Monday, May 16, 2011

TV Markets and Media

Interesting that the final four for both the NBA and NHL playoffs are dominated by sun belt teams. In the NHL it's San Jose and Tampa (along with Boston and Vancouver), and in the NBA, Miami, Dallas and Oklahoma City (who will play an interesting I-35 Western Conference Finals) join Chicago. Free agency has a lot to do with it. If you're LeBron James and can make millions no matter where you play, doesn't sunny Miami sound a lot better than frigid Cleveland?

On paper, TV executives seem to be happy with the remaining teams. After all, you've got markets 6 (San Jose), 7 (Boston) and 14 (Tampa) in the NHL, while the NBA has 3 (Chicago), 5 (Dallas), and 16 (Miami), to go along with 45 (Oklahoma City). But looking at it in terms of TV markets is old school thinking; the same kind of thinking that mistakenly got the NHL to add teams in places like Charlotte, Atlanta and Phoenix.

The emphasis today is on national appeal, and big stars can play in little markets. Thus, an NBA Finals matching Miami (with you-know-who) and Oklahoma City (with Kevin Durant) is probably a more compelling television product than Dallas-Chicago, even though the TV markets are smaller. And would anyone outside of San Jose and Tampa watch that matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals?

Today's sports programming needs stars (i.e. celebrities) and storylines to succeed. Golf has consistently shown that without Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson it has trouble getting audiences to watch. The Players Championship, which the PGA has aggressively tried to market as a 5th major, took place this weekend in virtual anonymity.

The NBA should hope the Heat, even in market 16, rally to make the NBA Finals. As for the NHL, Boston-Vancouver looks like it would be the best draw.


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