NBC Sports Group yesterday unveiled its TV plans for the '14-15 NHL season, with 14 regular-season games to air on the broadcast network and 89 to be carried on NBCSN. The season begins with an Oct. 8 opening-night doubleheader on NBCSN, starting with "Wednesday Night Rivalry" coverage of Flyers-Bruins and continuing with Sharks-Kings. The Bruins, Flyers, Capitals, Kings and Sharks each will make 12 appearances across NBC and NBCSN, followed by seven teams with 11 each. NBCSN will offer the majority of games Monday-Wednesday, with a Sunday game added most weeks starting in January (NBC). USA TODAY's Mike Brehm noted the Blackhawks lead appearances with 20, followed by the Penguins (19), Bruins (17), Flyers (16), Red Wings (15) and Rangers (14). The Sabres, who finished last in the NHL in '13-14, make 11 appearances. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs (two each) "are the only Canadian teams on the schedule, and those top" the Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Predators (one each) and the Panthers and Islanders (zero appearances). NBC "begins its broadcast schedule on the day after Thanksgiving" with Rangers-Flyers and resumes on Jan. 1 with the Blackhawks-Capitals Bridgestone Winter Classic in DC. Regular Sunday afternoon broadcasts start Jan. 18 (USATODAY.com, 7/22).
WHAT ABOUT SMALL MARKETS? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ryan Kennedy notes a "greater emphasis has been placed on West Coast games on this schedule," with 10 matches slated to begin at 10:00pm ET or later. NBC and the NHL will use flex scheduling once again, meaning the "broadcast schedule on Sundays could change, giving the Islanders and Panthers a slim chance at getting back on the slate" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 7/22). SI.com's Allan Muir wrote fans understand that the Panthers, Islanders, Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Predators "aren't huge national draws, but to push them off to the side is an insult to their supporters and denies hockey fans the chance to see such young stars" as Predators D Seth Jones, Blue Jackets C Ryan Johansen, Islanders C John Tavares and Panthers D Aaron Ekblad, the top pick in the '14 draft (SI.com, 7/22).
ESPN cameras will focus on the Seahawks' "hyper-competitive personalities between the lines" during the net's "SportsCenter Special: Seahawks Training Camp," which will air live for nearly two hours next Tuesday, according to Nate Davis of USA TODAY. The new show will coincide with the club's "first padded practice of the summer." ESPN "MNF" Producer Jay Rothman said, "Hopefully we can break new ground and give the fans some fresh and unique access they haven't seen before." Rothman "is planning a fast-paced, fluid program which mirrors the Seahawks' signature up-tempo practice sessions." ESPN's Jon Gruden, Darren Woodson, John Clayton and Kenny Mayne will be "deployed around the Seahawks' picturesque" Virginia Mason Athletic Center. The Seahawks have "provided a script of the nine-period practice to ESPN, allowing the network to dissect everything from individual drills to 9-on-7 periods to red-zone showdowns between offense and defense." But if the Pacific Northwest's "infamous rain intervenes, everything will be filmed on the team's indoor field." Also, there will be "no SportsCenter desk on site." Mayne and Clayton, both longtime residents of Washington state, will "float around the field and likely interact with the 3,000 '12th Man' fans expected to be in attendance." Seahawks GM John Schneider will "grant an interview" to Clayton (USA TODAY, 7/23).
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: ESPN Radio shows "Mike & Mike," "The Herd" and "SVP & Rusillo" will broadcast live in advance of NFL and college football games in the third annual ESPN Audio Fall Football Tour sponsored by Hanes, Bonefish Grill and Dr Pepper. "SVP & Rusillo" will kick off the schedule, broadcasting Aug. 29 at 1:00pm ET in Atlanta prior to the next day's West Virginia-Alabama Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The tour also includes stops in Detroit, N.Y., L.A., Dallas, Boston, Baton Rouge, Philadelphia and Chicago. It includes five NFL and four college broadcasts -- four for "Mike & Mike," three for "The Herd" and two for "SVP & Russillo" (ESPN).
The CFL would "love to take its new broadcasting agreement with ESPN and turn it into something even bigger down the road," and that is the reason why the league "entered into an exclusive, multi-year deal" with the net in the U.S. last month, according to Kirk Penton of the WINNIPEG SUN. CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon said, "What we are looking at is something that gives us great exposure, and what we hope for after a four- or five-year period is that we’ll be able to really build an audience with ESPN and build a U.S. audience.” Penton notes last year, the net "aired six games on ESPN2 and another package of contests" online at ESPN3. Cohon noted ESPN2 averaged around 300,000 viewers per game in the U.S. and the net was "happy with the results." ESPN Manager of Programming & Acquisitions Gregg Morriss said, “It was more kind of an experiment to see how they would do, and they met those expectations. Now, with a little more consistency and having more ability to do more games, working directly with the league, we see some upside there.” Cohon said, “I’m not saying that we can get to an MLS-style [$90M] deal, but if you look at Major League Soccer, they had similar sized audiences." Cohon noted that the ESPN deal is "netting the league only six figures." But the fact that "every game can be seen on one network is likely the best news for the CFL" (WINNIPEG SUN, 7/23).