead of the negotiations for a new Canadian broadcast deal" (SI.com, 4/20).
LONG LIVE: In Chicago, Dan McGrath noted the "cheers for Pat Foley were loud and lusty at the United Center on Friday, when the Blackhawks saluted their TV voice for 30 years of distinguished service." Thirty years in one place "signifies remarkable acceptance in a fickle, demanding business, but Foley remains a pro's pro and an easy listen" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/21).