Ratings for the Bruins-Rangers Eastern Conference semifinal series on NBC Sports Network have been outstanding, with Game 3 drawing 1.752 million viewers, making it the third-most-watched conference semifinal ever on NBCSN. In Boston, it earned a 16.09 household rating, the highest ever for a semifinal game on the network in this market.
The numbers are great. But entering Thursday night's Game 4, the suspense was lacking, with the Bruins holding a 3-0 lead. That's the main reason the game was bounced to CNBC, sandwiched between "Mad Money" and "American Greed: The Wealth Builder Club," while the more compelling Red Wings-Blackhawks game got the prime spot on NBCSN.
But while the Bruins series wasn't particularly competitive through three games, the competition among Boston's regional sports cable networks certainly was as they vied for viewers before and after NBCSN's game broadcasts.
NESN, the home of the Bruins during the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, has been aggressive in trying to retain viewers even while burdened with the disadvantage of having its studio programming primarily on NESN Plus. A scroll runs across the screen during NESN's Red Sox telecasts reminding viewers of Bruins coverage on NESN Plus, and personalities such as Tom Caron and Dale Arnold have emphasized the Bruins programming via Twitter.
Meanwhile, Comcast SportsNet New England has touted itself as the best Bruins pre- and postgame coverage in town, and studio host Michael Felger was quick to note after Game 3 that the NESN postgame show had signed off a few moments earlier. And CSNNE did own Nielsen bragging rights when it came to ratings after that game, earning a 1.6 in the 10:15-10:45 p.m. window, which more than doubled NESN Plus's 0.7. CSNNE also stayed on the air a half-hour longer, earning a 1.1 from 10:45-11:15.
CSNNE also had higher ratings after Game 1, earning a 0.9 to NESN Plus's 0.2. The Games 1 and 3 postgame shows are the second- and third-highest rated in CSNNE history, after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final two years ago.
But NESN also deserves a significant benefit of the doubt, because when its postgame coverage was on NESN rather than NESN Plus following Game 2, its numbers were outstanding, earning a 3.2 to CSNNE's 0.3 in the 5:45-6:45 p.m. window. Much of the coverage that day was moved to NESN because the Red Sox game was in a rain delay. Some of the audience may have been tuning in to check on the Sox, but it's also apparent that the unfamiliarity of where to locate NESN Plus can be a hindrance.
Overall, NESN has outrated CSNNE on average during the pregame programming (0.8 to 0.4). And the Game 2 boost from being in the Red Sox window on NESN helped it to a 1.6-0.9 advantage through three postgames.
The personality traits that made NBC Sports Group so eager to lure Michelle Beadle away from ESPN late last year and feature her as a core personality on upstart NBC Sports Network also must make the network honchos cringe from time to time.
Four months after the debut of NBCSN's sports and pop culture program "The Crossover,'' hosted by Beadle and former Channel 7 sports reporter Dave Briggs, the show, which has struggled to find an audience in its daily 6 p.m. time slot, has been revamped after a brief hiatus.
Briggs, who wasn't a particularly popular figure among colleagues during his time in Boston (2004-08), is out, though he will remain at NBC.
And Beadle, utilizing the snarky wit and matter-of-fact candor that made her such a popular personality in her previous gig co-hosting ESPN's "SportsNation,'' didn't attempt to hide her satisfaction with the change during an appearance on "The Dan Patrick Show" Tuesday.
When Patrick kidded that she "kicked her co-host to the curb,'' she replied, matter-of-factly, "Wow. Just wasn't working. When a relationship's not working, you change it."
Patrick: "So, this was a divorce?''
Beadle, deadpan: "Sure. It was an arranged marriage to begin with.''
Patrick: "Were there fights between you two?"
Beadle: "We're not friends. That's fine. We don't need to be. We're very different human beings, and that was it. It wasn't a good pairing. I've had good pairings and bad pairings."
That Beadle could get along with "SportsNation" co-host Colin Cowherd, who only sporadically mixes in charm among his relentless trolling, for so many years suggests a high tolerance for imperfect co-hosts.
Imaging is everything
Some readers have noted that WEEI has recently changed its imaging voice — the person whose name is usually unknown but who is responsible for many of the recorded promotions and station identifications and so on. The new voice is Brian Lee, who may sound familiar — he is the voice of NBC's "Sunday Night Football." He replaced longtime imaging voice Jim Cutler, who parted ways with the station at the end of April. It should be noted that this isn't to be confused with the work of Pete Gustin, who is the voice of WEEI's creative bits . . . WEEI recently pursued the NFL Network's Albert Breer and CSNNE's Joe Haggerty, both of whom are frequent contributors to 98.5 The Sports Hub. It's uncertain what their roles would have been at WEEI, but both decided to remain at The Sports Hub . . . ESPN Boston's Field Yates will be part of a rotating cast of panelists on ESPN's new daily pro football program "NFL Insiders." It's further indication that Yates, who also co-hosts ESPN's "Fantasy Underground" podcast and provides NFL content for "ESPN Insider," has his share of supporters among ESPN's talent scouts. The show, which debuts Aug. 5, features Suzy Kolber, Adam Schefter, Bill Polian, and Chris Mortensen, among others. But what may be more notable is what it doesn't feature — contributions from former players.