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Horizon Media Research Dir Brad Adgate said that ratings for the upcoming Rangers-Kings Stanley Cup Final "have the potential to set a new record" for NBC, according to Liana Baker of REUTERS. Adgate said, "I think the ratings will be pretty strong, the best since NBC began covering the NHL in 2005." Baker wrote the league "looks healthy and its momentum is likely to build." NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller said advertising inventory for the series is "pretty much all gone." He added that ratings for Game 2 on Saturday "should benefit" from the running of the Belmont Stakes on NBC just prior to the contest (REUTERS, 6/3). USA TODAY's Moore & Allen note NHL execs are "happy about the matchup," but other teams "would deliver higher TV ratings." NHL COO John Collins said, "It's a fun series no matter what. You have the media capital of the world and the entertainment capital of the world. These moments are exactly what we have been building for the last six or seven years, trying to make hockey big enough to pull in the casual fan." He added, "It's probably not going to be the highest-rated Cup in our history. But you can't pick your teams. It's a matchup any league would be thrilled with" (USA TODAY, 6/4).NHL STANLEY CUP FINAL AUDIENCE TREND (NBC/NBCSN)YEARMATCHUPGAMESRATINGVIEWERS (000)'13Blackhawks-Bruins63.35,764'12Kings-Devils61.83,012'11Bruins-Canucks72.74,590'10Blackhawks-Flyers62.95,170'09Penguins-Red Wings72.74,906'08Red Wings-Penguins62.64,555'07Ducks-Senators51.21,800'06Hurricanes-Oilers71.82,831
WISHFUL THINKING: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes if the Blackhawks had "not lost to the Kings in the Western Conference finals," a Blackhawks-Rangers series "might have produced record viewership." The Blackhawks and Bruins "led the league" in local viewership this season, respectively, while the Rangers ranked third and the Kings "were far lower" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/4). The AP's Tim Dahlberg writes despite the matchup of the two biggest markets in the U.S., NBC execs "had to be rooting" for the Blackhawks to advance instead of the Kings. Sunday's Western Conference Game 7 was the most watched non-Stanley Cup Final ever, but "a lot more of those were Blackhawks fans than Kings fans." Dahlberg: "The Big Apple and Hollywood don't have any championship history in hockey, but there's some buzz on both coasts for the first New York-Los Angeles major sports final" since '81 (AP, 6/3).
TALK OF THE TOWN: In N.Y., Stephen Lorenzo writes for the "first time in 20 years, the Rangers are the talk of the town" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/4). Also in N.Y., Filip Bondy writes the histories of the Kings and Rangers "are not glorious." Bondy: "There’s another problem, too: Los Angeles and New York may be the biggest markets around, but they aren’t exactly archrivals" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/4). Meanwhile, the N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Bob Raissman writes this is a "huge spot" for NBC. But there will be "a bunch of casual eyeballs tuning in," and the NBC crew has the "added challenge of making sure it knows what’s going on without dumbing down the telecast for the hard-core fans." NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk is "aware of the increased spotlight but doesn’t adjust his game." He said, “I just continue to do the job I’m allowed to do on a nightly basis. I talk about the game and tell people why. In a series like this it’s more about excitement than anything else" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/4).
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/4). Chicago-based media reporter Robert Feder cited sources as saying that the Cubs "could move" to CBS Radio's WSCR-AM if the station "loses the White Sox broadcast rights after next year." WBBM "already is the top-billing station in the market," but the addition of the Cubs "is expected to boost the station's share of revenue and widen its first-place margin." The deal made by former Cubs Owner Sam Zell when he sold the team Tom Ricketts in '09 "has been a financial disaster for WGN." Some estimates show that WGN "has lost" $6M a year during the current deal. WGN President & GM Jimmy deCastro: "The economics of the deal that we inherited did not make business sense." Among deCastro's proposals to "keep the Cubs on WGN were a variety of rights arrangements, revenue-sharing deals on top of guarantees, and even a plan that would have given the Cubs ownership in the station." But Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and other team execs "went strictly by the numbers, and WGN chose to waive its right to match CBS Radio’s seven-year cash offer" (ROBERTFEDER.com, 6/3).
Boston-based mobile video tech startup Burst has struck a season-long partnership with NESN to enable fan-created video to be incorporated into Red Sox game broadcasts. The Burst platform will filter and organize fan-submitted video footage for easy use by NESN producers, using a combination of automated algorithms and human-based screening. Burst is led by several sports execs, including Bryant McBride and Paul Levy, who previously worked together at strategic investment and advisory firm Accrue Sports & Entertainment, and also worked at the NHL and Nets, respectively. McBride said, “There is an incredible reservoir of fan video out there, and we’ve been working hard to create a solution to capture all of that in a manageable and monetizeable way." Financial terms were not disclosed, but NESN will be paying Burst a monthly license fee. The time frame between the creation of a fan video and its airing on NESN could be as little as a few minutes. NESN VP/Programming & Production and Exec Producer Jospeh Maar said, “Integrating fan videos into our telecasts provides fans a unique, interactive experience, making Red Sox Nation a part of every game we televise.” Maar also called the venture “a big step forward for interactive sports television.” Video submitted by fans is sent either online or by text and is not limited to ballpark settings, allowing NESN to incorporate remote locations. Burst investors include former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent, Fenway Sports Group partner Tom DiBenedetto and Marquis Jets and PureBrands co-Founder Jesse Itzler.
The NBA during the Finals will significantly increase its deployment of the Facebook Live video platform, allowing fans for the first time to ask players questions during media availability periods. The initiative will begin this afternoon with Heat G Dwyane Wade and Spurs G Manu Ginobili. Additional NBA Finals-oriented shows on Facebook Live are slated for June 7, 11, 14, and 19, and will be available at facebooklive.com and facebook.com/nba. The NBA also will offer in-game video highlights on Twitter during the Finals using the #NBARapidReplay hashtag, as well as polling and check-ins via Twitter. Other social media activities during the Finals by the NBA will include active usage of Snapchat, Reddit, Flipagram, and The Skimm.
In Toronto, Mike Zeisberger notes Bob Cole "will be part of Rogers’ incoming cache" of NHL play-by-play talent for next season. Also included are "Hockey Night In Canada’s" Jim Hughson, Dave Randorf and Paul Romanuk. Meanwhile, Rogers Media President Keith Pelley said that the future of Don Cherry "rests with" Cherry. Pelley: "This is Don’s decision and that’s what we told to Don. Don is iconic. Walk down the streets with Don Cherry, there’s not a more famous and respected Canadian" (TORONTO SUN, 6/4).
ELK'S INSIGHT: GOLF WORLD's Dave Shedloski reports golfer Steve Elkington is "launching his own 30-minute magazine program." The program, called "The Rural Golfer," will "debut in July" on RFD-TV. Its "primary content will feature golf courses across North America as well as insight on the game" from Elkington, instructor Mike Maves and golfer Jackie Burke Jr. (GOLF WORLD, 6/9 issue).
SETTING UP HIS FUTURE: Wizards G Martell Webster "made his broadcasting debut" as a sideline reporter Sunday for the WNBA Sparks-Mystics game on Comcast SportsNet Washington. Webster "did a nice job with updates and gave some real insight" (MONUMENTALNETWORK.com, 6/2).