Early indications are that hockey fans have quickly forgiven and forgotten the NHL lockout that has mashed a 48 game regular season into fewer than 100 days.
The NHL returned on Saturday (1/19) with NBC showing an east and a west regional game simultaneously, with strong ratings, especially in the four local markets. The Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia telecast scored literally more than double the ratings in Pittsburgh than it did in Philly, even though both markets showed their strongest regular season telecast ratings in years, ranking only with previous New Year's Day Winter Classic telecasts. The west telecast pitting Chicago vs. the Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings set a local ratings record in Chicago and won its time slot in Los Angeles.
For those about to make the argument that Pittsburgh, Philly, and Chicago did not have their respective NFL teams in the playoffs (and L.A. doesn't even have a respective NFL team), look again. In Boston, the NESN telecast of the Bruins' opener vs. the N.Y. Rangers set a NHL regular season audience record. And that's with the Patriots having been slated for the AFC Championship Game the following evening.
On Sunday (1/20), the NFC and AFC Championship Game telecasts produced strong ratings, finishing as the two most watched TV "shows" since last year's Super Bowl. And these numbers are actually down a bit from 2012.
The Super Bowl, on its own, and now potentially bolstered by the human interest element of brothers coaching against each other in the big game, figures to be another ratings blockbuster, this year for CBS-TV.
However, we're about to go into what I consider to be the most difficult week of the year to be able to get sports "news". Frankly, unless it is "your" team playing in an upcoming Super Bowl, the media hype gets to be too much. If you must watch and listen to the sportscasts next week, keep track of how much of the hype from the Super Bowl site is "really" newsworthy. Too many media outlets just don't get that we don't care that a reserve lineman sneezed in the locker room, or that a linebacker's cousin twice removed once dated an opposing player. Sportscasts start coming off as an extended edition of Entertainment Tonight.
Here's hoping that stations in markets other than San Francisco and Baltimore keep in mind that fans are interested in the NBA, NHL, and college basketball seasons as well. Scores and highlights should not be reduced and replaced by tabloid gossip just to hype the Super Bowl.
Elsewhere, ESPN is now gearing up for its MLB regular season coverage, especially for opening days. In addition to the Sunday Night opener on March 31st with Texas at Houston, the network plans to air four games on Monday April 1st. These, of course, include the Red Sox at Yankees at 1 PM ET, followed by San Fran. at L.A., Philly at Atlanta, and St. Louis at Arizona. The two night games will actually be shown on ESPN2.
In addition, ESPN has announced its Sunday Night Baseball schedule through May:
March 31 Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
April 7 Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers
April 14 Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees
April 21 St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies
April 28 Atlanta Braves at Detroit Tigers
May 5 Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
May 12 Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox
May 19 Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers
May 26 Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
BOSTON: One broadcasting note came from last Sunday's loss by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. That game, and not the Super Bowl, marked the final Patriots play-by-play call for Gil Santos, after more than 700 games going back over the past 36 seasons. Thanks to the fan who put up the final Santos sign-off on YouTube, which remained up as of press time. (And if I could post it here, I would!)
MIAMI: WQAM 560's Dan Sileo continues to become the modern day Jim Rome in terms of making outrageous comments that lead to suspensions - but also to publicity. This time, Sileo issued multiple comments about Erin Andrews, including calling her a "bimbo", "worst sports reporter chick", and "Love Erin Andrews either naked or in porn". Even though these are more derogatory than Rome's "Chris Evert" name calling to former QB Jim Everett shtick on TV years ago, these comments were made via Twitter and not on the air. Of course, coming on Twitter adds another element of being deliberate compared with a live microphone, these comments were enough to prompt WQAM to suspend Sileo from this past Monday's and Tuesday's (Jan. 21 & 22) shows.
Then again, we don't know whether or not Sileo was originally scheduled to work on MLK Day or not. Looks like another challenge to the saying that "Any publicity is good publicity".
BIRMINGHAM: It's no surprise that Paul Finebaum is gone from WJOX 94.5 upon the expiration of his contract based on the earlier lawsuits involving Finebaum. Word is that his non-compete clause has only three more months, and that Finebaum will surface in late April on WZNN 97.3 The Zone, likely during afternoon drive.