BOSTON ESPN2 has not been hurt by advertiser defections stemming from the loss of National Hockey League telecasts because sponsors that have remained where hockey would have aired have reaped the benefits of higher ratings from replacement NCAA Basketball, said Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC sports customer marketing and sales.
"Those who already had college basketball in their mix, moved into SportsCenter, or even the NBA telecasts," Erhardt said. "Our advertisers have lots of options."
While last minute efforts last Friday, initiated by the players to salvage the National Hockey League season following its official cancellation two days earlier, were underway, ESPN2 released a new schedule of new and returning sports trivia, sports game, and reality shows, that would air beginning April 11 on Monday and Tuesday nights to fill holes where NHL playoff games would have aired.
This season, ESPN was scheduled to carry only 40 games, compared to 70 last season with most on ESPN2. NBC, which was to air a limited number of Saturday afternoon games, has replaced those with adventure-type sport programming. NBC has not said what it will air to replace the final five games of the Stanley Cup finals in prime time.
ESPN has said it will decide in April whether it will exercise its one-sided option to renew its agreement to carry the NHL games next season for the same $60 million it was to pay this season. Under NBC's deal, the network doesn't pay a rights fee, but has a revenue sharing agreement.
ESPN is based Bristol, Conn.