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Low-rated Frozen Four had tough competition against Stanley Cup, NBA playoffs on TV

This is another edition of What WNY is Watching, mostly sports edition:

The Frozen Four not only had trouble getting college hockey fans into the seats at KeyBank Center because of high prices.

It also had a problem in Western New York and nationally getting people in their comfortable seats watching at home practically for free – as part of the cost of their cable, satellite or streaming packages.

ESPN play-by-play man John Buccigross accurately predicted TV ratings for the Frozen Four Thursday and Saturday nights at KeyBank Center would be affected by the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Buccigross said that hadn’t been a problem in the past. For example, the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2018 started four days after the Frozen Four ended.

High ticket price was set during bidding for Frozen Four, organizers say

Minnesota-Duluth’s victory over UMass Saturday night for the national title had a 0.5 local rating – equivalent to only about 3,000 households – on ESPN2 opposite National Hockey League and National Basketball Association playoff games.

The two semifinal games Thursday night had local ratings of 1.4 and 0.9 ratings on ESPN2 competing with NHL playoff games on NBCSN and, for a time, with coverage of the first round of the Masters Tournament on ESPN.

Nationally, the title game reportedly had its lowest viewership in at least a decade.

At least the ESPN2 coverage did a good job of hiding all the empty seats at KeyBank Center.

The NCAA might have thought that the games would draw Canadian fans, but the chance of any walk-ins across the border most likely was diminished because the series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins started on the same night as the Frozen Four.

College basketball is a much bigger TV draw here than college hockey, partly because of all the exposure college hoops get during the season and also because people know the names of star basketball players. I doubt too many people could have named a few players in the Frozen Four before the games began.

The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate on the court after winning the NCAA Tournament. (John McDonnell/Washington Post)

Virginia’s overtime win led by Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy over Texas Tech in the NCAA men’s basketball championship on April 8 on a broadcast channel, WIVB-TV (Channel 4), had a 9.8 local rating. That was below the national average. The two men’s semifinals won by Virginia and Texas Tech had local ratings of 6.7 and 6.4.

Baylor’s one-point win over Notre Dame for the women’s national championship on cable’s ESPN had a 2.3 local rating, which is about the same as the national average.

The best line in the men’s telecast after Virginia redeemed itself by winning the title after a loss to a 16th seed in the tournament a year earlier came from analyst Bill Raftery: “There is no story like this in my memory in college basketball,” said Raftery. And he has been around forever. As I said throughout March Madness, I can’t wait for the “30 for 30” on Virginia’s magical ride of redemption.

ESPN2 analyst Barry Melrose had his best line during the Thursday night semifinals at the Frozen Four after a Minnesota-Duluth goal was being questioned because a player had his toe in the crease: “Being in Buffalo we know what that means.” He was making reference to … well any Buffalo sports fan knows. This time, it really was No Goal. It was disallowed.

The Buffalo market finished No. 2 to Pittsburgh in ratings for the NHL games carried on NBC and NBCSN with slightly above an average rating of 1. That tells you what the rest of the country thinks about hockey.

“Most” Encouraging Monday: WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) had its best rating for “Most Buffalo” on Monday at 4.5 for the hour starting at 4 p.m., barely behind WIVB-TV’s (Channel 4) more traditional newscast. The heightened interest in the fire that engulfed the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris may have had something to do with it. “Most Buffalo” was first in the 4 p.m. time period for the second edition Thursday after being second on opening day. I’m taking some credit for it. The attention I gave the program in Thursday’s review may have attracted some viewers to try it to see if they would like it. Friday’s “Most Buffalo” fell to a 2.6 rating. It will take weeks to see if viewers are in for the long haul or are just sampling it.


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