Maybe We Can Have a Few More “I Can’t Find VERSUS” Articles after this News?

From Jeff Z. Klein of the NY Times’ Slap Shot Blog:

Versus’s coverage of the Wings-Hawks Game 5 earned a 2.1 household rating and averaged 2.32 million total viewers. That made it the most-watched telecast in the network’s history among households (1.55 million) and tied it with Lance Armstrong’s final ride (July 24, 2005) for the highest-rated show in network history.

It was the fourth most-watched telecast in Versus history in terms of the total viewers. That record is still held by Game 2 of the 2008 Stanley Cup finals (2.61 million total viewers) and two other 2008 playoff games.

Local ratings for Wednesday’s Game 5 were astonishing. In Detroit, the game averaged a 15.9 rating, the highest figure the network has had in the market. That made Versus the No. 1 network in Detroit on Wednesday — outpacing even NBC, CBS and ABC.

In Chicago the game drew a 7.1 average rating, the highest for a Versus telecast in Chicagoland. As in Detroit, Versus was the No. 1 network in Chicago Wednesday night.

Ratings on Versus for both the Wings-Hawks and Pens-Canes semifinal series, or conference finals as the N.H.L. calls them, were up 25 percent over last year (1.5 vs. 1.2, total viewership 1.72 million vs. 1.32 million). That made the series the highest-rated third round on cable since 1998.

That follows a quarterfinal round for which Versus registered the highest U.S. cable network ratings since 1997.

Boy, I wonder if the Penguins and Canes were able to watch the game, eh?

13 Responses to Maybe We Can Have a Few More “I Can’t Find VERSUS” Articles after this News?

  1. Sean says:

    Hopefully this will end the media’s bizarre crusade to put the NHL back on ESPN.

    I have no idea why the NHL would willingly give up an entire network that is basically devoted to it for the playoffs to get squeezed back into ESPN’s crowded lineup. And the good NHL ratings will only push more cable operators to get Versus.

    Regardless of some of the weird non-exclusitivity issues and the atrocious studio show….Versus is the best national TV arrangement the NHL has had in the United States. Period, end of story.

  2. Praveen says:

    Ehh, What do you mean Versus is devoted to the NHL? Any ratings increase you see is a result of star power injected back into the league thanks to the enormous talent drafted in the last few years, not because Versus is devoted to hockey. They didn’t even have a backup channel to show the marquee Anaheim-RedWings game which clashed with Indy Trials.

    ESPN was giving hockey good coverage during the heydey of Mario, Gretzky, Messier. And frequently they would show playoffs on TWO channels simultaneously – ESPN and ESPN2. ESPN2 is available in more hotels and bars than Versus. Except for COMCAST, other providers do not have Versus in a very convenient channel space to surf to for casual sports fans. You will have to look up the channel guide to even locate Versus.

    If ESPN was carrying the sport, there wouldn’t be a need for the NHL to kowtow to NBC this badly.

    Granted, ESPN has the NBA now and probably wouldn’t be able to give NHL the primary attention. Still they got more than one channel.

    • Sean says:

      How do I mean “Versus is devoted to the NHL?” They’ve had a game on every night of the playoffs. That NEVER happened with ESPN.

      The NHL/NBC thing is a bit of a fiasco right now but the blame, in my opinion, is on NBC for the scheduling gaffes. NBC as a whole is a network in freefall and this is just the latest example.

      And I just don’t get the Versus is hard to find BS. Doesn’t everyone have digital cable at this point? Once you find the network, do you suddenly forget what number it is?

      • hockeyfan says:

        I agree that it is unlikely ESPN would provide anywhere near the coverage they did in the ’90’s. I do wish Versus would add some hockey programming, especially during the playoffs, to build just a bit of a package around the games.

        As for your sarcastic comment about forgetting the number, I repeat that I have had occasion to stay in six hotels in 4 different NHL markets in the past 2 months and only one (in Columbus) had Versus available. Worse yet, when I asked about it the hotel employees consistently said they had never heard of Versus and told me to check one of the ESPN channels because “they do a lot of hockey.” What made it worse is that these Versus exclusive games were not available online. (I just cannot understand this one…I would be willing to pay to watch a playoff game online.) Thankfully, the NHL still provides free audio on the web.

        And no, not everyone gets digital cable, some people cannot afford anything more than a basic package. They can watch all the other major sports, at least on occasion.

        Fortunately, I am home in Cleveland for the finals and will be enjoying the NHL network and Versus’ coverage of the series in HD, as well as radio coverage on XM. But, you see, I am a hockey fanatic. As a kid I watched Hockey Night in Canada on a very snowy screen whenever I could pick it up across Lake Erie from Windsor or London Ontario.

  3. Colton says:

    Versus got the best second and third round ratings on cable since 1997. That’s 7 years of ESPN.

    The NHL is doing just fine with Versus.

  4. kevin says:

    No way do I want to go back to ESPU2…..and I don’t want to sit thru hours of Kobe/Lebron worship to get to 5 minutes of hockey talk on the “mother station”. In ten years whose to say Versus won’t be equal to TNT or even ESPN

  5. Praveen says:

    What did Versus exactly do to generate those ratings? the second half of ESPN’s tenure coincided with a clutch and grab era and a lockout or two. Just spouting a rating number is a lazy argument.

    Versus just lucked out that the NHL has gotten the biggest infusion of superstars in a while.
    Versus doesnt even have a show comparable to NHL 2 night that ESPN2 used to have.

    Versus feels that a repeat of some bullfight is more important than having a pregame show. Versus doesn’t even have a second channel to show any overlap in playoff games.

    The rating levels are high because the matchups are generating hype . I travel and I know how tough it is to get versus, let alone VersusHD to watch the playoffs with the sound on.

  6. Praveen says:

    kevin, and how much hockey is being discussed on Versus? NOTHING. They have hockey central right after the game. But there is not a single minute devoted to hockey on days where there are no games.

  7. kevin says:

    If I want 24 hours of hockey I’ll get the NHL Network…get real. I don’t need to know what John Bucccigross thinks before I start my day……Versus gives me two games per week. They give me two games per night in the playoffs….ALL ON THE SAME CHANNEL AND AT THE SAME TIME!!!!! Imagine that!!!!! I remember when ESPN began and it sucked. Versus is light years ahead of the original ESPN. I say GO VERSUS!! Without it you would have the NHL on ESPN once a month at 11 pm or maybe on ESPNU2 or maybe Classic ESPN…ESPN can go screw..they have MLB, NBA and NFL…there are only so many hours in the day

  8. Tim says:

    “kevin, and how much hockey is being discussed on Versus? NOTHING. They have hockey central right after the game. But there is not a single minute devoted to hockey on days where there are no games.”

    And how much time does ESPN devote to hockey on days when there are no games? For that matter, how much time does ESPN devote to hockey on *game days*?

    The only people who have a legitimate argument against Versus, IMO, are those to whom Versus is not available. If you can get the network and you’d still rather have ESPN, that simply makes you an ESPN fanboy.

    The *only* way I’d be in favor of bringing ESPN back into the fold is if Versus was kept in the mix, kinda like how the NBA is on both ESPN and TNT. That’ll make the ESPN fanboys happy and the NHL will still be on a network that respects it, plus there will be more alternatives in case of scheduling snafus.

  9. nosferatu says:

    I honestly don’t understand some of these claims people make about Versus’ coverage being so much better than ESPN’s before the lockout. A history lesson from Wikipedia (okay, so not the most trustworthy source, but this is how I recall things when I actually had cable in those years):

    From its debut in 1992 until the 2001–02 NHL season, weekly regular season games were broadcast on Sundays (between NFL and baseball seasons), Wednesdays, and Fridays, and were titled Sunday/Wednesday/Friday Night Hockey. Prior to the 1999, these telecasts were non-exclusive, meaning they were blacked out in the regions of the competing teams, and an alternate game was shown in these affected areas. Beginning in 1999–2000 season, ESPN was permitted two exclusive telecasts per team per season. When ESPN started broadcasting NBA games on Wednesday and Friday nights in 2002, the weekly hockey broadcasts were moved to Thursday and the broadcasts renamed to Thursday Night Hockey. Beginning in 1993–94, up to five games per week were also shown on ESPN2.

    During the Stanley Cup playoffs, ESPN and ESPN2 provided almost nightly coverage, often carrying games on both channels simultaneously. Games in the first two rounds were non-exclusive, while telecasts in the Conference Finals and Finals were exclusive (except in 1993 and 1994).
    Does that sound so much worse than Versus? And you CANNOT discount NHL2Night. Pre-NHL Network, that was great for the hockey fan.

    And what I love is that when games were blacked out for fans in the NHL’s ridiculous “local” broadcast region, ESPN would actually show a different game!

    And here’s something else to consider: Cable systems are NOT moving Versus into “basic” tiers; other than Comcast, almost all have actually bumped Versus to special digital tiers, including extra-cost sports tiers. Does anyone really expect this to change?

    This isn’t to say that Versus isn’t trying (if sometimes misguided in their attempts), but there are some things out of their control that make the situation less than favorable.

    • Sean says:

      “almost nightly coverage”

      There it is right there. Versus has provided nightly coverage, period.

      I just think its absurd that some hockey fans assume that once the NHL goes on ESPN, ratings will skyrocket and all of a sudden hockey will be this mainstream phenomenon. ESPN doesn’t drive ratings…the sport does.

      Look at the Indy 500…ESPN was all about Indy last week…it just received its worst ratings ever because no one cares about Indy Cars. ESPN was all about the NBA when it had a Spurs/Pistons finals…and no one watched, ratings were the lowest ever (or maybe it was the Spurs/Nets series). The Arena Football League went bankrupt AFTER signing a TV deal with ESPN. How’s ESPN worked out for Major League Soccer?

      Bottom line is the NHL has to gain interest on its own…the cable network has almost nothing to do it. The only arguement against Versus is its reach but its has Comcast’s backing and it’s in 75+ million homes.

  10. Praveen says:

    I resent the idiotic ESPN fanboy accusations. I just call BS on these ridiculous claims that Versus has been better for the sport. I was merely talking about ESPN’s coverage relative to Versus. I am in no way saying ESPN has been a great supporter of the sport.

    Let me ask you very slowly. Since you have gone on record that pregame and daily NHL2Night type shows are useless to you, in what way has Versus been better for the NHL? Is it showing more regular season games? Is it advertising games better? Is the production of hockey games superior? Does it have more of a reach to the casual sports fan than ESPN?(I say casual because hardcore hockey fans will find a way to get their NHL fix). And just as ESPN has this annoying habit of blanketing a big portion of the screen with their scorebug and scrolls, Versus has been obnoxious with their large screen bug with the unnecessary HD logo on either side of the score bug plus those really annoying promo red swipes that swoop in to the bottom right of the screen and seem to block the action where it occurs a lot.

    In what freaking way has Versus been better other than just saying that they treat hockey better? The extra TV revenue you get from Versus is chumpchange. Like I said, any network that doesn’t see fit to broadcast one of the Anaheim-RedWings games(the second best series of the playoffs) has no business saying they put hockey first.

    And how can you discount number of homes the network is on a basic tier and hotels and bars that tune a tv routinely into ESPN /ESPN2/ESPNX attracting a casual sports fan drinking a beer with no other options?

    And the ridiculous excuse that we need to give Versus time to grow. Why should we care about Versus? We care about hockey, not some freaking network.

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