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Volume 26 No. 65

Media

NBC drew a 4.0 overnight rating for the Blues' win over the Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night, down 20% from a 5.0 for the Capitals' Cup-clinching win over the Golden Knights in Game 5 last year. The number last year was an all-time record for NBC for a Game 5. While down from '18, Thursday's rating is up 29% from '17, when Penguins-Predators Game 5 drew a 3.1 overnight. Thursday's game is the second-best Game 5 for NBC since '14 and projects to win the night for NBC. St. Louis drew a 30.1 rating locally, making it the highest-rated Blues game on an NBC network ever in that market. Boston (25.3), Providence (21.2), Buffalo (10.1) and Pittsburgh (6.0) rounded out the top five (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).

Perron's goal on Thursday came immediately after a controversial play from Bozak
Photo: getty images

OFFICIATING AGAIN IN SPOTLIGHT: In Boston, Steve Conroy notes Game 5 was the "latest installment" of the NHL's "two-month nightmare as the game officials had a hand yet again in deciding a playoff game." Midway through the third period, Blues C Tyler Bozak appeared to trip Bruins C Noel Acciari, and with Acciari still on the ice, Blues RW David Perron scored what "turned out to be the game-winning-goal." Bruins President Cam Neely was "caught on camera whipping a water bottle at the wall in his private box on the ninth floor, and fans started showering the ice surface with various items" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/7). SPORTSNET.ca's Luke Fox wrote the Bruins are the latest team to "get screwed by an egregious officiating gaffe in a pivotal moment" of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs (SPORTSNET.ca, 6/6).

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME: THE ATHLETIC's Fluto Shinzawa writes the NHL is "back in the stuff where it usually lands." The league is "smack dab in crap, its wheels unable to gain purchase with every spin." The referees have "blown it at every turn this postseason," and it "just so happens that the latest blunder took place in the Stanley Cup final, of all places, and resulted in a game-winning goal." These are "not one-off gaffes," and this is a "pattern of mistakes that could cost businesses millions." The game is "only getting faster while the referees fall behind," and a "system overhaul is mandatory." Otherwise, the NHL "has to invest in sharper referees" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/7).

AT A CROSSROADS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell notes the NHL "does not allow its on-ice officials to comment on calls or non-calls," but it is "more than happy to comment on, and apologize for, blown calls that are actually made," as it did in the first round's Sharks-Golden Knights series. Campbell: "That is so, so NHL." This is a league that is "obsessed with its officials not determining the outcome of games, so much so that its directions to them actually do determine the outcomes of games, and in this case might actually be major factor in deciding who wins the Stanley Cup." The league "finds itself at a crossroads and faces a major decision here." The referees "certainly deserve their share of the blame, but so does a hockey operations department that is filled with former players ... who direct them to look the other way on calls they believe are marginal and protects and enables them by not making them accountable for the calls they make" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 6/7).

The Braves’ local TV deal "isn’t as bad as widely believed," as an exec from team owner Liberty Media "disclosed much higher annual figures when asked about the team’s local TV deal at a recent conference," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. During a presentation at the Moffett Nathanson Media & Communications Summit in N.Y. last month, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said the annual TV deal is worth $83M annually, possibly rising to $113M by '27, the last year of the deal. Although many Braves fans "will be surprised" by an $83M figure for this year, Maffei still "considers the deal to be well below market value for a team whose telecasts are available across a large six-state territory" on FS South and FS Southeast. Maffei: "We knew that when we bought (the Braves) from Time Warner. It was one of the longest and lowest." Tucker notes it is "not known where the Braves’ deal now ranks among the 30 MLB teams." However, a "significant number" of other teams reportedly have deals averaging more than $100M annually for local TV rights. Still, it seems likely that $83M would "rank at least around the middle of the pack among MLB teams in local TV revenue this year" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 6/7).

The Yankees and YES Network are "exploring developing YES Radio, while leveraging its current content and creating new shows in the beginning of a series of moves that could have huge implications" on the "future of sports media," according to Andrew Marchand of the N.Y. POST. The plans will "go into overdrive" upon the completion of the $3.5B deal that will "restore the Yankees as the network's largest shareholder." Sources said that while "nothing is changing in the short term, Amazon Prime could eventually become a place where some Yankees games are housed, at least digitally." Sources added that YES and SiriusXM have "had discussions" about expanding the Yankees/YES audio and "housing the radio network on the satellite service." Those talks "could pick up" once the $3.5B deal is done. YES is "without limitations, so, though radio might be one starting point, podcasts and other means of distribution will be explored." YES has "big potential plans to leverage the programming it already creates," which could be "distributed in a number of ways digitally from Prime to Amazon Music" (N.Y. POST, 6/7). YES Network President of Production & Programming John Filippelli was featured in Friday's Weekend Plans (THE DAILY).

The channel attracted 446,000 viewers for the Serena Williams-Vitalia Diatchenko first-round match
Photo: getty images

Tennis Channel saw a 47% viewership jump during the first week of its live French Open coverage compared to last year's tournament. The net averaged 260,000 viewers during the opening week, led by 448,000 viewers for the Madison Keys-Anna Blinkova third-round match and 446,000 viewers for the Serena Williams-Vitalia Diatchenko first-round match (Tennis Channel). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Andrew Bucholtz noted part of the big jump this year is due to "rising subscribers for Tennis Channel." The net reportedly was available in around 61 million homes as of January, up from just shy of 55 million homes last September. Bucholz: "Having more people with access to your network obviously can boost the ratings" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 6/6).

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS: Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon claims ratings on the channel "have been up almost 50% year-over-year" due to the acquisition of WTA rights from beIN Sports. The channel last October reached a multiyear deal for the U.S. rights to 46 overseas WTA events beginning in January, and Solomon noted on the "Under Review" podcast that the addition of WTA coverage has "helped us raise the attention to the game for both the women and the men by over half in just a few months." He said, "Some inside the ATP ... don't realize their greatest single asset is the women, and we've just proved it." Solomon called it "incredibly satisfying" to have landed the WTA, in part because Tennis Channel "went up against some big competition," including Amazon and ESPN/ESPN+. Solomon: "We ultimately said that now that we're in over 60 million homes, the best combination for the fans and for the sport itself to be able to see as much of it as possible ... was to have it on Tennis Channel" (“Under Review with Craig Shapiro,” 5/25).

The Athletic "plans to hire a U.K. team of between 50 and 55" staffers, "mostly writers, ahead of a mid-August launch" of the company's first overseas hub, according to Lucinda Southern of DIGIDAY. The U.K. editorial team will "focus initially" on soccer, "particularly Premier League teams, but will expand to cover more sports in time." The Athletic Chief of Staff Akhil Nambiar said that there is "already a small paying U.K. cohort plus a U.S. appetite" for more local soccer content, "making the U.K. a natural next step." The Athletic Dir of Communications Taylor Patterson said that subscribers are now "well over" 100,000, though still in the "low hundreds of thousands." The company currently charges $9.99 per month or $50 per year for their content, and "rates will be similar in the U.K." Subscribers will have "access to all content created in the U.S. and vice versa." Patterson added that most of The Athletic's "early markets in the U.S. are profitable and the business is healthy." In the U.S., The Athletic has "grown to nearly 400 full-time writers, who each have equity in the business" (DIGIDAY.com, 6/7).

WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU DO HERE? In Hartford, Alex Putterman writes ESPN for years has "faced criticism for its attitude toward journalism, with skeptics pointing to apparent conflicts of interest surrounding leagues the network both covers and partners with, and the way it sometimes privileges hot-take opinion over thoughtful reporting." However, the net "continues to employ journalists" like Paula Lavigne, who has reported on "corruption in college athletics, sexual abuse across the sports landscape and a variety of other weighty topics." In May, ESPN "accepted a Peabody award for its coverage of sexual assault" at Michigan State. ESPN's reporting successes, "along with its perceived failures, beg a question that has followed the company throughout its history: What exactly is the role of sports journalism at the worldwide leader in sports?" ESPN primarily "tackles the wider sports world with a journalistic focus" through its "OTL" and "E:60" programs. ESPN Exec Producer Andy Tennant said, "We're diving deeper into stories, we're telling character-driven stories, and we're going long. It differentiates us. No one else is devoting the resources and no one else is showing a commitment to this kind of work like ESPN currently does" (COURANT.com, 6/7).