Non-Playoff Markets Show Improvement For NHL Playoffs

NEW YORK – May 6, 2010 — The NHL is coming off of the most-watched Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinals in the U.S. in 10 years with both VERSUS and NBC showing increases overall for the playoffs. That success has been mirrored on the NHL’s digital platforms with unique visitors to NHL.com up 33 percent over last year and video starts up 146 percent.

The increased demand for NHL content has led to growth in fan engagement across all platforms, highlighted by especially impressive growth among non-NHL U.S. markets and U.S. markets of teams not qualifying for the postseason.

Below is a summary of the U.S. markets experiencing the biggest increases for the first round on VERSUS, NBC and VERSUS/NBC combined (metered market ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research):

NHL QUARTERFINALS ON VERSUS

Birmingham – up 200%

Norfolk – up 200%

Chicago – up 133%

Louisville – up 100%

San Antonio – up 100%

Knoxville – up 100%

Cleveland – up 100%

Dayton – up 100%

San Diego – up 100%

Richmond – up 100%

Raleigh – up 100%

Kansas City – up 100%

Greenville – up 100%

Notes:

17 of 21 U.S. team markets were up compared to last year.

21 of 35 non-NHL U.S. team markets were up compared to last year.

49 out of the 56 total metered markets were even or up from last year

6 out of the 8 U.S. team markets that did not make the playoffs this year were even or up from last year.

NHL CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS ON NBC

Detroit – up 500%

Knoxville – up 300%

Chicago – up 288%

Nashville – up 267%

Buffalo – up 257%

Phoenix – up 189%

Boston – up 100%

Indianapolis – up 100%

Milwaukee – up 100%

Providence – up 80%

Notes:

12 out of 21 U.S. team markets were up compared to last year.

37 out of the 56 total markets were even or up from last year.

5 out of 8 U.S. team markets that did not make the playoffs this year were up from last year.

NHL QUARTERFINALS COMBINED ON NBC/VS

Knoxville – up 200%

Chicago – up 150%

Detroit – up 143%

Louisville – up 100%

San Antonio – up 100%

Phoenix – up 100%

San Diego – up 100%

Dayton – up 100%

Birmingham – up 100%

Sacramento – up 100%

Albuquerque – up 100%

Notes:

14 out of 21 U.S. team markets were even or up compared to last year.

19 out of the 35 non-NHL U.S. team markets were up compared to last year.

43 out of the 56 total markets were even or up from last year.

6 out of 8 U.S. team markets that did not make the playoffs this year were up or even with last year.

Below is a summary of year-to-year growth on NHL.com from non-NHL markets and from markets of NHL teams not qualifying for the playoffs:

GAINS FOR NON-NHL U.S. MARKETS ON NHL.COM (Unique visitors, year over year for playoffs)

Kansas City – up 153%

Austin – up 76%

Sacramento – up 60%

Milwaukee – up 59%

Portland (Ore.) – up 51%

Salt Lake City – up 47%

Portland/Auburn (Maine) – up 44%

Baltimore – up 43%

Cleveland – up 43%

Seattle/Tacoma – up 43%

Cincinnati – up 39%

San Diego – up 38%

Orlando – up 31%

Las Vegas – up 26%

Indianapolis – up 24%

GAINS FOR U.S. NHL MARKETS ON NHL.COM FOR NON-PLAYOFF TEAMS (Unique visitors, year over year)

Dallas/Ft. Worth – up 61%

Miami/Ft. Lauderdale – up 32%

Tampa/St. Petersburg – up 31%

Atlanta – up 21%

Minneapolis/ St. Paul – up 13%

New York – up 6%

Blackhawks Still Drawing Records in Round 2

From Sports Media Watch:

Wednesday’s Blackhawks/Canucks Game 3 drew a whopping 10.1 rating on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the highest rating ever for a Blackhawks game on the network. The 10.1 surpasses the previous record of 9.2 set by Blackhawks/Predators Game 6 on April 26. CSN Chicago has averaged a 9.4 rating for its coverage of the Blackhawks/Canucks series (2 games), up 147% from last year’s series between the same two teams (3.8).

Your Announcers and Open Thread For Night 23 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Pittsburgh vs. Montreal, a great Game 4 if you’re looking to do some hockey betting on the Penguins or Canadiens(PIT Leads 2-1), 7:00 PM ET

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD, will air on VERSUS in Pittsburgh)
Play by Play: Mike Emrick
Color: Darren Eliot
Reporter: Charissa Thompson

National TV (Canada): CBC (HD)
Play by Play: Bob Cole
Color: Gary Galley
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Elliot Friedman

San Jose vs. Detroit, Game 4 (SJ Leads 3-0), 7:30 PM ET

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD) Joined in Progress

National TV (Canada): TSN (HD)
Play by Play: Chris Cuthbert
Inside the Glass: Ray Ferraro

Regional TV (San Jose): CSN California (HD)
Play by Play: Randy Hahn
Color: Drew Remenda
Reporter: Brodie Brazil

Regional TV (Detroit): FS Detroit (HD)
Play by Play: Ken Daniels
Color: Mickey Redmond
Reporter: Trevor Thompson

Could/Should VERSUS Go After MLS?

Growing up, I was very much into soccer.  I have fond memories of heading out to MetroStars games with my mother and watching the team stumble through season after season of ineptitude.  My falling out with soccer sort of began when the team got bought out by Red Bull.  But by no means am I anti-soccer, and this post gives me a chance to write a little bit about it.

I was under the impression that MLS’ cable rights are spoken for the next many years by ESPN.  But I found out today that MLS’ deal with Fox Soccer Channel expires at the end of 2010.  Soccer blog All Things Footy is unhappy with that network’s coverage and think VERSUS might be a solution:

For all the criticism that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has come in for during his tenure (most of it deserved), the hang-wringing over the move to Versus is probably the least merited.  The league was in a massive hole following the 2004-2005 lockout and in no position to be demanding terms from anyone.  Moreover, the NHL is being better served by Comcast than it ever was or would have been on ESPN, TNT or a half dozen other cable networks you could name. The audience for NHL games on Versus has been slowly increasing, though it was severely impacted by a dispute with DirecTV over carriage fees earlier this year. Happily, a resolution was finally reached in March that should see Versus continue on DirecTV for the foreseeable future.

If this litany of issues is not resolved before the current contract with FSC expires at the end of the 2010 season (and we’ve barely scratched the surface), the league could do a hell of a lot worse than reach out to Comcast, who could be open to adding a new league to its stable whose season overlaps only minimally with the NHL.  To help justify its carriage fees, Versus may also stand to benefit from MLS’ fast-growing 18-34 audience, which, as RSL Soapbox notes, outpaces all other major professional sports leagues.  While I am not privy to any recent demographic studies, I have noted a strong interest among fellow MLS fans in core Versus sports such as hockey, cycling and mixed martial arts.  It’s anecdotal of course, but just seems right.

Hmmm.  If I’m VERSUS, I look into this.  I look into the chance to show any sporting events I can get my hands on.  Landing FSC’s current package of Saturday night games would be a great supplement, a regular “summer game” to go with hockey’s winter arrangement.  There would need to be some things re-worked around both sport’s playoff seasons, but overall this could be a very good idea for VERSUS to get into another “overlooked” league.

VERSUS Gives Sharks Credit in Big Ratings Boost, Local Ratings Go Up For Game 3

A lot of info from Sharkspage.  First, this quote from VERSUS chief Marc Fein:

“The Sharks have been one of the top teams in the league the past few years, but have never raised the coveted Stanley Cup,” Marc Fein, Versus EVP of Programming, Production and Business Operations said of the viewership boom for San Jose vs Detroit. “This year they’re the top-seeded team in the West with a roster full of household names battling against the Red Wings, one of the NHL’s most storied teams with multiple Cup wins recently, so it’s natural that games in this series will draw huge national interest.”

And secondly, this piece on the CSN local numbers for Game 3:

Comcast SportsNet California’s telecast of last night’s (Tuesday, May 4) San Jose Sharks-Detroit Red Wings game three of the Western Conference Semifinal series delivered an average 4.11 television household rating.  An average of over 102,000 households were watching in the SanFrancisco/Oakland/San Jose television market. The game drew a peak audience of over 176,000 households (7.06 rating).

Again, thanks to big chief Jon Swenson for the info.

In Which I Get Into An Argument With Linda Cohn

Look, Twitter is a really easy way to make friends (follow me!).  It’s also an extremely way for you to get into mindless beefs with people.  Let’s recount what happened last night:

1. I was watching the Philadelphia-Boston game through… er, less than legal means, as one might often do.  The picture started to become blurry and of lower quality than an art major’s outcomes assessment.  I assumed this was happening with VERSUS and I was ready to hammer it on them.  I believed this because ESPN anchor and avid hockey fan Linda Cohn said the following:

Versus is a nightmare right now. They’re using the wrong HD cable. Looks like it’s snowing inside the Wachovia Center!

Seeing what I was seeing, I was ready to write a story, until tweets started pouring into me.  No one else was having this problem.  I was baffled, wondering why this could be happening to me, as the feed switched over to TSN.  I finally realized I was watching the ESPN America feed and they were having retransmission troubles.  The following message from Ms. Cohn confirmed:

Versus looks great to me … or as great as they can look.

Uh… low blow maybe?  Yeesh, for someone who worked at a network that gave us the play-by-play talents of Steve Levy, an aesthetic complaint about a hockey broadcast seems a little above anyone working at that network.  So I decided to respond:

Considering VERSUS is getting better ratings than your network did for the sport, maybe ESPN could learn a thing or two.

Based on the press releases recently shown, that’s completely true.  The regular season ratings are doing better than ESPN2, but not ESPN yet.  But Ms. Cohn decided to respond to my Tweet… without actually doing so:

Hard to believe Steve since Versus was not seen on Direct TV until March 15!

Can’t you just hear her say that in her voice?  That’s what I love about the Twitter accounts of the famous.  Anyway, no, you’re half-wrong.  The playoff ratings are better than what ESPN was doing.  The regular season numbers are even with what ESPN2 was doing.  Plus, you know what?  I’ll go to bat for VERSUS technically.  They look just as clear as anything I see on ESPN.  I don’t know what TV she was watching down in Bristol, but based on the way the network treats hockey, it was probably a 12-inch pocket television in the basement where they keep old tapes.

The point is… I probably shouldn’t be on Twitter so much.