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Crain’s Detroit Business: For Fox Sports Detroit, realignment is good for TV network’s bottom line

Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea states the obvious to some extent in reporting that the Red Wings' move to an Eastern time zone-centered conference next season will significantly bolster Fox Sports Detroit's bottom line. Fewer 9:30 and 10:30 PM starts yield bigger ratings and better rates for commercials, and Fox Sports Detroit's vice-president confirms as much:

"We anticipate more games against some great Original Six opponents in some great time slots leading to even stronger Red Wings viewership all across Michigan. Higher viewership leads to more valuable advertising opportunities for our sponsors," said Greg Hammaren, Fox Sports Detroit's vice president and general manager, via email earlier this week, before the NHL approved the realignment.

Detroit's move will mean more games played at 7 or 8 p.m. Thirteen of the team's 82 games last season began at 9 p.m. EST or later, including seven after 10 p.m. The current lockout-shortened schedule has Detroit playing 12 games that begin at 9 p.m. or later. Eight begin at 10 or 10:30 p.m.

When the ratings go up, FSD can charge more for advertising...

Ad rates are in large part tied to ratings. The network does not disclose its financials. It is known the network charges about $6,000 for a 30-second commercial spot during a Detroit Tigers game, a number believed to be higher than similar ad inventory for Red Wings games.

Last season, NHL teams averaged a collective 1.41 in local ratings, but the Red Wings were at a 3.55 rating for the season in Detroit, according to Nielson Co. data provided by FSD. That number was good enough to make Red Wings games the top-ranked among Fox's eight regional sports networks and fourth among the 21 NHL teams that have local regional sports network cable deals, FSD said.

FSD airs about 60 of the Red Wings' 82 games. The rest are on alternative networks, including national broadcasts. The network has 148 of the Tigers' 162 games.

Many years, FSD's done its best to push that number up to or around 70 games because the NBC Sports Network was only allowed to make so many games "exclusive" broadcasts...

Approximately 50 30-second commercial spots air during a typical RW game, in addition to a small amount of 15-second inventory. Another 21 half-minute spots are shared by the team, NHL, network and cable operators.

Fox Sports Detroit inked 10-year deals, believed to be extensions of contracts already in place, in March 2008 with the Wings and Tigers. The hockey team is believed to get about $25 million from the broadcaster for cable-rights fees, while the baseball team gets $50 million.

That kind of money helps the Wings commit more money to player salaries, though the Wings haven't technically been a "cap team" for two or three seasons now.


Also of Red Wings-related note as we wait for news from the morning skates in Edmonton: TSN posted a Sports Network preview of tonight's Wings-Oilers tilt (9:30 PM EDT, FSD/Sportsnet West/97.1 FM) which includes some stats worth mentioning...

Detroit has won three straight, 10 of 11 and 14 of the past 18 encounters [against Edmonton] overall, though Edmonton did snap a three-game series home losing streak to the Red Wings with a shootout win on Feb. 4 of last season.

The Red Wings do come into this meeting having lost three straight following a 5-1-1 burst and off what head coach Mike Babcock called a "disturbing" 5-2 setback in Calgary on Wednesday. Valtteri Filppula and Niklas Kronwall had goals to help the Red Wings take a 2-2 tie into the third period, but the Flames responded with three third- period tallies, capitalizing on Detroit's mistakes and sending the club to its fifth loss in the past six road games.


Jonas Gustavsson gave up all five goals on 22 shots, while Filppula snapped Detroit's season-opening 0-for-37 road skid on the power play. That was the longest stretch in team history since the 1928-29 Detroit Cougars failed to score a single road power-play goal during their 44-game schedule that season. Filppula returned after missing seven straight games with a sprained shoulder, while goaltender Jimmy Howard was dealing with illness in Calgary. He said on Thursday that he is feeling better and he is expected to start this game.

[Jimmy] Howard posted a 22-save shutout in last week's meeting and is 8-1-2 with a 1.96 goals against average and two shutouts in 11 career starts versus the Oilers.

Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg both have three points in the two meetings this season and are looking to end lengthy goal-scoring droughts.

Datsyuk has failed to light the lamp in 11 straight games after scoring a goal in five straight, while Zetterberg has no goals in his past eight and just one over his last 20 contests. Zetterberg does have nine points in his last six versus the Oilers, including one goal.

And ESPN's Craig Custance answered two Wings-related questions in his ESPN Insider blog's Friday mailbag feature:

Are the Wings and Blue Jackets only in the East until the inevitable expansion? It seems like the most likely targets are on that side of the continent.
Byron Hauck, Portland Ore.

Craig Custance: Hey Byron. I'll let the commissioner handle this one because Gary Bettman was asked a similar question yesterday in his conference call: "My guess is Detroit views it, as do the other teams that have made the move East, like Columbus, they're moving East and they don't have any plans on moving back. The East is where they want to be. We did this plan with the 30 clubs that we have now, where they're located, and we didn't do it with any expectations of what may happen next, because this is a complicated enough process as it is. We did it with what we have. And if at some point down the road we have to look at it in a different way, then we'll do that. But my belief is that the clubs that are making changes are pleased with them and are not anticipating having to do anything different."


I can see it now Craig: A very average looking Detroit Red Wings squad misses the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons, only to win the brand new draft lottery and pick Seth Jones first overall. A) How awesome would that be? B) How [ticked] would Bettman and the BOG's be?
Nick, Ontario, Calif.

Custance: Hey Nick, first of all, because of Detroit's road heavy schedule, it's not a lock the Red Wings make the playoffs. Mike Babcock deserves credit for keeping this team competitive through all the injuries. Here's another thing to keep an eye on: If things really go sideways for Detroit as the trade deadline closes in, I could see them being sellers. If that's the case, that could improve those draft lottery odds a little bit. But to answer your question: A) Not sure how awesome it would be for other teams hoping to win that lottery. And Seth Jones wouldn't make Detroit forget Nicklas Lidstrom, but he'd give them a great top pair again with Niklas Kronwall. B) I don't think Bettman would be ticked. I think he has less of an opinion on the fortunes of individual teams than fans believe he has.

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.