Here are a baker’s dozen of news and opinions about the Madison Square Garden deal with Pegula Sports and Entertainment to carry the Buffalo Sabres for more than a decade.
• Sources say the deal has a rights fee averaging between $19 million and $20 million annually, which adds up to more than $200 million over its length. Terry Pegula reportedly paid $189 million to buy the team in 2011. Of course, $200 million these days is enough for long-term deals with four players the quality of Sabre Ryan O’Reilly. He signed a seven-year deal for $52.5 million a year ago.
• PSE’s Mark Preisler and the Bills’ Marc Honan believe the move of John Murphy’s WGR Bills radio show to afternoons from nights will enable him to get more players and coaches to talk on the program aired live from studios at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It makes sense because that’s where practices are held.
• Preisler didn’t rule out eventually doing something like FAN-TV, the popular block of programs carried by the defunct Empire Sports Network. Empire used it to expand its reach into Albany, Binghamton and other areas by covering sports outside of Western New York.
• If I were a betting man, I’d guess WGR would fill Murphy’s old 7-9 p.m. weekday time slot with programs carrying the “best of” the talk shows that air that day. After all, most of the Sabres’ 82 games on WGR are carried weekday nights. When those weeknights aren’t filled, WGR could add play-by-play of national sporting events. Murphy’s afternoon show should provide plenty of “best of” material.
• Don’t worry, New York Knicks fans. Their NBA games will continue to air on MSG Western New York. They have to become good before Carmelo Anthony retires, don’t they? The trade for Derrick Rose shouldn’t hurt - if he stays healthy for a change.
• MSG Western New York’s five-hour block of simulcasting “Hockey Hotline” and Murphy’s show 10 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays isn’t a first in this market. Empire did a TV/radio simulcast of WNSA programs featuring Howard Simon and Jim Brinson about 14 years ago.
• I would think one reason owners Terry and Kim Pegula decided to stay with MSG rather than start a regional network was because PSE wasn’t assured it could instantly get satisfactory distribution deals with carriers that would’ve made it as financially worthwhile as the MSG deal. People forget it took Empire about five years to get enough distribution to become profitable.
• Greg Ried, who runs the local Entercom group of radio stations, has confirmed PSE got a radio rights fee from WGR that is “commensurate with their contribution to our success.” I doubt PSE got rich on the deal. The value of radio rights is a fraction of the value of TV rights. I also don’t think WGR worried too much about the possibility of the Pegulas starting their own PSE Radio Network.
• PSE obtained the digital rights to some programming, which led Preisler to say, “We can, at some point, if we deem fit, start a PSE Digital Network to give fans in and out of the area an opportunity to watch TV programs and original programs for digital.” The Knicks might make the playoffs before that happens.
• One of the big winners in this deal is Rochester. Before this deal, all of Rochester got the games, but only a portion of the area would have gotten all MSG WNY programs. Now, once all the technical issues are resolved, the entire Rochester area will get all MSG WNY programs.
• DISH subscribers believe they are losers in the deal because they don’t get Sabres games on MSG. “We would certainly be willing to make a deal with DISH and would hope they would as well,” said a MSG spokesman. I repeat: The Knicks might make the playoffs before that happens.
• MSG gains programming Western New Yorkers care about in the deal. After MSG lost the New York Yankees years ago to their own network, YES, it needed more than just the Knicks and some New York Giants programming to interest our area. I mean, how many repeats of classic Knicks games can even a fan of their glory years like me watch?
• Dan Dunleavy is a good soldier. His original contract called for him to replace legendary announcer Rick Jeanneret as the Sabres play-by-play man this upcoming season. Now, Dunleavy will do about half a season. Dunleavy apparently will have to wait until the day Jeanneret decides to retire to get the job full time.
The 12.6 rating for Channel 7 in Buffalo during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ historic 93-89 championship victory in game seven of the NBA Finals Sunday night was the highest for a NBA game here in recent memory.
That means 73,754 Western New York homes were tuned in to LeBron James’ shot-making and shot-blocking MVP performance. The final 15 minutes had an 18.7 rating here.
Still, the local rating was about 20 percent below the 15.7 fast national rating, which made game seven the highest-rated NBA game since a Chicago Bulls game in the Michael Jordan era 18 years ago.
The seven-game NBA series averaged an 8.2 rating on Channel 7. That is impressive for Buffalo but significantly lower than the games averaged nationally.
The six-game Stanley Cup Final averaged a 5.8 rating here, with the overall ratings taking a hit because two games were on cable and not broadcast television.
Buffalo was the No. 3 market in the country for championship hockey, only behind the markets of the two teams competing in the Cup Final – champion Pittsburgh and San Jose.
Part 5 of the “30 for 30” series “O.J.: Made in America,” had only a 1.3 live local rating on ESPN Saturday night, by far the lowest-rated of the episodes here. But live ratings are a minor part of the viewership story because so much of the viewing is done On Demand or in some other secondary way. Part 5 is the best of the five episodes and shouldn’t be missed.