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Volume 24 No. 116

Media

NBC Sports Network finished the lockout-shortened NHL regular season with an average of 392,000 viewers for its 56 game telecasts, marking the best NHL audience on cable TV since the ’93-94 season, when ESPN/ESPN2 averaged 474,000 viewers. NBC Sports Net, in the second season of a 10-year deal with the NHL, saw viewership jump 18% from last season. The previous high for the net as the league’s cable partner came in ’10-11 (348,000 viewers). The net averaged 646,000 viewers for its newly-created “Wednesday Night Rivalry” matchup -- a window that was exclusive to the net (other telecasts blacked out locally). NBC Sports Net also recorded its two most-viewed NHL games ever this season, and seven of the top eight. The first-ever “Wednesday Night Rivalry” matchup -- Bruins-Rangers on Jan. 23 -- led the way with 956,000 viewers. Meanwhile, NBC, which went without a Winter Classic due to the lockout, averaged 1.473 million viewers for 13 telecasts (excludes final game, for which viewership was not available at presstime). That figure is the lowest for NBC since ’07-08, which was the first season of the Winter Classic. Remove the Winter Classic from all recent seasons, and NBC’s average this season would be the best since it regained NHL rights prior to the ’05-06 season.

NHL REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP ON BROADCAST TV
YEAR
NET
GMS
VIEWERS (000)
'12-13*
NBC
13
1,473
'11-12
NBC
12
1,580
'10-11
NBC
11
1,621
'09-10
NBC
10
1,560
'08-09
NBC
10
1,530
'07-08**
NBC
10
1,400
'06-07
NBC
9
1,344
'05-06
NBC
6
1,376
'04-05
LOCKOUT (SEASON CANCELED)
'03-04
ABC
5
1,547
'02-03
ABC
5
1,656
'01-02
ABC
5
1,999
NHL REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP ON CABLE TV
SEASON
NET
GMS
VIEWERS (000)
'12-13*
NBCSN
56
392
'11-12
NBCSN
90
332
'10-11
NBCSN
53
348
'09-10
NBCSN
52
297
'08-09
NBCSN
54
318
'07-08
NBCSN
56
272
'06-07
NBCSN
58
212
'05-06
NBCSN
56
162
'04-05
LOCKOUT (SEASON CANCELED)
'03-04
ESPN/ESPN2
n/a
209

NOTES: * = Lockout shortened season (no Winter Classic). ** = First season with Winter Classic.

ESPN President John Skipper said sports "will remain ascendant" in popular culture because there are "still people who have games they care about that aren’t produced and available widely," according to a Q&A with Ray Bendici of CONNECTICUT MAGAZINE. Skipper discussed increasing competition from Fox and NBC, how he budgets his time and other matters. Excerpts from the interview follow:

Q: Is it possible for sports to become even more popular?
Skipper: What I do believe is that there’s still demand for more sports. ... The other issue you’ve got, of course, is that sports are live and in this current media environment, the only thing you have to watch live other than news -- although this is scheduled.

Q: Are sports over-exposed?
Skipper: No, I don’t think so. Fans want as much choice as possible. But it’s a choice -- if you don’t want to watch it, you don’t have to watch it. It’s not going to get overexposed.

Q: Fox just announced its own sports network ... and NBC is increasing its sports coverage, so is there enough content for everyone?
Skipper: The answer is “Yes,” and “No.” There is literally enough content, right? What there is a scarcity of is high-profile big events. ... When you get to the things that aggregate an audience of a million-plus people, there’s not that much. ... So the issue for these new networks is that there’s plenty of content to put on, but is there big-event content that can actually aggregate you an audience? Because you need those big events to have your studio programming get a big audience because it’s all about lead-ins.

Q: Biggest challenge for the worldwide leader in sports?
Skipper: There are several big challenges. Maintaining the culture of the company. Maintaining the quality of the people who work here is very, very important. We have a very successful business model, which has as one of its important elements the pay-television business, so the continuation of that business is an important issue for us. ... If you have to sum it up into one thing, we just have to keep our edge -- we have to be not complacent.

Q: Biggest challenge for the leader of the worldwide leader in sports?
Skipper: The biggest challenge is managing my time, prioritizing, figure out where best to use my time because the range of things I can get involved in from rights deals to innovations owned to studio programming to relationships with major partners, distribution deals to being out at the Walt Disney Company to participate there. ... It’s also staying in touch with as many people as possible. This is a very people-oriented culture, so I make a point to get down to the cafeteria and walk around, see people and shake hands. It’s one person with a plethora of things to do, so it’s figuring out how to spend my time, that’s the hardest challenge (CONNECTICUT MAGAZINE, 5/'13 issue).