CBS Evening News, NHL Market To Avoid Hard Body Checks

"The CBS Evening News" and Versus' NHL hockey are trying to avoid similar fates--trying not to end up in last place again in their respective TV programming genres.

Both longtime TV properties come into this season again as underdogs. The good news for both is the two TV networks, CBS and Versus (former OLN), respectively, are giving their marketing all to these underrated, somewhat troubling TV franchises.

Give the NHL league officials credit last season. Instead of taking a lowball offer from ESPN, they went to OLN--who promised the league all sort of marketing goodies and plenty of extended airtime. For the NHL, it's like having its own network--kind of like what the NFL and NBA have now with their cable channels.

In the same vein, this year CBS also delivered lots of marketing aid for the early evening newscast effort led by Couric. Marketing did its job, as people came and sampled the show, making it the most viewed TV newscast of all the broadcast news shows--for a while, anyway.



Last year NHL did get a lot of coverage on OLN--much more than it probably would have gotten on ESPN--but not much in the way of ratings. Versus is in 20 million fewer homes than ESPN.

Still, this approach makes sense. Go small. Rebuild from a niche fan base with interesting behind-the-scenes features in its attempt to regain its spot as the fourth major sport--behind the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball.

The last days of "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" were also akin to a niche fan base. Now, CBS has a different story, as Couric is not a low-profile TV personality. CBS News President Sean McManus isn't much concerned about her current placing. Better news is, the newscast has witnessed about a 20 percent increase in the key news 25-54 demographic.

"The CBS Evening News" is down from its first week sampling among news viewers. Now the real body checking will take place. Will viewers look past their preconceived notions of the Couric talking head to the real journalistic strengths of CBS' newsroom staff?

The NHL doesn't have high-profile talent such as Couric to count on. But the NHL commissioner says the new union agreement allows more of its athlete-stars to be used in marketing of the TV sports league. For Versus, and its new tougher image as a sports network, that will add marketing spunk and snap--putting a game to a face, to a game-face.

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