Smizik on TV: Penguins' postgame draws huge ratings
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The success of the Penguins on the ice is being matched in its television ratings on FSN Pittsburgh, which continue to border on the astonishing.
Game 3 of the team's series with the New York Rangers Tuesday drew the second-highest rating in franchise history -- 18.56. The only higher-rated game was May 10, 2001, when the Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres in the seventh game of a second-round playoff series.
But what was more amazing than the game's rating was the rating of the postgame show that followed. That show -- with Rob King and Jay Caufield in the studio and Dan Potash, Stan Savran, Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey at Madison Square Garden -- drew an 8.0 rating.
Put into perspective, that's better than most teams average for regular-season games.
Fans typically will drift away from a postgame show, and that's especially true for one that lasts an hour. But the euphoria of victory and the possibility of more player interviews apparently kept the viewers.
The game was the highest-rated show of the night, finishing ahead of such network favorites as "Dancing With The Stars," 13.55; "NCIS," 12.6; "American Idol," 11.80 and "Law & Order SVU," 11.58.
Each rating point is equivalent to 12,500 households. With an average of about 2.25 persons per household, that means about 500,000 people were watching the Penguins and Rangers in the Pittsburgh region.
Mike Thompson, the new general manager at 1250 ESPN (it is no longer ESPN Radio 1250) brings unusual credentials to the job. Most GMs come from a business background. Their expertise usually is in sales. But Thompson comes from a deep programming background. This is his first stint as a general manager after being a program director in Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York.
Consequently, unlike his predecessors at 1250 ESPN, he is more apt to get involved with the actual day-to-day operation of the station.
Thompson already has limited the number of remotes the station's talk shows do and has cut on the number of commercials. That's a surprising strategy for a GM, but Thompson believes "by reducing the clutter we can get more value for our other commercials."
Thompson indicated ESPN might become involved in bidding for the play-by-play rights of local teams. All the major teams -- Steelers, Penguins, Pirates and Pitt football and basketball -- are currently under contract to Clear Channel.
"Our company has a reputation for ponying up and getting involved," he said. "It would be consistent for us. It's our overwhelming goal to serve the fans. It will have to be the right fit."
With the departures of Marshall Harris last month and Trenni Kusnierek late last year, FSN is down to three anchor-reporters -- Paul Alexander, King and Potash. General manager Ted Black admits the station is a bit short-handed, but hopes to add personnel in the near future.
In the meantime, the station has stopped sending a reporter on the road with the Pirates, as it has done for most of the past several years. Play-by-play announcers Lanny Frattare and Greg Brown are handling interviews for the pregame shows.
FSN gets more bang for its buck by sending a reporter with the Penguins. The NHL gives the kind of access no other professional sport does and a reporter -- in this case, Potash -- can use that to his and the viewers' benefit.
Pirates announcers are employees of the team and, as such, tend to accentuate the positive. That makes Brown's recitation of Adam LaRoche's abysmal stats Tuesday night all the more remarkable. When LaRoche came to bat late in a game against the Mets, Brown read off his numbers in clutch situations. The broadcasts could use more of that.
The resignation of Bryant Gumbel as play-by-play announcer for the NFL Network was best for all concerned. Gumbel was tarnishing his considerable journalistic resume by stumbling through the telecasts. Either he wasn't prepared or simply wasn't up to doing play-by-play. It was a bad fit from the beginning.
Tom Hammonds, who will succeed Gumbel, should be a significant improvement, although so would almost anyone else.
First Published May 1, 2008 12:00 am