All The Info on NBC’s Big Opening Night

NEW YORK – April 12, 2012 – The NBC Sports Group’s opening night presentation of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday – featuring two games on NBC Sports Network and one on NBCUniversal’s business channel CNBC — resulted in the following viewership records and milestones, according to official national ratings data released today by The Nielsen Company:

  • The most-watched NHL playoff opening night ever for the NBC Sports Network (formerly VERSUS)
  • A 29% average rating increase on NBC Sports Network vs. last year’s opening night
  • A 12% average rating increase for all three games on NBC Sports Network and CNBC compared to last year’s opening night
  • The most-watched opening night playoff game in NBC Sports Network history and the most-watched opening night playoff game in 10 years for Flyers-Penguins, won 4-3 in overtime by Philadelphia, who overcame a 3-0 deficit

“The opening night viewership exceeded our own high expectations,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “This new playoff format was part of the plan we brought to the NHL last year when constructed our new 10-year agreement. We are pleased with this early trend, and there is a lot of hockey still to be played. The playoffs are continuing the momentum we established during the regular-season, which saw a 17 percent increase in total audience. These results continue to demonstrate that the appetite for hockey is far from saturated.”

BEST OPENING NIGHT EVER: Yesterday’s two opening night games on NBC Sports Network – Flyers-Penguins and Kings-Canucks — averaged a 0.44 rating, up 29% compared to last year’s opening night (0.34) and the best opening night in NBC Sports Network’s seven-year history (formerly VERSUS) of televising NHL playoff games. The viewership average was 656,000, up 23% compared to last year (534,000). All NBC Sports Network, CNBC and NHL Network first-round playoff games are blacked out in local markets.

Flyers-Penguins: The game posted a 0.55 rating, up 83% from last year’s comparable opening night game and making it the most-watched opening night playoff game in NBC Sports Network history, and the most-watched opening night playoff game in 10 years. The game peaked with a 0.75 rating in the 9:45 p.m. ET quarter-hour.

Kings-Canucks: The Kings 4-2 upset win over the top-seeded Canucks in the Western Conference, which began at 10:30 p.m. ET, earned a 0.34 rating, down from a 0.36 for last year’s late opening night game.

COMBINED AVERAGE UP 12%: Last night three games, including coverage on CNBC of the Predators 3-2 win over the Red Wings in Nashville, averaged 0.38 rating and 555,000 viewers, up 12% and 4%, respectively, vs. last year’s averages (0.40 and 534,000). The Predators-Red Wings game averaged 0.24 with no comparable coverage last year.

***

REGULAR-SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

More viewers watched the 2011-12 NHL regular season on the NBC Sports Network (formerly VERSUS) than any previous regular season since the channel began televising games in 2005-06. In addition, average viewership for both exclusive and non-exclusive games increased over last year, as did NHL Game of the Week broadcasts on NBC.

NBC Sports Network

Total Audience: NHL regular season games were watched by 15.24 million viewers on NBC Sports Network this year, up 17% compared to last year’s 13.08 million (excluding bonus games and the NHL All-Star Game). This season, the first in a new 10-year agreement between the NBC Sports Group and NHL, NBC Sports Network presented 90 regular-season games, compared to 52 last year. Eight of the Top 15 most-watched regular-season games in network history were from this season.

Exclusive & Non-Exclusive: Regular-season games shown during “exclusive” time periods averaged 460,000 viewers, up six percent compared to last season (436,000). Games shown in “non-exclusive” time periods averaged 286,000 viewers, up eight percent compared to last season (265,000). This year, there were 66 non-exclusive games compared to 27 last year, a 144% increase.

First Game: The opening night game of the 2011-12 season featuring the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins hosting the Philadelphia Flyers, delivered 874,000 viewers, making it the most-watched regular-season game ever on NBC Sports Network (formerly VERSUS), up 20% vs. the previous year’s opener, and the most-watched opening night game in a decade.

All-Star: The NHL All-Star Game averaged 1.32 million viewers, making it the second-most watched all-star contest since 2004.

NBC

Every Week: NHL Game of the Week broadcasts on NBC were up 13% in HH rating (0.9 vs. 0.8) and 4% in viewership (1.34 vs. 1.29) compared to last year.

Winter Classic: The 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers from Citizen’s Bank Park averaged 3.74 million viewers, making it the fifth-most watched regular-season NHL game since 1975. Viewership for the game was up two percent compared to the last NHL Winter Classic played in the afternoon, the 2010 contest played on New Year’s Day at Fenway Park between the Boston Bruins and Flyers, which was watched by 3.68 million.

Hockey Day: NBC Sports’ regional coverage during Sunday’sHockey Day in America — highlighted by the Detroit Red Wings NHL-record 23rd home win in a row, a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks — tied for the best NHL regular-season rating in eight years (1.3/3), excluding Winter Classics, and was the most-watched (1.94 million) coverage for a non-Winter Classic in six years.

Thanksgiving Tradition: In addition, the NHL and NBC Sports Group launched a new tradition, the Thanksgiving Friday game, when the Boston Bruins hosted the Detroit Red Wings. It was the earliest in a season that an NHL game had ever appeared on NBC.

NBCSN Has Best Opening Night on Cable Since 2002

The numbers are in for NBC’s opening night coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

7:30 Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh (NBCSN) - 844,000
8:00 Detroit vs. Nashville (CNBC) - 336,000
10:30 Los Angeles vs. Vancouver (NBCSN) – 467,000  

According to a friend at NBC, this is the best opening night on cable since 2002. The CNBC numbers are nearly double the network’s primetime average of 194,000. Only six games from last year’s opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs had more viewers than Game 1 of Flyers/Pens, and those were all Game 5’s or later.

Here are the numbers from opening night of the playoffs last year:

7:00 p.m.  Phoenix vs. Detroit, Game 1 – 484,000 viewer

9:44 p.m.  NY Rangers vs. Washington, Game 1 – 673,000 viewers

10:38 p.m.  Chicago vs. Vancouver, Game 1 – 540,000 viewers

(Source: @TVsportsratings, @RonWechsler


Your Announcers and Open Thread for Night Two of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Ottawa vs. NY Rangers, Game 1, 7:00 p.m. ET

US National TV: NHL Network

Canada National TV: CBC
Play by Play: Bob Cole
Color: Gary Galley
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Cassie Campbell

NY Rangers Local: MSG
Play by Play: Sam Rosen
Color: Joe Micheletti
Reporter: John Giannone

Washington vs. Boston, Game 1, 7:30 p.m. ET

US National TV: NBCSN
Play by Play: Mike Emrick
Inside the Glass: Pierre McGuire

Canada National TV: CHEX/CBCSports.ca
Play by Play: Dean Brown
Color: Greg Millen

Washington Local: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Play by Play: Joe Beninati
Color: Craig Laughlin
Reporter: Al Koken

Boston Local: NESN
Play by Play: Jack Edwards
Color: Andy Brickley
Reporter: Naoko Funayama

San Jose vs. St. Louis, Game 1, 7:30 p.m. ET

US National TV: CNBC
Play by Play: Rick Peckham
Inside the Glass: Daryl Reaugh

Canada National TV: TSN

San Jose Local: CSN California
Play by Play: Randy Hahn
Color: Drew Remenda
Reporter: Brodie Brazil

St. Louis Local: FS Midwest
Play by Play: John Kelly
Color: Darren Pang
Inside the Glass: Bernie Federko

Chicago vs. Phoenix, Game 1, 10:00 p.m. ET

US National TV: NBCSN

Canada National TV: TSN
Play by Play: Chris Cuthbert
Inside the Glass: Mike Johnson

Chicago Local: CSN Chicago
Play by Play: Pat Foley
Color: Eddie Olczyk
Reporter: Sarah Kustok

Phoenix Local: FS Arizona
Play by Play: Matt McConnell
Color: Tyson Nash
Reporter: Matt Walsh

NBC, NBCSN Down From 2010-11

After putting up a record-setting pace in 2010-11, NBC Sports Network’s coverage of the National Hockey League was down from last year’s on VERSUS.

90 games on NBCSN this season averaged an 0.2 rating and 332,000 viewers. This was even in ratings and down 5% in viewership from last year’s record 348,000 viewers. NBCSN showed a lot more games, both exclusive and blacked out in local markets this season, which drove viewership down at times.

Meanwhile, the NHL On NBC was also down a bit from last year. Over 12 telecasts, the network drew an average 1.0 rating and 1.58 million viewers. This was even in ratings and down 3% in viewership from last year’s 1.62 million. It was still up 2% from 2009-10.

(Source: Sports Business Daily)

Penguins Lead, Panthers Trail NHL Local Ratings Race

Via John Ourand of Sports Business Daily:

Top 5 Local Ratings for US Teams, 2011-12
  1. Pittsburgh (ROOT Sports PIT): 7.9
  2. Buffalo (MSG): 6.6
  3. Boston (NESN): 4.7
  4. St. Louis (FS Midwest): 3.5
  5. Detroit (FS Detroit): 3.5
Bottom 5 Local Ratings for US Teams
  1. Los Angeles (FS West): 0.4
  2. New Jersey (MSG Plus): 0.3
  3. Anaheim (Prime Ticket): 0.3
  4. NY Islanders (MSG Plus): 0.3
  5. Florida (FS Florida): 0.2

Your Final NHL On NBC Sports Network Regular Season Ratings

Ratings for the NHL on NBC Sports Network, 2011-12 regular season

October 6
7:00 
Boston vs. Philadelphia – 874,000
10:00 
Pittsburgh vs. Vancouver – 342,000

October 7
1:00 
NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles – 101,000

October 8
1:00 
NY Rangers vs. Anaheim – 124,000

October 10
7:00 
Tampa Bay vs. Washington – 162,000

October 11
7:30 
Florida vs. Pittsburgh – 216,000

October 12
7:30 
Boston vs. Carolina – 312,000

October 17
7:30 
Colorado vs. Toronto – 218,000

October 18
7:30 
Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota – 286,000

October 25
7:30 
Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo – 338,000

October 31
7:00 
San Jose vs. NY Rangers – 169,000

November 1
7:30 
Anaheim vs. Washington – 258,000

November 2
7:30 
Philadelphia vs. Buffalo – 558,000

November 7
7:30 NY Islanders vs. Boston – 195,000

November 8
7:30 Carolina vs. New Jersey – 241,000

November 9
7:30 Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay – 411,000

November 14
7:00 
Buffalo vs. Montreal – 323,000

November 15
7:30 
Colorado vs. Pittsburgh – 392,000

November 16
7:30 New Jersey vs. Buffalo – 285,000

November 21
7:30 
NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh – 198,000

November 22
7:30 
Los Angeles vs. St. Louis – 245,000

November 28
7:30 
Tampa Bay vs. Minnesota – 232,000

November 29
7:30 
Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers – 394,000

November 30
7:30 
Tampa Bay vs. Detroit – 393,000

December 5
8:00 
Phoenix vs. Chicago – 302,000 viewers

December 6
7:30 
Detroit vs. St. Louis – 259,000

December 7
7:30 
Philadelphia vs. Buffalo – 585,000

December 12
7:30 
New Jersey vs. Tampa Bay – 201,000

December 13
9:00 
San Jose vs. Colorado – 193,000

December 14
7:30 
Chicago vs. Minnesota – 540,000

December 19
7:30 Anaheim vs. Dallas – 149,000

December 20
7:30 Chicago vs. Pittsburgh – 634,000

December 21
7:30 Philadelphia vs. Dallas – 462,000

December 26
7:30 Dallas vs. St. Louis – 270,000

December 27
7:30 St. Louis vs. Detroit – 195,000

December 28
7:30 NY Rangers vs. Washington – 327,000

January 2
8:00 
San Jose vs. Vancouver – 267,000

January 3
8:00 
Detroit vs. Dallas – 188,000

January 4
7:30 
Boston vs. New Jersey – 435,000

January 8
7:30 
Detroit vs. Chicago – 587,000 

January 10
7:30 
San Jose vs. Minnesota – 237,000 

January 11
7:30 
Pittsburgh vs. Washington – 526,000

January 15
7:30 
NY Rangers vs. Montreal – 202,000

January 16
7:30 
Dallas vs. St. Louis – 238,000

January 17
7:30 
Nashville vs. NY Rangers – 224,000

January 18
7:30 Buffalo vs. Chicago – 466,000 

January 23
7:30 
St. Louis vs. Detroit – 429,000 

January 24
9:00 Minnesota vs. Colorado – 190,000

January 25
7:30 Detroit vs. Montreal – 241,000

January 28
7:00 Super-Skills Competition – 1.1 million

January 29
4:00 All-Star Game – 1.3 million

January 31
7:30 Washington vs. Tampa Bay – 264,000

February 1
7:30 NY Rangers vs. Buffalo – 478,000

February 5
12:30 Boston vs. Washington – 455,000

February 6
8:00 Detroit vs. Phoenix – 263,000

February 7
7:30 Los Angeles vs. Tampa Bay – 155,000

February 8
7:30 Boston vs. Buffalo – 455,000

February 12
7:30 Philadelphia vs. Detroit – 600,000

February 13
7:30 San Jose vs. Washington – 351,000

February 14
7:30 Anaheim vs. Minnesota – 173,000

February 15
7:30 Boston vs. Montreal – 417,000 

February 19
6:00 New Jersey vs. Montreal – 203,000

February 20
7:30 Washington vs. Carolina – 171,000

February 21
8:00 Detroit vs. Chicago – 228,000 

February 22
9:00 Los Angeles vs. Colorado – 166,000 

February 26
7:00 Chicago vs. Anaheim – 370,000 

February 27
7:30 New Jersey vs. NY Rangers – 287,000

February 28
7:30 Los Angeles vs. Minnesota – 156,000 

February 29
7:30 Pittsburgh vs. Dallas – 456,000 

March 4
7:00 Philadelphia vs. Washington – 469,000

March 5
8:00 Buffalo vs. Winnipeg – 333,000

March 6
9:00 Minnesota vs. Colorado – 167,000

March 7
7:30 Toronto vs. Pittsburgh – 461,000

March 11
8:00 Los Angeles vs. Chicago – 397,000

March 12
9:00 Anaheim vs. Colorado – 180,000

March 13
7:30 Carolina vs. NY Rangers – 292,000

March 14
7:30 Colorado vs. Buffalo – 366,000

March 15
7:00 Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers – 195,000

March 18
7:00 Washington vs. Chicago – 411,000 

March 19
7:30 New Jersey vs. NY Rangers – 347,000
10:15
 Anaheim vs. San Jose – 182,000

March 20
8:00
 Phoenix vs. Dallas – 182,000
10:57 San Jose vs. Los Angeles – 134,000 

March 21
7:30
 Detroit vs. NY Rangers – 518,000

March 25
5:00 
Minnesota vs. Washington – 202,000
7:30
 Nashville vs. Chicago – 319,000 

March 26
7:30 Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia – 411,000

March 27
7:30 Tampa Bay vs. Boston – 188,000

March 28
7:30 Detroit vs. Columbus – 337,000

April 1
7:00
 Boston vs. NY Rangers – 664,000 

April 2
7:00 Washington vs. Tampa Bay – 258,000

April 3
7:30 Pittsburgh vs. Boston – 257,000
10:00
 Anaheim vs. Vancouver – 132,000 

April 4
7:30 Detroit vs. St. Louis – 572,000

April 5
7:00 NY Rangers vs. Pittsburgh – 182,000

April 6
7:30 Phoenix vs. St. Louis – 237,000

April 7
4:00
 Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh – 691,000
6:30 Washington vs. NY Rangers – 423,000
10:30 Los Angeles vs. San Jose – 146,000  

10 Most-watched Games on NBCSN This Season
1. Boston vs. Philadelphia (10/6/11) – 874,000
2. Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh (4/7/12) – 691,000
3. Boston vs. NY Rangers (4/1/12) – 664,000
4. Chicago vs. Pittsburgh (12/20/11) – 634,000
5. Philadelphia vs. Detroit (2/12/12) – 600,000
6. Detroit vs. Chicago (1/8/12) – 587,000
7. Philadelphia vs. Buffalo (12/7/11) – 585,000
8. Detroit vs. St. Louis (4/4/12) – 572,000
9. Philadelphia vs. Buffalo (11/2/11) – 558,000
10. Chicago vs. Minnesota (12/14/11) – 540,000

10 Least-watched Games on NBCSN this Season

1. NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles (10/7/11)* – 101,000
2. NY Rangers vs. Anaheim (10/8/11)* – 124,000
3. Anaheim vs. Vancouver (4/3/12)* – 132,000
4. San Jose vs. Los Angeles (3/20/12)* – 134,000
5. Anaheim vs. Dallas (12/19/11) – 149,000 
6. Los Angeles vs. Tampa Bay (2/7/12) – 155,000
7. Los Angeles vs. San Jose (4/7/12)*- 146,000
8. Los Angeles vs. Minnesota (2/28/12) – 156,000 
9. Tampa Bay vs. Washington (10/10/11)* – 162,000
10. Los Angeles vs. Colorado (2/22/12) – 166,000

*- game blacked out in one or both home markets

NBC Gets It (Mostly) Right on Night One

There were a couple of complaints about last night’s opening of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on the networks of NBCUniversal. They were largely due to blackouts in places where there shouldn’t have been such cases, like in Atlanta – or as some of you commented, in New Jersey. Things were corrected in Atlanta by the time CNBC finished their broadcast of Red Wings-Predators, Game 1. I got no such update on the other situations, but it appears they were only in small spots.

Other than that, however, it’d be hard to find anything wrong with how NBC did things Wednesday, and it appears they’d thought of everything. I had some worries about what would happen to the Los Angeles-Vancouver game on NBC Sports Network due to the Penguins-Flyers game heading into OT. However, the NHL tweeted out almost simultaneously as Jakub Voracek scored the overtime winner, that if necessary, the Canucks-Kings series opener would be beginning on NHL Network. It’s good to know that – even if the NHL Network’s reach isn’t the same as NBCSN or especially CNBC – that they have thought of everything in these situations and are prepared to utilize what they need to get games on the air.

For the first time since 2004, hockey fans in the United States had the option of watching two Stanley Cup Playoff games at the same time without resorting to a pay-per-view or internet streaming package. NBC Sports Network aired Philadelphia/Pittsburgh, while Detroit/Nashville aired on CNBC. There was no drop-off from network to network in terms of production quality. NBC had their top two teams (Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire; Dave Strader and Brian Engblom) working these tilts, and it turned into a great start to the playoffs, complete with a newsmaking Mike Babcock interview from Engblom and an overtime game right off the bat.

But it was how NBC went further – including setting up overload programming nicely – that mattered most. A one-hour pre-game show to set up all eight Conference Quarterfinals. A separate studio and post-game show for CNBC, with Bill Patrick and Jeremy Roenick focusing solely on the game on that network. Finally, the network used three broadcast crews last night, with John Forslund and Brian Hayward in Vancouver for the Kings/Canucks game (the lone technical error of the night came from that game, where Zack Kassian was billed as Cody Hodgson in one graphic). In years past, a game like this would have almost certainly been simulcast from CBC. Or, as a consequence of sending a crew, would force the late game the next night into simulcast mode.

Now, I don’t know if NBCSN will keep up this production pace tomorrow (I don’t have the talent list for tonight yet). I do know that Daryl Reaugh will be forming a fourth team for, in all likelihood, the Boston-Washington game. Also, TSN has indicated they will be taking the CNBC feed for Sharks-Blues, which means NBC could end up with five or six original feeds. For all I know, they could use CSN’s feed Sharks-Blues and TSN’s for Blackhawks-Coyotes. But no matter what, the greater commitment is there, where it wasn’t in the past.

Take, for example, the commercials on CNBC. The network, it seems, forced it’s talent from their various programs during the day (Mad MoneyThe Kudlow Report, etc.) to go out and shoot hockey-themed promos. We will all undoubtedly be sick of these spots by the end of round two in a few weeks, but it’s cool to see that CNBC went to the effort to mesh hockey with the rest of their network. They had a countdown clock during Kudlow for when the Red Wings-Predators game would begin. NBC in no way half-assed things on Wednesday. Also, NBC had banners promoting Olympic coverage on the boards in Nashville and Pittsburgh.

That’s all hockey fans want, in my estimation. They want a feeling that the network responsible for bringing hockey to the masses is putting out an all-hands-on-deck effort for what is, essentially, their prize possession. That was extremely evident on Wednesday night. While there may have been some worries that the network might not be capable of pulling this off, it was all evidence to the contrary during the opening night of sports’ greatest tournament, which finally had coverage befitting such an event.

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