The Philadelphia Flyers tore up the ice with nine straight victories before finally losing on Sunday. So what do you say about that?
If you’re the Fox network, you say thank you.
Fox took a gamble when it signed up with the NHL for five years, putting hockey back on network television for the first time in two decades.
The game had been relegated to a cult sport, and just when its popularity started to come back with the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup championship last year, the league’s fortunes dimmed because of the lockout.
But then the Flyers, a team that hadn’t made the playoffs the last five years, skated in to spark interest.
The emergence of Eric Lindros as a force for the future and the resurgence of the Flyers as postseason contenders have been key factors in making 1995, the first season of the five-year pact, a success.
Fox is getting a tremendous response in the Detroit and St. Louis markets. And in Philadelphia, which is tied for third among NHL cities, the ratings averaged 4.1 in April as the Flyers won nine of their last 10 games. (Each ratings point represents about 26,800 households.)
The Flyers’ success “is certainly helping us along,” Fox spokesman Lou D’Ermilio said. Citing the leadership of Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, he said the Flyers had “put together a formidable team that should go far into the playoffs.”
Fox scored a 2.0 nationally for the three Sunday afternoon games in April (each point represents about 956,000 households), but made huge gains demographically, jumping from 1.4 last year to 2.4 among men between the ages of 18 and 34.
Plenty of NBA
The NBA playoffs start Thursday night, and between the two Turner Broadcasting outlets - TBS and TNT and NBC, your television set will be putting up games the way Detlef Schrempf puts up 3-pointers.
For the second straight year, Turner will have its “double coverage,” with games being televised simultaneously on TBS and TNT with staggered tipoff times during the first round.
On Thursday, on TBS, the game between New York and Cleveland will begin at 4 p.m. (PDT), while Utah and Houston will start at 6:30 p.m. The same day on TNT, Atlanta and Indiana will begin at 5 p.m., and the Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle at 7:30 p.m.
On Friday, TBS will show Chicago and Charlotte at 4 p.m., and Denver and San Antonio at 6:30 p.m. TNT will show Boston and Orlando at 5 p.m., and Portland and Phoenix at 7:30 p.m.
NBC steps in on the weekend with an afternoon doubleheader Saturday and a tripleheader on Sunday that will run from noon into prime time. TNT will have a prime-time doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday night.
Olympic preview planned
Sports Illustrated Television will produce a 2-hour preview to NBC’s coverage of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, a move that NBC hopes will rescue a dying breed of TV show.
“You can’t hide the fact that preview shows have fallen on hard times,” NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol said. “CBS didn’t even do one for Lillehammer.”
However, Ebersol and SITV president Ted Shaker said they were counting on SITV to turn that around.
“The Atlanta Games will be the sports event of the decade, maybe more,” Shaker said. “Sports Illustrated created the definitive print version of the Olympic preview, and now we’re hoping to do the same thing for television.”
NBC’s Bob Costas will host.
SITV was formed a little more than a year ago as the television arm of the Sports Illustrated magazine. Among its projects have been “Coca Cola Big TV,” the SI Swimsuit edition special and regular segments for ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
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