Your Announcers and Open Thread for Sabres-Leafs

Buffalo vs. Toronto, 7PM, VERSUS
Play by Play:
Joe Beninati
Color: Darren Eliot
Reporter: Bob Harwood

Sunday Night Hawks-Wings Draws Highest Chicago Rating in 20 Years

Delaying the Announcers/Open Thread for Sabres/Leafs for an hour for this.  From the Blackhawks’ Website:

The Chicago Blackhawks shut out arch rival, the Detroit Red Wings, 3-0 last night at the United Center and in doing so, set another all-time television rating benchmark*. The 6pm Hawks telecast on WGN-TV generated an impressive 4.1 household rating, surpassing the previous high set earlier this month of a 3.3 HH rtg. New standards were set in key advertiser demographics with adults 25-54 and adults 18-49. Each posted a 3.0 rating beating previous highs of 2.8 and 2.7 respectively. WGN’s household rating is +47% ahead of last season and +111% ahead in adults 25-54.

Marty Wilke, VP/General Manager of WGN-TV said, “Our weekend broadcast schedule of the team combined with the Hawks performance on the ice has proven to be a winning combination. We are very pleased thus far and look forward to continuing this mutually beneficial partnership with the Chicago Blackhawks.”

Broadcast News: Some Huge Markets Missing Could Mean Exposure For Overlooked Ones

(NOTE: This will show up every Monday on Puck the Media. It’s something we did a couple of times last season. They were fairly popular, and people liked talking about them, so let’s try it on a more permanent basis this year.)

It’s always been difficult to judge what a big NHL market is.  Obviously, there’s anything NBC touches.  There’s the Canadian teams up there.  But is Chicago a big market?  Is Colorado still one?  Can LA be one?  Dallas?  Jersey’s been in the highest rated finals games of the decade.  St. Louis?  Minnesota?

It’s baffling to try and figure out, so we’ve decided to come up with a chart.  They’re divided into three categories:

  • Golden: NBC in the states, or CBC in Canada would jump at this team no matter what.
  • Silver: Could develop into a big TV team, would be second choice for Canadian networks
  • Bronze: Does okay locally, but not likely a big national draw.
  • Chocolate: Not gonna’ be seeing them any time soon.

So here goes…

Golden Markets:

  • Detroit
  • NY Rangers
  • Pittsburgh
  • Boston
  • Philadelphia
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
  • Montreal

Silver Markets

  • Washington
  • Chicago
  • Colorado
  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Ottawa
  • Los Angeles
  • Dallas
  • St. Louis

Bronze Markets

  • Buffalo
  • New Jersey
  • Columbus
  • San Jose
  • Minnesota
  • NY Islanders
  • Tampa Bay

Chocolate Markets

  • Anaheim
  • Phoenix
  • Nashville
  • Carolina
  • Florida
  • Atlanta

This week’s picks and matchups are after the jump.

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NBC, NHL Close to Selling Out Winter Classic Ad Inventory

Two stories from SBJ (reg. required) today, both from Tripp Mickle.

One on the ad sales for the Winter Classic from an NHL perspective:

The NHL has sold out of sponsorship inventory for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic by adding auto insurer Geico and the U.S. Army to the list of partners and licensees associated with the event.

Collectively, the Winter Classic’s 16 partners will spend more than $10 million against the event in the form of sponsorship, media and on-site activation. NHL executives said the total is more than double what sponsors spent on the 2009 Winter Classic held at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. This year’s event will take place New Year’s Day at Boston’s Fenway Park and feature the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.

And another about NBC’s sales:

NBC expects to sell out of 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic inventory this week with more than 60 units sold, a 20 percent increase from the ’08 and ’09 New Year’s Day broadcasts.

“It’s a continuation of an overall marketplace increase in the fourth quarter with football,” said Seth Winter, NBC’s senior vice president for ad sales. “We’re delighted. The Winter Classic is in extraordinary shape.”

NBC is in the final stages of negotiations with advertisers this week and expects to sell out of the last remaining inventory prior to the New Year’s Day game, Winter said.

NBC and the NHL have a revenue-sharing agreement through 2011. Currently, NBC handles sales for all NHL programming, and NHL sponsors commit to buy advertising as part of their sponsorship.

Great news for the NHL in a down economy, selling all their ad space for their biggest regular season event.

5 Ideas for VERSUS’ New Year’s Eve Show

When we heard about VERSUS’ New Year’s Eve show (Thursday, December 31st, 11-12:30 ET) we were conflicted, but excited.  First of all, who was going to watch this?  Why check out 90 minutes of pretty mediocre hockey chat when you can see how close Dick Clark is to the drain this year?  Won’t anyone wanting hockey chat just turn on On the Fly instead?

But you’ve gotta’ hand it to VERSUS.  This is a solid idea to throw out there.  This is them testing the waters for a potential late night hockey show, I think.  We heard that VERSUS was thinking of upping the hockey programming after the Olympic break, and maybe this is a potential preview.  Regardless, it gets VERSUS into the Winter Classic hooplah.  I’m just curious if this has anything to do with ESPN jumping into the fray and sending a crew and commentators to the game.

So, with that said, here’s 5 suggestions for the show:

1. Go After a Hockey Band, Not a “Name” Band For House of Blues Segments

VERSUS is dispatching reporter Charissa Thompson to the House of Blues in Boston for part of the show, and it’s assumed that a band will be performing as part of the shindig.  Please make sure you get The Zambonis, or some folks with hockey cred.  No one wants to see some C-level alternative rock or, worse, active rock band try to plug their new record in free Bruins/Flyers jerseys.  Either get me the Dropkick Murphys, or get me death.

2. Play Around with the Format

This can be part-NHL 2Nite, part year-in-review, part entertainment show.  Don’t stick to one thing.  It’s New Year’s Eve, and it’s supposed to be 90 minutes and fun, it should be a little disjointed.  As long as it remains fun and watchable, there should be no problem here.

3. Don’t Bother Competing with the Ball Drop

It’d be nice to do something, but let’s face it, we’re all going to turn somewhere else to see the new year ring in.  Just quietly go to commercial for a few minutes at 11:58 PM and come back and wish everyone a happy new year.  It’d probably be for the best.

4. Keep it Light on the Winter Classic Sob Stories

There can be the temptation to overuse the feature stories on how all these hockey players played on frozen ponds as a kid and their parents drove them to games at 5AM and etc.  We get it.  Combine that all into one feature, don’t spread it around like some themed “Outdoor Memories” recurring segment.  It’ll just get really tiring.

5. Stick Around For Some Winter Classic Post-Game

Get people used to checking in on VERSUS on January 1st, considering there are rumors of another game featuring Canadian teams for next year.  Surely, NBC’d pass up on that game and give it to VERSUS, right?

NHL Network Scores in Grabbing Thorne For World Juniors

Regardless of your opinion on Gary Thorne (and ours isn’t positive) the fact is, if you’re flipping channels, you’ll notice his voice.  Other than Mike Emrick, there is no voice as synonymous with hockey in this country as Thorne is.  That’s why we have to unabashedly praise the NHL Network for getting him to be the voice of Team USA at the World Junior Championships in Saskatoon and Regina, beginning the day after Christmas.  Here’s the schedule of games Thorne will call with Dave Starman and Fred Pletsch:

Dec. 26 – USA vs. Slovakia, 8PM
Dec. 27 – USA vs. Switzerland, 4PM
Dec. 29 – Latvia vs. USA, 4PM
Dec. 31 – USA vs. Canada, 8PM

As well as, it is assumed, all Team USA games as they advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.  We’d like to see NHL Network US produce a few more original telecasts, or at least do their own version of the final game so we don’t have to hear Canadian-centric coverage of them in the finals.  Considering how few original game productions NHL Network has done this year, it could be better.

However, Thorne is a huge get for the network here in the states.  He brings instant credibility to any hockey telecast he does (not so much baseball, thanks to a certain incident) and instant name and vocal recognition from puckheads who know him from ESPN and more recently, the endlessly inane chatter of the EA NHL video game series.  It is only a shame they couldn’t team him with Hands of Cement at the tourney, as it would up the hockey nostalgia even further.

This Week’s Schedule

We’ve got some good stuff this week, so stay tuned.  We’re here Monday-Wednesday, then we may return and do something Saturday.  Happy Holidays.