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ABC earned a 10.4 overnight rating for Heat-Spurs NBA Finals Game 1 on Thursday night, down 2% from a 10.6 overnight for the same matchup last year. Thursday's game also is down 12% from an 11.8 overnight for Heat-Thunder Game 1 in '12 and down 3% from a 10.7 overnight for Mavericks-Heat Game 1 in '11. Still, the overnight was good enough to deliver the 38th straight night that an NBA Finals game has won across all of TV. Heat-Spurs Game 1 earned a 40.4 local rating in San Antonio and a 30.5 rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale. The top markets were rounded out by Austin (17.9), West Palm Beach (17.2) and Las Vegas (13.7). ABC's telecast peaked at a 12.7 rating during the final quarter hour (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
AIR BALL: In Ft. Lauderdale, Harvey Fialkov notes ABC announcers Mike Breen and Mark Jackson before the start of the third quarter "wiped the sweaty brow of analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who said, 'I feel like pouring a bucket of water over my head.'" The broadcast crew was responding to the high temperature inside AT&T Center as a result of the air conditioning unit breaking "early in the first half." The net's Jalen Rose "didn’t feel that the players would be affected by the sweltering temperature because they grew up playing outside or in non air-conditioned gyms during AAU tournaments." Sideline reporter Doris Burke then overheard Heat F Chris Bosh "say that he felt as if he, 'was playing in his high school gym'" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/6).
ACTION JACKSON: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht wrote Jackson's return to broadcasting -- after spending three years as the Warriors' coach -- is "a victory for viewers," who once again "get the strong views" Jackson offers. He "meshes well" with Van Gundy and Breen, "the NBA's best play-by-play announcer." Jackson's return to the booth "means less air time for the self-defacing Van Gundy, known for his quirky, unpredictable comments." Van Gundy: "Basketball fans in America are applauding the three-man booth so they don’t have to listen to my inane rants. And believe me, no one is upset, myself included, that I do less talking" (OKLAHOMAN, 6/5).
STAINLESS STEELE: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Debbie Emery noted ESPN's Sage Steele said in an interview that "because timing is restricted, she has to run a tight ship" on "NBA Countdown" during the Finals with analysts Rose, Bill Simmons and Doug Collins. Steele: "We have half an hour for pregame and after commercials, that is about 17 minutes. We are greedy and want all the time we can get because I work with three awesome analysts who have a lot to say, so we are going to have to condense and be really precise about our content. My biggest challenge is remembering that I am on TV and not just sitting in a bar talking with these knowledgeable guys." She said of working with Simmons, "Bill is on the far end (of the desk), and he and I have established some sign language too, I always know when he has more to say as he lifts his head and chin up in a 'what's up' kind of motion, then I look at his eyes and he looks back hard at me. I am proud of myself for mastering the art of sign language with Bill Simmons!" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 6/5).
NBC finished with a 3.0 rating and 4.78 million viewers for the Kings' OT win over the Rangers in Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, down 23% and 25%, respectively, from a 3.9 rating and 6.36 million viewers for the Blackhawks-Bruins triple-OT finish in Game 1 last year. However, the audience was up 67% and 65%, respectively, from a 1.8 rating and 2.902 million viewers for the Kings' OT win over the Devils in Game 1 in '12. Despite the sharp drop, Game 1 this year remains NBC's second-best audience for a Cup Final Game 1 on record and second-best overall since Fox' telecast of Stars-Sabres in '99. Wednesday night's game (8:00-11:17pm ET) peaked at 5.7 million viewers from 10:45-11:00pm (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
MISSING THE MADHOUSE? In Boston, Chad Finn notes the Final includes the top two TV markets, but Chicago, the No. 3 market, is "hockey-mad" compared to L.A. That was "evidenced by its humongous" 22.7 local rating for Game 7 of the Kings-Blackhawks Western Conference Final, compared to a 4.8 for L.A. That "gap illustrates why having the top two television markets actually is not the best-case scenario for NBC and NBCSN." It also "does not help" that the games begin at 5:00pm PT rather than in primetime. But that is a "small gripe for NBC, if it's a gripe at all" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/6). In Chicago, Mark Lazerus writes the NHL "has what, on paper, at least, is a dream matchup" in Rangers-Kings. But "you can be sure NHL and NBC executives were despondent" when the Kings advanced to the Final. Chicago "might be No. 3 in population, but it’s an undisputed No. 1 in terms of American hockey markets." The Blackhawks draw "big numbers across the country, and massive numbers in Chicago." L.A. drew only a 7.1 local rating for Game 1 of the Final, ranking third behind N.Y. (10.1) and Buffalo (8.5). The "tepid numbers" in N.Y. and L.A. "illustrate just how far the NHL has to go to catch up to the rest of the so-called Big Four North American pro sports leagues." This series "could help," as it is a "marquee matchup, with marketable stars" such as Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist and Kings D Drew Doughty. Even if it is not Blackhawks-Bruins, it will "certainly draw more eyeballs" than Hurricanes-Oilers in '06 or Lightning-Flames in '04 (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/6). NBC Sports said that its live stream of Wednesday's Game 1 drew 178,000 unique viewers, a new record (THE DAILY).
SHOW & TELL: In California, Michael Lev writes something viewers will notice during the Final is "how swiftly" NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk is "able to size up and telestrate a goal or scoring opportunity." His "knack for seeing the entire ice surface and figuring out what happened in a matter of seconds is remarkable," but he "has some help." Olczyk "works closely" with Producer Matt Marvin and Associate Producer Tim Nelson. They have been "together for years, and it shows." NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood said, “They have a system in place where they know where to go and Eddie is constantly on talk-back, hitting the key point where he wants the replay queued to." Lev notes even with "high definition and multiple replay angles, sometimes it’s hard to tell how a goal was scored amid the frenzied action on the ice," but Olczyk and his teammates "bring clarity to the chaos" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 6/6).
NBC for Saturday's Belmont Stakes is "mounting an ambitious production that producer Rob Hyland called its biggest ever ... in terms of schedule, announcers and facilities, including six or seven more cameras" than if California Chrome had not won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. The plan includes "16 hours of coverage from Belmont on NBC and NBCSN" starting at 5:00pm ET Friday and the "full weight of NBC's synergy powers, with CNBC, MSNBC and The Weather Channel all set to be on-site Friday." NBC also will "offer live streams on race day including alternate camera angles, such as an isolation shot that follows California Chrome from start to finish." In ratings terms, NBC will be a "winner as long as Chrome makes it to the starting gate -- unlike I'll Have Another two years ago, who was scratched on Friday." The race is "unlikely to surpass" the 21.9 million viewers Smarty Jones' '04 Triple Crown attempt drew, but it still will "attract a huge audience." NBC also would "like to drive as much of its Belmont Stakes audience as possible" to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night, which would "mean a quick handoff after the postrace coverage." Post time for the Belmont is 6:52pm, while the hockey game "variously has been listed" as starting at 7:00pm, 7:15pm and 7:30pm (NEWSDAY, 6/6).
BALANCING ACT: Hyland said that after California Chrome won the Preakness, the net "decided to add microphones." In Lexington, John Clay noted Chrome "will be miked up for the walk from the barn to the paddock and out to the track (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/5). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes if there are some "tempered moments in the way NBC attempts to capture all the sights and sounds of mounting tension ... consider the human factor in not wanting to get caught up in media-generated expectations." NBC horse racing analyst Randy Moss: "It's really a battle for me not to get too jaded when we get to this situation. ... We're not rooting, but having seen failure so often through so many years, you'd love to see one of these pull it off" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/6).
GOLDEN STATE: In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez writes California Chrome will be racing with the "weight of a TV network and a beleaguered horse-racing industry on his powerful shoulders." NBC expects to "more than double the TV audience of a typical Belmont to 17 million viewers because of Chrome's story and his chance for the coveted Triple Crown." Absent a Triple Crown hopeful, the Belmont Stakes "typically draws five million to seven million TV viewers" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/6).
BELMONT STAKES AUDIENCE TRENDYEARNETWORKRATINGVIEWERS (000)
WINNER'13NBC4.57,000 Malice Palice'12NBC4.87,700 Union Rags'11NBC4.36,800 Ruler On Ice'10ABC3.04,735 Drosselmeyer'09ABC4.46,640 Summer Bird'08*ABC8.213,096 Da'Tara'07ABC3.24,861 Rags to Riches'06ABC3.55,044 Jazil'05NBC5.47,712 Afleet Alex'04*NBC13.121,889 Birdstone'03*NBC10.715,703 Empire Maker'02*NBC8.412,410 Sarava
CHART NOTE: * = Race had horse going for Triple Crown, but lost in the Belmont Stakes.
DOWN THE STRETCH: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted this will be the 12th Triple Crown race that Larry Collmus has called for NBC, but Collmus "concedes that he has never experienced a build-up like this one." Collmus said of calling a potential California Chrome victory, "That is definitely something hard not to think about." Collmus said that he will "have something pre-written in front of him in the event that California Chrome wins, but that plan is tenuous at best because if the race is close, there will be no time for planned lines." Collmus: "If he does win the Triple Crown, you want to say the right thing. You want to make it the appropriate thing that goes with that moment, but you (also) don't want to get in the way. You don't want to make it about you. It's about California Chrome and the moment" (SI.com, 6/5).
TRIPLE PLAY: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes NBC "will not chronicle" the arrival of the Triple Crown Trophy in the presentation area prior to the race, nor will Bob Costas "wax poetic about its history, like voices do when Lord Stanley’s Cup arrives to the delight of mesmerized fans in some arena." NBC field producer Billy Rapaport said, "This trophy doesn’t get a lot of photo-ops. It’s part of our Friday rehearsal. It’s the only trophy in sports I’m aware of that makes an appearance and may never be presented." Raissman: "Is this trophy so inconspicuous Costas might forget to introduce its presenter?" Rapaport said, “No, because it’s sitting right there. We rehearsed for it. There is no chance that would happen" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/6).
The Cubs on Thursday officially signed a new seven-year radio-rights deal with WBBM-AM, and "maybe the most significant part ... is the expanded, '50-50 partnership' on concert staging and overall event promotion, which figures to increase the number of concerts at Wrigley Field and includes concert dates at the new spring ballpark in Arizona," according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. While the concert element adds "significant potential value to the overall deal for both sides, it also provides the Cubs with a potential shelter for some of their local revenue from the MLB revenue-sharing system into which the Cubs have historically been a large contributor." Neither the team nor WBBM parent company CBS Radio "have made the breakdown of the rights deal public," but depending on how much of CBS Radio's contribution "is tied to the concert/events promotions part of the deal, the Cubs might be able to demonstrate no increase in rights fees and thereby avoid a one-time uptick in revenue calculations for a 'new broadcast adjustment' as outlined in the revenue-sharing system." CBS Radio execs said that the Cubs "will air almost exclusively on" WBBM-AM with sister station WBBM-FM "remaining an all-news station, without simulcasts of the Cubs." However, CBS Radio GM Rod Zimmerman said that conflicts with Bears games "would shift the Cubs to the FM station" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/6). CBS Radio execs promised that they "will promote the Cubs across all seven" of their Chicago-based stations. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said the move to shift from WGN-AM to WBBM-AM was a "tough decision for us." In Chicago, Robert Channick notes the team "did not take the opportunity to discuss TV plans." WGN has been the Cubs' TV partner since '48 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/6).
BETTING ON THE FUTURE: In Illinois, Bruce Miles writes the "best news for Cubs fans is that play-by-play man Pat Hughes and color analyst Ron Coomer will make the jump down the dial" to WBBM-AM, "providing fans with best baseball repartee around." So for Cubs fans "interested in only listening to Cubs games, this is really no big deal, except for the emotional attachment some might have" to WGN-AM (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 6/6). In Chicago, Ed Sherman writes Zimmerman "showed he definitely is drinking the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer Kool-Aid" during the news conference, as he and CBS Radio "are betting big money that the laborious rebuilding project will deliver big results during the length of the deal." This much is "certain: WBBM is getting in on the ground floor -- or lower -- with the Cubs in terms in fan interest." However, the prospect of "being the flagship station is enormous, even if they only become a wild-card team." Zimmerman: "The Cubs have a huge relationship with this marketplace. ... If they ever get to the World Series, it will be the biggest story in sports" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/6).
It has been a "solid first half of the year for HBO Boxing," as the net "continued to lead the industry in ratings, drawing in the top six largest audiences for fights this year," according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. But the "increased competition from Showtime has made it a struggle for HBO to produce appealing opponents for some of its top attractions." Ahead of one of the "biggest fights of the year" on Saturday between Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez, Mannix conducted a Q&A with HBO Sports President Ken Hershman to discuss the state of the net. Excerpts are below:
Q: Your thoughts on HBO's first half of the year?
Hershman: I think it's been a really good first half. We have had our share of really compelling fights. There are a few things we would have liked to have happen that didn't. But there is always that in boxing. But Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley was a fantastic fight, a great event. Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado was a fantastic fight, great event. June 7 will be a fantastic fight, great event.
Q: [Top Rank Chair] Bob Arum seems to have mended fences with Oscar De La Hoya. If Bob starts coming to you with fights against Golden Boy fighters, what do you say to that?
Hershman: If the fight is compelling and the business model works, we're all ears. We'll gladly entertain it.
Q: It does sound like you are more open to Golden Boy than you were...
Hershman: Nothing has changed. I maybe wasn't as open about our point of view about it before. We just have to be comfortable that when we make investments in fighters and promotional entities that they share our vision and our philosophy about how to operate. Once we are on the same page, the world is our oyster. ... We're not in the one-fight business. You see a fighter (Adonis Stevenson) that was built on HBO jump ship and lose (nearly) half their audience, I don't know why that would be viewed as a good business decision under any circumstances. For us, to put our resources, to put our platform, to put our network behind you, there has to be a reciprocity. HBO Boxing is a hit series. You don't buy one episode of Game of Thrones and then let them bid up the second episode.
Q: When Manny Pacquiao does his fights in Macau, it probably means the fight will generate fewer pay-per-view buys, which means less money for you. Is that accurate?
Hershman: That's kind of the misnomer of pay-per-view, that we're looking at it as some kind of revenue stream. It's really a tool for the few fighters who are in that echelon. It's not really of any importance to us. We're happy to do it and certainly no one markets them or distributes them better than HBO. But it's not the focus of our business. Our focus is on HBO, our primary platform. For us, pay-per-view is not an economic question (SI.com, 6/5).
The Verizon IndyCar Series had its first weekend doubleheader of the ’14 season last week in Detroit. ABC finished with a 0.9 rating and 1.39 million viewers for the first leg of the Chevy Belle Isle Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon, while Sunday’s second leg drew a 0.7 rating and 1.003 million viewers. Last season was the first to feature weekend doubleheaders for IndyCar. The first leg of Belle Isle last year drew a 0.6 rating and 883,000 viewers, while the second leg on Sunday drew a 0.7 rating and 1.0 million viewers.
NO TIGER, NO PROBLEM: CBS finished with a 2.0 rating (2.9 million viewers) for the final round of The Memorial last Sunday, which saw Hideki Matsuyama win his first PGA Tour event in a playoff against Kevin Na. That figure is up 11% from a 1.8 rating last year, when Matt Kuchar won the event. Tiger Woods did not play this year’s event, and finished tied for 65th last year. Saturday’s coverage on CBS drew a 1.3 rating (1.78 million viewers), down from a 1.5 rating last year.
NOTES: NBC drew 980,000 viewers for the Prefontaine Classic last Saturday afternoon, down from 1.2 million viewers last year. Figures were unavailable for ’12, but the event drew 1.11 million viewers in ’11 and 1.22 million viewers in ’10....Golf Channel finished with 301,000 viewers for live coverage of the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic last Sunday, which saw Stacy Lewis win. The win was the fourth straight and sixth in seven events by an American player. The audience was up 36% from 221,000 viewers for the final round last year, when Australian Karrie Webb won. Lewis also won in ’12, and Golf Channel drew 263,000 viewers for that final round.
The charts below list final ratings and viewership for recent sports telecasts.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: FedEx 400 (Dover)6/1Fox1:15-5:15pm3.55,400 PGA Tour: The Memorial: Final Round6/1CBS2:30-6:23pm2.02,898 Soccer friendly: Mexico-Israel5/28UniMas9:25-11:36pm1.32,814 PGA Tour: The Memorial: Third Round5/31CBS3:00-6:00pm1.31,784 MLB: (regional)5/31Fox7:12-10:23pm1.21,771 Verizon IndyCar Series: Chevy Belle Isle Grand Prix: Race 15/31ABC3:30-6:00pm0.91,390 Verizon IndyCar Series: Chevy Belle Isle Grand Prix: Race 26/1ABC3:30-6:00pm0.71,003 French Open: Third Round5/31NBC12:00-3:00pm0.7986 Track: Prefontaine Classic5/31NBC4:30-6:00pm0.6980 French Open: Fourth Round6/1NBC1:00-4:00pm0.7951 "Inside U.S. Soccer's March to Brazil"5/31ABC3:00-3:30pm0.5844 College Rugby Championships5/31NBC3:00-4:30pm0.4633 "World of X Games: 2014 Austin Preview"6/1ABC2:30-3:30pm0.4586 College Rugby Championships6/1NBC4:00-6:00pm0.4555 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RATINGVIEWERS
NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs-Thunder: Game 65/31TNT8:30-11:40pm4.98,151 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Heat-Pacers: Game 55/28ESPN8:33-11:17pm4.77,313 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Heat-Pacers: Game 45/26ESPN8:32-11:12pm4.47,002 NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs-Thunder: Game 55/29TNT9:00-11:37pm4.36,925 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Heat-Pacers: Game 65/30ESPN8:33-11:08pm4.26,877 NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs-Thunder: Game 45/27TNT9:00-11:39pm4.26,420 NHL Western Conference Finals: Kings-Blackhawks: Game 76/1NBCSN8:01-11:16pm2.34,137 NHL Western Conference Finals: Kings-Blackhawks: Game 65/30NBCSN9:01-11:45pm1.32,278 NHL Western Conference Finals: Kings-Blackhawks: Game 55/28NBCSN8:01-11:48pm1.32,175 NHL Eastern Conference Finals: Rangers-Canadiens: Game 65/29NBCSN8:00-10:49pm1.32,123