NBC earned a 3.2 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Bruins-Canucks NHL Stanley Cup Final Game One from 8:00-11:00pm ET, marking the best Game One overnight in 12 years, dating back to Stars-Sabres Game One in '99 on Fox. From '00-08, Game One of the Stanley Cup Final aired on cable TV. The 3.2 overnight is also up 14.3% from a 2.8 overnight for the net's Blackhawks-Flyers Game One last year, which aired on a Saturday night. The game peaked at a 3.8 rating during the last half hour of the telecast, when Canucks LW Raffi Torres broke the scoreless tie with 18.5 seconds remaining in regulation. Boston led all U.S. markets with a 25.5 local rating, while Providence finished second with a 16.7 rating. Canadian markets are not included in the Nielsen ratings (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). ICONIC VOICE: SI.com’s Richard Deitsch wrote “few in broadcasting have enjoyed their job more than” NBC and Versus announcer Mike Emrick, who is calling his 13th Stanley Cup Final this year. Emrick has “earned enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame and cemented himself as the announcer most associated with the sport in America.” NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood: “No one calls a hockey game better, no one paints a better picture, and no one is better at building up a moment. He is the voice of hockey in this country, and as talented a play-by-play guy as there is in any sport.” Deitsch wrote Emrick “litters each broadcast with a panoply of verbs and imbues the audience with facts and stories that come only with intense preparation and a scholar’s appreciation of history.” Emrick said, “My role is to be a conduit between the skill of the players and the understanding of the fans. I’m just more or less someone who can describe something, and hopefully with passion. If you have a good product, you don’t have to do a lot of selling” (SI.com, 6/1).
WHO WON GAME SEVEN AGAIN? In Boston, Eric Wilbur noted a promo NBC ran prior to last night’s Game One promoted “Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Lightning and Canucks” (BOSTON.com, 6/2). NOT THE CENTER OF ATTENTION: In Philadelphia, Rich Hofmann notes there was “not a word about hockey” during the 6:00pm ET edition of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” Tuesday night. It was “entirely understandable” that ESPN was “going to spend a goodly portion of the hourlong show pumping up the start of the NBA Finals, which were to be aired on its corporate sister, ABC.” However, the NHL “receives nowhere near the coverage it merits based upon the money it generates.” Hofmann: “That the NHL knows that is clear. That the NHL has decided to live with it is also clear. When its recent television deal was announced, the whole package went to NBC/Comcast/Versus.” Hofmann writes it is “an interesting mindset.” Hofmann: “On the one hand, the NHL is growing. … But on the other hand, if ESPN is any kind of barometer of mainstream American sporting thought, well, what?” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/2).
ABC earned a 9.0 final Nielsen rating and 15.2 million viewers for Tuesday night's Mavericks-Heat NBA Finals Game One, up 4.7% and 7.7%, respectively, from an 8.6 rating and 14.1 million viewers for Lakers-Celtics Game One last year, which aired on a Thursday night. This year's Game One marks ABC's second-best Game One audience since the net acquired NBA TV rights prior to the '02-03 season. Mavericks-Heat Game One is also up 15.4% and 31.8% from a 7.8 rating and 11.514 million viewers for the Heat-Mavericks opener of the '06 NBA Finals (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In N.Y., Michael Starr writes the strong rating for Game One is "due largely to the popularity" of Heat F LeBron James, who "has been a boon to the NBA this playoff season." TNT earned "record NBA cable ratings for its coverage" of the Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals (N.Y. POST, 6/2). In Miami, Barry Jackson notes the Heat's "knack for drawing eyeballs remains a constant in these playoffs." The 31.9 rating for Game One in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market is the "second-highest rating of the year" locally, behind only Super Bowl XLV. In addition, the local rating for Tuesday's game "far exceeded the one for Game 1" of the '06 Heat-Mavericks Finals, which drew a 24.9 rating in the market (MIAMI HERALD, 6/2).
LOCKOUT? WHAT LOCKOUT? SPORTING NEWS' Sean Devaney notes ABC's plan in covering the Finals is to "avoid lockout talk altogether, so the casual fans' awareness of the NBA potentially heading into a labor abyss ... remains limited." ABC analyst Mark Jackson said, "There's too many great stories in this final matchup to discuss something that would happen potentially at the end of it. I think the thing we want to do is celebrate the game, celebrate the matchup, and I don't really think the fans are interested in it right now" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 6/2).
AROUND THE WORLD: The NBA yesterday said that this year's Finals will be the most widely distributed in league history. The Mavericks-Heat series will be televised live in 215 countries and territories and in 46 languages. In addition, all games will be available live online for the first time on mobile devices in 200 countries and territories. Furthermore, the first international in-home 3D broadcast of the NBA Finals will be available in several major markets, including Australia, China, France, Turkey and the U.K. (NBA).
TNT finished its coverage of the '11 NBA Playoffs with a 3.5 U.S. rating and 5.5 million viewers for 40 telecasts, marking the best NBA Playoff audience ever on cable TV. This year's figures were also up 25% and 29%, respectively, from last season, and helped TNT score cable TV's best monthly primetime audience ever during May (3.6 million average viewers). In addition, NBA telecasts helped TNT earn cable TV's biggest monthly delivery ever in the 18-34 demo. The net's playoff coverage saw double-digit growth among all key adult and male demos compared to '10. TNT topped all ad-supported cable networks in primetime throughout the six weeks of coverage from April 17-May 24. Coverage of the Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals featured three of the four most-viewed NBA games in cable TV history, led by Game One, which earned 11.1 million viewers. Four of the five games in the Eastern Conference Finals also ranked as basic cable's top programs for the month of May. Meanwhile, ESPN also delivered strong year-over-year growth for its NBA Playoff coverage. The net averaged a 3.1 U.S. rating and 5.0 million viewers for 18 telecasts, up 3.3% and 8.2%, respectively, from 19 telecasts last year. The net's best audience was for the Mavericks-Lakers Western Conference Semifinals Game Three, which averaged 7.7 million viewers. ESPN also saw strong growth across all key adult and male demos.
ESPN's relationship with columnist Bill Simmons "might be described as dysfunctionally codependent," and given that dynamic, it is "hard not to wonder how the relationship" will play out at Grantland.com, according to Jonathan Mahler of the N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE. Simmons' new website, expected to launch next week, is "owned by ESPN, and the parent company has already made its presence known, choosing the site’s name, which Simmons is less than enthusiastic about." Simmons noted that he is worried Grantland, named after late sportswriter Grantland Rice, "sounds pretentious." But he said ESPN execs "loved it," adding, "They've been so supportive of the site. You’ve got to pick your battles." Simmons "sounded as if he was having some regrets about Grantland." He said, "It hasn’t been as much fun as I had thought. I’m not sure I would do it again." Mahler notes too much of Simmons' time was "being spent in the office, dealing with administrative tasks, which was encroaching on his column." Simmons said, "My biggest concern about the site is that I don’t want the column to just be one of the things I’m doing." Much has been made of the "well-known, literary writers Simmons has already attracted to Grantland, but as a business proposition, the site is basically an attempt to leverage Simmons’s take on sports and, really, life into something much bigger than himself." Data from ComScore shows that his "Sports Guy" column on ESPN "attracted 740,000 unique visitors in April, making him probably the most widely read sportswriter in America today." In addition, his "The B.S. Report" podcasts are "downloaded an average of 600,000 times each." Still, Simmons "has deliberately taken a different approach to his career, trying to expand his audience without becoming overexposed." He "limits his radio and television appearances, and has turned down offers to host his own late-night talk show." Simmons: "What happens at ESPN is that if you’re doing well, they’ll keep asking for more, and if you don’t fight for yourself and say no, they’ll just bleed you" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, 6/5 issue).
SI.com picked up the syndicated broadband rights to the Jimmer Fredette webisodes chronicling his life leading up to the June 23 NBA Draft. The website will launch the web series today. The web vignettes also will run on a dedicated YouTube channel -- YouTube.com/followjimmer. Tupelo-Honey Productions is producing the series, "Jimmer Fredette: Follow Jimmer." The YouTube and SI.com packages will feature 75 webisodes combined. Each will be between two and four minutes. Tupelo-Honey still is planning a long-form documentary for broadcast or theatrical release following the Draft.
Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement from the NBA yesterday, and USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes ABC/ESPN needs to "give him whatever he wants" to join its NBA pregame show. The current crew of Stuart Scott, Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and Magic Johnson "might have the least sizzle of any studio TV team assigned to a major event," and O'Neal could "turn that around." TNT's "Inside the NBA" would "seem to have a big advantage in landing O'Neal," as he and TNT's Charles Barkley are "good friends." Also, TNT's show is "one of the few sports shows that is entertaining enough to get noticed outside of sports." Hiestand: "Which is all the more reason Disney shouldn't let O'Neal get away, even if it means giving him all kinds of roles outside of sports" (USA TODAY, 6/2). NBA TV's Dennis Scott said, "Shaquille O'Neal will be sitting next to us one day. It's a no brainer." Barkley said, "Shaquille's going to get a TV job because he's got that type of personality" ("Game Time," NBA TV, 6/1).
FLIPPING POSITIONS: Time Warner Cable President, Chair & CEO Glenn Britt indicated that broadband has "taken pay TV's spot as the industry's basic service." Britt said, "It has become our primary product. People are telling us that if they were down to their last dollar, they would drop broadband last." When asked about retransmission fees, Britt said, "We are not ... saying we shouldn't pay. We shouldn't have public fights about it" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/2).
WELCOME ABOARD: Rogers Sportsnet has hired former Globe & Mail columnist Michael Grange for both Sportsnet.ca and Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590. Grange will write for the website and continue as a guest and rotating host on several Sportsnet Radio programs (Rogers Sportsnet).