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The NBA's "postseason crawl to June is all about TV," as games are "scheduled on days and nights that are most profitable" for Commissioner David Stern’s national TV partners, according to Bob Raissman of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. It has "nothing to do with what’s happening on the court or how it affects the product." That is apparently "a minor detail, a secondary issue." TNT and ESPN execs "want as many eyeballs on each and every telecast so they leverage the NBA to employ the 'spread offense' when scheduling the postseason." The philosophy is "if your team is not playing, you still will watch a game from another series," which "'spreads' the eyeballs around." NBA owners are "all for this because the league can continue charging the networks more for the rights to air these games in an elongated format." Meanwhile, ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy during the broadcast of Saturday's Celtics-Knicks Eastern Conference First Round Game 1 said, "No one in the East can beat the Heat. The drama will be in the NBA Finals." Raissman writes while Van Gundy's prediction "wasn't stunning, it was not exactly music to the ears" of Stern and the NBA's TV partners. Raissman: "This ain't what they wanted to hear on national television during the 2013 NBA playoff opener. They want the NBA postseason to be compelling TV, a three-month cliffhanger. Why bother watching when the only mystery is who is coming out of the West" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/23).
KEEPING THE FAITH: In Houston, David Barron wrote given the "one-sided nature" of the Rockets' loss to the Thunder on Sunday, viewers in the Houston market were "surprisingly faithful" in watching the game until the end. The game drew a 5.7 local rating on TNT and a 0.99 rating on Comcast SportsNet Houston. The CSN Houston audience "topped out" between 9:45pm and 10:15pm CT, then "dropped substantially before climbing back" at the end of the game. The TNT audience "topped out" between 9:45pm and 10:00pm (CHRON.com, 4/22).
BIGGEST FAN: ESPN L.A.'s Dave McMenamin wrote after Lakers G Kobe Bryant sent out "more than a dozen tweets during and after" the Lakers' opening playoff game against the Spurs on Sunday, he "vows he'll keep his 140-character contributions to himself come Game 2" tomorrow. Coach Mike D'Antoni on Sunday said of Bryant, "He’s a fan right now. He’s a fan, and you guys put a little more importance on that kind of fan. But he’s a fan. He gets excited and he wants to be a part of it so that’s good.” Bryant "made it clear he did not want to become a distraction." Bryant wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday, "I see my tweeting during the game is being talked about as much as the game itself. Not my intention , just bored as I guess #notagain" (ESPNLA.com, 4/22).
ESPN today announced that author Robert Lipsyte will be the net’s fifth Ombudsman. Lipsyte will begin his 18-month term in June, with his role including writing pieces for ESPN.com, online chats and other multimedia interactions with fans. Lipsyte previously worked for NPR, the N.Y. Times, the N.Y. Post and wrote sports essays for “CBS Sunday Morning.” Lipsyte has also written a number of books, and in ’01 was given the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring lifetime contribution in writing for young adults. Lipsyte follows former ESPN ombudsmen George Solomon (’05-07), Le Ann Schreiber (’07-08), Don Ohlmeyer (’09-10) and The Poynter Institute from ’11-12 (ESPN). The N.Y. Daily News' Andy Martino wrote on his Twitter account, "This is the best hire of all time." Grantland's Bryan Curtis wrote, "This is outstanding news. ... What I love about Bob Lipsyte is that he wonders aloud about whether sportswriting is a good way to spend one's life." Bleacher Report's Dan Levy wrote, "I honestly don't know if they asked anyone before signing Lipsyte, who is widely respected, but I would have hired @AJDaulerio. ... Seriously, if ESPN got someone like @AJDaulerio it would have given instant credibility to a younger demographic & made columns must read."
Suddenlink Cable Senior VP & Chief Programming Officer Patty McCaskill in a letter on Friday said that Astros and Rockets games, as well as other programming on Comcast SportsNet Houston, are of "greater local interest than regional interest, which limits CSN Houston’s comparative value to viewers across a five-state area," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. McCaskill was "responding to a letter written" by CSN Houston President & GM Matt Hutchings, whose RSN is "attempting to negotiate carriage agreements with Suddenlink and other cable, satellite and telco carriers across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico." McCaskill in the letter "drew a difference" between what she described as RSNs such as FS Southwest and "local" networks such as CSN Houston. She wrote, "CSN Houston is comparable to other local sports networks, and for that reason, we would be delighted to discuss terms with CSN Houston that are comparable to those we have discussed and/or agreed to with other local sports networks, including distribution that is focused in the relevant, local area.” Suddenlink has "offered to carry CSN Houston as part of a specialized sports package that would require subscribers to pay an additional monthly fee." But CSN Houston "wants to be on the same expanded basic package" as FS Southwest (CHRON.com, 4/19). McCaskill wrote with Suddenlink's "last offer, we agreed upon a price relevant to carriage on a digital sports tier." If CSN Houston "were seeking expanded basic coverage, then 'the price will be needed to be adjusted accordingly.'" She wrote that if CSN Houston wants to be expanded on basic cable, "we would gladly consider a substantially lower price for carriage on a substantially larger (more widely distributed) tier. This point is critical" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 4/19).
FS K.C. averaged a 7.0 local rating for this past weekend's three-game Royals-Red Sox series, marking the highest-rated Royals series ever on the RSN. The series included the first game at Fenway Park following the Boston Marathon bombings. The series surpassed the previous Royals ratings high set during the April 8-10 series versus the Twins (6.9 rating). Royals telecasts on the RSN are averaging a 5.7 local rating through 16 games, up 36% over last season (FSN).
HACK JOB: In S.F., Ann Killion notes the official Twitter accounts of both the FIFA World Cup and FIFA President Sepp Blatter "were hacked" yesterday by a group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army. The "tweet attack is merely another example of the intertwining of soccer and global politics." It is an "example of how, even in the midst of national crisis, soccer remains an obsessive, galvanizing force" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/23). The hacking included messages "suggesting the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar had been corrupted" (ESPNFC.com, 4/22).
SHIFT IN TIME: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes sports-talk radio station WXOS-FM is "staying in house to replace" afternoon host Bernie Miklasz. Chris Duncan, a co-host with Randy Karraker and former NFLer D'Marco Farr from 2:00-6:00pm CT, will "switch into the 11 a.m.-2 p.m. slot being vacated by Miklasz." Duncan "will be joined" by Anthony Slater (STLTODAY.com, 4/23).