ABC earned an 11.4 overnight rating for last night’s Game 5 of the Heat-Spurs NBA Finals from 8:00-11:00pm ET, down 9.5% from a 12.6 overnight for the series-clinching Heat-Thunder Game 5 last year, which aired on a Thursday night. Each game in the series to date has seen a ratings dip compared to Heat-Thunder last year. However, Game 5 will likely deliver ABC a win for the night and mark the 35th straight time an NBA Finals game has been the highest-rated program in primetime. Last night’s game peaked during the 10:30-10:45pm window in the fourth quarter with a 13.9. The game earned a 37.6 local rating in San Antonio and a 28.8 local rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale. Meanwhile, looking at national figures through four NBA Finals games, ABC is averaging a 9.0 rating and 14.8 million viewers, down 9% and 10%, respectively, from the same period last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz on Friday said the net has "had conversations" with NBA studio show co-host Bill Simmons following a pair of tweets he sent out criticizing ESPN following Heat-Spurs Game 4 Thursday night. In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted Simmons “made a joke on ‘SportsCenter’ about Dwyane Wade, suggesting that his great game against the Spurs was the result of a quick trip to Germany, presumably for the same type of regenerative blood-spinning procedure that benefited” Lakers G Kobe Bryant. But the joke “did not appear on subsequent ‘SportsCenter’ replays.” Simmons then wrote on his Twitter account, referring to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, “Wow, SportsCenter edited my joke out about Wade going to Germany before Game 4 -- I should have just ripped people to shreds like SAS did.” Simmons soon after wrote on Twitter, “The rigidity of studio TV is really discouraging. Let’s just say that A LOT makes sense after these past 8 months.” Sandomir noted that “type of complaint could lead him to leave the program” (NYTIMES.com, 6/15). WEEI-FM's Gerry Callahan said of the tweets, “I love that, when you get a little feud. He’s mad that Stephen A. can say whatever he wants. ... That’s the old Simmons. That’s what you want. I miss that punk. That’s what made him what he is today.” WEEI's Kirk Minihane added, “That doesn’t surprise me that ESPN would knock that out though because they kiss ass for athletes.” Callahan: “ESPN is paying the NBA a fortune -- billions -- and yet ESPN is at the beckon call at the service of the commissioner. They should say, ‘Kiss our ass commissioner, go cash your check’” (“Dennis and Callahan,” WEEI- FM, 6/14). Simmons' future on "NBA Countdown" is uncertain, but SI.com's Richard Deitsch reports the ESPN management that oversees the show have "said on the record (including to me) that they are pleased with the quartet of Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose and Simmons and would like to see them return" (SI.com, 6/17).
PLAN B FOR VAN G: ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Mark Gross said that the net has a "contingency plan” if analyst Jeff Van Gundy “departs for a head coaching job.” SI.com’s Richard Deitsch noted Gross “would not reveal the specifics.” Gross said, "We always have a backup plan but I am not at liberty to roll it out to you. ... When you are dealing with former coaches or GMs that might go back, you have to have a backup plan." Gross “wanted to make clear -- and no doubt he is being truthful here -- that he hopes Van Gundy stays at ESPN for many years” (SI.com, 6/16).
NBC earned a 6.1 overnight rating for the final round of the U.S. Open yesterday from 1:00-7:45pm ET, which saw Justin Rose win his first major by two strokes over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. That figure marks the best final round overnight for a U.S. Open on the East Coast since ’07 at Oakmont Country Club. Last year’s final round, which aired from Olympic Club in S.F., earned a 6.6 overnight (4:00-10:30pm) for Webb Simpson’s win. The last U.S. Open on the East Coast -- which was held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda in ’11 -- earned a 5.1 overnight for Rory McIlroy’s eight-stroke victory. Yesterday’s coverage peaked at a 9.4 rating during the 7:00-7:30pm window (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes NBC's golf coverage typically is "outstanding and far more preferable than what you will find on any of the other networks," but it felt like there "was something missing from the weekend coverage of the U.S. Open." Jones: "It just wasn't up to NBC's standards." The production was "fine" and the replays "were outstanding," but it felt like analysts Johnny Miller and Gary Koch "were the only ones who said anything interesting." The net "could have used" former on-course reporter Dottie Pepper over the weekend (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/17). SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes he was "really impressed " with ESPN Radio's coverage of the U.S. Open yesterday, as host Bob Wischusen "guided the coverage from hole to hole with professionalism and knowledge" (SI.com, 6/17).
TAKING ITS TIME: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes in NBC's first 65 minutes of live coverage of the third round, "only one shot was seen of a player taking a shot that counted." It appeared as if Webb Simpson's tee shot on the 1st hole was "being seen live ... but, logically, it could not have been live, as Simpson, on a good-weather day, had been scheduled to start 12 minutes earlier." It was "not until 1:06, 66 minutes after signing on from Merion, when NBC showed its first discernibly live shot of a player -- in this case, Bubba Watson -- competing in the U.S. Open" (N.Y. POST, 6/17).
IN THE BOOTH: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote Miller "never met a golfer he couldn't peck to pieces," and he does "make sure that you know he's certain he's the smartest guy not only on the course, but on both sides of the TV screen." Meanwhile, ESPN's Chris Berman "simply does not belong on a golf broadcast." Busbee: "We can hope that ESPN will see that it already has a superior golf voice in-house in Scott Van Pelt, and scale back Berman's involvement even further. We can hope that someone will do something someday to impress Johnny Miller." Major championship golf is "too good a story on its own to let the storytellers get in the way" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/15).
NBC Sports has hired former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli for its "Football Night In America" studio program, and he will "appear weekly on either the FNIA studio set in New York City or at the game site of Sunday Night Football," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. He also will appear "every Monday on the NBC Sports Network's Pro Football Talk in segments with FNIA analyst Rodney Harrison." Pioli's segments will be a "work in progress." On some weeks, he will "appear in-studio with analysts Tony Dungy and Harrison or with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and reporter Peter King." NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood said that he also might "send Pioli to the Sunday Night Football game site, where he'd appear with host Bob Costas and analyst Hines Ward." Flood said, "I just saw another smart football mind that gives us a different perspective that we don't have on the team right now -- a player personnel guy who has a smart way of looking at the game. We will try him in different areas throughout the show and it will all depend on his development." Pioli said that he was "contacted shortly by a number of different TV networks and NFL teams after he lost his job" with the Chiefs in January. NBC Sports Senior VP/Production and Senior Coordinating Producer Dan Steir "flew out to Kansas City in January to pitch him on the network." Pioli, when asked about being critical of former colleagues and friends in the league, said, "There is a big difference between criticizing the performance and criticizing the performer. I am not going to be a person who criticizes people. Most of my background in the media is theoretical and academic so I have not entered the realm, but I think that is part of our obligation in the media is to try not to make it personal" (SI.com, 6/17).
PIOLI SIGNS WITH IMG: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen notes IMG has signed Pioli for representation with IMG Senior Corporate VP & Managing Dir of Clients Sandy Montag as the lead agent. Montag said, "Scott is a really intelligent former general manager; and we see tremendous upside for him in the broadcasting space" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/17 issue).
Colorado Springs' KOAA-NBC heard from "more than 100 disgruntled hockey devotees" after the station moved Game 1 of the Bruins-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Final "to an alternate channel while choosing to cover the Black Forest fire" Wednesday night, according to David Ramsey of the Colorado Springs GAZETTE. KOAA News Dir David Randall in an e-mail wrote, "With nearly 40,000 people in Colorado Springs unable to return to their homes and thousands threatened at the time, I made the decision that I believe best served the community." But Ramsey noted KOAA could have "made a more considerate, sensible choice, one that served the information needs of all of us interested in the fire -- one of the biggest local news stories of this decade -- along with the desires of those of us who love hockey." KRDO-ABC during coverage of Game 4 of the Heat-Spurs NBA Finals Thursday night "provided constantly updated, detailed information about the fire in text at the bottom of [the] screen." The station also had "live fire coverage" during halftime (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 6/16).
DREADED GLITCH AWARD: Ratings for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final will not be available until later today, but in Chicago, Francine Knowles reported equipment failure was "blamed for temporarily knocking out the signal," preventing Comcast viewers "from watching the game in high definition" for 25 minutes. Comcast Corporate Communications Regional Dir Angelynne Amores in an e-mail wrote, "A piece of equipment that receives HD signals from broadcasters and transmits them to customers went down for a short period of time" (SUNTIMES.com, 6/16).
EASY FOR NON-HOCKEY FANS TO FOLLOW: In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes the expertise of NBC announcers Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk makes it "easy for relatively uneducated viewers to understand what's happening" during the Stanley Cup Final. The duo also "does not neglect the game's finer points -- much to the joy of devotees who know all about the Original Six" (DENVER POST, 6/17). In Tampa, Tom Jones notes there are rumors that Olczyk and ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy could "put their microphones down to return to coaching." Rumors have "died down a bit about Van Gundy," but many believe Olczyk "will soon go back to coaching or, perhaps, get involved in the front office." NBC's Pierre McGuire also has "interviewed for several front-office openings in recent years." Jones: "Enjoy these three while you can because who knows how much longer they will be calling games" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/17).
KEEPING THINGS PG: In Illinois, Tim Sassone reports there were "frank 'discussions'" in the Bruins' dressing room after the first period of Game 1 in which they were outshot 19-4 but trailed just 1-0. Bruins RW Tyler Seguin was "wearing a microphone for the game but made sure he hid it between the first and second periods." He said of the locker-room talks, "I definitely knew it was coming, so I threw my shoulder pads in the training room and put a towel over it so no one could hear what we were saying. I think we needed that team wake-up call" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 6/17).