Columbus Business First: Not so blue about the Jackets

Staff reporter-Columbus Business First

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been here before, watching the Stanley Cup playoffs unfold from afar, weeks after being eliminated from post-season contention.

In what doubters may call a return to the same old Jackets, the club followed up a 2013-14 playoff appearance with a disappointing campaign derailed by a slew of injuries.

But the naysayers are quieter than at any point over the life of the 15-year-old franchise, as fresh leadership and a talented young core of players have ushered in a new optimism that’s filtered throughout the organization and connected with success-starved fans.

The change of attitude, from “we’re just happy to be here” to “we want to win now,” has made the Blue Jackets a more viable business – one ownership expects soon could become profitable for the first time, joining the majority of National Hockey League teams that reportedly operate on an annual surplus.

“I’m satisfied with people understanding what the message is, how we’re going to run the franchise,” said John Davidson, who joined the team in 2012 as president of hockey operations. “I like our direction, I like the way we’re changing the culture slowly and methodically – it’s attitude, leadership, it’s drafting and developing.”

Business back up

The Blue Jackets’ trajectory has been anything but upward since joining the NHL in 2000, recording just one winning season in the first decade of play.

But by summer 2014, under the fresh leadership of Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and coming off a compelling playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, what happened on the ice began pulling along the business side of the house.

During the latest season, sponsorship sales reached a historic high and attendance, TV ratings and merchandise sales all jumped.

“Last year was probably the strongest momentum they had going into an off-season,” said Jim Kahler, a former sports marketing executive and now executive director for the Center for Sports Administration at Ohio University. “(This year) they got off to slow start but seemed to capture the imagination of the market.”

Not only did attendance at the 18,144-seat Nationwide Arena reach a six-year high, but corporate sponsors took note and threw more money at the team. Sponsorship sales hit a record in the 2013-14 season and then again last season, said AJ Poole, the Blue Jackets’ vice president of corporate development.

Revenue from corporate deals has grown 28 percent since 2009.

“When people are more excited about the product on the ice, the story you have to tell (to potential sponsors) is more compelling,” Poole said, pointing to an accord with T-Mobile and other new deals. “Where I’ve seen the biggest change is the recognition of the speed and direction (of the team).”

It’s an important perception, Kahler argues, in a community occupied by a perennial sports powerhouse in the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, fresh off January’s national championship.

“If you’re in charge of an advertising budget you can’t always support everything, so you’re going to support the team that’s hottest,” Kahler said.

So, too, will fans.

“There’s no question there’s a direct correlation,” Davidson said of the team’s game performance and business results. “Obviously, the more you win, the more the fans really get into it. And the fans here have been starved.”

The young, talented Jackets were more popular on television last season, drawing 18 percent higher ratings on Fox Sports Ohio, according to Nielsen Co.

Meanwhile, average attendance at Nationwide Arena climbed 5 percent to 15,511, inching closer to the 16,000 threshold that team President Mike Priest has said is important if the team hopes to become profitable.

“All the things we look at to measure our business are on a positive uptick,” Executive Vice President of Business Operations Larry Hoepfner said.

This time’s for real

Though fans showed up in rising numbers to witness big-time hockey’s first years in Columbus, the honeymoon was marred by a long streak of losing.

One playoff appearance over the team’s first 12 seasons left fans disenchanted and had some questioning the viability of hockey in Central Ohio. Indeed, many measures of the team’s business success plummeted.

Sure, the Blue Jackets have flirted with success in the past, and, yes, the team had a disappointing last season that surely could leave some questioning the direction.

But several developments have the franchise better positioned financially than when the Jackets first made the playoffs in 2009.

The team freed up as much as $10 million annually by selling Nationwide Arena to Franklin County and the city of Columbus.

And the NHL signed national TV deals with NBC and Canada’s Rogers Communications, valued together at more than $600 million a year – revenue that’s shared, in part, among teams.

The Blue Jackets in April switched minor league affiliates from the Springfield Falcons in Massachusetts to Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters in a step seen boosting the team’s business prospects by building connections to other areas of the state.

Of course, making the playoffs more consistently will help, said OU’s Kahler, noting NHL teams may break even during the regular season and then see a big financial boost for making the post-season.

“It’s good that people are demanding and they want to see playoffs. I understand all that stuff,” Davidson said. “But it’s my job, though, to keep everything in perspective and keep things evolving as a franchise. We’re close right now to being a good hockey club.”


The Indians’ season opener at Houston drew a 5.7 rating on SportsTime Ohio on Monday night. A total of about 85,000 households tuned in, and STO’s rating was 58% better than the local viewership for ESPN’s broadcast of the game.

The SportsTime Ohio rating is more impressive when you consider that the audience was somewhat divided by ESPN televising the Tribe game, and the fact that the Duke-Wisconsin national championship contest started during the latter stages of the Tribe opener. Nationally, the Duke-Wisconsin matchup posted the largest national championship rating in 18 years, and it fared pretty well locally, too.

Reds hot on the field to start the season, but how are they doing on TV?

Staff Reporter-Cincinnati Business Courier

The Reds’ Opening Day game drew the biggest share of their local TV market of any Major League Baseball team in this season’s openers.
The Reds' 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday pulled in a combined rating of 18.6 for Fox Sports Ohio and WKRC-TV (Channel 12), which simulcasted the game. The rating means nearly 19 percent of all households in Greater Cincinnati tuned in to the Reds opener. That comes to 170,000 households that watched the game.
That’s the third-best Opening Day rating – and third-best regular-season TV rating of any kind – for the Reds since Fox Sports Ohio began broadcasting games in 1997
The Opening Day numbers dwarf the typical Reds ratings that are strong among MLB teams. This year’s Opening Day rating tripled last season’s average 6.0 rating for Reds games on Fox Sports Ohio, meaning about 54,000 households tuned in to each game on average, according to industry sources.
The Reds have steadily ranked at least in the top six over the past five seasons, including placing fourth in 2013 among MLB teams.

MLB starts strong in Ohio

Cincinnati Reds start strong on the field and on FOX Sports Ohio

The Reds’ Opening Day 5-2 win over the Pirates generated an 18.63 household rating on FOX Sports Ohio in simulcast with WKRC (approx. 170K households), up over last year’s home opener rating (18.37 HH). It's the third highest rated Reds game on FOX Sports Ohio ever, and was the highest Opening Day rating in all of MLB.

The game ran from 4:00 to 7:30pm and included a 35-minute rain delay at the top of the 6th inning. The final hour of game play averaged over a 23 HH (over 214K households).

Leading up to the game, the network aired six hours of live programming covering the city-wide celebration and pre-game fanfare. With a broadcast team of eight, FOX Sports Ohio covered the festivities live from Washington Park, Findlay Market, Fountain Square and the Reds Community Fund Charity Block Party at The Banks as well as aired the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade live.

SportsTime Ohio beats ESPN in Indians season opener coverage

The Cleveland Indians – Houston Astros game last night posted a 6.1 household rating in Cleveland on SportsTime Ohio. STO’s rating beat ESPN’s coverage by 56% (3.91).

STO also hosted an hour-long Indians Live pre-game show live from the new set inside Progressive Field and a NEW show, Progressive Field: Revealed debuted following the game. CLICK for video

The next Indians game on STO is tomorrow as they take on the Astros. Indians Live pre-game show starts at 7:30pm with game coverage beginning at 8:00pm. 

2015 OHSAA Girls Basketball State Championship games on SportsTime Ohio

SportsTime Ohio will be airing the 2015 OHSAA Girls Basketball State Championship games LIVE this Saturday, March 21st. The TV schedule is below.

Games will be held at Value City Arena, Jerome Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University in Columbus. Qualifying semifinal games are being played today and tomorrow. Click HERE for more information on those matchups.

Saturday, March 21st on SportsTime Ohio
  • 10:30am - Division IV game
    • Broadcasters: Al Pawlowski and Michelle Mimna
  • 2:00pm - Division III game
    • Broadcasters: Al Pawlowski and Michelle Mimna
  • 5:00pm - Division II game
    • Broadcasters: Mike Cairns and Jacki Windon
  • 8:30pm - Division I game
    • Broadcasters: Mike Cairns and Jacki Windon
The games will also replay the following week. Check local listings.

Follow on Twitter @OHSAASports and @SportsTimeOhio #OHChamps

SportsTime Ohio Announces Indians Broadcast Team, New Set and the SportsTime Ohio Patio Inside Progressive Field’s Right Field District

SportsTime Ohio announced today the broadcast team for the 2015 Cleveland Indians regular season as well as a new set and the SportsTime Ohio Patio inside Progressive Field’s Right Field District.

Analyst Rick Manning and play-by-play voice Matt Underwood are back in the booth to call all the live action. Al Pawlowski will also return to host Indians Live pre- and postgame shows.

Last season, SportsTime Ohio introduced Jensen Lewis as co-host of Indians Live on select home games. This season, he will assume the role of analyst on all Indians Live pre- and postgame shows. Lewis pitched for the Indians 2007- 2010 after which he spent time in the Indians, Diamondbacks and Cubs minor leagues until 2013.

SportsTime Ohio is also pleased to welcome Andre Knott to the Cleveland Indians broadcast team as the new reporter. A graduate of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and Kent State University, Knott has contributed to SportsTime Ohio’s coverage over the past several years in various capacities from covering high school football and Cleveland Browns to hosting Drennan Live. He was the Browns Radio Network sideline reporter for six years and has also been seen and heard covering Cleveland sports on WTAM, WKNR and WEWS.

Additionally, SportsTime Ohio is excited to announce a new Indians Live set inside Progressive Field. The set will be on the main concourse next to the new two-story bar named “The Corner” in the Right Field District. With an open air stage including the Indians Live desk, cameras and lighting, as well as a space for fans to gather and watch production of the live shows, this new set will be an entertaining complement to The Corner.

The network will further engage Tribe fans at the SportsTime Ohio Patio, located on the second level of The Corner. Fans are encouraged to visit the SportsTime Ohio Patio for fun, interactive events on select game nights. The patio area will also on occasion be the place for SportsTime Ohio’s interviews with in-park guests.

The Indians are making it easy for fans to check out the new Right Field District with the new $13 District Ticket, presented by SportsTime Ohio. For $13, fans get a Standing Room Only ticket, and the first drink – 12-ounce beer (for those 21 and over), Pepsi product or bottled water – is on the Tribe! More information can be found at

As previously announced, SportsTime Ohio will be carrying live all regular season games unless selected for exclusive national coverage. Visit for schedule information.

Follow on Twitter:
·        SportsTime Ohio – @SportsTimeOhio
·        Andre Knott – @DreKnott
·        Jensen Lewis – @JLEWFifty

·        Al Pawlowski – @AlPawlowski

Cavs rating alert: Cavs-Magic set new non-simulcast ratings high this season

Cavs-Magic set new ratings high on FOX Sports Ohio

According to Nielsen, Last Night’s Cavs-Magic game delivered an 11.8 HH rating in Cleveland on FOX Sports Ohio, reaching over 173,000 households.

This is the new highest rated non-simulcast game so far this season, bumping the Cavs-Trail Blazers game from Jan. 28th (11.5 HH) to the second spot. It is also now the 3rd highest rated game of the season, including simulcast games.

The game peaked at a 15 HH (over 220K households) and averaged over a 14 HH in the final hour (205K households).

The Cavs are averaging a 10.4 HH in Cleveland so far in the month of March, and the regular season average to date is 7.9 HH, up 180% compared to last year’s same-game average.

Crain's: Cavs ratings continue to soar

Cavs keep racking up ratings

By Kevin Kleps

The Cavs-Hawks game Friday night drew a 10.9 rating on Fox Sports Ohio, which is the fourth-best non-simulcast rating of the season for the network. More than 160,000 households tuned in to watch what could be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals (if so, let’s hope that goes much better than Friday).

The game peaked at 14.1, with more than 207,000 households, according to Nielsen data. The final hour of the broadcast produced an average rating of 13.

For the season, Cavs games are generating a ratings norm of 7.8, which is a 170% year-over-year increase and is starting to approach the record numbers produced by the 2008-09 and 2009-10 Cavs on Fox Sports Ohio. The average ratings for LeBron James’ final two seasons in his first go-round with the Cavs were 8.67 and 8.55, respectively.

High rating alert: fans tune in for Cavs-Hawks

Cavs-Hawks delivers high rating on FOX Sports Ohio

According to Nielsen, Friday’s Cavs-Hawks game delivered a 10.9 HH rating in Cleveland on FOX Sports Ohio, reaching over 160,000 households. This is the fourth highest rated non-simulcast game so far this season.

·        The game peaked at a 14.1 HH (over 207K households) and averaged over a 13 HH in the final hour (191K households).
·        The highest non-simulcast game of the season to date is the Jan. 28 game vs. the Trail Blazers which garnered an 11.5 HH.
·        The 2nd and 3rd highest rated non-simulcast games have come in the past six games:
§  2nd – Feb. 24 Cavs-Pistons game (11.3 HH)
§  3rd – Last Wednesday, Mar. 4 Cavs-Raptors game (11.1 HH)

The Cavs are averaging a 7.8 HH in Cleveland on FOX Sports Ohio, up +170% compared to last year’s same-game average.

The Golf Zone with Jimmy Hanlin returns on SportsTime Ohio

The Golf Zone with Jimmy Hanlin returns on SportsTime Ohio this Sunday, March 8th at 8:00pm.

The live two-hour show features PGA Pro Jimmy Hanlin discussing PGA events and providing golf tips. Hanlin will also take calls and answer emails to help viewers improve their game.

Tune in every Sunday at 8:00pm for a new, live Golf Zone with Jimmy Hanlin