It is certainly a rare week when ESPN has any true competition for national ratings among the sports channels, but the past week was one of those rare times. With a lot of help from the large Chicago market, NBCSN having a pair of Stanley Cup Final telecasts involving the Blackhawks helped to put NBCSN ahead of ESPN in total prime time viewers for the week.
Of course, that will come to an end for this week, since the last two Stanley Cup games, which did well in the ratings (more later), were on NBC. As a result, NBCSN goes back to minimal ratings until 4th quarter when its NHL telecasts return.
Even more amazing is that Fox Sports 1 actually scored solid ratings for last week with its telecasts of the Women's World Cup. With some of those telecasts taking place during daytime hours, FS1 finished a strong second (to ESPN) in total viewers overall for the week among the sports networks.
What this demonstrates is that content is king. ESPN officials probably didn't even bat an eye, knowing that NBCSN has no more NHL games for three months, and that the World Cup is even less frequent.
This also demonstrates that fans know these other sports networks exist. If and when the nightly live sportscasts and the filler programming that NBCSN, FS1, and CBS Sports Network pound away with return to having comparably miniscule audiences, it will show what a long way these networks have to go in order to retain viewers.
This could also cost consumers even more money for cable/satellite costs in the long run. Since the "right" live events are necessary for these challengers to draw ratings, it means the rights fees will continue to escalate beyond reason. And that means our monthly costs will keep going up in order to support this.
ESPN/ABC are certainly pleased with the just concluded NBA Finals, as the Golden State vs. Cleveland series has produced the highest overall ratings for the Finals on ABC. The Warriors' Game 6 win, for the championship, winds up as the highest rated Game 6 ever on ABC, and was up about 8% over its previous (San Antonio vs. Miami) Game 6 airing. The local team audiences contributed, with the San Francisco market producing an NBA telecast ratings record, while the Cleveland market had an amazing 42 rating.
For the Stanley Cup Final, one local market pushed the ratings for NBC and NBCSN. The Game 6 clincher for Chicago over Tampa Bay on Monday (6/15) scored the highest rating ever for a Blackhawks game in the Chicago market with a 41 rating. That is in the range of the Chicago audience for recent Super Bowl games (none of which involved the Bears). The number of households viewing in Chicago appears to account for about 30% of the national rating, which was a solid 4.4 for NBC.
Meanwhile, significant announcements have just come from the TV networks of two of the pro leagues.
NBA-TV has unveiled an additional concept to market its "out of market" telecasts which have been and will continue to be marketed via the various cable/satellite providers. Starting next season, NBA League Pass will also include the ability to purchase individual out-of-market games on a pay-per-view basis via online and mobile.
While this appears to be a way to generate additional revenue for the fan "too busy" to watch a multitude of games, this move would seem to actually be in response to the recent popularity of daily fantasy sports web sites. With revenue on the line for many on a daily basis (as opposed to weekly, monthly, or for the season), the NBA is banking (literally) on more fans being interested in specific games only on certain nights.
Over at MLB Network, the announcement was made that the Network is in the process of being made
available for streaming online and via smartphones and tablets. This will include all programming including the many live game telecasts it provides, although observing local market blackout policies.
In addition, MLB Network will soon be available for those who subscribe to the AtBat application.
Derek Jeter has chosen his next career, and it involves sports media. Jeter is now running "The Players Tribune", which will involve working with pro athletes to create their brand of online and social media content. Still in development, Jeter says that his hope is to be able to better connect top athletes with fans. One element which we don't know yet is an important one. No word on whether or not the site(s) and content will be advertiser supported, or if the fans will be asked for fork out the dollars to "communicate" with the athletes.
DALLAS: Dave Strader, perhaps second only to Mike Emrick in the line of top quality NHL play-by-play TV voices, has been, understandably, chosen as the new TV voice for the Dallas Stars. Strader had been with NBC/NBCSN since 2011, after play-by-play stints with the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers.
Strader will have Daryl 'Razor' Reaugh as his analyst. The two have paired up on national telecasts in recent years. As talented as Strader is, he has a tough act to follow, replacing Ralph Strangis, who resigned after 22 seasons as the play-by-play voice. In fact, Strangis had been the voice of the team every season since the team moved to Dallas.
CHICAGO: Sportscaster Dave Juday, who had been doing weekend updates on WBBM 780 this year and spent 18 years with WMVP ESPN 1000 before that, is leaving this month to relocate to the Phoenix area. No official word yet on where Juday will be working when he gets there. Juday also hosted "The Jack Swarbrick Show" on the Notre Dame Network.
WGN Radio, while riding the crest from being the flagship for the Blackhawks radio broadcasts, now plans to expand its Chicago Bears postgame programming for the coming season. The station announced the hiring of three former Bears players, Dan Hampton, Ed O'Bradovich, and Glen Kozlowski, to co-host its three hour broadcast following each Bears regular season game. The station is no longer using the name of "The Three Bears", instead going with the weaker "Hamp & O.B. Show with Glen Kozlowski" title.
There is one element to this that makes it even more interesting. WGN Radio does not air the Bears games and has not been the flagship station for the team for several years. Rival WBBM Radio is the flagship station, and airs its own two hour post-game show following each broadcast.
AUSTIN: University of Texas sports broadcasts now have a new flagship station, as 104.9 The Horn has a new seven year contract via IMG Sports which takes effect for the upcoming seasons. Longhorns football and basketball games will be heard, along with select baseball and softball broadcasts. Craig Way is expected to continue with football play-by-play, as he has done for more than 20 years.
DENVER: It appears that KVOQ 1340 will be the new home for Mile High Sports programming starting on or before July 1st. The group plans to add an FM signal by the end of the year.
SEATTLE: KFNQ 1090 The Fan, already with only 3 to 7 PM as its only local sports show, has cut back a bit more, if that's possible. Bill Swartz is no longer with the afternoon drive show after nearly three years as a co-host. As of this week, it is now down to Steve Sandmeyer and Jason Churchill.