NBC, NHL need Blackhawks to stay strong for long time; Chicago accounts for nearly 25 % of national rating for Soldier Field game

I have said it before and I will say it again. The rise of the Chicago Blackhawks is the best thing to happen to the NHL in years.

The Blackhawks and Chicago delivered again Saturday for NBC and the NHL.

Saturday’s Blackhawks-Pittsburgh outdoor game at Soldier Field in primetime did a 2.1 overnight rating for NBC; complete national numbers will be available today. It was NBC’s highest rating ever for a regular-season, non Winter Classic game.

Here’s why: Chicago did a whopping 14.9 local rating. That means the nation’s third largest market saw an estimated 525,000 homes tuned into the game, or nearly 25 percent of the total viewership for the entire country.

Pittsburgh also did its part with a 13.3 rating. That translates to an estimated 156,000 homes for the nation’s 23rd ranked Nielsen market.

Clearly, though, Chicago, by virtue of its size, is the driver when it comes to NBC and the NHL. It is astounding that a good portion of the city would stay home on a Saturday night to watch a regular-season game.

However, it was snowing, as you might have noticed. It hardly made for great hockey–more like push hockey. Surely, there are purists who think going outdoors are making a mockery out of the game.

But with this kind of rating, expect NBC and the NHL to continue to take games out to the cold and snow. And given the Chicago numbers, they definitely will find a way to get the Blackhawks into the mix.

 

NBC documentary: Kerrigan opens up about attack; Carillo says hard to believe Harding didn’t know

In January, ESPN did a 30 for 30, The Price of Gold, on the infamous Tonya-Nancy affair from 1994. However, there was one thing missing. No Nancy Kerrigan interview.

Kerrigan, who is working for NBC during the Olympics, naturally gave Mary Carillo and  the network a sitdown for its documentary. The one-hour film airs Sunday at 7 p.m. ET just prior to the closing ceremonies.

Kerrigan did meet with the media following a screening of the film Friday in Sochi. Richard Deitsch of SI.com reports:

Kerrigan said that Carillo and Grossi had attempted to get a sit-down interview with her for years and she finally agreed last year. The NBC staffers started working on the project last summer and the pair did two long sit-downs with Kerrigan.

“I trusted them enough to portray my family and the history of this because it is very complicated and long,” Kerrigan said. “It’s 20 years later. I’ve moved on. I don’t revisit this on a daily basis. It was hard at first to sit down and talk for five hours straight and to think about all this. It’s a little surreal to watch your life and to think, ‘That’s me. It’s almost like a whole other person at this point. I have moved on. Things in my life are different. But it is emotional to watch your own life in front of you.”

And there was this from Carillo:

Carillo said she believed Kerrigan had been turned into something she wasn’t by the media, especially the tabloid press. “Someone slugs her on the knee and six weeks later she comes that close to a gold medal,” Carillo said. “All these years later I thought that got lost in the sauce.

Carillo also mentioned she was surprised that Harding remains so defiant. “She claims she was not complicit in it,” Carillo said. “Did I believe her? For me personally after reading everything … it strains credulity for me that she claimed that she didn’t know. But she is defiant. She is standing by her story.”

Costas: Have to sit out because eye problems are preventing me from doing job; Lauer to fill in

Update: NBC just released some quotes from Bob Costas on why he will have to miss tonight’s show with the worst eye infection in Olympic history.

Costas:

“It was becoming increasingly noticeable and uncomfortable, but if it was just that, I would have continued. We in broadcasting are lucky to have the jobs we do, and at one time or another, we’ve all gone on the air feeling less than our best.

“The difference is that last night and into this morning, it got to the point where, as a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light.

“If it was just discomfort, I’d be there. I’m receiving excellent treatment…it’s a viral infection, and all you can do is try to manage the symptoms while the virus runs its course. But I’m hopeful that those symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast.

“Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”

The release from NBC:

Matt Lauer, host of TODAY and co-host of NBC’s Opening Ceremony coverage, will host NBC’s Olympic primetime and late night shows tonight in place of Bob Costas, who has an eye infection.

“As a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light,” said Costas. “I’m hopeful the symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast. Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.” (see below for a complete statement from Costas)

Tonight marks the first time since CBS presented the Nagano Olympic Winter Games in 1998 that someone other than Costas will host an Olympic primetime show. It’s also the first time since 1988 that someone other than Costas will host the Olympic primetime show on NBC, a remarkable 157 straight nights.

“Bob has been a real trooper, but needs a night off. We’re fortunate to have such incredible talent to draw upon within the NBCU family, including Matt, someone I’ve worked with for many years,” said NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell. “Now I know how Chuck Daly felt with the 1992 Dream Team, substituting one Hall of Famer for another.”

“I saw Bob in the hotel this morning, and if ever there was a guy who looked like he needed a night off, it was him,” said Lauer, who is working his eighth Games. “I’m happy to keep his chair warm. Although I might Purell it before I sit in it!”

Costas is listed as ‘day to day’ on the NBC injury report.

 

Negative vibe: Will American TV viewers warm up to troubled Olympics in Sochi?

NBC has been covering the Olympics since 1988, but it never has faced a challenge like this one.

It’s hard to remember an Olympics with a more negative vibe: Terrorist threats; Russia’s horrid civil rights policies; an uninspiring locale for a Winter Games; disgust for Vladamir Putin, who spent $51 billion to build up Sochi while so many people in his country can’t put food on the table; and really, really bad hotel rooms, to name a few.

Reporters who couldn’t drink the terrible water over there weren’t the only ones who had bad tastes in their mouths about the prospect of these Games. I do, too, along with many other Americans.

Yet NBC has two things going for it: The brutal weather in most of the country will keep most everyone indoors and in front of their televisions; and it’s the Olympics.

NBC has an investment of nearly $1 billion in these Games. It is hoping that the spirit of the Olympics will trump all the other problems that came with the misguided decision to be in Sochi this year instead of Salzburg, Austria.

During a teleconference, I asked Jim Bell, NBC’s coordinating producer for the Olympics, if he had concerns about Americans warming up to the Games in light of all the negative talk and the security issue.

“I think the short answer is that we don’t know and that’s certainly a fair question,” Bell said. “There has to that balance between the security which everyone expects and wants to be very rigorous, but not to the degree that it stifles people’s enjoyment of the Games.

“We think the plan in place is good, but again, we’ll have to see when we get there once the Games really start off. It has definitely created awareness.”

Still, will it all be forgotten, or more accurately pushed aside, when NBC airs the opening ceremonies tonight? Americans have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize the bad stuff so they can enjoy the good stuff.

After all, these are the Olympics, which always produce great drama and the quest for gold that exists only once every four years.

Dan Patrick explained the essence of the Olympics:

“I think you look at a two-week period every four years depending and you may not follow these sports before or after. But during, you bring it to the nation’s and the world’s attention. So you’ll fall in love with the sport.

“You know, when you look at Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards with ski jumping, you may not have followed ski jumping, or if you see curling in the outfits that they’re going to be wearing. There’s a fascination there that you just can’t script.

“We’ll tell the stories but the stories tell themselves. You sort of gear up for it, and then you’re in it, and then you’re disappointed when it ends. And it happens every time we have the Olympics. You’re like, ‘Wow, it’s over already.’ It will be Opening Ceremony and then it will be Closing Ceremony. It will go by that quickly.

“And you’ll probably have five to seven, either events or people that you’ll take – you’ll extrapolate from the Games and you’ll go, ‘I remember that person or I remember that event.’ And that’s what great about the Olympics. It’s the memories. We all have those memories growing up and we’ll continue to have those. It’s our job to make sure that they are firmly implanted in your minds.”

The torch gets lit tonight.

 

 

 

 

Flexing: Bears-Packers could be moved to primetime for week 17

NBC should thank Detroit. The Lions’ loss to Baltimore opens the door for Chicago-Green Bay to moved to prime time for NBC on the last Sunday of the season.

The flex rules for week 17 give the NFL (not NBC!) until Monday to make a decision. NBC, though, definitely will have input. The idea is to ensure Al Michaels and Co. have a meaningful game for the grand finale.

What could be better than a winner-take-all Bears-Packers game for the NFC North title in frigid Soldier Field? Throw in the likely return of Aaron Rodgers, the league’s oldest rivalry, and you’ve got plenty of storylines to satisfy Bob Costas.

Detroit’s loss dropped the Lions to 7-7, behind the Bears (8-6) and Packers (7-6-1). If the Bears beat Philadelphia; Green Bay defeats Pittsburgh; or the Giants beat Detroit on Sunday, the stage is set.

It would mark the second straight week the Bears would be flexed to Sunday night. Now a move from an afternoon game to night on Dec. 29 would be a major inconvenience to the many fans from Wisconsin who will be coming to Chicago to see the game. Bears fans will say, even more reason to shift the game.

Another candidate for week 17 is Philadelphia at Dallas for the NFC East title. That’s assuming the Cowboys don’t blow Sunday’s game at Washington, a definite possibility.

Option 3 would be Baltimore at Cincinnati for the AFC North title. That’s assuming the Ravens can get by New England Sunday, a big if.

However, No. 1 on NBC’s wish list to Santa has to be Bears-Packers. Dress warm, Al and Bob.

 

 

Rebecca Lowe will be this year’s Michelle Beadle during Olympics; will host on NBC SN

Hopefully, it will work out better for Rebecca Lowe post-Olympics than it did for Michelle Beadle.

Back in 2012, NBC’s new hire, Beadle, served as the host of the network’s big media session hyping the Games in London. Then she was host for the Olympics coverage on NBC SN.

Since then, it’s been all downhill for Beadle at NBC. When asked if she would have role in Sochi, a network spokesman said, “We are still finalizing our talent group for Sochi, which we expect to have completed by early January.”

Don’t hold your breath that Beadle will be in Russia.

Lowe, though, will. She will serve as the network’s lone female host during the Winter Games, handling the duties on NBC SN.

Lowe, who has received stellar reviews for her anchor duties of the Premier League, merited the high-profile assignment. She told Richard Deitsch of SI.com:

“When they asked if I would be interested, I was floored,” Lowe said. “I wasn’t expecting it. It is very easy to pigeonhole people and I think being a female back in the UK, I was pigeonholed as one of the females who does football (soccer) only. It’s very difficult to show people that you can actually do other things and why wouldn’t you be able to do so? I’d like the opportunity to say maybe I’m not just all about soccer, even as much as love the sport. Fingers crossed, I’m hoping I can show that.”

Besides Lowe, NBC also tabbed Dan Patrick and Lester Holt for host duties. Here’s the official rundown.

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NBC Olympics announced today that Dan Patrick, Rebecca Lowe, and Lester Holt will serve as hosts for its coverage of the XXII Olympic Winter Games from Sochi, Russia.

“We are excited to add Dan, Rebecca and Lester to our roster of anchors,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics. “With wide-ranging experience, they will provide NBC and NBCSN viewers with news, insight and storytelling.”

The trio joins previously announced Bob Costas, NBC’s primetime and late night host, and Al Michaels, who will serve as host for NBC on weekend afternoons and NBCSN on weekdays.

Following is a closer look at NBC Olympics’ three newly announced Sochi Winter Games hosts:

DAN PATRICK: Patrick, co-host of NBC’s Football Night in America, the most-watched pre-game show in sports, will host NBCSN’s extensive live weekday and weekend coverage from Sochi. Patrick previously hosted NBC’s daytime coverage at the 2012 London Olympics and served as a reporter in Vancouver in 2010. Patrick hosts The Dan Patrick Show, a daily, nationally-syndicated radio program which is simulcast as a television program on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for digital, mobile and tablets. For a complete Dan Patrick bio, click here.

REBECCA LOWE: Lowe will make her Olympic debut as host of NBCSN’s extensive live weekday and weekend coverage. Lowe joined NBC Sports Group in 2013 as host of its exclusive Premier League coverage in the U.S., including Premier League Live, NBC Sports Group’s live pre- and post-match shows from NBC Sports Group’s International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. For a complete Rebecca Lowe bio, click here.

LESTER HOLT: An award-winning broadcast journalist who joined NBC News in 2000, Holt will host NBC’s weekday afternoon Olympic coverage. The anchor of Dateline, weekend anchor of NBC Nightly News and co-anchor of NBC’s weekend edition of TODAY, Holt previously served as a sports desk reporter for the 2012 London, 2010 Vancouver, 2008 Beijing and 2006 Torino Games. He made his Olympic television debut as host of MSNBC’s daytime coverage during the 2004 Athens Games.  For a complete Lester Holt bio, click here.

 

Pucks and turkey: NHL hopes to create new tradition with national holiday weekend game

I imagine Thanksgiving was very festive for NHL executives and owners.

On Tuesday, the league shocked our neighbors up North by signing a 12-year, $5.2 billion deal with Rogers Sportsnet for the NHL’s TV rights in Canada. Here’s the link to Steve Lepore’s interview with NHL COO John Collins in Awful Announcing about the new package.

Also, Fang’s Bites did a podcast analyzing  the deal with Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports, Howard Bloom of Sports Business News and Lepore.

Earlier this week, NBC SN reported favorable rating news for the young season:

NBCSN has averaged 595,000 viewers over its first nine exclusive NHL telecasts (mostly Wednesday Night Rivalry), up 31% compared to the exclusive game average to this point in the 2011-12 season (455,000). No November games last year because of the strike.

Also, our Nov. 13 PHI-PIT Wednesday Night Rivalry game on NBCSN drew 759,000 average viewers, making it the most-watched November NHL game on cable since 2001 (Flyers-Rangers, 11/14/01), and the most-watched November NHL game on NBCSN (formerly VERSUS).

Obviously, the NHL has good reason to feel bullish and aggressive. That includes making itself part of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Friday, NBC will air the Rangers at Boston at 1 p.m. ET. This is a big deal for the NHL. The network even enlisted movie director Bobby Farrelly to make promos for the game (above).

The NHL already has carved a slice of New Year’s Day with the outdoor game. Why not try to grab a few eyeballs for hockey on the day after Thanksgiving, typically a big day for college football? It seems like a good move for the NHL and NBC to attempt to reach beyond its core audience.

Yes, it’s been a very good Thanksgiving for the NHL.

 

 

Flex to rescue again: NBC wins with Carolina-New Orleans moved to Sunday night on Dec. 8

Ah yes, it is good to be NBC.

On Dec. 8, the schedule called for the network to air Atlanta at Green Bay. What looked to be an attractive game before the season now is largely forgettable thanks to the Falcons’ disaster at 2-9.

However, don’t despair NBC, it’s flex scheduling to the rescue. Last night while NBC was pulling in what is sure to be a huge rating for Denver-New England, the NFL announced it will move Carolina-New Orleans to Sunday night on Dec. 8. Atlanta-Green Bay gets thrown back to Fox.

How great is this for NBC? The game in the Superdome should be a battle for first place in the NFC South with Drew Brees facing Cam Newton and the upstart Panthers.

Fox and CBS are allowed to protect a certain number of games, but Carolina-New Orleans wasn’t on the list. Instead, Fox sealed up Seattle at San Francisco for the doubleheader slot on that Sunday.

It’s hard to argue with that decision given that Seattle might be the best team in the NFL. However, it would help the marquee value of the match-up if the 6-4 49ers win tonight against Washington and then next Sunday at home against St. Louis.

NBC, meanwhile, will give thanks to the God of Flex again for Carolina-New Orleans on Dec. 8. So will fans, who will get to see a much better game.

 

 

NBC, football fans: Thank CBS for gift of Denver-Kansas City in primetime Sunday

If not for a gracious move by CBS, most of the country wouldn’t have seen Denver-Kansas City Sunday.

Under the flex scheduling provisions, both CBS and Fox can protect five games from their inventory. The set-up prevents the NFL from moving those attractive games to Sunday night for NBC.

Note: Technically, it is the NFL, not NBC, that elects to flex games, although you can be sure the Peacocks make their feelings known.

CBS reportedly protected both of the Denver-Kansas City games, including Sunday’s contest in Denver. However, the network doesn’t have the doubleheader window this week. Fox does with San Francisco-New Orleans.

As a result, if CBS kept this week’s big game, which was scheduled for the late window, it would have aired in a limited number of markets beyond Denver and Kansas City. Most of the country wouldn’t have seen the game.

Given the circumstances, the NFL asked CBS if it would yield its protect rights and allow the game to be moved to Sunday night. A game featuring 9-0 Kansas City against 8-1 Denver looked much better than Green Bay at the New York Giants, the previously scheduled game for NBC. Peyton trumps Eli this year–big time.

CBS agreed. For the good of the game, right?

In a statement, the network said: “After discussions with the NFL, we made a once-only accommodation so that the game can be seen by a national audience, which we could not provide during our prescheduled doubleheader weekend.”

I like the “once-only” line. In other words, NFL and NBC, don’t even think about the Dec. 1 rematch between the two teams in Kansas City.

Actually, that game couldn’t be moved since Denver will have maxed out with six prime time appearances.

The real winner obviously is NBC, which gets four bites at the Peyton apple this year. Next week, the network has Denver at New England. Both games should do huge ratings for NBC.

As for CBS, it has only four games on its schedule this week. The No. 1 crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be in my backyard for Baltimore at Chicago. An interesting game, but not Denver-Kansas City.

So while you’re watching the big game on Sunday, remember to say thanks to CBS. NBC will.