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WNYers enjoy late-night hockey

By Alan Pergament

I heard WGR morning guys Howard Simon, Jeremy White and Paul Hamilton Thursday discuss teammate Mike Schopp's suggestion in a column or a blog that the National Hockey League consider ending Stanley Cup playoff games than run too long with shootouts.

I didn't actually read Schopp's column. I have to listen to his occasional absurd comments when he does his afternoon radio show but I'm not about to search them out in a column or blog.

The morning trio pretty much dismissed the idea, which followed the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-3 triple overtime victory over the Boston Bruins in game one of the Stanley Cup finals. Hamilton suggested he would light himself on fire if the NHL ever went to shootouts in the playoffs as they do in the regular season.

The discussion led me to seek out the viewing patterns of Western New Yorkers during Wednesday's game. As usual, the 8.5 rating in the Buffalo market put it in the Top 5 in the country. Buffalo was No. 4 behind Boston (28.1), Chicago (25.1) and Providence(18.5). The 8.5 rating here was more than twice the national rating of 3.9.

More signficantly, the rating actually went up here after the scheduled ending time of 11 p.m.

The game averaged a 7.7 rating on Channel 2 until 11 p.m. It averaged a 10.4 from 11 p.m. to midnight and an 8.8 from midnight to 1 a.m. when the game was decided. The rating averaged a 9.6 during the three overtimes, hitting a high of 12.6 at 11:30 p.m. The rating was a still healthy 8.2 when the game ended.

To put that in perspective, the midnight rating was two or three times as high as the rating for many NBC entertainment programs here and even in the range of its most popular program -- "The Voice."

Of course, there were reasons for the increased ratings after 11 p.m. in addition to the drama going on. Some viewers joined at 11 p.m. expecting to see the local news. Others undoubtedly were made aware of the drama through social networks.

But one things is clear -- WNYers are enjoying playoff hockey and don't want or need any stupid shootouts.

New Yorkers also forget that while the game ended at 1 a.m. in the East, it ended at 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and midnight in other time zones and that helps national ratings.

The NHL noted that the game was the most-watched game 1 Stanley Cup final in 16 years. Of course, there is a difference between being the most-watched and the highest-rated. With the game running for five hours, more viewers were around to watch it.

LIN Media made it official Thursday, sending out a release announcing the appointment of Rene LaSpina as the new general manager of WIVB-TV and WNLO-TV. She replaces Chris Musial, who retired on May 31.

LaSpina has worked in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Albany, and most recently was a GM in Memphis. She left that position in January, according to published reports.

First, I'll give you the highlights of the release, then some perspective.

The release has the usual public relations superlatives, noting that she is "an accomplished broadcast  executive with 20 years of television station management experience" and adding she has "a successful track record of strengthening television stations' news positions across all platforms, growing ratings and developing innovative sales strategies that drive revenue." 

The release added that LaS[pina will report to Jay Howell, LIN's Regional Vice President for Television. Howell praised her this way: "Rene is a highly strategic and driven broadcast executive that brings an impressive range of sales and local news experience to this position. She also has a genuine, heartfelt commitment to meeting the needs of our viewers and advertisers."

LaSpina added that she is "very fond of Buffalo, having lived in New York State for five years, and I am an eager to work with the talented staff and management and achieve new levels of success."

It all sounds good. Sources also tell me that LaSpina gave a nice little speech when she was introduced to the staff Wednesday about having an open door and an open mind.

However, Channel 4 staffers are more concerned about comments about LaSpina's management style from former employees who responded to a newspaper story four years ago when LaSpina left her job in Albany for Memphis.

I won't repeat them here. But I will say many of the comments about LaSpina laying off and firing people are brutal. If you are to believe them, New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is media friendly by comparison.

In fairness, LaSpina was operating an Albany station whose owner had severe financial problems. LIN is a very strong owner, so the circumstances are very different. But you can understand why her hiring has made many Channel 4 staffers very uneasy.

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