TV official takes heat for FSN's snafus

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Fifty minutes of darkness on back-to-back nights late last week had some Pittsburgh fans ready to throw body checks and others crying foul.

FSN Pittsburgh was the target, and the regional sports television network still is trying to appease its angry viewers after numerous e-mails and phone calls.

"No one took it more personal than me," Ted Black, FSN's senior vice president and general manager, said yesterday. "It was like being dealt a 1-2 punch."

FSN's Game 5 broadcast of the Penguins-Flyers opening-round NHL playoff series Thursday was interrupted twice after lightning struck the technical operations facility in Atlanta.

The game, which the Penguins lost, 3-0, at Mellon Arena, was off the air for about 30 minutes during the second period.

Approximately 24 hours later, FSN experienced another major blackout as the Pirates' game in San Diego was interrupted for 20 minutes after a video router malfunctioned. The Pirates ended up losing Friday, 4-3, in 11 innings.

Black understands the fans' frustration, especially when it comes to the Penguins' Stanley Cup playoff games.

"People expect to see them," he said. "People had gathered around their [TV] sets with their families. They had gone to bars to watch the game. It is a big event. I feel worse than maybe anyone else does because I'm a former Penguins' employee. I consider [co-owner] Mario [Lemieux] and [CEO] Ken Sawyer my friends.

"We feel equally bad for the Pirates, too. They are off to a wonderful start and that was in the middle of an exciting, extra-inning game."

FSN carried four of the Penguins' six first-round playoff games and drew an average rating of 15.5. Game 2 on April 17, a 3-2 overtime win by the Penguins at home, achieved a 16.6 rating and Game 4 on April 21, a 3-1 victory in Philadelphia, a 16.5.

Those two games rank fourth and fifth in ratings among playoff games broadcast by FSN.

FSN could carry as many as three games in Round 2 of the playoffs if the series goes seven games. NBC and Versus have exclusive rights to two games, but conflicts with either network could add additional games to FSN's lineup.

Black is hoping there are no more technical difficulties on the schedule. A snowstorm knocked the Penguins' March 1 game against the Dallas Stars off the air for about 25 minutes.

"Our advice to our fans is we care as deeply about this as anyone," Black said. "This impacts our relationships with our teams, with our viewers and with the Penguins' fans. And we are fans.

"We're going to do everything we can to prevent problems and when problems arise, do everything we can to get the game back on. I'm not going to promise there isn't going to be any unforeseen event in the future."

FSN will not factor into the coverage for the conference finals because NBC and Versus have exclusive rights. NBC will carry all seven games of the Stanley Cup final.

Ron Musselman can be reached at .


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