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A.J. Mleczko Joins NBC NHL Broadcast

Brandon Contes

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A.J. Mleczko is a two-time Olympic medalist and seasoned analyst for the United States women’s hockey team, but without many women’s hockey broadcast opportunities outside of the Olympics, Mleczko turned to the NHL.

Last night, Mleczko joined play-by-play voice Chris Cuthbert and rinkside reporter Brian Boucher to provide color commentary on NBC Sports Network’s telecast of the Bruins – Red Wings game. This was her first appearance covering the NHL for NBC, but previously she provided analysis on NESN and the NHL Network.

Mleczko worked four Winter Olympics as a women’s hockey analyst and even called field hockey during the Rio Olympics. For Mleczko, being in the booth during a men’s NHL game is an easy adjustment. “It’s nice to be able to talk hockey,’’ she said. “Women’s hockey, men’s hockey, it’s all the same.’’

Mleczko was approached by NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood during the Olympics about the idea of her joining an NHL broadcast.

“He asked me what I was doing on March 6,’’ she said, “and I said, ‘I don’t have plans.’ He asked me if I wanted to do the Bruins game, that it was a home game and I wouldn’t have to travel, and that it was about time for that opportunity. It was a very easy answer for me.’’

The Harvard grad lives in Concord, Massachusetts so she’s familiar with the Bruins and was able to attend practice, making it easier to prepare for last night’s game.

“So much of broadcasting is being prepared. Although my role is to analyze what’s going on the ice, all of that prep work makes me feel more complete. Often times I have all this prep work and use a small percentage of it. But it makes me feel better. If some fourth-liner has a great game, I’m ready.’’

Mleczko obviously impressed NBC executives enough to earn a chance at broadcasting the NHL. Future opportunities for Mleczko covering the NHL on NBC Sports Network have not been reported, but last night’s call of the Bruins – Red Wings matchup could be viewed as an audition.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

PGA Tour Expects Mic’d Players To Be Common For 2023 TV Broadcasts

“This doesn’t need to be a walk and talk like I did. But we can make it what you want it to be.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Following the success with Max Homa last weekend, the PGA Tour is planning to mic a player up this weekend at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

According to Sports Business Journal, the Tour is considering micing up a player on either the 14th or 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

“The point of this is that if you want it to just be, they have an air pod on your caddie and they ask him one question, he could elaborate on something,” Homa said in an interview on the podcast No Laying Up. “That would be an improvement. This doesn’t need to be a walk and talk like I did. But we can make it what you want it to be.”

Homa added that he appreciated that the questions he was asked while taking part in the segment were solely on the task at hand and tackling the hole he was on.

“It wasn’t about how it is being a dad, how it is being in contention, it’s about golf,” he said. “This hole. That’s what we wanted it to be.”

CBS received positive reviews for debuting the new segment in their season debut at Torrey Pines last week.

It will be interesting to see if having players mic’d up for a segment will carry into NBC coverage or if it remains exclusively CBS. Have to think that in April at The Masters, if CBS keeps with it, the segment has the potential to be pretty compelling especially if the interview is with a player in contention or even leading.

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Sports TV News

ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years

“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”

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The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.

The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.

Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.

NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.

That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.

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Sports TV News

NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.

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Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.

ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.

The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.

At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.

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