Thursday, February 22, 2007

Baby Joe Mesi on Versus Tonight

Buffalo's own Baby Joe Mesi makes his return to the boxing ring in front of a national audience tonight on Versus (9 PM EST) and Tim Graham speculates that the Sabres history of good ratings on the channel may have played a role:

My goal is to use fighters that can attract ratings, and Joe, coming from an area with a pretty sizable following, I figured he would help the ratings," said Bruce Trampler, matchmaker for Las Vegas-based promoter Top Rank. "The additional controversy of his health and well-being is another factor."

Versus knows the power of Buffalo sports fans quite well. The NHL All-Star game last month drew a 0.7 national rating, but a whopping 7.1 rating in Buffalo.

Still waiting on the figures for Tuesday's national telecast against the Flyers...

Monday, February 19, 2007

2007 NHL All Star Game

The 2007 NHL All Star game was held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on january 24th 2007 and Sabres fans had plenty of reasons to watch. Buffalo supporters helped propel three Sabres (Daniel Briere, Ryan Miller, and Brian Campbell) to starting positions through the fan voting process. It was the first time that a team has ever had three players make their All Star debut as starters. The heavy Sabre presence coupled with Daniel Briere's MVP performance made the exhibition must-see TV in Buffalo and the rating reflected it. The game garnered a 7.1 rating on Versus and was the highest rated cable show in Buffalo for the night. Nationally, the game drew a .7 rating with 10% of the total households being attributed to the Buffalo market alone. In addition, many Sabres fans watched the game on CBC. CBC drew a 2.7 rating meaning Buffalo had a combined rating of 9.8 by far the highest figure in America. To put into perspective how highly rated the game was in Buffalo, here are the ratings for any US city that the game was a top-20 rated cable program:

Buffalo (7.1 rating) (2.7 CBC)
Pittsburgh (2.8 rating)
Detroit (1.3 rating)*
Nashville (1.2 rating)
St. Louis (1.1 rating)
Denver (1.1 rating)
Philadelphia (1.0 rating)
Richmond-Petersburg (1.0 rating)
Boston (.9 rating)
Columbus, OH (.8 rating)
Minneapolis-St. Paul (.7 rating)
Chicago (.7 rating)
Baltimore (.7 rating)
Tampa-St. Petersburg (.6 rating)
Dallas (.5 rating)
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose (.5 rating)

* Detroit's CBC total unknown.

2006-2007 Ratings Update

On January 6th, 2007 Alan Pergament updated Sabres fans on the team's ratings in his weekly column: (Buffalo News articles remain active for a shot period of time.)

While there has been national concern about declining NHL ratings in many team markets, the Buffalo Sabres' fast start has led to more ratings success on MSG this season. The MSG games have averaged an impressive 5.6 here and the average hits 6.0 when you include the games carried on Versus, according to WIVB-TV researcher Bob Gallivan. A year ago, the current average was 4.9. To put the 6.0 average in perspective, it is better than many prime time regular series get on NBC, Fox and ABC. And Sabres ratings are bound to increase once the playoffs approach.

Once again, the 6.0 overall rating was good enough to be the top local rating for NHL games in the United States.

2005-2006 Eastern Conference Finals

Some details regarding TV ratings for the Sabres playoff run were made public. Reports stated that Buffalo drew ratings ranging from the high teens to the low thirties for several of the games against the Ottawa Senators.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, the ratings for Games 1-3 were made public. Thanks to for an article containing the details.

Game 1 of the 2005-2006 Eastern Conference Finals was on May 20th, 2006 and was broadcast on NBC. The Sabres, lead by Ryan Miller’s 29 saves, defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 at RBC Center. In Raleigh the game drew a 4.4 rating (43,350 households) compared to Buffalo where the game drew a 31.0 rating (199,640 households). Nationally, Game 1 earned a 1.0 rating (1.1 million households).

Game 2 of the 2005-2006 Eastern Conference Finals took place on May 22nd, 2006 and was broadcast on OLN. Carolina’s Ray Whitney scored twice to help the Hurricanes tie the best of seven series at one game apiece. In Buffalo, the game drew a 23.6 rating (151,980 households) while 50,250 households watched in Raleigh (5.1 rating). Nationally, Game 2 earned a .64 rating or 705,280 households.

Game 3 of the 2005-2006 Eastern Conference Finals was also an OLN broadcast on May 24, 2006. The Sabres used two goals from Daniel Briere and a goal and an assist from Ales Kotalik to regain the series lead. In Raleigh, Game 3 garnered a 4.2 rating (41,380 households) while Buffalo drew a 20.1 local rating or 129,440 households. The national rating for Game 3 was .78 (859,560 households).

Past Season Averages

The Empire Sports Network broadcast Sabres games in the 2003-2004 season. This was Buffalo's first full season under the ownership of Tom Golisano and the team performed much better than they had with the uncertain clouds of bankruptcy and relocation looming over their heads. Buffalo went 37-34-7-4 (W-L-T-OTL) and narrowly missed the postseason. However, the Northeast division was particularly strong in '03-'04 and the Sabres finished in the division's cellar for the third consecutive year. Empire averaged a strong 3.2 rating for the season, which was good enough to be the 2nd highest rated TV market in the United States for NHL games finishing only behind Detroit.

The 2004-2005 campaign was canceled due to the NHL lockout. The Empire Sports Network (which had been severely weakened in the wake of the Adelphia Communications corporate scandal) was off the hook for their annual $9.5 million rights fee paid to carry Sabres games. Adelphia decided to eliminate the Empire Sports Network in January 2005 and it signed off for the final time two months later. Obviously, this left the Sabres in limbo.

After the lockout, Buffalo signed a unique temporary deal with MSG to broadcast games. MSG normally runs the broadcast production, but because of proximity issues they allowed the Sabres to control the whole broadcast, sell its own advertisements, and produce its own postgame show. Despite initial confusion with zoning issues, it turned out to be an enormous success for both sides. The Sabres exceeded expectations on the ice. They were among the biggest surprises of the NHL season and the city of Buffalo became infatuated with a fast and exciting group of "nobodies". Buffalo drew a 4.9 local rating, which topped Detroit and was the highest rating of any team in the United States. The ratings continued to soar in the playoffs as the Sabres made an inspiring run to the Eastern Conference Finals that eventually ended when a Sabres squad decimated with injuries squad fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the ECF.

The enormous ratings were not overlooked. MSG and the Sabres renewed their contract in 2006 coming to an agreement on a 10 year contract extension. Financial details were not disclosed.


I'm a Buffalo Sabres fan that has always taken an interest in television ratings because it gives a quantitative analysis on how interested cities are in my favorite sport. Obviously, using TV ratings (an inexact science to begin with) alone won't give you a fully accurate picture, but at the very least it shows a rough level of interest. Information about NHL television ratings is widely available, but often difficult to search for. Hopefully, this blog will provide an easy place to get the information for those who like to see the numbers. It will mainly be a collection of excerpts from Buffalo News television reporter Alan Pergament, WIVB researcher Bob Gallivan, and other media outlets that report on ratings.