ABC drew a 10.1 overnight rating for the Raptors' 118-109 win over the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, down 18% from a 12.3 for the Warriors-Cavaliers opener last year, which went to overtime. Canadian figures are not included in Thursday's figures, as the Toronto market is not Nielsen-rated. Two years ago, Warriors-Cavs Game 1 drew a 12.4, while the '16 Cavs-Warriors matchup drew a 13.1 overnight. Thursday night's game marks the lowest NBA Finals Game 1 since Lakers-Magic drew an 8.9 overnight in '09. Thursday's rating still would eclipse the 8.0 for the Spurs-Cavaliers opener in '07 or the 9.3 for Heat-Mavericks in '06 (9.3). S.F.-Oakland-San Jose led all markets for Thursday with a 26.4 rating, but it was the lowest for Game 1 there for the five times the Warriors have been in the Finals. Last year drew a 31.1, '17 drew a 30.9, '16 a 32.8 and '15 a 28.9. Thursday's game, which peaked at an 11.0 rating from 11:30-11:45pm ET, marks the 65th straight time that the NBA Finals has won the night across all TV (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY). The Athletic's Richard Deitsch notes it was "no surprise" the Game 1 final would be down, as the series "needs length to overcome the Toronto market not rated by Nielsen and the absence of LeBron" (TWITTER.com, 5/31). CNBC's Eric Chemi prior to Game 1 said, "If and when these ratings are lower, they've got an easy scapegoat" ("The Exchange," CNBC, 5/30).
HOMETOWN TEAM? In Buffalo, Alan Pergament notes the Raptors' "proximity to Western New York" led to a rise in viewership on WKBW-ABC compared to last year's Game 1. The 8.4 local rating that Warriors-Raptors Game 1 drew was up nearly 10% from Warriors-Cavs Game 1 in '18. The ratings also tied the 8.4 local rating for Game 1 of the Blues-Bruins Stanley Cup Final Game 1 on Monday. The battle over whether basketball or hockey is more popular in the region "ended up in a split decision last year," but it "should be more interesting this year with the Raptors playing less than 100 miles away" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 5/31).
SUPER TEAM: SI.com's Jimmy Traina wrote the run that ESPN's Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson have had calling the NBA Finals "has gone a bit unnoticed." Last night marked the 11th Finals that the trio has called for ABC/ESPN. This year will be Van Gundy's 13th Finals as an analyst, and Breen's 14th as a play-by-play man. When it "comes to analysts, you have to go back to the days of Bill Russell and Rick Barry" in the '70s and '80s to "find any who have worked more than four NBA Finals." When early June "rolls around, we know we're getting Breen, Van Gundy and Jackson in our living rooms for several nights and there is something refreshing about that familiarity" (SI.com, 5/30).
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has "made a series of subtle tweaks" since taking over the network in '18, designed to "reassure both ESPN’s core audience and the leagues that sell ESPN its most valuable programming," according to Peter Kafka of RECODE. Pitaro’s job is to "prepare ESPN" for the future, while "maintaining the sports programmer’s current status as one of TV’s most valuable properties." One tweak was condensing "Get Up" from 3 hours to 2, which Pitaro said is "just one very specific example of a change that we made that I think has really helped us in terms of serving the core sports fan." He added, "If you were to look at our research, I think you would see that we are doing quite well with the core sports fan." On the trend of subscriber bases declining, Pitaro said, "People have many more options right now than they did five, 10 years ago. And by the way, the options aren’t just on the sports and entertainment video side." Pitaro said when ESPN is acquiring rights, "we are not always first and foremost looking through the traditional television lens and I think the UFC is a great example." He noted Top Rank Boxing as another example, saying these are "major media rights that we’ve acquired really with a focus on advancing the subscriber base for ESPN+."
LEAGUE TALK: On acquiring NFL and NBA rights for ESPN+, Pitaro said, "All of those major sports rights, we are 100 percent focused on acquiring rights also for the ESPN+." Meanwhile, Pitaro said the odds "are low" that a league like the NFL or NBA would take premier live rights and sell them to outlets like Google or Facebook. Pitaro: "[The leagues'] job, like our job, is to expand their audience. They want to attract as many people, they want to grow awareness, they want to grow affinity for their respective leagues. And again, no different than our focus for ESPN. Will they do something exclusive? I don’t see that." Pitaro also addressed ESPN's effort to cut back on political talk, saying, "What we don’t want is people to tune into ESPN, or people to tune into an ESPN feed on a social platform and get pure political commentary." He added, "We don’t believe that that’s who we are. We don’t believe that that’s why people tune into ESPN" (VOX.com, 5/30).
In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes a lot of people have been "blown away" by Blues radio play-by-play man Chris Kerber's "gracious gesture of turning his seat over" to Blues TV announcer John Kelly for the second period of the broadcasts for Stanley Cup Final games. Kelly, who does play-by-play for FS Midwest, is "shut out of that role now because NBC has exclusive TV rights." Kerber said the decision to step aside for Kelly "was a no brainer." Kerber: "We travel with this group, we see each other every day. ... That's more than a lot of families do. I just felt like it was the right thing to do" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/31).
GOLD STANDARD: In Boston, Chad Finn writes NBC's Mike Emrick "calls perhaps the fastest-paced sport with nary a tangle of the tongue." He is "all graceful play-by-play and articulate anecdotes." He once was "counted using 153 different verbs to describe a pass." Emrick said, "I don't sit up there and try to make up words. It's not conspiratorial. I just see what I see and it translates to the moment." He added, "Be prepared for the moment, especially if there's something important you want to say and don't want to risk not having it quite right" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/31).
IN HIS ELEMENT: In Chicago, Jeff Agrest notes former NHLer Patrick Sharp's "rapid rise in the ranks" of NBC's NHL analysts has him already "playing a big role on the network's coverage" of the Stanley Cup Final. He "looks in his element on the set, and he speaks with the authority, and without the immodesty" of having won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. Sharp was "on a short list of current or recent players who the league thought could add personality and expertise to the broadcasts" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/31).
In Denver, Ryan O'Halloran notes ESPN execs "traveled to Colorado earlier this year" to convince Peyton Manning to enter broadcasting and possibly replace Jason Witten in the "MNF" booth, but it "didn't work." Manning said, "I enjoyed talking to them. I had (a) great conversation. It wasn't the right time this year. Maybe it will never be" (DENVER POST, 5/31). NBC's Mike Florio believed ESPN and other networks "will continue to chase" Manning. Florio: "He is the white whale that every team is going to want to have, every network is going to want to have in place at some point. There’s a belief he’s going to be really good" ("PFT Live," NBCSN, 5/31).
STICKING TO HIS ROOTS: THE ATHLETIC's Maggie Hendricks noted ESPN's Jordan Cornette will "work this summer as the color analyst" for the WNBA Chicago Sky, along with "being named a regular co-host" of a new ESPN Radio show with Sarah Spain and Jason Goff. In his second year with the Sky, and despite "other parts of his career taking off, Cornette wanted to make sure he's still calling games" for the team. Cornette has called Notre Dame men's basketball games, co-hosted ESPN Radio's "Kap and Co." show and worked on Chicago-based WCIU-TV's morning show (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/29).
CALLED UP: In DC, Scott Allen noted longtime WJFK-FM personality and voice of Navy athletics Pete Medhurst made his "big league radio debut" during Tuesday's Nationals-Braves game. It was his first Nationals game alongside the team's original play-by-play man, Charlie Slowes. Slowes "handled the play-by-play for the first two innings" before "introducing Medhurst in the top of the third" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/30).
NEW BEGINNINGS: Former WEEI host Kirk Minihane is "joining Barstool Sports," which "shouldn't be much of a surprise." In between his stints with WEEI and Entercom, Minihane was a co-host with Barstool Founder Dave Portnoy on Barstool Radio "during this year's Super Bowl week" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 5/30). Meanwhile, former ESPN reporter Jay Crawford will join Cleveland-based WKYC-NBC this fall. Crawford will be involved in multiple newscasts for the station, and will help launch a 5:00pm ET newscast beginning in '20 (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 5/28).