NBC earned a 2.4 overnight Nielsen rating for the Kings’ 2-1 OT win over the Devils in Game One of the NHL Stanley Cup Final last night. That figure is down 25% from the Bruins-Canucks opener last year, which was the best Game One overnight in 12 years. Game One aired on cable TV from ’00-08. The Kings-Devils opener is also down 14% from a 2.8 overnight for the Blackhawks-Flyers opener in ’10, which aired on a Saturday night. Kings-Devils peaked at a 3.2 rating from 11:00-11:15pm ET, when the game-winning goal was scored. NBC also faced head-to-head competition from ESPN’s telecast of the NBA Draft Lottery and Game Two of the Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals. The top local market for Kings-Devils was Buffalo with a 7.8 local rating. N.Y. (5.1) and L.A. (4.2) ranked second and third, respectively. Meanwhile, ESPN's Celtics-Heat telecast earned a 7.4 rating in N.Y. and 6.1 rating in L.A. The 4.2 local rating in L.A. for Kings-Devils ranks as the market's best Stanley Cup Final opener rating on record (dating back to '76). The 5.1 rating in N.Y. marked the second-best Stanley Cup Final opener in the market on record, behind only the Devils-Red Wings opener in '95 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
LOOK AWAY: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly reviews the CBC podcast "While The Men Watch" that ran before Kings-Devils Game One and writes under the headline, “CBC Alt-Broadcast Of Cup Final An Embarrassment.” After “suffering through the abrasive and aggressively ill-informed commentary of Jules Mancuso and Lena Sutherland” last night, this CBC live stream “isn’t about men and women.” This is about “idiots and non-idiots.” The eight people who “enjoyed what they saw last night on ‘While The Men Watch,’ regardless of gender, belong to the first group.” There were “two opposed themes on the night -- ‘We’re fun gals married to sports nuts’ and ‘Our sexual frustration could power a good-sized rocket ship’” (TORONTO STAR, 5/31).
COME BACK: In Montreal, Mike Boone notes TSN had its final NHL broadcast of the season two weeks ago and writes viewers “have been deprived” of host James Duthie’s “wit and the hockey wisdom of his in-studio panel: Bob McKenzie, Aaron Ward and Mark Crawford” (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/31).
Time Warner Cable has put a price to its planned RSNs in L.A., as cable systems within the L.A. DMA would pay $3.95 per subscriber per month, according to a source who has seen the offer sheet. Cable systems in outlying areas -- north to Fresno, south to San Diego, east to the Arizona border and west to Hawaii -- would pay $1.25. TWC execs would not comment on the price, but TWC Sports President David Rone said the value to distributors comes from the fact that it is launching two channels: Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes. "These services are singular services," Rone told THE DAILY. "They are singular networks." The channels are scheduled to launch Oct. 1, with a programming lineup that will rely heavily on the Lakers. "Between October and June, we will have Lakers-centric nightly programming each of those nights," Rone said. That includes pre- and postgame shows, even when the Lakers game is on another network. It also includes Lakers shows on nights when the team is not playing. The Spanish-language channel will have a nightly soccer show. Rone said he is on the lookout for more local sports rights, including college rights, but he would not specify which ones. "It's a competitive market," he said. He also said TWC would welcome a bid on the Dodgers TV rights when those come up. "We are hopeful that we will have an opportunity to speak with the new ownership," he said. "Those are conversations we are interested in having and prepared to have." TWC has around 2 million subscribers in Southern California, which accounts for 40% of the pay-TV market in the L.A. market. The channels will be carried in those homes at launch. It is standard in the cable industry to wait until just before or just after a channel's launch to cut a carriage deal.
It is “easy to understand why the Dolphins, trying to regain fans and national stature," would sign up to appear on HBO’s "Hard Knocks,” but it is not so easy to understand “why would HBO and NFL Films want the Dolphins,” according to David Neal of the MIAMI HERALD. NFL Films Senior Coordinating Producer Ross Ketover said, “This organization is one of the pillars of the NFL and we’re happy to be here on the ground floor when coach (Joe) Philbin brings it back to prominence. Secondly, the Dolphins have a number of really interesting story lines.” He added, “There’s no shortage of things we’ll want to talk about on this series … which we’ll probably throw out after the first week when we discover 50 new story lines.” Ketover also said that the Dolphins “granted the broad access the show needed.” He said, “We talked to a lot of teams. Some were not interested, some were interested with caveats not acceptable to us. We did not offer this to any other team but the Dolphins” (MIAMI HERALD, 5/31). Philbin said, “I am not really sure how it got to be; I wasn't necessarily auditioning for it. But the more I thought about it. ... Let's face it the easy answer is to say, 'No it's a huge distraction.' ... But this program is not based on doing what is easy and we thought that it was in the best interest of the organization at this point in time to do it. So that is what we are doing." ESPN.com’s James Walker wrote the show presents “a unique set of challenges for Miami's coaches.” Philbin and his staff “will be making honest assessments of his own players behind closed doors” and everything “can be brought to the public with HBO granted all-access" (ESPN.com, 5/30).
IS IT A GOOD MOVE? In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes the Dolphins are "flicking a major switch when it comes to inviting HBO's omnipresent Hard Knocks camera crew to training camp this summer," as the team "has been stuck in mockumentary mode for so long that a nice, football-heavy documentary could do wonders for rebuilding the Dolphins' national reputation." It will give the Dolphins "something of an identity again," as even the "mundane process of coaches digging through practice tapes and discussing the progress of borderline players will show that someone at Davie is thinking, and thinking hard, about making this team better" (PALM BEACH POST, 5/31). However, ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb said the move is not a football decision because Owner Stephen Ross “likes stars, he likes attention." Gottlieb: "That’s why he likes to be the one team -- outside of Jacksonville -- that said, ‘Come on in with your cameras.’ Nothing to do with football.” The Miami Herald’s Israel Gutierrez said, “The only way it’s a football decision is if they’re trying to clear up sort of the reputation of Jeff Ireland as a bad GM and the leadership in the Dolphins organization" (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 5/30).
The mtn., the Mountain West Conference's sports channel, will cease production at the end of the day today, and "much of its legacy will be tied" to what conference and network officials claim are "misguided arguments about distribution and revenue," according to Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs GAZETTE. The net, which launched in '06 and was the "first dedicated to one college conference, was meant to give unprecedented exposure to Mountain West schools, and delivered almost 38,000 hours of programming." The mtn.’s goal of "unique exposure was met, as it showed football games that might have been covered only locally and other sports that might not have been covered at all." That coverage "was unheard of six years ago, and was a recruiting tool for many of the league’s coaches." But MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said, "Some people thought it was supposed to be ESPN Junior and be national. I think the biggest thing was the expectation that The mtn. would be in 50 million homes -- that was never the intent.” Schwab noted the net was "ripped for not being available in enough homes," and it would be "included in criticisms of how little money each conference school made in the television deal, although that wasn’t part of the plan either." Even if the channel "made money -- which it didn’t -- that money would have gone to the television partners, not directly to the schools." However, there were "underlying issues" with the net. Most nets began moving to HD, but "production costs were high and The mtn., which was struggling to find an advertising niche as a quasi-national network with programming aimed mainly at a small region, stuck with standard definition for almost all of its shows." Thompson said that he "regretted not pushing for HD earlier." And when the Univ. of Utah left for the Pac-12 in '10, conference realignment "was on its way and The mtn. was in trouble" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 5/30).
SAYING GOODBYE: In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote The mtn. "never gained the high-profile status of a major supplier of college sports events, but it has a special place in broadcasting history as the first cable network devoted to the coverage of one college conference." Saunders: "In retrospect, such coverage of one conference, while creating initial industry and viewer enthusiasm, was destined to have a limited audience. ... It didn't help The Mtn. that several high-profile schools have left the Mountain West. BYU and Utah started the departures, and TCU followed. Boise State and San Diego State will be gone by next summer" (DENVER POST, 5/28).
ESPN earned a 6.6 overnight Nielsen rating for the Heat’s OT win over the Celtics in Game Two of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, up 29% from a 5.1 overnight for the comparable Mavericks-Thunder Western Conference Finals Game Two last year and up 16% from Celtics-Magic Game Two in ’10. Last night's game peaked at a 9.0 rating during OT. The game posted a 21.9 local rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, setting a record in the market for an NBA Playoff game on ESPN. The previous record was set in Game One. Leading into last night’s game, ESPN earned a 2.7 overnight for the NBA Draft Lottery, up slightly from a 2.6 rating last year. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale topped all markets for the lottery telecast with a 7.6 local rating, followed by Cleveland-Akron (6.0), New Orleans (5.7), Charlotte (5.5) and Memphis (4.9) (THE DAILY).
DON'T LOOK AT ME: Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger yesterday "pointed at regional sports networks as the main culprits for increased pricing” on monthly cable bills despite the fact ESPN charges $5.15 per household per month. Iger indicated that ESPN “provides additional services along with rate increases." Iger: “If you look at the cost of those channels versus the ratings they deliver, it’s not even close (to ESPN.)” SNL Kagan figures showed Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic is “the highest-priced regional sports network, weighing in at $4.02 per month per household.” FS North is second at $3.68” (N.Y. POST, 5/31).
WELCOME TO THE TEAM: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic hired Tarik El-Bashir from the Washington Post to be the RSN's "Redskins Insider." El-Bashir's work will appear on TV and on CSN's website. El-Bashir spent 13 years at the paper, most recently covering Georgetown basketball and the Capitals (John Ourand, THE DAILY).