Thursday, April 24, 2008

Around The NHL: Round 1

Think about the following the next time you hear ESPN bash the NHL for having lower TV ratings than some obscure sport or cable show. 20% of NHL markets are located in Canada where ratings "don't count" including some of the most storied franchises in the league. Isn't it ironic that the "worldwide leader" conveniently ignores the fact that the NHL is popular and highly viewed in Canada? If Montreal plays Detroit for the title, there's a good chance that the Stanley Cup Finals will be watched by more North Americans than the NBA Finals or the World Series. Something tells me SportsCenter might not mention that.

It was a very encouraging opening round for the NHL from a ratings standpoint. Obviously, this is all relative as Versus still hasn't cracked a 1.0 rating yet for any individual team, but the percentage increases are still noteworthy.

Versus averaged a 362,958 viewers (0.4 coverage rating) for 26 games in its coverage of the NHL Playoffs first round, up 26.7% from last season's 23 opening-round games, which averaged 286,476 viewers (0.3 coverage area rating). The net also gains in male demos 18-34 (+66.8%), 18-49 (+65.6%) and 25-54 (+67.4%). Flyers-Capitals Game Seven Tuesday night was the net's most-viewed game, averaging 682,000 viewers and a 0.7 coverage rating.

In addition to the Flyers Game 7 win the following games earned a rating of .5 or higher for Versus: Game 7 of the Flames/Sharks series, Game 5 of the Predators/Red Wings series, and Game 7 of the Bruins/Habs series.

The ratings for RDS in Montreal are simply mind-boggling. Here are the numbers for the Montreal/Boston matchup:

Game 5: 1.737 million viewers (RDS)
Game 6: 1.882 million viewers (RDS)
Game 7: 2.031 million viewers (RDS)
Series Average: 1.696 million viewers (RDS)

Keep in mind, RDS only reaches 2.6 million households. Canada lists its TV ratings in terms of viewers and not households like in the United States, but even still, these are amazing figures.

In addition to the French telecast that's shown on RDS, this series was broadcast throughout Canada in English on CBC. Game 7 on CBC drew 2.070 million viewers. So, in Canada alone, 4.1 million people watched the Canadiens beat the Bruins. That's 4.1 million people watching a first round NHL game in a country of ~30 million people. Think about that. The series averaged 1.501 million viewers on CBC, which means the series averaged a total of 3.2 million viewers in Canada alone. Impressive.

Other ratings notes:

NBC extends its deal with the NHL for another season.

The Caps/Flyers series set local ratings records in D.C., Philly, and Baltimore.

Sens/Pens Game 3 earned a 16.5 rating in Pittsburgh, which was the 3rd highest rated game ever on FSN-Pittsburgh.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Buffalo Draws NBC's Highest Rating

Even though the Sabres aren't there, Buffalo is still interested in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Apparently, they're more interested than some of the cities with teams playing. The Buffalo DMA drew a higher rating than any other market for the Flyers 2-0 victory over Washington on April 13th on NBC, including Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Buffalo clearly is a hockey town after the Bills’ season ends, with last Sunday’s playoff game between Washington and the Philadelphia Flyers and ex-Sabres Daniel Briere and Martin Biron getting a higher rating here (about a 5) than it did in Philly, D.C. and the rest of the country on NBC.

The roughly 5.0 figure in Buffalo exceeds the 3.8 rating in Philadelphia and the 3.0 rating in the Washington D.C. area. The game drew a 1.0 rating nationally, which was down from a 1.2 comparable rating last year. However, this year's first round matchup did have to compete with the Masters, which likely drew some viewers away.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Regular Season Average

The Sabres averaged an 8.3 local rating in the Buffalo DMA on MSG for the 2007-2008 regular season.

The Buffalo Sabres ended the regular season averaging an 8.3 rating on MSG, which is in the ballpark of the average ratings for prime time programming on the local Fox and CBS affiliates and ahead of the local ABC and NBC affiliates. The 8.3 rating is about a 60 percent improvement on the 5.1 rating the Sabres had in their President’s Cup winning season of 2006-07. But it really isn’t an apt comparison. The 5.1 rating came with an asterisk because Nielsen has since acknowledged that a technical issue made it vastly lower than it should have been.

The underreporting issue has been well-documented here, so comparing this season to the '06-'07 campaign really is useless. The 8.3 figure is still tops in the NHL by a significant margin, but it's pretty disappointing all things considered. If Sabres management hadn't messed up the past offseason so badly, the number would almost certainly be in the double digits and there would be plenty of playoff ratings in the upper 20's still to be reported. Instead, we'll just have to wait and see if Buffalo can hold off Pittsburgh for next year's ratings title. And there's always that chance we'll pull a higher rating for the Cup Finals than one of the markets playing in it.