The NHL Kings and Fox Sports "have reached agreement on a new television contract," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. A source said that the new deal keeps the Kings on FS West through '24 and "guarantees the team" about $250M. The contract "ranks among the most lucrative local cable deals for any NHL team." The deal is "expected to be announced" prior to tonight's Devils-Kings NHL Stanley Cup Final Game Three at Staples Center. The Kings' TV "windfall has less to do with their Stanley Cup run than with the fractured cable sports landscape in Southern California." With Time Warner Cable "swiping the Lakers from Fox and launching two sports channels, the Kings now have joined the Angels in leveraging the threat of jumping to TWC into a fat new deal." Fox "agreed to tear up the Kings' current contract," which extended through '15 and included annual payments that "topped out" at about $12M. The new deal "averages about" $21M per season. While the Angels' new deal "includes an ownership stake in Fox Sports West; the Kings' deal does not." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke would not "confirm specific figures of the Kings' new deal." However, he said that the deal "puts the Kings among the top 10 NHL teams in annual cable rights fees" (L.A. TIMES, 6/4). Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille said, "This is mostly a basketball market, and the Lakers have kicked butt for years. But we know that there are 2.4 million hockey fans in Southern California, and this year, we’re uniquely positioned to reach all of them. Obviously, it starts with success on the ice. And it helps that our best players are very young. So if we just continue to build on the success we’ve had this year, there’s really no telling how far we can go" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/4).
ESPN earned a 7.9 overnight Nielsen rating for last night’s Heat-Celtics NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game Four last night, marking the best NBA Playoff overnight ever on cable TV, with records dating back to ’03. The game is up 39% compared to a 5.7 for last year’s Mavericks-Thunder Game Four on the net. Last night’s telecast peaked at a 10.7 rating during OT. In Boston, the game earned a 20.7 local rating, setting a record in the market for an NBA Playoff game. Meanwhile, the net earned a 5.6 overnight for Game Three of the series on Friday night, up 24% from a 4.5 overnight for the net’s Mavericks-Thunder Game Three last year.
WESTERN CONFERNCE: TNT is averaging a 4.6 fast-national rating and 7.2 million viewers through four games of the Spurs-Thunder Western Conference Finals. Those figures are up from ESPN’s Mavericks-Thunder WCF last year (4.3 rating, 6.9 million viewers through four games), but down from a 6.2 rating and 7.2 million viewers for TNT’s record-setting Heat-Bulls series. Despite the sharp drop from Heat-Bulls, TNT remains on pace for its second-best audience in 28 years of NBA Playoff games (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
BREAKING THE MOLD: SHERMANREPORT.com's Ed Sherman writes ESPN has proved that its NBA studio show “can be done without a quote-unquote host.” “NBA Countdown” is a “contrast to TNT’s ‘Inside the NBA,’ where host Ernie Johnson has to steer through the goofiness often generated by Charles Barkley.” ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Mark Gross is “more than pleased with the new format.” Gross said, “This place is built on a risk. It shouldn’t be that difficult for us to take a risk on a pre-game show. It doesn’t have to look like every other show that’s out there. If you get the right four guys, it can work.” Gross added, “It works because they all get along. Two, they’re big basketball fans. Three, they all have something to say.” Gross: “There are a lot of shows where you want a host. You want to ask a specific question. … ‘NBA Countdown’ is different. What we’ve done works for this show” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 6/4).
YES! In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote NBC’s Mike Emrick deserves the attention he is getting with the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, but people should not forget “the magnificence of Marv Albert" working the NBA Western Conference Finals on TNT. Raissman: "Marveloso takes a back seat to no one. And he once was darn good calling Rangers hockey on the radio" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/2).
QUITE FRANKLY: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes although Stephen A. Smith and ESPN “consider Smith an NBA expert, his analysis betrays such a sell.” Mushnick: “He explains games in terms of which player takes the most shots, which should take the most shots and which scores -- or should score -- the most points. He seems to see/know nothing else” (N.Y. POST, 6/4).
TECHNICAL ISSUES: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht noted TNT had some "technical problems" with its graphics during the Thunder-Spurs game on Friday, "which caused them to use the arena scoreboard and 24-point clock for a short period.” Albert also “announced the Spurs led 26-24 after the first quarter when the score was tied” (OKLAHOMAN, 6/2).
Fox earned a 2.8 overnight Nielsen rating for its third MLB primetime regional telecast of the season on Saturday night, which featured coverage of Yankees-Tigers in 63% of markets. While that figure is the best overnight among the net’s MLB primetime telecasts in ‘12, it is flat with the third iteration of MLB primetime coverage last year. Fox' three game primetime average also lags behind figures from last season. Fox’ third MLB primetime telecast last season featured Cardinals-Rockies. The first two primetime telecasts this season earned a 2.4 and 2.3 overnight, respectively. Last season, the first two MLB primetime telecasts earned a 3.0 (Yankees-Red Sox) and 3.1 overnight (Yankees-Mets), respectively (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
UP ALL NIGHT: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes Fox' MLB Saturday regional telecast was supposed to be "during the afternoon." That is "the way it has always been" and it is "the way it always should be." Jones: "It might be true that kids don't have early bedtimes on Saturday, but let's look at Saturday's Fox game between the Yankees and Tigers. It was a heck of a game, so good that announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver correctly suggested that it wasn't quite like a post-season game but it did feel more important than just another regular-season game in June." Jones writes, "Know what time it ended? Close to midnight. How many 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds, even 10-year-olds are up at that time?" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/4).
BACK IN BRISTOL: ESPN MLB analyst Curt Schilling returned to "Baseball Tonight" on Sunday for the first time since news broke about the financial situation facing his 38 Studios video game company. ESPN said that Schilling asked to miss four scheduled appearances over the past couple of weeks as he dealt with fallout from his company's struggles. Schilling did not address the 38 Studios situation on the broadcast. ESPN's Karl Ravech, at the beginning of the telecast, said, "Happy to have Curt Schilling back with us talking baseball for a full hour" (THE DAILY).
TALKING IT OUT: In Chicago, Dave van Dyck noted White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson "left an apologetic telephone message for umpire Mark Wegner, whom he criticized harshly on the air Wednesday." Harrelson hopes that "will provide closure to the situation." Sources said that Harrelson "did it on his own, without prodding from the commissioner's office or the Sox front office" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/3). In Tampa, Jones also noted that Harrelson "had spoken with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig" regarding his outburst. Harrelson said, "We had a talk. Actually, Bud talked and I listened. If it was a prize fight, they would have stopped it in the first round. I also talked with (White Sox owner) Jerry (Reinsdorf), and I listened to him as well. That's all I really have to say" (TAMPABAY.com, 6/1).
Plenty of folks are "upset at the San Diego Union-Tribune for booting out popular long-time columnist Tim Sullivan” on Friday, according to Ed Sherman of SHERMANREPORT.com. Sullivan wrote on his Twitter feed, “(Friday) marks the end of my 10 years with the Union-Tribune. Thanks to all who have offered their insight, their time and their readership.” He added, “I was reporting a column this afternoon when I was notified my services were no longer required” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 6/2).
NOT ENOUGH CHEER? In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes Sullivan was fired "apparently because ownership at the San Diego Union Tribune didn't think Sully was 'positive' enough regarding the local sports teams." Daugherty writes, "It's not a columnist's job to be 'positive.' That's why we have chambers of commerce. ... To dismiss a capable opinion writer for writing his opinion is egregious and dangerous" (CINCINNATI.com, 6/4). In California, Jay Paris wrote Sullivan is "not only a keen writer, but among the better guys in our business" (NCTIMES.com, 6/3).
TWITTER REAX: Several members of the media took to Twitter to offer their opinions. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal said, “I’m biased, Tim Sullivan is my friend. But I will say this -- it is insane that the San Diego U-T let him go. He is a brilliant columnist.” Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown: “TimSullivan714 is one of the most talented, decent and intelligent columnists in the country. What a thing.” The Buffalo News' Jerry Sullivan: "Tim was fired from job as sports columnist at the Union-Tribune in San Diego. Word is, because he wouldn't be a cheerleader for new stadium. Tim Sullivan was my mentor at Missouri and the man mainly responsible for me taking journalism seriously when I was a kid. I'm proud of him." The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Bill Livingston: "All best to Tim Sullivan, late of the SD Union-Tribune, an excellent sports columnist who deserved far better." FoxSports.com's Tracy Ringolsby: "Too bad newspaper owners aren't as committed to good product as they demand from teams. SD Union Trib is a farce, laying off Tim Sullivan."
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NBC earned a 2.2 overnight Nielsen rating for Saturday night's Kings-Devils NHL Stanley Cup Final Game Two, down 12% from a 2.5 overnight for the comparable Bruins-Canucks Game Two last year (THE DAILY).
BRASS RINGS? CABLEFAX DAILY notes Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts “was a little hesitant” when asked at an investor conference Friday if Comcast-NBC “can make money” on the London Olympics. Roberts said, “I think the answer might very well be yes, but I don't want to say for sure yet. We do feel the advertising market for sports content in particular is very, very desirable.” DirecTV Chair, President & CEO Mike White said that “distributors are making disciplined choices.” White: “We have not put the Longhorn Network on, and have no plans to. We haven't figured out what we're doing with the Pac-12, but we're not going to have 7 channels. I can assure you of that. We don't know what we'll do with the new (Time Warner Cable) RSNs in Los Angeles” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 6/4).
GETTING THE AX: Fuel TV decided to cancel its nightly action sports news show, "Action Sports Plus," meaning 13 L.A.-based production staffers will be out of a job at the end of the month. Fox made the decision based on ratings, which never took hold for the show. The Fox-owned cable channel is in 36 million homes. "Since introducing UFC programming in January, Fuel TV has grown its audience more than any other ad-supported cable network this year," Fox Sports said via e-mail. "Unfortunately, not every show has built on that success, and 'Action Sports Plus,' having not developed the viewership necessary to sustain it, has been canceled. It will go off the air at the end of June" (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
RUNNING WILD: The TAMPA BAY TIMES reported San Diego-based Competitor Group Inc. has acquired Women's Running magazine, the Lady Speed Stick Women's Half Marathon Series and WomensRunning.com, "all founded by Dawna Stone" in St. Petersburg. Terms of the acquisitions "were not disclosed." But CGI said it would use the Women's Running assets to build "the largest participatory platform in the world dedicated to female athletes." Stone will join CGI "as a consultant and media contributor" (TAMBABAY.com, 6/1).