Media Views: Blues’ second-round playoff games could be televised at least in part on secondary networks ESPNU, TruTV | St Louis Blues

Media Views: Blues’ second-round playoff games could be televised at least in part on secondary networks ESPNU, TruTV | St Louis Blues

Do you have, or even know, how to access TruTV? ESPNU?

You better get ready if you want to watch some NHL second-round playoff games — possibly including Blues-Avalanche contests — in their entirety next week.

Blues fans who did not attend Game 6 of their team’s victorious playoff series finale against Minnesota late Thursday could see the contest in full on local telecaster Bally Sports Midwest — the same set-up as with all the club’s first-round contests. But that complete-game coverage isn’t always the case with national networks, which have exclusive coverage for the rest of the Blues’ postseason run. They have doubleheaders most nights and push opening faceoffs of the nightcaps to secondary channels when earlier-starting contests run long.

And that could happen again on the networks (ESPN and TNT) that will be televising the second round. TNT’s plan is for earlier-starting games to remain on the lead channel, with the later contest bumped to TruTV. An ESPN spokesperson indicated that’s network’s policy for overlaps has not been finalized, depending on the availability of an in-flux schedule on ESPN2. It is worth noting that it has utilized ESPNU in the first round, and might do so again.

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This is the first year of the league’s new television contracts after a long run with NBC/NBCSN. In past seasons when games were going simultaneously, NBCSN would accommodate fans in the markets of the teams that were playing in the nightcap by moving the first contest to a secondary channel and starting the local club on the main network.

But that won’t be happening now, at least in some instances. And with no local version of the telecasts airing after the first round, fans in those markets such aa St. Louis will be left scrambling to find where those later-starting games are shown at the beginning before they move to the “main” channel after the lead-in contest ends.

So rooters for teams that figure to be in the back end of doubleheaders in the second round, such as the Blues, would be wise to familiarize themselves ahead of time as to where TruTV (which carries NCAA Tournament basketball games) and ESPNU are on their carrier — if they have them at all.

According to recent statistics, TruTV has about four million fewer subscribers than TNT. And ESPNU’s discrepancy from ESPN and ESPN2 is a whopping 20 million, per estimates by media research group Kragan.

Not only could the start of games be on a secondary channel, a good chunk — even possibly an entire contest — could be there if a lead-in matchup turns into an ultramarathon. To wit: a triple-overtime Rangers-Penguins first-round contest lasted more than 4½ hours and did not end until 10:48 pm (St. Louis time).

Officials of TNT and ESPN were not made available for an interview.

On the surface it would seem to make more sense for TNT parent company Warner Bros. Discovery to put bumped late-starting games on sister network TBS, which is more widely known than TruTV and has about the same number of subscribers as does TNT. But TBS has original programming (such as Major League Baseball games and Samantha Bee’s program) on some nights that it won’t preempt, whereas TruTV does not.

The second round begins on Monday with games on ESPN. TNT has the coverage Tuesday, with the alternating format to continue — ESPN on even-numbered dates, TNT on odd ones.

Blues cruise in ratings

The ratings numbers were still being crunched for Game 6 of the Blues-Wild series, but there was a lot of positivity in viewership figures for the earlier games in the matchup.

The first five games averaged 153,200 viewers, significantly better than the same point of the Blues’ first-round matchups the last two seasons. In fact, no contest those previous two years drew better than the least-watched of the first five games this time.

The low point this year was 149,000 viewers for Game 2, which the Blues fell behind 3-0 by the end of the first period en route to a 6-2 loss in a game that began at 8:45 pm and didn’t end until almost 11:30 am.

The high point through five contests was for Game 4, and that should come as no surprise. Not only did the Blues win 5-2 in what was a one-goal game until the final two minutes, but tellingly it was the only game in the series that has begun at a “reasonable” hour for many fans.

The opening faceoff was at 3:40 on a Sunday afternoon, as opposed to the rest of the contests that all began around 8:45. That game drew 236,400 viewers.

The series was on par with the 2019 first round, which averaged 155,600 viewers through five games as the Blues went on to eliminate Winnipeg en route to their only Stanley Cup title.

All figures mentioned above are from data tabulated by Nielsen, which measures viewership, and include those watching the local as well as national versions of the telecasts.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of viewers have chosen the Blues-oriented offering. Slightly more than 87% of them watched on Bally Sports Midwest, the others picked ESPN, TNT or TBS.

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