NBC to Broadcast Games 1 & 2, 5-7 of Stanley Cup Finals, VERSUS to Air Games 3 & 4







We’ll get to why exactly this is earth-shattering news, to the point where we built it up shortly.  Let’s go at it from the start.  NBC released it’s PR for the Bruins-Rangers game yesterday, which is what they usually do for the NBC Game of the Week.  We took a quick look at it to see if there was anything interesting, and moved on.  We went back to it, quite by accident, by clicking on the wrong link.  So we decided to read it again, and in this PR, it listed something we hadn’t seen before:

NBC will also broadcast weekend games throughout the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and up to five Stanley Cup Final games (Games 1, 2, 5, 6 & 7). 

That certainly captured my attention.  We immediately E-Mailed Brian Walker of NBC Universal’s crack PR team, who confirmed the situation.  Our E-Mail to the NHL hasn’t been answered as of post time, but we will update it once they respond (UPDATE 5:40PM: The NHL has since confirmed the story to Puck the Media as well).  

As you all know, since 2000, games 1 & 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals have aired on cable (ESPN or VERSUS) and games 3-7 have aired on broadcast television (ABC or NBC).  This is the first major shakeup of the Stanley Cup Finals in a decade, since FOX and ESPN used to randomly split the games.  This is a different situation, and we will tell you why we like it.

We’re totally okay with VERSUS getting two games of the Stanley Cup Final.  Unlike NBC, they pay a significant amount of money to broadcast the National Hockey League, and should be rewarded for being the only network to do so.  However, I’ve never liked the idea of the series beginning on cable, because it automatically makes it so the series has to build itself up from the bottom (Alas, the first two games of last year’s huge finals NHL-wise couldn’t crack 2 million viewers).  This is a huge coup for VERSUS, as they’ll likely benefit from tons of cross-promotion from the NHL and NBC, who will beg viewers to stick with the series to basic cable.

This is also a good move for NBC.  FOX typically used to air Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals from 1995-99, and did pretty well ratings wise, whereas the league struggled to gain momentum with Game 1 airing on cable.  Here are the numbers of every Game 1 since 1995, according to Sports Media Watch:

6/17/95, New Jersey vs. Detroit (FOX): 3.2
6/4/96, Florida vs. Colorado (FOX): 3.7
5/31/97, Detroit vs. Philadelphia (FOX): 4.0
6/9/98, Washington vs. Detroit (FOX): 3.3
6/8/99, Buffalo vs. Dallas (FOX): 3.4
5/30/00, Dallas vs. New Jersey (ESPN): 1.5
5/26/01, New Jersey vs. Colorado (ESPN): 1.4
6/4/02, Carolina vs. Detroit (ESPN): 2.3
5/27/03, Anaheim vs. New Jersey (ESPN): 1.4
5/25/04, Calgary vs. Tampa Bay (ESPN): 1.1
6/5/06, Edmonton vs. Carolina (OLN): 0.9
5/28/07, Ottawa vs. Anaheim (VERSUS): 0.6
5/24/08, Pittsburgh vs. Detroit (VERSUS): 1.8

As you see, the NHL clearly did better to have the Stanley Cup Finals begin on NBC, introduce all the storylines and players, toss it over to VERSUS for 3 & 4, and then perhaps send it back to NBC for a potential 5-7.  You can tell that the only possible negative wrinkle in the deal is that, if a sweep occurs in the Finals, the Cup will be handed out on basic cable.  However, we’re willing to cross that bridge when we come to it.  A good move for NBC, VERSUS and the NHL all around.  Now here’s hoping VERSUS provides some coverage of Games 1 & 2 pre- and post-game, and doesn’t just awkwardly jump into Game 3.  Right?  Right?


4 Responses to NBC to Broadcast Games 1 & 2, 5-7 of Stanley Cup Finals, VERSUS to Air Games 3 & 4

  1. jkrdevil says:

    I’ve said for a few years that, if cable was toget 2 of the Cup final games, the NHL should have game 1 on on broadcast then games 2 and 3 on cable going back to broadcast for any clinching games. This isnt exactly that but it is better. Like you said it introduces the series to a larger audience. Ratings tend build from game to game and coming in on game 3 hurts the ratings.

  2. kzf1 says:

    jkrdevil has the right mix. NBC should start with Game 1, then Versus should get Games 2 and 3 with the rest of the series going to NBC so any Cup-clinching moment can be on free TV. The NHL does not really gain anything from this switch.

  3. Puny Mortals, Versus does not deign to lower itself to “clip shows.”

    No seriously. I like versus and all, mostly because I get it in HD, but I wish sports soup would die. We’ve always got NHL on the Fly…

  4. Morgan Wick says:

    You should be fine with Game 4 on Versus. If it’s a clinching game, that means one team is on the verge of a sweep and that’s BOR-ING.

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