Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1

One would think that the LA area, it's low level of NHL interest notwithstanding, would have the highest ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals considering Anaheim is the lone American market remaining. One would be wrong. Buffalo was the top rated US market by a fairly large margin. Selected cities from the .72 national figure:

Buffalo: 3.9
Denver: 2.2
Pittsburgh: 2.0
Los Angeles: 1.7
Chicago: 0.7
Boston: 0.6
New York: 0.3

Yeah, that's pretty bad all around. Let's hope the NBC games crack a 2.0. Ok, a 1.0.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ottawa Series: Games 3-5

A disappointing series on the ice was also disappointing in the ratings and the two are obviously related. Alan Pergament reports on the final three games of the Sabres season:

The Versus coverage is dominating CBC’s coverage in the ratings even though Amherst resident Harry Neale is a CBC analyst and Versus carries the game on a three- to five-second delay. The Sabres’ victory Wednesday had a 20.8 rating on Versus and a 4.5 on CBC for a combined 25.3. The Sabres’ loss Monday had a 17.4 rating on Versus and a 4.5 on CBC for a combined 21.9.

The Sabres final playoff game had a combined rating of 28.4 on NBC (26.8) and CBC (1.8). One Sabres game on NBC had a 30 rating, but generally, the national playoff games averaged in the low to mid-20s here.

Combined final totals for the ECF (US National broadcast in parentheses, all games on CBC additionally):

Game 1 (VS): 23.8
Game 2 (VS): 27.6
Game 3 (VS): 21.9
Game 4 (VS): 25.3
Game 5 (NBC): 28.4

Obviously, those are great numbers relatively speaking, but there wasn't an increase from the round 2 figures. In fact, the two highest rated Sabres games this season were Games 3 and 6 of the NY Ranger series.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ottawa/Buffalo: Games 1 and 2

All of the games in the 3rd round are nationally televised and Versus had Games 1 and 2. Both games garnered respectable figures, but the strong Thursday night network lineup hurt the game 1 number:

Ottawa’s 5-2 victory in the first game of the series Thursday sure put a dent into the Thursday night ratings for local prime time favorites, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI.” “CSI” scored a 14.8, and “Grey’s” had a 13.2 rating. They both typically get ratings in the 18-20 range. Of course, ABC repeats “Grey’s” on Fridays, and both shows are heavily DVRed. The Sabre game had a combined 23.8 rating on Versus and CBC.

That broke down to a 19.9 for Versus and a 3.9 for CBC. Game 2 was slightly higher:

After all, the game had a combined 27.6 rating on Versus (21.3) and CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” (6.3), so there were a lot of potential viewers available for extensive postgame coverage.

Good numbers, but not as high as the Rangers series.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sabres Close Out Round 2 With a Bang

Alan Pergament reports on the rating for the series clincher against the Rangers on NBC:

The Sabres’ clinching victory on Sunday afternoon scored a 32.6 rating and 60 share on WGRZ-TV, which was 2.6 points higher than the Sabres overtime loss in Game Three of the series from Madison Square Garden.

The 60 share is eye-opening. Al Trautwig, the Rangers postgame host on MSG, told Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier Sunday afternoon that the Sabres get a 40 share for TV games, which he called incredible for hockey. A 60 share is beyond incredible for hockey. The first NBC game in the series got shares in the 50s and 60s in Buffalo. The 60 share means that 60 percent of the sets in use in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon were watching the game.

Speaking of incredible, the Sabres’ miracle finish Friday only averaged a 9.5 rating on MSG. That’s about 30 percent of what Channel 2 had for Game Six, which gives MSG further ammunition for the theory that its ratings are severely underreported.

The final ratings for round two are as follows:

Game 1 (VS): 25.3
Game 2 (MSG): 11.0
Game 3 (NBC): 29.8
Game 4 (VS): 24.8
Game 5 (MSG): 9.5
Game 6 (NBC): 32.6

Luckily (at least from a ratings standpoint), MSG is done for the year so there won't be any more underreporting issues.

Time Warner Cable Adds VS HD

Buffalo Business First reports that Time Warner will be temporarily adding Versus in HD to local digital packages:

Time Warner Cable said Tuesday it will temporarily add Versus HD to its digital lineup just as the Buffalo Sabres ready for another round in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Subscribers in the Buffalo market will find Versus HD programming on channel 708 starting May 10 through the conclusion of the National Hockey League post season. Versus will remain available on Channel 71 to standard package customers after the temporary viewing ends.

Versus, the cable TV rightsholder for the NHL in the U.S., will broadcast games one, two, three, four, six and seven of the Eastern Conference finals between the Sabres and Ottawa Senators as well as the Western Conference finals between the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks. NBC will televise the fifth game in each series.

The Sabres-Senators best-of-seven series begins Thursday night at HSBC Arena. Cable viewers in the Buffalo market will also be able to see the entire series on the CBC from Canada.

Assuming they don't continue to accidentally blackout half of the games, this is great for Sabres fans.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Game 4: Another Huge Rating

Another nationally televised game means another gigantic rating for the Buffalo Sabres. The controversial loss drew a 24.8 local rating on Versus which is nearly 160,000 households. Rangers fans weren't nearly as interested as the game only earned a 1.5 rating in New York City. A rating in the mid-20's is almost being taken for granted, but this quote from the President of Versus Gavin Harvey in The New York Times shows how significant it really is:

The Buffalo fans are a force of nature. We crushed ‘American Idol’ up there.

Just to put the final nail in the coffin of the 'underreported' debate:

Game 1 (VS): 25.3
Game 2 (MSG): 11.0
Game 3 (NBC): 29.8
Game 4 (VS): 24.8

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

MSG Being Underreported?

I've been fairly convinced that MSG's ratings totals haven't been accurate for some time now, dating back to the Ottawa re-match game in February. It didn't make any sense to me that almost twice as many Buffalonians wanted to watch a random game on Versus than the most hyped contest of the season. My theory picked up steam as the late-season numbers came in, was strengthened by the low ratings for the Islanders series, and essentially proved by the rating for game 2 (11.0 combined) of the Rangers series.

Alan Pergament of The Buffalo News has said the following in the past few weeks:

"The Versus rating appears to confirm what local researchers have suggested — that the Sabres ratings on MSG have been badly underreported."

"One local researcher also believes MSG’s ratings have been artificially low all season."

"The discrepancy should further bolster the argument that the audience for Sabres on MSG this season has been severely underreported."

Now I doubt I'm the local researcher in question as this is merely a hobby for me, so there is a pretty strong chance that someone else (with real sources) is coming to the same conclusion. Here's some analysis:

The Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo comparison. This is a good starting point because both of the match-ups between the clubs were on Versus as was the NHL All-Star Game.

Both cities reportedly averaged a 5.2 rating (Buffalo's rating increases to a 7.0 after factoring in nationally televised games). I have no reason to believe that Buffalo fans are more apt to tune into nationally televised games than Pittsburgh fans. Since both clubs supposedly had equal ratings for their local games (on MSG and FSN Pittsburgh respectively), one would assume that the March 13th and April 3rd meetings on Versus would have very similar local ratings. They didn't.

3/13 (PIT): 6.0 (up 15% from FSN average)
3/13 (BUF): 12.0 (up 130% from MSG average)

4/3 (PIT): 6.1 (up 17% from FSN average)
4/3 (BUF): 12.2 (up 135% from MSG average)

All-Star Game (PIT): 2.8
All-Star Game (BUF): 9.8 (7.1 VS + 2.7 CBC)

It makes sense to have a slight increase for nationally televised games. Pittsburgh/Buffalo is an exciting match-up between two of the Eastern Conference's top teams. It doesn't makes sense to see a rating more than twice of what MSG regularly gets. An argument could be made that the Sabres had such a high rating for the All-Star game because they had a league high 3 starters, but VS loves Sidney Crosby and talks about him at every chance (it's not nicknamed Versids for nothing) so I doubt it had much of an impact.

It becomes most obvious when evaluating the payoff ratings.

A meaningless regular season game gets a 16.4 rating, but the first round averages slightly over than 10?

Game 1 (VS) of the 2nd round gets a 25.3 and Game 3 (NBC) gets a 29.8, but Game 2 (MSG) gets an 11.0? There's only one explanation. MSG's ratings figures are significantly flawed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Game 3 Draws Big Rating in Buffalo

As was noted yesterday, the game peaked over 40.0 in double OT, but the overall rating is impressive as well. NBC got a 29.8 rating (almost 200,000 households) in Buffalo. The game didn't garner much attention in NY (1.8 rating) and was beaten in the NYC area by NASCAR and a not so epic golf tournament.

Apparently the Barbaro folks were none too pleased with the Rangers/Sabres game usurping the documentary on the legendary gluestick. Combine the outrage of horse lovers everywhere and the dismal national ratings for the NHL in America and you have to wonder if NBC will make the decision to move playoff overtimes to Versus or one of NBC's cable channels in the future.